General News | 8th May 2007

Looking back on Notts v Middlesex

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

For some inexplicable reason, the arrival of Middlesex at Trent Bridge has often been an invitation to attract the bizarre and the unexpected aspects of county cricket. Most followers will remember Phil Edmonds, the former England spin bowler driving through the gates in his Rolls Royce and his name appearing on the Middlesex score sheet, five years after he had retired from serious cricket. A wealthy man and a member of the Middlesex Committee, he made a one-match comeback. On the second day he bowled as if he’d never quit first-class cricket, but that evening when Notts were all out, he seized up and was left lying on a bench in the dressing room. He never played again.

Middlesex first came to Nottingham in 1866. The visitors batted first, with A.Wilkinson Esq and R.Tessib Esq opening. Spectators were puzzled by the latter gentleman who seemed totally new. A few weeks later the teams met again in London. Those who had come down from Nottingham saw R.Bissitt Esq going in at no.10 for Middlesex and looking very much the twin brother of R.Tessib Esq. They were in fact the same man, but his real name was R.B.Halliwell. It was not unusual for amateurs to play under aliases round this period, but they were either students who ought to have been at University, or army men who should have been attending to their military duties elsewhere and did not wish to advertise in the press their whereabouts. Why Halliwell, an engineer, should not only use an alias, but also change it, I am unable to discover.

William Scotton, the Notts and England batsman of the 1880s, was not above taking unfair advantage of situations and he did so in a rather mean manner during the Notts-Middlesex game of 1884. Isaac Walker was just delivering a ball to Scotton when the former’s hat fell off. Scotton carefully played the ball on to Walker’s hat and demanded five runs. The umpire had no option but to award Scotton his ill-gotten extras.

Four years later it was Billy Barnes who dealt Middlesex an unexpected blow. Barnes the Notts and England all-rounder executed a very late cut, at just the moment that John West, the Middlesex keeper stretched forward to grab the ball. West’s fingers suffered from Barnes’ stroke – keeper’s gloves were not the armour-plating they have since become.

At least the Middlesex skipper didn’t take umbrage, for, the following summer, when play ended on the second day at half past six and all had retired to the pavilion, he persuaded the umpires to march out again and re-start the game. Middlesex were 29 ahead in their second innings with one wicket to fall. The match resumed and Notts won at 7.23pm by eight wickets, at the time the latest that a county game had ever been staged at Trent Bridge.

The 1907 match saw 10,000 spectators turn out on a Monday. Notts would be crowned County Champions if they beat Middlesex. Matches commenced on Mondays in those days. Another 10,000 came on the second day and again the Middlesex captain agreed to continue the game beyond the official finishing time so that Notts could win in two days and claim the title.

Notts made a very unwise decision in 1908 by taking the field without a wicketkeeper. Due to the blunders by those who attempted the task, Middlesex made 534 for eight in reply to Notts’ all out total of 133. In the 100 years since then, the county have decided that a competent keeper is a good idea.

Bilal Shafayat’s appearance in the 2001 match will be recalled. At 16 years and 359 days he became the youngest player to represent Notts in a Championship contest and he scored a very mature 72. What might have been forgotten is that a certain SP Fleming scored 151 for Middlesex and helped in a partnership of 306.

In 1983 a combination of Clive Rice (101 not out) and Richard Hadlee (5-72) killed Middlesex’s hopes of the County Championship and in 1994, in the final game of the summer, if either county picked up the full 24 points, that county would come runners-up in the table. Rain took control, Notts and Middlesex only managed a handful of points each and lost second place to Leicestershire.

The most odd instance of point-scoring came in 1957. At that time counties picked up a bonus two points if they scored faster than their opponents on first innings. That summer Notts scored faster than Middlesex by 0.007 of a run per over and of course were awarded the two bonus points.

To close with one or two more straightforward records. Arthur Shrewsbury batted for 10 hours and 15 minutes in making 267 in 1887, the longest innings in terms of time ever played in the Championship up to that date.

Derek Randall became the first Notts player to score 200 and a separate 100 in a first-class match, that was in 1979. Middlesex created a new fourth innings record in 1925 when they hit 502-6 to beat Nottinghamshire.

Gubby Allen, the England captain, scored six not out in the 1936 match, not noteworthy, but he did bat on all three days during his innings (there was just 18 minutes’ play on the second day).

For any journalists who might trip over this piece, in 1881 a violent storm over Nottingham blew away the reporters’ tent.

Finally, Middlesex have appeared in 104 matches at Trent Bridge and won 32, Notts have won 23 and the remaining 49 have been drawn. In last year’s meeting, Charlie Shreck took 8-31 and Nottinghamshire were the victors.
 

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