John Wheeler had mixed fortunes in the various trials that he had with the Colts – in one, in 1868, he was relieved of the wicket-keeping duties mid-innings because of his poor showing. In the first three trials he did little to suggest that a move up to the county side was warranted, then in 1872, as captain of the Colts, he scored 26 and 6 and took 2-11. This earned him a place in the Notts side to play the XXII Colts of 1873 and a First-Class debut v Yorkshire in the same season.
He played for the First XI v the Next XV in 1873 and versus the XXII Colts again in 1874 but did not represent his home county again. In 1876, he began to play for Leicestershire, not at that stage a First-Class county, with immediate success; against MCC in his first game he was the highest scorer in each innings with 59 and 38no. In a game versus Warwickshire he took seven catches behind the stumps so his keeping must have improved on that 1868 showing for the Colts.
His outstanding games for his adopted county were v Australia in 1878, when he made 60 and 65, and v Surrey in 1885 when he scored 107. Wheeler also played the Aussies in 1878 for the Players in a two-day game at The Oval, in which he was one of four batsmen to fall to the Demon Spofforth with the score at 59; Spofforth took 12 wickets in the match.
Most of Wheeler’s First-Class cricket was played for the MCC, for whom he appeared 15 times, with a top score of 66 v Kent; he played in an Over 30 v Under 30 fixture at Lord’s in 1882, when Fred Wyld kept wicket, and made 3 and 0 for the Over 30s. His last First-Class match was for the MCC in 1887. His professional engagements in addition to the MCC were at Birkenhead Park 1863-65, Wigan 1866, Radley College 1868-69 and the Phoenix Park Club, Dublin 1878-1908.
Three matches were played for his benefit: Gentlemen of Ireland v Players of Ireland in 1873; Leicestershire v Derbyshire in 1892 and MCC v Nottinghamshire, when he played against his home county, in 1894. He finished his playing days with 367 First-Class runs at 10.48, with his 66 against Kent his only half-century. He took 18 catches and made one stumping; his bowling was little used and he did not take a First-Class wicket.
Between 1893 and 1901, Wheeler umpired regularly in First-Class cricket, including five times in the annual University match and four Players v Gentlemen games.
John Wheeler was born in Sutton Bonington on 9 December 1844 and was a baker in his home village, where he died on 22 September 1908.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 137
Photograph provided by Richard Holdridge, copyright Leicestershire CCC