County Championship – 8th (W 10, L 8, D 6)
Captain – A W Carr
Notts finished the season in eighth place winning ten out of 24 championship matches. The lack of young blood was a major concern; the average age of the regular eleven was 35, with Fred Barratt the youngest at 27. The eldest players were Tom Oates, who at 45 was still a nimble wicket-keeper, and John Gunn, also 45, who fielded well at cover point in addition to being the leading all-rounder. Notts only used 15 players throughout the Championship campaign, 11 players appearing in at least 21 games with four ever-presents.
The major topic of 1921 was the Australian tour and Trent Bridge had been selected as the venue of the First Test. The England selectors included Len Richmond – he was the sole Notts representative and it proved to be his only international appearance. The Australians contained the famous pair of fast bowlers, Jack Gregory and Ted McDonald. At Trent Bridge each took eight wickets and England were dismissed for 112 and 147, the game being all over on the second afternoon. It was the general opinion that never had England been so humiliated in a home Test Match. The crowds flocked to Nottingham, 21,000 being present on the Saturday and 23,000 on the Monday. H A Brown was congratulated on the way he organised the arrangements for the game and soon afterwards he was officially appointed Notts Secretary at a salary of £3350 per annum.
The Australians had not finished with Trent Bridge – they returned four weeks later and inflicted on Notts the worst defeat ever recorded in the county’s history. On the Saturday, the tourists hit 608-7, of which Charlie Macartney made a ground record 345 in 240 minutes with four sixes and 47 fours. Len Richmond (193), Sam Staples (131) and Joe Hardstaff senior (a career best 5-133) all conceded over 100 runs. On the second day the Notts batting, though the wicket played easily, simply disintegrated, the county being dismissed for 58 and 100 – the margin between the two sides was an innings and 517 runs.
So far as the county programme was concerned, Richmond and Barratt got Notts off to a fine start with victories over Leicestershire (by four wickets at Trent Bridge) and Surrey – it was in the Whitsun Match at Trent Bridge that Surrey tried their lob bowler, Trevor Molony, he returned figures of 7-1-11-3 dismissing Wilf Payton, Dodger Whysall and Barratt, but Surrey did not persevere with him. Richmond took 11-105 in the match as Notts won by seven wickets, Surrey 74 all out in their first innings.
Four successive reverses followed these initial victories (Middlesex (home and away), Derbyshire (Chesterfield) and Sussex (Hove) and a draw followed at Leyton versus Essex. Notts then won five successive games. The first triumph was against Lancashire at home by 177 runs (John Gunn performed the match double win 148 and six not out and 8-80 and 2-31). At Aylestone Road, Notts beat Leicester by two wickets. Needing 94 to win, Notts slipped to 69-8 but Hardstaff and Richmond held their nerve and added the final 25 required. Despite a mammoth second innings 280 from Hampshire’s Phil Mead, Notts had another two wicket win at Southampton. Notts slipped to 55-5 and then 156-7 but Whysall (97 not out) and Barratt (79) added 119 for the eighth wicket, as Notts successfully chased 286 in 47 overs. Notts won by eight wickets at Catford versus Kent and thrashed Sussex by an innings and 59 runs at Trent Bridge including centuries for skipper Arthur Carr (102) and Payton (120 not out). Notts drew the return against Hampshire and then won at Northampton by eight wickets after making the home team follow-on.
One important change in routine in 1921 was the allocation of the Derbyshire match to Central Avenue, Worksop for the first time. The Worksop ground had been inspected in 1914 with a view to a match being played there in 1915, so it was only justice the North Notts ground should now get an opportunity to savour First-Class cricket. The wicket proved an excellent one and the game ran the full three days, with Notts winning by 48 runs at 5 o’clock on the third afternoon.
Later however Notts faded somewhat. Yorkshire beat Notts twice and Worcester pulled off one of the surprises by beating Notts by eight wickets at New Road. Notts, though, gained revenge by winning the last game of the season at home to Worcester by an innings and 65 runs, Payton scoring 125 not out.
The bowling was mainly at fault for a somewhat disappointing season. Barratt (89 wickets @23.17) and Richmond (124 wickets @24.83) proved more expensive than in the previous year and though Sam Staples took 74 wickets, they cost 28.31 runs each. John Gunn (49 wickets @25.42) was used much more than for some years and afforded a little relief, but Frank Matthews (11 wickets @40.18), who raised so many hopes in 1920, looked very ordinary. Some idea of the lack of youth policy at Trent Bridge was provided by the fact that Charlie James was brought back to fill a vacancy in the side in June – he had not played county cricket since 1910. The only new bowler to be tried was Tom Collins, a 26 year old left arm fast medium who joined the staff in 1914. A local boy, his parents kept the Trent Bridge Post Office. He played in two matches and took the wicket of J H King with the first ball he delivered in first-class cricket - against Leicester at Trent Bridge – but did little else. In 1935 he played two matches for Hampshire. A second debutant was Ben Lilley. Born in Kimberley he was a batsman-keeper with the local side, but directly after the war went to Scotland as a professional at Kirkcaldy. He played a two championship games as Oates’s deputy.
The batting by and large left nothing to be desired. Six players, George Gunn (1,623 runs @41.61), Payton (1,355 runs @39.85), John Gunn (1,177 runs @35.66), Whysall (1,149 runs @33.79), Hardstaff (1,030 runs @31.21) and Carr (1,069 runs @26.72) completed 1,000 runs in championship matches. It was inexplicable that George Gunn was not chosen for England, since Jack Hobbs was away ill all year, and the selectors picked seven openers over the five Tests.
The Committee decided to look to the future and appointed James Iremonger as the new coach, leaving Walter Marshall to concentrate on his duties as groundsman. Payton suffered with his Benefit Match – the expenses were larger than the receipts. The Committee gave him £300 from the club’s funds on compensations, but the subscription lists were well filled and in total he received £824.
The Test match gave a boost to the County membership figures and a record 3,764 people joined or renewed subscriptions. The cost of membership for a person living within ten miles of Nottingham was two guineas (£2.10) and this entitled him to free admission to the ground for all matches for himself, wife and two ladies, or two sons under the age of 16.