Moment to savour for Noon
Comment and Analysis | 25th March 2011
Wayne Noon has enjoyed plenty of moments to savour in his long, loyal stay at Trent Bridge as first player and then coach.
But he can hardly have had a prouder moment than leading Notts, as champion county, into their clash with the MCC in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
The game acts as a curtain raiser to the new English domestic season, where Notts are going all out to repeat their triumph of 2010.
And with director of cricket Mick Newell on tour in the West Indies with England Lions as part of their management set-up, it is Noon's honour to lead the green and golds into action at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
The Grimsby-born former wicketkeeper-batsman has stepped up from his position as assistant manager to take charge of the squad since Newell's temporary departure in late January.
Noon has been working closely with the Notts squad, ensuring they have had the best possible preparations not only for their game in the United Arab Emirates, but also their first match of the Championship season at home to Hampshire on April 14.
"It's going to be a huge experience for everyone and the lads have been buzzing about it. The hardest thing has been keeping their minds on the task in hand in the last few days," said Noon.
"It's no surprise when you look at the hotel where we are staying and the facilities that will be on offer; they look amazing.
"There is massive excitement, it's fair to say, and it's not just about the cricket either.
"The chief executive (Derek Brewer), some of the committee members and business representatives are going out to discuss commercial opportunities.
"It's a big trip for everyone concerned and it's an honour for our lads to have said they have played in such a match."
Notts are taking a strong squad out to the Middle East, although there will be some expected absentees.
Fast bowler Andy Carter has been drafted into the England Lions so will not be available, nor will Adam Voges, Darren Pattinson and Andre Adams, who are finishing spells overseas.
Seam bowler Charlie Shreck is making good progress after a winter back operation, but may not be fit enough to play against the MCC.
Ben Phillips and Graeme White are ruled out after picking up injuries in training.
Noon said: "Shrecky has bowled five or six-over spells in the nets and taken part in the fielding.
"He is making good progress and has come on a heck of a lot in the past week or so, but we are talking about four whole days.
"It is whether he can continue to progress enough to be considered for selection, but with a bit of sun on his back he might progress even more.
"It's important to get Charlie fit for the season more than anything because he bowls well at Trent Bridge.
He's a valued member of the squad and if he can play eight to ten games for us this season then he will be doing his job.
"In Abu Dhabi, with Carter not going, it frees up a bowling slot and if Shrecky can't play, then the bowling sort of picks itself."
The four-day clash will be played as a day/night game using a pink ball.
Both are experiments for possible use in future Test cricket matches, designed to improve attendances.
Unusual format notwithstanding, conditions are likely to be far removed from what the team will experience on their return.
Notts are also involved in a Twenty20 event after the conclusion of the four-day match that also features Durham and a Fly Emirates XI.
"We are not going to have much experience of playing with a pink ball and it is going to be different playing in 30 degree heat under lights," said Noon.
"It is not a game we have got a lot of preparation for. We are flying in and then flying out with only a little practice.
"And the lads who are not in the team will be practicing with white and red balls ready for the new season.
"But at the same time we are taking it seriously and we do want to win it and will try to pick a team to do so."
Durham were convincing winners as champion county over the MCC last year, but Notts are likely to face a tougher task this time around.
Their opponents have drafted in prolific India batsman Rahul Dravid, as well as England international wicket-keeper Steven Davies and former Australia opener Chris Rogers.
Other recognisable names include former England Ashes-winning paceman Simon Jones and Steve Kirby, a Notts target who has signed for Somerset.
Noon said: "I think it's fair to say we go in as underdogs looking at the respective teams.
"It is going to be a difficult start but at least we are going to know where we are at and where we still need to improve.
"We are not going to pick the final team until we see the pitch because if conditions mean we should play two spinners, we will.
"In the big scheme of things it is a bit like the Charity Shield, no-one will really remember who won the game midway through the season, but that does not mean you don't want to win it."
Matt Halfpenny is the Midlands Sports Journalist of the year and follows Nottinghamshire for the Nottingham Post.