So Far, So Good
But Notts Must Press On

Comment and Analysis | 21st April 2010

Nottingham Evening Post Cricket Correspondent Matt Halfpenny was impressed with Nottinghamshire's victory over Kent but says the team must capitalise on their positive start with a solid performance against Somerset.

SO far, so good. One game, one victory and maximum points – all inside three days. Notts’ County Championship Division One title bid is well and truly up and running.

The importance of a good start in the early weeks of the season, when the ball tends to swing and seam around that much more than in the later, warmer months of the summer, has been well-documented.

Both director of cricket Mick Newell and skipper Chris Read have stressed the need to hit the ground running; to get early points on the board.

So they would have been absolutely thrilled with the way Notts roared out of the blocks with such a convincing success against Kent.

Many were expecting the south-east county, newly-promoted to the top flight, to push hard for honours again – and they may yet do so.

But Notts never allowed them to settle at Trent Bridge and from the moment Rob Key inserted the hosts on winning the toss, even if it looked the correct decision in cloudy, overcast skies, things went from bad to worse for Kent.

Two century partnerships between first Neil Edwards (85) and Hashim Amla (129) and then Amla and Chris Read (62) set up Notts for maximum batting points, a position that allowed them to dictate terms during the rest of the game.

By Newell’s own admission their final score of 456 was at least 150 more than they should have been allowed to get on a wicket that offered something for the bowlers.

The fact Notts did make so many runs was down to some excellent batting from debutants Edwards and Amla, who were savage on anything loose, combined with a lack of depth in the Kent seam attack that saw them unable to capitalise on the good early work of Amjad Khan.

Encouragingly, Notts batted well down the order, too, with Paul Franks (73) illustrating his all-round capabilities.

The only disappointment, in what turned out to be a near-perfect performance, was that the top order did again not fire fully.

Bilal Shafayat (4), Mark Wagh (0), Samit Patel (15) and Ali Brown (18) all missed out as other players cashed in, but that really is nit-picking. You would expect each one of that quartet to fire at some point in future matches.

Chasing 456, Kent were soon in trouble and Notts never let their opponents off the hook with some disciplined bowling.

Ryan Sidebottom did the early damage you might expect from someone with his pedigree and experience though, of course, they won’t always be able to call on the services of the former Yorkshire player.

But, even in his absence, Andre Adams and Luke Fletcher proved in an innings and 32 run triumph that they look more than equipped to cause most county batsmen problems.

And, it’s easy to forget that Charlie Shreck and Darren Pattinson are also still come back in the equation, making for a healthy mix of seaming options.

If the Trent Bridge wickets offer a little more carry and lateral movement in 2010, as is hoped, it could mean the absence of Notts’ England big guns is not as keenly felt as last year.

However, against Somerset, starting today (Wednesday), the green and golds hope to have the added bonus of the rare inclusion of Stuart Broad, who will no doubt want to shine on a rare outing in county colours.

What will not have escaped Notts’ notice is that defending champions Durham earned just four points in their opening clash against Essex, which saw the north-easterners on the defensive for much of the game.

Had the weather been fairer on the final day up at the Riverside, and Michael Di Venuto and Dale Benkenstein not put up such resolute resistance, Will Smith’s side might even have gone down to a surprise defeat after going through their entire 2009 campaign unbeaten.

Even so, it should reaffirm the thinking at Trent Bridge that no side is unbeatable.

What Notts will be keen to do now is carry the momentum they built up in the Kent game into their next few fixtures.

They have five games out of six on home turf in the County Championship before May is out and it could give them a chance to build up a significant head of steam.

Among those is a clash with Durham, a big game if ever there was one.

For the moment, however, it has to be one step at a time.

Notts’ win over Kent was undeniably impressive. But it was, after all, just one match.
 
Notts rating against Kent:

Neil Edwards (8). A dream debut for the former Somerset man. Not only scored 85 in his first County Championship innings for Notts, but also pouched five slip catches in the Kent first innings – the most by an outfielder in green and gold since Derek Randall in the 1980s. More of the same will be the Cornishman’s aim for the rest of the campaign.

Bilal Shafayat (5). Came into the game having scored a big hundred against Durham MCCU but struggled to translate that form against the new ball on the first morning before he was an early Amjad Khan victim. Will be hoping for bigger scores against Somerset to cement his place, especially with Alex Hales and Matt Wood waiting in the wings.

Mark Wagh (5). Lasted just two balls with the bat before being dismissed for a duck and then watched, frustrated no doubt, as much of the rest of the Notts order made decent scores. But that can happen to anyone and has proven his ability to bounce back from off days plenty of times in the past.

Hashim Amla (9). The South African could hardly have announced himself to the Trent Bridge members in a more authoritative style. Rarely looked in trouble in accumulating an assured 129, defending stoutly and punishing the loose ball with consummate ease. It is just a shame for Notts that he is here for just four County Championship games.

Samit Patel (7). Looked in good touch with the bat and was, as usual, scoring freely until he was strangled down the leg side for 15. But having missed out on big runs, the former Kimberley player showed up well with the ball, claiming 3-24 in the Kent second innings with his left-arm spin. His role as a bowler could be increasingly key as the summer goes on in the absence of Graeme Swann.

Ali Brown (6). Showed he looks to be in decent touch with two sixes during his 18 before falling lbw just as he looked set. The 40-year-old will hope for better things to come against Somerset and beyond.

Chris Read (8). As ever, his wicketkeeping was excellent and took a superb, diving, legside catch to remove danger man Martin van Jaarsveld in the first innings off Andre Adams. He led the way with the bat for Notts last year by scoring more than 1,200 runs and immediately picked up where he left off last September. May well have gone on to make a century, rather than 62, had he not run himself out. As captain, rotated his bowling unit intelligently.

Paul Franks (7). It’s an important year for the long-serving all-rounder and he needs to perform well if Notts are to flourish following the retirement of the ever-reliable Mark Ealham. But the early signs are good, particularly with the bat, where he followed his century against Durham MCCU by inflicting more misery on a labouring Kent attack, hitting a solid 73 at a decent pace. With the ball, he was steady, if unspectacular, and picked up 2-35 in the Kent first innings.

Andre Adams (8). The pick of the Notts bowlers against Kent, he followed up 4-63 in the first innings with 3-78 in the second, despite having precious little time to acclimatise following his arrival from grade cricket in Australia. The New Zealander continually put the ball in the right areas to ask questions of the batsmen and nipped the ball around off the seam.

Luke Fletcher (7). Cut something of a frustrated figure in the Kent first innings when he went largely unrewarded for some good bowling in support of more successful colleagues. But the academy product came alive in the second innings, snaring the key trio of skipper Rob Key, Martin van Jaarsveld and Geraint Jones. A good start in his bid to establish himself as a Notts first-team regular.

Ryan Sidebottom (7). The England left-armer made crucial early inroads when Kent first batted, removing openers Joe Denly and Rob Key in quick succession with some incisive swing bowling. Took just one wicket in the second innings, but demonstrated that he will be a sustained threat at County Championship level when he is not called up for England duty.

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