Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club

Trent Bridge, Home of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and a popular Test match venue.

It won't be long now before I make my first visit there this year for the start of the County Cricket Championship.

Having won the title last year in a thrilling finish. I thought it would be interesting to consider their chances in the 2011 season.

It will be a very difficult task to retain the title, and my own personal feeling is that they won't. However, it should still be a good season for them and one in which Notts need to work on bringing a few younger players through to play regular County Cricket.

I will just say that I am not going to focus on the one day games and twenty20 as that isn't my interest, and coach, Mick Newell, has always emphasised the priority of the County game which I feel is the correct thing to do. That said, I have little doubt that Notts will be trying to win a one day trophy, something that has eluded them for some time.

There have been a few departures during the off season with Matt Wood being released along with Bilal Shafayat who has proved frustrating for Notts fans. A player with obvious talent, something is just not working for him and Notts have given him many chances and I feel are right to release him, but I'm sure I'm not the only Notts supporter who hopes to see him revive his career.

The bigest loss to Notts though is, without a doubt, Ryan Sidebottom, who has returned to Yorkshire. He will be missed especially in the early part of the season at Trent Bridge when the ball is swinging around.

So who will be the key players for Notts this year ?

There is good news for Notts fans in that Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann will be available for a few games. Notts are not short of pace bowlers but without Swann, they lack a really good spin bowler, although Samit Patel is more than capable of taking a few wickets and has done a good job in that department.

The pace attack will come from Andre Adams, Paul Franks, Andy Carter, Luke Fletcher, Darren Pattinson and fitness permitting, Charlie Shreck.

Even without Sidebottom, this is a pretty formidable line up, especially if Carter and Fletcher can come through this year as fans expect them to.

They will also be backed by the talents of Steven Mullaney and Samit Patel.

So the bowling looks pretty well covered, but what about the batting?

Notts have some quality batsmen in Chris Read, Ali Brown and Samit Patel with David Hussey and Adam Voges as the overseas players. Alex Hales should also hopefully continue to improve this season.

There is undoubted talent in there and one of the big questions of the off season has been Samit Patel.

Big things are expected of this cricketer but he seems to have found more fame for being dropped by England for being unfit. Normally I would be a little sceptical but Mick Newell, a man not known for speaking out about his players in the media, has also commented on the frustration he has felt with Samit. However, there have been reports by people who have seen him recently, how fit and slimmer Samit is looking so hopefully things are looking up.

One area that Notts have struggled with since the departure of Jason Gallian and Darren Bicknell, is the opening batsmen.

Alex Hales played a good part there last year although Newell has decided to play him at number three and put Mark Wagh as an opener instead. However, Wagh will be leaving to pursue a career in law, half way through the season which will leave an opening.

This will hopefully leave an opportunity for a young batsman to come in, perhaps Samit's younger brother, Akhil Patel, who has looked promising and with experience, could claim that position for himself.

The other position looks like being filled by Paul Franks, who played a similar role towards the end of last season and did better than most specialist openers had done. However, I feel that this may not last and is not the best batting position for 'Pikey'.

So once again, it looks like Notts weakness is likely to be the opening batsmen. Though new signing, Ricky Wessles did score 120 not out as an opener in a recent friendly, so maybe there is competition for the spot.

Of course, Notts also have the best wicketkeeper in County Cricket in Chris Read so no problem there.

So, a forecast of position .. well I would be happy with third spot as long as it is seen as a transitional season to blood more youngsters.

See you on the 14th Trent Bridge!

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