Tag Archives: Don Bradman

Headingley and the Ashes or How 9 into 7 Won’t Go

This week the Yorkshire Chairman, Colin Graves, announced that the Club would not be bidding to host an Ashes Test in 2013 – this the ground on which Bradman scored 334 in 1930, Botham made 149* and Willis took 8 – 43 in 1981 and on which Waugh spanked 157* in 1993.

But in the market there is no room for sentiment or a place for history.

Yorkshire lost £1.8 last year, £1 million of that on the Australia/Pakistan Test which betrayed a lack of understanding of and deep disconnect with the Asian communities around them.

A projected loss this year of £300k is described as not a ‘massive loss’ but even this has meant seven redundancies and the post of Chief Executive left vacant.  A profit in 2012 is dependent on selling out for the first three days of the Test match.

“I’m not going to put the club at risk again bidding for an Ashes Test match,” says Graves, who knows that with nine clubs chasing seven Tests the arithmetic is against them.

Nor will their be an overseas player wearing the traditional Oxford and Cambridge Blue Black and Gold of the White Rose county, deciding instead to secure the all-season availability of Huddersfield born Ryan Sidebottom .

A new member of the ECB Board, Graves is urging the governing body to ask the big, searching questions about how to sustain cricket.

But for now one thing is certain, there will be no Ashes Test at Headingley for the foreseeable future.

Graves says that Yorkshire has protected its playing staff, but over the Pennines, the Lancashire website reveals  that  there may only be 17 contracted players on the books, provoking fears of relegation, but what an opportunity for young talent.

Again, there are as yet no overseas players unless you count Moore who was born in Jo’Burg and came to this country with his parents when 18.

So, in the Age of Austerity cricket is changing for good or ill -fewer full time professionals and fewer overseas players.  This could be a boon for the national side of the mid to late ‘Teens.  And of course it is the national team (and the grass roots of course) that keeps the whole edifice afloat.

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Unmitigated Cricket

For those who cannot wait for the start of the Perth Test here is some film of the 1948 Lord’s Test, England v The Invincibles.

Dave Allen has been in touch with Third Man to share a gem of a discovery.  A British Council Film, Cricket (1948).  Narration by Richardson (Ralph) and Arlott, sounding a little like Bond, James Bond, even down to chain smoking Chesterfields.

It’s subject?  22 yards, 4 rods, poles and perches, 1 chain.  It is more than just a few glimpses of Bradman batting, Hutton fielding, Compton on a ‘sticky’ and bucking, bridling Bill O’Reilly.

It is Unmitigated England.  A celebration of ‘wistful yearnings never quite fulfilled’.  Bat and ball making.  A homage to cricketers of long ago.  A glimpse of coaching at the old County Ground in Southampton where Third Man’s coach, Arthur Holt, is seen as a very young man doing what he did best.  Where else would Arlott take the cameraman?

It is all a long way from Perth, December 2010.  Australia win by hundreds.

Watch it here,  all 17 glorious minutes of it.

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Seventh Day Adventism – The Melbourne Test

No one in the pavilion on the sixth morning of the third timeless Test of 1928/29 was prepared to give odds on an England victory.  A thunderstorm had broken over Melbourne in the wee small hours and another heavy shower had fallen at eleven-thirty.  Now the sun was shining fiercely, cooking the wicket into the consistency of glue.

The banter was raucous as the crowd waited for the home side’s second innings to resume at 347 for 8, already giving them a surely untouchable 328 runs lead over England.

The odds on offer that morning were ten to one against England getting 200 on that wicket and fifty to one against anyone scoring a century.  The old firm of  Messers Trumble, Hill, Armstrong and Darling in their accustomed seats made it known that, as far as they were concerned, an England score of 80 would be on the steep side.


A week before, to the day, the England Captain and Uppingham Rover, Percy Chapman, had called heads.  Seeing it fall tails, Australia’s Ryder, said he would have a bat.  An hour or so later with his score at 57 for three the decision looked to have been brave, but centuries from Kippax and Ryder himself took the score to 282 for five.  Bradman with 79 before he hit over a yorker from Hammond help his side grind out 397 in a little under two days. 

