Can Notts Outlaws
Lead The Way In T20?
Comment and Analysis | 10th January 2013
In today's world of slap-dash t20 cricket, sadly it is all too rare that one gets excited over one particular innings. Over-saturation, over-fed - call it what you will. But when a wicket or a six occurs in the first over, no longer is it breathtaking.
Occasionally, oh so occasionally, something sparks interest - and this happened yesterday, in the Australian Big Bash League. Drafted in as cover for the injured Marlon Samuels, Nottinghamshire's Alex Hales showed no sign of jet lag in smashing 89 from 52 balls.
But should we have expected anything less of a man coming from Trent Bridge? And what is the precedent that has been set at Trent Bridge that is sure to take off at other Counties across England?
"Having already signed the erudite Ed Cowan for the season, Nottinghamshire Director of Cricket Mick Newell has made it clear that he plans to make another overseas signing to cover the t20 run."
Hales was eventually caught at deep extra cover by his Nottinghamshire teammate Michael Lumb, who is plying his trade for the Sydney Sixers. Lumb did not enjoy quite the same success as Hales though, making just 21 (but still off a paltry 14 balls). In the irregular world of t20, Hales is the closest English cricket has to a 'consistent performer'.
Still relatively young in his international career, he has 418 runs in his 14 innings, with four fifties. The most famous of these, as well as the most painful, is the 99 he scored against the West Indies at Trent Bridge in 2012. Bowled by a Ravi Rampaul yorker, he sunk to his knees as his home ground groaned their collective disappointment.
The Nottinghamshire faithful have had to endure years of heartbreak in the Friends Life t20 competition. A county that has produced numerous players for the England t20 team - Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad and Samit Patel to go alongside Lumb and Hales - would expect success. But one semi-final and two quarter-final failures since 2010 is as far as they have got to tasting glory.
On first glance, it may seem as if 2013 is going to be another tough year for the Outlaws - as their former captain Australian Adam Voges has just signed for Middlesex.
However, I see big things in the pipeline for Nottinghamshire this season. Having already signed the erudite Ed Cowan for the season, Nottinghamshire Director of Cricket Mick Newell has made it clear that he plans to make another overseas signing to cover the t20 run.
Cowan has got a degree, written a book, and scored a ton against Steyn, Morkel and Philander.
Unable to assist them in their quest for silverware will be, as ever, their England-serving kinsmen. Although currently out of favour, Stuart Broad is the official England t20 captain - and a run of poor form in the England shirt could land him in Trent Bridge, assisting his team-mates there.
Although Graeme Swann is likely to be running out in the blue shirt, Samit Patel is more likely to be representing his county this year - as a purveyor of medium-fast darts and a bludgeoning blade he is a handy member of any t20 squad.
But what about the squad members who are not currently in contention for higher honours?
With former England 'keeper Chris Read captaining the side, it is a given that the best will be brought out of the players.
Should diminutive England batsman James Taylor not be required for England honours, he'll be in the middle order - a brilliantly promising player who can be destructive in the shortest format of the game. In terms of bowlers, former England paceman Ajmal Shahzad signed in October.
Shahzad is a class bowler, who never really got a long enough run in the England shirt. But luckily for Nottinghamshire, he has a point to prove. He promises to be a handful at Trent Bridge for sure and alongside Andre Adams, Harry Gurney, Jake Ball and Paul Franks will make up a formidable pace bowling attack.
However, all of this glory will have to be attained without the assistance of t20 practice in India - for Mick Newell and Nottinghamshire have banned their players from taking part in one of the richest sports events in the world. It has been decided - quite rightly - that the IPL overlaps too disruptively with the English county season, and the unprecedented step has been taken not to allow Lumb, Hales and Patel to pursue IPL contracts. Interestingly though, Broad and Swann could play in the IPL if they wanted to - for they are centrally contracted players.
This is a brave decision from Newell, but I think it is ultimately the right one. The IPL is a pernicious competition, the temptation of which is often too great for many players. I am a fan of t20, and I think that the right tournament to partake in, if one so desires, is the Big Bash in Australia. It does not compete with the English county season, it is more innovative than many other t20 competitions (including its English counterpart), and values fun more highly than it does money.
Moreover, we might see some more innings from Hales that take our breath away.
Tickets for all five Notts Outlaws Friends Life t20 Group Matches at Trent Bridge are now on sale with discounts in place for advanced purchases.