Arthur Shrewsbury – Batting Beyond Boundaries

Arthur Shrewsbury was arguably the greatest batsman to have played for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. In an age when WG Grace was a ‘master of all he surveys’ Shrewsbury managed to be rated at the top of the tree along with the great batsman. With a multitude of records, he was a 27-year veteran with the club, scoring just over 26,500 first-class runs at a batting average of just under 37 runs per innings, and a total of 59 hundreds in his career.

Shrewsbury was born in the New Lenton area of Nottingham, England, on 11 April 1856. He studied at a local college before playing for Nottingham Commercial Club. He made an appearance at Lord’s cricket ground aged just 17 in 1873, and eventually made his first-class debut for Nottinghamshire in May 1875. He compiled his first hundred the following year, and after some mediocre seasons, was one of the professionals that took part in a player’s strike in 1881. This allowed him to go on tour overseas, and play his first tests against Australia. Shrewsbury was welcomed back to the county in 1882, and he responded by recording his maiden double century in first-class cricket. He was nominated as the captain for the tour to Australia in 1884/85, and had a fine series with his first test century helping England clinch the series, and scoring 301 runs at an average of 50.16.

He topped the averages for the first time during the 1885 English season, before playing possibly his best test innings, a superb 164 on a difficult wicket against an Australian team containing the ‘Demon’ bowler Fred Spofforth. After another visit to Australia, and a mammoth innings of 236 in an extraordinary total of 803 in a match for a Non-Smokers team versus a Smokers team, Shrewsbury came back to England and produced the highest individual batting average seen in an English season of 78.71 in 1887. He amassed 1653 runs, beat WG Grace’s average record, and accumulated a career-best individual innings of 267 made in just over ten hours against Middlesex. It was his best season, and saw a remarkable run of four centuries in five consecutive innings.

Shrewsbury was one of the main protagonists in organising the tours to Australia, and he made his final trip ‘down under’ during the 1887/88 winter. As a professional, one of his main missions was to make money from these tours, but this one turned out to be a financial loss. He thus stayed on in Australia to manage an English rugby football team known as the ‘English Footballers’ who were due to play a series of matches in Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, this venture just added to the losses, and Shrewsbury missed the 1888 English cricket season. It was also notable for having a few matches of Australian Rules football during the tour. Shrewsbury returned home and participated in the 1889 summer season, and was named as one of the ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year’ in 1890. It was during the 1890 season, that Shrewsbury produced one of the best performances by a Nottinghamshire cricketer.

Opening the batting, he recorded a personal equal best score of 267 made in nearly nine hours and containing 19 boundaries, and forged a record partnership of 398 with Billy Gunn for the second wicket playing against Sussex. It remained the highest stand in first class cricket for nine years. Despite some low scores in the Ashes series against the touring Australian team, Shrewsbury topped the domestic batting averages. He notched his tenth and final double hundred during the 1892 summer, and had the honour of becoming the first batsman in test match cricket to reach a 1000 runs a year later. In the final test series of his career, Shrewsbury compiled 284 runs at 71 runs apiece as England retained the Ashes versus the touring Australians. In a test career played entirely against Australia, he recorded an impressive 1277 runs in 23 matches, at an average of 35.47. The runs total was a test record for nine years. Bad health took its toll during the 1894 season, but he returned a year later, and eventually passed 20,000 runs in his career. He continued to dominate the county batting averages for the next few years, including in 1902, at the age of 46. This turned out to be the seventh, but unfortunately the final time, that he came top of the domestic averages in an English season.

Suffering with kidney pains after the season ended, Shrewsbury went to see several doctors who found no serious diagnosis for his problems. However, during the spring of 1903, he shot himself in the head having brought a gun from a local gunsmiths. The verdict was given as suicide.

Arthur Shrewsbury was unquestionably one of the greatest batsman in Nottinghamshire cricket history. He had a host of records which still stand today, and was one of the premier greats of English batting, producing his best performances as WG Grace’s dominance started to recede.

*Article provided by Hitesh Darji (Cricket Correspondent) 

*Main image @WisdenCricket Arthur Shrewsbury was described as one of the best in his generation.

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