If any county other than Nottinghamshire has a better claim to the accolade of team of the season, it can only be Essex – and they ended the season with less silverware than the giants of the Midlands, taking one trophy to Nottinghamshire’s two.
In Chris Read’s final over as a professional cricketer, he snaffled fellow wicketkeeper Michael Burgess of Sussex to secure his side’s promotion to division one of the County Championship. Earlier in the match, he had scored a magnificent fightback century in a huge 242-run stand with Billy Root in Nottinghamshire’s only innings. The torch of middle-order stalwart was thus passed from Read’s enviably safe hands.
It was only a late surge from Worcestershire that prevented Read and his men from completing a clean-sweep of the three competitions they played in. In the Royal London One-Day Cup, Read was a steady second fiddle to the dazzling virtuoso brilliance of Alex Hales, who cracked the highest ever score in a one-day final at Lord’s to sink Surrey for the third consecutive year. Read had also caught Kumar Sangakkara for 30 in Surrey’s first innings.
Read was not on the field for the triumph over the Birmingham Bears on T20 Finals Day, but he can claim part of the credit for that success as he was part of the side’s coaching staff for the competition. In his absence, it was club favourites Harry Gurney and Samit Patel who tamed the Bears with ball and bat respectively.
Patel urged his case to the England selectors in the post-match press conference at Edgbaston, and his many fans will wholeheartedly agree that he has been overlooked when less worthy cricketers have been favoured.
It should not be supposed, however, that a season on from James Taylor’s tragic retirement, Nottinghamshire had everything their own way in 2017. They were kept waiting until the final day of the season to be finally assured of the promotion they had so long been tipped for, and they lost the in-form Luke Fletcher to a sickening accident in the T20 Blast game against Birmingham in the group stages.
Added to which, Michael Lumb was forced into retirement through injury and Alex Hales was deselected by England late in the season after a late night out with Ben Stokes ended in violence. That Nottinghamshire’s players have performed so well despite these distractions makes their fine achievements all the more admirable.
During their back-to-back Championship victories in 2014 and 2015, Yorkshire built a formidable side around players with England experience (Bresnan, Sidebottom, Rashid, Bairstow) and players pushing hard for a spot in the side (Lees, Lyth, Brooks). Even though they are losing Read’s vast wealth of cricketing knowledge straddling two millennia, the likes of Patel, Taylor, Gurney and Ball are more than ready to take up those senior roles.
With talented all-rounder Paul Coughlin joining the club for 2018, Peter Moores will have half an eye on emulating Essex’s achievement of winning the title the year after promotion to the top flight.
Essex, as well as the other division one sides, would be wise to take that threat extremely seriously.
SSCC: 2nd, Division Two
T20 Blast: Champions
SSCC: Samit Patel, 906 runs
RLODC: Samit Patel, 539 runs
Natwest Blast: Riki Wessels, 559 runs
SSCC: Brett Hutton, 37 wickets
RLODC: James Pattinson, 13 wickets
Natwest Blast: Jake Ball, 22 wickets
Player of the Season:
It is an exquisite pleasure to name Samit Patel a worthy player of the season, after singling him out as Nottinghamshire’s key man in April, but that pleasure pales in comparison with watching him play cricket this season. He starred in all three formats and his sublime innings in the T20 Blast final showed that he still has what it takes to perform on the biggest occasions.
Billy Root’s century in the final game of the season capped off a very fine year for the left-hander. He ended the season second only to Patel on Nottinghamshire’s batting averages (albeit after just three games), and curiously sits on top of their bowling averages after claiming 3-29 against Sussex including centurion Chris Jordan.
Could have done better:
He may be one of the best Test batsmen in the world, but Cheteshwar Pujara found the toils of division two of the County Championship just too difficult this time around. An average south of 30 is not a great contribution for a well-paid overseas star, and he may find Nottinghamshire look elsewhere in the future.
Need to work on:
Gosh. Brett Hutton’s departure for Northamptonshire was a difficult blow for their succession planning and Tom Moores may find Chris Read’s shoes very difficult to fill, but it is difficult to spin 2017 as anything but a great year for Tom’s father, the outstanding coach of his generation.
Nottinghamshire will need to be prepared for England to call more frequently now they have division one status.
Thoroughly professional performance from start to finish. Nottinghamshire are serious contenders for the treble in 2018.