County Championship – 8th (W 1, L 2, D 13)
Captain – J A Dixon
It cannot be said that Notts record in 1898 was good. The cricket was exceedingly dull. Just one County Championship match ended in victory; the bowling, which had been becoming progressively weaker over the preceding seasons, now reached the stage where it was incapable of dismissing a side twice. To compensate the batting took safety-first measures to the extreme knowing that, however many runs were scored, the total would not be enough to give the bowlers the leeway they required. Because the method of deciding the Championship was to deduct losses from wins. Notts came eighth out of 14, since they lost just two games. It should also be said that the weather also had a part to play; half the matches, roughly speaking, being more or less seriously interfered with by the rain.
The Whitsuntide fixture versus Surrey was given to Dick Attewell as his benefit and although badly affected by rain, the old England bowler received a Notts record sum of £1,000 from the match. The August Bank Holiday fixture was more typical of Notts season: Surrey scored 329 all out on the Monday, Notts collapsed on the Tuesday, being dismissed by Bill Lockwood for 157, and followed on. In their second innings they reached 548-9, with William Gunn batting out time, 236 not out. Skipper John Dixon could have declared Notts innings closed early on the third afternoon. As it was the last three hours of cricket were a complete waste of everybody’s time. Even allowing for the weak bowling, Dixon came in for severe criticism on account of his lack of enterprise. In June, his captaincy literally threw away the possibility of win at Headingley versus Yorkshire, when Dixon also delayed the Notts declaration far too late.
The solitary Championship win – by seven wickets over Kent at Trent Bridge - was very much a peek into the future, although commentators at the time were not aware of the fact. The first four Kent batsmen were dismissed by Tom Wass of Sutton-in-Ashfield, who had played one First-Class game in each of the two previous summers. The 24 year-old who took 5-55 (7-94 in the match), was destined for a great future and to this day remains Notts’ all-time leading wicket-taker in First-Class cricket; taking 1,653 wickets @20.33. A couple of years earlier he had turned up at Trent Bridge for a trial at the nets and dismissed Arthur Shrewsbury, a feat so unusual that it immediately provoked comment. He was taken on the staff at the beginning of 1898, appeared for Notts Colts v Yorkshire Colts, taking 6-36. He played in 12 championship games during the season (31 wickets @31.25) but his only success was against Kent. His knack of bowling fast leg-breaks was a natural one, he seemed unable to explain it. In the following two decades, on damp wickets his bowling was quite unplayable. A well-built man, over six foot and weighing 14 stone, he was also very plain spoken and liable to tell anyone exactly what he thought. It had been said by a number of his contemporaries that it was only because of his manner that he never played for England or toured overseas.
The other cricketer who won a regular place during the season was Tom Oates (11 games, 20 catches and five stumpings) of Eastwood. Like Wass, he was a miner but there the resemblance ended. A neat man of medium height with a small moustache, Oates had to compete for the wicket-keeper place with Jack Carlin, when ill-health forced Arthur Pike out of the team.
Notts’ two losses were against Middlesex at Trent Bridge and Lancashire at Old Trafford. Notts got the worst of the wicket in Manchester with the home side winning by 254 runs and in the last fixture of the season against Middlesex, they were beaten by an innings and 136 runs, with only William Gunn and Arthur Jones being able to cope with Albert Trott’s bowling (8-83 and 5-93).
Frank Guttridge (340 runs @20.00) and Charles Dench (421 runs @21.05) appeared regularly through the summer, the former as a hard-hitting batsman and the latter rather dour; both had lost their bowling. Another young recruit, who came on the ground staff in 1898 was William Henson (19 wickets @34.89), a fast-medium bowler. He did well in a number of matches against Minor Counties in 1898, but when elevated to the Championship side took few wickets; his best was 4-82 versus Gloucester at Trent Bridge in July.
Shrewsbury (1,076 runs @51.23) and William Gunn (1,107 runs @48.13) had good summers; finishing fifth and ninth in the national first-class averages respectively. Shrewsbury’s top score was 154 not out v Sussex at Hove, where he added 220 for the second wicket with William Gunn (125). Dixon’s (644 runs @32.20) one outstanding innings was his 165 v Kent at Canterbury. Jones (756 runs @29.07) was a far more consistent batsman than his captain. He had no big scores to assist him, 70 being his best. In the words of Wisden “he worked untiringly; for his fielding being as fine as ever”. He also took 30 wickets @26.83. Attewell, now at the veteran stage, bowled 924.3 5-ball overs and took 61 wickets @22.70 - four times taking five wickets in an innings - having figures of 7-21 in first innings of the drawn match versus Middlesex at Lord’s. Notts’ best innings bowling figures of the season were attained by John Gunn who had figures of 8-108 versus Yorkshire at Trent Bridge in August. The 21 year-old John Gunn played in 14 matches, scoring 183 runs @15.25 and 25 wickets @30.76; he was to serve Notts very well over the following 25 or so years.
In a continuing effort to give young players experience two new fixtures were played, v Durham and Worcestershire. The three who made their debut in 1898 were Henry Anthony of Arnold, who played in two championship matches and later turned out for Cheshire, James Riley, who had been on the Oval ground staff and played twice, including a drawn First-Class fixture versus the MCC, and William Goodacre, a local amateur batsman, mainly for Forest Amateurs.
The Committee had put in hand its plan for the improvement of the facilities at Trent Bridge. During 1898 the Ladies Pavilion, to the West of the new main Pavilion, was completed; a new dressing room was added above the one already built in the main Pavilion and the covered seating which ran in a semi-circle from the Pavilion past George Parr’s tree and culminated with the press box at first floor level opposite the pavilion was erected in three stages. The Fox Road side of the ground was still occupied by the Notts County football pitch and its stands on three sides. This meant that the ground was now totally enclosed by seating. A wooden practice shed was erected on the site of the bowling green – where the present indoor nets are situated. So in the space of about 18 months the general setting of the Trent Bridge had been much altered; Notts was to stage its first Test on the ground during 1899.