County Championship – 6th (W 3, L 6, D 5)
Captain – M Sherwin
The 1888 season turned out to be the worst season Notts had experienced for many years, six defeats and only three victories in 14 County matches tell the sorry tale. Not a single hundred was scored and in contrast to 1887, with Arthur Shrewsbury’s batting average of 78, the best 1888 could muster was 27 by John Dixon.
The 1888 season started with rain, which washed out the Colts Trial at Easter and then washed out a re-arranged trial 18 days later. Notts however managed to overcome Sussex in two days in the first county game by an innings and 74 runs. Sussex were by far the weakest side out of the eight who contested the Championship, Derbyshire having been removed from the First-Class list. The wicket taking was spread around as Sussex were bowled out for 97 and 69, William Gunn with 71 top scored for Notts. Making his first-class debut for Notts was a right-arm medium pacer, Tom Buckland from Sutton-in-Ashfield who took four wickets over the two innings. He appeared in the following game versus Surrey at Trent Bridge but never appeared for Notts again. Surrey won the Whitsun game by nine wickets - George Lohmann took 10-113 for the victors. Notts were without Dick Attewell, who was injured, and Shrewsbury. The later was in Australia running a rugby tour in an attempt to recoup money he had lost with his business partner Alfred Shaw on the cricket tour to the continent in the winter of 1887-88. Tinsley Lindley, the Nottingham Forest and England centre-forward, hit 40 for Notts on his First-Class debut but when tried in several subsequent matches he achieved little. He was called to the Bar in 1889 and became a noted barrister.
Notts opened June with a 10-wicket victory with a day to spare over a distinctly moderate Australian team. John Dixon, opening in place of the absent Shrewsbury, made 83 and Notts scored 215. Australia were bowled out for 76 (Attewell 5-33; William Barnes 4-39) and 175 (Attewell 5-49, Barnes 4-68). Notts were then crushed by Middlesex by an innings and 55 runs at Lord’s, discounting the strike year of 1881, the first time Middlesex had won against Notts for 22 years. Notts made 175 (William Scotton 67) and, following-on, 87; the veteran right-arm slow bowler George Burton had match figures for 11-102. Notts won at Hove by 10 wickets in two days. Sussex were all out for 84 off 99 4-ball overs in their first innings, Barnes 7-50. Notts’ final county win of 1888 followed in the next game against Gloucestershire at the East Gloucestershire Cricket Ground in Cheltenham when Barnes took 13-89 in the match, and Attewell bowled 24-20-5-3 in the Gloucester second innings of 75. Gloucestershire made 112 all out in their first innings of 98 overs, Wilfred Flowers bowled two overs but incredibly all the other 97 overs were bowled by Attewell (48-27-43-1) and Barnes (49-27-64-8). Batting first, Notts made 215 with Henry Richardson (38) and Frank Shacklock (36 not out) adding an improbable 78 for the last wicket.
Notts drew with Lancashire in a slow scoring game at Trent Bridge, the highlight for Notts being Barnes’ second innings 90 not out. Any hopes Notts may have had of regaining the Championship from Surrey went at the end of June, as Kent won by six wickets at Trent Bridge. Gunn top scored with 73 as Notts made 201. Notts used 10 bowlers including captain/wicket-keeper Mordecai Sherwin (2-7) who dismissed the last two batsmen as Kent scored 283 off 316.1 overs. Notts replied with 112 as Kent lost four wickets chasing the 31 for victory.
July started with a home fixture versus Yorkshire, but with rain washing out the first day, the match was drawn. The weather also decimated the MCC fixture at Lord's, Joseph Briggs, brother of Sutton-in-Ashfield born Johnny (Lancashire), made his first-class debut. Briggs, bowled in a similar style to his illustrious brother, but at 28 he was hardly a Colt and though given six games did little, apart from taking 5-35 against Gloucestershire in August. Yorkshire triumphed by 10 wickets at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, with 30 wickets falling on the opening day. Notts were dismissed for 24 as Bobby Peel had figures of 8-12. Henry Richardson took 6-12 as Yorkshire replied with 46. Peel then took a further 6 wickets for 21 as Notts were bowled out for 58. On day two, Yorkshire easily obtained the 37 runs required for victory. Notts drew their game at Mote Park, Maidstone, the highlight was the hat-trick achieved in the first innings by Wilfred Flowers when he removed Alec Hearne, Henry Milles and Nutty Martin, all bowled.
A visit from Gloucester opened up August, with them winning by six wickets with a day to spare. The August Bank Holiday meeting saw Surrey win by 78 runs at the Oval. Requiring 132 for victory, Notts crashed to 53 all out, Lohmann 5-34 and John Beaumont 5-16. The second visit of the summer by Australia saw the Colonials defeated by an innings and 199 runs. Gunn (91) and Barnes (90) helped Notts to 441. Australia replied with 95 (Attewell 8-48) and 147 (Attewell 4-48 and Dixon 4-41). The middle day was lost in the last two county games at Old Trafford and at home to Middlesex, both games ending as draws. Notts followed-on at Trent Bridge despite Richardson taking 7-75 in the Middlesex first innings. Notts finished sixth in the standings, a drop of three places compared to 1887.
In an attempt to find fresh blood, the Committee introduced, in addition to Lindley, Buckland, Briggs, a further five new players – making 16 in two years. Not one of the hopefuls made a name in county matches. The best known was the amateur Sandford Robinson, who was at Cambridge but only played one game for the University. Gordon Beves, a solicitor, was given a few matches following some good scores in local club games; he later emigrated to South Africa. Herbert Emmitt also played for Notts County FC. John Brown of Bingham and William Kirk of Hyson Green were the other two debutants – neither made an impact. There were more voices raised in favour of setting up as a ground staff as at The Oval.
Sherwin was a cheerful, popular fellow, but not the captain to inspire the team to greater effort and was replaced as captain by Dixon in 1889. The papers made much of the effect of the absence of Shrewsbury – Notts were like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark stated one; the highest innings score of the County season was 240 v Sussex. Notts averaged just 14.68 per wicket lost. The batting could generally be relied upon when grounds were hard and fast, but continually failed on the softer wickets. Including all 17 First-Class matches played, Dixon, the most improved batter, topped the averages with 437 runs @27.31, followed by Gunn with 614 runs @23.61. Barnes hit 525 runs @21.00 and Attewell scored 407 runs @19.38. Flowers 429 runs @17.87 and William Scotton 367 runs @14.68 produced inferior figures compared to the previous season.
The bowling averages were led by Richardson (39 wickets @11.97), he bowled better as the season went on. Attewell, somewhat disappointing in the county games, took 57 wickets @13.73. These two were supported by Flowers (45 wickets @13.93) and Barnes (58 wickets @16.67). Notts needed a bowler with some extra devil to complement the peg-away type of the other bowlers. The Committee tried Shacklock (12 wickets @19.50) but he did not progress as well as expected, though Richardson still promised much. The fielding was described as poor.
On 15 December 1888, Shrewsbury who had recently returned from Australia, was given a reception at the Town Hall and the Major of Nottingham presented him with an illuminated address and a purse of 72 sovereigns in recognition of his batting during 1887.