When Nottinghamshire take to the field against Durham, it will have been 1020 days since their last red ball victory. It is a record that they will be keen to set straight sooner rather than later. One look at the players they have at their disposal, and you wonder how such a run could have been allowed to continue for so long.
Part of the reason may be attributed to their white-ball form, although that is not the whole story.
Winning the Vitality Blast gave the 2020 season a sense of success. That they made finals day at all, however, was very fortunate. Their quarter-final ended in a tie with East-Midlands rivals Leicestershire, and was eventually decided based on powerplay scores.
Notts had decided to make sure that Dan Christian was available to lead the T20 side, at a time when other counties decided against bringing in overseas players during a global pandemic. It paid dividends, as his captaincy and ability to make sure his side was competitive in the format proved crucial.
While Notts did not win a game in the four-day format last year, there were signs that a turnaround isn’t too far away.
Haseeb Hammed, in his first season with the West Bridgford-based side, showed signs that he might be in the early stages of a revival that saw him look at home at Test match level earlier in his career.
Hammed looks like a good foil for Ben Slater, who epitomises a stroke playing style among Notts batting. With Ben Duckett and Joe Clarke also in the top four, there is no doubt that Notts have batsmen that can play, albeit at times the inability to dig in and hang around. Getting them all to fire simultaneously is what Peter Moores will be hoping will turn around Notts Championship woes.
Where Notts aren’t short is in the fast bowling department. They not only have the numbers, but they have quality as well. Stuart Broad will be expected to play in some of the early championship games before he resumes England duty.
Luke Fletcher and Jake Ball add experience to the side, and that is before you even mention Brett Hutton, who has resigned from Northamptonshire. South African international Dane Paterson has signed as the overseas player.
Ins: Brett Hutton (Northamptonshire), Toby Pettman, Dane Paterson (overseas), Dane Schadendorf
Outs: Jack Blaterwick (Lancashire), Chris Nash (Released)
What makes this difficult is that there are a few players that you would consider integral to Notts chances of winning anything this season. With a battery of fast bowlers, you would expect them to be rotated. That means it will be up to one of the batters to stamp their mark on the season. It might be difficult for Ben Duckett to keep up the run of form that saw him consistently perform in the Bob Willis Trophy and the Vitality Blast. If Notts are to threaten in both competitions, then Duckett will have to fire. There seemed to be a maturity to his approach last season, and if that continues, he will be essential to Nottinghamshire’s chances.
One to watch
With Samit Patel now 36, it won’t be easy to find a replacement for someone who has given so many years of service. That is where Liam Patterson-White comes in. An all-rounder who bowls left-arm spin will be given a chance to cement his place in the side. A good 2019 saw him take 20 wickets in five games, including five for 73 on his debut.
Dane Paterson, Dan Christian
With Dane Paterson fully committed to the Notts cause, his team has found a player with international quality to add to their attack and give it depth. He should complement the likes of Luke Fletcher and Jake Ball, and bring on some of the younger bowlers.
Dan Christian has a knack for being part of successful T20 sides, and as captain of Notts Outlaws, you can bet that his mix of medium-paced bowling and powerful hitting will ensure Notts have another finals day appearance.
How will they fare?
The silverware that Notts are most likely to be taking back to Trent Bridge is the Vitality Blast. They have the batting to smash any bowling attack all over. Alex Hales, in particular, will have a point to prove with his continued exclusion from the England side.
A win will be their first target in the County Championship, and they will be confident that they can start to gain momentum. It might be a step too far to predict a successful red-ball campaign, but it may lead to better results in the future.
With some first-team players unavailable for their Royal London One-Day Cup squad due to Hundred duties, it is difficult to see Notts being a force in a competition they usually target.
Hameed will captain a different looking Notts team in that competition, and it will be the perfect chance for the Outlaws to allow some of their academy players to show how good they are.
Opening fixture: 8-11 April 2021 vs Durham at Trent Bridge, County Championship
Season Odds (Skybet):
County Championship – 9/1
RLODC – 6/1
T20 Blast – 11/2