There was much delight and nostalgia at Lord’s when two of first-class cricket’s biggest run-getters, Jack Hobbs and Frank Woolley, walked out together to open the batting for England in the absence of Herbert Sutcliffe, who had sustained an injury in the first Test. Thanks to Duleepsinhji’s superb 173 on first appearance against Australia, the hosts ran up a total of 425. Woodfull and Ponsford were sailing along, having raised 162. Ponsford then seemed to lose focus, having just greeted King George V, who was visiting the ground. What followed was a Bradman gem. Woodfull was solid as ever but Bradman was in a different plane, smashing the English bowling in a stunning display over two-and-a-half hours that afternoon. The partnership realised 231 runs, and by close of play Australia were 404 for two, with Bradman on 155.
Kippax then featured in a stand of 192, and by the time Bradman made his first and last mistake, Australia had already taken a lead of 160. He had made a magnificent 254, having been at the crease for 341 minutes and stroked 25 boundaries in his 376-ball sojourn. Australia declared at 729 for six. The world now acknowledged the arrival of the run-getting phenomenon. It was an innings that Bradman himself rated as his best. Every shot except one, he reminisced, went exactly where he intended, even the stroke that got him out. While making that last hit Bradman just overlooked that Percy Chapman, who took the catch, was a very tall man, and he also regarded it as one of the best catches he had ever seen.
Bradman is quoted in the Jack Bannister-compiled The Innings of My Life as saying, “It was my first innings in a Test at Lord’s, recognised as the home of cricket, and there was understandably a great deal of pressure on me. I have picked this innings because, though I played more valuable and important innings, I never played one so technically perfect. There was only one delivery I didn’t hit where I wanted (when on 191), and even that went along the ground to second slip.”
In an interview with Mike Popham of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television for the 200th anniversary of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1987, Bradman reiterated that this was indeed the best innings he ever played in any class of cricket. He spoke about the atmosphere at Lord’s: “Like every young boy I was anxious to play at Lord’s, to have my first look at the ground. It has an atmosphere about it no other ground possesses. It’s not the best pitch, it’s not the best playing field, but it has this atmosphere. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, but you can feel it. I think it’s got a great influence on the way you perform. You have to walk through the Long Room. You’re a part of history walking out there to bat, and I think that helps to inspire you to give a good performance.”
In the second innings, needing just 72 runs to win, he fell for 1, to another brilliant catch by Chapman, the bowler being Tate for the fourth time in Bradman’s young career. Australia won by seven wickets, the series pegged at 1-1. “This was one of the great Test matches of history,” Bradman continued in the BBC interview, “it finished within four days. There were just over 1600 runs made off a rate of bowling which averaged roughly 130 overs a day.”
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com).
‘Don’s Century’, published by Sporting Links, ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0.
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