21-year-old Don Bradman scores 309 in a day in the 1930 Ashes series

Don Bradman acknowleding the cheers during his innings of 232 at The Oval against England in 1930. The double century followed scores of 131 in the first Test, 254 in the second Test and 334 in the third Test. Bradman finished with 974 runs in seven innings in that series © Getty Images

July 11, 1930. Don Bradman walked out to bat after 11 balls on the first morning at Leeds, and walked back at the end of the day unbeaten on 309. Arunabha Sengupta relives the day when the entire cricketing world came to a standstill in awe of his relentless run making.
Summer, 1930. The second Test at Lord’s had been a match prepared in cricket heaven, a delight for the romantic, a splendid saga of strokeplay, contested with the spirit of the golden age under brilliant sunshine over four unforgettable days. Australia had won by seven wickets, in spite of two centuries of contrasting brilliance by debutant KS Duleepsinhji and England captain Percy Chapman. Don Bradman had responded with 254, runs that were unmatched for the level of perfection even in the rarefied strata through which Bradman’s career soared for the next two decades.

As he had reached his 250, admiration and dismay had pervaded in equal proportions among the assembled crowd. As the two contrasting feelings had been expressed volubly, amazement was uniformly apparent whatever the sentiment. A cockney voice had been heard through the charged atmosphere: “Blimey, what are you worrying about? It’s only a quarter of a thousand.”

As it turned out, at Headingley a quarter of a thousand was not quite sufficient for Bradman.

Miracle at Leeds

The Australian phenomenon had not held a bat for a week. After the Lord’s Test, he had gone around London, with all the eagerness of a shy, curious 21-year-old. He had enjoyed the Wimbledon finals of the year. And then he had motored up to Yorkshire in those days of pre-motorway England, finishing the journey at Queen’s Hotel, Leeds. The break from cricket was perhaps the best preparation for the Test match, because on July 11 one witnessed the Don in an overflowing deluge.

Australia lost the wicket of Archie Jackson off the 11th ball of the innings and Bradman strode in early in the day. Three decades later, in 1965, Harold Larwood claimed in his autobiography that he had got Bradman caught behind before he had scored. By that time both the umpires had departed to the fields beyond where no over is called.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he was palpably out. Everyone around the wicket appealed, even Jack Hobbs, the fairest man I ever met on a cricket field.” Larwood added that in those days “…it was the practice in England for only the bowler and those close around the wicket in a position to see or hear to appeal.”  By all accounts, the Nottinghamshire fast bowler was mistaken, or memory had played tricks after all those years. The ball by ball details meticulously recorded show that he did not bowl to Bradman before the batsman had opened his account. And throughout the innings Jack Hobbs had fielded either in the cover or on the extra cover boundary, never behind the wicket. None of the press contingent present at Headingley seemed to recall the incident.

Whether it took place or not, it had little effect on Bradman. By lunch he was 105 not out, joining his famous fellow New South Welshmen Victor Trumper and Charlie Macartney as batsmen to have scored a hundred before lunch on the first day of a Test match. It would be 46 years before the Australian trio would be joined by Majid Khan. Obviously the times were different back in 1930. In the two hours leading to lunch, as many as 46 overs were sent down.

It was not as blemishless as his 254, but somewhat more prolific. The first false stroke was generated off his bat at 141, when he skied to mid-on, but the ball fell safely. The next error was a similar shot with an identical result when he was on 202. By tea he was unbeaten on 220.

He offered the only real chance at 273, shortly before six o’clock. George Duckworth grassed a difficult catch off George Geary. The Don smiled broadly, and Duckworth looked daggers.

By the end of the day, Bradman was unbeaten on 309 — having amassed the first triple hundred in Anglo-AustralianTest cricket, going past Reggie Foster’s record of 287. The runs were plundered everywhere. The scoring chart produced by Bill ‘Fergie’ Ferguson remains as uniformly cluttered as any. The drives went straight and through the off and on in equal proportions. There were cuts and hooks and hits to the square leg. According to The Times, “To mention the strokes from which he scored most of his runs is to go through the whole range of strokes known to a modern batsman. Once or twice he demonstrated an idea which is not generally understood, but at no time did he take anything approaching a risk, and he cannot have hit the ball in the air more than three times during the day. It was in fact an innings so glorious that it well might be classed as incomparable, and how the Yorkshiremen loved it.”

To every ball he had a stroke. During the first day’s play alone, he had struck as many as 42 boundaries. The next morning, Plum Warner observed, “To call him a run-getting machine as he has been called is a poor compliment. That rather implies that the runs are ground out with a roar and a clash and a clatter, while as a fact he makes his runs easily and smoothly and naturally, with the mark of genius throughout. You may talk of Alexander, Hercules, Trumper and Macartney, but this young Australian is a super-batsman and the equal of anyone.”

