Albert Trott’s incredible debut began on January 11, 1895 and continued till January 15. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the Test where the mystique of the East baffled the Englishmen.
Few men have started their careers as emphatically as Albert Trott. His career was overshadowed by his elder brother Harry (who had led Australia), but in that particular Test at the Adelaide Oval, he overdid his illustrious brother as well as many other legends of his day.
The 1894-95 Ashes had taken off in the most spectacular of manners when Bobby Peel had bowled England to a 10-run victory in the first Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) as Australia lost their last eight wickets for 36 runs. It was the first time a side had won a Test after following-on. England won the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) as well despite being bowled out for 75 in the first innings: Andrew Stoddart scored an emphatic 173 before Peel and Bill Brockwell bowled the tourists out.
Australia included two debutants in the third Test at Adelaide in the form of two Victorians: other than Trott, they also included the off-spinner James Harry (it was his only Test). George Giffen won the toss and decided to bat under excruciatingly hot conditions.
[Note: Multiple records suggest that the temperature during the Test reached a maximum of 155°F or 68°C. Though this is not quite believable, it is definitely true that the conditions were really hot.]
Day One: The 10th-wicket resistance
Tom Richardson provided with the customary breakthrough when he clean bowled William Bruce 20 minutes into the match. Giffen joined Harry Trott and the pair batted at a brisk pace. Harry took three consecutive twos followed by an all-run four immediately after Giffen walked out and kept the rate along.
Then, with Harry on 48, Peel appealed voraciously for a leg-before decision that the umpire turned down. Giffen had meanwhile made a dash for the striker’s end; Harry, not willing to run his captain out, tried to reciprocate and ran himself out in the process.
The breakthrough was enough for Richardson. He bowled with hostile pace after lunch; he bowled Frank Iredale with a quick delivery soon afterwards. Briggs had replaced Peel meanwhile, and Joe Darling, trying to clear the ground, edged one high into the air. ‘Punch’ Philipson called for the catch and pouched it.
Syd Gregory holed out to Jack Brown at cover off Richardson, who bowled Harry almost immediately afterwards. Before he scored a run, Jack Worrall made a mad dash; Richardson, on collecting the ball, threw it to Philipson, who knocked the bails off. ‘Affie’ Jarvis began with two boundaries to the leg-side; Giffen joined in as well, bringing up 150 with a well-measured off-drive.
Stoddart replaced Richardson by Bill Lockwood, who responded immediately when Jarvis hit one back to him. Soon afterwards, Brockwell, who was bowling beautifully, was finally rewarded with Giffen’s wicket: the Australian captain was the ninth out for a 155-ball 58.
Things looked bleak for the hosts with Giffen’s dismissal: Australia were 157 for nine, and it seemed that England would seal the Ashes shortly afterwards. The last two batsmen, Albert Trott and Sydney Callaway, however, thought differently, and decided that hitting out was the only way out of the hole.
Albert hit Lockwood for the first five (there were no sixes then) of the match; Callaway responded, hitting two quick boundaries; Albert, hitting mostly in the V, drove for two more boundaries before Callaway hit another. Stoddart switched to Francis Ford; he found Albert’s edge, but the ball beat Richardson to the fence. Encouraged, Callaway square-cut for another four.
Runs came quickly and the pair added 81 runs in 70 minutes before Callaway was bowled to give Richardson his fifth wicket of the innings. Callaway had scored 41 with six fours, leaving Albert unbeaten on 38 with two boundaries and a five. It certainly wasn’t a poor effort for a debutant who batted at No 10.
Stumps were drawn with England on five without loss after 10 minutes of batting; Briggs, promoted to open batting, was unbeaten on four while Archie MacLaren was on a single.
Day Two: Bruce builds after Giffen-Callaway rout
The day began on a low key for the hosts when Briggs was dropped by Harry in the slips in Albert’s first ball: the batsmen scampered for an all-run four. Giffen opened with Callaway from the other end and replaced Albert himself. They would bowl unchanged throughout the innings.
Callaway kept MacLaren on check while Briggs was all at sea against Giffen. Several maiden overs were bowled before the batsmen changed ends after the Lancashire captain mis-hit a single. This brought Briggs against Callaway; he was bowled in the last ball of the over.
The attrition continued even after Brockwell’s arrival. MacLaren was still kept under control, and after a few nudges and pushes, Brockwell holed out to Harry to give Callaway his second wicket. At this stage, Callaway’s figures read 8-7-1-2. Giffen and Callaway came relentlessly at MacLaren and Albert Ward. Ward, unable to hold back any further, tried to hit Giffen out of the ground; Bruce took a good catch at long-on.
