A Sign of The Times

By Ken Taylor, Cricket Manager, 1990

It is a good measure of the progress we have made over the last 12 years that my last season as manager must be looked upon with a considerable amount of disappointment. 

Even though we reached he semi finals of the Benson and Hedges Cup and qualified for the Refuge Assurance Cup play-offs by finishing fourth in the Sunday League, those achievements were overshadowed by our steep decline in the Britannic Assurance Championship fortunes, despite being early front runners in the title race. 

And yet when I think back a while there was a time when such a track record would have greeted with great acclaim. 

Of course once you set high stands, you are expected to maintain them, and in that respect we fell a long way short in comparison to our past Championship and one-day successes. 

But while it was disappointing to bow out on a fairly flat note, cricket office durities have been re-organised and with John Cope in charge of the department, John Birch as the driving force Jo Smith looking after administration, I am sure we have a management team that will acquit itself very well to the task in hand and bring further credit to the club in the years ahead. 

After all, for the first part of 1990 season, it looked likely that we would mount a serious challenge for honours on all fronts and we won eight out of nine games in one purple patch, lifting us to the top of the Championship table and into a good Sunday League position, while also moving to within one step of Lord’s. 

Unfortunately, when we had built a great team spirit and confidence was very high, along came an unwelcome break in our programme which in effect destroyed all that momentum 

We were never able to pick it up again following that, especially after losing in such disappointing manner to Worcestershire in the semi finals of the Benson and Hedges Cup. One of the reasons for that slump in fortunes as the season progressed was undoubtedly the inconsistency of our batting – a common problem throughout my reign as manager. 

On paper we had a very strong batting line-up, but then we have done in the past too, yet that hasn’t prevented us from suffering more than our fair share of catastrophic collapse. 

It was our failures first time round in Championship games that let us down so many times in a year when conditions favoured the batsmen. All too often, one player would make a substantial contribution, but the others would fail. 

Invariably it was Chris Broad who was the one exception to the rule. He had an outstanding year and he set a standard which more of the batsmen need to attain in the future. 

Despite his achievements, there were too many times when we failed to build a solid foundation with a productive opening partnership, due largely to the lack of successful partner. 

That was where one of our first problems arose in the formative stages of the season when Paul Pollard was hit by the death of his father, injury and also a loss in form. 

It turned out to be a wretched year for Pollard, but he may well look back upon it as a character-building experience if he can work hard and fulfil all his promise in the future. 

Consequently, we tried Mick Newell and Duncan Martindale as opening partners for Broad with varying degrees of success. Both players are enigmas in a way, because they have shown that they can perform to a high standard in first class cricket, but up to now, they have failed to do it with any great consistency. 

Tim Robinson finished with a flourish in the Championship after failing to carry his remarkable one day form into the three-day game for some time – until that is, the introduction of Birch into the first team picture took some weight off his shoulders as captain and gave him the chance to concentrate more on his batting. 

Paul Johnson enjoyed his best season so far, and as well as producing memorable centuries in the victories over Northamptonshire and Yorkshire, there was a marked improvement in his one-day performances as he hit maiden centuries in the Benson and Hedged Cup and Refuge Assurance League, which was the first of three. 

While the prolonged absence of Pollard was a blow, more so was the loss of Derek Randall at times during the season with a troublesome groin injury. On his day, he is still one of the finest players in the country and it is to be hoped that he will make a full recovery from the hernia problem that was eventually diagnosed. 

On a brighter note, Kevin Evans continued his emergence as a valuable all-rounder, particularly as a batsman in the later stages of the summer when he hit his maiden century against Somerset. Evans Is an intelligent cricket with a good temperament and I am sure he can carry on developing in every aspect in the future. 

Hopefully that will also be the case with Mark Saxelby, for he showed plenty of promise with the bat when he appeared in the first team, although his bowling was hampered by a shoulder injury that resulted in him undergoing an operation. 

Set against the remarkable feats he achieved in the previous two seasons, Franklyn Stephenson did not have the best of summers, but it wasn’t a bad year and knowing what he is capable of producing, I am sure he will be back to his best in 1991. 

On the bowling front, Stephenson shared the honour of leading wicket-taker with Kevin Cooper, but pride of place should go to Andy Pick who won a well-desered place in the England ‘A’ party for the winter trip to Pakistan for his efforts. 

Pick bowled with great hostility at times when taking the new ball and compared favourably with Ian Bishop and Devon Malcolm in the Championship match at Derby early on. However he still has a fitness cloud over him, despite working very hard in that particular department, and spent a couple of lengthy periods out injured. 

Cooper was his usual accurate self, bearing the brunt of the workload in the summer when there was little assistance for the bowlers, and his performances were all the more commendable when you consider that he had the distraction of a benefit.

In the spin department, we badly missed Eddie Hemmings who was away on Test duty for so much of the summer, while Andy Afford suffered a crisis in confidence and failed to maintain the progress that he made in 1989 when he was selected for England ‘A’.

Probably the unluckiest player on the staff was Michael Field-Buss. With Hemmings away for so much of the time, there would have been extended opportunities for Field-Buss to make an impact, but he spent large part of the season out with a broken wrist. 

Bruce French kept wicket with his usual quiet efficient, but his contribution with the bat was disappointing after he made such a brave first century of his career in difficult circumstances against Bishop and Malcolm to save the game at Derby. 

While our form dipped quite dramatically in the Championship, we continued to play well in one-day contests, although there was disappointment in the second round of the NatWest Trophy at Northampton and then later in the Refuge Assurance Cup play-off semi-final against neighbours Derbyshire. 

Before his emergence on the first team scene, Birch had led the Second XI successfully and they appeared to be on course for the Rapid Cricketline Championship when he was moved. After that, they fell away and finished in fourth position. 

The Second team possessed a considerable amount of experience and that showed in the standard of entertaining cricket that they played for most of the season. But what with Birch being relieved of those duties and first team injuries putting a strain on resources, it eventually took its toll at a crucial time. 

Three players on the fringe of the first team, Chris Scott, Kevin Saxelby and Gregory Mike performed well for the Seconds, but gained few opportunities to step up. 

The Notts Colts side had a struggle to stay in Division One of the Bassetlaw League, but that was due entirely to the fact that we stuck with a very young and raw side. 

Once again though, there were some promising displays from some players who are pressing to follow our latest newcomers onto the staff – Steve Brogan, Wayne Dessaur and Richard Bates. All the signs are that this will remain a fruitful nursery. 

So it only remains for me to convey my thanks, for the last time, to all those people who have been such a big help to me – my secretary Jo Smith, Ron Allsopp, Len Beaumont, Gordon Stringfellow, Sheila Ball, John Cope, Stewart Burrows and David Terrill. 

And I would like to thank all those who have given us their support, and wish every the best in the future.