(Photo: Getty Images)
By Richard Edwards
PETER MOORES can now happily chalk off the first chunk of the season, with “job done” written in capitals alongside it.
The Division One new boys have been in fine fettle in the opening six weeks of the season and now dive head-first into the Royal London Cup, safe in the knowledge that the others are already playing catch-up in the Championship.
The bowling of Jake Ball, Luke Fletcher, Stuart Broad and Harry Gurney – 80 wickets between them for the table-toppers – has more than made up for Nottinghamshire’s batting shortfalls, with captain Steven Mullaney the only century-maker in the opening tranche of Specsavers County Championship fixtures.
Little wonder that Moores was beaming when The Cricket Paper caught up with him.
“Top of the table and the sun is shining,” he says. “The only thing that’s missing is a glass of sauvignon.”
That might have to stay on ice until Notts find their feet in the Royal London – a title they won stylishly at Lord’s last July, courtesy of Alex Hales’s record-breaking 187 not out against a Surrey side who must be wondering if they will ever lift a one-day trophy again after a third successive Lord’s defeat.
Few teams successfully defend a domestic one-day crown – Sussex were the most recent in 2008 and 2009.
But if Nottinghamshire can transfer their County Championship form to the 50-over format, then the odds against Moores’s side repeating their success this summer will shorten significantly.
“For every county it has been a bit topsy-turvy because conditions have dictated that,” says Moores.
“Like most teams, we’ve had a couple of wins that have come from nowhere.
“The Lancashire win, first up, looked like it was going to end up as a draw but then completely changed in 50 minutes.
“Then we had the win against Worcestershire which came in two days.
“The Hampshire game was then one of those days when both teams got stuck in and we ended up getting over the line.
“Generally, the commitment has been at the right level and we’ve played some good cricket.
“The way that the season is structured is something we’ve got our heads around.
“I like the fact that you get blocks of fixtures in each format, it’s helpful as a coach and as a player to get more skilful at each format.
“Now we’ve got eight Royal London’s – it’s a different challenge, we did well last year and now it’s a big tournament for us to get stuck into.”
Nottinghamshire won last year’s trophy as a Division Two side but their cricket in the 50-over competition was right out of the top drawer.
Notts only just scraped into the knockout stages of last season’s tournament after finishing third in the North Group behind Worcestershire and Yorkshire.
Moores’s side then won a sensational quarter-final against Somerset, with both sides scoring more than 400 in a run-fest that eventually saw Notts come out on top by 24 runs thanks to 154 from the now-departed Brendan Taylor.
They then chased down an improbable 370 in the semi-finals against Essex at Chelmsford, with Samit Patel scoring 122 not out, Mullaney 111 and Taylor 62, before then beating Surrey in the final at Lord’s.
It was something of a fairytale run of results for a county still nursing the wounds of relegation from Division One the previous season.
Things are different this time around with Notts being a first division outfit – but the end goal is the same.
“The first job you have to do is to obviously get to the knockout stages,” adds the former England coach.
“That has to be the aim initially. Getting into the last six is the tricky part and we’ll take it bit by bit.
“We’ll try to get up and running, get some momentum and get over the line and into the knockouts.
“Ideally, you want to go straight to the semi-final or a home draw in the quarter-finals but you really take anything to be in contention.”