In England’s first innings Hobbs fell early, then, Sutcliffe and Hammond put on 133 for the second wicket.  Scoring almost exclusively through the off-side, Hammond, carved out his second double hundred in consecutive innings and, with a painstaking 62 from Jardine, England posted a 20 run lead after four and a half days cricket. The match had become another war of attrition.  

In Australia’s second innings Woodfall and Bradman made centuries, so that when Oxenham and Grimmett finally took the field on the second Friday of the match and surveyed the damp and drying gluepot it seemed to matter little how many more they scored.  As the remaining three batsmen wore blows to the head, shoulders and neck in adding but four more to the overnight lead their sacrifice served only to remind the 60,000 spectators that the result of this match was a forgone conclusion.

Ryder led his men out to deliver the coup de grace.  At their heels, from the pavilion into the fierce sun, emerged Hobbs and Sutcliffe not dishevelled by their time in the field, not downcast and beaten, but with a quiet confidence, relaxed and immaculately turned out in their splendid white hats, crisp shirts, creased flannels, whitewashed pads and devoutly sanded bats.

"Why not Bert?" "One ball at a time Jack."

Had those confident Australians turned to watch this extraordinary opening pair, they may have had an inkling of what was to come, but they did not.  Fired-up the opening bowlers, a Beckett and Hendry, speared each delivery into the spiteful morass and, along with their team mates, saw only red and revenge for Brisbane and Sydney.

Hobbs dropped his hands and took a blow.  Sutcliff used the same defence.  After two overs they inspected the pock-marked surface, which yielded like rum flavoured ginger cake as they replaced huge divots and made things as tidy as they could.

“Why not?” murmured Jack leaning over the same crater as his partner.

“We have only to play one ball at a time,” answered Bert, gently tapping, gently tapping.

Twice Hobbs was let off, and once his cap was knocked flying by a ball that spat like a camel and kicked like a mule, but soon each batsman realised that the length and tactics the Australians were pursuing were wrong. 

“Don’t think they really know how to use the conditions, Bert.”

“Well, if you’ll forgive me, Jack, I’m not about t’ tell them ‘ow.”

The pair reached their first target, the replacement of a Becket and Hendrey with Grimmett and Blackie.

Their plan was coming together.  Get to tea.  And so unbelievably they did; 78 for 0.   Get to stumps and allow the morning roller to take out all the lumps and the sun to bake it hard and flat. 

But could they really steer the ship to so distant  and so rock-ringed harbour?  They thought they might but now developed a contingency plan to share with their captain.

Hobbs called for a new bat.  Half a dozen were brought out to him.  Was it that old friend Mead who brought them?  Did the three old pros talk things over together while Jack tested each blade in turn before returning all of them to the dressing room, along with a message to his captain.

Did Mead report thus: “Mr Chapman, Mr Chapman, Jack says, ‘we’ll get through to nightfall and you might think of holding Wally back ‘til tomorrow and send in Mr Jardine if anyone’s needed today.’”

“Thank you Phillip,” said Chapman warmly, then whispered to himself in the quiet of that hushed dressing room, “Good man, Jack,”   

“Doougie, it’s kilt, pipes and pads for you, my Bannock Burn.  Wally stand down, dear boy, and gird yourself for the ‘morrow.  If Jack and Bert think we shall do it, then so we shall, so we shall.”

Bruised, battered but eventually beaten by Blackie for 49, in an opening partnership of 105, Hobbs returned to the pavilion and nodded in turn to the applause and disbelief of Messers Trumble, Hill, Armstrong, Darling and 60,000 other Australians who could not but put aside their passionate patriotism to acknowledge that they had seen something very special that afternoon.

Herbert Sutcliffe enjoying a more familiar wicket in 1930

Jardine joined the by now modestly confident Sutcliff and, each taking their share of corporal punishment, saw the day through: 171 for 1.

