Welcome to the next post in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we look at Nottinghamshire. There is at least one omission that will seem huge to some eyes, but as I explain in the section immediately after I have presented my chosen XI it is actually not.
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE ALL TIME XI
- Arthur Shrewsbury – when WG Grace (see my Gloucestershire team) became the first batter to record 100 first class hundreds he was second on the list of century makers with 41 to his credit. WG at a time when his primacy was unchallenged was asked who he rated next best among batters and responded “Give me Arthur”. In 1886 at Lord’s he took 164 off the Aussies to set England up for an innings victory, and at the time his score was the highest for England in a test match (WG Grace reclaimed the record that this took from him two matches later at The Oval with 170). Shrewsbury’s Nottinghamshire team mate Alfred Shaw, probably the most miserly bowler of all time, asked that he be buried 22 yards from Shrewsbury so that he could send him a few balls – and their graves are actually 27 yards apart, allowing space for Shaw’s standard five yard run up. For much of Shrewsbury’s playing career there was no such thing as a tea break, and it is said that if he was not out at lunchtime he would instruct the dressing room attendant to bring a cup of tea out to the middle at 4PM, such was his confidence that he would still be batting by then.
- George Gunn – a man who positively relished taking on the quicks. In 1907-8 when he was in Australia not as part of the official tour party but initially for the good of his health he was drafted into the test side in desperation and proceeded to score 119 and 74. He was also on the 1911-12 tour as part of the chosen party. In 1929-30 when England contested a test series in the West Indies for the first time Gunn at the age of 50 formed one half of test cricket’s oldest ever opening partnership along with the comparative pup 39 year old Andy Sandham (an honourable mention in my Surrey piece). In the 1929 English season he had celebrated turning 50 by being one half of a unique occurrence – he scored 183 for Nottinghamshire and his son George Vernon Gunn made precisely 100 in the same innings. A local amateur of no huge skill once determined to take Gunn on in a single wicket match, suggesting a £100 stake. Gunn was reluctant at first, but eventually succumbed to repeated importunings, although insisting that the stake be reduced to £5. They played during successive evenings – Gunn batted first and by the end of the first evening was 300 not out. At the end of the second evening Gunn had reached 620 not out and the amateur suggested that a declaration might be in order. Gunn refused but as a concession allowed the amateur to bowl at the heavy roller, six feet wide, instead of a regulation set of stumps. Half way through the third evening Gunn had reached 777 and the amateur finally decided that he had had enough and left Gunn to his triumph.
- William Gunn – elder brother of George (there was a third brother, John, who also played for Notts and indeed England as well, plus George’s son GV, but as far as I can establish, although she was born in Nottingham, contemporary England Women’s star Jenny Gunn is not related to this Gunn family), regularly no 3 for Notts and England. He scored 225 for The Players against the visiting Australians on one occasion, and in a Non-smokers v Smokers match he and Shrewsbury shared a stand of over 300 as the non-smokers made 803 (qualifications for these matches were not that rigorously checked – on another occasion Bonnor, the big hitting Aussie, made a century for the non-smokers – and was subsequently seen strolling round the boundary puffing on a cigar). William Gunn in addition to his playing career was the original Gunn of “Gunn and Moore” the bat makers, and at a time when many professionals died in poverty, sometimes destitution, he left an estate worth over £100,000. There is a book about the Gunns, “The Bridge Battery”, by Basil Haynes and John Lucas.
- Richard Daft – in the 1870s he was considered the next best batter in the country to WG Grace.
- Joe Hardstaff Jr – played for Nottinghamshire and England in the 1930s and 1940s. He contributed an undefeated 169 to England’s 903-7 declared at The Oval in 1938, while in 1946 he scored a double century against India.
- Garry Sobers – aggressive left handed batter, with a test average of 57.78, left arm bowler of absolutely everything (he began his career as slow left arm orthodox bowler, adding first wrist spin and then also adding pace and swing. He was at one time as incisive as anyone with the new ball. He was also excellent in the field.
- Wilfred Flowers – an off spinning all rounder from the late 19th century whose record demands inclusion.In first class cricket he averaged 20 with the bat and 15 with the ball.
