Ashes Tests: 37
Record: 11 wins, 3 losses, 5 draws
Off the Mark
There are good cricketers. There are great cricketers. There are legendary cricketers. And there is Bradman. In all of sport, “the Don” might just go down as the greatest athlete of all time. His overall average of 99.94 is the stuff of legend, with a second ball duck in his final match the only thing stopping him from averaging perfection.
It was clear from the outset that Bradman was going to be something special. His first tour of England profited scores of 131, 254, 334, and 232. His 974 runs at nearly 140 remains a record.
In a mesmerising career that spanned 20 years, Bradman tallied 5,028 runs at 89.78 in 37 matches against England. This record would have been even higher had he not been plagued by ongoing health issues, the War and the ill-fated Bodyline series.
Bradman’s introduction to captaincy was fierce. Australia lost the first two Tests in 1936/37, and pressure was already mounting on the man who many thought shouldn’t have been captain in the first place. The third Test in Melbourne would define Bradman’s legacy. After winning the toss, Australia limped to 9/200 on a wet wicket. With an eye on the conditions, Bradman declared in a bid to expose England to the demonic pitch. Morrie Sievers took five wickets as England slumped to 9/76. Sensing a trap, Gubby Allen declared. In a Joe Darling inspired move, Bradman reversed the batting order. The skipper eventually came in at 5/97. The rest is history. He and Fingleton added 346 for the sixth wicket in gloomy conditions. Bradman’s 270 was one of his greatest performances, and set up the series turning win. Suffice to say he made 212 and 169 in the ensuing matches.
In his penultimate match for Australia, Bradman was part of one of the most thrilling Tests ever played. England looked set to post something in the vicinity of 800 when Cyril Washbrook (143) and Bill Edrich (111) took them to 3/423. A middle-order collapse saw them skittled for 496 on a pitch that still looked a treat. Australia made 458 in reply, with Neil Harvey (112) the only player to post a century. England coasted to 8/365, with four players passing 50. They sportingly declared, setting Australia a record 404 runs in 345 minutes. The pitch had deteriorated considerably, and a draw at best was the likely outcome. The Australians had other ideas. Arthur Morris played the innings of his life on his way to 182. And while a young Neil Harvey was left to hit the winning runs, it was the Don who was with him, unbeaten on 173, to share the incredible win. With just 15 minutes left in the day’s play, it is rated as the greatest match in history.
Bradman’s legacy is one of the most highly debated of all time. Undoubtedly his form on the field can never be questioned. A quick look at some of his records highlights his unprecedented ability. Bradman has the most Test match double centuries with 12. He has the highest batting average of all time, the highest ratio of centuries and double-centuries to matches played. The list goes on.
Everything about Bradman is iconic. From a young age, he used to hone his hand-eye co-ordination with a cricket stump and a golf ball against a water tank. He’s had stamps, commemorative coins and a myriad of other collectables made in his honour. Most of all, he gave Australians hope during some of the toughest times in its national history. Bradman was the shimmering beacon to emerge during the Great Depression. After World War II, Bradman led his men on the most successful tour in history. His 1948 Invincibles are still talked about as the greatest sporting team in history.
While there are countless plaudits, every man has his doubters. Some will argue that Bradman was never a true team player. In his 52 Test match career, he was only run out once. Due to his personal sponsorship deals, Bradman often travelled separately to and from England. He didn’t socialise with the rest of the team because he wasn’t a drinker. Some will also point to the fact that unlike Dave Gregory and Bill Woodfull before him, Bradman accepted knighthood.
These views are certainly valid in some regard, but they by no means diminish the legacy Bradman left on Australian cricket. Even after his retirement, Bradman remained heavily involved behind the scenes as an administrator.
As a man who was famously described as being worth “three batsmen to Australia” Bradman had to put up with a constant bombardment of manic support. It was too much for him at times, especially given he was an altogether private man. While he mightn’t have liked it, what he did for this country can never be understated. He turned cricket into the beast it has now become. His batting alone drew record crowds to venues across the country, thus pumping money into a stricken economy. He became a hero to all aspiring cricketers, both young and old. Even today, Sir Donald Bradman is the most famous cricketer of all time. Ricky Ponting was a great cricketer. Sachin Tendulkar is a legend of the game. But even they pale in comparison to the Don, because there will only ever be one Don Bradman.
Played and Missed
After failing in his first Test in 1930, Bradman was dropped to 12th man because captain Jack Ryder believed he was young enough to handle it. He made 112 in his following match.
Bradman made a century in six consecutive Tests between 1936 and 1938.
Bradman never lost a series as Australian captain.
Bradman holds the record for the highest score by a number seven batsman; 270 against England at the MCG.
Bradman’s average of 99.94 would have been 100 had he scored just four runs in his final innings. Safe to say Eric Hollies never received a Christmas card from the Don.
While he fell agonisingly short of perfection, Bradman’s average was still miles in front of the next best. South Africa’s Graeme Pollock managed a comparatively meagre 60.97.