Season Review 2016: Nottinghamshire

If Nottinghamshire are guilty of anything this season, it’s that they tried to do too much. It all started so well: a win in their first Specsavers County Championship outing, a win in the first two outings in the One-day Cup, a loss to start the Blast but a decent showing against Birmingham just the same.

Unfortunately, with three tournaments to focus on Notts soon started to lose their way and perhaps it’s a little ironic that the two competitions that start the best would end up being their worst.

For so long the T20 bridesmaids, with knockout stage appearances for six of the last seven seasons, the Outlaws appeared to put all their eggs into one basket come May. It certainly paid off in the shortest format, as they frequently put on near perfect T20 performances and easily landed their first visit to Finals Day since 2010.

Characterised by a highly impressive batting order, that was incredibly powerful at the top and solid in the middle, a bowling line up with excellent variations and technical abilities and an impressive showing in the field, something on which they put a lot of focus, the Outlaws deserved a spot at Edgbaston. Unfortunately, their usually unmoveable top order struggled against eventual winners Northants and they had to go home early.

Although the big day ended for them after the first semi-final, Nottinghamshire will no doubt be content with the season as a whole and well they should be. Almost unbeatable at the top of the North group, they lost just their first two games and had to settle for no result four times, due to a soggy cricket year.

The four-day game was a particular disappointment for the Midlands side this year and, after many years of being solid first division residents, next year they will join neighbours Derbyshire and Leicestershire in the lower tier. With just that first win in their arsenal this season, and nine defeats, Notts spent a large part of the season on the bottom of the table.

If the side were deliberately focussing on limited overs cricket, they were unsuccessful in the One-Day cup. Having topped their groups and gone onto the semi-finals in both 2014 and 2015, the Outlaws will be unhappy with a finish in just 6th place. Perhaps feeling the weight of three formats or the pressure of playing so often, Notts were only able to manage three wins in the competition.

On paper, Notts are an excellent side particularly in the shorter formats. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t always match what the paper says. Disappointing though it may have been in many aspects, they will be content with their T20 success if nothing else.

LVCC: 9th Division 1 (relegated)
T20 Blast: Semi Finals (1st North Group)
RLODC: 6th North Group

Leading run-scorers

SSCC: Steven Mullaney – 1009 @ 36.03; T20 Blast: Riki Wessels – 420 – SR: 139.53; RLODC: Michael Lumb – 482 @ 68.85

Leading wicket-takers

SSCC: Jake Ball – 49 @ 23.12; T20 Blast: Harry Gurney – 17 – Econ: 8.30; RLODC: Harry Gurney – 19 – Econ: 5.82

Win %: 32%

Player of the Season: Riki Wessels

An incredibly friendly young man, there is nothing gentlemanly about Wessels when he steps out to bat in Notts’ T20 kit. An incredibly powerful and confident opener, Wessels led the way many a time as the Outlaws stormed their way through the Blast season. Almost impossible to move once he gets settled, which rarely takes long, Wessels is capable of setting up an innings, and particularly so if Notts are chasing. He finished the competition with an impressive 420 runs, 93 ahead of Dan Christian in second place, and was very much the central figure in the Outlaws Blast success.

Breakthrough Player: Jake Ball

The 25-year-old quick has had an excellent season and not just for Notts. In addition to topping the Nottinghamshire bowling table in the Championship, with 53 wickets and 64 across the formats, Ball made his England test debut against Pakistan. Possibly the one bright spot in an otherwise difficult Championship year, Ball’s abilities with the new ball bode well for a big future.

Could have done better: Jackson Bird

Although his stint with Nottinghamshire was short, Bird struggled to really settle to county cricket. Regular overseas, Peter Siddle, was injured and a replacement had to be found but Bird’s lack of experience shone through and he only managed 15 wickets in his five Championship appearances, five of those coming in the first game.

Need to work on: Consistency isn’t an issue with Nottinghamshire – they were consistently good in the Blast and consistently bad in the County Championship. They value fielding highly in T20 and it shone through, and their batting prowess was second to none, but perhaps they need to look at how those skills can be transferred.

It’s difficult to pinpoint one particular aspect that contributed to the poor Championship season – is it enough to simply say that no one really played well enough? Doing more work behind the scenes may be the answer. With ex-England man Peter Moores taking on the lead coaching role and Mick Newell stepping back, we could see a difference.

What’s next?

Changes have been made in the coaching set up and Peter Siddle should be returning as overseas player. Jackson Bird made little impact in the short time he played before being called back to the Aussie ranks, so the return of the more familiar Siddle will be a positive.

There were some fine individual performances, despite bad results, and some younger players are starting to emerge. The likes of Tom Moores and Billy Root are notable mentions for the future and ought to get more chances to play in second division cricket.

The side will be without the ever-dependable Chris Read in the future. The calm-mannered keeper will need to be carefully replaced, and it’s likely his actual worth will not be fully realised until he is gone.

Season Rating

An incredibly poor County Championship and a rather average One-Day cup have been trumped by an incredible run in the Blast. The emergence of Jake Ball as an international quality bowler and some decent individual performances from the likes of Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel and Michael Lumb deserve to be noted. It’s not all gloom at Trent Bridge.

Mark: 6/10

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