And on the Seventh Day, though there was still much to do, Sutcliffe made victory certain.  England were just 14 short of their gargantuan target of 332 when he was finally out for 135 and, although three more wickets tumbled quickly after him, Geary picked up a shot ball from Ryder for the winning shot, sending it to the boundary just yards ahead of a frantically pursuing Bradman.

It is difficult to conceive of a heavier blow than this that Sutcliffe, Hobbs and England had struck.  Chronologically the seven days of this Test spanned the years 1928 and 1929, but its ramifications reach down to us even as the two old foes prepare for their first encounter in the 2010 series – though 82 years of cause and effect, de-selection and selection, attack and counter, innovation and answer, humiliation and revival link Strauss and Ponting, Pietersen and Clark, Andersdon and Johnston with the ghosts of Hobbs and Woodfull, Sutcliffe and Grimmett, Larwood and Oldfield.

1928/29 begat 1930, 1930 begat 1932/33, 1932/33 begat …2010/11.

This Test was indeed timeless, it’s karma enduring.


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The Emperor’s New Clothes or Wearing a T-Shirt for Douglas Jardine.

The not so humble T shirt, the undergarment that ‘came out’, self coloured or tye-died, ringer or billboard, utilitarian or expressive, mute or shrill – should we wear one for Douglas Jardine?

The boys at philosophyfootball think we should and for this winter’s Ashes tour they have selected for one of their garments the Harlequin’s strikingly modern campaigning assertion that “Cricket is a battle and service and sport and art”. 

History has been cruel to this Lion of England.  In every way, opinion has moved against him and towards his foes – the hecklers on the Hill, the journalists of Nineteen Thirties Australia, his Establishment familiars, even his ambitious Vice Captain. 

Yet, if anything, culture has moved towards his approach if not his heritage.  Who would not fancy him to bring back the Ashes in 2011 – as he did in 1933 – four, one?

Cricket has become more professional, more abrasive, more ‘win at any cost’.  In other circumstances Jardine might be regarded today as a hero of the game, but Third Man doubts he will be inducted into the ICC’s Hall of Fame

Cricket long ago clothed itself in a myth of fair play and idealised virtues. Was it the way the early aristocratic enthusiasts excused their dalliance with the lower orders in pursuit of the demeaning shepherd’s game?  Was it the pretence by which schools prepared their pupils for war and colonial administration?   Was it a convenient narrative by which old professionals romanticised their playing careers and obscured their humble origins and self-serving match-play? 

Big cricket cricketers have always found the garment course fitting, so why has Jardine, remained unfashionable?

The costume that today configures itself in the folds and frills of the Spirit of Cricket may be a fig leaf, but nevertheless it must be worn at all times with respect and subservience. 

He who questions too closely the Emperor’s new clothes risks becoming a lightning rod through which the guilt and greed of others reaches the ground.

Is it time therefore to rehabilitate Douglas Jardine? 

As in most things, we must start much earlier.  In November 1928 the genial Percy Chapman led a team Down Under.  As now, after a long period of dominance, Australia, with their great players aging or retired, were finding it hard to reconstruct their side.

Percey Chapman wore a funny hat and thumped Australia 4 -1 but the game has been far kinder to him than it has to Jardine.

England on the other hand were able to send the following batting order to the printing office at the Gabba as the series begun on the morning of November 30th: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Mead, Hammond (a debutant in this match who was to score 905 runs in his 9 Test match innings on this tour), Jardine (another debutant), Hendren (who, coming in at the crisis point of the match, if not of the series, when England were tottering at 161 for 4 on that first day, scored 169 of England’s first innings of 521 in a five hour game-changing innings ) and Chapman himself. 

Patsy Hendred on his way to 169. Has he actually got a lot to answer for?

These batsmen were complemented by a bowling attack of Tate, Larwood, White, Geary (in subsequent Tests) and Hammond. 

In reply, Australia lost their first four batsmen for 40 in a disastrous last hour of the second day and eventually sunk to 122 all out.  The youth Bradman, who had already scored 295 runs against the tourists for twice out, was lbw to Tate for 18 batting at number 7.  Larwood took six for 32 in 14.4 overs. 

