Notts Outlaws face a pivotal weekend with two important matches to come which will go a long way towards clarifying if they can reach the knock out stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup, writes Dave Bracegirdle.
The current holders of the competition haven’t left themselves much room for manoeuvre after two defeats in their opening five matches have left them with ground to make up in the north group.
Current group leaders Worcestershire visit Nottingham on Friday and they boast a strong recent record, against Notts – and also on the ground.
Last season they won at Trent Bridge in the championship and in the T20 Blast and also inflicted a defeat over the Outlaws at New Road in the 50-over competition.
“They are a very good one-day side,” said Notts’ bowler Luke Fletcher. “We’ve got to make sure we prep up well for the game and go at them hard.
“Obviously after losing the match on Sunday (to Warwickshire), we’ve put a bit of pressure on ourselves to qualify but we have a bloke coming back for this game called Alex Hales, who we’ve all been missing – and I think he’s been missing us as well.”
Hales is yet to play any domestic cricket this season, after spending the last six weeks with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League.
The opener made his mark in last year’s Royal London One-Day Cup competition by scoring an undefeated 187 in the final against Surrey.
Fletcher said: “He’s as excited to be back as we are to are to have him and to bring a world class player in will obviously give the batting line-up a massive boost.”
Team-mate Ross Taylor agrees that Notts may now need to win all three of their remaining qualifying matches in order to have a chance of defending their trophy.
“Yes, I think we probably do,” he stated. “We need to do it so we don’t have to rely on other people.
“We are certainly capable of winning all three and we don’t need to search too much to see what needs to happen. We need to do the basics well to give ourselves a chance.
“But obviously it’s a big game on Friday.”
The second match in the Outlaws’ weekend double-header is on Sunday, when they face Durham in Chester-le-Street.
A home day-night fixture, next Thursday, against Derbyshire completes the programme of fixtures for Peter Moores’ squad and they will be hoping that they go into that contest with realistic hope of still being able to make the knock-out round.