There are a series of signs just behind the advertising boards in front of the members’ seating at the Pavilion End at Trent Bridge instructing spectators not to move when bowling is from that end. One of them begins with the exclamation “STOP” and after explaining why one should not move behind the bowler’s arm ends with the words “ … and you will be very embarrassed”.
It’s the sort of knowing, firm-but-friendly tone that fits in with the way they do everything at this finest of English grounds. On the field yesterday the County Champions were engaged in a compelling, even-handed contests against Lancashire. The pitch had a bit of spice in it and the crowd was decent, if scattered around this fine stadium like birds on a cliff-face.
According to the ECB’s head of county business, Gordon Hollins, counties need to more sharing of “best practice”. Anyone wanting to know how to run a successful Test-match county needs only to come to Nottinghamshire. They were one of three counties to make a profit in 2010 and one imagines that they will do all right out of a Test against India in August this year.
Their senior people are, in my experience, good blokes and successful people: Derek Brewer, the chief executive, Mick Newell, the coach, and the captain Chris Read are all men you would happily share a beer with. They are sound and shrewd, not flash in word or deed. Nice guys who do finish first.
Trent Bridge’s redevelopment is a model to others as well. They have achieved a seamless blend of ancient and modern. There are floodlights that look, as Richard Hobson of The Times said, like dentists’ lamps and there are the red-rooved and turreted stands at either end that manage to look both contemporary and traditional at the same time.
As the clouds cleared and the sun emerged yesterday evening, there was no better place to be. Lancashire were fighting hard against the champions on a day of serious, hard-fought, quality first-division cricket: 326 plays 293 for 8 is as good a game as it looks on paper.
The one accusation levelled at Notts in the recent past is that they buy, rather than produce, their own players. That is changing and Samit Patel’s inclusion in England’s Twenty20 and ODI squad is a nod to that.
It was sad that his selection has necessitated him being removed from the final day of this match. I’m pretty pro-England when it comes to this sort of thing but it seems a bit heavy-handed that three players – Patel, Craig Kieswetter and Chris Woakes – will all miss the end of Championship games just so they can prepare for a Twenty20 match on Saturday. If they finished their county matches they would still have a full day free.
These are marginal calls and I guess Andy Flower’s view is that he wants his team, especially the new or newish ones, together at the same time in the same place. But the chances are that Patel would be under pressure to try to bowl Lancashire out in the fourth innings come Thursday so it’s a shame that he won’t have that challenge.
Then there is the moot point about player replacements. The ECB has to approve the identities of replacements in these circumstances so if Woakes, say, had done all his bowling then Warwickshire couldn’t pick a specialist batsman.
But as an allrounder, Patel is a different case. Nottinghamshire are unlikely to have a precise like-for-like replacement so there is scope for a canny selection depending on the match situation.
“Don’t cock it up,” was the message from his coach Newell to Patel on his international recall, the sort of wry honesty versus bland half-truths that wins a lot of admirers.
There’s something to be said for players who, for whatever reason, have not had it all their own way. Ian Bell has said that the most useful period of his career was a winter spent in Western Australia when no one cared that he was a talented county cricketer, nor that he was part of the ECB system, he was just a bloke who was expected to score runs while fending for himself off the field.
Up to that point he had, he believed, been handed everything on a plate which, in a different way, is of course the problem Patel has had too. Let’s hope he takes Newell’s advice when he gets his chance.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John