Batting first in Adelaide, all their top-order batsmen got starts, but lost their wickets when set. Bradman too got out for 26 after having sized up the bowling. McCabe, with a sparkling 88, and Arthur Chipperfield, with an unbeaten 57, took Australia to 288. Verity opening the batting for England in this Test was an unusual sight, and he did a fair job in seeing the shine off the new ball. He faced 119 deliveries for his 19, hitting one boundary in his 101-minute stay. His opening partnership with Charles Barnett was worth 53. Barnett went on to score a painstaking 129, which was chiefly responsible for England’s first innings lead of 42.
The Australians now had to bat really well in order to save the series. Fingleton was leg-before to Hammond at 21, which brought Bradman to the crease. Bill Brown helped him put on 67, and then on the fourth day, McCabe joined him in a defining partnership that shifted the balance in Australia’s favour. They added 109 in a little over an-hour-and-a-half before McCabe was dismissed for 55. Bradman kept the scoreboard ticking but did not take needless risks for the stakes were very high indeed. It was a crucial stage of the match and Ross Gregory assisted him in another vital stand. Bradman battled through the day, adding 148 runs to his overnight score of 26, while Australia advanced by 278 runs to 341 for four. They had all but ensured that the series would be levelled.
The task, though, was not over for Bradman. He raised his tenth score of 200 in Test cricket. Gregory was run out for 50 after a 135-run association. Finally, Bradman was caught by Hammond off his own bowling, when on 212. The Don had been at the crease for over seven-and-a-quarter hours, facing 395 balls and hitting 14 fours. It was not an innings of bravado, but one of great concentration and sense of responsibility. He put England out of the reckoning in this Test by unparalleled batsmanship. After Bradman’s exit the last four wickets crumbled for 11 runs. That was the extent of his influence on the course of events. Hammond took five for 57.
England were set 392 to win, and they lost their openers with 50 runs on the board. Joe Hardstaff junior combined with Hammond to put on 70. At close of play on the fifth day Hammond was unbeaten on 39, Leyland on 17, and England were 148 for three, not completely out of the game yet. Then, even before the spectators had settled in their seats, Fleetwood-Smith bowled Hammond. Whatever slim chance England had, seemed to have vanished quickly. That prompted England’s former wicketkeeper George Duckworth to pay Bradman the ultimate compliment: “We couldn’t have got Don out with the match at stake.” And that was the difference between Bradman and other greats. It was further emphasised in the final Test.
It was now only a matter of time before Australia wrapped up the Test. England finally folded up for 243. Fleetwood-Smith bagged six for 110. The victory margin was 148 runs, the series level at 2-2, thanks to two Bradman double centuries. The visitors had surrendered a big advantage, and the run of play was now against them. If they were to sail back with the Ashes, the scourge of Bradman had to be stamped out.
(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.
Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110 001, Phones + 91 11 23417175 and 23412567.