County Championship – 6th (W 5, L 5, D 6)
Captain – J A Dixon
With no up and coming recruits being produced via the Colts Trials, the Committee took a short term remedy for 1896 by bringing into the Eleven Kimberley-born Sam Brown (43 championship wickets @21.30), the 39 year-old Cheshire cricketer, who had been looked at some 15 years back. Also joining was Nottingham-born Frank Guttridge (26 championship wickets @26.61), who had played for Sussex 1892 to 1894; he was mainly selected for his fast bowling. Arthur Pike (372 runs @17.71; 22 catches; 6 stumpings) was fit enough to keep wicket all season and also batted well at times. Richard Hardstaff (25 wickets @23.44) was also seen more often. The result was a distinct improvement on 1895, but almost anything would have been an improvement.
Notts of course were no match for Surrey, who won by six wickets at Trent Bridge and at The Oval by an innings and 115 runs, though the two holiday matches still attracted the public, 12,000 arriving for Whit Monday and 28,000 for August Bank Holiday Monday. Brown taking 9-119 in the match at Huddersfield against Yorkshire, Notts beat the 1896 County Champions by four wickets having made them follow-on. Shrewsbury carried his bat for 125 to enable Notts to beat Gloucestershire by nine wickets at Trent Bridge; Derbyshire (by seven wickets) and Sussex (by 188 runs), both at Trent Bridge, were also beaten along with Kent who were narrowly beaten by 19 runs at Beckenham. Notts had five victories against five defeats and moved into sixth place in the Championship table after being second bottom the previous summer. In most of their drawn games, Notts were on top. Their most inglorious display was against Gloucestershire at Bristol, when with both Shrewsbury and Gunn away, they were bowled out for 99 and 52 and were beaten by 307 runs. John Gunn, who was to become a Notts legend with bat and ball, made his Notts debut in this fixture and had innings of 12no and 0 and did not bowl.
Outside the county programme, Notts took part in three matches, being beaten by the MCC by six wickets at Lord’s, and the Australians by six wickets at Trent Bridge, but gaining a comparatively easy six-wicket victory at Trent Bridge in two days against Cambridge University. This last fixture was Mordecai Sherwin’s benefit match but as Wisden stated “the Notts public, with a shortness of memory, and lack of appreciation for services rendered, which could only be described as deplorable, supported the great wicket-keeper in such poor numbers that the match yielded no profit”. The MCC fixture saw the debut of Notts all-time leading First-Class wicket-taker, Tom Wass, who had a solitary victim in the contest; another 1,652 were to follow for Notts in a long career which lasted until 1920.
The batting was vastly better than the bowling, the team playing consistently well, on 14 occasions they scored over 200, their highest totals being 466 (William Gunn 207 not out) at Derby and 430 against Kent at Trent Bridge. In the Kent game, Shrewsbury (172) and Arthur Jones (127) added for 223 for the first wicket
William Gunn (785 runs @46.17) and Shrewsbury (730 runs @36.50) remained the leading batsmen, the former finishing third in the national averages. It was a great misfortune that Gunn’s health broke down at the end of July and he only played one game in August. Shrewsbury at times was not quite at his best and was unusually guilty of throwing his wicket away at times. Jones (764 runs @29.38) showed great improvement, was the most consistent batsman in the team and was outstanding at slip. His best innings was his 98 v Surrey on Whit Monday. Charles Wright (434 runs @19.72), Wilfred Flowers and skipper John Dixon (336 runs @16.80) fell below their usual standard. Flowers bowling completely deserted him and only kept his place for his batting (417 runs @26.06). His best innings was 107 which helped Notts win their closing fixture versus Sussex. Percy Oscroft (164 runs @18.22), although lacking aggression, showed a fine defence in his six appearances. Right-hand bat Harry Daft played in 13 matches and scored 342 runs @17.10. Ever-present Dick Attewell scored 453 runs @18.87 with a top score of 96 in drawn fixture against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge. Notts, despite following on, showed great fight (Yorkshire 450 all out; Notts 279 all out and 328 all out).
Attewell (86 wickets @14.63) was the only bowler to return good figures. Unfortunately for him, however, he had no real back-up. Hardstaff, apart from good displays in the wins against Gloucestershire and Cambridge University at Trent Bridge, did not meet expectations. Brown’s best displays were at Huddersfield and Beckenham (3-29 and 5-60). Jones chipped in with 31 wickets @30.64.
The other cricketers who made their Notts debut in 1896 were George Chambers (one championship appearance), the fast left-arm bowler from Digby Colliery; Percy Mason (one championship appearance) of East Bridgford, an all-rounder who was engaged by Notts Amateurs in 1896; and George Robinson (five appearances), who was from Sutton in Ashfield, a leg-break bowler and a fair batsman – his nephew was Ellis Robinson the Yorkshire and Somerset cricketer.
William Wright, who had negotiated the lease of the ground in 1881, had set his mind to the problem of the club’s debts and solved them by letting off the Trent Bridge Inn on a sub-lease for £4,000. In addition, the hardworking Henry Turner had substantially increased the membership to 1,700 and a good profit on the year’s workings meant the entire debt was removed. The total gate receipts at Trent Bridge for the whole season amounted to £1,693, which was a big improvement on two seasons before when only £679 11s 3d was taken. Because of the improved financial situation it was agreed that from 1897, Notts would employ young professionals for a new Club and Ground scheme.
A unique occurrence in the winter of 1896/97 was the staging of the only soccer international to be played at Trent Bridge – England beat Ireland 6-0 on 20 February 1897.