Tests being timeless affairs in those days, England batted on to 342 (Mead 73, Jardine 65*) in their second innings before declaring 741 runs ahead in time to take the wicket of Ponsford before the close of play on the fourth evening.

Overnight rain then made batting conditions treacherous and White 4 for 7 in 6.3 overs, Tate 2 for 26 and Larwood 2 for 30  sent Australia to a crushing and demoralizing defeat by 675 runs.

The impact on the home side’s supporters, their media, their cricketers past and present and especially on Bradman would have far reaching consequences.

To be continued …


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Gripping Yarns 2 – ‘O’Reilly, you’ll never control it that way’

Here it is: a photograph of Bill Reilly’s grip, described by Wisden in 1937 as ‘the first two fingers round the ball and the others folded on to the palm of his hand’.

O’Reilly was already 23 when he played his first ‘big cricket’ match.  He played in only 133 first-class matches, bowled 37,246 balls took 774 wickets at 16.6 runs each. 

In his 27 Tests he took 144 wickets (102 of them in 19 appearances against England) for 22.59 runs.

When Bradman was changing the balance of power between the two countries with his bat, O’Reilly was doing the same with the ball.

Yet O’Reilly very nearly had one of the shortest first-class careers in the history of the game.

He was taught in a country school near Wingello in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.  Once, playing for Wingello at Bowral he came up against a seventeen year old called Bradman who proceeded to score 234, 48 of the last 50 with four 6s and six 4s.  Continuing his innings the following Saturday at Wingello, Bradman was bowled first ball by O’Reilly.

Hammond in ‘My Cricket World’ describes how at the age of twenty and taking wickets in the ‘Big City’ of Sydney O’Reilly was invited to some trial nets under the supervision of Arthur Mailey.

The first thing Mailey said was, ‘You’re holding the ball all wrong.  You’ll never control it holding it like that.’

After trying to hold the ball Mailey’s way, O’Reilly went back to his original grip.  Mailey described him as ‘unteachable’ and passed him over.

Later in life O’Reilly would give this advice to any young cricketer, ‘If they tell you you’re bowling too quickly, thank them for their advice and forget it.’

You can just make out the grip in this photograph which also shows that O'Reilly sacrificed much of his 6ft 3in of height perhaps in favour of loop and accentuated drop that gave the steep bounce to his bowling

But all was not lost, O’Reilly had attracted the eye of Dr. Reg Bettington, then a power in NSW cricket.  Two years later Bettington sent for him and gave him a trial in the State side.  Over anxious and gripping the ball too tightly, O’Reilly bowled 12 weak and costly overs and again experienced failure and rejection.

Then, in 1931, when NSW was about to leave to play Victoria one of their bowlers had to pull out and Bettington sent for O’Reilly.  But misfortune stalked him still. Early in the game O’Reilly tore a finger on the seam of a newish ball.  So he failed again and Bettington would have heard the mutterings and  ‘I told you so’s of the doubters.

O’Reilly prepared to go home, but Bettington said, ‘Have another go.’ And in the next game he took 5 for 22 in 73 balls including the scalps of Woodfull and Ponsford. – with his special grip!

This is how O’Reilly expressed things years later, “My opinion is this: coaches are the biggest curse that the game has got. They spoil more kids than ever they help. If you get a talented boy, say 10, 11 or 12, who knows what he is doing – and you can pick it straightaway from a mile off whether a kid has got it or not – tell him that the ball that is spinning in the air clockwise will swing away from the bat, it will go the other way in the air before it hits the ground. It is impossible to throw a new ball straight with its seam because the seam will make it move. Now if you can control swing by knowing that the offspinner is an outswinger and a legspinner is an inswinger – well you can tell that to a boy and say, “Spend an extra half hour on the dunny each day and make yourself into a good bowler. Think about it.”

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A Life in Dentristy or A Life in Cricket – You Decide

George Headley was born in Panama in 1909.  He was taken to Jamaica as a Spanish speaking ten year old.  There he fell in love with cricket.  At 15 and still in the then customary short trousers, he saw Earnest Tyldesley make over three hundred runs in a pre-season match. 

