On January 6, 1930, Don Bradman pulverised the Queensland attack at Sydney by scoring an unbeaten 452 for New South Wales. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the mammoth knock that established his reputation as a run machine.
Queensland had run the strong New South Wales team close in the first innings. Captain Alan Kippax, along with all-rounder Alan Fairfax and the brilliant Stan McCabe, made the hosts a formidable line-up. And of course, there was also the little matter of the 21-year-old Don Bradman at the top of the order.
But, in the first innings, Pud Thurlow and Alec Hurwood, Test bowlers both, had made them struggle on the Sydney wicket. Opening the innings, Bradman had lasted just five minutes and eight balls before snicking Hurwood for three. New South Wales managed 235, and Queensland, pegged back by some intelligent swing bowling by McCabe and Fairfax, had fought hard and finished just eight short.
As the hosts batted again on the afternoon of the second day, Queensland was upbeat. All they needed were some quick wickets, and the balance – precariously poised at the moment – would tilt in their favour.
And things started out smoothly enough. At 22, Hurwood got rid of Cassie Andrews and Bradman walked in at the No 3 position he was more accustomed to. At 33, debutant Henry Leeson effected an excellent stumping to send back makeshift opener Fairfax.
Joined by Kippax at the wicket, Bradman decided to take the initiative by the scruff of the neck. It was a singularly unequal contest. At one end was a group of hardworking trundlers, diligent and efficient, earning laurels with the sweat of their brow. Twenty-two yards away stood a phenomenon that flashed across the world only once, a freak of nature who defied the axioms of the mortals – for whom the law of averages held no meaning.
The little man raced to 50 off 55 balls, and made a rather sedate progress to his second fifty that took 67 more deliveries.
After this he decided to break loose from whatever puny shackles that were still holding him back. The next 50 came in 43 minutes off 48 balls, and the 200 was up in a total of 209 balls, scored in just over three hours.
At the other end Alan Kippax had progressed almost unnoticed to a hundred. The stand lasted 144 minutes and amounted to 272. By the end of the day, New South Wales was 367 for three, Bradman unbeaten on 205.
The world record
For lesser men, it was a fabulous day in the field. For The Don, it was just warm up for the morrow. The next morning, the 250 arrived in quick time, in less than four hours of batting. The 300 followed 46 balls later, in 288 minutes.
After McCabe and Alec Marks left in quick succession, Bradman found a solid partner in Arthur Allsopp, with whom he added 180 runs in an hour and a half. The runs kept coming at breathtaking rate. The 350 came in 333 minutes off 359 balls, and the 400 arrived in 407 balls after 376 minutes at the crease.
Apart from the faint clamour about his record on sticky wickets, not many disputed Bradman’s absolute mastery of the art of batting. However, not all his strokes followed the rigid grammatical rules set forth in coaching manuals. The Don himself was aware of this, and a favourite photograph of his was the flowing cover drive captured in camera during this innings – the picture of technical perfection. Bradman’s batting, coasting on the crest of the platonic ideal of batsmanship, reached a plane of surreal satori during this mammoth knock.
It was perhaps the result of a dream of the greatest master of the willow that drifted on the verge of fulfilment. Bill Ponsford had set the world record score of 437 two seasons earlier, batting for Victoria against Queensland at Melbourne. Bradman wanted the record dearly.
“On 434 …, I had a curious intuition … I seemed to sense that the ball would be a short-pitched one on the leg-stump, and I could almost feel myself getting ready to make my shot before the ball was delivered. Sure enough, it pitched exactly where I had anticipated, and, hooking it to the square-leg boundary, I established the only record upon which I had set my heart,” he recalled later.
When wicketkeeper Hugh Davison hit the first ball bowled by Victor Goodwin back to the bowler, Kippax closed the innings. Bradman left the field borne on the shoulders of his teammates, for a megalithic 452 not out scored in 415 minutes off 465 balls with 49 hits to the fence. New South Wales had declared at 761 for eight.
Progress of Bradman’s innings
A shell-shocked and pulverised Queensland side fell somewhat short of the 770 run target, managing 84 in their second innings. The victory margin was an enormous 685 runs.
“It’s the speed with which you score runs, that is a very important factor. The world record score that I made, that 452, was made in a little over 400 minutes,” Bradman recalled later.
This innings was instrumental in removing the last vestige doubt about Bradman’s claims for a place in the side to tour England in 1930.
The world record stood for 29 years before Hanif Mohammad scored 499 for Karachi against Bhawalpur in January, 1959.
(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