First XI Report by Mick Newell

The 2009 season was one of mixed fortunes for the team as we secured a second-successive runners-up spot in the LV= County Championship but failed to make a serious impact in the one day competitions.

We’ve been in the top three in the LV= County Championship for five of the past six seasons and our aim is to extend that record whilst making a significant improvement in one day cricket and our recruitment of new players has been based on that aim.

In signing Neil Edwards, Graeme White and Steven Mullaney, we have attracted three players to the club who can have an immediate impact in one day cricket and push for a place in our four day team but we must also improve from within.

The cornerstone of our LV=County Championship form in 2008 was the effectiveness of our seam bowling attack and the likes of Charlie Shreck and Darren Pattinson must strive to recapture that form to enhance our prospects next season.

Andre Adams was consistently excellent and the emergence of Luke Fletcher was another thoroughly pleasing development. Luke gave a good account of himself in the second LV= County Championship game of the season at Old Trafford and deservedly kept his place from then on. The decision to give him a break probably interrupted his rhythm but by the end of the season he was firing again and I expect him to a major contributor in 2010.

Our four day season started very well with the wins over Worcestershire and Somerset and we played good cricket with the benefit of fielding Stuart Broad in the first game and Ryan Sidebottom in the next two to exploit the early-season conditions.

Ryan worked exceptionally hard to re-gain his fitness after a frustrating run of injuries and I’m pleased that he’s fought his way back into contention and has been awarded a benefit year in 2010. We must also commend Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad for their personal contributions to England’s successful Ashes campaign.

I maintain that we can only earn the right to consider ourselves successful by winning trophies but we are playing very good four day cricket. It’s hard to see teams coming from nowhere to beat Durham but we’ve laid a good platform and I’d like to think that we’d be regarded as second favourites and therefore the most likely challengers.

We can bridge the gap by playing better at home and we’re hopeful that Trent Bridge will offer something for our seam bowlers next season. To a certain extent, we’ll be judged on our county championship standing and I look at Sussex who won two one day competitions but suffered relegation and think that I’d personally be very disappointed with that.

Throughout the NatWest Pro40 season, we looked at the performances that were being produced and asked ourselves how we could make improvements and develop the team. It was clear that we needed to introduce some younger players who could come into the one day team and we gave some exposure to untested academy talent who we feel have the potential to contribute a bit further down the line. Akhil Patel in particular, who has now signed a full-time professional contract with us, will be keen to force his way into the side sooner rather than later.

Our top order batting is still an area of concern and we’ve tried to give different players extended opportunities to prove their ability to give us a positive platform in four day cricket. We also acknowledge that to win any game, you need to take 20 wickets and our inability to do that at times was the key factor rather than batting defects. We’ve brought in Neil Edwards to provide another option and I’m hopeful that his arrival signals the start of a significant improvement. Having said that, the contribution of the middle order batsmen was exceptional and Chris Read in particular was the clear winner of our player of the year award for his contribution with the bat and another good season with the gloves.

Adam Voges did very well in the two years he spent as our primary overseas player and his four day form this season was particularly pleasing. We’ll keep the door open for him as potential cover for David Hussey because it was clear that we were lacking something in the five LV= County Championship games we played without an overseas player.

Releasing Jason Brown was a tough call because he had a year to run on his contract and it’s never nice asking someone to leave the club. Mark Footitt and Will Jefferson had been here for a number of years and hadn’t done as well as expected. I’m pleased that they’ve both been able to secure contracts with other counties but we felt that it was time to fill those places with new recruits.

David Hussey has proven himself as an outstanding player in our domestic game and to have a relationship with a player of that calibre and for him to want to come back for another season is great news for us. He showed his class in the short spell he had with us this season and he was very keen to return once more. Fielding him alongside our second overseas player Dirk Nannes in the Outlaws team for the revamped Friends Provident T20 next season is an exciting prospect.

There are no quarter-finals in the new 40-over competition so we’ll have to hit the ground running in the hunt for a semi-final spot and it’s important that we perform well in the revamped Twenty20 competition because that format gets people through the gate and excites new supporters.

One challenge for the dressing room next season will be the absence of Mark Ealham who had six great years here. He will be sorely missed following his retirement from professional cricket. Mark was an influential player and very supportive of what we aspired to do here but his retreat will create opportunities for other players to assume new roles.

I would like to thank Steve Birks and the rest of the groundstaff for their commitment to producing the best possible pitches throughout the season and all of the players and my staff for their hard work and support; Paul Johnson, Wayne Noon, Chris Tolley, Kevin Paxton, Helen Palmer, Brian Hewes, Roger Marshall, George Rose, Charles Campbell, Barry Ray and Bill Sweet.