Tag Archives: Donald Bradman

No sign of Slump as Bradman outshines ‘Mr Smith’

Bradman aged 21, already the scorer of the highest first class innings of 452 not out and about to take England by storm

The world economy may be on the slide and Britain already experiencing the cruel effects of the Great Slump but few of the 30,000 plus crowd who thronged to Lord’s today, Saturday, the second day of the 1930 Test against the Australians will have given their fears much thought.  Instead they have been treated to a remarkable day’s cricket and witnessed the arrival on the cricketing stage of no less than a phenomenon.

The 21 year old, Donald Bradman, was playing ‘up country’ for Bowry only four seasons ago.  A year later he was beginning to make an impact in Sydney grade cricket scoring 110 in his first innings performing at that level.  Two seasons ago he was forced himself into the New South Wales side where he again scored a century of debut.   And just over a year ago, as a twenty year old, he was appearing in four of the five Tests against Chapman’s England tourists, making  a couple of centuries at an average of 66 for the series.

A fortnight ago, at Trent Bridge, he defied those who thought he might be too inexperienced to succeed in English conditions by scoring 131 in the fourth innings and giving England the fright and the fight of their lives.

Today, Third Man again used his trusty steps to hurdle the wall behind the famous clock tower and joined the expectant crowd, this time choosing to sit in the new Grandstand.  This stand which truly embraces modernity affords a view so close to the action that one feels as if one is actually on the field of play.

We had to wait until 3.30pm before the young man made his entry.  This morning the England last wicket pair added a useful 38 to bring the score to 425.  But by mid-afternoon with the Australian openers, Woodfull and Ponsford, undefeated on 150, and barely a third of the match completed, that England score already looked inadequate. 

Bradman, batting No 3 as he had in the second innings at Trent Bridge,  joined Woodfull at 162 – 1 and immediately the run rate accelerated. 

Finding the right length to bowl at Bradman must be a fruitless search for any bowler.  The slightest shortness of length and he is quickly back on his stumps to cut or pull, as this photograph illustrates well.

Every ball played square of the wicket is hit downwards and accurately to the boundary with surprising force for so slight a young man. 

Fuller length balls are driven with ease from a high back lift that may start at gully but whips down straight and with great speed.  The plucky Robins bowled well and should have had Woodfull stumped when he was 52 but to Bradman, so quick on his feet, this crafty bowler found himself under huge pressure as the batsman advanced down the wicket to destroy his accuracy under a hail of shots. 

Only the valiant and frugal Tate seemed able to stem the flow of runs.  Limited to no more than two runs an over at Tate’s end, the pair made hay at the other, adding 231 in 154 minutes.  Finally, at 393 – 1 and after five and a half hours at the crease, the Australian opener Woodfall was stumped off the bowling of Robins for 155.

In the last moments of play Australia took their score to 404 with Bradman 155 not out in a chanceless innings of  two hours forty minutes during which every shot he played dissected the field exactly where he had aimed.  It was batting of the highest technical brilliance.

Great cricketers are inspired by the performance of other great cricketers and shots of the class we have witnessed in the last two days contained elements of competitive flair.  Bradman must have known that he had witnessed something special from ‘Mr Smith’* yesterday and today he attempted to emulate that mastery and succeeded.

Those of us who were lucky enough to be here on both days have enjoyed two of the finest innings ever played on this special ground.  We are still only half way through this Test.

With a rest day tomorrow, Australia will no doubt drink the night away at the Wardorf, dancing with the debutantes who after a few days at Ascot had ended this week of their Season in fine tradition by gracing the new ‘boxes’ in the Grandstand immediately below where Third Man was sitting. 

We hear that Government revenues are vanishing, that the new Coalition Government of Labour’s Mr Ramsey and his Liberal friends are intent on restoring Victorian values with a classically balanced budget.  Cuts may therefore be on the way, unemployment may be rising towards 2 million, exports may be plunging, stock market values may be on the floor, but at Lord’s today there was no sign of the Slump.  The finest cricket ever played on this famous ground has dispelled the gloom.  One and all left Lord’s with a spring in their step and an image of this young man Bradmen etched in their memories forever.

* Smith or Mr Smith was the nickname used by cricketers for Prince Duleepsinghji

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Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji Shines on Opening Day of Lord’s Test

30,000 spectators filled Lord's in June 1930 to watch England v Australia

Try as he might, Third Man finds it hard always to be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new International Cricket calendars.

All week he has been trying not to scratch an itch.  By rights he should be in a queue in Cavendish Avenue edging towards the North Gate at Lord’s for the 2nd Test.  Instead Middlesex play Surrey at t20.

Must he sit and itch?  No he need not!  He can leave a note on the kitchen table reading, “Off to Lord’s, back Monday night,” and pace down to the garden shed where that old Time Machine is gathering too much dust.       N.B. Remember to take a step ladder.

