August 19, 2013

Notts hope a high bounce follows their hard fall

Defeat in the Flt20 quarter-final was hard to take and had a bad knock-on effect with losses that threaten to derail Notts' YB40 campaign. A positive reaction is needed

OK, I jinxed it. I admit it. I return to this column with my tail firmly between my legs, and promise to never write such an arrogant piece again.

It was all going so well for Notts in the one-day competitions - we breezed through to the quarter-finals of the T20 after beating Yorkshire and Lancashire comfortably, setting up a money-spinning home tie against Essex, a team so inconsistent this season you wondered if they would even find the right ground on the day.

On paper it should have been a breeze. On paper the likes of Michael Lumb, Alex Hales and David Hussey should have easily seen us home. Oh, how I wish sometimes sport was played on the proverbial paper. As it turned out, it was a crushing defeat, a deflating disappointment in front of 12,000 people, a toothless performance from a team that usually have no problems in ripping their opponents apart.

So many questions left the mouths of fans exiting Trent Bridge that night. Why can't Hales and Lumb just stay at the crease? Of Notts' seven T20 victories this season, only one has come without Hales or Lumb scoring 49 or above. Why couldn't our spinners perform as well as they have done the rest of the season? Graeme White returned figures of 0 for 44 from his four overs, whilst Samit Patel had as disastrous game as you can get, with figures of 0 for 54 from his four overs, and adding just 2 with the bat. Why didn't Hussey bring himself onto bowl when things were going so badly? He's got the best average of any Notts bowler this season.

But most frustratingly: why always us? The perennial T20 quarter-final disappointment from Nottinghamshire is becoming so renowned that if you buy a 2014 diary in the county, it will have a note in italics around the second week of August to remind you that Notts T20 season will finish sometime that week.

After the excitement of the first Investec Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, expectations were high for the rest of Notts' season. But the championship challenge has stuttered to a near halt, and while they should be safe for another season, it has hardly been the assault on three fronts that a lot of fans were expecting at the start of the season.

Redemption should have been sought in the warm embrace of the Yorkshire Bank 40 and we exorcised some of the T20 demons by easing past Northants a couple of days later. But, as you would have noticed by now, Notts seem to positively enjoy making life difficult for themselves. Standing proud top of the league means others are out to get you, and when you look down on others you lose perspective of what those below you can do. Nothing in sport is certain, and solid foundations can turn to dust before your very eyes. Having won their first seven matches in the competition, the 40-over season has unravelled in the past four days. I'm still trying to decide which is more frustrating: being unable to chase 220 against Worcestershire, or not being able to protect a massive 290 against Sussex. It's small consolation, but neither were as frustrating as the gentleman I sat behind at the Worcestershire game, who sensationally claimed the England team should drop Cook, Root and Trott. Step aside Andy Flower - this guy clearly knows what he's talking about.

Either way, we lost both games, and now have to make the journey to Kent to ensure a semi-final berth. I mentioned at the top that I won't be arrogant and cocky again when it comes to Nottinghamshire, but this past seven days has completely knocked any confidence from me. The ball is still in their court as far as the YB40 semi-final is concerned, but it is hard to see how we aren't going to be reliant on Warwickshire turning over Northamptonshire in order for us to progress. It's been a tough week but to borrow a popular quote, "A hard fall means a high bounce, if you're made from the right material." I certainly hope this dip in form will lead back to a peak that Notts found at the start of the 40-over season.

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