August 16, 2002

Trumper's last century lives on in New Zealand history


Arthur Sims' Australian XI 1913/14 touring team to New Zealand - including Victor Trumper (back row, second from right)
Cantabrians were lucky in the summer of 1913/14, they saw the last first-class century played by one of the legends of cricket - Victor Trumper.

He was in New Zealand on a private tour with a side known as Arthur Sims' XI. It was chock-full of top Australian cricketers and provided some marvellous cricket for New Zealanders in what was the last summer before the onset of World War One.

Little did they know that 15 months after he played one of the highest innings of his life, 293 for Sims' XI against Canterbury at Lancaster Park, that Trumper would be dead, the victim of kidney disease.

The other aspect of his innings was that with the tour's organiser Sims, he shared an eighth wicket stand of 433, that remains a world first-class record for that wicket.

His 293 is still the seventh highest first-class score on New Zealand soil.

It was one more than the maiden, and unbeaten, first-class century Trumper scored for New South Wales against Tasmania in 1898/99. It was the second highest score of his career, behind the 300 not out he scored for Australia against Sussex on the 1899 tour of England.

It was also his eighth score in excess of 200 runs.

Canterbury scored 92, Monty Noble picking up four for 25 and Arthur Mailey three for 17. But any disappointment Cantabrians felt was soon changed as Australia lost three wickets for 28 runs.

Australian then reached 105/5 by the end of the day, although Trumper hadn't batted as Sims deliberately held onto him with the Saturday crowd in mind. It was to prove a crucial decision.

On the Saturday morning of February 28, 1914, 5000 people turned up to Lancaster Park.

Sims went to the wicket when the first wicket of the day fell at 118/6. He started batting with Warwick Armstrong and when they had added 91 runs, Armstrong was out with the score 209/7.

Trumper came in and batted like a player who had been caged up and was having an overdue taste of freedom.

He hit his 50 in 26 minutes.

Alan Mitchell in his biography of Arthur Sims, "84 Not Out", noted of Trumper: "All his shots were firm and his timing exact. The Canterbury bowlers, recovering from this assault, kept on a length and the fielders on their toes.

"Trumper moved on to 80 and, passing Arthur's [Sims] two hour total at the point, went on rather more sedately to his century. It had taken him seventy-five minutes, the second 50 at little more than a run a minute."

"In 17 minutes, Trumper added another 50. Sims, realising what was happening, had the perspicacity to feed Trumper the strike. He hit 18 singles in order to turn the batting over to him. He reached his 200 with his fourth 50 coming in 39 minutes.

"Once again Trumper celebrated. Another twenty-one minutes flashed by and up went his score by another 50. By now the crowd was babel. Arthur had also passed his century in one hundred and ninety minutes," Mitchell wrote.

The side's 600 followed and Sims scored his third 50 in 45 minutes.

"When Trumper moved into the 290's his treble century seemed a certainty. Still the Canterbury bowlers kept at their work and [Joseph] Bennett was applauded for giving the scoreboard a brief rest by sending down a maiden. Then Trumper on 293, went for a big hit, got an outside edge, and D M [Don] Sandman took the catch at deep point.

"While the crowd rose and Trumper walked in happily - with every reason for an excuse to seek his bed early that night - and Arthur mopped his brow, the statisticians went to work.

"They had watched a world record eighth wicket stand - 433 in one hundred and ninety minutes, or ten minutes over three hours, and in that time Trumper had hit 293 runs, Sims around a century."

Trumper gave chances at 116 and 251.

Christchurch's Press newspaper said of the innings: "Those who went to Lancaster Park on Saturday got the cricket feast of a lifetime. There were probably very few in that big crowd who had ever seen anything like it, and doubtless the great majority will never see its equal again.

"There is only one Trumper in the world, and after watching him - for over three hours - execute his magic-like strokes all round the wicket, one could subscribe enthusiastically to the sentiment conveyed in his being styled 'the incomparable Victor.'

"Talk about the champagne of cricket! It was all that, with an electric sparkle running through it all the way."

Those who weren't among the large crowd that day were soon rewarded with the Press' description.

