Bradman comes face-to-face with the black Bradman, George Headley : Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

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The West Indies toured Australia in the 1930-31 season, and for the only time in his Test career Bradman came face to face with George Headley, who came to be known as the black Bradman. Curiously, neither did well in the first two Tests, which Australia won easily. In the opening Test at Adelaide, Bradman needed 26 runs to complete 1000 runs in 1930. He was out for 4. On 1st January 1931 he scored 25 in the second Test at Sydney, but it was a day too late.

The two maestros reserved their best for the third encounter at the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane. After Jackson had been dismissed for a duck, Ponsford and Bradman put on 229 for the second wicket. Both registered hundreds, and even after Ponsford departed for 109, there was no respite for the tourists. Kippax allied with Bradman in another double century stand. The partnership was worth 203 when Kippax left for 84. Bradman had gone past 200. At close of play on Day One, Australia were 428 for three, with Bradman on 223. He was out next morning without adding to his score, having been at the crease for less than five hours and hit 24 boundaries. The eventual total was 558. Headley’s riposte was an unbeaten 102, as the West Indies were bowled out for 193. Following on, they crumbled for 148, unable to cope with Clarrie Grimmett’s leg-spin.

The disasters continued for the visitors at Melbourne. They were shot out for 99 in 50 overs with Bert Ironmonger grabbing seven for 23 in 20 overs. This time Bradman was partnered by Woodfull in a second-wicket stand of 156. The Don scored 152 at almost at a-run-a-minute, and Woodfull decided that 328 runs were enough, declaring with eight wickets down. Indeed they were, as the West Indies were skittled out on that very second day for 107, with Ironmonger completing a match haul of eleven for 79. The West Indies, in their maiden series against Australia, were completely outclassed in the first four Tests, annihilated by 10 wickets to begin with, and then by an innings thrice in a row, the run deficits still being 172, 217 and 122. Quite clearly, the only real contests in Test cricket still were those for the Ashes.

Having said that, the men from the sunny Caribbean islands fought back in the final Test, with Headley scoring a fine century, as also did opener Frank Martin. With the weather playing a part and the West Indies skipper Jackie Grant making opportune declarations. Australia were beaten by 30 runs. Bradman registered his first duck in Test cricket.

Ponsford 467 runs (average 77.83) and Bradman 447 runs (average 74.50) were the outstanding batsmen in the series. No one else averaged fifty. The series, however, ended on a poignant note as well. The brilliant young Archie Jackson, who was rated as high as Bradman – some said he was even more talented – appeared for Australia for the last time in the fourth Test. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which in those days, and for decades after, was a deadly disease. At just 19 years of age and having had the opportunity to play only eight times at the highest level, destiny had dealt him a cruel blow.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

‘Don’s Century’, published by Sporting Links, ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0.

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110 001, Phones + 91 11 23417175 and 23412567.

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