General News | 22nd August 2007

Looking back on Notts v Northants

Club historian Peter Wynne-Thomas looks back on past meetings between Notts and Northamptonshire at Trent Bridge.

Not much has happened in Willoughby-on-the Wolds since that skirmish of 1648 when the Royalists were routed by Colonel Rossiter. Even the village cricket team fled thirty years ago from Baxter’s Field.

However, this South Notts village is recalled each time Northants come to Nottingham. A farmer’s son from Willoughby still holds the county Bowling record for most wickets in a single match. Frank Cyril Matthews dismissed 17 Northants batsmen at Trent Bridge in 1923 at a cost of 89 runs. Matthews was not the usual fast bowler employed by the county - virtually every other one - Barratt, Larwood, Voce and so on of the 1920s came direct from the colleries.

Educated at the local Willoughby School and then Mundella Secondary School, he went off to Scotland as a pro in 1912, spent the First World War with the Northumberland Fusiliers, as captain of their regimental cricket team, then came to Trent Bridge in September 1919 for a net trial. He was nearly 28 when he joined the playing staff for the 1920 season - not exactly young for a fast bowler.

Matthews had a curious, side-stepping and short run-up, but was exceedingly fast and could be erratic. Until his feat against Northants in 1923 he achieved little; in 1920 and again in 1921 he took just 11 first-class wickets. In 1922 he captured 37. Rather strangely to contemporary observers, the Notts attack in those seasons frequently comprised one fast bowler, Barratt, and three spinners, Sam Staples, Len Richmond and John Gunn. Notts were Championship runners-up with this combination in 1922.

Matthews was given a regular place, opening the bowling with Barratt from the start of 1923 and was successful straightaway. In mid-season he took his 17 wickets and at the summer’s close topped the Notts bowling table with 115 wickets at 15 runs apiece.

In 1924 Matthews had one good analysis, but his season was summed up as ‘a grievous disappointment’. Though he remained on the Trent Bridge staff until 1928, he played very little in the First XI and then went to pro in Scotland. At the same time he was landlord of the Three Horseshoes in Willoughby.

Matthews died in 1961 – like Ted Alletson before him, Matthews is recalled for a single feat and one that remains without parallel.

Northants first played a Championship game at Trent Bridge in 1906 and have never flourished on the ground. Of the 57 matches, Notts have won 24, Northants only five. What is rather depressing is that no less than 22 games have had serious rain interruptions.

The last meeting of the counties in Nottingham occurred in 2002 which proved a success for AJ Harris, who took 11 wickets, and Jason Gallian who scored 111* - Notts won with ease. Northants last won on the ground 24 years ago in 1983.

Tom Wass had startling analyses against the county prior to the First World War. In successive games his figures were 13-147; 11-148; 8-147 and 9-102. Wass’s fast leg-breaks were of course too much for most batsmen at that time.

Joe Hardstaff jun relished Northants’ bowlers, having an average of 119.37 against them at Trent Bridge, including 247 in 1951 and four other three-figure innings. In 1949 he had unbeaten hundreds in each innings.

Brian Bolus scored hundreds in each innings of the 1969 game, a contest in which Notts created a then new record of 22 points in the match. A decade later, Pasty Harris repeated the two separate hundreds feat, though his 133 in the first innings took the entire opening day.

Paul Johnson found Northants’ bowlers to his liking, his most memorable innings coming in 1990. Notts were set the difficult target of 341 off 70 overs. Johnson hit 165 not out off 120 balls, reaching his hundred in 88 minutes and Notts reached their victory off only 64.4 overs. Batting at the other end for all of Johnson’s innings was Duncan Martindale, a much under-valued batsman.

Clearly having forgotten the events of 1990 on Northants’ next trip to Trent Bridge, Notts were set a mere 297 in 68 overs – very peculiar since Rob Bailey was the captain on both occasions. Tim Robinson hit a hundred in 120 minutes and Notts were seen home by Mark Crawley, but it was tight, just two wickets in hand. Bailey was, need it be added, a survivor from the famous 1987 NatWest Final. Not an event easily overlooked.

For those who regard the influx of overseas players as a relatively new phenomenon, the 1954 tie provides a reminder that Northants arrived at Trent Bridge with two Australians, Jock Livingston, who hit 207 not out, and George Tribe, plus the New Zealander Peter Arnold. The Notts side possessed Bruce Dooland, who took 13-112, with 8-93 in one innings, and the Ceylon all-rounder, Gamini Goonesena. Livingston was Northants most prolific batsman at Trent Bridge, in addition to his 207, in 1955 he made 170 and in 1956 153. In the ’55 game Goonesena hit his maiden hundred for Notts.

In general Notts v Northants at Trent Bridge has thrown up few oddities, but in 1910 John Seymour was very unlucky. Bill Riley sent down a no-ball; Seymour left his crease to strike the ball, but mis-hit it straight into the hands of Notts’ keeper, Tom Oates. Seymour was not given out ‘caught’, but Oates then broke the wicket and Seymour was judged ‘run out’. Riley bowled six successive maiden overs in this spell – no-balls not counting against the bowler at that time.

By-the-by, Willoughby now play at Platt Lane, Keyworth – in view of our current injuries, are any descendants of Matthews still in the local side? 

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