Setting the machine’s travelling co-ordinates for NW8 9LE he is there in a trice at the back of the Wellington Hospital.

No one is about so he hides the trusty step ladder in some bushes in the Close and re-enters the Time Machine.

When should he arrive?

Silly question; 27th of June 1930, England v Australia, an easily dialled 80 years back.

Yes, the steps are still there and getting himself out of sight in a garden he makes his way over the wall and into the yard behind the clock tower at the Nursery End. 

The new Grandstand gleams, the Tavern is reassuringly still a tavern and the Mound Stand, across from him, is filling up, tier upon tier of seating to the dizzying heights of the back row. 

There is something special about watching from the top seats of the Mound, dark and cool but the light reflects from the arena affording the perfect panorama, like being at the motion pictures.

There is a confident air among the crowd that already looks to Third Man as if it well to around 30,000 for the day is done .  Two winters before, England easily won the series ‘down under’.  And the first Test in this series has already resulted in a 93 run victory for England. 

Hobbs and Sutcliffe had opened, the Master making 78 in a pair of relatively low scoring first innings:  England 270 all out (Grimmett 5 -107 in 32 overs), Australia 144 all out with Kippax not out 64.  England’s first innings lead was extended by a further 302 runs with Hobbs again top scoring and Grimmett taking another five this time for 94 in 30 overs.

Australia’s bid for victory in the fourth innings briefly promised a cricketing sensation with that young Bradman, who everyone is talking about, scoring 131 coming in at No. 3.

Could the crowd’s confidence in England be mis-placed?  With Hobbs at 47 (years not runs), Hendren 41, White 39, Geary 36 and Tate 35 there is a nagging concern that the England side is fighting a losing battle with age and capping that, Chapman the captain, has played very little cricket since the previous series.

This morning the talk around the ground is that Duleepsinhji, Allen and White will take the places of the injured Sutcliffe, Larwood and Tyldesley.  Reliable Leyland we already know is absent.  It all must have been a headache for Leveson-Gower, Man and White, the selectors.

Here’s cheer, though: England have won the toss on what looks like a wicket filled with runs.  But Hobbs falls early caught behind off Fairfax. Woolley then treats us to a glorious hour before he too falls to Fairfax, bringing Duleep to the wicket for his debut against the Australians.  At the other end Hammond cannot seem to time a thing and it is no surprise when Grimmett bowls him for 38.  Three down for 105.

Next Duleep (batting under the watchful and delighted gaze of his uncle Ranji who Third Man glimpses sitting in the pavilion) and Hendren treat us to 104 runs in 90 minutes.

The undercooked Chapman fails inevitably as does Allen, but Tate in a stand of 98 with Duleep strikes some lusty blows to the delight of the afternoon spectators who are sitting ten deep on the grass around the ground and field the ball, tossing it back to the despairing Australian boundary fielders.

This is better, but Grimmett seems capabale of beating Duleep whenever he likes and Fairfax and Wall with the new ball give him trouble.  Yet in four and three-quarter hours he takes his score to 173 before, trying to force the pace, he is caught at long off to the bowling of Grimmett. 

30,000 stand and cheer him off!  But, with the last pair in and the score not quite 400, has England scored enough?

“Time” calls the umpire as the first day comes to a close.

Post Script.   Meeting Ranji on the way down Baker Street, Third Man congratulates him on his newphew’s fine innings that day.

“Yes, but did you see that rash shot to Grimmett?  He always was a careless lad.”

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Seethru Bats? Is Third Man losing his grip?

Donald Bradman  and George Headley have strong claims to be the best batsmen ever to play cricket.  They were born within nine months of each other in August 1908 and May 1909.  They were both self taught.  As was illustrated here yesterday, they shared a similarly unorthodox stance and grip.

The twins: Bradman and Headley, their bat faces 'shut' and the hands at the back of the bat handles

The photograph of Bradman immediately below shows just how far round the back of the handle are his hands.

This shot of Bradman playing a late cut is a good one to look at his grip in action

In his Art of Cricket, Bradman writes, “For my part I refuse to be dogmatic about one’s grip, because I believe various holds can be satisfactory.  So much depends on the batsman’s methods.”

He describes the position of his hands using golfing terms as ‘a slightly shut face’.  It looks slightly more than ‘slightly’ to Third Man.  Headley’s is an even more extreme version.

Headley with bottom hand behind the handle and it looks as if the index finger is pointed down towards the splice

It has always been argued that, by closing the face in this way, pulls and cuts are struck with a slightly downward facing blade which helps to keep the ball down.

It also means that, when driving, the blade cannot continue very far in an open manner.  The motion through the line the of the ball is broken by the wrists reaching the end of their orbit. 

The follow through can only be effected by a rotation at the shoulders.  The ‘right hander’s’ right (bottom) elbow quickly rises above the left and the bat, rather than passing over the left shoulder passes more to the side of the left shoulder as the next photograph of Bradman reveals.

