This series was going to be a battle of attrition, neither side having been able to pull away so far. Surely, the main reason why Bradman did not fancy Old Trafford would have been its notoriously wet conditions. This time it rained and rained, and not a single ball could be bowled. Who knows whether Bradman would have been able to correct the anomaly of not even getting past 30 in a Test on the Manchester ground, but on this occasion there was no opportunity.
The scene next shifted to one of Bradman’s favourite grounds not too far away, Headingley, Leeds. Right from the start, Australia’s rare right-left combination of wrist-spinners, Bill O’Reilly and ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood Smith, established ascendancy over the English batsmen on a dusty, turning track. Even as Hammond scored a classy 76 with 10 fours and a six, the spin twins made regular inroads. England were bowled out for 223 in 98.1 overs, with O’Reilly taking five for 66, and Fleetwood-Smith three for 73. Brown was dismissed before close of play, as Australia retired for the night at 32 for one.
After Fingleton and Australia’s own Barnett, wicketkeeper Benjamin doubling up as nightwatchman, had put on 59 for the second wicket, it was the turn of Bradman to once again regale the Headingley crowd. He was aided in a 41-run stand by Barnett, who made a dutiful 57. From then on it was Bradman all the way. He raised his 5000th run in Test cricket in just his 36th Test, during the course of his 56th innings. While the others defended, and perished, Bradman cruised unperturbed. He brought up his third hundred in as many Tests in the series. Soon after, with Australia having taken the lead, he was bowled by Bowes for 103. It was an innings of an elder statesman, a helmsman, who realised that he had to carry the team on his capable shoulders. He had batted for nearly three hours, hitting 9 boundaries in his 184-ball exhibition.
With the Test less than half-way through, a result was likely, weather permitting. After Edrich and Barnett raised 60, O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith once again ran through England. Hammond got a first-ball duck. England collapsed to 123 all out, Fleetwood-Smith taking four for 34, and O’Reilly five for 56 to finish with match figures of ten for 122. Australia were left with only 105 runs to score for victory, but they kept losing wickets as Doug Wright created a flutter. Bradman too was dismissed for 16 before Badcock and Barnett saw them home. Australia had taken the lead with just one Test to go.
(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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