Trumper gets 100 before lunch, Trumble hauls 10 in the match, but the game goes down in history as

Hugh Trumble took six second innings England wickets for 53 runs to bring about a dramatic collapse © Getty Images

July 26, 1902. Amidst heart-stopping excitement, Australia bowled out England for 120 to win the Old Trafford Test by three runs and secure the Ashes. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the immortal match which saw Victor Trumper score a century before lunch and Fred Tate become immortal for dropping a sitter. But it was Hugh Trumble’s six-wicket haul in the second innings — and 10 in the Test — that swung it in Australia’s favour after England needed just 32 runs with seven wickets in hand.
At the wrong place at the wrong time

Perhaps it was fate, perhaps a tactical blunder. Perhaps captain Archie MacLaren was at fault, perhaps he was not. Future Australian captain Warwick Armstrong, who had been waiting pensively for his turn to bat when that infamous lapse took place, did remark three decades later that the fault actually lay with the leg-spinner Len Braund.

But whatever be the root cause, the effect ended in a tragedy that sunk English hopes and relegated Fred Tate forever into the realms of embarrassment. The stigma would never be removed from this honest toiler with the ball.

Had his selection in the team itself been the fundamental mistake? The cricketing circles were rife with criticism for his being preferred over such a weighty name as George Hirst. Why go for a 35-year-old off-spinner who had never played for England before by leaving out a champion all-rounder of established credentials? Especially when down 1-2 in the Ashes?

Even Wisden criticised it as “a blunder”. Was it the infamous Lancastrian prejudice against Yorkshiremen at work? Or did England selector and Yorkshire supremo Lord Hawke prefer to secure his county’s chances in the domestic championship, and hence kept Hirst, and also fast medium bowler Schofield Haigh, out of the side? There is also the theory that MacLaren left Hirst out and chose Tate because he wanted to demonstrate to the selectors the folly of their choices.

Hirst returned in the next Test match at The Oval and took six Australian wickets before guiding England to a one wicket win in the nail-biting last stages of the game. Another man omitted from the team at Old Trafford, Gilbert Jessop, returned to play one of the most murderous match-winning innings of 104. All this has gone down as stuff of legends.

However, to be fair to the selection, Fred Tate had been phenomenal in the domestic season till then, picking up 128 wickets at 12.63 from the first 14 matches. The soft and slow wicket at Old Trafford suited his style. MacLaren might have been lauded for his acumen if things had turned out differently.

Whatever be the reason and rationale, when Syd Gregory took a single and captain Joe Darling came on strike on the second afternoon, MacLaren made his next crucial decision. The score read a little more than nothing for three. Bill Lockwood looked lethal. He had already dismissed Victor Trumper, Clem Hill and Reggie Duff with a mere seven runs between them. The 37-run first innings deficit was already neutralised by quick blows.

At the other end, Len Braund was bowling his leg breaks. And Gregory pushed him for a single. It brought Darling on strike, a southpaw and an excellent striker of the ball. On that slow, damp wicket, the deep square leg was a vital fielder for a leg-spinner bowling to an aggressive left-hander. The specialist in that position was Lionel Palairet, a Somerset teammate of Braund, who patrolled the square boundary at Taunton. And he had been stationed deep on the leg field for Gregory. Now, with the last ball of the over coming up, MacLaren chose the easy way out. Instead of Palairet dashing across the ground to the other extreme end, Tate, from the infield on that side, was pushed back to the fence.

In 1933, Armstrong claimed that it was Braund who wanted Tate to be placed there.

The off-spinner, a kindly fellow who never hurt a soul, had no throwing arm to speak of. Hence, for Sussex, he generally found himself at slip, or in the covers. Now, he waited for the pivotal delivery, in all probability hoping that it would not come to him.

