Cricket fans are a unique bunch. Whilst many support a county team based on family relations or geographical location, our main priority often lies with the national team. Punters take delight when a local lad performs well for England, despite it meaning they may be lucky to see that player wear home colours once or twice a season.
This is a stark contrast to other sports, yet one that makes county cricket so endearing. You may well find yourself checking the scorecard of rival teams to ensure that young talent earmarked for international honours have performed, or even hoping they score heavily or take wickets against your own team.
One of the most recent phenomena amongst county fans, however, is their collective and increasingly hostile reception to Nottinghamshire. In the past three seasons the Midlands giant has cherry picked talent from smaller counties and completely remoulded their top order. Acquisitions such as Ben Duckett from Northants, Joe Clarke from Worcestershire and Ben Slater from Derbyshire were met with scorn from many old-school cricket fans, whilst the signing of the out of form Haseeb Hameed raised a few eyebrows.
Yet, with Peter Moores at the helm, a man renowned for his moulding and care of young cricketers, shouldn’t we be happy that some of the most exciting players in England have found their way into his warm embrace?
The first thing to say is that cherry picking talent by the so-called larger counties is nothing new. My own county Lancashire has enjoyed the success of Keaton Jennings after signing him from Durham, whilst Luke Wood recently made the decision to leave Notts and join the red rose. Surrey have often been seen as being a club that hoovers up cricketers whilst Yorkshire have raided both Worcestershire and Northants in the past few years. In fact, I would suggest that playing at a Test match ground is better for our promising young players, and surely it is preferable to the influx of overseas and Kolpak signings that larger counties can afford? Just look at Hampshire, who in recent years have had bowling line-ups almost exclusively made up of non-English cricketers.
Indeed, it would be hard to argue that overall, the four new top order batsmen Notts acquired have not improved. After a difficult start, Slater has since scored 972 runs at 51 in the past two seasons whilst another player enjoying his time at Trent Bridge is every England fan’s favourite Hameed, who has scored 787 runs at 43 and earned himself a much-anticipated international recall. Clarke and Duckett have been a tad less fortunate in red ball cricket – scoring 1317 runs at 33 and 1430 runs at 34 respectively. However, their exploits in the shortest format have seen Nottinghamshire win their second blast title in 4 years. Duckett scored 340 runs at a strike rate of 137 last season and saw them over the line in the final, whilst the explosive Clarke hit them at a ridiculous strike rate of 175 throughout that same campaign.
Their new talent has also seen them win their first Championship game since 2018, when they narrowly avoided relegation. Currently sitting third in their group, they could well find themselves moving into the top table after managing three wins so far this season. It must also be said that they have some exciting local lads in their line-up as well. The intriguing Lyndon James has already scored a handful of gritty half centuries and bagged a handy number of wickets this season, and whilst Steven Mullaney may have started his career at Lancashire, after 11 seasons at Notts its hard not to describe him as a club legend.
Furthermore, the influx of talent to Trent Bridge has freed up some fine batsmen to the smaller counties. Jake Libby, since his move to Worcestershire, has scored 1274 runs at an average of 60 and is easily the most inform opening batsmen in the country today – this may well not have happened had he continued to ply his trade at Notts.
You can easily disagree with the way Notts have gone about building their team of young English talent, but to single them out is often unwarranted and frankly absurd. Players have always sought larger contracts and a better chance at international cricket, and we know this often means a move to a larger county.
To have a group of batsmen coached by one of the finest in Moores, playing at a Test venue in front of bigger crowds and doing so whilst often actually improving, can only be a good thing for English cricket. I for one hope Nottinghamshire continue to improve as an outfit and that their young English talent, wherever they may be from, continue to go from strength to strength.