County Championship – W 4, L 3, D 3
Captain – R Daft
Season 1876 was a poor summer for the County, as Gloucestershire, Yorkshire and Lancashire all returned better results. With WG Grace in such splendid form, Gloucestershire took the Championship title from Notts. The dry wickets generally assisted the attacking style of the amateur batsman and told against the more dour approach of the Notts professionals.
Notts lost their opening game by six wickets against Lancashire at Trent Bridge. Although skipper Richard Daft scored 70, Lancashire got a first innings lead of 40 runs. Notts could only muster 128 in their second innings and Lancashire easily achieved the 89 runs they required to win. A month later, Notts beat MCC at Lord’s by an innings and 52 runs. Arthur Shrewsbury (59) top scored as Notts made 206. Fred Morley had match figures of 12-70 with MCC making 64 and 90, the contest finishing a day early. Notts drew against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge. Arthur Shrewsbury scored the only Notts century of the summer – 118 – and he and Daft (81) created a new Notts first wicket record of 183. Shrewsbury received £14.10s from a collection on the ground. Notts 298 all out. Yorkshire replied with 208 (William Oscroft 5-34), followed-on and made 175 all out (Shaw 7-51). Notts needing 86 for victory finished 26 runs short on 60-4.
The Middlesex match at Prince’s in Chelsea was stopped when Tom Box, the former Sussex cricketer and scoreboard attendant on the ground, suddenly dropped dead on the third day. Notts required a further 45 to win with nine second innings wickets standing when the match was declared drawn. Notts had won the toss and made 339, with Daft scoring 82. Middlesex replied with 173 (Shaw 6-54). Cuthbert Ottaway made 106 on his last First-Class appearance as Middlesex, following-on, made 220 all out, John Tye with figures of 5-41 on his First-Class debut for Notts. With Jemmy Shaw gone and Martin McIntyre missing due to his drinking problems, Notts suddenly found themselves with only two effective bowlers for the season – Shaw (79 wickets @11.62) and Morley (58 wickets @15.91). The opening batsman, Oscroft (14 wickets @23.78), was brought into the attack, along with another William Clarke, this one from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, but neither proved very effective and so the committee called on Tye – a fast bowler of ‘the bumping order – most dangerous on an indifferent wicket’. Born in Bulwell, he had already appeared for Derbyshire two years previously. As a stop-gap he proved useful enough during the season taking 27 wickets @19.33 in eight matches.
In the middle of July, despite a first innings deficit of 64 runs, Notts had a thrilling one-wicket victory at Old Trafford. Ex-Notts man William McIntyre had match figures of 9-99, but these were matched by Tye with a match analysis of 9-101 as Notts successfully chased 203, Oscroft scoring 53, and Arthur Shrewsbury’s brother William and Morley eking out an unbroken six for the last wicket. Notts suffered their second defeat of the season when visitors Gloucestershire won by six wickets; the Grace Brothers bowled Notts out for 97 in their second innings (WG 5-52, GF 4-30).
Surrey were defeated by 10 wickets at the Oval, with Shaw having match figures 11-68. Gloucestershire claimed the ‘double’ over Notts with a 10-wicket triumph at Clifton College, the Grace’s again the fore; WG scored 177 and GF 78 in Gloucestershire innings of 400. Oscroft (84) was the major contributor in Notts’ 265 (GF 5-55). WG then took over taking 8-69 as Notts following-on made 165. To put the cherry on the Grace cake, the brothers then knocked off the 31 required for victory. Notts drew a see-saw encounter versus Middlesex at Trent Bridge. Daft scored 99 in Notts 217 with Middlesex following on, Shaw had match figures of 10-103. Notts required 132 to win but were hanging on at the end on 90-8.
Notts finished with two victories. Yorkshire were defeated by eight wickets at Bramall Lane in a very low scoring contest: Yorkshire 87 (Morley 7-33) and 32 (Morley 6-12); Notts 46 (Robert Clayton 6-20) and 75-2. Finishing the season at Trent Bridge, Shaw (5-15) and Morley (5-10) dismissed Surrey for 26, Notts went in and made 150 (Arthur Shrewsbury 65 not out). Surrey required 124 to make bat again, but Shaw (6-41) and Morley (4-35) bowled them for 100.
Daft’s benefit match, a North v South fixture at Trent Bridge on 17, 18 and 19 July, was well attended with 16,000 coming over the three days, 6,673 people coming on the second day alone. WG Grace hit an unbeaten 114 to bring the South victory by eight wickets. Daft received in all about £650 including a solid silver tankard and a silver hunting flask, these were presented to him at a dinner at the George Hotel, the following January.
Daft (691 runs @40.64) and Arthur Shrewsbury (521 runs @30.64) had excellent batting figures and were well supported by Oscroft (387 runs @21.50) and Barnes (255 runs @18.21). John Selby struggled somewhat with the bat scoring 227 runs @13.35. Seven players appeared in every Notts match, but the other four places were uncertain and no less than eleven cricketers, apart from emerging wicket-keeper Mordecai Sherwin, were given trials for the first time, but none lasted long. The oddest was Dr George Power, who played for Notts Amateurs and happened to be at Trent Bridge on the first day of the Surrey game when Robert Tolley fractured a finger attempting a catch. The Surrey captain Walter Read sportingly allowed Power to come on as a substitute and bat in place of Tolley. Another was Arthur Ashwell, who had been in the Rugby XI of 1870 and was a local solicitor. Ashwell failed to score a run in his two first-class innings. John Taylor of Beeston, John Kesteven of Sutton-in-Ashfield and William Padley of Moorgreen made fleeting appearances, the last named another wicket-keeper.
Outside the usual run of matches, the Committee organised for the first time a Notts Colts v Yorkshire Colts fixture – the forerunner of County Second Eleven matches. There was a Notts v MCC Groundsmen match in September for the benefit of Sam Biddulph’s widow and children – the curious point being that seven of the MCC side were also Notts cricketers! Biddulph, the former regular Notts wicket-keeper, had died of kidney disease in March aged 35 years.
The summer produced another financial surplus, which increased the balance on hand to £507.11s.4d. The Yorkshire match again proved the most popular. In January WE Tinley died suddenly, he had acted as assistant secretary to the County Club for some years. Edwin Browne succeeded Tinley but perhaps a more important behind the scenes appointment was that of William “Fiddler” Walker from Radcliffe on Trent. Already aged 50 when appointed. Walker was always recalled as a little old man with white hair and whiskers. He transformed the Trent Bridge wicket by applications of his ‘hair-oil’ – the Nottinghamshire marl, which soon became well-known throughout England and sold to groundsmen everywhere. Walker had a habit of addressing his wicket in the first person: “I’m better this match than ever I was. They’ll never be able to wear me out; I shall be just as good on the third day as I was on the first.”
This therefore was the beginning of the famous traditional Trent Bridge wicket. Over fifty years after Walker retired, the wicket was still as good on the third day and in the end the Committee had to dig it all up and take it away!