LV County Championship 2007
The 2007 Championship campaign divided, like the 2007 weather, into three distinct parts. Whether that was coincidence or not is a matter of conjecture. Was Nottinghamshire a dry weather side? The perfect pitches of April certainly suited both batsmen and bowlers. Substantial victories in the first three matches produced no less than 65 out of a possible 66 points, giving Notts a commanding early lead.
Leicestershire, Gloucester and Glamorgan were the victims. The fourth match, v Middlesex at Trent Bridge, was drawn, with the help of a painfully slow over rate from the Metropolitans. Essex then were beaten by an innings and Notts stood 25 points ahead of Middlesex and Somerset at the head of the table. A third of the games gone it looked as if there was nothing to prevent the county finishing in top spot. That was the good news!
The next six matches failed to produce a single victory – true the rains had come, but the precipitation did not mean that there were no decisive results – two matches, v Glamorgan at Swansea and v Somerset at Trent Bridge, ended in defeat. Two others were drawn, not because of wet, but due to heavy scoring on both sides. By the end of the Somerset game, the Cidermen had not only overtaken Notts, but had a clear 30 points advantage. Essex stood in third place, but Notts were more likely to be challenged for the runners-up position by Middlesex, who, although fourth, had two games in hand.
On August 25th, Notts at last returned to winning ways, beating Northants at home, but only by the narrow margin of two wickets. The following game remains totally inexplicable. Notts travelled to Lord’s to play Middlesex. The home side really had to beat Notts to have any realistic chance of promotion, but the Lord’s pitch was rolled out as a batsman’s delight resulting in three innings totals over 400.
Notts were quietly satisfied with a draw. The County then made a rare visit to Chesterfield, where a good crowd cheered the return of Championship cricket. Derbyshire however were in disarray and in less than three days had presented Notts with a further 22 points and in effect secured promotion. It was down to Taunton to celebrate, except that Somerset decided to crow and for Notts the game was an embarrassment.
The player of the season was undoubtedly Hussey. The Australian exceeded his form of his previous summers in Nottingham. He captained the team in the early matches and began with innings of 105, 21 & 77, 81, and 48 ; then in the fifth game he demolished the opposition with 275 off 227 balls. This was the highest innings by a Notts batsman at Trent Bridge in more than a hundred years. The Australian selectors awoke and the outcome was that Notts lacked Hussey for the final four matches of the summer as he was picked for Australia 'A'. Hussey flew away leaving behind the highest batting average ever recorded by a Notts cricketer in first-class matches.
Second to Hussey in the batting table came Fleming. With international and other commitments, the New Zealander did not arrive until May was nearly out and at first he struggled to find any form at first-class level. At the end of July he scored 100 v Northants at Northampton and this proved a pivotal point, other three figure innings appeared, including his best for the county – 243 v Derbyshire at Chesterfield.
More consistent than Fleming was the Warwickshire newcomer, Wagh. His batting had been in the doldrums at Edgbaston during 2006. First wicket down is considered the least popular batting spot. During 2006 Notts had employed Smith, Warren and Alleyne with variable results, Wagh began 2007 in this spot and remained there the entire summer. He averaged 56. Robinson and Randall did average above 50, batting at 3, but it’s a rare feat. Wagh aggregate of 1,310 runs was the highest of his 12 year career and an idea of his reliability can be simply gauged from the fact that he exceeded 50 on 14 occasions – no monstrous single innings to falsify his average.
Also topping the 1,000 mark, and this for the first time, was wicketkeeper Read. Like Wagh he averaged over 50, though it has to be said that his total and average owes more than a little to the very flat Chelmsford pitch. The controversy as to his non-selection for England remains as fierce as ever.
With the principal batsmen remaining injury free, the battle for other middle order places was intense. Patel, who had been rather unlucky in that respect in 2006, began with some inspiring knocks against Gloucester and Glamorgan early on; after a minor hiccup he secured a regular slot, averaging over 50 and just missing the 1,000 run mark. The intention prior to the season was to open the batting with Gallian and Jefferson, but the latter was seriously injured just before the season began and Shafayat came in to partner Gallian. However his performances were mixed and in June he missed several matches, before coming back at no.6. Jefferson did not appear in a Championship game until early August and from then on he opened the innings producing some useful runs.
The three all-rounders, Ealham, Swann and Franks all made contributions with the bat and the result was an exceptionally strong late order line-up. All three were fast scoring and it was unusual for them collectively to fail. The fact that Swann was omitted by orders from on high from the final Somerset match no doubt affected the result.
The opening bowling attack of Shreck and Sidebottom was seen in just three of the 16 Championship games. This was due to Sidebottom’s deserved selection for England, plus the unlucky injury to Shreck which kept the Cornishman out of four matches. Harris was unavailable through injury for a number of games, as was the reserve seamer, Footitt. Franks however returned to something like his old form, following several indifferent summers. In these circumstances no less than three fast bowlers were co-opted from other counties for limited periods and Davies of Durham put in a splendid performance against Northants, which went a long way towards victory in that match. Another seamer, Adams of New Zealand, was brought in as
the overseas replacement for Hussey in the final four matches.
The spin attack was largely in the hands of Swann and he reproduced the sort of figures that had gained him international recognition back in 1999. The newcomer, Ferley made only three Championship appearances; the occasional use was mase of Patel’s left arm slows and of Hussey’s spin.
Nottinghamshire can therefore look forward to life in Division One in 2008 and the opportunity to regain the title they so justifiably held last in 2005.