Ashes 1934: Bradman and Ponsford add 451 runs to break their own world record for any wicket

Don Bradman (left) and Bill Ponsford © Getty Images

August 18, 1934 was the day Don Bradman plundered 244 runs at nearly a run a ball. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the day’s play that witnessed Bradman and Bill Ponsford break their own world record for the highest partnership for any wicket by putting on 451 runs.

I’ve got to make 200 tomorrow

A bad patch suffered by Don Bradman?

Incredible as it sounds, when the Australians travelled to England in 1934, Bradman went through three Test matches and five innings scoring just 123 runs.

And as ever so often happens with colossal legends, eager tongues started wagging prematurely about his fallibility. Had the supreme flow for runs been stymied for good by the relentless Bodyline tactics of the 1932-33 series?

The returns had been paltry, with a highest of 36. The methods had been bizarre. Every innings was approached as if scoring anything less than eight runs an over was beneath the dignity of the great man. The sequence of quick cameos was befuddling.

Yet, a hint of caution did ring out from the voices of wisdom. RC Robertson Glasgow remarked that Bradman’s performances had been “rather inexplicable, but I still fear him.” And CB Fry warned the rejoicing Englishmen, “We will make a big error if we indulge in pleasant fancies that Bradman is a spent force.”

The night before his innings commenced in the fourth Test at Leeds, Neville Cardus invited Bradman for dinner in his hotel. Bradman declined. “Thanks, but I’ve got to make 200 tomorrow — at least.”

When the doyen of cricket writers reminded him that he had hit 334 in his last innings at Headingley and by the law of averages was not supposed to get anywhere near 200, Bradman simply replied, “I don’t believe in the law of averages.”

Bradman prepared for his Leeds innings by having a few minutes’ practice against the boundary posts just inside the playing area in front of the old dressing-rooms. The last wicket had fallen just before close of play on the previous evening, and Bradman was to begin his innings by facing Bill Bowes. He started by driving the remaining two deliveries of the over to the straight boundary. Having made his resounding start, he proceeded to score 304. Bill Ponsford and Bradman added 388 at 68 runs an hour between 11.00 am and 5.51 pm. It was the highest partnership for any wicket in Test cricket.

It was the day when a 12-year-old Jim Laker watched from the stands and a stentorian voice rang out asking the England captain Bob Wyatt to put on umpire Alfred Dolphin for a spell of bowling.

Bradman was back at what he excelled at. Piling up mammoth scores.

Injury scare

However, he was exhausted after the seven hour ten minute marathon. He had to be undressed by his teammates and carried to the massage table. And on the third day of the Leeds Test, Bradman strained his right thigh while stopping an off-drive by Patsy Hendren with his left foot at extra-cover.  He limped off the field and was out of action for six matches, recuperating slowly under the careful treatment of Sur Douglas Shields at his Park Lane nursing home.  He spent a long time in the company of Shields and his wife at their charming country residence at Colinswood, Farnham Commons, Bucks, on the edge of Burnham Beeches.

The only match he played since Leeds was a one day game against the Army on the Aldershot Garrison ground three days before the deciding Test at The Oval. He hit 79, ending with a flurry of fours, and feeling reasonably satisfied with his form.

The Oval run feast

With the series locked 1-1, the Oval pitch that greeted the teams looked absolutely perfect. Bradman and captain Bill Woodfull inspected the strip tended with loving care by ‘Boser’ Martin and proclaimed it to be ‘a beauty’. And so it was.

Nobby Clark, running in as first change, bowled Bill Brown at 21 after half an hour’s play on the first morning. Bradman came in to join Ponsford at the crease. The next wicket fell at 472. The two batsmen had rewritten the record for any wicket that they themselves had set in the preceding Test match.

In the morning, with Bowes sending down some quick deliveries, Ponsford had occasionally drawn away from the bowling. But, as soon as Bradman started stroking the ball at the other end, he was a different player.

The pitch was superb, even Verity achieved no turn. Clark occasionally packed the leg side with fielders and bowled on the leg-stump on a good length. But, Bradman drove and cut with brilliance and when the ball was short enough, stepped back and hooked. At the other end, Ponsford sometimes turned his back to balls and received blows on his thigh. But, he picked the gap well and often drove with great power.