The leg-break spun in to Darling. He was on 17 at that time. The Australian captain got down on his knee and played the slog sweep. It soared up, high and hopeless, straight in the direction of Tate. The crowd waited to erupt in ecstasy. The fielder watched it descend, wavering in the breeze. He positioned his hands, hoping that it would somehow find a way to stick. Perhaps then he could go back to slip where he belonged, where a dropped catch did not stretch eternally across time and space into a huge tale of humiliation.

Tate never looked like holding the catch. He found himself out of position, a fatal misjudgement, and made a desperate grab with his left hand. The crowd gasped. The ball went down irretrievably, the red blob bouncing on the green, rolling along before coming to a stop. The Manchester crowd witnessed the most famous fielding error in the history of Ashes until Shane Warne dropped Kevin Pietersen 103 years later to balance the equation for England.

Tate wondered if the famous Old Trafford turf would be kind enough to open up and swallow him. The shock soon resorted to questions of the most obvious kind. Did anyone in his right mind think George Hirst could have missed it? Hell, several members of the crowd claimed that they themselves would not have missed such a gift of a catch. What was the man doing on the field anyway?

Darling and Gregory added 54. It was Tate himself who broke the stand, trapping Gregory leg before. He picked up another wicket to finish with perfectly decent figures of two for seven off five overs. He even caught Bert Hopkins in the slip off Lockwood.

But, Darling top-scored with 37. Ironically, he was caught in the outfield by Palairet off the slow left-arm bowling of Wilfred Rhodes In the context of the match that was a monumental contribution. Australia ended the day at 85 for eight and, after five hours of continuous rain early next day, finished their second essay at only 86. Even Wisden wrote, “If the catch had been held it is quite likely, as Lockwood was bowling in such wonderful form, that the Australians would have been out for 50 or 60.”

But now, England required 124. As Justin Parkinson wrote in Maurice Tate’s biography Then came Massacre, “Tate’s drop had turned winning from a formality to a probability.”

Well, Tate must have returned to the dressing room and though that the worst was over. The England batsmen would win the match and he would be back in Brighton, in the familiar fields of county cricket. The ardent desire to be picked for some tours this late in his career had probably died a cruel death. There would be no financial benefit as a professional at this late stage of the career. He had literally muffed his chance. Old Tate was not a character to survive high tragedy under the limelight in the city.

But, he was only halfway through his ordeal.
The magic of Trumper

If MacLaren’s error proved pivotal, it was Darling’s call on the first day which had set the ball rolling Australia’s way. On a rainy morning, Darling won the spin of the coin and decided to bat. The pitch was wet, but not yet the drying out dampness that is associated with a sticky dog. As it turned out, the balls did not leap and shoot and imperil batsmen from all angles. The pitch was slow, absorbing the pace of the ball, sending them at a comfortable clip to the batsmen. A bit more sun, as was expected with time, would reduce the wicket to vicious. But for now, it could be batted on. As the Manchester Guardian noted, “The winning of the toss … meant the winning of the game.”

And on that wicket Trumper strode out, dashing, debonair and handsome. MacLaren’s directive was precise as England took field, “Keep Victor quiet. The pitch will be sticky as the day goes on, then we’ll bowl them out as fast as they come in to bat.”

But, Trumper’s genius could not be subdued with intent or instruction. The bowling was punished with great freedom of willow and spirit. Two lofted drives went straight over the sightscreen into the practice ground, holding up play as the ball was recovered. According to the rules of the day, only four runs resulted from the strokes. But, Trumper reached his 50 in 52 minutes, added 135 with Duff in just 78 minutes. MacLaren confessed, “Victor had half a dozen strokes for the same kind of ball.”

The Australian 150 came up in an hour and a half, for the loss of only one wicket. Clem Hill had come in for Duff and he too did not slacken pace for stability. Seven minutes before lunch, Lockwood began an over with Trumper on 92. And the batsman’s blade flashed as he pulled twice to the leg boundary, on both occasions off his stumps. The century had come in 105 minutes, and included 14 fours, three threes, and six twos. Old Trafford had been witness to history, the first century before lunch on the first day of a Test match. And it rose as one to congratulate the young master.

