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Joined April 2020

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Interested in stadium politics, competition programming, sporting administration, cricket history and trivia

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Trumper scored his runs when it mattered most, and quickly too. He wasn’t a flat-track bully, grinding them out in matches going nowhere. Which no doubt contributed to his lowly average of only 23.38 in drawn matches, when other batsmen often boosted their averages.

By comparison, recent overseas players that have averaged highest (in excess of 65.00) in their own drawn matches include- Sangakkara (71.66), Kallis (74.89), Kohli (70.91), Lara (71.30), Tendulkar (65.41), Dravid (64.80), Chanderpaul (68.11) and Gavaskar (65.64).

If Trumper had achieved similarly in his own drawn matches, his overall career average (39.04 in a period of uncovered pitches, less powerful bats, no protective equipment, longer boundaries etc) might have reached 50.00, which is equivalent to a figure of around 65.00 in today’s more-favourable batting conditions.

The only other leading batsmen in history with remotely similar characteristics are Graeme Pollock (60.97 overall, but only 49.52 in draws) and Steve Waugh (51.06 overall, but only 35.74 in draws).

Why Victor Trumper remains unrivalled as the greatest batting exponent in history

Renato, here’s a statistic to reinforce your argument that context is key-

Of Australia’s 17 highest-averaging batsmen (minimum 20 innings, 48.21), 15 averaged more in drawn matches than across their overall career.

For example Bradman (111.90), Smith (106.75), McCabe (87.11), Ponsford (82.25), Voges (80.00), Clarke (75.66), Border (68.70), Hussey (64.63), Hayden (60.00).

The two outliers are Steve Waugh (only 35.74 in drawn matches) and Marcus Labuschagne (27.50 to date, from a small sample).

By comparison, Trumper’s average in drawn matches was 23.38.

Why Victor Trumper remains unrivalled as the greatest batting exponent in history

On this day in 1943, one of the greatest of left-handed spin-bowlers died, in a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy.

At Lord’s in 1934, he took 14 wickets in one day’s play, to give England its only Ashes win there in the entire 20th century.

The best Test team of left-arm spinners

One of my all-time favourites, Frank Woolley of Kent and England. 64 Tests, the last when aged 47, for 3,283 runs and 83 wickets.

978 first-class matches for 58,959 runs (second only to Jack Hobbs) including 145 centuries, 35 nineties and 89 ducks. Apart from five Test centuries, he scored 95 and 93 at Lord’s in 1921 against an Australian attack including Gregory, McDonald and Mailey. He was one of cricket’s most stylish batsmen, in the class of Trumper and Ranji.

Plus 1,018 catches (still the world record) and 2,066 wickets. Against Australia at The Oval in 1912, he took 5-29 and 5-20. Against New Zealand in 1930, he took 7-76 and 2-48.

The best Test team of left-arm spinners

This is a real stretch, but the great England and Yorkshire left-handed batsman Maurice Leyland.

At Cape Town in 1930-31, his slow left-armers returned 30-6-91-3 in a total of 8(dec)513. His victims included the wonderfully-named Xenophon Constantine Balaskas for a duck, and the great Herbie Taylor, to “collapse” South Africa from 4-473 to 6-479. He took 466 first-class wickets in total, with 11 five-fers.

The best Test team of left-arm spinners

Just picked a copy up from the library. At very first glance, great stuff, including so many “obscure” photographs. If I’m not careful, I’ll incur a sizeable overdue return fee.

I wonder what similar analyses of Grace, Ranji, Lohmann and Barnes would reveal ? Were they skewed eg by those two bowlers’ statistics against South Africa ? Maybe keen English historians have already broken down their performances over time against Australia, the champion county sides, Gentlemen, Players etc.

Why Victor Trumper remains unrivalled as the greatest batting exponent in history

Skiddy bowlers, bouncer at throat-level, lose less pace off pitch ?

Making short work: The ultimate munchkin XI

High efficiency, in terms of runs-per-inch and wickets-per-centimetre !

Spoiled for choice, with wicketkeepers. Apparently Kruger van Wyk who played nine Tests for New Zealand in 2012 (but none against Australia) was only 4’8″ (1.42m) ? But not having Fox, I never saw him play.

Gavaskar and Viswanath were brothers-in-law.

Making short work: The ultimate munchkin XI

Clearly no problem finding enough high-quality left-handed batsmen for a 2nd XI, 3rd XI and even 4th XI. Pollock, Harvey, Morris, Chanderpaul, Lloyd, Gower, Hill etc.

But bowlers who have taken 200-plus wickets, and also bat left-handed, are rare- only Starc, Vaas and Wagner (fast), and Herath, Vettori, Jadeja and Al-Hasan (spin).

Not left overs: Lefties XI

If it makes you feel better, his real name is actually Robert Graeme Pollock.

Not left overs: Lefties XI

Hi I2I,

13 August is International Left-Hander’s Day, so you’ve gone off 3 weeks early !

Maybe play left-handed batsman Rangana Herath (433 Test wickets) ahead of right-hander Derek Underwood who’s a bit of an imposter ? If nothing else, it will save the extra expense of purchasing right-handers’ batting gloves, thigh guards and leg-guards for the shared team kit !

