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Don Bradman - 1932 - 1949


On the 30th of April 1932 Don Bradman married Jessie Menzies. The two met many years earlier when Jessie came to stay with the Bradman family while they both attended the Bowral school. Sir Donald would later describe their union as the greatest partnership of his life. (Their marriage remained a strong union until Lady Jessie Bradman died in September 1997 after a battle with cancer. Sir Donald survived her until February 2001).

Bradman and Bodyline

The term 'Bodyline' was first used by the Australian media during the England cricket tour to Australia in 1932-33.

Essentially, it was a tactic used by fast bowlers to take wickets by intimidating batsmen with the ball. Quick bowlers, and they had to be very swift for the tactic to work, would bowl short, rising deliveries aimed at the batsman's body. The batsman would be forced to fend the ball off defensively to a packed, close, leg-side field who would snap up the catches commonly offered.

Don Bradman's phenomenal success in the 1930 Ashes series sewed the seeds for Bodyline. England were widely expected to easily beat Australia but Bradman's Test scores of 131, 254, 334 & 232 saw Australia win the series 2-1. Bradman's series Test average was 98.66. The 1932-33 England Captain Douglas Jardine recorded that he saw Bradman flinch once or twice at short deliveries during the 1930 series. He instructed his two opening bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce (both from Nottinghamshire) to bowl what he called 'leg-theory' (later Bodyline). Larwood, though small in stature, was a phenomenal athlete and had the ability to bowl very quickly and get the ball to lift. Voce was similarly quick and a left-hander which made him difficult to play off the body.

During the 1932-33 series this bowling partnership, under instruction from Jardine, bowled Bodyline at regular intervals in games. It was not a popular decision with Australian crowds who loudly heckled the Englishmen. Australian batsmen, especially the openers, Fingleton, Ponsford and Richardson were struck many painful blows much to the crowds' displeasure. Bradman was only hit once in the series, on the upper arm, but spent much of his time avoiding the ball at the expense of making runs. The tactic was working.

Feelings came to crisis point during the third Test in Adelaide in January 1933. Australian Captain Bill Woodfull was struck a painful blow by Larwood over the heart. His wicket-keeper, Bert Oldfield, was hit in the head also by Larwood fracturing his skull. The crowd threatened to invade the pitch and mounted police were ready to quell any violence.

At the end of the day's play the England Manager Sir Pelham 'Plum' Warner visited the Australian dressing room to commiserate with the injured. The Australian Captain Bill Woodfull is reputed to have received him icily with the words; 'I don't want to see you Mr Warner. There are two teams out there. One is trying to play cricket, the other is not.'

The depth of ill-feeling between the two teams led to Australian Cricket Board of Control to write by cable to its England counterpart, the Marylebone Cricket Club on January 18 1933;

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

The MCC took offense and a series of bitter exchanges ensued, at one point involving both countries governments.

In the end, England won the series and blunted Bradman to a Test series average of 'only' 56.57 runs per innings. There was never a formal acknowledgement from the England authorities that Bodyline bowling was unsportsmanlike but subsequent actions indicated a recognised culpability. Douglas Jardine would never again captain England against Australia while Harold Larwood never played Test cricket again, despite topping the England 1st class bowling averages in 1937. Another legacy of the tactic was a change in the cricket rules. Bodyline was banned and a law was introduced to prevent no more than two fieldsmen gathering between square-leg and the wicket-keeper.

Consequently, the 1934 Australian tour to England featured no Bodyline bowling and relations between the two teams quickly healed.

Don & Jessie Move to South Australia

Don Bradman and his beloved wife Jessie moved to Adelaide from Sydney in 1934 for business reasons. In 1935 Don was appointed captain of the South Australian team and a State selector.  In December 1935 he scored 117 in his first Sheffield Shield match for South Australia, ironically against his former team, New South Wales.

A Test Captain

Bradman was appointed an Australian Test selector in 1936 upon the death of Dr Dolling, a previous selector. He was also, in the same year, appointed for the first time Australian Test cricket captain against the visiting England Team led by George 'Gubby' Allen. The two team's met in the First Test on 4 December, 1936 at Brisbane.

The Second World War, 1939-1945, intervened in Bradman’s playing career. Post-war Test cricket resumed in 1946 when England toured Australia.

