Schweppes Championship – 9th (W 6, L 4, D 9, Abandoned 3)
Gillette Cup (60 overs) – Quarter-Final
Benson and Hedges Cup (55 overs) – Failed to qualify for knock-out phase
John Player League (40 overs) – 8th (W 6, L 6, NR 4)
Captain – M J Smedley replaced by C E B Rice on 17 July
The important changes on the playing staff for 1979 were the registration of two experienced bowlers from other counties. Eddie Hemmings, the Warwickshire off-spinner who had made his debut in 1966 and gradually improved but following the 1974 season where he took 84 wickets @22.08 he had a few fallow seasons. Mike Bore, the Hull born 31 year-old had played for Yorkshire since 1969 as a left-arm medium pace/slow bowler, but after playing in about half that county’s fixtures in 1977, had lost his place in the side in 1978.
The season began with the Benson and Hedges Cup and Notts were unfortunate. The games against Middlesex and Yorkshire were both rain affected. In each, Notts’ opponents completed their innings; against Middlesex, Notts batted enough overs to lose on scoring rate, but against Yorkshire after eight overs of the Notts innings the rain came and the match was abandoned with no result. Notts beat Kent and Minor Counties (North) but failed to qualify for the knock-out stages.
In the County Championship the whole of May was virtually rained off. For the first time in their history Notts had two successive three-day matches totally washed out – at Derby and Abbeydale Park, Sheffield and then after beating Glamorgan at Trent Bridge (Richard Hadlee 7-28 in the second innings), the match at Lord’s v Middlesex was washed out. There followed two more successive wins. At Bournemouth, Clive Rice, Kevin Cooper and Bore dismissed Hampshire twice and then at home three declarations left Notts needing 256 in 150 minutes to beat Northants. Mike Harris hit his second hundred of the match which enabled Notts to win by seven wickets with three balls to spare. Notts were second in the standings.
Following hamstring trouble, Hadlee returned to the team, but Notts suffered three defeats (at Grace Road, at home to Worcester and at Southend) and a fourth match against Sussex began badly. Notts being 144 behind on first innings, but some brilliant bowling by Hadlee (7-23) reduced Sussex in their second innings to the stage where the last two batsmen had to fight for a draw as the visitors finished on 64-9. In mid-July Notts fourth championship win came at the expense of Gloucestershire, but the news of the victory was overshadowed by the controversial announcement by Cricket Manager Ken Taylor that Mike Smedley had been relieved of the captaincy and Rice would take over. Smedley on the staff since 1963 decided to leave Notts rather than continue as an ordinary member of the team once again. His Notts career had ended in rather sad circumstances.
Rice had an entirely different make-up and thus a completely different view of captaincy. Hindsight certainly proved that Rice was the man for the job and his approach – in the limited-overs especially – brought a much more attacking brand of leadership.
In his first game in charge, Notts won a Gillette Cup tie by 79 runs at Edgbaston, Paul Todd hitting a ton. On the Sunday following, Worcestershire were beaten in the JPL, and then in the first Championship match under Rice, Yorkshire were completely outplayed at Worksop, despite Geoff Boycott carrying his bat for 175 in the Tykes second innings.
Having gained these three initial wins, Rice found everything going against him. Derek Randall hit an attractive 75 in the Gillette quarter-final at Hove, but Sussex won easily by six wickets with 35 balls to spare. Hadlee’s hamstring injury proved to the most persistent and he missed many of the later matches, appearing in 10 championship matches in total. South African Kenny Watson (19 wickets @26.73) was drafted into the side and proved an asset, though he could hardly be expected to fill Hadlee’s shoes. The county did have one further success in the JPL, but of the final three matches, two were lost and one washed out and they finished eighth in the standings. Leading run scorer on Sundays was Rice with 290 runs @29.00. Rice and Hadlee both took 13 wickets to lead the wicket-takers.
In the 22-game Championship, Notts fell from seventh to ninth, but there was very little to choose between them and the four counties immediately above. The most noteworthy feat late in the year was Randall’s batting against Middlesex at Trent Bridge. After a mediocre championship season up to that point, he hit 209 out of 376-8 in the first innings and 146 out of 279 for 2 in the second innings, becoming the first and only Notts batsman to score a double century and a century in the same match. Randall finished with 980 championship runs @51.57)
As Randall was absent with the England Test team for much of the summer, he played in only ten Championship matches. Harris (1,273 runs @41.06) and Todd (922 runs @32.92) opened the batting for much of the year. Clive Rice scored 1,095 runs @39.10 also batted consistently well. Trevor Tunnicliffe (793 runs @31.72) also batted soundly and for the first time had a regular place in the eleven; his bowling was however none too effective (8 wickets @55.62). Basharat Hassan’s form (235 runs @19.58) was variable and by the middle of the season he had to battle with John Birch (397 runs @28.35) for the place which Smedley had vacated.
The two newly recruited bowlers, Hemmings (57 wickets @29.50) and Bore (56 wickets @31.39), played throughout the summer and ended with very similar records. At the end of August they shared nine second innings wickets at Edgbaston in a seven wicket victory for Notts. Kevin Cooper (11 wickets @32.54) was handicapped by injury and then could not recapture his accuracy, so that Peter Hacker (15 wickets @42.60) the left-arm seam bowler was afforded more opportunities and appeared in ten championship matches. Rice (45 wickets @21.86) and Hadlee (37 wickets @16.89) were very much the spearhead of the attack.
Over the August Bank Holiday, Notts beat the Indians by six wickets at Trent Bridge. Notts gained a first innings lead of 50 with Rice taking 4-34. The Indians were then bowled out for 161; top scorer Mohinder Amarnath being out hit wicket off Hadlee for 59, the batsman falling on his stumps after taking a blow to the head from the Kiwi. Hadlee 4-38 and Rice 4-44. Notts got the 112 runs needed to win with 4 wickets down.
The Notts Colts side were recreated after a three year absence and won the Bassetlaw League with the highly promising Tim Robinson scoring 994 runs @52.32. Bob White had been appointed captain of the Colts and Second Eleven and did not play for the first team in 1979.
On the administrative side, Philip Carling was introducing more changes. In April, David Pullan, the former wicket-keeper, was appointed General Manager to develop and improve facilities on the ground and to encourage sponsorship and interest of local business in the County Club. In the autumn another new recruit was Brian Robson as Secretary who was brought in to look after the accounts. Notts made a profit of £8,994 in 1979.
Trent Bridge hosted three games in Prudential World Cup – New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Australia v Pakistan and West Indies v New Zealand. Of the three the last was the most closely fought, the West Indies won by 32 runs. In the other two contests, New Zealand and Pakistan had easy wins.