Trumper gets 100 before lunch, Trumble hauls 10 in the match, but the game goes down in history as

Victor Trumper… first batsman in history to score century before lunch on the first day of a Test © Getty Images

The Times observed, “His innings was marked by splendid hitting on the leg side, and his placing on the off side was remarkable. He is certainly the finest cricketer on all wickets we have had from Australia.” The feat of a century before lunch has been repeated only three times, by Charlie Macartney, Don Bradman and Majid Khan.

Neville Cardus later wrote that he had been at the ground as a boy, and one of the strokes of Trumper had struck him as he had sat with his friends on the boundary. It is probably a rehashed figment of his fanciful imagination, but this was an innings which had the license of being embellished with romantic fiction. Cardus wrote of the day: “His cricket burns always in my memory with the glow and fiery hazard of the actual occurrence, the wonderful and consuming ignition. He was the most gallant and handsome batsman of them all … His swift and apparent daring, the audacity of prancing footwork, were governed by a technique of rare accuracy and range.”
Jackson responds

Trumper was out soon after lunch, for 104, getting a thin edge off Rhodes. Hill and Darling got half centuries, but Lockwood and Rhodes soon made short work of the rest. The Australian innings ended at 299. Tate, having spent a fitful night trying to sleep in a rented Manchester attic, sent down 11 overs for 44 runs without success.

When England batted, that diabolical off-break bowler Hugh Trumble paired up with the slow left-arm spin of Jack Saunders to cast a spell on the batsmen. Three wickets were lost for just 14, and then a curiously tentative KS Ranjitsinhji was out leg before for a painstaking two.

It was 44 for five when that superb trendsetter of batting’s Golden Age, Stanley Jackson, and the light hearted leg-spinning all-rounder Braund, joined hands and willows. With infinite caution the two stretched the innings into the second day.  Slim and classy, Jackson was England’s response to Trumper’s audacity in the match. Braund lent him splendid support. The score had reached 185 when Braund departed after a composed 65. The Yorkshire amateur, sensing the end of batting resources at the other end, threw his bat at the bowling. Seventy seven runs were added with the last four batsmen, with none of the tail-enders scoring more than seven. Jackson was last out for 128, having added 27 for the last wicket with a resolute Tate. It was perhaps Tate’s only high point in the match, the stubborn knock of an unbeaten five.

And then followed the three Lockwood wickets and the soaring catch to deep square-leg that spilled through the hands of Tate.
The battle of the last day

Trumble and Saunders started the Australian attack yet again as the England batsmen walked out in pursuit of 124, MacLaren coming out with Palairet to start the innings.  At lunch they were still together, the score on 36. The series looked all set to be squared. The crowd was in the best of spirits, the match almost in the bag, the dropped catch all but forgotten. A smile perhaps touched the lips of Tate as well.

And then the sun peeped through, hesitantly at first and blazing down within a few minutes. By the time the batsmen were back after refreshments, the wicket started demonstrating the unnerving signs of a sticky.

Palairet was out at 44, to a huge break from Trumble. But, the Englishmen were still soaring with optimism. With Johnny Tyldesley striking the ball well, and MacLaren demonstrating prime form, things looked bright even as the sun shone.

At 68, Tyldesley edged Saunders and the bucket hands of Armstrong closed around the offering. But now there was the prince walking out who could get the runs with a few magical twirls of his oriental blade.

However, Ranjitsinhji, that most fluent of players, scratched around, the noble soul of his art reduced to struggle for survival. And MacLaren was worried. If Ranji struggled, the rest would surely succumb. He tried to hit his way out of trouble and tension, lifting Trumble into the deep. At long on Duff held the catch. The skipper had played a priceless innings of 35. It was 72 for three.

