Magellan Ashes 2017-18

Trumble's unique Ashes history that almost wasn't

How a plea issued to Hugh Trumble in 1903 saw him shelve his banker's attire and secure a unique place in Ashes history

Andrew Ramsey

29 December 2017, 01:31 PM AEST

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

At 193 centimetres — or six feet four inches in the currency of his day — Hugh Trumble cast an imposing presence over Test cricket on his way to becoming its foremost wicket taker. 

It was a journey that brought the off-spinner, who often opened Australia’s bowling, the unequalled honour of two Ashes hat-tricks, but also acclaim as the only player to secure the feat having already retired from the game. 

Notwithstanding his return of 141 Ashes wickets from 1890 to 1904 — a record that stood for 75 years until Dennis Lillee swept past him — Trumble cut a strikingly distinctive figure. 

His Test captain Monty Noble observed Trumble’s bowling action as ‘sidelong and insinuating, with his neck craned like a gigantic bird’. 

In deference to Trumble’s lanky levers, his prominent ears and even more conspicuous nose, England captain Sir Pelham Warner endearingly dubbed him ‘that great camel, Hughie Trumble’. 

Blessed with elongated fingers that could grip and rip a ball to impart sharp spin, he honed his metronomic accuracy on the backyard pitch at his family’s home in Melbourne’s inner east. 

Trumble’s father, William — a leg break bowler for South Melbourne’s grade club and superintendent at the Kew Lunatic Asylum — would place a feather at the point at which he believed good spin bowlers should aim and challenged his son to hit it. 

Ashes Folklore: No Brotherly Love

Those dual qualities made Hugh Trumble a feared adversary on hard, dry pitches and an insurmountable one on surfaces rendered soft and tacky by rain. 

Such a pitch awaited him on the final day of the 1901–02 second Ashes Test at the MCG, which England entered at 5-147 chasing a distant 405 to secure a 2-0 series lead. 

Heavy rain overnight and in the morning meant play did not resume until after lunch, at which point England folded inside an hour with their final three wickets tumbling in consecutive Trumble deliveries. 

John Gunn, Arthur Jones and S. F. ‘Syd’ Barnes all swung in hope at the fizzing off-breaks and hit catches high into the air. 

The last of these catches was accepted by the bowler, who got to pocket the ball as a keepsake. 

Australia would win the remaining three Tests of that summer, with Trumble installed as captain for the final two when incumbent skipper Joe Darling was compelled to tend his farm in Tasmania. 

The ever-present tension between cricket demands and financial security then loomed large for Trumble at the end of Australia’s 1902 tour to England, his fifth and most successful Ashes campaign abroad. 

Employed as a bank clerk since 1887, Trumble had returned from each of his previous England tours to find that less experienced workmates had been granted promotions in his absence. 

Ashes Folklore: Alderman's 'bad tackle'

On arriving home in 1902, Trumble announced his retirement from Test cricket aged 35 to devote more time to his profession, and was soon rewarded with an appointment as branch accountant. 

However, when Warner’s England team won the opening Ashes Test of the 1903–04 summer, a plea was issued for Trumble to shelve his banker’s attire and once more don cricket creams. 

The spinner duly turned out for the remaining four Tests and, while his return could not prevent England re-taking the urn, it did deliver him a unique place in Ashes history.

In his final spell as a Test bowler, aged 36 and on his beloved MCG, Trumble relived his rare feat of two years earlier. 

On a pitch once more enlivened, the banker-turned bowler accounted for England tailenders Bernard Bosanquet (caught in the outfield), Warner (a victim of Trumble’s famed slower ball, caught and bowled) and Dick Lilley (lbw) in as many deliveries. 

When Trumble ended the match and his career by rattling the stumps of England’s last man Ted Arnold soon after, he ensured entry to another exclusive club — those who claimed a wicket with their final delivery as a Test player.

This is an extract from ‘Under the Southern Cross – The Heroics and Heartbreak of the Ashes in Australia’ published by Harper Collins and licensed by Cricket Australia. It is available for purchase here

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test Australia won by an innings and 41 runs. Scorecard

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21