Stoddart walked out and pushed Callaway for a single to face Giffen. He was bowled off the last ball of the over. MacLaren welcomed Brown to the crease with an elegant leg-glanced boundary followed by an on-drive for four more. However, he was soon bowled by Callaway, and lunch was taken immediately.
It was agonisingly hot when play resumed after the break, but Giffen and Callaway continued to bowl. The Referee wrote: “The Englishmen attribute the collapse to the fact of their being physically incapable of batting owing to the excessive heat. Last night not a single man in the team they say could close his eyes.”
Brown began well after lunch, cutting Giffen for two boundaries in three balls. At the other end, unfortunately, Callaway bowled Peel for a duck. At 64 for six, England sensed trouble, more so because neither Giffen nor Callaway showed any sign of exhaustion.
Ford walked out. Brown, decided to keep the attack going, lofted Giffen for a straight four. Ford timed his strokes well against Callaway at the other end, but the Australian fielding was too good for him to score. At the other end Brown cut Giffen for two more boundaries.
Ford hit a ball from Callaway for a catch and started to walk off. However, the fielder confessed that it was a bump-catch and Giffen recalled Ford amidst great cheer from the crowd. The English 100 came up soon, but Ford fell shortly afterwards, holing out Worrall at long-on. The pair had added 47.
Lockwood survived Giffen’s first ball, but tried to loft the second; running backwards, Worrall took an outstanding catch to dismiss Lockwood for a duck. Philipson’s arrival was met with a minor storm that covered the ground with dust. It did not stop play, though.
The last two wickets fell quickly. England lost their final four wickets for 13 runs and were bowled out for 124, 114 runs behind. Brown was left stranded on a 70-ball 39; both Giffen and Callaway had picked up five wickets apiece.
Peel gave England the perfect start by bowling Harry for a fifth-ball duck. He removed the ominous-looking Giffen as well, caught brilliantly by Ford in the slips, but Bruce finally found support in Iredale. Iredale hit Richardson for four; Bruce responded by hitting Peel for two boundaries in the next over, one through point and the other straight.
Iredale hooked Brockwell hard for a boundary and then lofted Peel to long-on for four more. The band in the crowds responded by playing “’E don’t know where ‘e are”; Stoddart brought Lockwood on to put a rein on the scoring; the fifth ball of the over hit Iredale on his ankle, holding play up for a few minutes.
Bruce lofted Lockwood over Peel’s head at mid-off for a four, following up with a straight four, and an on-driven three. As the batsmen changed ends, Iredale hit two boundaries as well. Lockwood’s over cost him 19, bringing the Adelaide crowd to its feet.
Stoddart brought on Briggs. Bruce tried to clear the leg-side boundary off Briggs’ first ball, but was caught magnificently by Brockwell on the fence. Bruce had scored a solid 80, and 98 runs were added in 70 minutes. The Sydney Morning Herald called Bruce’s innings “pretty and effective”. He had hit 11 boundaries.
Lockwood then bowled a quicker ball to Darling and had him caught behind. Iredale remained unbeaten on 31 and Australia were 145 for four, 259 runs ahead.
Day Three: Iredale and Trott bat England out
Albert had to field early in the day. With the score on 171 for four, Lockwood injured his finger and had to retire. Albert entered the ground as a substitute for England, and pulled off a stunning save almost immediately. Lockwood returned soon, though. Shortly afterwards, Iredale edged one to Philipson off Richardson, but the wicketkeeper grassed the chance.
To restrict the scoring, Ford bowled to an 8-1 field, Stoddart being the sole fielder on the leg-side. Seizing the opportunity, Iredale swept Ford from outside the off-stump, bringing up the 300-run lead. Gregory, meanwhile, took a three off Briggs and then cut Richardson for four.
Richardson had his revenge, though: Gregory tried to flick the next ball, which took his edge and crashed into the stumps. He ran through Harry’s defence shortly afterwards, and Worrall, all at sea against Briggs’ “curly and cunning bowling”, hit him to Peel in the off.
The local hero Jarvis hit three boundaries almost as soon as he arrived. Then, with a late-cut that resulted in an all-run four, Iredale reached a well-deserved hundred. Jarvis eventually cut Briggs to Brown at point at the stroke of tea, and the 30-minute partnership of 45 had shifted the momentum. Australia already had a 397-run lead.
