The signing of a player in his mid-30s after he’s had a long and successful career with another county can be, indeed has been, a bit of a gamble.
In the case of Darren Bicknell though, it proved an astute move. He joined Nottinghamshire from Surrey in 2000, opened the Notts batting in every Championship match and finished with an average of 34.32. In addition he and Guy Welton created a new Notts opening partnership record of 406 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston (the previous record by Jones and Shrewsbury had stood since 1899).
Bicknell was equally successful in the Sunday League, topping the batting table. It was undoubtedly due to his steadying influence that the county won promotion from the second division. Notts had a dire time in the B&H Trophy, but even in that Bicknell recorded Notts’ best innings total.
In 2001, he topped 1,000 runs for the summer, his average increasing to 36.20, as well as returning the highest aggregate in the Sunday League. Due to injury, Jason Gallian missed almost the whole season and Bicknell shouldered the additional burden of captaincy in virtually every match. In contrast to 2000, he took the county to the top of their group in the B&H Trophy, then hit a splendid 100 in the quarter-final against Warwickshire.
His brother, however, dismissed Darren cheaply in the semi-final as Surrey easily won through. Bicknell missed two Championship games in 2002 and just failed to reach 1,000 runs. He was also a little miffed at being omitted from most One Day games – the policy at the time being to include younger players.
When Notts won the Second Division in 2004, Bicknell was ever-present and hit 1080 runs at 43.20. He formed with Gallian a very reliable opening partnership that would improve still in the Championship winning year of 2005 – a summer in which he finished with 1,222 runs at 50.92. On 12 occasions he passed the 50 mark – no other Notts player managed to be so consistent.
It had been his original intention to retire at the close of 2005 but he was persuaded to continue for a further year. Again, he did not play in the One Dayers, but when not required by the County, he turned out with impressive results for Notts Unity. Against Retford, for example, he hit 171 not out. The Retford Times noted: ‘Bicknell hardly played a stroke off the ground and gave no semblance of a chance.’
Darren is now the professional and cricket coach at Oakham School, and Chief Executive of the Belvoir Cricket and Countryside Trust, a charitable organisation which aims to provide cricket and other sporting activities for young people. He is also a governor at Redmile Primary School, and a member of Radcliffe-on-Trent Golf Club, playing off a handicap of seven.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 552