Nottinghamshire are hoping that the return of a fully fit Charlie Shreck, and the unexpected availability of Stuart Broad, could give their seam attack a huge double bonus in the early stages of the 2011 season.
Shreck has started bowling again after a back problem, the latest in a number of injuries that have restricted his appearances over the last few seasons, and may make his comeback against the MCC at the end of this month after being included in the champions’ 15-man squad for their trip to Abu Dhabi.
Broad will be staying at home as the ECB continue to manage his recovery from the side strain that forced his early departure from the World Cup. But after such a frustrating winter in which he also missed most of the Ashes because of a torn stomach muscle, he is hoping to make up for lost time with Notts at the start of the County Championship programme in April and May.
“Side injuries for a bowler mean you are looking at five or six weeks out,” he told BBC Radio Nottingham this week. “It’s important to get it right, look to the start of the season with Notts and try to get in the Test side.”
The potential benefit of that to the county’s Championship defence is obvious from the impact Broad made in the two appearances he managed last season, when his eight wickets against Somerset at Trent Bridge and 11 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston set up a pair of victories that proved crucial in the final analysis – as well as leaving him on top of the national Championship bowling averages with 19 wickets at 15.74.
Wayne Noon, the assistant coach who has been left in charge of pre-season preparations with Mick Newell away with the England Lions in the Caribbean, is however taking a softly-softly, safety-first approach.
“We’re still in the hands of the physios, because side strains can mean anything between four and 10 weeks, and you’ve got to be pretty careful with them,” he said. “But if everything runs its normal course and he is cleared to play, then Stuart could be available for the start of the season. That would be a massive bonus.”
So too would the return of Shreck, who only took 18 wickets in five Championship appearances last summer, and did not play at all after the end of July. “Over the last few years there has always been something with Charlie,” added Noon. “He’s had a shoulder problem operated on, there was a freak knee injury, and he’s had various operations on his back.
“But he’s signed a new two-year contract, and he’s very determined to be fit for the start of the season, and put right the last couple of years. We’re backing him, because we know that a fit Charlie Shreck at Trent Bridge takes some playing.
“I watched him bowl yesterday for a good half-hour, and the next step will be when we go out to some grass nets hopefully next week. Fingers crossed if that goes well the best-case scenario is that he might play in the MCC game in Abu Dhabi.”