Iredale looked in ominous mood after tea: he hit Brockwell for two boundaries and then took Peel for a three. Stoddart replaced Brockwell with Lockwood; Albert chanced his arms and quickly hit two fours to reach double-figures. Iredale eventually fell for 140 when he mistimed Peel and hit one back to the bowler. The pair had added 64 from 45 minutes.
Albert and Callaway had added 81 in the first innings. Callaway began cautiously in the second innings, but that was all the support Albert had needed. He muscled his way to a well-made fifty, and kept on hitting out at the bowlers. Richardson and Ford, usually two of the most economic bowlers around, failed to keep him in check.
Things eventually came to a close when Callaway was clean bowled by Richardson. The last pair had added 64 runs in 45 minutes; Albert finished with an unbeaten 72 in 90 minutes with 11 boundaries. He had scored 110 runs in the Test without getting dismissed. England were left to score an impossible 526. Albert and Callaway remain the only last-wicket pair with two 50-run partnerships in the same Test.
Callaway opened the bowling with Giffen, but Albert took over after a few overs. MacLaren and Ward helped England to a 50-run partnership before the former hit Albert to long-on, where Iredale completed an excellent catch. The batsmen had changed ends, and Stoddart batted out a maiden against Giffen.
Albert bowled Ward in the next over. Philipson, sent in as night-watchman, scampered for a single, but was soon bowled by Giffen. From 52 without loss, England had collapsed to 53 for three; they eventually went to the pavilion at 56 for three with Stoddart on a single and Brown on a brace.
Day Four: The debutant runs through
That morning AE Clarke, president of the East Melbourne Cricket Club, had wired H Budd with the words: “TELL ALBERT I WILL GIVE HIM A GUINEA FOR EVERY WICKET HE TAKES.” In all probability, Albert might have got to know of the promise.
Stoddart stepped out against Albert and hit him for four early in the day. Albert then clean bowled Brown off his pads. With Brockwell for company, Stoddart decided to put his head down. He played a risk-free innings, as did Brockwell, though he edged one off Giffen for an all-run four.
The English hundred came up, but Brockwell fell soon afterwards when Albert caught him brilliantly off his own bowling. Peel hit one back straight to Albert the next ball and registered a pair. Ford saved the hat-trick before opening up against Giffen, hitting him over long-on for five.
Thus encouraged, Ford attempted a fierce cut off Albert Trott; Harry Trott took a splendid catch. Once again Albert had two in two when he cleaned up Briggs with a yorker first ball. Lockwood spent a few anxious moments before being beaten by Albert; he was dropped by Giffen the next ball; and trying to clear long-on the next ball, he was caught by Iredale.
Richardson walked out and slogged Giffen for two boundaries. Albert, meanwhile, bowled out a maiden to Stoddart, who still hung in grimly. Getting his opportunity to bowl at Richardson, Giffen bowled a slower delivery that Richardson hit to Albert at slip. Albert swiftly moved the ball from his hands to his pocket with the words “that’s worth keeping”.
England lost the Test by 382 runs. Albert finished with figures of eight for 43, while Stoddart was left stranded with a 115-minute 34. Albert Trott’s figures remain the best by anyone on his Test debut.
Of all cricketers with eight or more wickets on debut, Albert Trott had scored the most runs (110); John Lever, Peter Taylor, and Dominic Cork share the second place with only 53 each. Of all cricketers with 100 or more runs on debut, Albert Trott had taken the most wickets (eight); Bruce Taylor and Tony Greig share the second place with five apiece.
- Australia squared the series in the fourth Test at the SCG with an innings victory. After Harry Graham’s hundred and Albert Trott’s 85 not out took Australia to 284, Giffen and Charlie Turner bowled England out for 65 and 72 on a ‘sticky’.
- England, however, claimed the Ashes with a six-wicket victory at the MCG thanks to splendid performances from MacLaren, Brown, and Richardson.
- Albert Trott still holds the highest batting average among Australians. In three Tests, he scored 205 runs at 102.50. However, he shifted to England later and played two more Tests against South Africa, which brought his career average down to 38.00.
Australia 238 (Harry Trott 48, George Giffen 58, Albert Trott 38*, Sydney Callaway 41; Tom Richardson 5 for 75) and 411 (William Bruce 80, Frank Iredale 140, Albert Trott 72*; Bobby Peel 4 for 96, Tom Richardson 3 for 89) beat England 124 (Sydney Callaway 5 for 37, George Giffen 5 for 76) and 143 (Albert Trott 8 for 43) by 382 runs.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)
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