County Championship – 8th (W 7, L 4, D 17)
Captain – R T Simpson
The main talking point as the season opened concerned Alan Walker, the New South Wales fast left-arm bowler, whom Notts had signed in 1954, but had had to wait until 1956 to be qualified for Championship matches. Walker had toured South Africa with the 1949/50 Australians, but not appeared in any Tests. With other additions, the groundstaff numbered 27 plus the amateurs Reg Simpson and Gamini Goonesena.
Walker took eight wickets in the first Championship game which ended in a draw at Northampton. The following match versus Middlesex at Lord’s also ended without a winner. The highlight of May was the home encounter versus Surrey at Whitsun. Notts outplayed the County Champions from first to last. Tony Lock took 8-81 on the Saturday as Notts were all out for 220, but on Bank Holiday Monday, 20,000 saw Ken Smales (5-36) and Bruce Dooland (5-50) pick up five wickets each as Surrey were out for 117. Freddie Stocks, in his benefit year, then knocked up 66 as Notts were bowled out for 212 and by the close Surrey were 45 for three, still wanting 271 to win. Only 80 minutes play on the last day was needed – Smales had match analyses of 11-93 as Notts won by 187 runs. Notts drew their next two encounters; the return against Northants and versus Kent at Gravesend. Notts gained their second win when Glamorgan were defeated by seven wickets at Cardiff Arms Park; Arthur Jepson (11-90) had an outstanding match.
Smales became the first and only Notts bowler to take all ten wickets in an innings in a championship match, bowling out Gloucestershire on the Stroud Ground for 214; his full figures were 41.3-20-66-10. However the Notts batting failed twice and Gloucester won by nine wickets. Four games later, there was another unique bowling feat, when Notts went to Grace Road towards the end of June. Walker dismissed the last man, Jack Firth, in the Leicester first innings and then opening the bowling in the second innings took the wickets of Gerald Lester, Maurice Tompkin and Gerald Smithson with his first three deliveries. Four wickets in four balls straggled over two innings. This time the batting did not fail – Walker himself made 50 – and Notts won by nine wickets. Walker was also involved in a century partnership for the 10th wicket. At Trent Bridge against Somerset, Notts collapsed to 134 for nine. Walker came in as last man and with Dooland raised the total to 257, a partnership of 123 in 120 minutes. Dooland then dismissed Somerset cheaply, taking 7-41 (12-112 in the match) and a belligerent 70 not out from John Clay, which included eight consecutive scoring strokes each worth four, ensured a nine wicket victory.
Notts had to wait until August for their next victories as the leg-spinners Goonesena and Dooland helped Notts to secure three successive victories at Trent Bridge. Derbyshire were beaten by four wickets (Goonesena 11-101), Warwickshire fell to an eight wicket defeat (Dooland 11-133) and Worcestershire were beaten in two days by an innings and 62 runs (Dooland 13-79; including a career best 8-20 in the first innings). Notts drew their last four games.
The abiding memory, however of 1956 was of rain. The number of drawn matches rose to 17 out of 28; the county had seven wins which moved them up to eighth place. Dooland (139 wickets @18.61), free of injury, had a much better year, but despite the remarkable performances achieved and already noted by Smales (68 wickets @22.27) and Walker (52 wickets @29.88), the surprise in the end of season’s figures was the performances of Jepson. The 41 year-old seam bowler took 81 wickets @19.95. His best performance was 12-120 in the draw against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. In the first innings he took 7-34 and removed the opposition for 94. Jepson (400 runs @14.28) also continued to enliven the Notts batting, regularly making 20 or 30 by means of lusty blows, even though he found himself coming at No.11 on quite a few occasions. Notts, after a poor batting display in their seven wicket defeat against Somerset in Bath, dropped wicket-keeper Eddie Rowe, and transferred duties to Cyril Poole, who in his first game behind the stumps took three catches and assisted in two run outs. Poole remained in occupation for some six weeks, but some serious errors then led to the re-instatement of Rowe. Walker played in every match, opening the bowling with Jepson, but only on two occasions did he capture five wickets in an innings. Goonesena was available for only five games, but his 20 wickets @20.55 showed how useful he might have been if not at Cambridge – he again topped the university bowling averages.
Simpson (1,398 runs @34.95) remained the best batsman and together with Ron Giles (1,211 runs @29.53) and Stocks (1,034 runs @29.54) completed 1,000 championship runs. Cyril Poole scored 909 runs @23.92. Clay (327 runs @19.23) and Eric Martin (239 runs @14.93) however both lost their places in the side and Giles was promoted to open with Simpson in the latter half of the year, or with Mervyn Winfield (256 runs @12.80). The 23 year-old from Gainsborough was another whose development was interrupted by National Service. He had been on the staff in 1951 and played a few first-class matches from 1954. In 1956 he hit a maiden hundred against Oxford University and failing to make any other scores of note, appeared in 15 championship matches. Dooland (710 runs @19.72) scored useful runs down the order.
Two other youngsters back from the Services were Norman and Maurice Hill – not related and utterly dissimilar. Left-hand bat Norman (two championship appearances) was a dark curly-haired rather plump youth with a round tanned complexion and rather awkward batting style; Maurice (seven championship appearances) from Scunthorpe, an elegant tall fair haired batsman in the mould of Hardstaff and Simpson, had all the pundits forecasting his rise to the top. No new players were tried during the summer.
The Committee Report stated that “The side as a whole played good cricket, the bowling generally being adequate, but the batting was not nearly consistent enough, particularly considering the resources that were available. The fielding showed improvement with the exception of close to the wicket catches”.
The First Test against Australia took place at Trent Bridge – the last time Nottingham would be an automatic choice, for the authorities had decided to return Edgbaston to Test Match status and rotate the venues. The game was ruined by rain, four out of the five days being affected, only Monday producing sunshine. In order to try to get a definite result in spite of the weather, Peter May declared both England innings closed – the first at 217-8 and the second at 188-3, but Jim Burke and Peter Burge managed to defy Jim Laker’s off spin and the game was drawn.
There was a feast of runs when the Australians opposed Notts, Colin McDonald (195) and Burge (131) both hit centuries in the tourists’ total of 547-8d. Stocks replied with the highest score of his career, 171, which was also a record for Notts v Australians. The match was drawn.
Membership rose to 7,789, but gate receipts for county matches were almost halved due mainly to the wet weather. The Supporters’ Association donated £20,979, all of which went into capital expenditure fund, so that the Club actually lost £4,253 in the year’s workings. The new chairman Lt Col R J de C Barber said that he was most concerned about the financial situation and felt that it was a disgrace to have so few members - the full subscription remained only £3. The admission at the turnstiles was increased to half-a-crown (12½p).