Ali Brown reflects on his time with Nottinghamshire CCC
A decade on from helping to seal the County Championship title for Nottinghamshire, Ali Brown, now 50, looks back fondly on the successful move to the East Midlands that wound down his career, after more than two decades at Surrey.
Brown won three title with Surrey but admits the success at Notts was "special" as they unseated a Durham side he regards as one of the best he ever played in domestic four-day cricket as champions.
“My three years with Notts were some of the best times of my career,” he said.
“Mick Newell was very honest with me when I signed. He told me that we’d often be 20 for two and relying on the middle order to get it back.
“But he emphasised what a good bowling attack the county had at the time and that appealed because it meant we would be fielding less.”
In Brown’s first year at Trent Bridge he averaged over 40 with the bat, to help the side to the runners-up position in Division One, behind Durham.
“Durham dominated us twice in 2009 and I said at the time they were on a different level and as good as any first-class side I’d faced in my career. They were that strong,” he added.
“They were a really tough side to play against, especially when you had the likes of (Steve) Harmison, (Mitch) Claydon and (Liam) Plunkett, all capable of bowling between 85-90 mph and didn’t pitch it in their half too often.
“Up at their ground myself and Alex Hales had been battling it out to try and get us the draw but what hurt even more, when they got me out, I was their championship-winning wicket.”
Determined to go one better in 2010, Notts began the season strongly, sweeping aside Kent, Somerset and Hampshire in their first three matches.
The next opponents were Durham, the title holders, and a heavy Nottinghamshire victory not only continued their winning streak, it also signified a changing of the guard in England’s top tier.
“At the start of 2010 we were as dominant as any side I’ve played for and it was great to get one over Durham in the manner we did,” said Brown.
Brown played a pivotal role in that Trent Bridge victory over the defending champions, sharing a seventh-wicket stand of 237 with his captain, Chris Read.
It had almost been the exact scenario that Newell had mentioned when signing the right-hander, early problems offset by a middle-order rear-guard.
Brown, who had won 16 ODI caps earlier in his career, scored 134 to set up the win and Read chipped in with an unbeaten 124 of his own.
“When I’d been at Surrey and we’d found ourselves in a bit of trouble I’d often find myself batting with Adam Hollioake and we liked to come back punching, take the fight to the bowlers,” he recalled.
“It was exactly the same when batting with Chris Read, he was a very good player of the short ball and a very gutsy batsman. I think all Nottinghamshire supporters got to appreciate his batting for the number of occasions when he came to the crease and turned an innings around.
“Both of us had our own way of playing and neither of us wanted to be dictated to. That was an important partnership, in a very significant game.
“We knew that we still had to play Durham again but we felt that we were on our way after that win.”
Notts duly went on to win the title in 2010, with 40-year old Brown appearing in every match along the way. The third and final year of his contract was heavily disrupted but it didn’t diminish his feelings for the place.
“Trent Bridge has become very special to me, even though I spent 21 years with Surrey and then my last three at Notts," he said.
“I had two quality years to begin with and was so well looked after at Notts,” he said.
“In my final year I had a run of injuries that prevented me from playing to my full worth but I was more than happy to spend time playing with the youngsters in the seconds.
“I really loved my time there and always enjoy going back to see everybody. I was fortunate to win three titles with Surrey but that championship win with Notts was so special.
“You’ve got to be good over a whole season to win it, not just for three or four months, and we proved we were good enough.”