With the 1930 series tied 1-1 before the fifth Test at The Oval, it was a game without limit. Bob Wyatt was England captain in place of Percy Chapman, who in the face of Don Bradman’s onslaught was now viewed as prodigal, if not primeval. Herbert Sutcliffe dropped anchor, scoring 161 and England logged up a total of 405 in this battle of nerves.
The old firm of Bill Woodfull and Bill Ponsford raised 159 upfront, and the latter was dismissed first after scoring a fine 110. Bradman joined the stonewaller Woodfull, who left after tallying a patient 54 in three-and-a-quarter hours. Bradman was unbeaten with 27 at stumps, with Alan Kippax keeping him company.
Rain now played a part, but Bradman was steadfast on the tricky wet track. Douglas Jardine was a bystander in the series but he reckoned that he saw flaws in Bradman’s game against fast bowling on a damp wicket. After a curtailed third day, Bradman was nevertheless still at the crease with 130 runs to his name, with Archie Jackson by his side. The only wicket lost was that of Kippax, and Australia were just two runs behind.
Bradman stroked his way to a double century and with Jackson putting on 243 for the fourth wicket before the talented youngster fell for 73. Stan McCabe helped Bradman add another 64 runs. Australia were 165 ahead when Bradman finally edged Harold Larwood into George Duckworth’s gloves. His 232 had come off 417 balls in 438 minutes, aided by 16 boundaries.
It was a match-winning knock played at a crucial juncture in testing conditions, which put Australia in the driver’s seat in their quest to reclaim the Ashes. If his breathtaking 254 at Lord’s was instrumental in levelling the series, Bradman’s dominant 232 at London’s other ground clinched it for Australia.
McCabe, Alan Fairfax and Bert Oldfield kept up the momentum, with the lead mounting to 290. Ian Peebles was rewarded for his 71 overs of toil with a haul of six for 204.
Fairfax bowled Jack Hobbs before stumps and England were pushed against the wall at 24 for one. The rain washed out the fifth day’s play. When the game resumed, England could not forge any partnership of real significance. Percival Hornibrook captured seven of the eight wickets that fell to bowlers on the final day.
Wally Hammond was last out for 60 as England folded up for 251. The significance could not have been lost on anyone as the mantle of the best batsman in the world passed on to the superstar from Down Under, Don Bradman.
It was a momentous tour. Having played a pivotal role in winning the Ashes, Bradman scored an unprecedented 974 runs in the series, still unequalled to this day, at an average of 139.14. He got all these runs at 40 an hour without hitting a six. Rarely did Bradman loft the ball.
Some felt that this aggregate was the equivalent of Sydney Barnes’ feat of 49 wickets in four Tests against South Africa in 1913-14, but against better opposition. No other batsman from either side even got half of Bradman’s tally, nor even more than a hundred. Mammoth scores kept coming repeatedly from his willow like giant waves slapping the shore – a century, two double centuries and a triple century. The double hundreds decided the series.
Without a doubt, the English would need to introspect deeply. C.B. Fry, himself a man of many parts and incredibly talented, was enchanted with Bradman’s display:
“I wish I could have used my bat like Don. He is a gem of a batsman. I just love his finishing technique and inevitable surety.”
As much as the runs that he scored, Bradman filled the counties’ coffers as never before. Jon Stock related a tale, perhaps apocryphal, in The Week: “Don was the bane of every bowler’s life, but he was also a commercial opportunity.
Dai Davies, a Glamorgan player, recalls how he once came close to bowling Bradman in 1930. He was flabbergasted when instead of encouraging him, his captain Maurice Turnbull told Davies that his services wouldn’t be required that day.
"But I’ll get him out the next over," Davies pleaded. "That’s what we don’t want,’ Turnbull replied. "Can’t you see, we’ve got to keep him in for Monday (the August bank holiday)?"
Glamorgan made a small profit at the end of that year thanks entirely to that game’s proceeds.”
By the final Test, his ninth, Bradman had reached an average of 100, and had as many as six three-figure knocks. His aggregate now stood at 1442 runs, the average 103. In all the first-class matches during that tour of 1930, Bradman hit up 2960 runs, the most any visiting batsman has done, and notched up 10 hundreds. He topped the averages among all batsmen during that season at 98.66, which he did on all his tours to England.
Doubts about Bradman’s ability to cope with English conditions dispelled forever
If anybody had lingering doubts about Bradman’s ability to cope with English conditions, they were dispelled in the most vehement manner possible. For now, batting has had only one don, perhaps forever. The fact that Wisden selected Bradman as one of its cricketers of the year in its 1931 edition is only stating the obvious.
A most telling comment came from the great allrounder Wilfred Rhodes, a shrewd judge of the game, and not one to shower praise lightly:
“I bowled against all the best from 1900 to 1930 - Hobbs, Trumper, Grace and Ranji among them and many, many more - but Bradman was the greatest.”
Ian Peebles, who bowled to Bradman during this series, wrote in the World of Cricket:
“It was not until the series got underway that the cricket world gradually realised that this young man Bradman had inaugurated a new era and somewhat reinterpreted the old adage that ‘bowlers win matches’. Never before had an individual batsman so consistently given bowlers the opportunity of winning matches by the speed and extent of his scoring.”
Financially, the tour brought Bradman a bonanza. In addition to the ₤600 paid by The Board of Control for the six-month effort, which was easily double an average annual wage at the time, and the reward of ₤1000 bestowed on him by Arthur Whitelaw, was the contract for his first book Don Bradman’s Book of Cricket and its serialisation in the press. Bradman’s earnings came to a whopping ₤ 5000.
Don Bradman was now a folk hero in Australia, and he began receiving several offers for commercial endorsements. ‘Bradmania’ had besieged the minds of his countrymen. Whenever word spread that Bradman was at Mick Simmons, huge crowds would congregate outside.
It wasn't long before a musical tribute was paid to him. ‘Our Don Bradman’ was an affectionate tune that became popular in 1930s. Described as a ‘snappy fox trot song’, it hailed ‘Australia’s batting phenomenon’. Deft pianist that he was, Bradman himself composed a song ‘Every Day is a Rainbow Day for Me’.
(Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’).
Q. Do you think any batsman will surpass Don Bradman's magical 1930 series record?
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