Perhaps for its frequently wet conditions, Old Trafford was not one of Bradman’s favourite grounds. In any of his four Test innings here, he never scored more than 30 runs. This time he was dismissed for 14, and almost inevitably, rain did not permit even the England first innings to be completed. Most of the third day and the entire final day were washed out.
And so 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 Bradman’s onslaught was now viewed as prodigal, if not primeval. Sutcliffe dropped anchor, scoring 161 and England logged up a total of 405 in this battle of nerves.
The old firm of Woodfull and Ponsford raised 159 upfront, and it was the latter who 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 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 the damp wicket. At the end of the 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 put on 243 for the fourth wicket before the talented youngster fell for 73. McCabe helped Bradman add another 64 runs. Australia were 165 ahead when Bradman finally edged Larwood into 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, and it 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, Fairfax and Oldfield kept up the momentum, the lead mounting to 290. Ian Peebles was rewarded for his 71 overs of toil with a haul of six for 204.
Fairfax bowled Hobbs before stumps and England were pushed against the wall at 24 for one. Rain washed out the fifth day’s play. When the game resumed, England could not forge any partnership of real significance. Hornibrook captured seven of the eight wickets that fell to bowlers on the final day. 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.
(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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