- +Chris Read – a wonderful wicket keeper and a useful attacking middle order batter, he was badly treated by the England selectors and should have played more test cricket than he actually did. He made 1,109 dismissals in his first class career.
- Harold Larwood – the list of English fast bowlers who have blitzed the Aussies in their own back yard is a short one (Frank Tyson in 1954-5 and John Snow in 1970-1 are the only post Larwood examples I can think of, and while Tom Richardson (see my Surrey piece) was clearly magnificent in the 1894-5 series his gargantuan efforts hardly constitute a blitzing of his opponents), and he is on it. His treatment after that 1932-3 series, when he should have been seen as the conquering hero, was utterly shameful as the English powers that be caved to Aussie whinging, and he never again played test cricket after the end of that series, though he continued for Nottinghamshire until 1938. As late as 1936 he produced a spell in which took six wickets for one run.
- Tom Wass – a bowler of right arm fast medium and leg spin. On one occasion an over zealous gate keeper did not want to let his wife into the ground and Wass dealt with him by saying “if that beggar don’t get in then this beggar don’t play”. 1,666 first class wickets at 20.46, 159 five wicket hauls and 45 10 wicket matches are testimony to his effectiveness.
- Fred Morley – left arm fast bowler who was in his pomp in the 1870s. He paid a mere 13 a piece for his wickets. He died at the tragically young age of 33, or he would probably have had many more wickets even than he did. He was the most genuine of genuine number 11s. In his day the roller at his home ground, Trent Bridge, was horse drawn, and it is said that the horse learned to recognize Morley and when it saw him walking out to bat it would place itself between the shafts of the roller ready for the work it knew would not be long delayed (Bert Ironmonger, the Aussie slow left-armer who was the second oldest of all test cricketers, playing his last game at the age 51, is the subject of another classic ‘incompetent no 11’ story – a phone call came through to the ground he was playing at, and it was Mrs Ironmonger wanting to speak to her husband, “sorry, he has just gone into bat” came the response, to which Mrs Ironmonger said “I’ll hang on then”!).
This team contains a solid top five, the greatest of all all rounders at no 6, a second fine all rounder at 7, a top of the range wicket keeper and three specialist bowlers of widely varying types.
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE PRESENT & FUTURE
Stuart Broad did not qualify for two reasons. Firstly, his wickets cost 27 a piece, which is respectable but not by any means bargain basement. Secondly, as a right arm fast medium (kindly do not attempt to persuade me that he counts as fast, he does not) his effectiveness is heavily dependent on conditions and therefore very variable.Graeme Swann was a very fine spinner of the recent past, but the inescapable fact is that his first class wickets cost 32 a piece, twice as much as those of Wilf Flowers, and while I would accept that Flowers would pay more today and Swann would have paid less in Flowers’ day I do not accept that the difference would be enough to close the gap that yawns between them. Joe Clarke is a highly talented young batter who may yet go on to become great, but he is very much not the finished article yet. Billy Root has shown some signs of skill but has a way to go to get close to big brother Joe (see my Yorkshire piece). Liam Patterson-White is a left arm spinner who if handled properly should have a huge future ahead of him, and if I revisit this series in a decade or so it is quite possible that he like Zak Crawley and Oliver Graham Robinson who I mentioned in yesterday’s piece about Kent will demand consideration by then.
First of all, I deal with…
There were four of these other than Sobers who obviously demanded attention. Bruce Dooland immediately before Sobers was an Australian all-rounder (right hand bat, leg spin) who performed wonders for Nottinghamshire, but he is hardly in the same bracket as Sobers. Clive Rice was more a batter who bowled than a genuine all rounder but he could bowl decidedly quick when in the mood. He was not as good a wielder of the willow as Sobers and his bowling did not have the same range. Closest to displacing Sobers as overseas pick was Sir Richard Hadlee, a right arm fast bowler and attacking left hand bat in the lower middle order. Had he not been a Kiwi he would have been an absolute shoo-in, but I am restricting myself to one overseas player per team, and with the presence of Larwood and Morley I felt that Sobers brought more that I did not already have available to the table. Franklyn Stephenson had one sensational season in 1990, when he did the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, the only player other than Hadlee to do so since 1969 (for those who consider that the limitation of English first class seasons to 14 games now makes this impossible, WG Grace achieved this double in the space of the last 11 games of his 1874 season – and people who are over-inclined to use the word “impossible” in the context of cricket often end up with egg on their faces), and he finished that season with a match in which he scored twin centuries and took four first innings wickets and seven second innings wickets, the most dominant four-innings match display since George Hirst’s twin centuries and twin five wicket hauls for Yorkshire against Somerset in 1906), but overall he did not do enough to warrant consideration.
