County Championship – Champions (W 7, D 7)
Captain – A Shaw
Before the 1886 season started Notts received some adverse comment by offering a contract to Frank Shacklock, which he accepted. Shacklock had been born in Crich, Derbyshire, but had moved to Nottingham at the age of five. He had played one match for Notts in 1883, but in 1884 and 1885 had chosen to play for the county of his birth. By the regulations Shacklock was quite entitled to choose at the beginning of each season whether to represent the county of his birth, or that in which he resided, but critics pointed out that the Notts Committee had for many years maintained that players should only appear for their native county, and it was thought very poor form to entice Shacklock away from Derbyshire. The following year, that county’s record was so poor that for 1888 they were removed from the elite list of first-class counties.
Shacklock himself, a well-built right-arm fast bowler with a slinging action, played in virtually every match in 1886. Notts proudly boasted that the county went through the 1886 season undefeated in the 14 championship matches and thereby claimed the Championship. The Notts record was won seven, drawn seven, whereas Surrey won 12 out of 16 matches, but lost three. The devotees of the southern county were up in arms over the injustice done to their players. The system of deciding the Championship must be changed, clamoured the detractors of Notts, adding Notts deliberately played defensive cricket to avoid defeat.
The method of deciding the Championship was unsatisfactory in that the method rested entirely with the press, the counties themselves having no say in the matter. The whole concept of having a 'champion' county had evolved not from some sort of league system, but originally from the same idea which still holds good for boxing. The champion remains the champion until beaten by the challenger; the idea of giving the title to the team which lost least matches came directly out of that, though the press had to qualify this 'least matches lost' method with caution, because in some years the counties on the fringe of the first-class system only played four or six matches and managed to avoid defeat.
The cry that Notts batted slowly to avoid defeat was not one which bore very close examination. Of the seven draws, six were affected by rain. Notts opened their First-Class season with a draw against the touring Australians; the first day was completely lost, and second day severely curtailed, due to rain. Notts beat Sussex at Hove by seven wickets, Alfred Shaw did not bowl in either innings, though five bowlers were used. When Lancashire arrived at Trent Bridge, Notts beat them by an innings and 83 runs, without the aid of Shaw’s bowling – Walter Wright took 10-45 and Wilfred Flowers 7-23 in the match as Lancashire made 42 and 48, Shrewsbury top scoring for Notts with 56 in a match completed with a day to spare. Wright quarrelled with the Committee later on the season about terms for the second game against Australia and was dropped and left Notts at the end of the season, he later played with great success with Kent.
After winning their first two county matches, great interest was shown in Surrey's visit to Trent Bridge at Whitsun, in mid June. It was most unfortunate therefore that Whit Monday was almost washed out. Surrey made 282 and Notts, after an opening stand of 78, fell victim to George Lohmann (6-69), so that when last man Mordecai Sherwin came to the wicket 22 were required to save the follow on. The rotund wicket keeper joined Will Scotton, who, having opened the innings, was still in residence. This pair survived 85 minutes and added 43, before Sherwin (25) was dismissed. Scotton was the hero of the day being 110 not out and a collection raised £13 for him - Sherwin's friends rallied round with £4.6s.9½d for their idol. After this the game subsided to a draw. The new pavilion was fully open for this match and 'the feeling among members and visitors, on first seeing it, was one of great satisfaction and admiration'.
Notts travelled to Lord’s in mid June and beat Middlesex by five wickets. After William Barnes (6-75) and Flowers (6-48) were the leading bowlers in the Middlesex first and second innings, Notts needed 235 to win; William Gunn (83 – his top score of the season) and John Selby (58 not out) being the main contributors. Notts had a three wicket win at Mote Park, Maidstone, Shrewsbury (53) and Gunn (55) were the second innings batting heroes as Flowers 6-51 in the first innings and Shacklock 5-43 in the second innings were the leading bowlers. Shrewsbury created a new batting record when he hit 227 not out, having batted 465 minutes, in the drawn contest versus Gloucestershire at Moreton-in-Marsh. He carried his bat through Notts completed second innings of 430, after the home led by 118 runs on first innings. This innings had much to do with his championship aggregate for Notts of 829 @46.06 finishing top of the averages.
