Bradman won the toss at Lord’s and batted first. In his only Test, Alexander Coxon dismissed Barnes for nought. The Don came in and was in a rebuilding mode. He added 84 with Morris, progressing slowly to 38, before he was caught for the third time in succession by Hutton off Bedser. It was a very cautious innings as he had been in for almost two hours and played out 104 deliveries. Equally intriguing were these three dismissals. As we saw in the previous Ashes series in Australia in 1946-47, Bedser had discovered that he had a quick leg-spin in his armoury. Picking up from there, Bedser continued in his homage to Bradman in The Cricketer International: “So Don knew I had a leg-spinner to alternate with my in-swinger. He knew when the in-swinger pitched on the off-stump or thereabouts, and he was obliged to play for fear of being bowled or lbw, even if the normal movement might take the ball wide of the leg-stump. He had to play at balls which he might normally not have done. The result was three consecutive catches by Len Hutton at short-leg just behind square. Some said a flaw in Bradman’s technique had at last been found. Others that it was evidence he was no longer the player he was. No doubt time had taken a little off his marvelous footwork but he was still a masterful batsman.” This was also affirmation of the fact that things on the field are quite different to what they seem from the outside. There are nuances that are not apparent even to the ‘experts’, let alone the arm-chair critics.
Morris went on to complete a splendid hundred. Hassett again played a useful hand, and Tallon with a half-century, added invaluable runs down the order. This helped Australia total 350. Then came another conflict between Bradman and Miller. As the debonair allrounder wrote in Cricket Crossfire, “I had a bad back, and before we went out to field Bradman asked me, ‘How is your back?’. ‘I don’t think I had better bowl,’ I told him. Ray Lindwall bowled the first over and I fielded in the slips. At the end of the over, to my surprise Bradman tossed the ball to me and said, ‘Have a bowl.’ Now there have been times before when I had had a bad back and bowled, and maybe he thought this was another of those times. Then again he might have been applying a little psychology, thinking I would not have the temerity to refuse because of the huge crowd. Anyway I simply could not bowl and I told him so and walked away.”
As a result, Miller did not wheel his arm over in either innings. Johnston took the new ball from the other end. Len Hutton also referred to this incident in his Fifty Years in Cricket: “Miller and Bradman, distinct opposites in many ways, had an altercation on the field at Lord’s in 1948 when Miller refused the new ball at the start of England’s innings. I was at the wicket, and did not hear what was said, and I was surprised to be facing Johnston and not Miller. The story was that Miller was unfit and if it was his back, which was suspect after a pancake landing on an airfield near Kiel, Germany, he had my total sympathy for arthritis painfully ended my own career.”
Miller’s absence was hardly felt as Lindwall was devastating, well backed up by Johnston and Johnson. England were in deep trouble at 46 for four, Lindwall having taken three of those wickets. Compton and skipper Yardley tried to shore up the innings with a stand of 87 before Johnston and Lindwall struck again. Lindwall captured five for 70, and with Johnston and Johnson bagging two and three wickets respectively, England were bowled out for 215. Barnes and Morris began strongly, raising 122 first up. Morris departed for 62, but it was Barnes this time who scored a century, and with Bradman shut England out of the match.
Fingleton once again offered a perspective in Brightly Fades the Don, “In calibre, Bradman’s batting on this tour was, generally, only a shadow of what it had once been. He had some very jittery periods, particularly at the beginning of an innings and, often, against slow bowlers. He had difficulty in detecting the bosie, more difficulty than at any time in his career, but this, probably and naturally, was because his eyesight had lost its keen edge. One day at Lord’s, I stood with ‘Buster’ Nupen, the South African player, who had never seen Bradman bat and had flown specially to England to do so. This was Bradman’s most jittery period. Laker turned him inside out but the little chap battled it through – and Nupen was satisfied at the end of that he had seen something pretty good.”
What Fingleton was inferring was that those who had not seen Bradman in his heyday, found him awesome in the post-war period, as the Indians had done in the previous season. Even in that series, C.S. Nayudu said that The Don was troubled by his wrist spin. Despite this, it is most laudable that in 1948 Bradman scored hundreds on every major English ground, unlike Hammond who disappointed after the war. Fingleton noted, “Bradman, his hesitant periods apart, knew only fame and success wherever he went in England.” Great batsmen know how to adapt to changing conditions, the quality of attack and their own limitations. They constantly devise new ways to survive and, more importantly, continue scoring runs – big runs.
Bradman was now obviously past his best, but he still put on 174 runs for the second wicket with Barnes. The opener left after scoring 141. Bradman was looking good for a hundred of his own, but Bedser once again dismissed him. Beginning with the final Test at Sydney in the previous series, Bedser had claimed Bradman’s wicket five times in succession in Tests, and adding the dismissal against Surrey at the Oval, it was six in a row. The great fast-medium bowler had gained some sort of psychological advantage over The Don. No longer hereafter, for Bradman did not yield his wicket to Big Alec again. Bradman scored 89 in just over three hours, having faced 162 balls and carved 13 boundaries.
Miller then took charge, and in the company of Brown raised 87 for the 5th wicket. He hit a belligerent 74 before Bradman applied the closure at 460 for seven. England had an uphill task, and their cause was not helped by the fact that they lost wickets at regular intervals. Hutton, Edrich and Washbrook had gone before stumps were drawn on the fourth day. The score stood at 106 for three. Compton was out early in the morning, and England packed up for 186. On this occasion Toshack took five for 40, with Lindwall picking up three wickets, and Johnston another two. England were annihilated again, this time by 409 runs; Australia went two up.
(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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