County Championship – W 7, L 3, D 4
Captain – R Daft
The dispute over which County won the 1878 Championship remains to this day with modern record books showing the winners as 'Undecided'. Middlesex had some claim to the title, being unbeaten, but they played only six matches and won three. Notts record of seven wins in 14 games with three defeats persuaded some journalists to award Notts the crown. Both games between Notts and Middlesex were drawn. At Lord’s Notts needed 19 with two wickets left, but at Trent Bridge Notts were on the way to an innings victory when rain ended play.
The event of the year was the appearance at Trent Bridge of the First official Australian tour in their opening match. They landed in Liverpool and then took the train to Nottingham, where an enormous crowd met them at Midland Station. Despite unfavourable weather - it was 20 May - about 8,000 were present at Trent Bridge on the opening day. Alfred Shaw and Fred Morley bowled unchanged, dismissing the tourists for 63, to which Notts replied with 153, John Selby hitting 66. Shaw and Morley returned to repeat their first innings feat and Notts won by an innings and 14 runs - Shaw 11-55, Morley 8-72. A single wicket match between four of Notts and four Australians was played to fill up the last day. Afterwards the County Club entertained their guests to dinner at the George Hotel. 'A very pleasant, not to say jolly, evening was passed.' Although receipts for the match was £404.10s.6d, which was more than twice the usual amount for a county game, the Australians were paid £238.14s.7d and by time Notts deducted their normal expenses the profit was negligible.
Shaw and Morley did not rest on their laurels following the Australian game, at Trent Bridge Lancashire were dismissed for 123 (Shaw 5-61, Morley 4-37) and 83 (Shaw 5-34, Morley 4-34) as Notts won by eight wickets. On to Town Malling where Kent were bowled out for 36 (Morley 7-9) and 50 (Morley 8-26) as Notts won by an innings and 48 runs; the dynamic duo bowled unchanged through both innings. Shaw took 11-66 and Morley 7-55 as Derbyshire mustered 55 and 93 to lose in two days by 122 runs - skipper Richard Daft hit an unbeaten 69 in the Notts second innings. Leicestershire were also beaten in a non-Championship and non-First Class contest at Trent Bridge by 10 wickets, though neither of the famous bowlers played, and Notts had thus begun the summer in great form with five successive victories.
The triumphal march came to an abrupt halt at Bramall Lane. Yorkshire hit 419 (Billy Bates 102, George Ulyett 94), with Shaw picking up three wickets but conceding 130 runs and though Selby made 107 in 225 minutes, Notts were forced to follow-on and collapsed to 74 all out, leaving Yorkshire with an innings and 97 run victory. Normal service was resumed as Surrey were beaten by 10 wickets in two days at Trent Bridge with Shaw (4-24 and 3-32) and Morley (5-21 and 7-49) bowling unchanged throughout the contest once more. Middlesex and Notts fought out a highly contested draw at Lord’s in mid-July. Middlesex 271 (Walter Hadow 140, Barnes 5-68) and 221; Notts 222 (Selby 62) and 252-8 (Oscroft 77).
Notts fell to their second defeat as Lancashire beat them by 10 wickets with a day to spare at Old Trafford. Cambridge Blue Allan Steel (78, 6-19 and 7-53) had an outstanding match for the home side. Notts gained revenge for their Bramall Lane defeat by beating Yorkshire by an innings and 64 runs at Trent Bridge as Shaw (1-30 and 2-39) and Morley (8-38 and 6-56) bowled unchanged throughout once more and Yorkshire were dismissed for 69 and 95. Earlier Arthur Shrewsbury had hit 60.
August opened with a home draw with Gloucester, with skipper WG Grace hitting a second innings 116. Two weeks later, Gloucestershire won the return at Clifton College by 109 runs as Doctor Grace this time starred with the ball with figures of 11-64 in the match, Morley taking 10-92 in the match for the losers. Morley had another ten wicket haul as Derbyshire fell to a seven wicket defeat at the County Ground at Derby. Rain washed out the last day as Middlesex were heading for an innings defeat at Trent Bridge. The visitors won the toss and batted and crashed to 85 all out (Morley 6-37). Selby (96) and Shrewsbury (74 not out) were the main contributors to Notts’ 265. Middlesex were standing on 66-4 at stumps on the second day. Shaw and Morley each took eight wickets in both of last two championship matches. Notts beat Surrey by 139 runs at the Oval and then closed the campaign with a rain hit drawn match with Kent on the verge of defeat at Trent Bridge: Kent 94 and 74-8; Notts 186.
Notts finished the season in mid-September with an innings and 186 run victory over Leicestershire at Grace Road as a few colts were tried, Shaw taking 7-7, including a hat trick, in Leicestershire’s second innings of 76.
The County staged a match for the benefit of George Parr, North v South. Net profit on the gate receipts was £30 only. The Club, for the first time, actually lost money on the season’s workings, but only because £256 was spent on an extension to the pavilion – the loss was £147. The total receipts for the year had exceeded £2,000 for the first time, namely £2,294.17s.3d.
Morley had an outstanding season taking 126 wickets @9.92 in all First-Class cricket for Notts. This was the first time a player had reached 100 wickets for the county in First-Class matches and Morley’s total of 126 was not exceeded until 1902.
The bowling of Shaw (92 wickets @11.70) and Morley was the outstanding feature of the season, bowling through four completed matches unchanged. Selby (572 runs @30.26) topped the batting averages. He was well supported by William Oscroft (524 runs @22.78), Shrewsbury (353 runs @20.70), Richard Daft (331 runs @20.68), William Barnes (307 runs @19.18) and Wilfred Flowers (372 runs @18.60).
Curiously, Shaw, though just failing to reach 100 wickets for Notts, took 201 wickets @10.96 in all First-Class matches and this remains a record for a Notts bowler. Morley was only four behind with 197 wickets @12.11.
Will Scotton, who had been tried in several matches for the county since 1874, was given more opportunity during 1878 and obtained a regular place in the team the following season. A school friend of Shrewsbury at the People’s College, Scotton was 22; he had joined the Lord’s ground staff in 1874. Left-hand both as a batsman and bowler, initially he was a hard-hitting batsman and a fair fast bowler, but soon developed into the dourest of run scorers and opened the innings both for Notts and England, his task being simply to wear down the bowlers.
John Mills appeared in eight matches in 1878; though his county career was short, he played much local cricket with Wollaton, where he lived, and Lenton United. His brother Edwin made his first-class debut for Notts in 1878 and after playing until 1884, then appeared for Surrey for three seasons, his career coming to an end when he became too slow in the field due to being overweight.
The season was played under a new President. Sir Henry Bromley, who had been Notts' first and only President to date, resigned after the 1877 season and, changing the rules Notts, decided to elect a new President each year, Earl Manvers being the first of the annual rotation.