Championship – 12th
Gillette Cup (60 overs) – First round
John Player League (40 overs) – 12th
Captain – G S Sobers
Notts were happy in the knowledge that their captain Garry Sobers was available to them all summer. It did not take long to shatter those aspirations for they made a dreadful start and won only one of their first 16 competitive games. They played without conviction in the Championship, suffered a first round exit to Hampshire in the Gillette Cup and were defeated in eight consecutive John Player League games.
Then they staged a revival. They pulled off six consecutive wins in John Player League after Lancashire were beaten by two runs in early July, achieved two outstanding wins in the County Championship and had a profitable haul of bonus points. They finished 12th in the championship and would have done better if the final day weather had been kinder against Derbyshire (at Ilkeston) and Kent (at Trent Bridge) when victory was well within their grasp. This revival of fortunes suggested the county had the talent available to do better.
Notts started with four draws in the Championship, in last of these Hampshire were bowled out for 51 with Stead and Sobers taking five wickets apiece, but dropped catches allowed the visitors to bat out their second innings on the last day. Notts lost their next game versus Surrey in the Whitsun fixture at Trent Bridge. Notts won their first game at the sixth time of asking versus Leicestershire, when Mike Harris, having taken five wickets in the match with his leg-spin, guided Notts to victory with 73, in a match dominated by the spinners. The second win did not materialise until well into July at Central Avenue, Worksop. Notts batted solidly to reach 339 and on the last day Sobers was in a position to declare, allowing Middlesex four hours to make 301, Stead (3-14) and his captain (4-21) bowled them out for 108. It was in the following game versus Sussex that Notts’ first three batsmen all hit hundreds – Harris 141, Graham Frost 104 and Mike Smedley 131 not out, but the match at Trent Bridge ended in stalemate. Notts only other Championship win was the home game against Warwickshire, when Sobers hit 89 not out against the clock to reach the target of 219 with six balls remaining. Notts in their 24 game schedule had won three, lost seven and drawn 14.
The outstanding success of the season was the batting of Harris. The opening batsman finished third in the national averages with 2,238 runs in all first-class cricket @50.86 and the Cornishman equalled Dodge Whysall’s 1928 record of nine centuries for Notts in a season. He also twice hit twin centuries in a match; 118 and 123 at Grace Road and 107 and 131 not out at Chelmsford. Only Whysall and Joe Hardstaff junior had scored more runs for Notts in a season.
Sobers (1,485 championship runs @46.40) had an up and down season, having spectacular feats with the bat but often looking stale. This was particularly noticeable in his bowling, where he had 53 wickets @30.96. He achieved more as a seam bowler than he did as a spinner, but very often favoured the later mode of bowling.
Smedley also enjoyed his best season with 1,538 championship runs @40.47. Amongst his six centuries, were two in the same match at Old Trafford. Brian Bolus, in his benefit year, with1,159 runs @28.97 had a modest time, although he got hundreds at Maidstone and against Warwickshire at Trent Bridge. Frost, 835 runs @30.92, looked much more confident; Hassan (725 runs @19.59) also found runs hard to come by, but his fielding in the covers was excellent.
Despite Forbes and Halfyard having left the staff (although the former did reappear on one occasion), the Notts attack did better than expected. Off-spinner Bob White took 72 championship wickets @28.72 and left-arm seamer Barry Stead claimed 62 wickets @29.16. Plummer (18 wickets @38.50) did well enough in the Second Eleven but failed to bother First-Class batsman. Mike Taylor found the change in the leg before wicket rule affected his powers of penetration and finished 51 wickets @32.49. Bill Taylor (27 wickets @32.74), 24 years-old and fresh from League cricket was given an early chance but found the step up to County level difficult and lost his place, his fielding ragged at times.
David Pullan, despite carrying a persistent finger injury, performed well behind the wicket claiming 62 championship victims and received his county cap.
Richard Bielby struggled in his 11 outings scoring 284 runs @25.81 was released at the end of the season to concentrate on a business career. In addition to Bill Taylor, five more players were added to the staff, Derek Randall, Phil Wilkinson, Dusty Hare and two West Indians – Nirmal Nanan and Boya Sahadeo. Randall and Wilkinson each appeared once in the Sunday League where Notts won six, lost nine and had one no result. Sobers was leading run scorer and wicket-taker in the 40 over competition was with 587 runs @53.36 and 23 wickets @18.30.
On 1 December 1971, Ron Poulton retired as Secretary of the Club, after 46 years at Trent Bridge. A man of great courtesy, his diplomacy and tact had soothed many a ruffled member.
At the AGM, all 18 members of the Committee resigned, this was so members could elect a new streamlined twelve-man committee which it was felt would better serve the county.
There was no Test Match at Trent Bridge in 1971. For the second successive year the County Club announced a deficit above £10,000, the only bright feature on the balance sheet was the increase in the gate receipts for Sunday League matches – from £1,759 to £3,441.