Albert Trott © Getty Images
Albert Trott © Getty Images

Albert Trott was not your everyday cricketer. To begin with, he was the first to clear the Lord’s pavilion with a straight shot, way back in 1899. Of course, he used a three-pound bat. He played only thrice for Australia  and averaged 102.50 — the highest in their illustrious history. The number took a toll after he played twice for England, but those 2 Tests fetched him 18 wickets.

Trott was a better bowler than batsman — but only just. They made him bat at 10 on debut and he scored 38 not out. In the second innings he batted at 10 again, this time getting 72 not out. And then he skittled out England with 8 for 43.

What of the 1907 match, then, where he took field for Middlesex at Lord’s? Trott had a ‘normal’ match till the fourth innings started, with Somerset requiring 264 and reaching 77 for 2. Trott, wicketless in the match till that point, took 4 wickets in 4 balls. A shell-shocked Somerset reached 97 for 7 — and then Trott took another hat-trick.

This also meant that he suffered a financial loss, for it was his benefit match — which meant it cost him hours worth of gate money. “I’ve bowled myself to a workhouse,” he quipped after the match.

Unfortunately, his final days were sorrier. Loneliness and depression ate into him, as did dropsy, and alcohol only worsened things. Trott shot himself when he was only 41.

But years before that, when in his prime, Trott was one of the most formidable bowlers, first in Australia, and to a greater extent in England (where they called him ‘Albatrott’). He was certainly aware of it; and to combine with that, he had a nice sense of humour. Thus, when his Middlesex teammate Henry Bates took to spitting pellets on the ground, Trott did the same — not one at a time, but in mouthfuls.

But we are deviating from our story — though that is quite natural when we are discussing Albert Trott. The incident may be true or false — there is no proof on either side — but it is certainly worth narrating.

There is no date provided, and neither do we know the exact match. However, 1902 reports suggest the incident took place when MCC toured the season before, so it was probably during their 1901-02 New Zealand tour. The story may be true or false; there is no evidence either way.

Before the match, a local professional had proudly announced that “Trott was one of the worst bowlers that ever won a reputation”.

Everyone probably expected an intense tussle, more so because Trott had lost his temper before. He had once walloped a Middlesex colleague with a hairbrush after the latter had fielded sloppily.

However, things turned a bit anticlimactic. When the professional reached the crease, all Trott had for him were a folded piece of paper and a request, asking him to not read the note before he got out. Then the batsman took stance, and Trott started his run-up.

The first ball hit the batsman on the body. There was a murmur of semi-amusement all around, criticising the poor batsman for his folly.

The batsman, now desperate, had a wild slog at the ball. Unfortunately, it was too good for him, and beat the bat. Once again they laughed, fielder and spectators alike, as Trott walked back to the mark, leaving the batsman both helpless and livid.

The third ball hit the stumps, and everyone erupted into laughter. The dejected man swallowed his pride and walked back. It was not until he reached the pavilion that he opened the note.

The message was clear: “Trott wins £5 if he hits you with the first ball, makes you miss the second, and bowls you the first over. Is he a good bowler?”

The story, I repeat, may be entirely anecdotal, but then, you never know: he was that kind of a man, ‘Albatrott’.