County Championship – Champions (W 9, D 1)
Captain – A Shaw
If the period 1883 to 1886 was Notts' greatest era, then the summer of 1884 must be the most outstanding ever achieved, though 1907 perhaps ran it close. Unbeaten Notts won nine out of 10 County matches and in the drawn fixture, Surrey needed 153 to win with three wickets to fall.
With the Lancashire fixture dropped, the chief contenders to topple Notts were Yorkshire and Surrey. Notts opened with an innings and 151 run defeat of Sussex at Trent Bridge. William Barnes top scored with 98 as Notts scored 271. Sussex scored 76 (Alfred Shaw 6-22, Walter Wright 4-51) and, following- on, 44 (Dick Attewell 8-22). At Lord’s at the end of May, Notts had to work harder after being 71 behind on the first innings. Attewell took 7-21 as Middlesex scored 113 in their second innings. Will Scotton played perhaps the finest innings of his career to date with an unbeaten 104 to take Notts to victory by six wickets supported by Barnes (55).
About 8,000 turned out on Whit Monday to see the game with Surrey. Notts gained a first innings lead of 116 and but for some dropped catches would have won by an innings, as it was they had seven wickets to spare after Surrey followed on, Shaw taking 6-30 in Surrey’s second innings. As usual the match at Bramall Lane was a low scoring affair. Yorkshire were 12 ahead after the first innings but Shaw (6-15) routed them in the second innings for 40 all out. Notts, though, struggled to make the few runs needed to win and were 32-6 when Walter Wright came in. He snicked the ball to point, close to ground and the umpires decided to give Wright the benefit of the doubt, which resulted in a volley of abuse from the partisan crowd. Wright went on to win the match for Notts by three wickets.
Arthur Shrewsbury created a new Notts record against Sussex at Hove when he made 209 in 390 minutes and with William Gunn (122) set a new fifth partnership record of 266 for the fifth wicket; Notts 458 all out. The record lasted for 123 years until beaten by David Hussey and Chris Read versus Essex at Trent Bridge who added 359 runs. Sussex lost by an innings and 28 runs. Notts had little difficulty in winning the away match in Gloucester by six wickets – Shaw in the Gloucestershire second innings of 79 taking 8-28. Against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge, Notts had an easy time despite a century from Yorkshire’s Billy Bates (116) and won by seven wickets, Attewell 10-99 in the match. The match was played for the benefit of Jemmy Shaw who had retired in 1875. He received in all £460. Notts defeated the MCC at Lord’s in two days by an innings and 18 runs; MCC 93 and 99 all out.
Alfred Shaw performed the most noteworthy feat of the summer in the Gloucester match at Trent Bridge. In the first innings he dismissed Townsend and Painter with the third and fourth balls of the over, then took the wicket of Page with the next ball of his next over: a hat-trick. Later in the same innings he removed Fairbanks with the second ball of an over, Broughton with the fourth ball and Francis with the second ball of the next over: three wickets in four balls. In the second innings Shaw again achieved the hat-trick, when dismissing Pullen, Townsend and Painter. His full figures for the match were: 79-47-65-14, Notts won by nine wickets. It should, however, be mentioned that the two Grace brothers were absent attending the funeral of their mother.
The match at The Oval attracted 12,000 on the Bank Holiday. After Surrey had gained a first innings lead of 27. Shrewsbury batted in superb form and hit 127, taking Notts to an unbeatable position making 344 all out with Barnes scoring 62, 307 ahead. Surrey were 155-7 when stumps were drawn.
The final game saw Middlesex defeated by an innings and 91 runs at Trent Bridge. Middlesex scored 211 all out (Attewell 4-75) and with William Gunn scoring 138, Notts reached 407. Shaw had figures of 5-23 as Middlesex made 105 in their second innings.
The Australians came for their fourth tour in 1884 and a splendid game in mid June against the county resulted in an Australian win by three wickets. The charge for admission on the first two days was raised from 6d to a shilling, but 16,000 went through the turnstiles. In the return match, starting on 21 August, 27,589 paid admission. Notts had to overcome the twin disadvantages of losing both the toss and their captain – Shaw injured a hand fielding in the first innings and could not bat, or indeed bowl in the second innings. In a career spanning 21 years, it was the first time he had been injured. The match ended in an even draw, when Notts needed 134 to win in 35 minutes. There was a third Australian match at Trent Bridge v North of England, which team was almost Notts – eight out of the eleven – and the North won due to some excellent all-round play from the Lancastrian, Dick Barlow, 10 not out and 101, and 4-6 and 6-42.
Shrewsbury (572 championship runs @44.07) found much support from Scotton (486 runs @34.71), Barnes (440 runs @29.33) and Gunn (434 runs @28.93). Attewell (55 championship wickets @12.18) had now matured as a bowler; he and Shaw (64 wickets @9.50) were the leading Notts bowlers of the season. The pair had Wilfred Flowers (25 wickets @16.04), Barnes (18 wickets @22.28) and Wright (21 wickets @23.71) to support them. No fewer than eight of the side, Scotton, Barnes, Gunn, Flowers, Wright, Shaw, Mordecai Sherwin (19 catches and 8 stumpings) and Attewell played in every match, whilst Shrewsbury and John Selby (229 runs @20.82) missed one each, so a regular eleven gave Notts a certain advantage. The Cricketers’ Annual made the following comment: “The performances of the Notts eleven of 1884 are indeed unique. No County has been able to place in the field an eleven so strong at all points of the game, and their successes were thoroughly deserved.”
Success on the field made the Committee ambitions to improve the facilities at Trent Bridge. William Wright set about the task and it was decided to obtain an extra piece of land behind the Pavilion, build a new Pavilion there and demolish the old one. There were two improvements to the ground during the year, a brick wall was erected along the Radcliffe Road (then known as Gamston Road) boundary and a timber stand also built on that side. There were also plans to demolish the Trent Bridge Inn and build afresh.
In view of the Notts success, it is surprising that only one of their players appeared in all three Test matches: Shrewsbury; Barnes played twice and Scotton, whose 90 at the Oval saved the side, once. Lillywhite, Shaw and Shrewsbury were busy organising a tour to Australia for the winter.
The single 1884 debutant was Henry Morley of Edwinstowe, a fast bowler whose action was compared to Jack Crossland’s and, possibly for this reason, he played just once. His brother Herbert Morley was also a noted local cricketer and in North Notts matches there was much confusion between the two.
The match receipts for 1884 were £2,853.2s.1d of which £1,665.11s.4d came from the two Australian matches v Notts and another £477.3s.6d in the North v Australians match. There was another surplus and the balance in the bank climbed to £1,342.2s.11d. Henry Bromley, after two years, resigned as honorary secretary and WHC Oates was elected in his place. Oates, of Besthorpe Hall, near Newark, was a useful local cricketer, but on the field of play overshadowed by his son, WC Oates, who played four times for Notts.