In a career lasting from 1875 to 1902, Arthur Shrewsbury, the Nottinghamshire opening batsman, led the first-class batting averages seven times, attained the highest seasonal average of any batsman at that date and hit ten double centuries. He was an automatic choice for England, twice captaining his country in a series against Australia. Shrewsbury also financed and managed four England touring teams to Australia, led the great strike of Notts’ professional players of 1881; and ran in conjunction with his Notts and England team-mate Alfred Shaw, one of the leading sports goods businesses of his day.
At the age of nineteen Arthur Shrewsbury began to play regularly for Notts County Cricket Club. Arthur’s batting soon began to receive critical acclaim and before long he was being selected for inclusion in such representative matches as the Players v. Gentlemen. He was widely rated as competing with W. G. Grace for the accolade of best batsman of the 1880s; Grace himself, when asked who he would most like in his side, replied simply, “Give me Arthur”.
An opening batsman, Shrewsbury played his cricket for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and played 23 Test Matches for England, captaining them in 7 games, with a record of won 5, lost 2. He was the last professional to be England captain until Len Hutton was chosen in 1952. He was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1890. In England tour of Australia in 1884-5 Shrewsbury was England captain. In the First Test at Adelaide Shrewsbury opened for the first time in Tests, scoring a duck and 26 not out as England won by 8 wickets. England won by 10 wickets in the Second Test, with Shrewsbury scoring 72 and 0 not out.
The next two Tests were lost with Shrewsbury making scores of 18, 24, 40 and 16. In the deciding Fifth Test at Melbourne he played a captain’s innings scoring 105 not out after dropping down the order his maiden Test century. Australian critic Felix described the innings: His play throughout was a treat to look at, and that neat and effective stroke of his between square-leg and mid-on is worth copying.
He made a large number of his 105 in this spot. His defence was splendid, his cutting clean and telling, his timing could not well be excelled. Shrewsbury finished the Test series with 301 runs at 50.16 and made £150 from the tour, the figure reduced by the boycotting of several matches by the 1884 Australians.
In 1885 Shrewsbury’s best innings of the season was to come against the touring Australians and the demon, Fred Spofforth. Shrewsbury warmed up for the Second Test (England won the First Test by 4 wickets) with another hundred against Grace in a Gentlemen v Players fixture. In the Second Test at Lord’s Shrewsbury demonstrated his ability on sticky wickets against top bowling: against a side containing Spofforth, the finest bowler of the era, he finished the rain-interrupted first day unbeaten on 91, and carried this to 164 in easier conditions on the second day.
The second highest score in the match was 58 by Billy Barnes, and Australia lost by an innings. England completed a whitewash with another innings victory at The Oval. Shrewsbury finished the season with 1404 first-class runs as once again Nottinghamshire retained the county title. England toured Australia in 1886–87 with Shrewsbury once again captaining the team. In two low scoring Tests (no team innings totalled as many as 200) Shrewsbury contributed 46 runs as the tourists won the series 2–0. In 1887–88 Shrewsbury made his final tour to Australia. The two touring teams combined for a Test Match against Australia at Sydney. Shrewsbury top scored with 44 in a low-scoring match which England won. Shrewsbury was the first cricketer to pass a 1,000 Test runs when he reached 7 during his innings of 106 at Lord’s in 1893. His career total of 1,277 runs was a record until January 1902 when it was overtaken by Joe Darling.
Shrewsbury had held the record for over 15 years; only Clem Hill and Wally Hammond have held the record for longer. Two of Shrewsbury’s three Test centuries came at Lord’s including his highest Test innings of 164, a score which remained a Test record at the ground until 1924 when it was beaten by Jack Hobbs. In six innings at the ground Shrewsbury scored 395 runs at an average of 65.83. Shrewsbury set a number of batting records for Nottinghamshire. He scored the county’s first double-century in 1882 and scored seven of the county’s first eight double-centuries. He was also the first Nottinghamshire cricketer to score a hundred in both innings of a match.
His 1887 county record of six centuries in a season wasn’t beaten until 1925. He never toured thereafter, but would keep playing until 1903 in first class cricket. Shrewsbury complained of kidney pains during a match for Lenton United on 27 September, and during the winter he consulted various doctors and specialists who could discover nothing seriously wrong with him. During the spring his health started to improve, but it was unlikely that he would play county cricket in 1903. On 12 May 1903 Shrewsbury bought a revolver from a local gunsmith. He returned a week later after having difficulty in loading the gun.
The clerk found that Shrewsbury had the wrong bullets and supplied the correct ones. Shrewsbury went to his bedroom that evening and shot himself first in the chest and then, when that did not prove fatal, in the head. His girlfriend, Gertrude Scott, found him bleeding from a head wound and by the time a doctor arrived Shrewsbury was dead. At the inquest, held the following day, the coroner decided that Shrewsbury had committed suicide, his mind having been unhinged by the belief that he had an incurable disease. The coroner added that there was, however, no evidence to show Shrewsbury was suffering from a major illness The only person present in the house at the time of Arthur Shrewsbury’s suicide was his girlfriend, Miss Gertrude Scott. She was later found to be the main beneficiary in his will, being left all his personal effects and £1,000.
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