Former Notts man Jim Hindson charts the rise of three Notts protégés.
Notts have enjoyed a fantastic start to the season, and although it is still relatively early days, there are tangible reasons to be optimistic that Mick Newell is steering the club towards success both now, and in the future. Fundamental to this assumption are the performances of young guns, Alex Hales, Steven Mullaney and Luke Fletcher.
At just 21 years of age, Hales is the youngest of the three players, but his performances since his arrival at the club belie his tender years. He burst on to the domestic scene with a scintillating century, made against Worcestershire in the NatWest Pro40 in front of the Sky Sports cameras last year, with his innings of 150 including no fewer than 21 boundaries – eight of them maximums.
A brace of half centuries against Durham, with a fired up Steve Harmison bowling his home county towards a Championship title, helped quash any theories about Hales technique against the short-pitched delivery. Another test of character came at the start of this season when the top order batsman was overlooked for first team selection, relegating him to a scrap for Mick Newell’s attention on the second team circuit.
A double century versus the MCC Young Cricketers sealed his bid for First XI cricket and he celebrated his recall with a maiden first-class hundred in Notts Championship fixture down at Hampshire. I know from personal experience, that a pre-requisite for any player to survive and flourish in professional cricket is a sound temperament – something that proved a challenge too far in my own short career. Hales clearly has the talent to dominate in first team cricket and beyond, and if he can ride out the peaks and troughs of form as he has done to date, Notts may well lose this likeable young man to higher honours.
"A bowler’s lot is a tough ask, with up to eight times their body weight being pounded through a braced front leg in the delivery stride."
Luke Fletcher has become an integral part of the Notts squad since making his first team debut two years ago. The 6ft 6in tall all-rounder bowls a heavy ball and his 40 wickets in first-class cricket and 16 in one-day cricket, with an economy rate of 4.8, were enough to earn him a call up to the 'C-Group' of England's performance squad alongside Hales last winter.
I opened the batting for Caythorpe against him in the Nottinghamshire Premier League last week when he was starring as Clifton’s club professional – and I can tell you that he is a handful to face, generating steep bounce at 80mph plus. He is of a similar build to Andrew Flintoff and it is crucial that he retains his fitness over the next few years.
A bowler’s lot is a tough ask, with up to eight times their body weight being pounded through a braced front leg in the delivery stride. A physically fit Fletcher will be less prone to injury and he will be acutely aware that with the demanding nature of his job, his best years may well lie this side of him reaching 30.
One of Flintoff’s former team-mates at Lancashire, Steve Mullaney, joined Notts for the start of the 2010 season, and even the great man will have been impressed at the impact this 23-year-old from Warrington has had. Although earmarked by Lancashire as a one-day specialist, an unbeaten century in Notts’ superb win in the Championship versus Hampshire at The Rose Bowl repaid the faith invested by Mick Newell, with Mullaney now proving a pivotal player in all disciplines of the game. Mullaney’s challenge in the coming seasons will be managing the demands of practise and preparation to ensure he continues to evolve his batting, bowling and fielding skills.
Former Notts star Chris Cairns used to tell me how tough this was, but with Notts’ excellent backroom staff on hand to support Mullaney, the future for him – and the club – is bright.