Injuries Took Their Toll
By Alan Ormrod, Cricket Manager, 1995
There can be no hiding from the fact that 1995 was a bitterly disappointing season for Nottinghamshire… although I wouldn’t want people getting too disillusioned about its long term effect.
While the closing weeks of the summer were nothing short of disastrous, it is important to keep things in perspective and remember just how hard we were hit by injuries in one crucial area.
Having half of the frontline seam bowling attack wiped out by injury problems for most of the season, which is effectively what happened, was bound to take its toll at some point during the summer.
And it did, of course, with catastrophic consequences as we suffered heavy defeats in each of final six matches in the Britannic Assurance Championship to leave us eleventh in the table.
What made that final position, and indeed our failure to perform any better in the one-day competitions, such a huge disappointment was that the gloomy note on which our season finished came as stark contrast to the bright outlook at the start of the campaign.
Expectations were high that we could build upon finishing a satisfactory third in the Championship in 1994 and there was even some talk of us winning one, or maybe even two trophies.
If we needed confirmation that we were indeed a good side capable of challenging for major honours then the way in which we stuck to our task and beat Warwickshire in the opening match certainly provided plenty of that… a victory which effectively put the holders out of the Benson and Hedges Cup.
But although we did succeed for a time in building up to that, the worrying signs were already there as first Chris Lewis, followed by Greg Mike and Kevin Evans were all hit by long term injury.
While many people felt that we were short runs in 1994, there was certainly a shortfall of wickets last summer.
Between them Lewis, Evans and Mike took a total of 129 first class wickets in the 1994 season, where as that trio claimed only 21 wickets between them in 1995, and their replacements David Pennet and Bobby Chapman took only a further 21 wickets.
When you consider that we scored more runs than champions Warwickshire, but took 71 wickets less than them, you can appreciate where our biggest problems arose in the closing weeks.
While there can be no legislating for long term injuries hitting us so hard in one particular area, it did highlight the fact that a squad, which we felt was strong in depth when the season began, was in reality lacking that important asset in certain areas.
Too much responsibility fell on the shoulders of Andy Pick and Chris Cairns, and rather than employ them as strike bowlers in short, sharp bursts, they were forced to take on a containing role all too often, one which they performed admirably in the circumstances.
The loss of Lewis, firstly through injury and then when his wish to leave the club was granted, was probably the most significant reason why things didn’t work as we had planned, because you cannot simply replace a player of his undoubted ability overnight.
With Evans and Mike also being sidelined, Pennett and Chapman were given opportunities that they couldn’t have envisaged at the start of the season. Things didn’t really work out for them, although it is to be hoped that they have learned what is required of them in the future.
It was fortunate that as those injuries took their toll, Jimmy Hindson performed so well for us up until the Middlesex game, but then he suddenly went off the boil and lacked the experience at this stage in his career to pull him through such a lean patch.
Had it not been for that disappointing end to the summer, he would have finished with around 80 first class wickets, instead of 65, and that would have been a commendable feat for someone in their first full season. As it was, it was an encouraging start to what should clearly be a prosperous career in the game.
In that same department, while Andy Afford did not enjoy the best of seasons, two of the other younger spinners showed that they can have an important part to play in the future.
Usman Afzaal has all the makings of a good all-round cricketer whose enthusiasm is infectious and he was rewarded with further selection for the England Under-19s for their tour Zimbabwe, while Richard Bates came through a long spell troubled by a shoulder injury, worked hard at his game and showed enough of an improvement to suggest he will be challenging for a place in 1996.
In moving from the bowling to batting, this is an appropriate point at which to talk about Cairns’ contribution, and I think its fair to say that without his influence in both departments and in other areas too, things would have been a lot worse.
In enjoying his best season in first class cricket so far, Cairns now has the confidence to go on and achieve his ambition of becoming the best all-rounder in the world today.
I think his performances with the bat took their toll on his bowling, although I would like to think in future that we can channel more of his energy into attacking and taking wickets rather than containment when he’s spearheading our attack.
Someone who showed the same competitive spirit as Cairns all season was wicketkeeper Wayne Noon. As well as his steady displays behind the stumps, he is proving to be a gutsy batsman who deserve the award of his county cap, although he found it hard to pick the players up towards the end of the season.
Of the batsmen, Graeme Archer made sufficient progress to earn his county cap too and did well enough to suggest he can now go on and score 1300 to 1400 runs a season, which is what you are looking for from someone batting at number three.
But there were a number of disappointments on the batting front, where Paul Pollard’s season was disrupted by injury, after which he looked two different players… outstanding in the one-day matches, but out of sorts in the Championship.
It wasn’t the easiest of season for Paul Johnson, but his moments of triumph must not hide the fact that a batsmen of his experience and ability should do better.
Mathew Dowman did well early on against the Universities, but although there were one or two promising displays after that, he did not achieve the kind of consistency required of an opening batsman and his failure to come though and establish himself was one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
Though Jon Wileman had moments of success as a middle order batsman and a back-up bowler, he found it difficult making the transition from Minor Counties cricket to the first class game, while Colin Banton was honest with himself in deciding that such a late entry in the game wasn’t going to work, and we therefore accepted the announcement of his retirement from the game even though he still had another year of his contract to run.
Losing a batsman was compensated by the fact that Noel Gie came to the forefront in the closing weeks of the season after some impressive displays for the Second Eleven, and is another exciting prospect expected to play a major role in the future, it is hoped that he will have benefited from his involvement with the first team and his selection for the England Under-19s tour.
In my opinion, the Player of the Year was undoubtedly Tim Robinson, and that is why I have saved the best until last.
He was the backbone of our side, if not in every match, certainly in most of them, and in that sense he deserved to enjoy a much better end to his reign as the club’s captain.
Unfortunately though, it wasn’t to be, but as I’ve already stressed, when you take away half a side’s strike force, the chances of going anything are greatly diminished.
I still feel, however, that we have a good side together with a good team spirit and with young players desperate to improve and impress I am confident we can put all that disappointment behind us and look forward to a more enjoyable 1996 season.
All that remains for me to do is say a special thank you to all those people who have given me support over the past year, namely the cricket office staff, Gordon Stringfellow, Ron Allsop and Sheila Ball, who was kept too busy for my liking.
Your support – both at home and away – was also much appreciated and I’m sure that backing for the players in 1996 will prove to be encouraging and invaluable to our future success.