Coaches will search in vain for a high elbow and a 'correct' alighment of the hips and shoulders. This is 1938 but we'll see plenty of shots like these in tomorrow's ICC T20 Cup Final

Even more importantly perhaps, and well illustrated above, the hips open and are aligned from cover to mid-wicket in a very chest-on fashion.   This development of alignment is one of the most notable adaptions in T20 but also, unintentionally, seems to be a natural consequence of these extreme grips.

Finally, as this sequence taken from The Art of Cricket to illustrate the ‘jumping out to drive’ shows, throwing the hands into the shot with the wrists in these positions means that the batsman’s head is not ‘over the ball’ as the coaching manuals urge but behind the bat as it strikes the ball.  It is as if Bradman, in this case, is looking through the back of his bat as he watches the ball strike the blade. (see the middle shot in the sequence below).

Head over the ball? No, it's back and angled, but this enables Bradman to watch the ball through the back of his bat.

Which, remarkably, is exactly how Roger Federa plays the forehand and backhand drives.

Federa watches the ball through his racket strings, head tilted back, shoulders aligned from cover to midwicket

Food for thought?  Will a pre-determined striking grip develop with the bottom hand further round behind the line of the drive?  Changing a grip is a notoriously tricky and dangerous thing but will batsmen of the future have to have developed more than one grip,  following the path trod by the tennis players?

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Watch this then! – Sir Donald Bradman and the Origins of the Dilshan

The dare is irresistible to young boys.

“I bet you wouldn’t dare go out there and reverse sweep that opening bowler.”

“Watch this then!”

That was the kind of chat you might have overheard listening to a bunch of eleven year old cricketers, five years ago.

Now they’re sixteen and it’s the Dilshan that’s the subject of their dares.

Tillakaratne Dilshan playing the Scoop Shot right out of the coaching manual

Twenty or so years ago cricketers rediscovered that scoring runs could be a three dimensional activity.  In the days of risk-averse batting one might see the odd lofted straight drive, though cricketers have been sacked from Test sides for playing that shot before lunch on the first day of a Test.

The hook was always an explosive shot with the ball soaring skyward, but even then you could hear the coach’s admonishment, “Roll those wrists, TM.”

Roy Marshall famously played the sliced cut that slewed the ball over Third Man’s head for six, but no-one thought of copying that ‘impossible’ shot.

Perhaps it was Barry Richards, copping with the demands of the Gillette and Benson and Hedges formats, who in recent times rediscovered the art of lofting drives over extra cover and clipping leg side shots deliberately up and over the inner ring of fielders.

Field placing tactics evolved with in and out fields, but these could not put the gene entirely back in the bottle.  Shot selection and captaincy had now to consider the third and liberating dimension. 

Batsmen responded to carefully placed in and out leg side fields by developing reverse shots if the on side was packed with extra fielders.  

By the time the preternaturally attacking and wonderfully inventive Sri Lankan, Tillakaratne Dilshan , arrived on the scene there was only one segment of the field left to exploit: the area behind and over the head of the wicket keeper.

Third Man does not hesitate to repeat and underscore this; yes, the area behind and over the head of the wicket keeper.

Perhaps in the nets one day, bored but feeling ‘right’,  Dilshan assumed the position of head butting the half-volley and at the last nano-second produced the bat and, without a further view of the ball, timed a flick over the wicket keepers left shoulder.

“Bet you wouldn’t do that in a match.”

“Watch me, then!”

Yes, Third Man, but what’s this got to do with Sir Donald Bradman?

In Doug Insole’s Cricket From the Middle, the Essex and England allrounder recalls playing in a match at Lords against Middlesex.  Compton had yet to reach three figures and was batting freely but seriously when play stopped for tea. 

During that interval the mischievous and impish Middlesex captain, R.W.V. Robins,  ‘innocently’ enquired of Compton why he never played the straight drive, as this shot was the usually considered the mark of a decent batsman.

Cultural linguists will recognize this as a typically upper middle class mid-twentieth century way of issuing a dare.

Walking out after tea, the Essex players heard Compton tell the bowler, Ray Smith, that his third ball would go back over his head.

The third ball was duly hit for ‘as straight a six as it is possible to see’ reports Insole.

Yes, yes, Third Man, but what had this to do with the ‘Don’ who everyone knows during his entire career played every shot along the ground?

Insole goes on to recall Bradman telling him that once in the course of a big innings in a state match in Australia he had suddenly felt the urge to experiment and he had ‘determined to hit the next ball to fine-leg for four’.

Bradman had told the wicket keeper to stand back, or he would get the ball in his face, and had hit the next delivery, a half volley outside the off stump, over his left shoulder to the boundary.

Voila, The Dilshan … or should we say The Bradman, played fifty years ago.  Of course, for added spice, Bradman the master cricketer had dared himself – the real challenge in life.

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