One of the many criticisms to be fired at the England team in the aftermath of their World Cup humiliation was the poor standard of bowling on display throughout the competition and in the build up.
The lack of quality available at county level was cited as the reason for England’s lack of pace, variety and dire death bowling. However, Luke Fletcher of Nottinghamshire has been a player able to make the Yorker his own and consistently produce, fast, damaging deliveries throughout the game and into the death.
Nicknamed ‘The Bulwell Bomber’, Fletcher’s bowling arsenal is one of Nottinghamshire’s key assets across all three formats. Will he be firing on all cylinders in 2015?
“The Yorker is definitely something I’ve spent a lot of time working on with the bowling coaches because it’s the type of ball which if you nail it’s harder to get hit for huge scores. It’s definitely been a focus for me in pre-season and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting results with it this year.” Fletcher says.
As the England selectors take time to review places and tactics ahead of a busy summer of cricket, it could be that this year is one which sees county bowlers being given opportunities to make their mark on the international stage. Fletcher is keen to reject the idea that this situation has made extra demands of the county game however.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure on county players to prove that the standard of bowling in the game is high enough but there are definitely chances for county cricketers to get selected a place in the England One Day team which is an added motivation.” He said.
Whilst England’s World Cup bowling unit failed to deliver when it mattered there has been much discussion about the new regulations having tipped the balance of the game in favour of the batsman. Fletcher believes it is much harder for bowlers to play an attacking game in light of the fielding changes saying,
“I definitely think the restrictions with only four out in the circle at the death and all the batting powerplays makes it much more challenging for bowlers. There are huge scores being racked up by batsmen and it’s a case of having to work on tactics like death bowling and pace to take wickets but it’s not easy.”
Notts have boosted their bowling attack by signing Vernon Philander and Ben Hilfenhaus to share the duties this season but Fletcher admits that there is a noticeable change in the Trent Bridge dressing room as both Ajmal Shahzad and Andre Adams are now at different clubs.
“With Ajmal at Sussex and Andre at Hampshire there’s a different feel to our bowling unit now. In the seven years I’ve been here Andre was always the go-to strike bowler and a very influential senior player so there’s definitely going to be some adjustment as the new guys settle in but having fresh talent on board is always an exciting prospect.” Fletcher explains.
Whilst it’s clear Nottinghamshire are pushing to bring home all three titles, Fletcher admits that the Natwest T20 Blast is probably were the team are most likely to clinch a trophy.
“I always fancy our chances in the T20, we’ve got class players in our top order but even having guys like Will Gidman who can bat well at 8 keep the whole line up strong and I’m backing our bowlers. In the past we’ve dominated the group stages so we just need to push through the quarters this year and I’m confident we can do that this time around.”
After the success of the Australian T20 Big Bash League and the IPL set to get underway this month, it’s clear that T20 is a format which is attracting a lot of attention and making big demands of players. Nottinghamshire have a lot to offer this summer but Fletcher is sizing up the competition with caution.
“Hampshire have beaten us twice now at the quarter finals and Yorkshire have a strong side and will be confident after their successes last season so I’d like to beat them but you can’t underestimate anyone really.”
Despite highlighting T20 as the team’s most successful format, Fletcher goes on to outline that the team have good a good outlook for the entire season. “Our One Day form is strong too and I’d expect us to have a competitive championship season too but it is a long summer so it’s hard to make too many predictions but there’s every reason to be positive.”
Nottinghamshire’s county season gets underway at Lord’s on Sunday April 12th when they take on Middlesex for their first game of the Championship Season.
Their first T20 fixture is against Warwickshire at Trent Bridge on Friday May 15th.