Dan Christian is quietly confident the ‘improving’ Notts Outlaws can qualify for the NatWest T20 Blast knock-out quarter-finals.
The side he skippers currently sit in sixth place in the North Group table with nine points from eight matches ahead of tomorrow’s trip to the Leicestershire Foxes (6.30pm).
But, as it stands, with the teams so evenly matched, the Outlaws are likely to go into the top four on run-rate with an emphatic victory at the Fischer County Ground, as the fixture is the only one of the night in T20.
It’s a fact not lost on Australian all-rounder Christian, who has been pleased with Notts’ progress which has seen four wins from the last five completed matches after defeats in their opening two games.
“We are definitely improving and moving in the right direction in my view,” he said. “The batsmen have been fantastic all the way through and the bowling has been getting better, even if it hasn’t always been reflected in the scores.
“It’s not just been difficult for our bowlers, but for bowlers all around the country, who have found it tough going in the face of some big hitting.
“It’s been particularly difficult to bowl at Trent Bridge where we’ve seen some record-breaking scores with the 227 we got against Derbyshire and our record chase against Yorkshire the other day, as well as the Worcestershire and Northamptonshire games, where teams have been getting close to or above 200.
“Overall, I think we are quite well placed to go through to the next stage and, if we can keep the home wins coming, then maybe we can get a home quarter-final too.
“It’s hard to say how many points and wins we are going to need to make the quarters because the group has been so unpredictable so far, but I think it will be around the 16 to 18-point mark.”
Notts can boast the batsman who is statistically the most explosive in the NatWest T20 Blast so far this summer in the shape of Alex Hales, with his strike rate of 200 the highest of anyone who has played more than a couple of games.
His 292 runs in seven matches at 48.66 also make him the fifth most prolific run scorer in this season’s competition – with his brutal 101 from 47 balls against the Yorkshire Vikings at Trent Bridge on Sunday underlining his value to the team.
Christian added: “I think he has to rate as the best white-ball batsman in the country at the moment. He’s always been there or thereabouts, but he’s in such good form.
“When I flew over to prepare for the start of the T20, it was just in time to see his 187 not out in the Royal London One-Day Final at Lord’s – and he has just carried that on in T20 cricket.
“He’s always been an unbelievable striker of the ball, but now he seems to be more in control of his innings, is able to take down the right bowlers and picks the ends with the shorter boundaries.
“That comes with maturity as you get older and from the fact that the more you play, the more you work out your game and that of others.”
Peter Moores has taken direct control of the team this season in moving up to the Head Coach role, having previously a consultant.
Christian has enjoyed working with the former England man, who has already secured the Royal London One-Day Cup Trophy and led Nottinghamshire to the top of the Specsavers County Championship Division Two.
“I’ve enjoyed working with Pete – he’s very hands on and has lots of good ideas, plus he’s a very good man to talk to about the game, whether that’s about me personally or the team as a whole.
“He brings a great energy to the group and the boys have shown they have responded very well to him with the results they have posted. Hopefully they’ll be more success to come.”
Christian has rarely featured as a bowler in the 2017 NatWest T20 Blast – just as was the case last summer – delivering just 6.5 overs in seven matches.
But although he has used himself sparingly so far, the captain is not ruling out operating more frequently in the remainder of the campaign, if needed.
The Sydney-born player said: “I’ve bowled a lot more in the Big Bash and IPL than I have over here and that’s been a little bit of a conscious decision, but also down to the stock of the team.
“But there could be games in the future where I do bowl four overs in a match – it could be tomorrow night, Friday, Saturday or none of them – but it’s always good to have extra options.”
Notts Outlaws squad to face the Leicestershire Foxes (from): Brendan Taylor, Steven Mullaney, Riki Wessels, Alex Hales, Harry Gurney, Luke Wood, Samit Patel, Tom Moores, Brett Hutton, Jake Ball, Dan Christian, Ish Sodhi, Billy Root.