And Paul makes a good point about finding room for Graeme Pollock.

Not left overs: Lefties XI

Hi Renato,

I already had Trumper in my best-ever teams, as a match-winner in the most challenging situations. I based that on the views of experts who watched and played against him and his peers, and against those of the eras immediately before and after. Clearly he was no flat-track bully, and opponents feared him.

But I’m going to have to track down your book, as this sub-set of statistics hasn’t deepened my belief. Perhaps figures that didn’t fit in this article, add weight to the case ? And doubling or tripling real scores made on wet pitches (eg turning 38 into 95, and 31 into 77, and 13 into 31), seems a subjective way of comparing long-ago players.

In Tests he averaged 45.80 in Australia but only 27.83 in England, and 33.00 when opening but 48.81 down the order. Was the difference in pitch quality, and between English attacks away and at home, really that marked ? And was facing the new ball, really in his teams’ best interests ?

In a timeless Test, or even a 3-day match of more than 120 overs daily, was a first-session onslaught really worth the risk ? Even given the benefits of making hay while the sun shone, should an uncovered pitch later become unplayable.

Maybe Australia was less successful against some counties than it was in home Tests, partly because it used them to experiment with combinations and tactics, and rest key players ? In Trumper’s four tours, Australia lost only once each to Yorkshire and the MCC, and never to Lancashire or an England XI.

Why not add performances against Kent (who won the title in 1909, and defeated Australia in 1899), Essex (who defeated Australia in both 1899 and 1905, and against whom Trumper scored a century in each innings in 1902) and Sussex (who finished 5th, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in his tours’ seasons, and against whom Trumper scored 300* in 1899) ? Not to mention against the Gentlemen, Players, South of England etc.

Also, if citing Trumper’s performance in a match that a team-mate didn’t play, perhaps it would make statistical sense to correspondingly cite the team-mate’s performance in a game without Trumper ?

Anyway, thanks for prompting this discussion among so many Roar regulars. I’ll definitely be looking for your book in my local library, to answer these questions.

Why Victor Trumper remains unrivalled as the greatest batting exponent in history

Hi Renato,

I’m a Trumper-phile, so don’t need much convincing. Love Beldam’s iconic photo (which the Roar has credited above to “Bedlam”) and Cardus’ writings on the Golden Age (while noting that he wasn’t born until 1889), and wish that I could have seen Trumper, Ranji and Woolley in particular bat.

The eye-witness reports mean far more to me, than any statistics such as these ones. No doubt you’ve read all of them. Cardus wrote “But not by counting Victor’s runs, not by looking at any records, will you get the slightest idea of Trumper’s glorious cricket. You might as well count the notes of the music of Mozart.” And many experts who agree with you watched and even played against both him, and the greats of the first half of the twentieth century.

Regarding your methodology, out of interest, did you consider using figures from other matches with strong opponents such as Sussex (5th, 2nd, 3rd and 3rd in the seasons of Trumper’s tours), Kent, Middlesex, Gentlemen, Players, South of England and CI Thornton’s XI ?

Not to belittle the achievements of one of my heroes, but daily over-rates of 110-120 in his era would have assisted fast scoring, by comparison with those achieved by the West Indies in the 1980s (70-80 per day) and nowadays (80-90 per day). While still acknowledging the challenges of sea travel, uncovered pitches, no protective equipment, no support staff, longer boundaries, poor (if any) sightscreens, and scoring only 4s and 5s (with the loss of strike) for what are today given as 6s.

Finally, what effects do you think his various illnesses might have had on his levels of performance ? And how do you rate the influence on the game, and statistical outputs, of WG Grace and KS Ranjitsinhji ?

Why Victor Trumper remains unrivalled as the greatest batting exponent in history

Thanks Jon,

I think that you’ve found the strongest XIs to have ever taken the field, physically and statistically. What might have been but for war, apartheid and WSC ? Unfortunately, fantasy teams for 1915-16 and 1943-44 must remain just that.

A 1943-44 Australian team could field every Invincible except Harvey (then aged only 15). As each player would be 4 years younger, Bradman (35), Hassett (30), Barnes (27) and Brown (31) would be closer to their prime. Plus, leading pre-WWII players McCabe (33), Fingleton (35) and O’Reilly (38) would still be available.

And during the mid-1970s, a great pre-isolation South African team (still including Barry Richards, Mike Procter, Graeme Pollock, Eddie Barlow, Peter Pollock and Denis Lindsay) might have added many of Clive Rice, Vincent van der Bijl, Garth le Roux, Denys Hobson, Ken McEwan, Hylton Ackerman, Henry Fotheringham, Kevin McKenzie, Alan Kourie and Ray Jennings.

Which was the greatest Test team assembled on a single day?

Hi Jon,

Congrats on yet another great effort. These were the three most dominant teams of all time, but also the perfect combinations for their specific playing conditions. If earlier teams had only one advantage, it was their versatility and balance to handle more unpredictable match situations.

