In the days before the first official County Cricket Championship was contested in 1890, there was a period between 1864 to 1889 when a number of counties played for the ‘Champion County’ title. Nottinghamshire were named by various publications and historians as the top county on 16 occasions, many shared with other counties.
In 1907, Nottinghamshire won their maiden championship title, with a superlative 15 wins out of 20 matches and no defeats. Five of the matches were won by an innings, and the majority of the victories were down to two bowlers, Thomas Wass and Albert Hallam, who combined to take a remarkable 298 wickets in 19 matches, out of the 348 in total taken by the county throughout the season.
Hallam, a slow off spin bowler, took 153 wickets at an average of 11.78, whilst Wass, a fast-medium bowler, dismissed 145 batsmen at 13.57 apiece. Hallam took five wickets or more in an innings 19 times, and six times took ten or more wickets in a game. Wass also took ten or more wickets in a game six times, and five or more in an innings 15 times. They both had a similar strike-rate at a wicket every 31 balls.
The two were helped by the wet weather during virtually the whole of the season, both being able to turn the ball prodigiously on the soft surfaces, and combining to bowl unchanged in 12 innings when the opposition team were shot out for low totals. Due to the two opening bowlers, the batting was steady but unspectacular and did the necessary to give the county mostly easy victories. Arthur Jones, the captain, scored the most runs, 823 in 27 innings, at an average of 31.65. George Gunn (815 runs), and John Gunn (668) were the only other two batsmen to average over 30.
Another to impress was right-hand batsman Wilf Payton with 550 runs at 27.50, with two brilliant innings towards the end of the season. Coming in at number eight, he scored an unbeaten 149 against Surrey, and then in the next game he took the county to a two-wicket victory versus Gloucestershire with a vital unbeaten 91 in chasing a testing target of 231 to win. Notts only passed the 300 total mark on five occasions with the total of 364 against Essex their highest when Jones made 164.
In their very first game they thrashed Northamptonshire by an innings and 65 runs. The county totalled just 205 in their first innings, but bowled out the opposition twice for 52 and 88. Wass (6 for 25 and 3 for 44), and Hallam (3-23 and 6-42), bowled unchanged in both innings, delivering only 63.4 overs between them.
It was more or less the same in the second game as Leicestershire were bowled out for 56 in their second innings as Hallam captured ten wickets, including a hat-trick in the second knock. Wass followed this with figures of 7 for 49, before Hallam took 13 wickets for 82 runs against the hapless Leicestershire batsmen. Wass produced his best figures of 8-65 against Sussex, before Hallam again picked up 13 wickets as the county narrowly beat Essex.
After taking 6 for 18 as Essex were bowled out for 59, Hallam then produced match-winning figures of 7-38 in 28.3 overs, as Essex were dismissed second time around for 110, chasing 118 to win. The majority of the next few games followed the same pattern with both bowlers picking up four or more wickets in an innings on a regular basis.
Another close victory came up against Middlesex by just 13 runs, as Hallam manufactured a spell of 8 for 67 in 34.3 overs as the London side were dismissed for 139 in their second innings. The county then finished off the season in style with an innings and 131-run victory over Lancashire. After sharing nine wickets as the Red Rose county were bowled out for 82 in their first innings, Wass (4-18), and Hallam (5-16), shot out their opponents for 37 in just 20.2 overs second time around.
The county’s 15 wins from the 19 matches that actually started remains the highest proportion of wins by an unbeaten side throughout a season. It was to be over 20 years before the county won their next championship.
*Article provided by Hitesh Darji (Cricket Correspondent)
*Main image @TrentBridge Trent Bridge cricket ground at the turn of the 20th century.