Stephen Fleming arrived at Trent Bridge with impeccable cricketing credentials. At the time he had several New Zealand records – most Tests as captain, most Test runs and most Test catches. Despite these milestones he was still only aged 32. In addition he had appeared with great success with Middlesex in 2001, averaging 51.95, though his experience with Yorkshire two years later had not been quite so happy. Like Garry Sobers before him, Fleming was appointed captain on his arrival in 2005 – in 2004 Jason Gallian had led Notts to a promotion spot in the Championship Second Division.
Having the knack to pick players up when they felt depressed and creating a happy dressing room showed that Fleming’s reputation as a leader was justified. His inspiring ability to take the most difficult of slip catches also helped to raise the team’s morale. The result was that Nottinghamshire claimed the County Championship title for the first time since 1987; Fleming averaged 60.53 in the first-class batting table, coming second to David Hussey. In contrast the One Day results were disappointing. Only Kent had a worse record in the Twenty20 and in the ‘Sunday’ League after a dreadful first half, Notts did at least fight back, retaining their place in the First Division. Fleming was at some disadvantage since, midway through the season, he was called away to captain New Zealand.
2006 was in many ways the reverse of 2005. A poor showing in the Championship meant that the County was relegated to Division Two, but, for the first time, success came in the Twenty20, when Fleming took Notts to a dramatic Final at Trent Bridge, where Leicestershire won by a whisker. On a personal level, Fleming again took second place in the first-class batting averages and was as sharp as ever in the slips. He missed several matches, but this time due to injury.
In 2007, owing to the World Cup in West Indies and his marriage, he did not come to Trent Bridge until the end of May. The principal objective of the summer was to gain promotion back to Division One of the Championship and this was achieved, though not without some nail-biting. Once again Fleming came second in the first-class batting, but his form was more variable than in the two previous summers. Notts reached the Quarter Final of the Twenty20 competition, in which Fleming and Swann gave Notts a brilliant opening, putting on 82 for the first wicket, but the rest of the batting failed and Kent’s batsmen always seemed in control during the later stages.
However, it has to be stated that the rain ruined the whole of the Twenty20 competition In a world which seems to require a year round schedule of International cricket, it is very difficult for an overseas Test cricketer to give a full English summer to the cares of captaining a county – Fleming certainly achieved all that could have been asked of him – as captain, batsman and fielder.
In 35 first class matches for Notts, he maintained an average of 55.49. The only blight on his record was that relegation in 2006, a situation he rectified before leaving the county at the end of the 2007 season.
His leadership and a Test batting average of 40.06 helped New Zealand to punch above their weight with series wins against India, England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe during his tenure. In February 2008 Fleming ended speculation and confirmed his retirement from the New Zealand team at the end of England's 2008 tour of New Zealand to spend more time with his family, and to play in the Indian Premier League.