Post-War Revival

Bradman was elected to the Australian Board of Control in August 1945. He had not played cricket for five years and did not expect to play for Australia again because of severe muscular spasms from which he regularly suffered. He did however accept the Australian captaincy in 1946 against Wally Hammond's English team in an effort to help a post-war recovery.

In 1947-48 India came to Australia for the first Test series between the two countries. While playing for an Australian XI at the Sydney Cricket Ground Bradman scored 172, his 100th first class century. Australia won the series 4-0 with Bradman's batting average 178.75. During the tour Bradman announced that the forthcoming tour to England would be his last.

Over fifty years ago in March 1948, captained by the world's greatest batsman Don Bradman, the Australian Test team sailed for England. Their tour was to end some eight months later where the Australian team, not having lost a single match, were dubbed The Invincibles - the greatest Australian side in history to leave our shores.

The 1948 team surpassed all records by winning four out of the five Tests and remaining undefeated throughout the tour. They remain the only side not to have lost a match while on tour.

In winning they were extremely convincing. In half their matches they won with an innings to spare, two by 10 wickets, one by 9 wickets, two by 8 wickets and one by 409 runs. Seven of the seventeen players completed 1000 runs. Eleven batsmen between them hit 50 centuries while the English batsmen could only manage 7. The Australian bowlers took 89 Test wickets while the English took 50.

Clearly the Australians had a very strong side that dominated the entire English summer. Behind Bradman was a phenomenal batting combination, which amassed 15,120 runs for an average at just under 50 per wicket. In addition they scored the runs quickly in their desire to play entertaining cricket. When one batsman failed there was always another to score the runs. Indeed for players down the order, it was common to hear good-humoured complaints that they were not getting a chance to bat!

The bowling was outstanding, with eight Australians bowling over 350 overs on the tour. England had no answer to the speed and accuracy of the pace men. Nor were they able to adjust to the spin. In addition to this the Australians rarely dropped a catch and under Bradman and Lindsay Hassett's leadership kept a very tight, competitive and well thought out field.

The 1948 tour was a fine finale for Bradman. He enjoyed captaining an undefeated team that many would consider the strongest side to ever take the field. He felt he was leaving the Test arena with Australia in a strong position.

Bradman's last Test match appearance has probably become one of the most talked about moments in cricket history. This match, Australia v England (5th Test), 1948, in England, at The Oval is where Bradman was to make a stunning exit from the Test cricket arena.

Bradman came out to the crease for his last Test match amidst a thunderous ovation which lasted several minutes. He was bowled a "googly" by Eric Hollies on his second ball, misjudging the ball and thus getting 'out for a duck'. Hollies was to write later, "I don't think Don saw it properly. He seemed to have tears in his eyes".

Bradman missed a Test total of 7000 runs by just 4 runs, (finishing with 6996 total Test runs), which would have given him a Test career average of 100, instead of 99.94.

Bradman wrote in Farewell to Cricket, 1950, "I dearly wanted to do so well. It was not to be. That reception had stirred my emotions very deeply and made me anxious - a dangerous state of mind for any batsman to be in. I played the first ball from Hollies, though not sure I really saw it. The second was a perfect length googly which deceived me".

Batting with Bradman at the time was Arthur Morris, who went on make 196 runs. Keith Miller was in the dressing room when Bradman returned from the crease, and according to Miller, when Bradman was unbuckling his pads, he simply said "Gee whiz, fancy doing that!".

Bradman’s Testimonial

In early December over 94,000 people flooded to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch Bradman in his testimonial game. The match finished with the scores level after Don Tallon added 91 in the last hour with nine wickets down. Bradman scored 123 in the first innings.

The 1949 New Year's Honours List included Don Bradman as Knight Bachelor recognising his services to cricket and to Commonwealth sporting links. He was invested as Australia's first cricket knight in March 1949. He became the only Australian cricketer ever to be knighted.

He remarked on receiving the Award: "This was an honour that I never sought or dreamt about. If there had been nobody else to please but myself I would have preferred to remain just plain mister. But it was an honour for the game of cricket and in that context I accepted the responsibility of the title conferred by knighthood but one thing I do feel very proud of and that is that few people have ever carried the title of 'Lady' as graciously as my wife has and that if ever a woman deserved to be called a 'Lady', she did".

In 1950 he published his biography, Farewell to Cricket.