On reaching the dressing room, a furious MacLaren flung his bat away, declaring he had “thrown away the match and the bloody rubber.” Not quite the perfect words for a leader to say in front of his side, more than half of whom were yet to bat. One wonders what effect this proclamation had on Tate.

When Ranji continued to pick at balls, apprehension radiating in currents into the stands, it seemed the spirit of the Indian prince had departed totally, the man who stood in his silk shirt rippling in the wind was a crude doppelganger.

Bobby Abel lofted one over the head of Hill for a boundary, and followed it up with some gallant strokes. The crowd buzzed excitedly for a while. And then Trumble ended the torture for Ranji, trapping him leg before wicket for the second time in the match, his four runs an eternity of agony for such a noble conjurer. He never played for England again. The score stood at 92 for four.

And soon after Jackson had emerged for his second knock, receiving a hero’s welcome from a crowd full of his Roses rivals, Trumble turned one a long way to hit the stumps of Abel. The win was not so certain any more with the score on a precarious 97 for five.

But it brought together Jackson and Braund, the men who had scripted success in the first innings. Wicketkeeper Dick Lilley, Lockwood and Rhodes were all able men with the bat. And supposedly, and here we have to quote the rather suspect chronicle of Cardus, whispers went around saying that Tate had hit a fifty sometime in his career. He indeed had. Six of them, with a highest of 84. But, none had come against an attack of this quality on a wicket this atrocious.

Runs came in ones and an occasional two. Every ball was accompanied by thousands of cracked knuckles, bitten nails and hopes and trepidations. And then Jackson reached out to drive Saunders and the ball held up. The stroke was made and mistimed. The shot went up. At mid-off Gregory held the catch. The sixth wicket down for 107. A man in the stands was furiously gnawing the handle of his umbrella as Lilley walked to the middle.

Two runs later Braund jumped out to Trumble. He missed and James Kelly had the bails off in a flash.
Now it started raining, but not hard enough to force the players away. Lockwood joined Lilley, given an ovation because of his bowling feats fresh in memory. At the other end of the city, office goers received the afternoon edition of the papers proclaiming ‘England 92 for three’. ‘Not worth making the trip all the way to the Old Trafford’, they agreed. ‘Hope they make the runs before it comes pouring down,’ someone else suggested. Those good old days without the curse of communication.

Lockwood looked overcome with tension, emotion, the enormity of the situation. Trumble, the wily veteran, flighted one up and the Nottinghamshire bowler played inside the line. His leg stump was hit. It was 109 for eight.

Lillee and Rhodes, capable batsmen both, took the score along to 116. Eight runs were needed. Lillee was throwing his bat, and Rhodes looked poised and cool, with nerves that almost reflected the glint of steel. And now Lilley struck Trumble, high and hard, into the deep square, a part of the ground where no fielder could be sighted. The crowd roared. The required runs were about to be halved. A great hit under pressure.

And then from the corner of the eyes following the ball, one made out the frenetic form of Clem Hill, running full tilt from the distant post he had been asked to patrol, covering ground like a greyhound. Was it possible to save the boundary?

Hill saved it in the most emphatic possible way, clutching at the ball before it had bounced, the momentum carrying him across another half length of the ground after he had made the catch. Again we return to Cardus and his storehouse of tales on the borderline of history and mythology, delving into his enormous abundance of apocrypha. There supposedly was a parson in the crowd — one of the favourite professions that popped up everywhere in his chronicles. And the reaction of this man of cloth was: “A sinful catch.”
Tate’s last moments of torture

Now Tate was in. A man who earned his keep as a professional with the ball, set to be remembered in history for whatever he now achieved with the bat. And if he failed, his fielding would tag along as an eternal reminder of his crimes.

The batsmen had crossed and Rhodes played out the remainder of Trumble’s over. It is highly debatable whether Hirst or Rhodes had really said, “Let’s get it in singles” during their last wicket partnership in the Oval Test that followed. But, Rhodes could have done with a scampered one now. Because, down came pelting rain and the players had to go off the ground. And along with them followed the uneasy feeling that if the rain stopped it would be Tate to take strike and try to win it for England.

