Paul Franks could well be reflecting back on a memorable debut season as first-team assistant head coach at Nottinghamshire come the end of September.
The 38-year-old, who coached the UAE national team briefly last summer on a temporary basis, has only been in his new role since November but in his short time, the former pacer has already shown why he’s highly regarded by the club he served as a player for 19 years.
Working alongside former England head coach Peter Moores, everything has been going according to plan. Not only is promotion to Division One of the County Championship within their grasp, standing atop Division Two with five games to play, but they also find themselves in Saturday’s T20 Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston.
The Outlaws make the short trip for one of the most iconic events in the British sports calendar for only the third time and a chance to make history by etching their name on the trophy for the first time.
Semi-finalists Birmingham Bears, Glamorgan and Hampshire will have other ideas though, particularly the latter who Nottinghamshire will have to stop before even thinking of reaching the final.
Their cause isn’t helped with Shahid Afridi lining up for the two-time champions and the former Pakistan star certainly lived up to his ‘Boom Boom’ nickname on his last outing.
He needed just 42 deliveries to reach his century in the quarter-final win over Derbyshire and Franks is fully aware of the threat the allrounder can pose. “We know he was outstanding in the last game and it was just such Shahid Afridi mode,” he told Sport360°.
“The evidence would suggest that he’s been a little bit more consistent these days so that is something we need to be aware of. We will have plans in place for him but the team have some very dangerous players as well. I think it would be wrong just to keep an eye on him, but we’ll do our homework on them and try and keep them as quiet as possible.”
If Notts taste success at Edgbaston, it would complete a domestic double of both limited-overs competitions. Back in July, the club were celebrating their first trophy since 2013 when they got their hands on the OneDay Cup with a convincing four-wicket win over Surrey.
Most of the headlines were about Alex Hales and for good reason too. The England opener sent out another reminder of why he’s such a formidable force in the limited-over formats by smashing a record-breaking unbeaten 187 off 167 balls.
It was the highest individual one-day score at Lord’s and ensured fellow England international Mark Stoneman’s 144 went in vain.
With the lone T20 and five-match ODI series coming up against West Indies in two weeks’ time, Hales looks dead certain to add to his 97 caps in the limited-over formats.
But with the all-important Ashes series looming Down Under at the end of the year, and still question marks over England’s batting line-up, Hales could well be given a lifeline to resurrect his Test career.
It seems like an outside shot considering that the 28-year-old has not played a five-day game since the fourth Test defeat to Pakistan last summer.
In his 11 Tests opening alongside Alastair Cook, his stats show he’s capable as he scored three half-centuries with a high score of 94 against Sri Lanka last June.
He has again shown glimpses of his patience as displayed by his 218 against Derbyshire earlier this month – the fifth highest individual score in Division Two this season.
Franks, who won one ODI cap, believes a recall is very much a possibility if he can deliver for the remainder of the season. “He’s shown that he has international temperament in terms of his quality in ODI and T20I cricket,” said Franks.
“He’s played in front of massive crowds in the big stage and his record in the last three years has been second to none. I think England will be looking for various combinations in the batting line-up which hasn’t been quite right for me at this stage.
“It’ll probably come down to a few things and I don’t know what the insights are when it comes to selection but I know Alex will certainly be discussed because he is a quality player. I think the timing of scoring runs will clear those situations and the ODI series against West Indies coming up, I’m sure he’ll make a massive impression and give himself the best chance of scoring runs. “I still think with England there are a few players who are not guaranteed a seat on the plane yet.”
One Nottinghamshire player who is guaranteed a seat on the plane, barring injury, is Stuart Broad. He’s a man Franks knows very well having shared the same dressing room since Broad made the move from Leicestershire in 2008.
The right-arm pacer was the talk of the town in Edgbaston when he overtook Sir Ian Botham to become England’s second highestwicket taker with 384 scalps in the first Test thrashing against West Indies. And Franks knew that Broad would always be destined for success even from an early age.
“I first played against him when he was at Leicestershire, before he came to Nottinghamshire. He had that thing about him, whether that was to get people out at times when the other bowlers were struggling or the ability to bowl tightly when the captain needed him and that was when he was a young man,” said Franks.
“I’ve certainly enjoyed working with him closely. He has the cricketing brains and good understanding of cricket, always has an opinion and always happy to have a debate on where he think he can get better.”
Just a day after breaking Botham’s mark, Broad, 31, made it clear there’s plenty left in the tank and that he can continue playing until the home Ashes series in 2019. “It’ll be very much down to his motivation (how long he can continue),” said Franks.
“I think when he has played as much cricket as he has and taken many wickets during that time, very much like James Anderson, he will know when that little bit of edge is going out from the game.
“If it becomes hard work for them, then he will probably know it’s time to move. From the conversations I’ve had with him, Stuart hasn’t given any indication of retirement.”
What has been your experience working with Peter Moores?
Peter is really enthusiastic to the job and his knowledge is outstanding. We have been fortunate where the team has been playing well. That obviously means that’s an easy time to be a coach. He’s supported me massively and at the same time, I’m offering him good support as well and hopefully steering the cricket team to the right direction.
You were part of the England coaching staff for their Test against South Africa at Trent Bridge. What have you made of Joe Root as captain?
He’s settling in quite quickly. He’s been England’s best player and I think he’s been batting in the best position in that line-up. He’s got good people around him with the right support and senior players who have been there a long time. He can be captain for many years.