Wally Hammond (in blazer) was far from amused when Don Bradman (bat in hand) did not walk after edging a catch to slip. As he passed his long-time rival at the end of the over, Hammond remarked to The Don, “That’s a fine f***ing way to start a Test series.” © Getty Images
November 29 has curious connections with the great Don Bradman. Arunabha Sengupta writes that although the customary hundreds feature in the great man’s career on this day, they are touched by some dubious distinctions.
Don Bradman cannot be talked about without his bat entering the frame, dripping with huge scores that soon dominate the discussions.
When one links the great man with November 29, the tale is no different. One sees scorecards speak of a vital 187 against England at Brisbane that set the tone for the Ashes series in 1947. Exactly a year later, he plundered the hapless Indians for 185 at the same ground.
However, both these innings are touched by degrees of dubiousness generally not associated with The Don.
Fine f***ing way to start a Test series
When cricket was resumed after the Second World War, Wally Hammond led the MCC side on their tour to Australia – a resumption of sporting ties in what was termed The Goodwill Tour.
However, goodwill seemed to be conspicuously absent in some important quarters.
Bradman, who had never been able to forget the Bodyline series and neither had forgiven England for piling up 903 at The Oval before the War, surprised many, including Hammond, with his ruthless determination to win.
When he went into the first Test, the Don had just come out of prolonged illness. The spark of his genius was often hidden beneath the heavy remnants of rust that had crept into his batting. A failure in the Test would have perhaps ensured a premature end to his career.
During Australia’s first innings, the Nottinghamshire fast bowler Bill Voce induced an edge off the great man’s bat when he was on 28, and it was held in the slips by Jack Ikin. To the surprise of many, Bradman refused to walk, claiming that the ball had gone to the fielder on the bounce. The umpires were unsure and allowed him to resume his innings.
Hammond, who did not consider Bradman to be his bosom buddy anyway, was far from amused. As he passed his long-time rival at the end of the over, he remarked, “That’s a fine f***ing way to start a Test series.”
Bradman went on to score 187 and Australia won the Test by an innings, proceeding to win the series 3-0. Hammond failed with the bat and found Bradman’s attitude so infuriating that he did not exchange another word with the Australian captain except during the toss.
Hit wicket from behind the stumps
A year later, Bradman batted in imperious form against an inexperienced Indian side and took his score to 179 not out when play ended on the second day. Australians were sitting pretty on 309 for 3.
However, when play resumed after the Sunday, Bradman could add only 6 more to his score before falling in curious manner. Trying to cart the Indian captain Lala Amarnath into the outfield, Bradman stepped back behind the stumps and ended up hitting the wicket as he completed his stroke. This marked the only time in his career that Bradman was dismissed hit wicket.
However, his innings of 185 was good enough to beat the Indians all by itself! Caught on a sticky, the Indians had no answer to Ernie Toshack and could manage just 58 and 98.
(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 http://twitter.com/senantix