Essex’s title victory last season, having been promoted, has given hope to all Division Two sides that they can not only compete in the top flight – but challenge.
Nottinghamshire have made a good start in going about emulating Essex’s achievement. Promoted as Division Two runners-up last season, they have won three of their first four matches and sit atop the fledgling table.
It has been early-season success built largely on their bowling unit. Jake Ball remains the leading wicket-taker in Division One having claimed 25 scalps so far as he pushes for a Test recall.
He has been ably supported by fellow seamers Stuart Broad, Harry Gurney and Luke Fletcher as Notts have found taking 20 wickets to be no trouble at all. Victory over Hampshire last week came in their first home game of the season.
This week they are on home soil again against a Lancashire side who have endured a less successful start to the season. Last year’s runners-up are winless from their first four matches, drawing their last two, and will head to Trent Bridge hoping to break that duck ahead of the one-day cup interlude.
Dane Vilas’ unbeaten 235 was the highlight of their draw with Somerset, along with eight wickets for young leg-spinner Matt Parkinson.
But to be winless at this stage of the season will start to concern a few connected with the Old Trafford club, and head coach Glen Chapple admits they want to get a win on the board.
“To lose two and draw two is disappointing, but the cricket we’ve played in the last two matches is very encouraging,” Chapple said.
“I think most people know that the first two or three rounds are a bit of a lottery but we know we could have done certain things better. The last two games we’ve dominated against two good teams.
“We have to take heart from that and go into this game with confidence we are playing good cricket. We now have runs in most players, the season is up and running but we do need some points.
“Notts were a good team on paper when they went down. They’ve come up strongly and are playing good cricket. That doesn’t mean they are anything more to be scared of than anybody else.”
English players all over the country are hoping to throw their hands up for Test selection. While some of his teammates are being talked of in terms of a place against Pakistan, that ship appears to have sailed for Samit Patel. Jettisoned from the England setup some years ago, Patel continues to prove himself invaluable to Notts’ cause with both bat and ball.
Scores of 73 and 36, plus four wickets in the match went a long way to helping his side to a third victory of the season and he is the crucial link in the Notts lineup. He provides their only real spin option and is a high-class, consistent performer with the bat.
It wasn’t the return to county cricket that James Anderson was hoping for, with more people commenting on his new blonde hair than his bowling. Just the one wicket in the match perhaps was an unfair return for some pretty decent bowling, but England’s leading wicket-taker will want to step it up this week on possibly his favourite ground.
Anderson generally takes bucket-loads of wickets at Trent Bridge in England colours and he’ll be hoping to do so this week with a Red Rose on his shirt, ahead of that first Test against Pakistan.
It is highly likely Notts will name an unchanged side, with Stuart Broad again featuring before joining up with the England squad.
Nottinghamshire squad: Steven Mullaney (c), Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Stuart Broad, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Matt Milnes, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Tom Moores (wk), Ross Taylor, Jake Ball, Billy Root
Overseas seamer Joe Mennie misses out with a thigh strain, meaning Graham Onions is likely to return after being rested against Somerset. Haseeb Hameed makes the squad after being dropped from the starting XI for the last match.
Lancashire Squad: Liam Livingstone (c), James Anderson, Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies (wk), Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas
Weather and Conditions
Set to be largely dry across the match with the prospect of the briefest of showers over the weekend. Trent Bridge tends to swing but is also an excellent batting pitch.
Date: 11th – 14th May 2018
Ground: Trent Bridge
Odds (SkyBet): Nottinghamshire 4/6, Lancashire 6/5