First XI Report by Mick Newell
Winning trophies is incredibly difficult and the thin line between success and failure was clearly demonstrated last season.
Everything that we did well in the Friends Provident t20 was undone when Kieron Pollard caught Samit on the boundary but, fortunately for us, 2010 will be remembered as the year that we came out on the right side of it in the most prestigious domestic competition in world cricket.
Winning the LV= County Championship is always our primary target. I knew that we had a squad that should be finishing in the top three but I was less sure of our capabilities in limited overs cricket. In the end, we exceeded expectations in all three competitions.
The points swing for a win made positive results so much more valuable and that led to much more movement in the table. Where we’d seen docile pitches in 2009, this season they were more conducive to results.
The wickets at Trent Bridge lent themselves to results and having the front end of our season loaded with home fixtures meant that there was an opportunity to make a strong start balanced against a risk that we could make a poor start if we came out on the wrong end of things.
The contribution of our three overseas players was exceptional and to have Hashim Amla in the team in April and May was a major coup and gave us tremendous solidity at the top of the order.
It couldn’t have worked out any better in that Hashim helped us to make a winning start in the Championship, David Hussey came in either side of the Twenty20 fixtures and Adam Voges helped us to get across the line.
Our England players also played their part and Stuart Broad produced two outstanding spells of bowling against Somerset at home and Warwickshire away that you don’t usually see in county cricket.
As the table began to take shape, Somerset’s challenge didn’t surprise me but Yorkshire impressed by maintaining their form after a strong start.
Durham completely outplayed us twice in 2009 so we developed a quiet confidence after beating them at Trent Bridge. Ali Brown and Chris Read batted superbly and we could reflect on an excellent opening run having made the best of the early season conditions.
Home form is always the bedrock of a Championship win and we have a method of playing at Trent Bridge that gives us great confidence. Winning on the road is vital as well and it was very important that we produced the goods at the Rose Bowl where it wasn’t swinging or seaming.
Living with the favourites tag was new to us but we were very careful to remain humble and not to make any bold statements about how things might work out in our favour. The players remained cool-headed but after such a strong start, we almost self-destructed with back to back defeats against Durham and Yorkshire.
When the third day of our climactic game against Lancashire at Old Trafford was written off our plan became clearer in our minds because the only options available to us were to try and set up a game or to chase the bonus points and rely on favourable results elsewhere.
When the start of the fourth day was delayed we were down to 80 overs and I said that I didn’t believe we could do it with bonus points and at that point Chris Read went to speak to Glenn Chapple. There offer wasn’t favourable and that made our minds up – we had to chase the bonus points.
Samit has the ability to score quickly and his partnership with Adam Voges who went in at 79-2 and got us to 386 which is remarkable and although he was hard on himself for falling 14 runs short of our target, he made a major contribution to our success.
Even at 390-9 needing 400, I was backing Darren and Ryan. I didn’t have a problem watching but others were hiding in the corridors of the Old Trafford pavilion.
Having scored the runs on a flat pitch, I knew that Ryan and Andre would make things happen with the ball.
Andre only bowled ten balls in that match but he found the spot straight away and of all the players, his desire to win the championship was perhaps higher than anyone else’s.
I was half watching the game and half watching the television and only when Samit threw the ball away did I realise what had happened. I heard the screams and saw the lads setting off around the field so I ran out through the balcony door and joined in the celebrations.
Lots of people have congratulated me in coffee shops and at the school gates and that’s helped me to realise just how much it means to everyone. I see it as the team’s achievement rather than my achievement but winning it in the way we did with so much drama throughout that final day is something which I will always be immensely proud of.
We had better individual players in 2005 but this team has a great spirit and a fantastic method of playing and some individuals with great skill.
Long-term planning is very difficult because there is always a short-term hunger for success but we have successfully introduced younger players into the squad and players are emerging in the academy who seem equipped to become professionals.
Alex Hales, Luke Fletcher, Andy Carter, Akhil Patel, Scott Elstone, Jake Ball, Graeme White and Steven Mullaney have all come on to our staff in recent years and used 40-over cricket as a way of establishing their credentials and if they prove that they are ready for it then they can win a regular place in all formats as Alex and Steven did this season.
It is vitally important to have a strong core of senior players and I will only promote young players to our four day side on merit.
There will be an eye on how we cope following Ryan’s departure and we know that Mark Wagh will retire in August but I’m keen that people are talking about the excellent players we have got rather than those that we haven’t at the end of 2011.
I would like to thank Steve Birks and the rest of the groundstaff for their commitment throughout the season and all of the players and my staff for their hard work and support; Paul Johnson, Wayne Noon, Andy Afford, Mike Hendrick, Chris Tolley, Kevin Paxton, Ross Hollinworth, Helen Palmer, Louise Marshall, Brian Hewes, Roger Marshall, George Rose, Charles Campbell and Bill Sweet.