The summer of 2017 was one of unparalleled success for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club.
They achieved something remarkable, powering their way to victory in both the Royal London One Day Cup and the T20 Blast as well as winning promotion back to Division One of the County Championship.
Elephant Sport sat down with head coach Peter Moores at Trent Bridge to get to the bottom of Notts’ near perfect season.
How to take a loss
“We had a great time as a squad last summer,” said Moores. “We had a real laugh with it.
“But we worked really hard, and with that we got rewards.”
The Midlands county started the season at a frightening pace, decimating all before them in the opening rounds of the Championship, winning their first three matches convincingly.
In those games no team scored more than 251 before being dismissed by the unstoppable bowling attack of Stuart Broad, Jake Ball, Harry Gurney and Luke Fletcher.
Overseas import Australian James Pattinson was devastating with the new ball but once he, Broad and Ball were called up for international duty the Outlaws struggled to replace them.
Successive defeats kicked off the Royal London campaign and a sense of trepidation began to linger around Trent Bridge.
Nottinghamshire had only won one white ball competition since 1991 before this season, and a club with facilities and stature such as theirs would be disappointed with such an empty trophy cabinet.
But attitudes changed under Moores after he was appointed at the end of the 2016 season.
“I really enjoyed how we managed to take a loss. We started the season well but you’ve got to do it over a period of time, not just the first few weeks of the season when everybody’s up for it,” Moores said.
Following their initial two Royal London defeats, Notts lost only one of their next nine games in the competition, culminating in an Alex Hales inspired victory against Surrey in the final.
The opener scored a sensational 187 not out – the highest individual one-day score at Lord’s – as Notts chased down Surrey’s 297.
And Moores credits this victory to the preparation his team made earlier in the season.
“We pitched up at every game ready to play, we didn’t just go through the motions. And when we did get to the latter stages of competitions we were used to playing with that high intensity.
“This is what you need to do to win tournaments.”
But Moores’ side did not settle for one success.
At the carnival that is T20 Finals Day, Samit Patel and Harry Gurney inspired Nottinghamshire as they defeated Hampshire in the semi-final before beating Warwickshire in the final.
Both Patel and Gurney were outstanding throughout the day.
Patel’s 64 not out in the final came in a 132 run partnership with Brendan Taylor (65), that dragged Notts to a very defendable 190-4 from their 20 overs despite being 30-3 when the pair met at the crease.
And Gurney gave the England selectors plenty to think about, bowling magnificently throughout the day, sealing their place in the final with three wickets in four balls late in the semi before snaring 4-17 in the final. His combined figures for the day of 7-34 are the best in the history of this tournament finale.
“The T20 Blast win was probably the most pleasurable in that we had already won a trophy. We could have easily taken our foot off the gas [after the Royal London win] and taken a backward step,” said the 55 year-old.
“The lads got tight again and worked really hard. We found a way to win.”
Back in Division One
In the late September sunshine, the men from Robin Hood’s county secured the draw they required against Sussex in Hove to seal second place and promotion from Division Two.
The ex-England coach reflected fondly on that autumn afternoon. “Often, in seasons like this, you remember particular defining moments. And there was a great one right at the end when [captain] Chris Read got his hundred and we got promoted.”
The wicket keeper was playing his final match as a professional and celebrated a fabulous career with his 26th first class century in his 349th match.
The 39 year-old’s 124 contributed to Notts’ 477 in the first innings, effectively negating the enormous 565 Sussex had scored batting first.
Sussex did not have enough time to force a result and the draw confirmed Nottinghamshire’s immediate return to Division One following relegation in 2016.
Platform to perform
Notts are determined not to re-enter English cricket’s elite as underdogs.
“We aim to win the Championship,” Moores asserted. “Backing up success is always a tough one so we’ve got a big challenge this coming season.”
‘We have fun but the players, and me as a coach, are continually trying to get better. That’s what gets you out of bed in the morning’
Some may say this confidence from Moores places unnecessary pressure on his players, but the head coach is keen for his squad to confront these fears of failure.
“To win anything you have got to take pressure, so you have got to be ready to as an individual and as a team. There are going to be certain situations when the pressure is going to be on you to deliver, but that’s the fun of professional sport.
“My coaching style is to try and help people build belief, belief is the fuel of the player. I try and help them go out and perform not because they believe they can, but because they do not believe they can’t”
And Nottinghamshire provides that platform for players to perform.
“The club has a village atmosphere within a Test match ground. The pavilion is very intimate and it helps players connect with what they are playing for.
“There have been brilliant players before and there will be brilliant players after so this current lot must look after the traditions and respects that make up our club”
Repeating the successes of 2017 will be challenging. But Moores and his staff have a measured approach.
“We break the season down into sections, and we work hard. But hopefully the players realise ‘this isn’t work, I’ve got the chance to achieve something great’”
“And we have fun but the players, and me as a coach, are continually trying to get better. That’s what gets you out of bed in the morning.”