There are few things the Trent Bridge faithful like more than seeing a player they regard as ‘one of their own’ doing well; and if that player happens to be a strapping, old-fashioned quick bowler, with an infectious grin and a patent love of the game, then so much the better.
Luke Fletcher, affectionately known as ‘The Bulwell Bomber’, fits the bill and remains one of the most popular performers in the Nottinghamshire squad; his no-nonsense, run in all-day approach is usually heralded by a roar of approval from his noisy fan-base.
Born, in Bulwell – where else – on 18 September 1988, Luke Jack Fletcher established himself in the county representative sides from the age of 14 and made his Second XI debut in 2006, becoming a regular the following season.
Fletcher had already made a big impression in the Friends Provident Trophy in 2008 - scurrying for a match-winning final-ball single against Leicestershire Foxes at Trent Bridge and chipping in with useful wickets - that presaged his increasing role in white-ball competitions. He made his First-Class debut for Notts against Oxford University at The Parks in April 2008 but did not appear in the first XI again until the following April, when he became a regular member of the first team squad. In 2008, he played in one Test and three One-Day Internationals for England Under-19s against New Zealand.
He featured in eight LV= County Championship matches in 2009, taking 29 wickets and demonstrated his batting potential with a 92 against Hampshire; he was invited to attend training camps with the England Performance Squad in early 2010 but has not – yet – been selected for further international honours.
That opportunity for a maiden century was again spurned in 2017, when he was unluckily run out – again for 92 – in the away match against Durham. That season was momentous one for ‘Fletch’, playing a key role in Notts securing promotion back to the top Division and realising every cricketer’s dream of a place in a Lord’s Final. Indeed, he almost took a wicket with the first ball of the Royal London One-Day Cup final when Surrey’s Jason Roy was spilled at slip.
The joy of securing a winner’s medal was in stark contrast to his feelings seven days later when a blow to the head, sustained whilst bowling to Birmingham batsman Sam Hain, put him in hospital with concussion and brought an early end to his campaign. He sat out The Outlaws’ second white-ball trophy of the season, the T20 Blast, but at the start of the next campaign he was fully recovered and had recaptured his best form.
His consistency throughout the 2019 season – topping the wicket-taking charts in the Specsavers County Championship for Notts, and marrying potency with the ball with brutal ball-striking in the One-Day competitions – led to a deserved hat-trick at Nottinghamshire's end of season awards, scooping the Championship and One-Day Cup Player of the Year titles in addition to the overall Player of the Year accolade.
To date, Luke Fletcher has 331 First-Class wickets for Notts (and another dozen from loans spells at Derbyshire and Surrey) at 27.86 with a best return of 5-27 against Worcestershire, one of six five-wicket hauls. In List-A cricket, he has taken 81 wickets at 36.24 with 5-56 v Derbyshire his one five-wicket return; in T20 games, where his death-bowling and accurate Yorkers have proved very effective, Luke has 71 wickets at 25.54, a strike rate of a wicket every 16.50 deliveries and one four-wicket innings, 4-30 v Warwickshire.
His robust batting has brought him almost 2,000 First-Class runs, with those two scores of 92 as his best, 495 List-A runs with a top score of 53no, and 104 T20 runs, top score 27.
The frustration of the long 2020 lay-off due to the Corona Virus lockdown will have been felt strongly by all players but Fletcher, with his obvious delight in the game, will surely be keenest of all to be back out at Trent Bridge.