Abe Waddington, the old Yorkshire bowler, watched from the stands. When Bradman reached 30 he prophetically voiced, “Yon little chap’s going to get some today. He’s digging in.” Well, even in a timeless Test, Bradman’s ‘digging in’ did not prevent him from scoring at 46 runs an hour, at almost a run a ball.

The pair came together at the stroke of 12. They batted together till 6.23 pm. The runs were added at 85 per hour. When the stand had passed 300, Herbert Sutcliffe ran to collect the ball after yet another boundary hit by Bradman. He put his hands on the boundary rails and asked with a smile: “Anyone got any suggestions?”

Old Notts captain Arthur Carr did have one. To get Douglas Jardine, Harold Larwood and Bill Voce on the field. “I wish I had been in the field too,” remarked Jardine.

Ponsford did offer a few chances, three of them, and the one at 115 was an absolute dolly. Bradman, in contrast, was flawless. In five and a quarter hours, he lofted the ball only twice — one six off Verity and an attempted six off a no ball. The innings of 244 came in 271 balls before Bowes put an end to the suffering of England by getting him nick one to Les Ames. “He never let himself get out of control for a minute,” wrote Percy Fender. Jardine observed that Bradman’s innings was “at least as good as any of his past prolific efforts with the bat, and that is saying a great deal.”

It was as perfect an innings as one could wish to see — the all-round stroke-making evident from the wagon wheels. Bradman scored 122 runs from the pavilion end and 122 from the Vauxhall end. He hit 128 runs on the off-side and 116 on the leg. The innings was studded with 32 fours and one six. According to Bill Bowes, “He hit your bad ’uns for four. And many of your good ’uns too.”

By the end of the day, Australia were 475 for two, Ponsford batting on 205. It would be another 42 years before another visiting batsman would make 200 in a day at The Oval. Viv Richards scored exactly 200 out of his 291 on a parched ground during the drought of 1976.

Lest people wonder, it was not that Richards scored quicker but was handicapped by the slow over rates of the later days. England sent down 100 overs during the first day in 1934 and 102 in 1976. Bradman batted for 316 minutes, while Richards played for 346 on the first day. After lunch, Bradman got 201 in 226 minutes while Richards scored 140 in 241. And Richards had the benefit of feasting on some irregular bowlers as well.

A comparison of the two innings is given below.

A study of two masterly double hundreds


Double tons on 1st day at The Oval Bradman (1934) Richards (1976)
Total Runs 244 291
Total Runs on 1st Day 244 200
Minutes batted on  1st Day 316 346
Overs by England on 1st Day 100 102
Innings strike rate 90.03 75.38
Bowlers faced Bill Bowes, Gubby Allen, Nobby Clark, Wally Hammond, Hedley Verity, Bob Wyatt, Maurice Leyland Bob Willis, Mile Selvey, Tony Greig, Derek Underwood, Geoff Miller, Bob Woolmer, Peter Willey, Chris Balderstone, David Steele

With the double hundred safely tucked away under his belt, Bradman watched a play at a London theatre in the evening and then went for a stroll along the Thames Embankment.

What followed

On the second day, Ponsford took his score to 266 — not bad for someone playing the last Test match of his career. In his penultimate innings, he outscored a Bradman classic. Australia finished with 701.

After England had stuttered their way to 321, the visitors batted again. Bradman struck another chanceless 77, and the innings ran its course at 327. Bowes dismissed The Don again, as he had done in the first innings and in the previous Test at Leeds. But the three dismissals had come at the cost of 14 and a half hours and 625 runs.

Clarrie Grimmett picked up five second innings wickets, and chasing a victory target of 708, England finished somewhat short, bowled out for 145.

The Ashes were regained on captain Woodfull’s 37th  birthday.

Brief scores:

Australia 701 (Bill Ponsford 266, Don Bradman 244, Bill Woodfull 49, Bert Oldfield 42*) and 327 (Don Bradman 77, Stan McCabe 70, Hans Ebeling 41; Bill Bowes 5 for 55, Nobby Clark 5 for 98) beat England 321 (Cyril Walters 64, Maurice Leyland 110) and 145 (Wally Hammond 43; Clarrie Grimmett 5 for 64) by 562 runs

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at