May 18, 2013

Notts find one-day could be their way

After a shaky start in the Championship and a perfect opening to the YB40, one-day cricket could be Notts' best chance of silverware this season

They say three is a magic number, and last Sunday saw Nottinghamshire pull off their very own hat trick, as they made it three wins from three matches in the YB40, leaving them top of Group A and finding themselves pondering whether the one-day format could be the way to go this season.

Mick Newell said prior to the start of the season that the County Championship was still the priority, but judging on performances in that format compared to those over the past week, fans may rightly be thinking that the best chance of silverware this season may be in the limited-over competitions.

What was so pleasing last week was the ease in which runs seem to be coming - one only has to observe how fine innings from the ever-impressive James Taylor, consistent Samit Patel, super-smashing Alex Hales and steady Riki Wessels have all guided the Notts side to victory in the YB40.

Juxtapose that against the long haul of the four day Championship and, as a team, they have struggled to find any consistency on good batting wickets in their opening three games - shown by the winning margins of Middlesex and Durham - nine and six wickets respectively.

Obviously when you mention how well the top order have been doing so far, some bloke next to you will inevitably turn to you and say that "it means zilch if the bowlers can't bowl, young man."

Fortunately for said bloke, we've seen the perfect complement so far with the Notts bowlers all chipping in when they need to. Jake Ball has bowled tightly and picked up valuable wickets, Swanny has inevitably shown his class coming back from injury, and Stephen Mullaney's four wicket haul against Kent is arguably the performance of the season in all formats so far.

Of course the four-day competition is still the one most counties would like to excel in, but I do not see any reason how this talented all-round Notts side could not be serious challengers in the one-day formats. And why not relish it? It's been 22 years since they have had any real success in a limited over competition - if you count the 1991 Refuge Assurance League as a success - and you'll have to go back a couple more years to find Notts' name at the top of the pile in the Benson & Hedges Cup. They came close in 2008, but since then a finals day in the T20 competition in 2010 has been the closest they've come.

With the Ashes contingent soon to depart, I fear this Notts side may not have enough to challenge in the County Championship, but the strength they've shown in the opening week of the YB40 suggests to me that they can succeed even without the likes of Swann, Cowan and Broad.

It says a lot about the team's form when the only outstanding concern you can point out is the form of Michael Lumb, who, having had a decent spell at the Big Bash, promised bigger things in our one-day competition, but has so far stuttered to scores of just 5, 11, and a duck on Sunday. I'm confident he'll turn it around soon, but so far his saving grace is his magnificent 123 against Durham in the County Championship, albeit those efforts were in vain.

Maybe I'm getting carried away with the start Notts have had in the YB40, and maybe we fans should say a collective thank you to Messrs Duckworth and Lewis for their algorithmic assistance to help with the victories against Worcestershire and Kent. But remember this time last season, when we'd just lost to a Scotland team who claimed what became their only victory in the whole season?

This season has started at a lightning pace for Nottinghamshire, and at this early stage in the season there is plenty of reason to be optimistic, in the one-day format at least, for the team to carry on as they've begun and become genuine title contenders.

Andrew Butler is a radio producer and freelance sportswriter. He tweets here