Little over 500 metres separates the middle of the Trent Bridge turf from the pitch frequented by Nottinghamshire’s Second XI at Lady Bay.
The circular floodlights of Notts’ historic home are easily visible from the facilities further down Radcliffe Road – and that lack of physical distance is matched by a similarity of standard set by those coaching the second team.
In the early weeks of the 2021 season, Assistant Head Coach Paul Franks has cast his eye over proceedings at the Notts Sports Ground – and he is keen to ensure that those in the seconds display a distinctly first-team mindset.
“We’re setting the same standards at Lady Bay as we’re setting at Trent Bridge, and there are certain things we won’t compromise on,” he said.
“In second team cricket it’s all about forming the right habits – and there are certain expectations, both on and off the field, that I see as unconditional if we want to be consistent.
“We’ve set out those expectations in the last few weeks, and it came together with a great team performance in Birmingham this week. The lads are getting the idea of the standards we demand of them, both as a group and as individuals if they want to move into the first team.”
Nottinghamshire’s most recent Second XI Championship clash saw them triumph by an innings over Warwickshire, as centuries for Matthew Montgomery, Joey Evison, Sol Budinger and captain Peter Trego carried the visitors to 660/8 dec.
The result was sealed partway through the final day, courtesy of a five-wicket haul for right-armer James Hayes and further scalps for Calvin Harrison, Toby Pettman and Tom Barber.
Second XI Championship fixtures are taking place over four days this season, rather than the three that had become customary - a change in format that Franks feels can be beneficial.
“You’ve got more time in a four-day game than you probably realise at times,” he said.
“Something we’re trying to promote across the club is that we need to read the game and play the situation accordingly.
“We don’t always need to be on fast-forward; we can take our time at various points in the game, then we can go up through the gears when we get the chance to seize the initiative – and we can learn to deal with those moments when the pressure is on as well.
“It’s about being satisfied with doing what you need to do in order to put the team into a good position.”
While the Second XI features a healthy contingent of players from the senior squad, the format also allows players from further down the Nottinghamshire pathway, or outside the setup altogether, to become accustomed with the demands of professional sport.
For Franks, there are certain facets of a player’s ability and aptitude that can only be tested in the heat of battle.
“With the professionals in the seconds, we compromise on nothing,” he said.
“Their attitude has to be right, they have to being the best versions of themselves and they have to put a shift in.
“With the lads that come in from outside, we give them as much time as we can to allow them to get used to the environment, the pitches and a style of play that might be different to any they’ve experienced before.
“We expect them to bring their enthusiasm, and their skill as well, and we take a look at them on an individual basis to see if they can reach the standards we expect.”
After a Covid-ravaged 2020 campaign, 2021 at least promises a return to a greater volume of second XI cricket – even if a range of safety protocols remain in place.
Nottinghamshire’s three fixtures so far have given Franks ample reason to feel optimistic about the opportunities the coming months present.
“There’s a chance for players to impress in the seconds this year that simply wasn’t there last year,” he said.
“We’ve got a good solid selection of games on some excellent grounds, and we’re up against some like-minded Second XIs who are looking to play some good cricket.
“And if we continue to play on pitches of the standard we have so far at Lady Bay and in Birmingham, we’ll be delighted with that because it promotes a really good game of cricket.”
Tickets to witness Notts Outlaws’ defence of their Vitality Blast title in 2021 are now on general sale.