The day Victor Trumper hit 335 for Paddington, sending the ball out of the ground 22 times……
Long Life to Victor Trumper!
That brave, hard-hitting soul,
That pounder, smasher, thumper
Of all that Rhodes can bowl
Ground, press-box, pavilion
Have seen what he can do;
His worshippers are million,
Although his rhymes are few.
The lines appeared in Argus, penned by ‘Oriel’. It was in honour of the hero, the man who had captured the imagination of the newly federated Australia. In the wet summer of 1902, he had blazed the grounds of England like few before or since. And then, on the way back, he had delighted the South African spectators with some scintillating batting on Australia’s first ever Test tour to the land.
Hence, there was little time for Trumper to play for his beloved Paddington that summer of 1902-03. Indeed, he batted just five times for the club. Four of the innings were short-lived, amounting to 39 runs.
But that knock at Redfern Oval against Redfern is discussed to this very day.
It was January 31, 1903. The streets of around the ground were blocked with tradesmen’s carts, as news filtered through that Trumper would be batting. The park was full, the trees surrounding the arena populated with fans on every branch.
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According to Jack Davis of The Referee: “Between nine and ten thousand people put in an appearance at the Redfern Oval. It is the largest attendance ever seen on the ground and the attraction was largely ‘Trumper’. As a rule the caretaker of the ground has some little work to keep the small boy from climbing over the picket fence and depositing himself in the grass in the shade of the crowd, but in this instance he had nothing to do, for the small boy was unable to root his way through the spectators, deep and densely packed round the ground.”
The hero did not disappoint.
The 335 runs he got that day still stands as the record in Sydney senior cricket.
Redfern used 10 bowlers that afternoon, in sending down 80 six-ball overs. Trumper hit his 335 runs in 180 minutes, with 39 fours and 22 fives. Fives, because that is what one scored with strokes that cleared the ground.
The Redfern Oval was a small ground. But Trumper did not merely hit the ball out of the ground, he sent them to neighbouring streets. By then the streets were filled with vehicles lined up, with drivers standing upright on them to catch a glimpse of the play.
Tibby Cotter, the Australian fast bowler, did it 16 times for Glebe against Waverley in 1906-07, and by then they counted as sixes. That is the closest anyone has come to Trumper’s record for clearing the ground in Sydney grade cricket.
Six of these hits resulted in lost balls. Either that, or they were surreptitiously pocketed as souvenirs.
The most famous of them was the lofted on-drive that cleared the fence by more than 50 feet, sailed over the second floor of John Hunter’s Boot Factory 150 yards away from where Trumper was batting. The ball ended up smashing a window. When it was boarded up, it remained a tribute to the gallant batsman.
The South Sydney Leagues Club stands at that spot today.
Another hit soared out of the southern end of the ground to the second-floor balcony of a terrace house. A third bounded across Elizabeth Street and almost entered the bar of the Australian XI Hotel.
Years later, in 1937, the legendary barracker Yabba described some of the strokes in the Truth.
“The Ebsworth stroke, square out of the ground with the wicket, on the off side, was improved on by Trumper. He lashed the ball clean out of the ground by means of the means of that stroke without making the ball describe a lofty, aerial curve… With all the fieldsmen on the fence, underarm lob bowling was used in a vain attempt to curtail the onslaught of bat on ball. Trumper’s reply was to hit two successive deliveries bouncing among the date palms in the park next to the ground towards the Redfern Street. Local shop owners, who had by this stage, boarded the front windows of their establishment joined the thousands who roared their approval of each stroke. The participants on the bowling green adjacent to Redfern Oval prudently ceased their play to obviate being maimed and watched Trumper from a safer vantage point. The drive that got the great batsman his 300 was another fiver that hurtled over a fence well away from the ground into a carrying yard.”
One report says that hearing the roars of the crowd the Chinese shopkeepers were led to believe that a riot was underway and put their shutters down.
The Arrow mentioned the misfortune of yet another man due to the big-hitting: “The driver of a baker’s cart, standing on his vehicle in the street in the southern end of Redfern Park, was intently watching Victor Trumper at the wickets, when the ball from the bat sped through the air, and, with the fleetness of thought struck the admiring baker’s man a thumping blow on the shoulder.”
Trumper and Dan Gee added 423 for the first wicket in the three hours. The side declared at 618 for 9.
On the following Saturday, Redfern capitulated to 57 all out, with Test great Monty Noble picking up 7 for 27. In the second innings they fared slightly better, managing 122. Paddington won by an innings and 443 runs.
One of the Redfern cricketers later reminisced to Arrow: “Nothing like it was ever seen before, and nothing like it will be ever seen again. It is too much to believe that any one batsman — such a batsman even as Trumper — will repeat it.”
Sydney Sportsman summed it up: “To try and describe Vic’s innings on paper would mean failure: it required to be seen to be fully realised and appreciated, and it will be sufficient to say that it was a marvellous and masterful display.”