An all-round athlete, John Selby was both a professional sprinter as well as a professional cricketer. He ran under the pseudonym of ‘Bendigo’s Novice’, his patron being the famous prizefighter of that name, who was also a frequenter of the Trent Bridge ground. Selby’s favourite distance was 120 yards and he won a number of races held at Trent Bridge in addition to being twice placed in the Sheffield Handicap.
Born in Nottingham on July 1st, 1849, he is found in 1866 in the Nottingham Exchange CC and the following year played with Trinity United CC. For the three successive summers he was given a trial in the Nottinghamshire Colts XXII, making the highest score for his side on his final appearance in 1870.
The Nottinghamshire Committee acknowledge this success by selecting him for the Nottinghamshire team to meet Yorkshire at Trent Bridge on June 23rd, 24th and 25h of that year, this being his first-class debut. A further selection for XVI Colts of England v U.N.E.E. at Dewsbury also in 170, led to his inclusion in the latter XI for several matches, though in 1871 he switched his allegiance to the A.E.E, in whose ranks he regularly appeared until its demise. Apart from his career in county cricket and with the A.E.E, his professional engagements were, it is believed, as follows: 1868 – Dewsbury; 1869 - Oxford University and Sale; 1870 – Perth with Lord Kinnaird; 1871 – Oxford University; 1872-73 – Cambridge University; 1874 – Cardiff Castle with Lord Bute; 1875 – Leek CC; 1879-87 – Oxford University.
After two moderate seasons in Nottinghamshire XI, he struck a much improved form in 1872, his average rising from 8.89 in 1871 to 42.28, though this, in some part, is due to an innings of 128* v Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge, during which he only just missed becoming the first Nottinghamshire player to record a century in county cricket at Trent Bridge – in the same innings F.Wild gained his distinction; Selby was, however, presented with £17 for his score.
In 1873, he completely fell away and only his brilliant fielding kept him in the XI, so poor was his form that he was entirely absent from the Nottinghamshire side in 1874.
He regained his place the following summer and played regularly through 1875-77, but it cannot be said that his batting alone warranted his continued selection, since in the 63 innings he played for Nottinghamshire over those three years, he only three times reached 50, his most notable feat being the partnership of 105 with A.W. Cursham against Middlesex at Trent Bridge in 1877. The summer of 1878 proved a complete contrast, Selby began with 66 against the Australians, the next best score in the match being 28, and the Australians, on their first appearance in England were all out for 63 and 76. Selby hit 107 in 3 hours in 45 minutes for Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire at Sheffield and 96 v Middlesex at Trent Bridge, adding with A. Shrewsbury 115 for the 3rd wicket.
Though Selby retained his place in Nottinghamshire side until 1887, he never repeated the form that he showed in 1878. His last match for the County was at Lord’s v MCC on June 23rd, 24th and 25th, 1887 – the identical days of his debut 18 years before.
Residing in Nottingham all his life save for a brief period at Burton Joyce, Selby was at one time landlord of the Earl of Lincoln Arms in Woodborough Road, Nottingham.
After retiring from first-class matches he was unsuccessful in various financial enterprises, and in 1893 he faced a criminal charge. Happily he was acquitted, but soon afterwards he suffered a paralytic stroke and was removed to Nottingham General Hospital, where he died on March 11th 1894.
His father was William Selby, who played with the Nottingham Old Club and John Selby married a daughter for the former Nottinghamshire wicket-keeper, John Hogg.