It was as if he had learned all he needed to know about batting on that day suggests our old friend C.L.R. James.  (An urgent but unanswerable question arises; did Tyldesley use the Circle Line back lift?)

Destined to go to American to study dentistry George was saved for a future in cricket when he was chosen to play against a visiting English side captained by Lionel Tennyson.  He scored 79 in the first match and 211 in the second.

Two reasons to be thankful George Headley never got to handle a dentist's drill or our first clue that there is something very odd going on with the grip.

Headley played 22 times for the West Indians and often had to carry the rest of the batting.  This led to his nickname;  ‘Atlas’.  He scored 2,190 runs, ten centuries, eight against England, and averaged 60.83.

Aged only thirty, war intervened cruelly in his career surely taking away his best years as a batsman.  By then he had scored 9,532 first class runs.  He added only 391 runs when cricket resumed after the war, finishing with a first class average of 69.86.

Like David Gower,  Headley was light framed and had a well trained eye, quick feet and good timing.

The first shot we see him play in Part One of the ESCN Legends video at Cricinfo is a sumptuous on-drive played on the walk in a manner strikingly reminiscent of Vivian Richards batting forty years later.

(If you have only two minutes to spare, Third Man urges you to watch that one shot rather than to read on here)

The quality of this on drive is even more significant because, on Headley’s first tour to Australia it is said he was ‘worked out’ as an off-side player and the bowlers attacked leg stump with some success.  George went into the nets and fixed the problem so effectively that, by the end of the tour, Clarrie Grimmett  was saying that George was the best leg-side player he’d ever bowled to.

But the comparison Third Man wishes to explore is that between Headley and Bradman’s grip pictured below and their rather circular back lifts.

Aplogies for the blurred photo of George but TM has found it hard to find anything but a very small photograph of his stance. Note the way the bat faces inwards which means that the hands are further around the back of the bat with the thumbs of their bottom hands facing in the same direction as the face.

Now is the time to get that old bat out from under the stairs or the kit bag out of the car and see how you get on holding at bat like these two remarkable batsmen.

And tomorrow, all things permitting, let’s see whether we can work out what it meant for the way they played so well.


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Perhaps five or six years ago now, Third Man noticed a fine looking young cricketer in the nets.  He was about 11 and had been in the County primary school side for two years.

The blade came down straight and full faced and the ball was timed to perfection.  But the really interesting thing was that the back lift started in the direction of cover point, travelled round in an arc before coming down fairly straight.  It was this movement and momentum that was giving him his sense of timing and helping add to the weight of the shot.

Bradmanesque?  It was said of Bradman that he had both an unorthodox grip and a back lift not unlike this young person’s.  Even in the sequence of still shots in his Art of Batting the back lift points to a wide gully.

By the following year the young cricketer’s abilities were recognised well enough for him to be invited to join others of similar potential in a North of England squad that spent half a dozen weekends at Headingley.

“Bet they coach that back lift out of him,” thought Third Man.  “By the time we see him again he’ll be standing upright at the crease, bat held behind him horizontal, quite still and slightly over leg stump.”

Of course that was exactly what happened.  He remains a good player.  He has dropped under the radar at Old Trafford but he may yet get another chance, perhaps in the Under 19s.  But he hasn’t that interesting back lift and we shall never know what, as an 18 year old, he might have been like.

This way of bringing a bat or a racket back and into the down swing in a single movement is how tennis players play the forehand.  And TM believes tennis hitting has a great deal to teach cricketers.

Third Man was reminded of all this when he found some very interesting footage of George Headley here on Cricinfo.  There, larger than life, is the pick-up to cover point.  There is some suggestion that it caused him to over balance towards the off but it did deliver in Test cricket a hundred once every four innings and some big ones at that.

One never hears of Headley without the comment that he was the black Bradman or that Bradman was the white Headley, but never to TM’s knowledge has someone pointed out that their swings were very similarly unorthodox  AND, as we may have a chance to examine tomorrow, there were some very funny things going on with the grip.


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