Another of Bradman’s famous ducks, and one of the best deliveries bowled to him : Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

The great fast-medium bowler Alec Bedser troubled Bradman in his two Ashes series after the War.

The great fast-medium bowler Alec Bedser troubled Bradman in his two Ashes series after the War.

The fourth Test at Adelaide was also a high-scoring draw. Two batsmen, England’s Dennis Compton and Australia’s left-handed opener Arthur Morris, scored hundreds in each innings. Indeed, Morris completed three centuries in succession, having stroked 155 in the second innings of the previous Test. Right from the start it was a run-feast, with Hutton and Washbrook raising a carefully compiled century stand. Hutton was unfortunate to miss a hundred by six runs, McCool rapping him on the pad right in front of the stumps. Compton and Hardstaff (67) enjoyed themselves on the second morning, adding 118 for the fifth wicket. Having carried England past the 450 mark, Compton departed for 147. England were all out for 460. They had occupied the best part of two days, but there was still some excitement left before stumps were drawn.

In his only Test, opener Mervyn Harvey, elder brother of the more famous Neil, was bowled by Bedser for 12. This brought in Bradman, who was looking to play out time till stumps. He was at the wicket for ten minutes when as Keith Miller described in Cricket Crossfire, “Bradman was clean bowled by Alec Bedser for one of his rare ducks. When he came back to the dressing room Bradman was at great pains to tell everybody that he considered this one of the best balls ever bowled to him. Personally, I thought that was a lot of blarney. Bradman tried to infer that this was an unplayable ball, but I have known bad players play ‘unplayable balls’ just because they were bad players and they had their bats in the wrong places at the right time. Bradman had his bat in the right place at the wrong time, and in this case it happened to be when he hadn’t a single run on the board. Anyway, he would have done better to keep the opinion to himself. He did no service to those who still had to face Alec.”

We now let Bedser himself give his own version of the story, “I toiled long and hard but there were two watershed incidents which made all the difference to me,” he wrote in The Cricketer International of April 2001. “First I discovered by accident in the second Test at Sydney, during the Bradman/Barnes partnership of 405, that I could make the ball go from leg to off by spin, not, as so often referred to now, by cut. Second, in the fourth Test at Adelaide I bowled Don for a duck, which he described as the best ball bowled to him. Starting on the off stump, it swung late to pitch around leg stump and came back to hit the middle and off. In the second innings I missed bowling him with a similar ball by a coat of paint.”

If that was not one of the best balls bowled to Bradman, then one cannot fathom which other ones were. Hutton too recalled this “famous delivery” and alluded to Godfrey Evans acknowledging it as such. Miller in his chapter entitled ‘Sir Donald Bradman’, went out of his way to criticise The Don, perhaps to add spice to the book and make it more saleable. But it certainly gave the impression that Miller was being grossly unfair to his former skipper. Also, one would again like to point out to those who go into a frenzy describing Shane Warne’s delivery that clean bowled Mike Gatting in 1993 as “the ball of the century”, that many bowlers down history have delivered balls that can be described as unplayable. As someone pointed out recently, many young journalists, particularly on television, think that history began the day they took up employment. More than half a century after Bedser sent down that delivery, John Woodcock, while paying tribute to The Don on his 90th birthday, wrote in The Times, London: “I read recently that the Australian Dean Jones’ running between the wickets was ‘ahead of its time in the way he ran the first run hard to put pressure on the fielder.’ In fact that is precisely what Bradman did throughout his career, whether he was 30 not out or 300 not out, and whether he was playing for Bowral against Moss Vale or in a Test match at Sydney or in the Festival at Scarborough.” In this twenty-first century hype, of instant stardom and all things superficial, people would do well to acquire real knowledge, rather than consider themselves experts as a consequence of a couple of years of vocational training. Legends like Bradman and Bedser are not merely about famous numbers like 6996 (99.94) and 236 (24.89), that can be located at the click of a mouse or by flicking a few pages. They go far, far further than that.

So here was another of Bradman’s much spoken about ducks. Not for nothing was it said that he made as much news when he was out for zero as when he played his monumental, match-winning innings. “You might have thought they lost their life savings in a crash; apparently Bradman losing a wicket without scoring was almost as big a debacle,” was how Dennis Compton summed up the feelings of his fans. Now England fancied their chances as they returned to the dressing room with Australia precariously placed at 24 for two, and Bradman gone. They had, however, not bargained for the skills and determination of Morris and Hassett. The pair added 189 before Hassett fell for 78. Morris was out not long after for 122 in a little under four-and-a-half hours with 12 fours and 2 sixes in his 255-ball knock. Then Miller and Johnson got entrenched. At close Australia were 293 for four.

On the fourth day the duo carried their partnership to 150 when Johnson (52) left. Miller brought up his maiden Test hundred, and batted through the rest of the innings with the lower order. He remained unbeaten with 141, having faced just 198 balls in his sojourn of exactly four-and-a-half hours, hitting 9 fours and a six. He had helped his side gain a slender 27-run lead, but psychologically a huge advantage. Now both of Bradman’s great fast bowlers had scored hundreds as well in the series. Hutton and Washbrook again gave England a brilliant start. First thing on the fifth day they raised the hundred of the innings, at which score Washbrook was dismissed for 39. Hutton went on to score 76. Edrich and Hammond carried the innings forward but it was Compton who put his head down and battled through with the lower half for company. He reached his second hundred of the match just before lunch on the sixth and final day.

We bring back Miller at this point. He wrote in Cricket Crossfire: “There were times in this series when I felt that it was not so much a battle between England and Australia as a battle between Bradman and Hammond. In England’s second innings Hammond batted on after lunch for one ball before declaring the innings closed at 340 for eight and leaving Australia 3¼ hours to get 314 runs. I thought Hammond batted on after lunch more to annoy Bradman than to give Australia ten minutes less to get the runs. Our task was hopeless at lunch.”

Morris and Harvey put up the third century opening stand of the match before the latter was out for 31. Here it is interesting to quote a complimentary passage on Bradman by Miller in his book: “Bradman was criticised for not sending me in after our first wicket fell in the second innings at 116. I had made 141 not out in the first innings, and in some quarters it was suggested that if I had gone in first wicket down instead of Bradman I would have scored faster and Australia might have won. They were wrong. I could have done no better than The Don. Australia never had the chance of making the runs in the time at their disposal. Actually I admired Bradman for not sending me in first wicket down. Had he done so he might have made certain of avoiding the risk of getting the first pair of his career. Instead he faced up to it and made 56 not out.” Australia finished on 215 for one, Morris achieving the distinction of a century in each innings, returning with 124 to his name. The draw clinched the series.

(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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