General News | 12th July 2007

Looking back on Notts v Gloucestershire

Peter Wynne-Thomas looks back on past meetings between Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge.

If you go to Paris, the Eiffel Tower is compulsory. In New York, no one can avoid the Empire State Building. Any mention of Gloucestershire cricket automatically evokes the colossus that is W.G.Grace. It’s 99 years since he last appeared in a first-class cricket match, but he remains the greatest cricketer the game has ever seen. It’s appropriate, therefore, that he should be the first man to score a century in a county match at Trent Bridge.

He and his brothers created Gloucestershire County Cricket Club in 1870 and in 1871 matches home and away were arranged with Nottinghamshire. W.G. was then aged 22 and had built up a reputation as a very talented all-rounder. By the time Gloucestershire came to Trent Bridge in late August, W.G. was smashing records of every kind. His batting average was 75 and he had nearly 2,500 runs to his name - no one else at that stage had reach 1,000!

No wonder Trent Bridge saw a record attendance figure for the game, 10,000 on the first day, 12,000 on the second and 6,000 on the third. The press reported: “All the factory hands for miles around struck work to see the champion.”

Grace did not disappoint. In the first innings, Gloucestershire were all out for 147, W.G. made 79. In the second the visitors managed 217, of which W.G. contributed 116. Notts actually won by 10 wickets. The crowds that attended might not appear large by today’s standards, but there were no stands at Trent Bridge, with only two or three rows of benches round the boundary. Grace didn’t bowl in the game - he kept wicket.

Fast-forward 27 years to 1898, W.G. was now just 50. It was to be his last county game at Trent Bridge. He scored 168 - another record. He was the first cricketer over the age of 50 to hit a century in a Championship match. The game was drawn.

What happened in between 1871 and 1898? Well in the 1877 Trent Bridge match he captured 10 wickets; in 1878 and again in 1879 he hit hundreds. In 1896 spectators with scorecards entering the ground were faced with the oddity of batsman no.1 being shown as ‘W.G.Grace’ and batsman no.2 also being given as ‘W.G.Grace’. Confused? Not a printer’s error. His son accompanied the famous cricketer to the wicket!

The rumour that W.G.Grace and W.E.Gladstone, the two greatest figures of the second half of Queen Victoria’s reign, were in fact one and the same man - Gladstone simply donned a large black beard for cricketing purposes - has, I believe, been disproved by scholars. Why is there no museum devoted to W.G.? Australia have built a splendid museum for Don Bradman – and he didn’t bowl. W.G. reached 1,000 runs in a season 28 times and took 100 wickets nine times.

To more mundane matters, Gloucestershire have played 90 first-class matches at Trent Bridge. Notts have won 37; Gloucestershire 20 and the remainder have been drawn. The last two matches, in 2002 and 2005 have both ended in innings victories for Nottinghamshire.

In 2002 Paul Franks and Stuart MacGill were the successful bowlers; Kevin Pietersen hit 116. The game would have ended at lunchtime on the third day if rain had not interfered. In 2005 David Hussey was Notts’ most successful batsman, making 157 of the 336 total on the opening day. On the second day Gloucestershire fell apart twice, reaching 103 and 169, Mark Ealham picking up nine wickets.

The most astonishing bowling feat in the match series goes back to 1884. Unique in the entire history of first-class cricket, Alfred Shaw performed a hat-trick and almost immediately followed that in three wickets in four balls; then in the Gloucester second innings performed another hat-trick. His figures for the game were 41-24-29-8 and 38-23-36-6. Gloucester were all out for 49 and 63. I must however be fair and point out that the visitors were without the brothers Grace, owing to the death of their mother. (Alfred Shaw dismissed W.G. more often than any other bowler - 49 times to be precise).

In 1875 the report noted: “an immense flock of swallows skimming across the wickets, held up play for several minutes.”

The highest innings at Trent Bridge for either side is 296 by A.O.Jones. At the time, 1903, it was a new record individual innings for Notts and stood until 1939. The following year Gilbert Jessop hit the fastest double hundred ever recorded against Notts, his 206 took 140 minutes. In 1899 and again in 1902 Jessop reached a hundred in an hour’s batting at Trent Bridge.

Having begun with W.G. it is fitting to end with another note concerning him. For some years, when playing at Trent Bridge, Grace used to stay with the Rector of Bingham - how did that come about?

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