New Kids on the Books
by Michael Temple
Comment and Analysis | 13th April 2010
Having scoured the counties for players loaded with ability but frustrated by pecking orders, former Somerset opener Neil Edwards has joined ex-Lancashire all-rounder Steven Mullaney and ex-Northamptonshire spinner Graeme White in moving to Trent Bridge in search of new opportunities.
All three players have shown glimpses of brilliance in their pasts which they hope to bring to the fore for Nottinghamshire’s benefit and whilst White and Mullaney may be initially confined to limited overs cricket, Edwards hopes that he can contribute to a fruitful opening partnership in the LV= County Championship.
Understandably keen to feature in regular competitive cricket, Edwards is unperturbed by the burden of failure endured by Nottinghamshire’s top order in recent seasons.
“I certainly feel that I’ve got the skills to score runs at Trent Bridge even though I’ve come from a batsman’s paradise atTaunton,” said Edwards, who made his first class debut in 2002.
“Everywhere I play, I want to score runs because I’m a batsman and that’s my job. Nothing gives me more pleasure than getting scores and openers have to adapt to different grounds, different conditions and different bowlers.
“I’ve played at Trent Bridge a few times and I know that the ball swings but it’s something we all have to deal with whether we’re opening the batting or playing further down the order.”
Edwards was a revelation in the 2007 LV= County Championship, scoring 1039 runs, but suffered a dip in form in 2008 and didn’t feature in four day cricket at all last season.
Now 26, the tall left-hander was schooled by Marcus Trescothick and Justin Langer at Taunton and will draw on years of advice and observations having stepped out of their shadow.
“The biggest wrench of leaving Somerset was my relationship with Marcus and how well I get on with him,” he said.
“Him and Justin are still there for me and they’ll help me if I need them but to play alongside them for as long as I did was fantastic. Tres was the leading run-scorer in county cricket by a long way last season and Langar played more than a hundred Tests for one of the greatest Australian sides there’s ever been so batting at number two with them either side of me in the order was a privilege.
“Their general approach was the epitome of what we should all be looking to achieve as professional sportsmen and they knew exactly what they needed to do to get themselves ready to play.
“I’ve had a few successful seasons at Somerset where I’ve scored more than a thousand runs in the Championship and I see my job predominantly in the four day stuff but I’ve had chances in one day cricket as well
“Left-handed openers have been relatively successful but every bowler has ideas about the best way to try and get particular players out.”
Edwards knows the value of a good start after low scores in Somerset’s 2009 pre-season friedlies saw him omitted and left in the cold. Matthew Wood, Bilal Shafayat and Alex Hales will create competition for places but will also be vying with each other with Edwards likely to be given an early opportunity to impress.
“I had a poor pre-season last year and Arul Suppiah got in ahead of me and I became frustrated because when I was out of the team,” he said.
“There was competition for places and he did particularly well and had to be in the side and unfortunately I was the one to miss out. I knew there was some interest from Notts and it was up to me to decide where I saw my future.
“Mick asked how I felt and I said that I was playing well but not getting a game. I’ve been pretty successful against Notts so he knew what I was capable of and he said that he was prepared to give me an opportunity and back me and as a cricketer you can’t ask for any more than that.
“Durham are the front runners and we have to get as close as we can to them whilst remembering that several clubs have strengthened and a couple of good sides have been promoted. There’s more incentive to go for wins because of the changes to the points system and I think that will improve the way four day cricket is played.
“This is a big move for me because I’m a Cornishman who moved to Somerset and now I’m in a big city. Joining at the same time as Mull and Whitey has been great because they’re good up and coming players and we’re all in the same situation but we’ve been welcomed with open arms by the other players and by the coaching staff and we can’t wait to get started.”
Edwards’ enthusiasm is matched by that of White (23) and Mullaney (24). The pair will live together after renting a house from David Lucas, the former Notts bowler, and hope to enhance their reputations after serving their cricketing apprenticeships at Northamptonshire and Lancashire respectively.
England team mates at a previous edition of the Under 19 World Cup, White and Mullaney are at identical stages in their careers and will play key roles in the revamped 20 and 40 over competitions.
A left-arm spinner and self-described ‘nudger and nurdler’ with the bat, White will have added responsibility serving as the club’s second spinner in the presence of Samit Patel and absence of Graeme Swann.
He has five LV= County Championship matches to his name and once scored 65 batting at number nine against Glamorgan in August 2007 but his main aim is to demonstrate the prowess of his spin.
“Monty Panesar was already established when I came through the ranks at Northants and then Nicky Boje came and took over the captaincy so I was able to watch them in the nets and tried to absorb as much information as possible,” he said.
“They were both international players and that made it hard for me to break into the team as a young player but it also allowed me to learn so much in the nets.
“I got to the stage of my career where I needed more exposure to first team cricket and that was the motivation for my move. I wanted an opportunity and when I saw that Nicky had signed for another year I knew it was going to be difficult for me to get in the same team as him.
“Mick didn’t need to say a lot to me because I know what a big team Nottinghamshire are. The ground and the presence of three England players were a draw but he told me what he wanted to achieve and how I felt I would fit in to his plans
“I’m hoping to get a long run in the one day side and I have to justify that by taking wickets and chipping in with the bat. I’d like an opportunity in four day cricket to show that I am capable of playing that format of the game
“I want to play for my country and the first step in achieving that is to get a solid grounding in first class cricket.”
Winter trips to Australia and India have presented Mullaney with an ideal opportunity to meet his new team mates. Ten days in India and a stint in Australia have allowed him to observe the club’s overseas signings, play substantial club cricket and hone his skills in challenging conditions.
“I think we’ll surprise a few sides in the Twenty20 because a lot of the training we’ve done has had a focus on one day cricket and we’ve got players who are very well suited to the format,” he said.
“I watched Victoria Bushrangers while I was in Australia and we’ve signed two outstanding players in David Hussey and Dirk Nannes.
“I’m ambitious. I want to play for England, play in the IPL and get to the Champions League but my main focus is to play well for Notts and to win trophies here. I want to be here for the long haul and hopefully we’ll enjoy success sooner rather than later. I’ve loved every minute of it and can’t wait to get stuck in.”
Mullaney has a first class 165* to his name, albeit against Durham UCCE. Four first class appearances and intermittent outings in 20, 40 and 50-over cricket (he went for 7 an over playing in the Twenty20 Cup against Notts last season) weren’t enough to satisfy his need for first team action and, when Notts came calling, he couldn’t resist.
“I heard rumours in July that Notts were interested and I wasn’t getting enough of a chance at Lancashire so I was keen on the move,” he said.
“I was averaging fifty in the second team and felt that I was putting genuine pressure on the other Lancashire batsmen for the first time. I wanted a go but the lads in the first team were still doing well and it’s very difficult to drop a player who isn’t playing poorly just because there’s someone doing well in the second team.
“I made my Championship debut at Trent Bridge and I’ve played 70% of my first team cricket against Notts so I’ve already got an affinity for the ground.
“My plan is the same as what Mick has suggested in that I think that I’m well equipped to play one day cricket and good form with the bat could allow me to slot in at five or six in the four day team.
“I feel privileged to be given this opportunity and I hope to grab it with both hands.”
This Article First Appeared In Covered, The official magazine of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club