July commenced with an exciting eight-run win versus Yorkshire at Trent Bridge. Australia returned to Trent Bridge and another draw ensued. Sussex were trounced by an innings and 15 runs at Trent Bridge, Sussex were bowled out for 86 and 73 with Attewell taking 12 wickets in the match (3-39, 9-23. Harry Daft scored 66 not out for Notts. The month closed with a home draw with Gloucestershire, the highlights for Notts were William Barnes scoring 156 and Shacklock who took 5-72, only 13 wickets falling in the match.
When Notts travelled to London for their August Bank Holiday game with Surrey, it appeared as if the championship title might well hang on the result, Notts were undefeated at this point and Surrey had lost one match. Wisden noted 'Probably no county match had ever been looked forward to with keener interest'. The clouds gathered on the Bank Holiday and dissuaded the public, though 12,163 paid admission. John Shuter won the toss for Surrey and decided to bat, a move which had a great influence on the course of the game. Dick Attewell (8-56) took control from the start of play and dismissed Surrey for 99, bowling unchanged from the Pavilion End. Notts, with the obdurate Scotton (73) leading the way, gained a first innings lead of 173 and took the game, and with it virtually the Championship, by seven wickets, All Notts fixtures after The Oval win, were drawn. Only 22 wickets fell at Old Trafford in a tedious game. Dick Barlow took a hat-trick for Lancashire spread over two innings, Shacklock, Sherwin and Shrewsbury were his victims. The whole of the second day was lost at Bramall Lane which probably cost Notts the game; Notts 156; Yorkshire 58 (Flowers 7-33) and, following-on, 75-6. The rain continued as the first day at Trent Bridge against Middlesex was lost. The season finished with Kent batting first at Trent Bridge and scoring 246 off 239.3 4-ball overs, the game drifting to a draw despite Attewell taking 7-41 in the second innings.
Shrewsbury, Gunn (631 runs @35.06) and Scotton (559 @29.42) all had good seasons with the bat, but Barnes (415 runs @24.41), aside from his 156 versus Gloucester, was inconsistent. Harry Daft (248 runs @17.71), son of the old captain Richard, played well, but was very slow scoring.
Flowers (58 wickets @13.33) and Attewell (73 wickets @13.38) came out with the best bowling figures, but injury prevented Shaw (24 wickets @17.87) bowling as often as in the past. Shacklock (18 wickets @22.17) became a regular player and useful all-rounder. Sherwin who “kept wicket in capital style” took 29 dismissals behind the stumps including six stumpings.
Shrewsbury and Scotton appeared in all three Tests against Australia, with the former making 164 in the Lord’s Test. Lillywhite with Shaw and Shrewsbury were busy preparing for another winter tour to Australia, where Shrewsbury led England to victory in both Tests.
Notts had three debutants in 1886. Bill Lockwood, who in the opinion of Pelham Warner and Ranjitsinhji was the best bowler in England in the 1890s. Lockwood learnt his cricket on The Forest in Nottingham and played club cricket for Forest Wanderers but due to lack of first-team opportunities he left for Surrey in 1888, having made little impression in his five First-Class outings for Notts. Wisden stated of his 1886 efforts that he was “too much inclined to pitch short, but may be heard of again”. How right they were.
Harry Daft’s elder brother, Richard, who managed the family brewery in Radcliffe, played once as a batsman v Surrey; William Harris of Kimberley played against Sussex, but in 1887 moved to London and joined the Surrey staff. He played five minor matches for Surrey and then became coach and groundsman to Guy’s Hospital.
In that summer. a pioneering party of Parsee cricketers made the first tour of England by a team from India, including a two-day game at Trent Bridge. The Parsees – all club cricketers from the developing Indian cricket community – played 28 matches, winning just one but making plenty of friends and drawing useful crowds wherever they played.
The match against The Gentlemen of Nottinghamshire took place about two-thirds of the way through the tour, on 12-13 July; the match, another interrupted by rain that season, was drawn: Nottinghamshire 248, The Parsee XI 105 and 71-4. The side to play the Parsees was made up of local club players and one or two more familiar names from the county’s ranks of amateur cricketers – most notably John Auger Dixon.
The convivial nature of this match is illustrated in the match reports of the lunch interval of each day; on day one, the visitors were “entertained to luncheon in the pavilion, and a little speechmaking was indulged in.” Sir Henry Bromley, then president of Nottinghamshire, admired the ‘pluck and perseverance’ of the Parsee team.