John Shuter   s innovative strategy won the match for Surrey that day    Wikimedia Commons
John Shuter s innovative strategy won the match for Surrey that day Wikimedia Commons

An innovative strategy by John Shuter changed the course of the match at Trent Bridge on June 1, 1887. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a day when a side used hara-kiri to their benefit.

Though the County Championship was officially yet to start (this was 1887), the counties met for an organised tournament of sorts. Thus, when Nottinghamshire took on Surrey at Trent Bridge, the sense of competition was intense. Surrey batted first, and were quickly reduced to 27 for six by William Attewell and Jack Mee.

Harry Wood joined Maurice Read, and the pair put up a crucial 53. There was some fight from John Beaumont as well, but Surrey were eventually bowled out for a mere 115 by Attewell and Mee, who took 8 for 88 between them. Notts added 36 for the opening stand before they were up against the wiles of George Lohmann. The great man took 5 for 39, Thomas Bowley had 4 for 25, and Notts were bowled out for 89.

This time Surrey got off to a good start, thanks to Kingsmill Key, Bobby Abel, and William Roller all of whom went past the 40-mark. The tourists finished Day Two on 157 for 3 with Walter and Maurice Read at the crease. The Reads took the score to 264 next morning: Surrey led by a comfortable 292.

Hara-kiri

There was a small problem, though: how would Surrey win? If they had time at their disposal Lohmann would have got won it for them, but how to get Lohmann to bowl? It was 1887, and declaration was not yet an option! How would Surrey push their way?

As the options were being weighed, Maurice Read was bowled by Mee and Walter Read was caught by Fred Butler at long slip off Wilfred Flowers. The score read 264 for 5 as Lohmann walked out to join John Shuter, his captain.

Then Shuter showed his cards. He scored a quick 10 before flattening his stumps with his bat against Mee. Andrew Ward later wrote in Cricket s Strangest Matches: The crowd thought it was funny, but they didn t see the cunning behind his plan.

It was left to the others to follow suit. George Jones flattened his own stumps, while both Wood and Beaumont tried an alternate way: on missing the ball, they went for casual strolls down the pitch, only to be stumped by Notts captain Mordecai Sherwin. To conclude things, Lohmann got out to a friendly catch .

Surrey had managed to bowl themselves out for 289. The hosts needed to score 318. Wisden called the day s play a curious and most interesting day s cricket.

Lohmann takes over

There was another short rain delay before Shuter let Lohmann loose. He ran through the top-order, bringing Nottinghamshire down to 38 for 4. But Billy Gunn kept scoring, and he got support from the other end; the scoreline read 157 for 7 with a mere 25 minutes to go.

Then Lohmann struck, trapping Gunn leg-before for a valiant 72. Frank Shacklock followed shortly; when Sherwin was eventually caught-behind off Lohmann (who finished with 5 wickets in each innings) the clock had moved over to 6.17 PM. Surrey won with 13 minutes to spare.

What followed?

– Surrey topped the tables that season. Lancashire finished second, while Nottinghamshire came joint third, along with Yorkshire.

– Declarations were introduced in 1889.

Brief scores:

Surrey 115 (Maurice Read 48; William Attewell 5 for 36, Jack Mee 3 for 52) and 289 (Kingsmill Key 42, Bobby Abel 44, William Roller 53, Walter Read 92; Jack Mee 3 for 41, Wilfred Flowers 5 for 55) beat Nottinghamshire 89 (George Lohmann 5 for 39, Thomas Bowley 4 for 25) and 158 (Billy Gunn 72; George Lohmann 5 for 66) by 157 runs.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)