Old is gold for Nottinghamshire as Dan Christian seals the Blast spoils

Captain leads from the front on Finals Day as champions prove value of experience

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
It was typical of Nottinghamshire that, after losing 37-year-old Chris Nash to injury in their semi-final win against Lancashire, the average age of the side for the T20 Blast final on Sunday evening increased. In came Peter Trego, in his first Blast appearance for the county at the age of 39, to smear five fours and a six and provide middle-order impetus to their successful run-chase.
Notts have been the Blast's oldest team this season, with an average age above 30 and over 1700 T20 appearances between the XI that played the final. Their success confirmed their captain Dan Christian's pre-tournament proclamation that "old blokes win stuff", as they followed West Indies, Chennai Super Kings, and many other teams around the world by translating experience into titles.
"I'm always going to say that because I'm an old bloke," Christian, 37, laughed. "It's an embarrassment of riches really, to lose someone like Chris Nash and replace him with someone like Peter Trego."
Experience has come to the fore throughout their knockout games. Samit Patel, the 35-year-old allrounder, had faced only seven balls before the quarter-final against Leicestershire, but his cameo of 28 not out off 16 took them through; Henry Heimlich would have nodded approvingly at Patel's success in preventing a choke.
"We played around with our order a little bit today, [but] we've generally had Samit Patel coming in at eight and Imad Wasim coming in at nine," Christian said. "Let's say there are roughly 500-odd [478] games of experience there in the bottom of the order. Samit's [one of] the highest run-scorers in the history of this competition and Imad has batted in the top six for Pakistan.
"To have that kind of depth in your order is just massive for us and it gives the top order so much freedom to be able to go out and play shots and try to knock games on the head, particularly when we chase. We've been a really good chasing team all year and that showed again tonight: to be three for not many and Peter Trego comes in for his first game [having] played for 20-odd years - we're just really lucky to have that kind of experience and that kind of depth."
For Christian, this was the eighth T20 title of his career - only five men have more worldwide - and his second as captain, both of them with Notts. The Blast's Finals Day has been dominated by talismanic captains in the last five seasons, but few have performed with Christian's cold-blooded temerity.
In the semi-final, reduced to 11 overs after a weekend of persistent October rain, Notts were threatening a wobble with 29 needed off 23 balls; Christian's response was to heave four consecutive sixes into the empty Eric Hollies Stand at deep midwicket off Liam Livingstone, ending the game as a contest.
"I decided that was going to be the over I would try and target to knock the game on the head and not let it get to the last over," he explained. "Once I got the first six away I thought I might as well go again. Then I got the second one away and thought I might as well go again, and then just kept going. Having that depth and knowing you've got the guys behind you, you can play with that kind of freedom."
And against Surrey in the final, he took 4 for 11 from his two death overs to keep Surrey to 127 for 6 from their 16-over allocation - they had looked on course for 150 when he brought himself back on - before firing 21 off 11 balls from No. 6 to kill the game with time to spare. That meant player-of-the-match awards in both the semi and the final.
"You have the odd day out," he said, "but it's always nice to do it when it really matters in a final and when the game's on the line - and a semi-final, when you need to get your team over the line.
"I've generally been pretty ordinary bowling here in England, particularly at Trent Bridge, so it was nice to get a couple of wickets. It was a good day for me personally, but I think everyone played really well. We were dominant all the way through - I think we dominated the semi-final and then we dominated the final as well."
That domination extended across the tournament. Not since 2004, and the days of a five-match group stage, has a team won the competition with only one defeat in their season, as Notts managed this year. They did so with Alex Hales averaging 18.36, Luke Fletcher left on the bench, and Harry Gurney missing throughout with a shoulder injury.
"[Gurney] has been a mainstay of our attack for the last six years since I've been here at Notts," Christian said. "[We were] going in with a bit of a different make-up this year, just playing the one quick with myself as the second seamer. The boys handled it really, really well."
It will be an arduous journey home for Christian, with strict Covid-19 restrictions in Melbourne leaving open the prospect of 28 days' quarantine in all before the start of the Big Bash, but another T20 title will make that easier to stomach.
Notts were again the Blast's best team: they have won two of the last four titles, have won more games than anyone else across the last four seasons, and have reached the knockouts every year since 2015.
Under Peter Moores' stewardship, they have often resembled a T20 franchise more than a county, recruiting the best young talent from local teams, compiling a squad with the depth to leave Blast stalwarts on the bench, and opting to sign two overseas players this season when most counties had none. It has been an inexorable pursuit of short-form success, but the results are indisputable: with Christian at the helm, Notts have blown their competition away.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98