Nottinghamshire have an embarrassment of riches in their seam bowling department but with the departure of AJ Harris and Gareth Clough, Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad on England duty and Mark Ealham set to retire at the end of next season, where will Mick Newell’s next fast bowler come from? Luke Fletcher and Andy Carter hope that they can put their cases forward in 2009.
Having enjoyed a fast track to prominence in the Notts setup, Luke Fletcher never thought that his most telling contribution in his first season as a professional at Trent Bridge would come with the bat.
The talented Bulwell-born seam bowler scored two crucial runs against Leicestershire Foxes in the Friends Provident Trophy in May - his quick single off the final ball securing victory for the Outlaws and underlining his arrival on the first team scene.
“When I went out to the middle I was very nervous,” said Fletcher.
“Rob Ferley told me to stay calm and he said that we’d win if we batted out the overs but when it came down to the final ball with me on strike I just wanted to get it off the square and sprint. The lads were all over me in the dressing room afterwards but my mouth was so dry that I couldn’t speak.”
In his youth, Fletcher showed promise as a goalkeeper and spent six months on Notts County’s books as a 12 year old but after learning that he was to be released, he turned his back on football and was cajoled into cricket by a school friend from Henry Mellish. He broke into the Papplewick first team at 15 and made his Notts Second Eleven debut at 17.
He was asked to join Notts on their pre-season tour of South Africa and after enjoying his first taste of county cricket, he is determined to push on in 2009.
“I’ve already started working on my fitness for next season,” said Fletcher.
“I’ll do strength work until Christmas and then try and slim down and I’ve got the opportunity to spend some time in Australia.”
Fletcher will spend time at the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy in Adelaide to hone his action and he is determined to capitalise whenever he gets the nod from Director of Cricket Mick Newell.
“If there are injuries next season, then I need to be ready to go straight in there,” said Fletcher.
“I know the standard and I know that my strengths are accuracy and consistency and I have to stick to that and make sure that I don’t make any errors.
“Playing in the one day side this year felt unbelievable because my main target was to dominate in the Second Eleven. Playing for England Under 19s was another great honour that I wasn’t expecting but it was a proud moment when I was selected and it shows that I am doing the right things.”
Andy Carter holds an identical ambition to force his way into the reckoning. Having been plucked from the Lincolnshire setup and awarded a short-term deal in April, he impressed sufficiently to win an extended stay at Trent Bridge and hopes to begin pre-season in good shape after undergoing ankle surgery in October.
“I had a posterior impingement which is a common ankle injury for cricketers,” said Carter.
“It sent sharp pains through my leg when I bowled and I’ve had four pieces of floating bone removed but I’m off the crutches now and it has responded OK.”
Carter took wickets at will for Bracebridge Heath in the Lincolnshire Premier League, topping the bowling averages and enjoying a career-best haul of 8-67 in 2007.
“My game is based around pure pace. I’m not the most patient of bowlers and I take an aggressive approach into matches,” said Carter.
“Paul Johnson watched me play a while ago and since then Wayne Noon kept in touch with Mark Fell (Lincolnshire Coach) and I got the chance to come to Notts.
“Noony has been brilliant with me and I’ve benefited from being involved in a professional setup. I was intimidated as an outsider walking into a dressing room full of recognised players but I’ve settled now and I’m backing myself to break in if I carry on making progress.”
Notts Director of Cricket Mick Newell has backed the duo and would prefer to blood them rather than sign new talent provided that they make the grade.
“Opportunities will arise for these players if they prove that they’re worth it,” said Newell.
“Ideally, they’ll both play first team cricket and do well for Notts next season but they have to put the work in with Kev Paxton (fitness coach) and continue to develop.
“Fletch came to us without having played a huge amount of cricket but he has done well and didn’t let himself down in the Friends Provident Trophy last season. He’s got a lot of things to work on bowling-wise and his batting can improve as well but he’s working hard and he’s grateful whenever he gets a chance to impress.
“Andy Carter has genuine pace and can be the quickest of the two. We were aware of him for a while and his recruitment shows that we’re not blinkered and that we’re prepared to pluck players from Minor Counties.”
- This article first appeared in Covered, the official magazine of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club