The Ashes Legends: Don Bradman’s Invincibles of 1948
English cricket in the year 1948 saw the arrival of a team boasting unparalleled talent, led by the greatest cricketer in history- Don Bradman. In a tour which lasted six months, Australia went unbeaten and hence the legend of the ‘Invincibles’ was born. This feat remains unique in the sense that they are the only Ashes touring team to go through the entire series undefeated.
The Invincibles played 34 matches in total, including 31 first-class matches. They went onto win 25 of those while nine were drawn. They won the Test series 4–0, with the third Test at Old Trafford drawn. This team was at its ruthless best as out of 25 wins, a staggering 15 of those wins were by an innings.
During the tour, they went on to achieve some historic feats which, down the years, became folklore among cricket fans. Feats such as orchestrating a chase of 404 runs on the final day of the fourth Test at Leeds, Headingly, when Arthur Morris and Don Bradman shared a second wicket partnership of 301 runs.
Australia only had 345 minutes to chase the target, and according to Wisden, the British press wrote them off, predicting the match to be over by lunchtime on a last day turning pitch which was favoring English spinners. This chase remained the highest total by a team in the fourth innings, until India surpassed it in 1976 when they chased down a target of 406 runs at Port of Spain against West Indies, thereby breaking a 28-year-old record.
In addition, Australia hammered 721 runs in a single day against Essex, which at the time was the highest number of runs scored in a first-class match in one day. Agreed, during those days there was no restriction on the number of overs bowled in a day as the game was dictated by the hours of play, but still this is no mean achievement. Even before the 1948 series, this team was in tremendous form; Australia had not lost a Test match since the Second World War. In the 12 lead-up matches to the Ashes, Australia won 10, of which eight were by an innings.
England, on the other hand, were confident as they were heading into the series on the back of some great performances – especially by Denis Compton and Bill Edrich – against the South Africans in the summer of 1947.
But that confidence was shattered by Bradman’s side in a performance that was so ruthless that it even compelled their most ardent critic to sit up and take notice. The team was full of character, the basis of which was formed by the deadly fast-bowling pair of the wily Ray Lindwall and the best all-rounder of his generation, Keith Miller.