The third season of a two divisional Championship proved, for Nottinghamshire, by far the most absorbing. Having failed to make anything but a token bid for promotion in either 2000 or 2001, the County initially appeared to be following the same dismal path in 2002. By the end of June, the general conversation among the pavilion pundits was, can we avoid the wooden spoon? July however had the critics confused and by the end of August they had been routed.
In July came three successive victories – versus Glamorgan, Derbyshire and Durham. The first game of August was drawn, but was immediately overshadowed by wins against Middlesex and Gloucester. The penultimate fixture saw Worcestershire come to Trent Bridge. The county of the Lytteltons at that point was one of the favourites to gain promotion, whilst Nottinghamshire had longer odds. Victory was vital. Crucially Nottinghamshire won. So came the final match. Unbelievable though it might have appeared at the start of the season, if victory was achieved at Chelmsford, Nottinghamshire would end the summer top of the table. Unfortunately on the last day Will Jefferson batted a superb 165 to see Essex to the top of the table, but due to bonus batting points Nottinghamshire finished 1.75 points above fourth placed Worcestershire.
Pietersen again topped the table by a fair margin, but he had a peculiar year. In his first eight Championship innings he failed to register a single fifty and was averaging around 20. Against Derbyshire he hit an unbeaten hundred – and from then on things got better. His career highest score, 254 not out, came off the Middlesex attack. However, he was injured and missed the last four matches. Afzaal’s success came largely in the second half of the summer and in all he made four centuries. The captain had his best season, since his arrival at Trent Bridge and was the backbone of the side. Welton, who usually opened the innings with Gallian, seems to have put 2001’s modest figures behind him and his average quite literally doubled.
Shafayat, who had a great success for England Under 19’s, continued to improve – his first century for the county created a new record, he being the youngest batsman to perform that feat. Johnson hit five fifties and, as ever, his impetuosity was his undoing. He decided to retire at the close of the season.
The leading bowler was Harris. Until this summer he hasn’t really demonstrated the ability he had showed at Derby – his bowling in the Worcester game did as much as anything to bring success. MacGill, who did not make his Championship debut until the Kidderminster game on August 8th, proceeded to create a new record on his debut for Notts at Trent Bridge by taking 14 wickets. Boje took only 11 wickets in his first six games, but captured 16 in his last three, ending the season on a high.
Behind the stumps, Read took some excellent catches and coped well with MacGill. The out-fielding was generally good, though the fact that Johnson, the elder statesman, looked as quick on his feet as anyone, was a trifle worrying. In 2003 we will discover whether there is a chasm between the two divisions and, if there is, can we jump it?