Should Be a 'Cracking Contest'
Comment and Analysis | 29th July 2010
Nottinghamshire travel to Taunton this week, the squad no doubt buoyed by the fantastic t20 victory over Sussex Sharks which propelled them into finals day at The Rose Bowl. By chance, they take on Somerset in the semi-final - their hosts for this latest Championship contest. Over the years, Somerset have established a proud reputation for heavy run scoring, due in part to having the likes of prolific openers Marcus Trescothick and Justin Langer at their disposal, and also to the nature of conditions at the County Ground.
The pitch is usually easy-paced and extremely flat, with batsmen able to trust the bounce implicitly. A marker of just how good these pitches have been in recent years is illustrated with a quick look at the record books. In the last seven years, there have been five instances where a team has amassed in excess of 700 runs in an innings. The pitches were so batsman friendly that former captain Justin Langer asked for moisture to be left in them at the start of Championship matches – to ensure some lateral movement for the seam bowlers and get the game moving forward, in the first innings at least.
The short boundaries behind the bowler’s arm lend themselves to batsmen playing straight to accumulate their runs, with a mis-hit drive over the top still standing a chance of clearing the ropes. And with the square stretching the length of the outfield – thanks to its utilisation for practise pitches - batsmen will also get full value for playing either side of the wicket. With the grass incredibly short, and regularly rolled, cuts, pulls and cover drives invariably reach the boundary.
When batsmen move away from Taunton, there is naturally a period of adjustment to their game. Nottinghamshire openers Matt Wood and Neil Edwards are just two players who have taken up the challenge of moving from the West Country to pursue their career. Batting at Trent Bridge throws up its own curiosities, demanding a robust technique and sharp eye to negotiate the new ball. There is genuine pace in the pitches, giving batsmen less time to adjust their stroke if the ball moves laterally, while the impressive new stands that have sprung up around the ground have created conditions which are conducive to the ball swinging conventionally, almost regardless of conditions overhead.
Away from Taunton, former Somerset players have a psychological challenge to overcome, as there will be a natural drop off in individual batsmen’s run-rate. Whereas a clip off the legs will often skate away for four at the County Ground, fine leg is always in with a chance of wheeling around to cut off the boundary and halve the number of runs accrued from the same stroke. The batsman’s innings develops at a slower pace, which may be frustrating and certainly has to be dealt with if he is to prosper.
Back to Notts fixture this week and Chris Read’s men have their own psychological challenge – to win a Championship game at the ground for the first time since 1985, to maintain their charge toward the First Division title. A century from opening batsman Tim Robinson and ‘five-fer’ from off-spinner Peter Such inspired the nine wicket victory 15 years ago, and a win in this match would put Notts back on top of the table with games in hand, before the crucial clash with second placed Yorkshire next week.
Nottinghamshire’s batsmen will know they are guaranteed maximum return for their time spent in the middle at Taunton – and will have the added attraction of weighing up the Somerset attack prior to the t20 final days in less than three weeks time. It should make for a cracking contest.