County Championship – Joint Champions (W 9, L 2, D 3)
Captain – J A Dixon
The committee decided that a change of captaincy for 1889 was required and, breaking with precedence, appointed the amateur John Dixon in place of the rather too easy-going Mordecai Sherwin. Since 1883 when Yorkshire took Lord Hawke on board, Notts had been the only major county led by a professional. Dixon was a sound man; a partner in the thriving firm of Dixon & Parker, manufacturing clothiers, he had made a name for himself as a soccer player with both Notts County and England but had retired from football in 1886. He batted with purpose in local cricket and had been tried in the County team on sundry occasions since 1882 and in 1888 played regularly as substitute opener for Arthur Shrewsbury.
The new leader got Notts off to a sensational start as Sussex succumbed by an innings and 42 runs; in a season where 5-ball overs were introduced for the first time. Shrewsbury, after his year in Australia and New Zealand, scored 104 as Notts made 277. Sussex were all out for 93 and 142. Notts then went down to a seven wicket defeat at Lord’s to the MCC but a week later in St John’s Wood Middlesex were defeated by an innings and seven runs in a low scoring encounter. Middlesex 54 (Dick Attewell 5-25) and 73 (Henry Richardson 7-24); Notts 134.
June arrived and even greater heights were reached in the Whitsun clash with Surrey, Notts scored 308 (William Gunn 118) and then the second day crowd of over 10,000 spent the entire day cheering their team to victory as Surrey collapsed twice, for 98 and 57. Richardson took 8-69 and Frank Shacklock, bowling for Notts for the first time in the season, 10-45. After the match the spectators massed in front of the Pavilion and a collection was taken and distributed among the Notts heroes; 16,870 passed through the turnstiles over the two days. There seemed no end to the celebrations as Notts defeated Lancashire by an innings and 59 runs at Trent Bridge. Both Richardson and Shacklock again doing much of the damage as Lancashire were 120 and 89 all out. Notts won at Hove by an innings and 28 runs in two days; Richardson took 7-42 in the first innings and Shacklock 5-23 in the second innings. Aigburth was next port of call for a first-class fixture against Liverpool and District; Notts winning by nine wickets; Wilfred Flowers 11-79 and Attewell 9-80. Kent then were steamrollered by an innings and 43 runs, William Gunn scored 80 as Notts, batting for most of the first day at Trent Bridge, made 302; Kent lost 20 wickets on the second day with Shacklock taking 6-40 in their second innings. July closed with a victory by 36 runs over Yorkshire at Bramall Lane; Gunn’s first innings score of 87 was the highest made in the match.
Another massive two-day win came at the expense of Gloucester, this by an innings and 136 runs at Trent Bridge, Attewell 9-95 in the match. Thus Notts came undefeated to the August Bank Holiday meeting at the Oval. The crowds were as large as in 1887 – despite rain cutting the Monday play down to three hours, 20,863 people paid admission. There was little to choose after each team had an innings, 13 runs separating the sides (Surrey 172; Notts 159). Surrey captain John Shuter took advantage of the new law allowing declarations and set Notts 219 to make in 180 minutes, with the wicket drying in the bright sunshine. The opportunity for this closure had been provided by an innings of 83 from Bill Lockwood, a Notts colt, who had appeared for Notts in 1886 and 1887, before going to Surrey. Lockwood from Radford, who learnt his cricket with Forest Wanderers, developed into a brilliant fast bowler, whom Sir Pelham Warner described as the most difficult he ever played against, because of Lockwood's ability to disguise his slower deliveries. Lockwood played in 12 Tests and caused much trouble to his native county over the next 15 or so years. It also better be said that the 1889 Surrey team contained two other Notts-born men in Jack Sharpe and Tom Bowley, both more than average bowlers on their day. In the match in question however George Lohmann took 6-22 and Notts were all out for 84, only Shrewsbury with 25 put up much resistance. Of the next four matches three were rain ruined draws and Gloucester were beaten by 10 wickets. The Middlesex match at Trent Bridge was frustrating, the last day being washout, Notts gained a first innings lead of 56 and Middlesex, chasing 223 to win, were 27-1, Flowers was top scorer for Notts with 78. At Clifton College, the match figures for Attewell and Flowers were 9-62 and 8-45 respectively. The Yorkshire game at Trent Bridge saw only 18 wickets fall and the game at Lancashire only featured 56.4 overs with Notts 69-8, Wisden stated that the “Old Trafford pitch was in such a condition that match should not have started”.
The final match at Beckenham came with Notts needing a draw to claim the championship – according to the method used by the Editor of Wisden, which was one point for a win and half a point for a draw. As it turned out the season closed with Kent winning by four wickets. Notts were bowled out for a paltry 35 in their second innings. The Kent left-arm medium pace bowler Nutty Martin took 11-68 in the match; Attewell taking 10-60 for the losers. Notts were declared triple champions along with Surrey and Lancashire. Wisden summed up the season “So as the fine weather lasted the Notts Eleven proved invincible. During the rains of August the all-round form of the team showed a very marked decline”. In their 14 championship games, Notts scored their runs at 18.17 runs per wicket and took their wickets @11.22.
The one good thing to develop from the three-way tie at the top was that the counties held a meeting and decided that they would themselves regulate the method by which the championship was run, rather than continuing to leave it in the hands of the press. Gunn (674 runs @37.44), and Shrewsbury (465 runs @35.77) were head and shoulders above the rest of the batsmen; this despite Shrewsbury splitting his hand and spraining his wrist during the campaign. Barnes scored 442 runs @24.56 and Flowers 429 runs @23.83. Dixon (250 runs @17.86) played fairly well, but at this stage of his career was rather nervous. Harry Daft (38 runs @3.17) had a dreadful average for a specialist batsmen.
Attewell (81 wickets @10.54) topped the Notts bowling table, but he was much helped by the success early on of Richardson (53 wickets @11.77) and Shacklock (51 wickets @12.67). Flowers took 28 wickets @10.71. The two weaknesses in the side were the long tail, so that, when the principal batsmen failed, there was little hope of some revival down the order and the failure to produce any outstanding new faces - half a dozen colts played but apart from a fifty by John Butler of Clifton, who was poor in the field, none made an impression. Sherwin (21 catches and 9 stumpings) sprained his knee early on in the season and Jack Carlin stood in for a few games.
The worrying aspect of the year was a drop in membership of about 10 percent, but as the paying public still attended in large numbers, the club was able to repay £358 of the loan and the interest connected with the construction of the Pavilion and show a small profit on the season’s workings.