On the first morning of the Old Trafford Test of 1902, Victor Trumper unleashed a fierce counter attack on Wilfred Rhodes, Bill Lockwood and the rest to race to a century before lunch – remarkably, it came as no surprise.
It’s 1902. Australia has just completed a 143-run win at Bramall Lane to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match Ashes series. At the height of a drenched English summer, the fourth Test commenced on a miserable Manchester morning.
With Australia’s openers confronted by a wet Old Trafford pitch, the conventional approach would have recommended stonewalling until lunch; their most prized batsman had other ideas.
It would take just 115 minutes of that morning session for the Sydney teetotaller Victor Trumper to touch cricketing immortality.
Pristinely pulling full-length balls from Wilfred Rhodes and Bill Lockwood, he hit 16 fours en route to the first ever Test century before lunch. Remarkably, to this day only three batsmen have repeated the feat – Charlie Macartney in 1936, Donald Bradman in 1930 and Majid Khan in 1976.
Yet back in 1902 it was no great surprise. Renowned for converting perfectly pitched balls into half-volleys and triumphing where more orthodox batsmen failed, Trumper the champion was considered better on bad pitches than good ones.
Of his batting, Harry Altham, a well-respected coach at the time, said: “From start to finish, on every sort of wicket, against every sort of bowling, Trumper entranced the eye, inspired his side, demoralised his enemies and made run-getting the easiest thing in the world.”
Australia went on to win the Test by three runs, which remained the smallest winning margin until Edgbaston 2005. The tourists won the series 2-1.
Trumper was Wisden’s cricketer of the year in 1903. He died in 1915 of kidney disease. He was 37.
First published in 2008.