Dane Paterson speaks on trepidation when he stepped out in a Nottinghamshire shirt
Nottinghamshire’s roll call of overseas players over the years contains so many cricketing greats that it is little wonder that each new name on the list feels a certain weight of history on their shoulders as they are figuratively handed the mantle once worn by the likes of Richard Hadlee and Clive Rice, Sir Garfield Sobers, David Hussey and Chris Cairns.
Dane Paterson admits to having had some trepidation when he stepped on to the field in a Nottinghamshire shirt for the first time last year but in just two seasons the South African seam bowler has already proved himself a worthy addition.
He reached the milestone of 100 first-class wickets for the county in their win over Leicestershire earlier this month, getting there in just 22 matches, which made him the fastest to the mark since Franklyn Stephenson did so in 19 games in 1988.
It prompted some in the current Nottinghamshire dressing room to speak of Paterson as a bowler in the mould of Andre Adams, the New Zealander who became a fixture in the team in eight seasons at Trent Bridge, during which he accumulated 334 first-class wickets, honing his seam bowling skills to the point where, at his best, it could seem as though he had the cricket ball on a string.
“What he has brought to the side reminds me of the Andre Adams days,” Paterson’s teammate Luke Fletcher said. “The style he bowls, he attacks the knee roll, always on the stumps, a skilful bowler in the way that Andre was.
“And off the field he is brilliant with the lads and that’s what you want from an overseas player, one that commits to the club.”
In fact, there are a number of parallels in the stories of the two bowlers.
Both joined Nottinghamshire at the age of 32 and both with their futures in the balance, albeit for different reasons. Adams had considered retiring with his international career seemingly over while Paterson was coming back from a pectoral tendon rupture that had kept him sidelined for eight months in 2020 and wondering if the injury would have long-term consequences.
Yet both became better bowlers than they were when they arrived.
“I was supposed to join the club for the 2020 season but Covid meant that no one could travel, so the move was shelved,” Paterson said, taking up his own story.
“Then I had the injury. I did it doing a bench press. I didn’t think it was too bad at the time because I still had full range of movement, but when I saw the specialist he told me that the tendon had snapped right off.
“I had never been out that long because of injury and it can leave you at a low ebb, especially when you’ve been under the knife.
“It was the pectoral on the right side and it was my bowling arm that was affected. You worry whether you’ll get back to where you were before the surgery and you doubt yourself a little bit.”
Fortunately for him, the surgery was a success, he felt no residual effects and playing at match intensity brought no setbacks. But on top of his worries over being physically capable of bowling was an added pressure.
Had he moved to Trent Bridge in 2020 it would have been as a Kolpak player but Britain’s departure from the EU meant that Kolpak signings could no longer be classified as local players, so when Paterson was rehired for 2021 it was as an overseas player.
“I was nervous before my first match,” he said. “It was my first county stint and I wanted to do well, especially as an overseas player.
“There was an added pressure because I was coming into a red-ball side that hadn’t won a game in almost three years, although pressure is part of the job.”
As it happens, the victory that ended the winless streak after 1,043 days - against local rivals Derbyshire away from home - also marked a turning point for Paterson.
“At the start I felt I needed to bowl a lot to get the confidence back in me. I took five or six wickets in the match and it felt like everything fired forwards from that point,” he said.
Paterson finished the season with 54 wickets, a total he can exceed if he manages four wickets or more in Nottinghamshire’s final LV= Insurance County Championship match against Durham next week as they bid to secure the Division Two title.
He believes that even at the age of 33 now he is a better bowler than when he arrived, which he puts down to working with Nottinghamshire’s bowling coach, the vastly experienced Kevin Shine.
“When you get to this stage of your career, when you’ve been bowling for a long time, you think you’ve got your action sorted,” Paterson said.
“And then you come over here and you’ve got a man who says ‘I can unlock more potential in your bowling action’ and he’s actually done that.
“Last season Kevin made a couple of big changes to my bowling, especially my run-up and my rhythm, and just being a bit loose, and that has helped me tremendously, getting a bit more zip off the wicket and working on a couple of wobble seam deliveries.
“I’m definitely a better bowler this season. Even though the pitches have been flatter and the balls have been going softer, I think I have had a better season than last year, although you don’t want to rest on your laurels.”
Despite Nottinghamshire suffering a heavy defeat at Worcestershire this week they head into their final match at the summit of the Division Two table and with their promotion and title hopes very much in their own hands.
Such a double would bring another parallel with Adams, after he took 68 wickets in the 2010 season - his most successful for the county – as Nottinghamshire won the Division One title. If they do finish top this year, it would be their first Championship silverware since.