Bob Willis Trophy – eliminated at group stage
T20 Vitality Blast – Winners
Captain: Stephen Mullaney, Bob Willis Trophy
Dan Christian, T20 Blast
Bob Willis Trophy
The long wait for a First-Class victory continued after Notts failed to win any of their five Bob Willis Trophy matches. The competition was introduced when the Covid pandemic meant that the usual County Championship could not take place. The Trophy – named in honour of the England, Surrey and Warwickshire fast bowler, and later TV commentator, who had died earlier in 2020 – was arranged in three regional groups of six; the two group winner with the highest points total contested a four-day final at Lord’s (won by Essex).
Despite the disappointing outcome of their five matches, by the season end, Notts could say that green shoots of recovery were apparent.
With many Kolpak players absent and counties unable to field their overseas players, counties were further handicapped as England chose enlarged Test and limited-overs squads to assemble in bio-secure bubbles to cover for the international summer. This reduced the strength of some county line-ups with Yorkshire, Lancashire and Surrey being particularly badly affected. Notts escaped somewhat unscathed losing only Stuart Broad and their overseas signing, Mohammad Abbas. Just prior to the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic it was widely expected that Notts were to sign South African right arm fast-medium seamer Dane Paterson on a Kolpak registration. This did not happen.
The initial fixture was to end in disappointment with Derbyshire successfully chasing a club record 365 for victory with three wickets still standing. Derbyshire fielded a very willing but inexperienced bowling line-up and Notts should have achieved higher totals than the 324 and 279 they actually scored. Haseeb Hameed, on his Notts debut, batted soundly in both innings scoring 68 and 52 and proved a solid acquisition as opener, finishing with 272 runs @38.86. He also took a number of outstanding catches at short leg. Samit Patel batting at eight scored 63 and 80 and was involved in eighth wicket stands of 61 and 74 with Joey Evison. who showed promise scoring 38 and 31 and taking 3-38 and 1-36 with his brisk right-arm seamers. Unfortunately, he had to leave the field with a broken bone in his foot that ended his season. This left Notts short on the bowling front and put additional strain on Jake Ball who bowled well throughout the contest taking six wickets. However, Ball was to break down early in the second innings in the following game versus Yorkshire. Ball returned for the final match and finished with 10 wickets @33.60.
Zak Chappell was preferred to Tom Barber for the second fixture, versus Yorkshire; he took six wickets against the Tykes, his initial scalps were former England pair Bairstow and Malan in successive overs in the first innings. Chappell bowled a number of testing new-ball spells over his four appearances to finish as leading wicket-taker with 15 wickets @28.73. The highlight for Notts in the Yorkshire fixture was a career best 106 for Tom Moores who scored his runs in a typically aggressive fashion and added 61 for the last wicket with Matt Carter. Moores finished with 207 runs @29.57 with 16 dismissals as he made noticeable strides behind the stumps. However, Notts faltered badly in their second innings. Chasing 188 to obtain that elusive victory, they were shot out for 97 on a fairly blameless pitch, losing their last eight wickets for 51 runs.
Slater made a career best 172 on loan to Leicestershire as they beat Lancashire by seven wickets at the unlikely venue of New Road in Worcester which earned him a Notts recall for the third fixture. Chris Nash (78 runs @19.50), who was not retained at the end of the season, made way. Lancashire were once again the victims of Slater’s blade as he scored a Notts best 142 in their first innings score of 472. Slater topped the Notts batting averages with 228 runs @76.00 and was the fourth highest run scorer in the Bob Willis Trophy with 425 runs @60.71. Adding 178 runs for the second wicket with Slater was Ben Duckett, who scored 116. He was to score a Notts best 150 in the fifth game against Durham. Duckett, a more mature batsmen compared to 2019, finished as Notts’ leading run scorer in the Trophy with 394 runs @56.29. Unfortunately the second day of the fixture against Lancashire was totally lost to rain and meant despite being made to follow on, the Red Rose County easily saved the game. Barber (7 wickets @41.29) took three wickets in the Lancashire first innings.
The fourth fixture against Leicestershire was also badly hit by rain and was Notts only away four-day fixture of the summer. Notts did not help themselves by dropping five catches as Leicestershire recovered from 54-5 to 222 all out. Notts replied with a big opening stand of 200 between Slater and Hameed and declaring 121 runs ahead. Leicester easily saved the game as Notts once again failed to take second innings wickets.
There was a 12 day break for the start of the Vitality Blast before Notts played their final Bob Willis Trophy game against Durham at Trent Bridge. Despite dominating the game throughout, Notts could not quite get over the line, finishing on 82-1 off 9.2 overs chasing an unlikely 202 in 17 overs. Durham stubbornly resisted for 140 overs in their second innings despite a three wicket burst by Peter Trego to give Notts renewed hope. The highly enthusiastic Trego, a veteran at 39 years of age, by all accounts had a very beneficial effect on the dressing room. He finished with 12 wickets @28.50 and scored 116 runs @14.50. Joe Clarke (263 runs @37.57), with 133 in the first innings, scored his only first-class century of the season in this fixture.
Skipper Steven Mullaney had a quiet season (235 runs @33.57 and 4 wickets @45.75) with a top score of 67 against Lancashire. He took 10 catches during the campaign, including equalling the club record of seven in a match versus Yorkshire at Trent Bridge. Samit Patel (210 runs @30.00) excelled with the bat in the opening fixture but did little else in the following four fixtures. He was steady with the ball taking 13 wickets @29.85 with a season’s best of 4-80 in the final innings against Durham. Matt Carter appeared in three fixtures and took 11 wickets @23.91 taking 4-76 in the second innings against Yorkshire.
