Melbourne Cricket Ground - Bradman's ton against Bodyline
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Bradman's ton against Bodyline

Don Bradman

1933

Don Bradman played more legendary innings than any other cricketer before or since, and many of them were on the MCG. He reached triple figures with alacrity and habitually compiled huge scores, but perhaps his most outstanding knock on the famous ground was a comparatively modest 103 not out in the notorious summer of 1932/33.

Bradman was absent for the first Test of that series, which Douglas Jardine’s side won comfortably. He returned to the side for the second Test at the MCG. Although the Melbourne pitch was slow (Australia picked one seamer and three spinners), Harold Larwood was bowling at his most ferociously fast. Jardine’s “leg theory” (better known as “Bodyline”) was designed specifically to foil the astounding youngster Bradman.

The build-up to Bradman’s first confrontation with “Bodyline” was immense, with the MCG crowd roaring its support as he wandered to the wicket, convinced he could counter England’s thuggish tactics - but the let-down was dramatic. The great man had his castle knocked over by William Bowes for a golden duck. He anticipated a bouncer and was in position to hook, but misread the pace and succeeded only in bottom-edging onto the stumps.

Despite Bradman’s first-up failure, great bowling by Tim Wall and Bill O’Reilly saw the visitors dismissed for 169 in response to Australia’s first dig of 228. In the Aussies’ second innings there were four ducks as all of the local bats struggled v except Bradman. It was enough to give the spinners a chance. O’Reilly took five wickets and Bert Ironmonger four as England was dismissed for 139, giving Woodfull’s men victory by 111 runs.

The centrepiece of the victory was Bradman’s courageous and skilful knock. To put his effort in context, it should be noted that he had played six innings against the English bowlers in warm-up games prior to the Tests and had made a grand total of 103 runs, with a top score of 36.

His absence from the first Test was because the team doctor declared him run down and listless, but there were many prepared to believe he was running scared from the vicious barrage of bouncers. All of this made his great second innings ton an effort of enormous character.

The MCG Test was to be Australia’s only win in a series lost 4-1. This great knock was Bradman’s only century of the series, but he still came away with an average of 56.57, better than any other player except England’s Eddie Paynter (61.33 from three Tests).


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