Second XI cricket caters for many needs.

Just ask four-times Test-capped England seamer Jake Ball, who continued his return to red ball action with wickets against Warwickshire at Lady Bay this week; or Jack Peirce who, having shown impressive form for Radcliffe-on-Trent Cricket Club and Exeter University, has been given an extended run in the side.

For Nottinghamshire’s Assistant Head Coach, Paul Franks, the need to produce game situations and environments which challenge all players, whilst ensuring a winning mentality is instilled and expectations are met, is paramount.

Those objectives have been largely exceeded, he says, in the most recent block of Second XI Championship games, of which Notts won two, lost two and drawn one.

“We play for results, we have to, as we want to produce winning cricketers throughout that group. Whilst it’s always important that guys are playing well and developing their own individual games, you want them to create winning opportunities as well,” Franks said.

“But I don’t want a group of players or individuals who are just used to playing one style of cricket in one set of circumstances.

“The variety of surfaces, weather conditions, oppositions that we have faced has given us a lot of information about our players, and that’s what we need.

“We need to see how they respond and whether they can perform in those circumstances. If the answer is yes, then the likelihood is that they’ll move forward in the game."

In the most recent set of fixtures, wins against strong Lancashire and Worcestershire sides sandwiched a loss against Leicestershire and a chastening draw against Yorkshire, during which the White Rose’s Finlay Bean made a well-documented Second XI Championship record score.

All games represent learning opportunities for Franks’ squad: a chance for them to learn about themselves and their own games, as well as the staff.

They enable the likes of Matthew Montgomery - who made his Nottinghamshire First-Class debut against Glamorgan in July - and Toby Pettman - who made his Division Two and One bows in loans to Derbyshire and Kent respectively - to stand up, and more recently-recruited staff members to settle in.

“There have been all sorts of challenges: we’ve had express pace, spin, flat pitches, surfaces that have taken turn and everything in this last block, not to mention extreme weather conditions,” Franks said.

“You often learn a lot about individuals and teams when things are going well and equally as much when the backs are against the wall.

“Who are the players who are going to come out fighting? Who are those that will stand alongside their teammates and provide the direction that the game needs at that time? I’ve been impressed with the group as a whole and the individuals within it have done a good job.

“Both Matt and Toby are really good young men who work hard at their game. They understand that there’s more to cricket than the seconds, they’re aspirational and know what is required if they step up to the next level. In both of their cases, it didn’t surprise me that they moved on to first team cricket and did well.

“The way we view it, our expectations are different for the younger players that are establishing themselves at that level. 

“Ben Martindale would be a great example of that - he has played really well against some good opposition. Sammy [King] making his first hundred, James [Hayes] taking wickets consistently, Fateh [Singh] finishing school and coming back onto the staff officially... that little cluster of players are earlier in their journey might be a little bit more naïve, but they’re learning about the game every day, and they’re taking everything in all the time.”

Many of this season’s Second XI squad will get the chance to pull on a first team shirt with the dawn of the Royal London Cup around the corner. For the likes of Dane Schadendorf and Sol Budinger, it presents an opportunity for flourishing professionals to stake a claim on a bigger stage.

Likewise, those with limited List A exposure will have the expectations of first XI cricket placed upon them, and will be tasked with handling the pressure.

It is less a matter of sink or swim, but a guided process, an opportunity for which the crop has been preparing, and one which could help ready them for the future.

“The guys who are in and around that team, they’re moving all the time so their expectations are all subtly different,” Franks said.

“Some of them want to re-establish their place on the staff, some are trying to step into a place where we consider them to join.

“It’s going to be an exciting time for all of them looking at the Royal London Cup. Dane Schadendorf will step into a prominent role in that team, the others will be competing for places, and they will deserve their chance when it comes.

“They have to view it as the next step in their cricketing journey. It’s certainly not lost on us that some of those performances last year were excellent in that competition and the players took a lot from it.

“I’m confident that they’ll do the same this year. A lot of them are ready for that next step up, and I have every faith they will flourish again.”


The Royal London Cup Final

The timeless pomp, ceremony and tradition of county cricket's historic 50-over final. 18 First-Class counties go head-to-head in this prestigious competition, aiming to emerge with the spoils at our historic venue. Secure your seats here...