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Bodyline - The History Section


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The History


An Introduction to Bodyline

Bodyline - how it was named Australian's & Bodyline in 1930
Bradman & the Board RES Wyatt & Bodyline Jardine & Bodyline - Part 1
Harold Larwood    

An Introduction to Bodyline

The aim of this site is to make sure that one of the most famous cricket test series if not the most famous is not forgotten. If you would like to learn more about the series or would like to join the e-mail list, then please drop me a line at

Bodyline has raised many questions over the last 70 years since it first appeared in Australia during the 1932 - 33 series against the touring MCC under her Captain; Douglas Jardine. Few Australians knew what to expect of the opposition when they took to the field in the First Test in Sydney, and the length prepared to go to silence Don Bradman, but they were to be left in no doubt what was in store as soon as the battle commenced.

There have been many views on Bodyline, and a number of books available to read on its history by players involved in the series like Jardine, Bradman and Larwood. Unfortunately as the years have passed, fewer books are now readily available making it harder for people to learn what truly happened in the 'dark days' of cricket! It is for this reason (and a few personal ones of my own) that I decided a little while ago to put together the most complete history on Bodyline, and today as I re write this introduction, I have had the pleasure in meeting family members of the players involved in this historic occasion and other dignitaries I would never have met if it were not for my site. For this reason, this site will always hold something special to me.

The Bodyline series was and still is a big part of Australian life, taking place during a savage depression when money for Test tickets was incredibly hard to come by. There were 'suggestions' from the MCC (before the tour was finalised) that the tour should be cut back to 3 Test matches after 2 profit loosing home Test series against the West Indies (their first to Australia) and South Africa. As we all know, the complete Test series was played, but this wasn't the last time we would hear of a shorter series offered by Lord's!

Bradman falls to Bowes first ball
Don Bradman bowled by Bill Bowes for a duck in his first Test innings at Melbourne (2nd Test)

The Australian Government of the time knew that if the Test series were shortened it would mean a great loss in revenue and publicity, both required by a starving nation.

The great Australian bowler and teammate of Bradman's Bill O'Reilly said of Bodyline "What we saw in Australia in 1932-33 was something quite different, and really you could only say that the intention was to scare the daylights out of the batsman, and to put him off his natural game. There was no doubt in our minds that when they put those five men close in on the leg side they were trying to hit the batsman. Douglas Jardine knew what had happened at the Oval in that last Test in 1930, and he knew that Bradman was the difference between the two teams".

Although England had a number of fast bowlers in their squad, Harold Larwood is the name synonymous with the actual execution of Bodyline. He was at the peak of his career and a quick bowler who enjoyed the hard fast pitches of Australia. He made life hell for the Australian batsman during the series and took a bag full of wickets. However contrary to popular belief he only struck two of the Australian batsmen during the series, such was the myth of the man and became hated by the Australian public. Jardine too became unpopular with the Australian public and record crowds attended the Test matches to see how the Australian's handled the bowling. Tension also developed between the two teams.Bill Woodfull - the gentleman

The 3rd Test at Adelaide was described in Wisden as the most unpleasant ever played. During the first Australian innings Captain Bill Woodfull

was struck a powerful blow above the heart by Larwood. The very next ball Jardine moved his fieldsman into the Bodyline positions. The crowd was incensed. Later that day Woodfull uttered his famous words:- "There are two sides out there. One is trying to play cricket, the other is not. The game is too good to be spoilt. It is time some people got out of it".

On the third day Australian batsman Oldfield was struck in the head and sustained a fractured skull. Once again the crowds went crazy and Jardine and Larwood were their main targets. Later that day the Australian Board of Cricket sent a telegram to England protesting about the use of Bodyline tactics.

The telegram read:

Bodyline assuming such proportions as to menace the best interests of the game, making protection of the body by the batsmen the main consideration. This is causing intensely bitter feeling between the players as well as injury. In our opinion it is unsportsmanlike. Unless stopped at once it is likely to upset the friendly relations between England and Australia.

The Complete Illustrated History of Australian Cricket says that "Parliamentarians and diplomats in Canberra and Whitehall joined in the controversy as the Test was played out. There were brawls in Australian hotels between supporters and critics of Bodyline, and while Fleet Street newspapers labelled Australians as squealers, Australian newspapers suggested somebody would be killed if Bodyline was not quickly outlawed".

This prompted high level diplomatic meetings between Australia and England and it appeared that relations between the two countries would become strained. Eventually diplomacy prevailed. England went on to win back The Ashes meaning that Bodyline had served it's purpose. Bradman had the highest Australian batting average for the series of 56.57 but compare this to his Sheffield Shield average for the same period of 150 and it is apparent that Bodyline had a marked effect.

Eventually Bodyline was outlawed and there are still rules in force today to prevent its return.

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