The belligerence of Sir Don Bradman at Adelaide in 1948

Bradman Walks Out : News Photo
Bradman is widely considered to be the greatest cricketer of all time
Faisal Caesar
Modified 22 Jan 2017

Just two months before the start of the Australia tour, India’s independence had been finalised. A new country emerged on the world map after almost two hundred years of struggle against the British Raj. A new country started its journey with a lot of hope and courage – determined to achieve the best and reach the peak of excellence in each and every aspect of life.

The World War and partition subjected them to the loss of key players and thus, when India landed on Australian soil, expectations were very low and a spirited display would be regarded as one of the most significant achievements.  

India’s first ever tour of Australia

It was a significant tour for the new nation in many aspects. For the first time, a team representing independent India would feature in an official series. It was also the first time, India would be playing against a team other than England and for the first time, they were touring Australia. Sadly, the tour was not a happy one for the visitors as they were outclassed in the Test matches – four were lost, and in three of them, Australia batted only once.  

The Australian team, led by the great Sir Don Bradman, were regarded as the ‘Invincibles’. Man-to-man, they were the ultimate champions and during that series, Don’s men made India toil hard. The subcontinent side dished out some inspiring performances, but they were not enough to notch up a win as the Invincibles mauled the visitors mercilessly.

The visitors’ struggles

The first Test was in Brisbane. The Indian batters had no answer to the fury of Ernie Toshack. In the second Test at Sydney Cricket Ground, inclement weather ended a riveting contest where India bundled out Australia for 107 runs to gain a lead of 81. They were, however, reduced to 61 for 7 in the second innings, but on a tricky wicket, anything might have happened had the weather gods not interfered.  

At Melbourne in the third Test, India put up a good fight, but in the fourth innings, Bill and Ian Johnston steamrolled the Indian batting line-up as the visitors lost by 233 runs.

The fourth Test was at Adelaide Oval and it was a chance for India to stay alive in the series.

Also read: 5 unknown facts about Don Bradman

No stopping the Don

Australia’s captain, Bradman, won the toss for the third time and elected to bat first. Before the Adelaide Test, Bradman’s sequence of runs in the series had been: 185, 13, 132 and 127 not out. The Don was on fire with the bat and even the long absence from cricket due to World War II didn’t hamper his hunger for runs and the urge to notch up big hundreds. At Adelaide, the Don’s intentions were the same.

Dattu Padhkar, the right-arm medium-pacer from Kolhapur, Maharashtra, produced a beauty to dismiss Arthur Morris. Australia were 20 for 1, but the joy of India’s celebration was short lived. Bradman entered and his presence at the crease dented the visitors’ joyous mood with immediate effect. 

Padhkar, Commandur Rajagopalachari Rangachari, Lala Amarnath and Vinoo Mankad gave their all to dismantle the Don, but he was an immovable object and his willow acted like a sword to slice the Indian bowlers into pieces.

Padhkar and Rangachari tried to keep things tight and put the Don under pressure by keeping things tight but it was to no avail.

A couple of boundaries via pristine timing opened the floodgates and on the first day, the damage was done. Bradman drove with authority, pulled and cut on the back foot with power and flayed some eye-catching drives through long on and long off.

Australia’s greatest ever batsman was an unorthodox stroke-maker. His full-fledged drives through cover and extra-cover were never a thing of spectacle, but in terms of bruising the confidence of the opposition, his brutal drives were equivalent to murder.

On that day, The Don hit just one six. It was not about airshows at Adelaide while Bradman was batting, but more about keeping the ball on the ground and making the fielding team sweat.

If the ball was pitched up, outside the off stump, Bradman would bring his bat down from a high back lift and sweetly time it as early as possible through the cover and extra-cover regions for four. Meanwhile, he pivoted on the back foot and executed pulls towards midwicket against shorter deliveries pitched outside off.

In those days, such shots were unexpected, but the Don was a batsman of a different breed – way ahead of his contemporaries.

Vijay Hazare to the rescue

At the other end, Sydney Barnes kept fetching runs and stitched a partnership of 236 runs for the second wicket and when he was dismissed for 112, Lindsay Hassett joined the party and added 142 runs for the fourth wicket.

As time passed, shadows grew taller and the fielding team grew tired, but the Don’s appetite for runs never stopped. He notched up his double ton with 21 boundaries and one six off 296 balls. Scoring at such a brisk pace and in such a fluent manner was a cakewalk for him.

Vijay Hazare halted Bradman’s belligerence at the fag end of day 1 but his hundred on January 23, 1948, helped Australia post a mammoth total in the first innings. 

However, his hundred was overshadowed by twin centuries from Vijay Hazare, which earned accolades from the great man himself.   

Published 22 Jan 2017
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