County Championship – 11th (W 10, L 11, D 7)
Captain – R T Simpson
The chief worry as Notts began the 1955 season was a replacement for Harold Butler, since Colin Matthews had been called up for National Service and the other possibility, Arthur Underwood, had declined a new two-year contract and taken a job with the Steetley Company. Another face that was not present when the staff reported for duty was Charlie Cragg, who had been the masseur to Notts for several years. He now found that his other “job” as trainer to the Nottingham Panthers ice-hockey team, demanded his time, so Notts brought in Bob Davies, who performed the same duties at the City Ground with Nottingham Forest.
Notts finished the season in eleventh place – on paper a quite alarming slide, having been fifth in 1954. On closer examination however the results were not dissimilar, since Notts won the same number of games and very little separated them from the five teams directly above them. The end of season committee report stated that “the team played good and interesting cricket, but we have to report a decline in that very important aspect of the game, fielding, vital catches being dropped in many games”. Surrey had a remarkable year, winning 23 out of 28 matches. The weather was fine and the number of drawn games diminished considerably.
Winning two of the first three matches, the County began on a high note. Hampshire were outplayed at Portsmouth, where Ken Smales, bowling well on a moist wicket, had match figures 10-131. Bruce Dooland took 7-78 in the game and scored 91 in the first innings, which gave Notts a lead of 211 and victory came by nine wickets. The second win at Taunton was unusual. John Clay and Freddy Stocks completely dominated the first innings batting making 127 and 92 respectively. Somerset in reply collapsed to 93-6, and then Hilton and Tremlett added 149 for the seventh wicket. Somerset required 286 in 200 minutes to win, but Dooland took 7-110 (12-221 in the match) and Notts won by eight runs with two minutes to spare. These victories put Notts up near the top of the table, but five matches, including three defeats, went by before the next success. Notts had been set 276 in 180 minutes by Leicestershire at Trent Bridge and appeared to be plunging to defeat at 155-7. Reg Simpson then arrived, batting with a runner due to an injured leg. He hit 67 in a 50 minute partnership of 97 with Peter Harvey (54 not out) and Notts won by two wickets. A ten wicket victory followed at Old Trafford with Dooland having figures of 8-61 and 6-93 respectively and Ron Giles (121) and Cyril Poole (108) hitting hundreds. This in and out form continued through the season.
Although Dooland only missed three Championship games all summer, he was very much handicapped by a split spinning finger, which quite naturally led him to bowl more loose deliveries and thus become more expensive. With hindsight he should have been given a break mid-season. Dooland though took 142 championship wickets @22.15. He bowled 1155.5 overs and took five wickets in an innings 16 times and five times took 10 wickets in a match.
In mid-season Gamini Goonesena came into the side. His leg breaks showed much improvement and took 57 wickets @21.29. In addition, he scored 544 runs @25.90. He topped both batting and bowling averages for Cambridge University and in all first-class matches completed the Double.
The runs came more easily on the hard wickets and five batsmen completed 1,000 championship runs – Giles, who had joined the staff 21 years before, topped the batting averages with 1,293 runs @34.94. Simpson (1,350 runs @33.75), Poole (1,547 runs @33.63), Stocks (1,099 runs @33.30) and Joe Hardstaff junior (732 runs @33.27) were very close behind him. Clay (1,308 runs @26.16) also topped thousand runs and he and Simpson remained Notts opening pair. Dooland hit 887 runs @23.97. Two batsman who declined were Eric Martin (672 runs @22.40) and John Kelly (172 runs @24.57), but Harvey (443 runs @17.72 and 18 wickets @44.88) returned as a useful all-rounder.
The success of the year was Smales, in many matches he performed the dual role of opening bowler and off-spinner, ending the season with 114 championship wickets @24.18. He bowled unchanged through both innings in the Somerset match at Trent Bridge at the end of July, taking 10-122 and enabling Notts to win by 261 runs. He also obtained 10-147 in the home game with Derbyshire, but Arnold Hamer hit 227 and Derbyshire won by 111 runs. In July against Lancashire at Trent Bridge he performed the hat-trick as he took 5-37 in the fourth innings as Notts won by 32 runs. Arthur Jepson (62 wickets @30.01) represented the one seam bowler, and had to work hard, which, as usual, he did cheerfully. Eddie Rowe (48 dismissals including 12 stumpings), in his second full season, proved a very competent wicket-keeper.
Good crowds watched all three days of the Whitsun match, 10,000 on the Saturday saw Simpson make a century, though Peter Loader sent down quite a number of bumpers of which the crowd vocally disapproved; 21,000 came on Bank Holiday Monday. On the final day, the Surrey batting tore Notts to shreds, Peter May and Arthur McIntyre knocked up 149 runs in 57 minutes as the visitors raced to an eight wicket victory. This however was not as humiliating as Notts’ visit to The Oval. In the final innings, Notts were dismissed for 40, their lowest total since the war; Jim Laker returned figures of 14-11-5-6 as Surrey won by an innings and three runs. In mitigation, it must be said that Simpson was absent injured and that Hardstaff had announced his retirement from county cricket ten days previously. The 44 year-old Nuncargate batsman had found the strain of First-Class cricket becoming too much for him. He appeared in 13 championship matches and scored the last of his last 83 first-class centuries when he hit 134 versus Yorkshire in a drawn match at Trent Bridge at the end of June. His Testimonial reached the sum of £1,361.
Immediately following The Oval massacre, Notts had back-to-back wins at Trent Bridge, beating Middlesex by seven wickets, Dooland once again to the fore with figures 10-166 in the match, and Kent by 278 runs. In mid August, Notts beat Warwickshire by six wickets at Trent Bridge. The final match of the season was at Southchurch Park in Southend, Notts winning in dramatic circumstances by two wickets after being set 311 to win after Essex declared, Notts reached their target in 72 overs with Giles top scoring with 77 and Jepson striking the very last ball of the match for four with a single wanted.
Notts tried two new batsmen during the year. Ken Poole of Thurgarton, no relation to Cyril Poole, had been taken on the staff as a 17-year old, then had had to leave for National Service and only returned in 1955. John Springall was a Londoner who had been on MCC staff and who joined the staff in 1955. A right hand bat and occasional wicket-keeper, he made his Notts debut v Northants at Trent Bridge in the penultimate match of the season. Two young fast bowlers were also tried. Derbyshire-born Alan Cleveley and Maurice Wood of Nottingham, but neither achieved much. Matthews on leave from the Army had one day of success against Derbyshire taking 6-65 in a drawn contest at Ilkeston.
Notts had no one in the England side for the First Test at Nottingham against South Africa. The attendances were affected by a national railway strike, though 25,000 turned up on the Saturday and saw one of the slowest day’s cricket ever – the South Africans spent all day over 144 runs. Not that England could really point the finger; Bailey spent 195 minutes over 49 and even Compton batted 100 minutes for 27. In the end the pace of Tyson (6-28) was too much for the visitors, who lost by an innings and five runs inside four days.
More alterations took place at Trent Bridge during the winter of 1955/6. The groundsman’s house which had been home successively to the Marshalls and the Dallings at the rear of the pavilion was converted into cloakroom accommodation; the dressing rooms were extensively modernised and the copper canopy in front of the Long Room windows was removed in order to build a permanent broadcasting box.
The club made a profit of £758 after the transfer of £10,000 to their capital expenditure account and the Supporters’ Association gave a donation of £10,683. The Parr stand, which was completed in time for the Test Match, cost £12,975.