Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ran about all day

The Australian cricketer Victor Trumper, once called the best batsman in the world, died a century ago today - and he was only in his late 30s. He is particularly remembered for the astonishing feat of scoring 100 runs before lunch on the first day of a Test Match in England. While researching a biography of Trumper in the 1980s, the author Ashley Mallett found a small diary Trumper had kept during that match and others of the 1902 tour to England. While history has made much of that tour and Trumper’s role in it, the man himself - rather amusingly in retrospect - seems to have hardly noticed the excitement, and more often than not simply recorded in his diary ‘as usual ran about all day’.

Victor Thomas Trumper was born in 1877 in Sydney, and was, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, probably a great-grandson of Charles Trumper, hatter, and his wife Jane, née Samson, who were married in London in 1834 and migrated to Sydney in 1837. Victor’s father was probably a footwear manufacturer, and well off enough to keep him at Crown Street Superior Public School. On leaving school, Victor became a junior clerk in the Treasury.

However, cricket was taking up much of Trumper’s time. When still only 17, he had played at Sydney Cricket Ground, scoring well in a game against a touring English team; soon after he played for New South Wales against South Australia. In 1899, he was selected for Australia’s tour of England, where he is known to have impressed the famous W. G. Grace. And, in 1902, Trumper had a remarkable season in England scoring an average of 48.49 runs. During that tour, he also became the first player to score a century on the first morning of a Test Match. That year he was described by the cricketer’s bible Wisden as ‘the best batsman in the world’. He was also a clean living young man - a teetotaller, non-smoking, Anglican.

In 1904, Trumper married Sarah Ann Briggs, a sister-in-law of J. J. Kelly, Australia’s wicket-keeper. The same year Trumper, with Hanson Carter, opened a sports store in Sydney. As well as cricket, Trumper was involved with rugby, and this involvement increased during 1907 when meetings for players discontent with the current administration met in his store. Discussions continued and led to the formation of the New South Wales Rugby Football League, with Trumper as treasurer. He continued playing cricket through to 1914, valued as much for his ability to play on bad wickets as for his scoring ability per se, but his health failed rapidly thereafter, and he died on 28 June 1915. Further information is available at Wikipedia, the Australian Dictionary of Biography, or ESPN Cricinfo.

During that famous 1902 tour in England, Trumper kept a simple, brief diary. Here is Ashley Mallett - author of Trumper - The Illustrated Biography: The greatest batsman of cricket’s Golden Age (Macmillan 1985) - explaining how he found the diary:

‘During my research into the Trumper story, I came across a tiny Collins diary. The diary, with its gold edged pages, was Victor Trumper’s diary - the one he carried with him on the 1902 tour. As a cricket writer the Trumper diary meant as much to me as stumbling across the Lost City of Atlantis would to an archaeologist. It provides us with a fascinating link with the 1902 tour. The diary is not one in the mould of a ship captain’s log, but the sort of small notebook a young cricketer might keep to note coming events, travel arrangements, shows, test and county game dates and the like. Perhaps Trumper wanted to record events chronologically for later reference, perhaps with the idea of writing a book. Yet Trumper was very much a self-effacing man. He hated publicity for publicity’s sake and if he disliked anyone, it was the man who boasted about his achievements. The contents of this diary have not seen the public light of day for some 83 years. Perhaps it was high time we delved deeper into the mystery of Victor Trumper.’

Mallett’s chapter on the 1902 tour - called Diary of a Champion - at 50 pages is easily the longest chapter in the biography. Every day of the tour is described in great detail - in contrast to the laconic entries of Trumper’s diary! Here are several entries, as found in Mallet’s book, many of them about the days of the Test Matches (which were played over three days at the time).

26 May 1902
‘Played MCC [Marylebone Cricket Club, based at Lords]. . . ran about all day. Hard ground . . . 41 not out. MCC dinner at night.’

27 May 1902
‘Continued innings made 105. Side made 270. Poor score. They did not do so well. Very tired. Stayed in and packed up.’

28 May 1902
‘Last men ran us about. Mitchell made 44, 3 hrs and gave 4 chances. I made 86 . . . wanted double century [i.e. two centuries for match]. Left for Birmingham.’

29 May 1902
‘England won toss. As usual ran about all day . . . very tired. Wrote letters home.’

30 May 1902
‘Finished innings. Raining . . . wet wickets. A made 36 . . . batted badly. 2nd innings made 8 n.o. Total score for no wickets. Theatre flag half mast.’

31 May 1902
‘Still raining leave for ground at 1 o’clock. Started match 5.15pm simply to get the crowd in a good humour. Match a draw. Saved us from a good hiding.’

12 June 1902
‘Test match . . . raining hard . . . Mac[Laren] won toss, batted. Two for none . . . had four chances off me . . . wrote letters.’

13 June 1902
‘Rain, no play. Saw Gay Lord Queux [Gay Lord Quex - a play by Arthur Wing Pinero] . . . passable.’

14 June 1902
‘No play. Rain. Saw Opera, Covent Garden. L’elisir d’amor, The Elixir of Love . . . good. HC with me.’

3 July 1902
‘Match started. Made 1. Our chaps made 190 odd. Abel and Archie batted well.’

4 July 1902
‘England 49 behind. Wickets rolled on the quiet. Made 62 in 47 minutes. Clem [Hill] 100. England, Jessop 50 not out, bowled fast.’

5 July 1902
‘Hurras. Won match. Glorious. All drunk . . . Left for Birmingham. Arrived 12pm.’

24 July 1902
‘Wet wicket. Fourth Test. Won toss, made 299. Self 104, RAD 50. 1st W 135. England 5 for 70. Tate 1st test. Fire G Peak and Coy.’ [This was the day Trumper made his record-breaking 100 before lunch!]

25 July 1902
‘England 262. Jackson 122. Bowlers done badly. Australia 8 for 85. Things gloomy. Darling 37. Refused admission theatre.’

26 July 1902
‘Won by three runs. Australia 86, England 120. MacL 35, Theatre Knowles . . . glorious time.’

27 July 1902
‘Left for London. Done out of compartment by women. All have sore heads.’

11 August 1902
‘Test match. Good crowd. Made 42, batted fairly well. Side shaped well.’

12 August 1902
‘Wicket worse. Lead of over 100 for 2nd inngs. Run out 2 . . . easy run. Clem 30. WA not out. HT and JK to go in.’

13 August 1902
‘Test over. England a glorious game. Deserved to win. Wicket bad. Catches missed. Great excitement. Glad Tests all over . . .’

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