County Championship – W 5, L 3
Captain – R Daft
The Notts programme for 1874 started with a match at Trent Bridge v Sixteen of Derbyshire. Notts fielded a poor team, with five regulars missing playing for the North v South at Lord’s, and were deservedly beaten by 14 wickets. The county fared just as badly at Lord’s against the MCC, being beaten by six wickets and then suffered a third defeat, by an innings and 13 runs in two days, also due to poor batting, at the hands of Yorkshire at Trent Bridge, The dire start produced this paragraph in the Nottingham Journal: ‘We were beaten most soundly by a body of cricketers from Derbyshire, a county which has hitherto been regarded as third-rate in the matter of cricket, we were defeated in the early part of the present week at Lord’s by the Marylebone Club and lastly we have been thrashed out of time by the Yorkshiremen. This last is the unkindest cut of all. Never have we seen Notts cricket to so great a disadvantage’. In the Yorkshire match, Notts were bowled out for 104 and 91, Allen Hill with match figures of 10-96. Yorkshire had made 208 with Martin McIntyre taking 7-73.
After such a start, there was a sudden reversal of form with two successive two-day wins, both at home, against Surrey (eight wickets) and Sussex (innings and 110 runs), though in the batting so much depended on Daft, who hit the highest innings each time, including 102 v Sussex, Biddulph’s keeping v Surrey was ‘simply grand’ – caught three, stumped three. Two more victories followed. At Prince’s in Chelsea, Middlesex lost by 21 runs as Alfred Shaw had a fine all-round game, scoring a first innings 60 and taking 9-83 in the match. The MCC came to Trent Bridge for the first time since 1843 for a benefit match for John Jackson that, sadly for him, ended in two days as Notts won by nine wickets, though a scratch game was played to fill up Saturday. He received about £250.
The most exciting game of the season was at the Oval. A gale, accompanied by heavy rain then a hot sun, played havoc with the wicket. Surrey were all out for 100 (Jemmy Shaw 5-19, Fred Morley 4-46), Notts for just 44, then Surrey for 56 (Morley 6-14), leaving Notts needing 113 to win. Fred Wyld and William Oscroft opened the batting, the former being out before a run was scored. Oscroft made a very careful 28 in 85 minutes. The score fell to 86-6 and when Jemmy Shaw arrived 13 were needed. ‘Although the Surrey men fielded like cats, the runs were gradually knocked off by Biddulph, who finishing up with a three, won this most exciting match for Notts by one wicket. The two batsmen were surrounded and loudly cheered by a roaring crowd of 2,000 people’. The wet weather continued when Notts went to Hove and Sussex proved too good, despite the loss of the first day. James Lillywhite, who later captained England in the first-ever Test, captured eleven Notts wickets for 84, bowling unchanged with Richard Fillery through the match as the home team won by seven wickets.
The season ended with a 70-run victory over Middlesex at Trent Bridge and a 188-run defeat at the hands of Yorkshire at Bramall Lane. In the Middlesex contest Notts made 217 (McIntyre 77, Walter Hadow 4-9) and 99 (Hadow 8-35) and Middlesex totalled 146 (Alfred Shaw 6-38) and 100 (Jemmy Shaw 6-20). Ephraim Lockwood had a fine all-round match for the Tykes, scoring 36 and 90 and having second innings figures of 6-43 as Notts were bowled out for 101.
The season had been one of great contrast. Notts won five, but lost three bona fide county games. The press decided that Gloucestershire’s four wins in six matches deserved the accolade of Champion County and Notts were mentioned as runners-up.
The Notts batting, which had been poor in 1873, continued its decline. Daft (370 runs @21.76), now 38, seemed to be showing his age, injury affected Oscroft (203 runs @14.50) and the only the hitting of Martin McIntyre (365 runs @21.47) prevented total eclipse.
The bowling was dominated by four players, namely McIntyre (33 wickets @11.05), Morley (47 wickets @11.76), Jemmy Shaw (39 wickets @12.02) and Alfred Shaw (50 wickets @12.56).
The finance of the County Club remained however satisfactory. The AGM was held in the Mechanics Hall on 3 December and the balance in hand was £113.9s.4d.
Athletics meetings were a feature of Trent Bridge at this time and a cinder track was laid around the perimeter of the grass; this was also used for cycling events.