When Dan Christian is asked for his favourite memory of last season, he answers without a second’s hesitation. It was, after all, something he had been working towards for three years as a Notts Outlaw, and a goal the team, as a collective, have targeted for a decade-and-a-half.
“Finals Day victory is easily my number one moment from being here last season,” he affirms. “It was a fantastic day and a pleasure to be part of.”
Certainly those Outlaws supporters who managed to get tickets for that sunny September day won’t forget what happened in a hurry, as the Outlaws clinched their first domestic T20 trophy success since the competition’s inception in 2003.
First, Hampshire were brushed aside in the semi-final, as Notts posted 169-7, with Riki Wessels making 48, Samit Patel 35 and Christian 24 before the South Coast county were bowled out for 146 in their reply as Harry Gurney took 3-19 and Steven Mullaney 3-22.
“Finals Day is tiring and long, but when you get the rewards at the end of it, it’s all worthwhile, as it was for us. It was a brilliant experience.”
Then, with a partisan crowd cheering on home favourites Birmingham Bears, the Outlaws recovered from 30-3 thanks to a Finals Day record partnership of 132 between Samit Patel (64 not out) and Brendan Taylor (65) to score 190-4, before Gurney took 4-17 as the visitors were restricted to 168-8.
It left the Outlaws to parade the trophy under the floodlights and congratulate themselves on a job well done.
“The boys were absolutely fantastic and so calm at Finals Day,” he says. “Playing in the second rather than the first semi-final was kind of lucky for us because we didn’t get much time to think about it too much really going into the final.
“You come off having won, take your shoes off for a few minutes and then you are back on tossing the coin and then you’re into it again.
“It does make for a pretty tiring and long day, but when you get the rewards at the end of it, it’s all worthwhile, as it was for us. It was a brilliant experience.”
Many will remember the trophy presentation itself when Christian, to use his native parlance, ‘copped an unfortunate one’ in the shape of a black eye.
The initial moment of pain was soon replaced by a feeling of elation, however, as Notts completed a white ball double having won the Royal London One-Day Cup two months earlier at Lord’s.
Christian recalls: “I think the woman presenting the trophy was just trying to get out of the way of all the Champagne spray, but it certainly hurt – and having the Champagne in your eyes straight after didn’t help!
“But there’s no better feeling than winning a trophy and it was a superb effort from all the squad who stood up and did their bit at various points.
“Chasing 180 down in about 14 overs against Durham was an amazing effort and chasing down 225 here against Yorkshire was also pretty special.”
“There were a couple of great chases that stick out in my mind. Chasing 180 down in about 14 overs against Durham was an amazing effort and chasing down 225 here against Yorkshire was also pretty special.”
But DC, as he is affectionately known in the dressing room and around the Club, is only too aware that success in not earned by living on past glories, but by striving for continual improvement.
That’s why he and the rest of the Green and Golds squad have be training hard since the conclusion of last week’s Specsavers County Championship match against Worcestershire.
They’ve also had the useful exercise of a Second XI game against Essex at Grantham to hone their skills where Riki Wessels scored 93 and Tom Moores 58 in a 20-over total of 237-5 before Luke Fletcher took 5-15 as the visitors were bowled out for 154.
“I can’t wait to get started again. Having won the title last year, everyone is pretty excited to try to defend it, but we’re all focused on what we have to do too,” says Christian.
“The boys have been playing some pretty good cricket in the Championship and in the one-day (50-over) competition, so hopefully we can drag some of that momentum into the T20.”
What has pleased Christian, who played at Trent Bridge with a touring Aboriginal XI team in June and has since played a couple of Second XI fixtures, is that not too much has changed in terms of personnel.
While Michael Lumb has retired, Taylor returned to Zimbabwe and Brett Hutton moved on to Northants, the squad is largely unchanged from last season, with just a couple of additions in the shape of Chris Nash and Will Fraine.
The former Australian international insists: “Having continuity in the team is huge. We’re really only going to be missing Brendan and Lumby from who started the first game last year.
“I’m really confident that we can mount a decent defence – and I think the boys will be confident too.”
“We’re also missing Alex Hales at the start with England duty, but apart from that we’ve got a very similar squad that is pretty strong.
“Throw into the mix Chris Nash, who has been fantastic for Sussex in this format over the last few years in the T20 comp, then I think we will be just as strong, if not stronger than we were last year.”
While defending a title often proves to be more difficult than winning it in the first place, Christian is confident the Outlaws can put on a good show.
The team also reached Finals Day in 2016, where they lost at the semi-final stage to eventual winners Northamptonshire Steelbacks.
“I don’t think it was so much of a mental barrier winning it for the first time, I just think it’s a hard comp to win with 18 teams in it,” says Christian.
“I’m really confident that we can mount a decent defence – and I think the boys will be confident too.
“The confidence comes from knowing that we can win it, as we did last year, and that we had success against all the other teams we played in the competition.
“There’s a lot of guys in really good form again too this year, so I think we will go very well.”
It’s rare for teams to totally dominate in T20, given that one match-winning performance can swing a game on way or another.
“In both the North and South Groups, there are some fantastic players all the way through. It’s just about trying to get that momentum.
But Notts have managed to win the majority of their group matches during the past couple of years by finding a winning formula and reproducing it time and again.
That’s exactly what the team will be out to do again when they kick-off their campaign tomorrow night against the Birmingham Bears – a rematch of last year’s final – in front of the Sky television cameras (6.30pm start).
“In both the North and South Groups, there are some fantastic players all the way through,” adds Christian. “It’s just about trying to get that momentum.
“We were able to get it last year, even though we didn’t start the season that well. Once we got on a roll we managed to keep it all the way through.
“The crowd are always fantastic when we are here at Trent Bridge. They are very knowledgeable, supportive and it’s always packed, so hopefully we can get one over on Birmingham for them and get off to a winning start.”
Notts Outlaws squad to face Birmingham Bears: Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Luke Fletcher, Matt Carter, Samit Patel, Tom Moores (wkt), Dan Christian (c), Ish Sodhi, Billy Root.
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