How would the 1946-52 Australians have handled current workloads of 12-15 Tests, 20-30 ODIs and 5-10 T20Is annually, especially their older players ? How would the 1980s West Indian teams have handled bowling 110-120 overs per day (not 70-80) in timeless Tests, including when uncovered run-ups after rain meant that their fast bowlers could not bowl ? How would 1990s Australian teams have coped without protective equipment and armies of support staff ?

Honourable mentions to the 1975-76 Australians that World Series Cricket prevented from further dominating during 1977-79, and the 1969-70 South Africans who without isolation and with earlier transformation might have dominated the 1970s similarly. By my calculations, their differentials were 112 and 137 respectively.

As far as match-ups go, I’d love to see a 1915-16 Ashes series. England (Hobbs, Woolley, Gunn, Mead, Fry, Rhodes, Barnes, Foster etc) was undefeated in its last 15 matches pre-WWI. Australia was then undefeated in its first 16 matches post-WWI, including eight successive wins over England, and with many players who were in their prime well before cricket finally resumed in 1920.

You could say the same for an Ashes series during 1940-1944 with neither country weakened by WWII service, interrupted or delayed careers, and in some cases loss of life. England (younger Hutton, Compton, Hammond, Leyland, Bill Edrich, Farnes, Verity etc) was dominant during 1938-39, while many of Australia’s Invincibles would have been at their peak well before 1945.

Which was the greatest Test team assembled on a single day?

Hi I2I,

A couple of genuine surname pairings, that looked great on Sydney Grade cricket ground scoreboard nameplates one under the other.

In the mid-1970s, Mosman Cricket Club’s First Grade team included Allan Border and David Colley, each of whom played for Australia but six years apart.

In the early-1990s, Manly-Warringah Cricket Club’s First Grade team included Greg Bush and (can’t remember his first name) Tuckerman.

Cricket's funniest partnership names

https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/29396588/has-july-produced-most-prolific-test-bowlers

A timely article on Test cricketers’ birth-months. Every Test cricketer, every country. Nearly 3,000 players in total to date.

Obviously each country has its own unique circumstances depending on cricket season, northern or southern hemisphere, school year, junior team age cut-off date etc

Calendar Ashes: September-born at The Oval

Please disregard Pocock, he’s a Pat !

An international XI of Peters

Batting reserves- Peter Willey, Peter McAlister
Pace reserves- Pedro Collins, Peter Lever, Peter George, Peter Martin
Spin reserves- Peter Philpott, Peter McIntyre, Peter Petherick, Peter Pocock
Chairman of Selectors- Peter McAlister (but stay away from the window)
Umpires- Peter Parker, Peter Willey
Commentators- Peter Roebuck, Peter Peters

An international XI of Peters

Australia v England playing hours in Australia, prior to 1986-87 (my reference book was published in 1986)-

1876-77 four days

1878-79 three days

1881-82 four days, could be extended if necessary (but final Test maximum four days)

1882-83 to 1936-37 to a finish (but 1891-92’s final Test maximum six days)

1946-47 to 1958-59 six days (but in 1946-47 and 1950-51 final Test timeless if series not decided, and in 1954-55 final Test seven days if series not decided, and in 1958-59 final test eight days if series not decided and also weather interfered)

1965-66 to 1982-83 five days

Timeless Test matches: Play until there's a result

More correlation for the Relative Age Effect in Australian cricket ?

Birth months of all 207 Sheffield Shield players of the past five seasons, 2015/16-2019/20-

12 January
12 February
16 March
16 April
16 May
17 June
15 July
16 August

16 September
23 October
22 November
25 December

1 unknown (Brad Davis)

Live cricket on television can’t return quickly enough…

Calendar Ashes: September-born at The Oval

Cheers Rowdy,

The Cricinfo website makes it easier, but it still takes hours. Using books eg annual Wisdens would take weeks.

Calendar Ashes: September-born at The Oval

Rain washed out play just after tea. The team got a warning during the interval, by ham radio, that a thunderstorm had broken 15 miles away. Batting team captain Hammond was asked to return the next morning, but refused. By then, everyone had stopped caring. Playing conditions allowed pitch rolling each morning if it had rained overnight, so each day’s pitch just kept being rolled flatter and harder.

Timeless Test matches: Play until there's a result

Birth-months of all 458 Australian Test cricketers to date-

28 January
36 February
36 March
39 April
36 May
40 June
33 July
35 August

43 September
49 October (including 14 of the last 100, since 1994)
41 November (including 13 of the last 100)
42 December (including 12 of the last 100)

38 average number per month

Calendar Ashes: September-born at The Oval

Thanks Peter,

Here’s an interesting day-by-day description of the last one ever played-

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/dec/22/the-spin-cricket-the-timeless-test-1939

“Before the match began, Melville gave a pair of complimentary tickets to the crew of an Imperial Airways flying boat, who were making a turnaround in Durban. They had watched the first day’s play, then set off on the four-day journey to Britain. This Sunday the same plane was back in Durban, having been there and back again. The new crew had borrowed that same pair of tickets, and came down to the ground for the denouement.”

Timeless Test matches: Play until there's a result