Notts Must Impose
'Positive Mindset' At Old Trafford
Comment and Analysis | 11th September 2010
For the neutral it is exactly the exciting climax to the LV= County Championship season they would want: three teams in contention for the title separated by just seven points.
For Notts, it is exactly the scenario they had hoped to avoid.
With 13 matches of their season gone and three to go, after their late-August home triumph over Lancashire, the green and golds had an imposing 16-point lead with a game in hand.
At that juncture, it seemed odds on that Mick Newell’s men would go on to finish as champion county for the first time since 2005.
However, defeats in their subsequent games at Durham and at home to title rivals Yorkshire have thrown an entirely new light on things.
Frustratingly for Newell, the players and all the club’s supporters, performances in those two matches were not universally poor.
In each case, one poor session cost Notts dearly. At the Riverside, they needed to bat out 78 overs on the final day to secure a draw and an extra three points.
It seemed a formality considering both sides had scored in excess of 300 in their previous three innings of the match on a good wicket.
Nottinghamshire’s task also looked to have been made easier by Durham losing two bowlers through injury, Mark Davies before a ball had been bowled and Liam Plunkett after just two overs.
The visitors were comfortable at 51-1, but then lost three wickets in four balls to the bowling of Ben Harmison – Alex Hales Adam Voges and Samit Patel his victims – and never recovered to be 180 all out and go down by 210 runs.
It was a reversal of fortunes against Yorkshire in that Notts made a disastrous start to the match and then performed valiantly to give themselves a sniff on an unlikely victory.
It was a bad toss from Chris Read to lose as his side were stuck in under heavy skies where the ball moved around all over the place. Yorkshire, who bowled superbly, took full advantage.
Read said it was the most he had seen the ball seam and swing in a single session during his time at Trent Bridge.
"Notts badly missed Ryan Sidebottom to back up Adams against Yorkshire – and how they wish he would be in their team for what would be his final game in the county’s colours."
But Notts’ response with the bat was still disappointing – some of the players gifting their wickets – as they were dismissed for a paltry 59, the lowest score of the season in Division One.
Thereafter, the hosts restored some pride and also gave Yorkshire a fright, restricting them to 264 in their first innings and then replying with 413 all out.
That left Andrew Gale’s side chasing 209 for victory and at 91-4, with Darren Pattinson and Andre Adams in full flight, the result was very much up in the air.
But a 97-run partnership between Jonathan Bairstow (63 not out) and Gerard Brophy (41) swung the game back in Yorkshire’s favour.
The upshot of all that is that Notts still lead the table on 205 points, but Somerset, who won their last game against Lancashire by nine wickets, are hot on their heels with 203 and Yorkshire closely follow with 198.
From a position of undeniable strength, the green and golds now go into the season finale with just the slenderest of advantages.
There are two schools of thought looking at things from a Notts point of view ahead of the final round of matches, which begin on Monday.
The first is the optimistic standpoint. Still being top of the pile, the team travel to Lancashire knowing a maximum-points victory means they cannot be caught.
If they perform to their potential, really hit their straps, then what happens in Somerset and Yorkshire’s games is irrelevant.
It is the type of position – to have your destiny in your own hands – that any team would have taken at the start of the season going into the last week.
There is also the pessimistic standpoint. That Notts have already blown their best chance in losing to Yorkshire and are now no longer favourites, more outsiders.
While they face the prospect of playing on an Old Trafford ‘turner’ with no experienced, front-line spinner in the absence of Graeme Swann – although Graeme White is likely to be called up – Somerset and Yorkshire’s games are arguably easier.
The West Country side go to the Riverside, Durham to take on a team who are both out of the title hunt and safe from relegation.
The soon-to-be-deposed reigning champions also have crippling injuries in their bowling department, which is likely to aid Somerset’s cause further.
Yorkshire look to have the most straightforward task in the search for what could be a decisive victory as they host relegation threatened Kent at Headingley.
The White Rose county may be third in the table now, but many now have them as the most likely to come out on top by the end of Thursday.
Of course, the weather could yet have a part to play – as it does in every County Championship season.
If Notts collect a good amount of bonus points and rain affects all three venues, that could be of greatest benefit to them.
The other factor that could be crucial, particularly in the case of Newell’s side, is player availability.
Notts badly missed Ryan Sidebottom to back up Adams against Yorkshire – and how they wish he would be in their team for what would be his final game in the county’s colours.
Of course, the left-arm paceman has been on England duty, but was not selected for the first one-day international against Pakistan yesterday that England won by 24 runs at the Riverside.
If he is not picked again tomorrow for the second game at Headingley, then Newell will be asking England coach Andy Flower if he can be released to play at Old Trafford.
What a fillip it would be for the director of cricket if Sidebottom were available, such a reliable performer he has always been for his county.
But it is not the be all and end all. One player, after all, does not make a team.
The most important thing for Notts to remember is that, whoever takes to the field in Manchester, has to go out with a positive mindset.
That is what helped them win their first four matches of the LV= County Championship season and that is their only possible path to glory.