County Championship – 5th (W 5, L 5, D 4)
Captain – John Auger Dixon
The County Championship was not formally organised until 1890 (before then champions were proclaimed by the press, which often caused debte and disagreement, and no definitive list of champions can start before that date. Nottinghamshire had 'won' the Championship on many occasions under the earlier system but their form took a slight dip as the more official league developed.
Eight teams contested the 1890 competition - Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex and Yorkshire. Somerset joined in the following year, and in 1895 the Championship began to acquire something of its modern shape when Derbyshire, Essex, Hampshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire were added
Nottinghamshire's 1890 season was marked by a sharp contrast. Up to the end of July, while not quite equalling their performances of 1889, they were looking well set, but four defeats in August ruined all the good work. Wisden considered that the change in fortunes was due to “the general deterioration of the bowling, and the falling off shown by Shrewsbury and Gunn after the famous batsmen had for three months been playing the finest cricket of the season. So as Shrewsbury and Gunn were making runs in every match, the decline in the bowling though quite perceptible to close students of cricket, was not sufficient to lose matches; but so soon as the two great run-getters fell below their previous standard, the cricket of the whole team went down fifty percent”.
Lowly Sussex were overwhelmed in the opening match at Trent Bridge by an innings and 266 runs, which began with a monumental partnership by Arthur Shrewsbury and William Gunn (196) worth 398. The runs, which came in six hours, resulted in a new Notts record for the second wicket that still stands today. Shrewsbury went on to 267, thus equalling his own and Notts highest score. In reply to Notts’ 590 Sussex made 186 (Frank Shacklock 6-87) and 138 (William Barnes 6-59). The vital match with Surrey was won by the relatively large margin of 108 runs; with 11,366 paying on the first day. Surrey had no fewer than three Notts-born men - Bill Lockwood, Jack Sharpe and Tom Bowley. Notts gained a lead of 78 on first innings with Shacklock taking 10-145 in the match. Immediately afterwards Notts suffered a seven wicket defeat at the hands of Middlesex at Lord’s.
June commenced with Notts drawing with Kent at the Bat and Ball Ground at Gravesend. Notts declared their second innings setting Kent 231 to win in 150 minutes and they were hanging on at the end on 98-9, right-arm medium pacer Henry Richardson took 4-24. Notts won by an innings and 138 runs at Hove; Sussex 105 (Dick Attewell 8-32) and 119 (Shacklock 6-62), Notts 362-6d with Radcliffe on Trent right-hand bat Fred Butler scoring a career best 171.
The Australian tourists made the first of their two visits to Trent Bridge on 12 June; Notts beating them by an innings and 26 runs. Australia made a paltry 62 all out in their first innings (Attewell 4-21, Shacklock 6-38) and following on made 127 (Attewell 4-21). Notts’ excellent run continued with a 198 run triumph at Bramall Lane, Sheffield with Dick Attewell to the fore taking 5-26 and 5-14 respectively as Yorkshire could only muster 96 and 69. Skipper John Dixon (109) helped Shrewsbury (117) in an opening stand of 174 for the first wicket against Lancashire at Trent Bridge, his first county hundred, but in a mediocre season he only managed a total of 483 championship runs @21.95. The match ended in a bore draw.
Notts drew with Kent at Trent Bridge in the second week of July in a game badly affected by the rain. Two weeks later Middlesex were defeated in two days in Nottingham by eight wickets. Gloucestershire then achieved a 30 run victory in a low scoring match at Trent Bridge. Notts chasing 174 were bowled out for 143 with figures of 5-37 for the legendary WG Grace
Once more Surrey and Notts were in close competition for the title when the August Bank Holiday game was staged, each having lost one game. Because of the exploits of their two Notts accomplices, Lockwood (66) and Sharpe (7-51) Surrey gained a large first innings lead and forced Notts to follow on 170 in arrears; Notts 83 all out. Though enjoying better fortune in their second innings, making 240 all out, Notts lost the game by seven wickets. Notts drew their following game with Yorkshire at Trent Bridge. Notts set Yorkshire 249 to win and they finished on 139-8.
Notts lost their last two Championship contests. Gloucestershire won by 42 runs at Clifton College, Gloucestershire 77 and 170, Notts 62 and 143. Attewell had figures of 11-91 in the match but was upstaged by Gloucestershire’s slow-left armer William Woof who had figures of 7-27 and 7-70 respectively. In the third week of August, the Australians were defeated for the second time in the summer, this time by 20 runs. The tourists, needing 136 to win, collapsed from 62-2 to 115 all out as Wilfred Flowers took 6-34 and Attewell 4-51 on what was described as a “broken wicket”. Notts closed their season with a 68 run defeat at Old Trafford; Notts 83 and 87 all out, Johnny Briggs 12-85 in the match. Notts ended the summer fifth in the table out of eight teams; winning five and losing five.
Both the bowling and batting departments let down the side. Attewell (73 wickets @11.91) maintained his championship form, but both Shacklock (53 wickets @20.37) and Richardson (18 wickets @19.72) were more expensive. Barnes took 41 wickets @13.51 and Flowers 31 wickets @23.90. A 28 year old left arm slow medium bowler from Arnold, Frank Needham achieved the unusual feat of 10-10-0-7 for Nottingham Commercial v Nottingham Forest and was drafted into the county side and took 10 wickets @12.00 with a best of 4-28 v Gloucestershire at Clifton College. The batting of Shrewsbury (1,082 runs @49.18) and Gunn (693 runs @33.00) remained excellent finishing first and second in the Notts averages. Fred Butler (431 runs @26.93) returned and had one success, his 171 at Hove. William Scotton in his last county season scored 269 runs @16.81 in 12 championship games.
Wisden commented that “an irreparable misfortune for Notts was the unaccountable failure as Barnes as a batsman”; Barnes scored 208 championship runs @9.90 with a top score of 48. The allegations of slow defensive cricket which had been made in some quarters against Notts now became more general. It was as if everyone was trying to emulate Shrewsbury, but only succeeded in mastering his skills in defence and not in scoring. Mordecai Sherwin was the regular keeper, taking 35 catches and four stumpings and was “well up to his old mark behind the wicket”, despite twice being severely hit in the face during the later part of the season.
Two amateurs appeared for the County for the first time in 1890. Oliver Redgate was a good batsman with Notts Castle and Notts Amateurs, but was not up to county standard. Fred Fox was another Forest Amateur who batted well in local cricket. Fox played in two championship fixtures and Redgate one.
Scorecards and stats can be seen here