For an agonising 40 minutes the players waited. In the sadistic recesses of the mind, one can imagine the thoughts fleeting by in poor Fred Tate’s head. If rain stopped it would all boil down to what he could do, with a piece of willow which never quite sat well in his hand. And at six minutes to five, the Australians were back in the field.  Tate took guard. Did he remember that he had not yet been dismissed in Test cricket? One can only wonder.

The first ball from Saunders was quicker through the air, and down the leg side. Tate played with a straight bat, a sound was heard and Tate looked frantically around. And then there was applause. It had run away down to finest of fine legs. The tall — then not-so-bulky — figure of Armstrong raced towards it on the boundary, but the ball beat the outstretched foot. Four of the runs were already collected. Four more to win. Another snick?

The second ball was played with a dead bat. It rolled out quietly in all this furore. And so did the third. Could he survive another three and give Rhodes the next over? The Yorkshire left-arm spinner would go on to open the batting for England with Jack Hobbs. He was still learning the craft of batting, but was fully capable of those four runs.

And then Saunders sent down a quicker ball that swung in. Even the best England bat would have been hard pressed to play it. It beat Tate’s bat and broke his wicket, and along with it his heart, and the hearts of the thousands of Englishmen who sat around the ground. Australia won by three runs.

In 1903, in the Sydney Morning Herald, one Australian cricketer in the touring party wrote, “The Australians ran off the field with delight. We got upstairs to the dressing room, and leaped and yelled to get the surplus froth off our wild joy. It was more than we could contain.”

Around Fred Tate it was a complete contrast. Apart from that one catch, he had done little wrong in the match. After all, a No 11 batsman cannot be expected to score runs on a wicket that had even a Ranji in dilemma. But, he was booed as he walked out of the ground after being bowled. In the dressing room for the professionals he cried. Sitting there, Braund tried to cheer him up, “Go on Fred, get upstairs and get your money — it’s only a game.” It did not work. Even on the way back, he broke down in the waiting room at Manchester.

On their journey back though the Midlands, Braund remarked, “Cheer up, Fred, it’ll be all over in a week or so.” The morose Tate had responded prophetically, “It never will.”

He was right. The match has gone down as ‘Fred Tate’s Test’. Not Trumper’s, nor Hill’s for all their magic with bat and on the field. It has been remembered for the batting and fielding bloomers of Tate, who made his living as an off-spinner.

Braund claimed that at the end of this conversation Tate looked at him and said, “I’ve got a kid at home who’ll make it up for me.” It is not known for sure whether these words were really spoken. But, this kid did make amends for his father.

As Abhishek Mukherjee writes, “Maurice Tate, only a boy of seven then, kept his father’s words: he went on to play 39 Tests for England, picking up 155 wickets at 26.16 (in addition to being a fairly competitive batsman who scored 1,198 runs at 25.48 with a hundred) and picked up 38 wickets from five Tests at 23.18 in his first Ashes series.”

In the outcry that arose after the match, one Yorkshire newspaperman could not forgive MacLaren and the selectors for the inexplicable error of leaving out Hirst in favour of Tate. The words that were published in the press had almost Biblical wrath: “Ministers of religion publicly prayed that heaven would open the eyes of these misguided men … When England lost by three runs, we felt this was the clearest instance of Divine retribution since the destruction of the Cities of the Plain.”

Brief scores:

Australia 299 (Victor Trumper 104, Reggie Duff 54, Clem Hill 65, Joe Darling 51; Wilfred Rhodes 4 for 104, Bill Lockwood 6 for 48) and 86 (Bill Lockwood 5 for 28) beat England 362 (Stanley Jackson 128, Len Braund 65; Hugh Trumble 4 for 75) and 120 (Hugh Trumble 6 for 53, Jack Saunders 4 for 52)  by 3 runs.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twiter.com/senantix)