General News | 28th August 2007

Looking back on Middlesex v Notts

Club historian Peter Wynne-Thomas looks back on past Championship meetings between Notts and Middlesex at Lord's.

Memories of last summer's match are still remembered, since Notts achieved an overwhelming victory and several players created individual records. Will Smith (141) and Samit Patel (156) both made maiden Championship hundreds. Charlie Shreck produced his first Championship hat-trick and the Notts total of 642-9 declared was the county's highest ever on the historic ground.

In fairness to Middlesex, I'd better add that Nick Compton carried his bat right through the Middlesex's first innings. The press were very keen to point out that his illustrous grandad, Denis, never performed that feat in spite of playing no less than 839 first-class innings. That, on the face of it sounds quite astonishing, but those old enough to remember Denis Compton, will also recall that if he ever opened the innings for Middlesex or England it was exceedingly rare - I've not the time to check out, the occasions that it happened, but I can assure younger readers I never saw him do so.

Notts played first-class cricket at Lord's for some years before they opposed Middlesex there. Middlesex were not founded until 1864 and it was in 1843 that Notts first arrived in London to play M.C.C. This series of games was a regular fixture until 1920 and for many years the opening Notts game of the season - not quite as important as it might sound, since M.C.C. fielded a weakish side and Notts took the opportunity to try out some young players. Very similar in fact to the current fashion of an early season game against the likes of Durham UCCE.

The formation of the Middlesex Club did not immediately result in county fixtures at Lord's. Middlesex in fact had four home grounds before an agreement was reached with M.C.C. to allow the county to play their home games there. Notts first met Middlesex on the ground next to the Cattle Market in Islington. That was in 1866, then for three years, the counties met at Prince's. Like Lord's, Prince's had nothing to do with nobility, but was just the surname of the founder. The ground was in Chelsea, roughly where Cadogan Square is now situated.

At last, in 1877 Notts and Middlesex met each other at Lord's. There have up to today been 98 matches at Lord's; Notts have won 27, Middlesex have won 41 and 30 have ended as draws. These numbers do not include the proposed matches of 1979 and 1987, both were complete wash-outs.

Prior to the victory by Notts last year, there were two boring draws. In 2003 the Notts second innings was merely filling in time and Middlesex used 10 bowlers (it would have been 11, but the missing man was injured!) In 2005 the only point of the Middlesex second innings was to improve Notts bowling rate – Notts managed 25 overs in 50 minutes.

This waste of time contrasts with the 1930 game, when Arthur Carr was Notts captain and apparently, Carr decided the continuation was so pointless and the weather so cheerless, that he led Notts off the field, although 20 minutes 'playing time' remained. Carr was a one-off. In 1932, at the start of the second day, Carr declared Notts innings closed at 86-7. The press commented: "What purpose he considered would be served by taking such a course, it is impossible to understand."

Two years later, Notts were entangled in the 'bodyline' controversy. During the Middlesex game, Len Muncer was seriously injured by a ball from Bill Voce and Middlesex officially complained about the Notts tactics. Middlesex threatened to cancel future games against Notts unless the tactics were changed. This in the winter of 1934-35 led to Notts sacking Carr as captain, but that's another story.

Only once since World War One have Notts gained successive victories at Lord's and both were due to Richard Hadlee. In 1984, Hadlee went in to bat with the Notts total 17-4. He hit 210, the next highest Notts batsman made 36 and, due entirely to his efforts, Notts gained maximum batting points and went on to win in two days.

The next season it was Hadlee's bowling that proved decisive. Notts had a 44-run deficit on first innings and Middlesex in the person of Barlow threatened to bat Notts completely out of the game. An astonishing caught and bowled by Hadlee removed the said Barlow; Hadlee ended with figures of 7-34 and Notts won on the third afternoon by five wickets, Hadlee being at the crease when victory came.

There was also a gentlemanly action during the Notts first innings. Randall was judged not out by the umpire on an appeal for caught behind, but disagreeing with the official, he walked off. Billy Flint had taken similar action in the 1927 encounter. He trod on his wicket, but neither umpire noticed and he was judged not out - Flint, better known on the soccer field, gave away his wicket next ball.

To finish on a cheerful note. The 1892 game was heading for a draw, With 30 minutes play left, Middlesex had five wickets down. Dixon, the Notts captain, asked the burly wicketkeeper, Mordecai Sherwin to take off his pads and bowl. Sherwin had scarcely ever bowled in his long career. The spectators thought it was a joke and Notts were merely going through the motions. Sherwin returned an analysis of 7-4-9-2 and Notts won with four minutes to spare.

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