Record Bradman-Ponsford partnership clinches 1934 Ashes series : Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

Bradman and Ponsford

It was Australia who got the opportunity to bat first at the Oval. Brown was out early, and then the allies of the previous Test, Ponsford and Bradman got together again. It was another massacre, a bigger carnage actually. They went on and on, piling on the misery, driving the English to despair. This time they scored even faster, and Bradman outpaced Ponsford furthermore. None of the bowlers made an impression as they went merrily along. Records tumbled one after another. Bradman reached his 15th Test hundred in the 41st innings of his 28th Test.

The pair recorded a new high in second wicket partnerships, and then breached their own mark for all wickets set up only in the previous innings. Bradman got to his sixth double century in Tests, apart from the two triple tons; he now had more scores above 200, than single centuries. The phenomenal rungetter was back on track. Ponsford brought up his only double hundred in his last Test as the shadows lengthened. Then with just a few minutes left for close of play, Bradman was taken by Ames off Bowes for 244. He had batted for just over five-and-a-quarter hours for his 271 deliveries, and struck 32 fours and a six. In modern parlance it was a strike-rate of over 90, or 5.40 runs per over, superlative at any stage in Test history, and really a mark of the greatest batsman in the annals. The partnership was worth 451, and Australia piled up 475 runs in the day.

The next morning Ponsford took his highest Test score to 266 before, curiously, being hit-wicket again, this time to Gubby Allen. He had hit 27 boundaries, facing 422 balls in his 460-minute sojourn. It may be remembered that it was a timeless Test since the series was still undecided before this final game, and so Australia batted on till they were bowled out for 701. Not that they had taken too long over it, having played just 171.2 overs, a rate of more than four runs an over. Again the two maestros had scored the lion’s share of runs, 510 between them, and none of the others got to fifty.

Though Walters and Sutcliffe raised a century stand for the first wicket, England, faced with such a mammoth total, were never in the hunt. Leyland scored a fine century in the middle, and was going along well with Ames, until the wicketkeeper had to retire with a strained back. The long hours of tending to the stumps while Bradman and Ponsford amassed nearly a thousand runs between themselves in two innings, had had serious repercussions. Ames was not seen again on the field in this Test, not even with the bat in the second innings when his team was faced with a heavy defeat. England trailed by 380 runs.

Brown was out cheaply again the second time round, and Ponsford too for 22 in his last Test innings. But by close on the third day, Bradman and McCabe had carried the score to 186. Bradman was on 76 and McCabe 60. Both fell early in the morning, Bradman adding just one to his overnight score, McCabe ten. Bradman had batted a shade under two hours for his 106 balls and hit 6 fours and a six. The last pair of Hans Ebeling and O’Reilly piled on the frustration for England in a stand of 55. Frank Woolley kept wickets in this innings in Ames’ absence, with disastrous consequences, conceding a record 37 byes, though he did snap a catch.

The hosts had to score 708 runs or survive till eternity to save the Ashes. Obviously they were going to do neither, and this was emphasised very quickly by McCabe as he dismissed Walters for 1 and Woolley, recalled one final time, with abysmal results reflected in his scores of 4 and zero batting at no. 3, besides the misadventure behind the stumps. England capsized slowly, but surely. Grimmett picked up five wickets as Australia won by 562 runs. Just like the previous series in England four years earlier, Bradman’s double century in the final Test had helped Australia clinch the rubber. Dr. Eric Barbour saluted The Don: “Bradman is the greatest batsman of his day, not because he can make better strokes than others, but because he has a wonderful cricket mentality, and a wonderful control of his own emotions and his powers.” That really clinches the arguments in favour of The Don.

The Ashes were back with Australia, this time for 19 years, including the intervening Second World War, and until one series after the retirement of Bradman. He was to be England’s nemesis for the rest of his career. Once again The Don far outscored the other batsmen. He logged up 758 runs, the only other batsman scoring 500 runs on either side was Ponsford with 569, and who averaged fractionally higher at 94.83 than Bradman’s 94.75. The leading spinners came up trump among bowlers, O’Reilly capturing 28 wickets (average 24.92) and Grimmett 25 wickets (average 26.72) for Australia, and Verity 24 wickets (average 24) for England.

In the Scarborough Festival at the end of the tour, Bradman exhibited dazzling strokeplay in his 132 scored in an hour-and-a-half against H.D.G. Leveson-Gower’s XI. This was another knock that Bradman cherished for his strokemaking. It was preceded by a brilliant unbeaten 149 against an England XI.

In all first-class matches Bradman scored 2020 runs, once again topping the seasons’s averages at 84.16 with 7 hundreds. This was a stupendous achievement considering the dismal trot he had in the earlier part of the tour and in view of his indifferent health. The Don could not be kept down, whatever the circumstances. He had firmly established himself as an immortal among the wielders of the willow.

(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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