County Championship – 4th (W 5, L 4, D 5)
Captain – J A Dixon
A poor start was made to 1891, after the formality of a ten wicket victory over the then non-First-Class Derbyshire side. Notts lost to Surrey by five wickets at Whitsun; Surrey made Notts follow-on, George Lohmann 10-127 in the match for the victors. A weak Notts team were beaten by MCC by an innings in a single day; Notts were dismissed for 21 and 69 at Lord’s. Middlesex, despite being forced to follow on, beat Notts by 49 runs in two days as Notts remained in St John’s Wood. It was first time Notts had been defeated after enforcing the follow-on.
Matters improved from the middle of June – victories over Yorkshire, Lancashire, Sussex and Yorkshire and Sussex again produced five successive championship wins. Yorkshire were beaten by an innings and 25 runs at Trent Bridge, William Barnes top scoring with 104 as Notts made 336. Frank Shacklock took 5-63 as Yorkshire were bowled out for 163 in their second innings. Notts beat Lancashire by seven wickets for another home victory and then Sussex were defeated by 144 runs at Hove, despite George Bean carrying his bat for 145 in the home side’s first innings. Robert Bagguley, a farmer’s son from Ruddington, celebrated his 18th birthday and his championship debut by taking 6-74. Notts declared their second innings on 340-4, Arthur Shrewsbury 165 and William Gunn 161 adding 312 for the second wicket. Bean scored 92 in Sussex’s second innings of 251. Notts won by an innings and 76 runs at Bramall Lane, Yorkshire 110 and 106 all out with Shacklock taking 6-37 in the second innings. In the middle of July, Sussex came to Trent Bridge and obtained a first innings lead of 68, but then imploded to be 38 all out (Shacklock 4-27, Dick Attewell 4-6). Notts in their second innings 87-7 at one stage got home by three wickets. A curio of the innings was Sandford Robinson scoring seven off one delivery off Fred Tate.
There were seven matches still to play. Notts, if they could keep up this form, stood a chance of the Championship – in fact not a single extra win was recorded. Notts drew versus Kent at Tonbridge, the highlight being Wilfred Flowers’ 116 not out. Notts then slumped a two day loss by an innings and 122 runs to Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge. With Shrewsbury out with a hand injury, the Notts Committee co-opted Walter Marshall, the Notts Castle batsman, who at 37 was hardly a rising colt. Marshall made 4 and 5 as Notts were 78 and 94 all out. The August Bank Holiday arrived, and 25,000 turned up on the first day at the Oval; Surrey 176 all out; Notts 34-2. Shrewsbury was still unfit so Notts this time invited Richard Daft to return after ten years of retirement to fill the gap and therefore had the opportunity of playing in the same side as his son, Harry Daft. The return of the great cricketer was an emotional moment when he came in at number five in the order, even for the Surrey spectators and the report noted: “When Mr Richard Daft walked to the wicket he was met with a tremendous reception, the spectators rising in their places and cheering him again and again.” The weather was very bad (in spite of it over 10,000 were in the ground) and when Daft reached 12, a great storm broke over The Oval and the game was abandoned for the day with Notts 70-6. Resuming on the third day, Notts batted on a quagmire and were dismissed for 86, – Lockwood basked in figures of 12-8-8-5. Then in the follow on they plumbed even lower depths being all out for 44 (Lohmann 7-20).
Rain badly affected the last four Notts matches and they were all drawn, August being one of the wettest months on record. The games consisted of Lancashire at Old Trafford; Kent at Trent Bridge, Notts 418 all out Shrewsbury 178 and Gunn 109; Gloucestershire at Clifton College and Middlesex at Trent Bridge with Notts 84 all out (Jack Hearne 9-32) and 22-2 and Middlesex 97 all out (Attewell 6-35). Notts ended in 4th spot in the table, up one place from 1890. Except for not playing Somerset; they played all the counties home and away in a 14 game schedule.
Shrewsbury (794 runs @41.78) and Gunn (780 runs 43.33) were the only Notts batsmen to average over 40, and Barnes (363 runs @30.25) and Flowers (468 @24.63) also had good seasons with the bat. Skipper John Dixon had a poor season with 315 runs @18.52; after starting off with 73 out of 147 all out in the Whitsun game versus Surrey he struggled on the slow pitches encountered during the season.
Attewell was the best bowler with 73 wickets @14.71; Shacklock was the next best with 46 wickets @20.95, although Wisden commented that “now and then he did a brilliant thing, but lacked the stamina demanded in three-day matches”. Barnes suffering from a strained leg only took 14 wickets @17.42.
It irritated Notts supporters to see that Lockwood (Surrey), Sharpe (Surrey) and Briggs (Lancashire), all Notts-born and rejected by the County, featured in the first ten in the national bowling averages. Shrewsbury and Gunn declined terms offered by Lord Sheffield for his 1891-92 Australian tour, yet of the eight pros four were Notts-born: Briggs; Sharpe; George Bean (Sussex) and William Attewell (Notts). Bean had had a brief trial for Notts but was offered a post in Sussex. Jack Sharpe came from Ruddington and his father had played for Notts briefly in 1868, Jack had only one eye, having lost the other early in his life. His rise in the Surrey side could well come under the label of metronomic, but his fall, due to his fondness for the occasional beer, was just as swift. Both Bean and Sharpe played in a few Tests; Johnny Briggs was for some years an automatic choice for England.
Two other Attewell’s were tried – Tom was William’s brother, while Walter, also from Keyworth was a cousin. Walter played only once for Notts, but found immortality in the writings of Neville Cardus, being the professional at Shrewsbury School, where Cardus acted as his assistant. Jack Carlin, who in the 1930s became, as Notts scorer, the butt of Charlie Harris’s jokes, played a few times as wicket-keeper when Mordecai Sherwin was away injured. The first of the three cricketing Lowes from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Richard, had a brief trial, as did the Notts Castle Amateur, Oliver Redgate. George Wharmby, of Sutton-in-Ashfield, had the misfortune to score 0, 0, 0 and 1 in his four Notts innings of 1891, he was a hard-hitting batsman and medium-pace bowler who was adopted by Lancashire but did little better and then found his niche with Bedfordshire and remained there for over 20 years, becoming their all-time leading wicket-taker in Minor Counties Cricket.
The odd man out in 1891 was John Griffiths. When Notts went to Clifton College in August, Bagguley was taken ill before play began and Dixon telegraphed to Nottingham for a replacement. Griffiths, who worked in Shaw and Shrewsbury’s factory, was sent and arrived for the second day’s play. He neither batted nor bowled and never was selected again; the first example in Notts First-Class cricket of a player with such an unfortunate record. The only other example was wicket-keeper Aaron Thomas who had one First-Class game for Notts in 2003.