Paul Johnson was just sixteen when he made his senior debut for Nottinghamshire in 1981. He retired twenty-two seasons later after more than 700 appearances in a Notts shirt, amassing 30,000 runs along the way. He led the County as Captain for three years and later served as a coach before finally leaving the Club in 2013.
Paul Johnson was born in Newark on 24 April 1965. His father was an enthusiastic club cricketer and Paul played for his local club, Balderton, at an early age, before joining Notts immediately on leaving school in 1981. That summer he became the youngest player to represent the county in a major competitive game, a 40-over John Player League fixture against Warwickshire at Trent Bridge. The following summer, he scored prolifically in the Second Eleven and in July was handed his First-Class debut in the County Championship against Middlesex. Johnson established himself in the First XI in 1983 and become the youngest batsman to hit a century for the County with 125 against Gloucestershire at Bristol.
He scored 1,000 First-Class runs in a season on nine occasions, the first being in 1986, when he was also awarded his County Cap. He was a key part of the double winning side of 1987, scoring 1,232 runs in 23 matches as Notts clinched the County Championship, and featured in all ties in the NatWest Trophy through to the rain-hit Final at Lord’s when the County overcame Northamptonshire in a memorable Monday afternoon finish.
Johnson continued to score heavily with his best First-Class run tally of 1,514 coming in the 1990 season. Many began to push for his inclusion in the England side. He had played Under-19 cricket for England Young Cricketers in home series against West Indies in 1982 and Australia in 1983 and in 1991/92 was chosen for the England A tour of West Indies. A report at the tour’s close commented: ‘Johnson bats as he talks, some of it sensible, some of it outrageous, a great deal of it entertaining, none of it dull.’ A call-up to the senior England side never materialised, leaving Johnson to concentrate on his Nottinghamshire career.
Johnson was one of the most popular players of his era. He frequently scored his runs rapidly and in 1993 he won the Walter Lawrence Trophy for the season’s fastest century, reaching the milestone off 73 balls against Glamorgan at Swansea. Johnson excelled in limited overs cricket and his highest List-A score also came in quick time, 167no coming off 106 balls against Kent in May 1993 at Trent Bridge in a 50-over AXA Equity and Law League match. His partnership of 213 in that match with Tim Robinson remains the County’s highest for the second wicket in List-A cricket. He finished his List-A career with 10,025 runs and 13 centuries in 383 appearances. In addition to the NatWest Trophy success of 1987, Johnson tasted success in two further One-Day competitions. He contributed 54 to help Notts set up a nail-biting victory over Essex in the 1989 Benson & Hedges Cup Final at Lord’s and was an ever-present as the County claimed the 40-over Refuge Assurance League in 1991.
In 1996, Johnson was appointed County Captain in succession to Tim Robinson. He served until the middle of the 1998 season, passing on the role to Jason Gallian after defeat in the quarter-final of the NatWest Trophy. Johnson returned to the ranks and continued as one of the side’s top run-scorers, hitting 1,000 runs again in 1999 for the first time in six seasons.
His final match for Nottinghamshire came in September 2002 in the Championship fixture against Essex at Chelmsford. His final run tally of 20,256 puts him in tenth place among the County’s all-time run-scorers in First-Class cricket. In 365 matches, he recorded 40 centuries, with a top score of 187 against Lancashire at Old Trafford in 1993. Combining his First-Class and List-A returns, Johnson amassed 30,281 runs in a Notts shirt, a total only exceeded by Tim Robinson, Derek Randall and George Gunn.
On his playing retirement, Paul Johnson spent a further 11 years at the Club, occupying a range of coaching roles from First Eleven through to age-group sides. Johnson left Nottinghamshire in December 2013 as part of a restructuring of the coaching staff. He then coached at various levels for the ECB and through his own coaching business, had a brief stint with the Canadian national team during the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers and in 2019 was appointed to a coaching role with Leicestershire. He is also frequently heard in the summariser’s role in BBC Radio Nottingham’s coverage of One-Day cricket. Johnson’s long and illustrious service to Nottinghamshire was marked with a Benefit in 1995, a Testimonial in 2004 and election as a Vice-President of the Club at the Annual General Meeting of 2019.