In the lead up to the 2016 domestic season, ecb.co.uk will be running a series of features with all 18 first-class counties. Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell expects Australian seamer Jackson Bird to make a big impact at Trent Bridge.
Nottinghamshire will have the formidable pace pair of Broad and Bird – a B-team in name only – as they aim to restore their reputation as the fast spring starters of county cricket.
Stuart Broad is set to join a number of other England stars in adding lustre to the early exchanges of the Specsavers County Championship – with a possible showdown against his new-ball partner Jimmy Anderson when Notts face Lancashire in the second round of fixtures at Emirates Old Trafford.
Even as an England selector, the Trent Bridge director of cricket Mick Newell is still awaiting confirmation of Broad’s exact availability. But he is confident that Jackson Bird, the Australian seamer who was signed as a late overseas replacement after an injury to Peter Siddle, will have arrived in time for the county’s season opener, an intriguing fixture at home to newly-promoted and widely-fancied Surrey from April 10
“Obviously it was disappointing to lose Siddle, but we were delighted to sign Bird as a replacement,” said Newell.
“He’s a similar type of bowler in that he’ll pitch the ball up and look to hit the stumps, not necessarily at express pace but we expect him to be influential in early-season conditions.
“As a seam-bowling based team you’re looking to get off to a good start in April and May. We’ve got a pretty good record of doing that but last year we started off with three draws – the weather was actually pretty good at the start of the season before there was a wetter period in May, when we lost a couple of matches and found ourselves at the wrong end of the table. Obviously we want to improve on that this year.”
Bird showed his quality with Test-best figures of 5-59 against New Zealand in Christchurch in his fifth cap last month, and Newell believes that there will be an additional benefit to the county in having him and Broad around this spring – in aiding the development of the trio of younger seamers whose progress was one of the highlights of Nottinghamshire’s mixed 2015 summer.
Jake Ball, Brett Hutton and Luke Wood took 118 wickets between them, with Ball earning selection for England Lions and Wood also recognised by his inclusion on the Potential England Performance Programme.
“They’re all local lads so it was great for the club to see what they did last summer, and I know they’re looking forward to having Stuart around for the early weeks of this season,” Newell confirmed.
“You’ve got the world’s number-one ranked Test bowler and they can all learn an awful lot off him and also Jackson Bird. It means we might struggle to get all three of them into the team. But that’s not the end of the world because it’s such a long season and they’re going to get plenty of cricket – and one thing we’ve already talked about is trying to get them to play all three forms of the game.
“Jake Ball went away with the Lions playing white-ball cricket against Pakistan A in Dubai and made a really good impression on everyone. He’s been a bit of a slow burner [Ball turned 25 this month] but now we’re seeing the rewards of the work he’s put in.
“Luke made his biggest impact in Championship cricket last season, but as a left-armer who swings the ball it will be interesting to see how he might adapt in other formats. He’s a dangerous hitter down towards the bottom of the order as well, as he showed with the century he made against Sussex. Brett is a real 100 per cent competitor, and he turned games for us in four-day cricket. Hopefully he can also kick on from there.”
With the more experienced campaigners Luke Fletcher and Harry Gurney – the latter described by Newell as “undoubtedly our number one white-ball quick bowler” – Notts certainly have plenty of seam options.
At the other end of the order James Taylor is itching to start the season after a lengthy break since England’s Test triumph in South Africa, his fellow former Leicestershire player Greg Smith is determined to make a greater impact in his second summer at Trent Bridge, and Alex Hales will be keen to repeat his early-season form of 2015 when he returns from the ICC World Twenty20.
This will be a landmark summer for Chris Read, the longest-serving captain in county cricket – the 20th since he made his debut for Gloucestershire as an 18-year-old in 1997. He joined Notts the following year and needs 14 more dismissals to extend his county record beyond 900 in first-class cricket – having become the first gloveman since Jack Russell to pass 1,000 first-class victims last September.
The Devonian suffered an injury scare during the winter with a bicep injury, so it was a huge relief for Notts followers to see him fit to lead the team in their pre-season fixtures in Barbados this month. The county are already looking towards the future, with Tom Moores continuing his development for England Under-19s during the winter and 17-year-old Tom Keast also selected for a national programme. But for the moment, Read remains the fulcrum of their team.