"The cricket scribe's vocabulary is quite inadequate to describe Trumper's innings. Much of the daring that electrified the cricket world a decade or more ago had departed. He is said to have mellowed with age, and strengthened his defence. It may be suggested that the mellowing process has left absolutely untarnished the superlativeness of his strokes.

"His defence may be sounder. Once can easily believe it, but that 'age has withered or custom staled' his remarkable powers as a batsman is unbelievable after his Saturday's display.

"His driving? It was equal to that of great batsmen who have specialised in the stroke. More often than not the only description of its power would be the pace at which the ball would be seen travelling to the fence and the remarkable short space of time it took to get there. His late cutting was a marvel.

"Bennett's perfect length ball just outside the off stump - the most deadly ball in his repertoire - was flicked away anywhere between slip and point with the ease and precision of timing that was absolutely artistic.

"But probably the most astonishing feature of his play was on the on side. Balls just clear of the leg stump whether they kept low or bounced high, were unerringly despatched towards the on fence, and the manner in which he kept the high bounding balls all along the sward and yet go the same power into the stroke, seemed nothing short of jugglery.

"Only cricketers could appreciate the difficulty of it. Altogether it was a display of batting, which for sound defence and purity of stroke with the maximum of aggressiveness and minimum of risk has never been equalled in Christchurch."

The Christchurch Star, the city's then evening paper described the innings as the "rejuvenescence" of Trumper.

"Upon how little an incident the success of failure of a game of cricket depends. Had [Harold] Bishop on Friday evening returned the ball to the wickets smarter than he did, Sims would have been run out for a blob. Instead, he defied our bowling all day long on Saturday, and kept his end up while the greatest of all batsmen piled on the runs."

The Star's writer, "Square Leg", noted that it had become fashionable to describe Trumper as a 'has been'. However, he could only wonder what the cricket lovers of Australia had been denied as the result of "the efforts made by the jealous ones to drive such men out of the game."

He also made the point that Trumper had long had an appetite for New Zealand bowling.

"To see Trumper going is to see the champagne of cricket, and Saturday's innings was forceful and extremely clever. But not-withstanding this he had a fair share of luck. Soon after passing his 100 [Charles] Boxshall caught him at the wicket, but Umpire Hanford gave him not out. Trumper, like the true sportsman he is, turned around immediately to the wicket-keeper and said, 'Hard luck, Boxy; I hit it.'

"That was indeed hard luck for Canterbury. He also survived a few very confident appeals for leg-before; and seeing the way in which he frequently covered up his wickets to glide straight balls, he was lucky to get the verdict."

And Sims, who was in the last days of his playing career on his home midden, also drew praise.

"Sims exceeded anything he ever did for his native province, and his effort shows that in good company a player's efforts are far more likely to succeed than in bad. Sims was, of course, quite overshadowed by Trumper, and yet it cannot be said that the Canterbury lad gave a chance.

"He was careful to a degree and played for keeps all the time, and was just as keen for runs at the close as at the beginning, and was heard to advise Trumper to go carefully so as to commence again on Monday."

The Lyttelton Times also had its say.

"It was when Trumper came in that the crowd sat up to watch proceedings intently, and everybody hoped that the champion would get past the critical stage and make a big score.

"There appeared to be no critical stage for Trumper.

"He opened out on Bennett with some perfect strokes to the off, placed right between two fieldsmen, who time after time would converge on the ball, but would fail to get it owing to its marvellous pace.

"One could have imagined that it was a purely exhibition effort. From driving to cutting, and back to leg glides the batsman seemed to have a supernatural knack of finding a clear avenue to the boundary."

The writer said Trumper's innings was beyond criticism.

"One could only marvel that any batsman could maintain such a sequence, not merely of correct strokes, but of ideal scoring shots, half a dozen of which would lift the average game out of the ordinary."

Trumper's placement of the ball was described as "an educative treat."

"If one had to praise a particular stroke it was the late cut. It was so late at times, that on one occasion his gave Boxshall a good crack on the gloves just as the ball entered them."

Sims' side won the game with ease, by an innings and 364 runs, still the largest winning margin in New Zealand first-class history.