July 16, 2013

Test and T20 has Notts aglow

Nottinghamshire supporters may be forgiven a bit of gloating after stealing the FLt20 limelight and basking in England's Ashes win

David Hussey's captaincy has inspired Nottinghamshire's impressive T20 form © Getty Images

"Any danger of anyone actually giving us a game in this season's T20?" I shot off into the Twittersphere.

"It's OK, you'll bottle it eventually," came a jealous response from a Leicestershire-supporting mate.

There's an uncharacteristically arrogant swagger amongst us Notts fans right now, five games into the T20 season, as four comfortable wins have fired the Outlaws into second in the North Group, with two games in hand on Lancashire. We are now seen as the team to beat and, if the opening fortnight is anything to go by, the Outlaws may as well put in a request to the tournament organisers that they change the rules to a 20/18 format, just to give the opposition a chance.

Okay, the cockiness may have gone too far now. Although for proof, Notts have only needed a maximum of 17.4 overs to chase any target this season, and that was a blistering 184 in the season's opener against the Foxes.

At the heart of the superb start to the season is the return as captain of Australia's David Hussey, who for the past ten years has been a great servant to the club. Any T20 fan will know what he is capable of with the bat and, indeed the ball, however it's his leadership that marks him out as a top player.

The field seems to know what to do and where to be in every situation, there isn't the need for him to talk to the bowler about what he wants from every ball (an increasingly annoying habit amongst some captains), and you can tell younger players such as James Taylor, Alex Hales and Jake Ball learn from his calm approach each game.

I have to admit, I was one of the many moaners that thought the two-game England T20 series against New Zealand was pointless. And although only one really got played, I shifted my views in a drastically different direction when I saw how Hales and Michael Lumb played in the first match against Leicestershire. That one international game has given Hales back his belief, having scored a good 39, but it also got Lumb's T20 eye in before the domestic competition started, and his form since has been outstanding.

Lumb capped off an excellent opening fortnight with 96 from 52 balls against Durham, the highest-ever score from a Notts player in this format. Though Lumb was initially disappointed that he didn't get his ton, he effectively won the match with the knock.

As for Hales, his rotten season seems to have turned around with a couple of decent innings in the competition. As an international and domestic opening companion for Lumb, dislodging either of them is a daunting task for any bowling attack.

Due to their distinctly average form in the County Championship, it seems likely that Notts will only be challenging in the one-day competitions. Questions may be raised in the coming weeks if the four-day form doesn't turn around - last week's game ending in a draw against Surrey was the fifth on the bounce. Enough to stay up, you'd expect, but not quite the Championship challenge the club was hoping at the start of the season. This week's game against Warwickshire is a chance to turn their mediocre form around.

Whether T20 momentum can translate into the other formats remains to be seen but the positive innings in recent weeks would have done them the world of good.

It would be remiss of me to not mention, as a Notts fan, the small matter of the opening Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. Of course there was Nottinghamshire interest in Messrs Swann and Broad but, as we saw, the atmosphere was phenomenal, the cricket was superb and the tension was, at times, unbearable. The city was transformed this week because of cricket and it is down to Notts to now pick up where the England boys left off.

The seats have been warmed with crowds of over 7,500 in the FLt20 against Leicestershire and the YB40 against Sussex - in which a superb £1 advance ticket offer was taken up by thousands - and the five days of the Test were a sell-out. So, apologies for the smugness, but a club should be applauded when it is going well. As Trent Bridge bathes in sunlight this week, let's hope Nottinghamshire can bask in the limelight once more.

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