Notts Outlaws return to action this weekend with two home matches in the NatWest T20 Blast.
After 13 days of inactivity, the Outlaws host Derbyshire Falcons on Friday evening and then defending champions Northants Steelbacks on Saturday afternoon.
Competitive matches had been coming thick and fast for the Trent Bridge side, so head coach Peter Moores was appreciative of a gap in the fixture list.
“It was a good time for a break,” he said. “We’d played more cricket than almost anybody else, having played nine county championship matches and got all the way to the Royal London Cup Final. We had a few days off before the T20 started but they were taken up by practicing for the new competition, so we felt this was a good time for everyone to get away from each other for a few days and reconnect with their families before coming back strongly for the second half of the season.”
Friday’s match will be the first since the players had the harrowing experience of seeing their popular team-mate Luke Fletcher sustain a season-ending head injury in the defeat against Birmingham at Edgbaston.
“It was a very strange occurrence,” reflected Moores. “Obviously everyone was very concerned and wanted to know how he was and for a time it was probably 50/50 as to whether the game would continue but we were very grateful to Steve Davis, the Cricket Liaison Officer, for giving us the time we needed for everything to settle down and make the right decision. Once everyone knew that Luke was in good hands the group felt it was the right decision to play on.”
Notts have ground to make up, having lost both of their first two matches in the group, but it is a path they’ve trodden before. Last season they also lost their two openers before remaining undefeated throughout the rest of the qualifying programme.
They also lost their first two matches in the Royal London One-Day Cup this year before ultimately triumphing.
“The lads are saying that’s now the way to do it,” laughed Moores. “Lose two and then win the trophy. We didn’t adapt well coming straight from the Royal London into the T20 and didn’t play well against Yorkshire but we’ve practised more now and are back into T20 mode and have two home games to focus on this weekend.”
Whilst Fletcher’s absence will be felt Moores potentially has two new quick options at his disposal for the forthcoming matches.
Mark Footitt has returned to his first county, having signed from Surrey, and Jake Ball is almost over the knee injury which prevented him from playing in the Lord’s final or either of the first two Test matches of the summer.
“Mark was on the radar as someone we were looking at; an attacking bowler with genuine pace,” said the head coach. “He has history with Notts, of course, having begun here and he’s looking forward to coming back and being a part of any success that we may have.
“Jake Ball is very close to being back to full fitness, he’s batted and bowled this week and unless there is any reaction to that then he is likely to be involved on Friday.”
There will be a warm Trent Bridge welcome waiting for Imran Tahir when the leg-spinner pitches up with his new county on Friday evening. The South African international appeared in brief stints with the Outlaws in each of the last two seasons and now returns as a Falcons player.
“Immy is a really good cricketer and a top one-day bowler,” said Moores. “We know how good he is, so he won’t have anything to prove to us. We’re looking forward to catching up with him again and I’m sure he’ll be happy to see a lot of friendly faces again.”
(Notts Outlaws play Derbyshire Falcons at Trent Bridge on Friday 21st July 2017 at 6.30pm, then host Northants Steelbacks at the same venue on Saturday 22nd July 2017, with a 2.30pm start.)