The NatWest T20 Blast competition kicks off this week, with Notts Outlaws hosting Birmingham Bears at Trent Bridge on Friday evening.
The razzamatazz of the Blast has captured the imagination of the Nottinghamshire public, with attendances regularly topping the five-figure mark for home matches in recent seasons and it’s also a competition that the players love to take part in.
“It’s shackles off, just go and express yourself and enjoy your Friday evenings,” says Greg Smith, one of the Outlaws’ top order heavyweights.
Smith is in his second season at Trent Bridge, after joining from Leicestershire, and has a proven pedigree in the T20 format.
“This is a tournament that everybody wants to win. We get good crowds in here and we want to play good quality cricket.”
Despite constantly being amongst the favourites, the Outlaws have never lifted the domestic T20 crown but Smith believes his side have as good a chance as anyone this time around.
“It’s the same every year,” he reflects. “When you look down our team sheet there are stroke makers and exciting guys who can clear the rope all the way down the order and we’ve got skilful bowlers to go with it, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t play some good cricket and progress in the tournament.”
Smith is hoping that Notts can make full use of the special atmosphere created for home games.
“Anytime you play at Trent Bridge, whatever the format, it’s a special place to play but on Friday evenings it’s a bit more lively, with the fireworks and crowds of 12,000 plus.
“When you are in the field and under high balls or when you first go out to bat, the heart is going that little bit quicker but I think successful players in T20 cricket are the ones that can take a step back, breathe deeply and make good decisions under pressure, so that’s what I personally, and I’m sure all my team-mates, will be hoping to do.”
No Outlaws batsman has ever registered a century in the domestic competition, although Alex Hales has done it for England, Michael Lumb scored one in his Hampshire days and Smith did so, for his previous county, scoring 102 against Notts in 2014.
“I had a good day out against some of my current team-mates a couple of years ago,” he recalls. “A hundred is a cool thing to have done in T20 cricket but I feel you are judged more on games you win and that is the most important thing to me, I’d rather get 60 or 70 not out and get us over the line because it’s all about winning games. Personal achievements are exciting things that happen and you can look back on them – and that was a great day – but I just want to help win as many games as I can for Notts.”
The Outlaws will have a new skipper this season, with Australia’s Dan Christian leading the team. Smith is excited about the appointment.
“If you look at the way Dan Christian plays his cricket, he does everything on the front foot so you’d imagine he’d take that into his captaincy and take the most direct, positive route to winning games.
If somebody plays their cricket like that they are a great person to get behind and get on board with and we’ll all enjoy playing that style of cricket.”
Christian takes charge of an Outlaws side that has already won a T20 competition this year, under the leadership of Smith.
“I think the Blast is slightly more coveted than the Barbados T20 wooden fish,” laughs the 27 year old.
“But we played a couple of decent games out there and a few of the lads came in and performed under pressure. Every time you do that it adds to your self-belief. I enjoyed it, scored some runs and helped the team win some games, so we’ll take that confidence from winning a trophy in pre-season into Friday night and throughout the rest of the summer.”