Monday, March 3, 2014

Special Collections Fossickings 33: Trumper comes to town - part 2.

Previously we gave you the prelude to a remarkable cricket tour that drew crowds in regional Queensland more than a century ago. This week, thanks to John Hawkins’ painstaking research and careful account, we can imagine ourselves in the crowd at what surely must have been some of the most entertaining cricket matches ever played in the north.
Page 3, Photograph of Victor Trumper from John Hawkin's book "Trumper's team in Queensland 1906".
North Queenslanders were clearly under no illusions about the strength of the opposition, fielding sides of eighteen or thirteen men in order to ensure a decent contest against Trumper’s eleven. At the start of the first match Trumper, having won the toss, sent the Charters Towers XVIII in to bat. Despite an 8-wicket haul by Cotter, the Towers managed a creditable total of 187, one batsman doggedly taking an hour to score seven runs. Trumper and Bubb began their innings with a flourish, scoring 100 in half-an-hour, before Trumper retired injured with 75 runs to his name.  In Merlin’s “Sporting Flashbacks” one fielder’s effort to catch Trumper off a brilliant square cut is described thus: “Had he intercepted it, it might even have pulled his arm out.”  In the second innings, local all-rounder, Bill Porritt, made up for a first innings duck with a gutsy 56, contributing to a total of 198. With Trumper not batting a second time, the match ended in an honourable draw.
Reproduction of the cover of Official Souvenir booklet (in Hawkin's book).
In Townsville the second match was played under the shadow of Castle Hill on a pitch with a concrete wicket. Taking advantage of their 18-man side Townsville notched up a total of 246, but this was soon overtaken as the visitors cruised their way to 478. At this point the concept of sport as entertainment took over. Rather than trying to prolong their stay at the crease, the Townsville team agreed to declare early in their second innings – not before Jim Barnes had claimed a hat-trick – so that the crowd could enjoy the main attraction of Trumper in full flight. Spectators were treated to a splendid exhibition with 136 runs being scored in 25 minutes, 75 of them from Trumper’s bat.
Match between Trumper's XI and Townsville team at Townsville cricket ground, May 1906.  J Mathew Album, NQ Photographic Collection, ID 21884.
For the final match in the north, the visitors returned to Charters Towers to play a combined North Queensland 13-man side.  Despite a modest first innings total of 120, the locals went on to dismiss Trumper’s XI for only 98, with Bill Porritt delivering an in-swinging off-break to bowl Trumper for a paltry 15. In a second innings reversal of fortune, Trumper redeemed himself with a useful score of 63 while Porritt fell victim to a ball from Jim Barnes which he had expected to “go away to the off” but which instead struck his wicket.  It was very possibly North Queensland’s first experience of the “googly”. Again the match ended in a draw.

Ill-health brought Trumper’s brilliant test career to a premature end in 1912 and his death from kidney disease in 1915, aged 37, stunned the nation. Hundreds of cricketers marched with the cortege while thousands of Sydney-siders lined the streets. Many North Queenslanders must have recalled their good fortune at having seen the great man while he was still in his prime.

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