Nottinghamshire aim to get their season up and running when they host Essex at Trent Bridge in their next Specsavers County Championship match from Sunday.
The two sides have had hugely contrasting campaigns so far, with Essex now second in the Division One standings after winning four of their last six matches, including a resounding victory over previously unbeaten leaders Somerset, last time out.
Hopes of a successful campaign for Notts appear to be fizzling out at the halfway stage of the championship fixtures. Rooted to the bottom of the standings, Notts have now gone more than a calendar year without a win in the red ball competition; their last success ironically, came against Essex at Chelmsford last June.
Fast bowler Luke Fletcher has been one of the leading performers over the first seven championship matches, picking up 22 wickets at an average of just 24 runs apiece. Despite his individual successes, he accepts it has been a tough start for the county’s supporters to endure.
“It’s true,” he said. “The season isn’t going to plan from a player’s point of view and I can completely understand why some of the fans and people at the club are frustrated. Notts is a big club and everyone expects big things from us.”
It has been 10 days since the last fixture, the loss against Kent at Tunbridge Wells, and Fletcher said the time since has been valuable.
“The schedule has been pretty tough, so initially we were able to get for a bit of time with our families and loved ones, which is important.
“Since then we’ve been back and had a couple of sit-down chats amongst ourselves and then a couple of days of hard training at Lady Bay,” he added.
“Obviously everyone is desperate to get things going in the right direction,” he reflected. “In terms of getting back on the horse and trying to get the first win, we are all desperate for this match to come around and we’re looking to go hard against Essex, who are going well.”
Nottinghamshire’s on-field approach will now change because of the switch on overseas personnel. Australia’s pace ace James Pattinson has now left the club to pursue international commitments.
His place has been taken by Indian spin bowler Ravi Ashwin, a signing that excites Fletcher.
“In comes Ravi Ashwin now, a fresh face, who can hopefully freshen things up and provide a new line of attack for us.
“He’s been around for a couple of days now and he seems a really nice bloke but we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do on the park.”
With Trent Bridge having successfully hosted five matches in the ICC World Cup, Notts haven’t been able to play at the venue for six weeks.
Fletcher – and the rest of the squad – are looking forward to some home comforts over the next few days.
“It’s always nice to get back to Trent Bridge after some time away,” he said. “The World Cup went down really well but it’s lovely to have Trent Bridge back for ourselves because it is one of the best grounds in the world and we can’t wait to get back playing there.”
Apart from the inclusion of Ashwin, on debut for the county, Notts are likely to welcome Stuart Broad back for the clash against Essex, after the England international had been rested for the previous two matches.