Notts’ winless run in first-class fixtures had thus reached twenty-seven, a very unwanted statistic. Progress had been made, a first innings lead was obtained in all five fixtures and their haul of 35 bonus points was eight more than achieved by any other county. They struggled for second innings wickets on Trent Bridge surfaces which were too docile and too batsmen friendly. Their haul of 59 points would have ensured a ninth placed finish if the playing records of all 18 counties over the respective three sections were combined.
On 15 September it was announced that the contract of right-arm seamer Jack Blatherwick would not be renewed.
No spectators were allowed into any of the Bob Willis Trophy fixtures so they had to rely on the 18 county live internet streams to view the action. The Trent Bridge stream was excellent and proved better than most. It offered multiple camera angles and online statistics with commentary provided by the BBC which included the ever cheerful Dave Bracegirdle alongside a commentator from the opposition.
Vitality T20 Blast
At Edgbaston on the first Sunday in October, Notts Outlaws memorably won the Vitality Blast for the second time in four seasons after easy victories over Lancashire and Surrey. The triumph was much deserved with Notts only losing one game out of the eleven they contested, a narrow defeat at Grace Road in the penultimate group game. The only other match in which they were seriously tested was the Quarter-Final at Trent Bridge, also against Leicestershire, the visitors ultimately throwing the game away aided by two fielding howlers in the last seven balls as the team scores ended up finishing level. Notts progressed to Finals Day by virtue of having a higher score at the end of the power play.
Despite announcing just prior to the commencement of the tournament that key ‘death’ bowler Harry Gurney would be unavailable due to a shoulder injury, Notts fully justified their tag as favourites. They were the only team to recruit two overseas players. Imad Wasim (nine appearances) who had come to England with the touring Pakistanis linked up with Notts at the abandoned game at Liverpool, having played for Pakistan the night before. Skipper Dan Christian showed tremendous commitment to Notts by being prepared to go into two separate fortnightly quarantine periods before and after the tournament.
With the oldest team in the competition, six of the regular line-up being over thirty years of age, the Outlaws had experienced big hitters throughout the order. The batting was so deep that initially it had Patel batting at eight and Imad, who had batted at six for the Pakistani white ball team, at nine.
Following a washout at Headingley, Notts started their campaign with a successful run chase at Chester-le-Street. Leading the way was Joe Clarke who scored Notts’ only century of the campaign, 100 not out off 44 balls, including eight sixes, as Notts easily chased down a target of 181 with 22 balls to spare. Clarke was the Outlaws fastest and highest scorer during the campaign with 371 runs @37.10 and scoring them at 175 runs per 100 balls. Clarke's tally of 22 sixes during the tournament was only equalled by Gloucestershire's Ian Cockbain and he was fifth highest run scorer with Daniel Bell-Drummond of Kent leading the way with 423 runs. Clarke collected three Man-of-the-Match awards.
The most consistent run scorer was Ben Duckett (340 runs @42.50) who scored four half-centuries in his 11 innings, picking up two Man-of-the-Match awards for his 86 not out in the victory over Yorkshire at Trent Bridge and 57 not out in the second home game versus Derbyshire. His mature 53 not out in the Final versus Surrey, where he anchored the run chase after the loss of three early wickets included stands with the big hitting Peter Trego and Christian. Duckett, who shed weight over the winter, was outstanding in the sweeper role in the outfield.
Chris Nash, in his last year with the club, started off with half-centuries in the two opening victories but only scored 79 runs @13.17 in the following eight matches before cruelly missing the final after getting injured attempting a catch in the semi-final victory against Lancashire. The second fastest scorer was opener Alex Hales who scored @164.23 runs per 100 balls; he had a poor competition based on his high standards, failing to record a fifty and scoring 202 runs @18.36. Hales equalled the club record with 11 catches, mostly taken on the ropes, including four against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge.
Tom Moores (188 runs @26.86) scored useful runs during the completion with 51 at Grace Road his top score. His wicket-keeping also improved with his catch to dismiss Jamie Overton in the Final particularly outstanding.
Any thoughts that Notts would miss Gurney in the closing overs of the innings were erased by the fine efforts of Jake Ball, who led the tournament wicket takers with 19 wickets @13.63 and he only conceded his runs @7.58. He was well supported by Christian, who generally joined Ball in the “death overs”, and who had his best year in the competition with the ball (9 wickets @30.89 and 7.94 RPO); saving his best until last with a Notts best 4-23 against Surrey in the Final. Christian who won three Man-of-the-Match Awards, including both on Finals Day, scored 173 runs @28.83, the highlight being his four successive leg side sixes off Liam Livingstone in the Semi-Final. He was clearly respected by his playing colleagues and this enhanced the excellent team spirit.
Imad won the Man-of-the-Match award in the group game against Durham following up his 26 not out with 2-24 and two run outs. Patel showed all his experience with a crucial 28 not out in the Quarter-Final versus Leicester. He was unsuccessfully promoted up in the order to number four in the Final but this was his sole dismissal as he finished top of the batting averages, courtesy of four not outs. He often bowled in the power play and finished with 11 wickets @28.00 (7.53 RPO) with best figures of 2-19 versus Lancashire at Trent Bridge. Carter, who was more expensive than in 2019, had his best analysis in the semi-final taking 2-16, removing Livingstone and Vilas.
Luke Fletcher handicapped by a side strain only made four appearances during the competition, taking a career best 5-43 versus Yorkshire, all five wickets taken during the last 10 deliveries of his spell. Notts had very settled team with seven ever presents (Hales, Clarke, Duckett, Moores, Christian, Mullaney and Patel), two with 10 appearances (Nash and Ball) and two with nine appearances (Imad and Carter).
Photo (Getty Images) shows the winning Vitality Blast squad. The Covid outbreak meant that there was no first team group photo at the start of the season as has been the usual practice.