William Scotton was too much the out and out stonewaller for my liking. He was part of a rare happening at The Oval in 1886, when such was the difference in approach between him and WG Grace that the scoreboard at one stage showed No 1 134 and No 2 34. Walter Keeton, Freddie Stocks, Reg Simpson and Brian Bolus all had their moments at the top of the order, without the enduring success of Shrewsbury and the Gunns. In the 1980s Chris Broad and Tim Robinson were both chosen to open for England, and each had one magnificent Ashes series, Robinson at home in 1985, Broad in 1986-7, but neither did enough overall as far as I am concerned, and Robinson was certainly found out in no uncertain terms by the West Indies.
THE MIDDLE ORDER
I regretted not being able to find a place for Derek Randall, but I had reasons for all of my inclusions. Wilf Payton, Joe Hardstaff Sr and John Gunn (who also bowled medium pace), would all have their advocates as well.
Nottinghamshire does not quite offer the embarrassment of riches in this department that some other counties do, but other than my choice of Read there are four who would definitely have their advocates: Fred Wyld, Mordecai Sherwin, Ben Lilley (who did the job when Larwood and Voce were in their pomp) and Bruce French who was an England pick at times in the 1980s.
Sam Redgate was the first Nottinghamshire bowler to make a real impression, and he was followed by John Jackson. Alfred Shaw, over 2,000 wickets at 12 a piece was unlucky to miss out, while his name sake Jemmy Shaw, a left arm medium pacer of similar vintage also had a fine record. It was Jemmy Shaw who summed up what many at that time probably felt in similar circumstances when tossed the ball to have a go against a well set WG Grace: “there’s no point bowling good ‘uns now, it’s just a case of I puts where I pleases and he puts it where he pleases”. William Barnes was an England all-rounder for a time, and once arrived for a match late and rather obviously the worse for wear and still had a hundred on the board by lunchtime. Rebuked over his tardiness by the committee he responded by asking them “how many of you ever scored a hundred, drunk or sober?”. Finally, there was Larwood’s partner in crime Bill Voce. Voce was less quick than Larwood, and probably less quick than Morley who I selected as my left arm pace option, and while not by any means an expensive wicket taker, he did pay 23 a time for his scalps, which puts him in the respectable rather than truly outstanding class. Once many years after their careers were done Voce visited Larwood in Australia where the latter had settled, and while they were drinking together a breeze blew through a window behind Larwood, prompting Voce to say “Harold, after all these years you’ve still got the wind at your back”, a comment that Gus Fraser (an honourable mention in my Middlesex piece) would probably have appreciated.
Although the County Championship was not put on an official footing until 1890, various cricketing publications named what they called “champion counties” before then, and in the last 25 years before that watershed in 1890 Nottinghamshire were so named on ten occasions. This is why there are so many 19th century names in my selections for this county – Nottinghamshire were strong then, and barring odd intervals have not been particularly so. The current Nottinghamshire would but for Covid-19 be preparing for a season in the second division of the championship after a quite ghastly season in 2019. Doubtless some readers will have their own ideas about players who I could have included, and I welcome such comments with the proviso that they show due consideration for the balance of the side and that there is some indication of who your suggestions would replace.
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Our little journey through Nottinghamshire cricket is at an end, but just before my usual sign off I have a couple of important links to share, to posts by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK:
- Answering the Question: ‘How are you going to pay for it’? – a very clear and straightforward answer to this question, and one that everybody should read.
- Writing off NHS debt of 134 billion is a charade. What is required instead is the renationalisation of the NHS: nothing less will do – another hugely important piece, and one that again I urge you to read.
We end as usual with some pictures…