By William Arnold Sime
The last season, like many other seasons, can be looked at in at least two ways as regards the performance of the Notts XI. It was either very much better than a lot of people expected or a good deal worse than some people hoped. In any event, as far as the side was concerned, it was pleasant season with only two whole days lost through rain.
A good many of the team looked upon this as a mixed blessing, as it must have been a very long time since Notts, spent so many hours in the field during a season’s cricket. This was due to chiefly to our lack of bowling, but also, of course, to the extremely good weather and correspondingly favourable wickets to the batsmen.
In fact, Harold Butler and Joe Hardstaff were repeatedly remind others of ‘Indian shirt-front wickets.”
The shortage of bowlers was, of course, our greatest handicap, although in this respect we were not the only county side to suffer.
Harold Butler and Arthur Jepson did yeoman work and were a magnificent pair of opening bowlers, but the main problem was when should they change from the role of opening bowlers and become stock bowlers.
No speed merchant can be expected to maintain his pace for more than a few overs. How these two managed to bowl for the long spells that they did and remain keen and cheerful at the end was a question which puzzled many.
The answer I give is that it was due to their great keenness to do everything they could for the side. At one time or another nearly everybody tried to solve the bowling probably, one of the most successful efforts being that of Joe Hardstaff at Old Trafford.
Stocks, when Butler was away, had to substitute as opening bowler and in fact, was also tried in the role of stock bowler. In consequence his batting suffered.
Looking on the brighter side, we must have had one of the strongest batting sides in the country. Thirteen players scored 50 runs or over, and our ‘tail’ was feared by everybody. No one who was present at Trent Bridge and saw the Derbyshire match, will forget the valiant efforts of Stokcs and Jepson.
Walter Keeton, besides having a magnificent and well-deserved benefit, was his usual sparkling self and provided us with many good starts, being ably supported by Charlie Harris and Guy Willat.
In fact, our batting was such that, with the possible exception of the opening pair, the batting strength would not have suffered to any extent if the rest of the names had been put in a hat and the batting order drawn out by lot.
However, in three-day cricket, batting alone does not win matches, unless there is a really adequate attack backed up by the first-class fielding, especially close in.
Whilst the XI’s fielding was commented upon most favourably, especially when away from home, it was sadly deficient when it came to close-in work or slip-fielding.
Having lost Bill Voce there was nobody in the side really used to slip-fielding, and most of us were too long in the tooth to really enjoy such close-in positions as very short-leg or silly mid-off.
There is no doubt that the most successful team in County Championship is one with a good attack which can be supported by audacious fielding.
There were quite a number of ‘highlights’ during the season, but unfortunately most of them were away from Trent Bridge, with the exception, of course of the match against Hampshire which really looked like being a magnificent fight for fist innings lead, when the umpires decided (wrongly as was ruled later) that the match had to stop half an hour earlier than either side had calculated.
Some other Trent Bridge memories were Bill Voce’s innings against Essex, Winrow’s and Harvey’s batting in the second innings against Derbyshire, and Prichard’s (Warwickshire) opening spell of bowling in the last match of the season, when Notts lost 4 wickets for 23 runs and were saved by Joe Hardstaff’s stubborn batting.
Then there was the Yorkshire match which for sheer stubbornness could safely be compared with any Yorkshire and Lancashire match.
Away from home we had two exciting matches, at the Oval and Old Trafford. Against Surrey during the August Bank Holiday week, Surrey who batted second, completed their first innings at 12.20pm on the third day, and finished 103 runs behind.
In spite of this, the match was finished; Surrey losing with 20 minutes to go having been ‘ahead of the clock’ right up to the last, and this was in spite of the fact that Butler was unable to bowl, and the brunt was unable to bowl, and the brunt of the bowling was fielding in this match was particularly keen and safe, in fact, the turning point of the match was brilliant piece of fielding by Ellis, the twelfth man, who was substitute for Butler.
At Old Trafford, Notts tried to do the ‘impossible,’ and thanks to Joe Hardstaff, who scored 80 in an hour, we showed that it was possible to thrash the Lancashire bowling. The Nottinghamshire effort pleased the Lancashire supporters who really cheered this innings.
As to the future, there is really nothing to be depressed about; whilst there may be a few sides with better bowling than ourselves, many are just as badly off. With the modern system of scoring points in the Championship (12 for a win and 4 for a win on the first innings), a premium is set upon finished matches.
The side that has lead on the first innings, although losing the match, still retains the four points, and consequently once a lead on first innings has been achieved the side that gains it has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
So it is obviously to the benefit of both sides in normal circumstances to try and make a finish. To many people, a close finish is probably the biggest thrill there is in cricket. A stubborn stand by the last two batsmen to save the game, or a hurricane hitting to get the runs in time, invariably create the greatest enthusiasm. How much better it is to have a finish like that then to sit around the ground watching the tail-end batsmen opening to bowlers who look ill at ease with a new ball (if in fact, the fielding side bother to ask for a new ball) just to fill in a few hours left for play.
One of the most striking features of First Class cricket last summer was the very great interest which was taken by the public. Not only were there very large attendees at Trent Bridge for nearly all County matches, but away from home this keenness was exhibited on all grounds where we played. This interest did not only extent to the County matches but was very evident in the Sunday matches which we played in Nottinghamshire for Keeton’s benefit, and in some of the other counties for local benefits. In particular, mention should be made of the fact that Catford Cricket Club on August Bank Holiday Sunday invited the side to play there for Keeton’s benefit. Not only were we royally entertained, but the invitation was repeated for the next season when proceeds will go towards Hardstaff’s benefit.
It is to be hoped that this keenness on the part of the public will continue, as apart from the financial side of County cricket it will also encourage youngsters with talent to look upon professional cricket as a career which is both interesting and profitable.
As for next year at Trent Bridge, there are youngsters coming on and seasoned players still with us who can, and will, play the type of game that the occasion calls for- be it stubborn and cautious or forcing and free – and they will always play for the side.
Our aim is to play cricket, and cricket which it is a delight to watch and a joy to play, and above all a credit to Nottinghamshire whatever the result may be.
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