Neville Cardus was characteristically exuberant describing his return after the day long conquest: “In July 1930, Bradman announced his right to mastership in a few swift strokes. The vast field of Headingley was a moist, hot congestion, with apparently only one cool, clean, well brushed individual present, name of Bradman, who during the five hour traffic of the crease, made at will 300 runs and a few more, before half past six. He returned to the pavilion as though fresh from a band box, the rest of us, players, umpires, crowd and scorers, especially the scorers, were exhausted, dirty, dusty and afflicted by a sense of the vanity of life.”
Among the schoolboys who watched the massacre was one 14-year-old who sat on the hard Headlingley benches, who answered to the name of Len Hutton. Having just made it to the Pudsey St Lawrence first eleven, he had triple century designs of his own. Just eight years down the line he would play an even bigger innings and Bradman would be the first one to congratulate him as he would go past his score.

When Bradman came off the field, shepherded back to the pavilion by the police, thwarting the attempts of the crowd to chair him on the shoulders, he himself carefully placed his bat in a bag and asked for a cup of tea. According to vice-captain Vic Richardson, he is supposed to have remarked, “a good bit of practice for tomorrow.” However, the observation was later denied by Bradman.

Yet, one remark was definitely heard over the applause as two Yorkshiremen conversed. “Why noo, if it’s a fair question, what diz tha think tiv him?” The reply came, “Why, Ah think, wiv a bit o’ practice t’ lad’ll make a cricketer.”

Triple century tales

The stories about the innings are aplenty, and with time separating the genuine from apocrypha had been rendered next to impossible.

Richard Tyldesley, red faced and rotund at that stage of his career, had his share of chasing to do all day. Bradman seemed to relish picking on him, striking balls wherever he fielded, getting them past his bounding self, down the gentle Headingley slope. When someone asked the tired fielder, “He’s damned good, isn’t he?” the reply was terse: “He’s no good to me.”

Seth Kilner, father of cricketing brothers Roy and Norman, remembered Bradman going down the wicket, slipping and falling flat, his initial stroke defeated, but still managing to late cut the ball to the boundary.
Jack Hobbs recalled how monotonous it had become to go up to Bradman and say “Well played, Don” every time he crossed a fifty.

Maurice Tate believed that he all but bowled Bradman with the first ball he bowled to him which, he said, “missed the off peg by a coat of varnish.”

Larwood’s analysis at the end of the day read none for 103. And Tate was reminded by a less than amused Duckworth of the rather ambitious forecast the bowler had made back in Australia — that he would get Bradman off the cross-batted strokes on English wickets.

Bradman was characteristically sedate in his reactions. In an interview after the day, he observed, “My feet are awfully tired, but I could have gone on if it hadn’t been for the close. I am happy to have beaten the record, but happier still to think that Australia are in such a good position.”

The master retired in the evening to his own room, listening to music and perhaps writing. His detractors pointed out that there was no party thrown by the triple centurion on this day of immense triumph. However, Bradman was never the beer drinking and revelling type. A teetotaller to the core he had his own way of relaxing with music and a quiet dinner. “Was I expected to parade the streets of Leeds?” he later wrote.
The following day, Bradman was caught at the wicket off Tate for 334, then the highest innings for any Test and for long the highest ever for Australia. His runs had come at 52 per hour with 46 boundaries. James A Jones of Evening News summed it up in style, “We can still hardly believe that it is true — that this master of cricket, so icily aloof from human feelings, has erred at last.”

During the English innings, a telegram arrived from Arthur Hurwood, an Australian businessman who had settled in England and had acquired a fortune in the firm of Fleming and Whitelaw, soap manufacturers. “Kindly convey congratulations to Bradman . Tell him I want him to accept £1,000 for his wonderful performance.” At the fall of Herbert Sutcliffe’s wicket, the 12th man went in and handed the telegram to the Australian captain Bill Woodfull. Woodfull handed the missive to Bradman who glanced at it and put it in his pocket. The Australian manager, WL Kelly, sent a response to Whitelaw: “Bradman on field. Kindly accept deepest gratitude on his behalf. Wonderful generosity.”  Bradman wired his personal thanks on coming off the field. The reward from Whitelaw was £400 more than any other player made from the entire tour.

However, when one of the members of the Australian team suggested that Bradman should give a dinner for the boys the ace batsman’s reply was typical of the man, “If I gave you fellows a dinner every night from now until we got home to Australia you would only say what a fool I am!” The shrewdness in compiling huge scores extended to his financial matters.

Bradman’s assessment of his own innings was, however, a striking example of a man solidly grounded in reality. “I consider I was very lucky to strike my best form on an ideal batsman’s wicket.”

What followed?

Australia piled up 566, and Clarrie Grimmett’s five wickets ensured England followed on, 175 behind. But, by then England had to play out just about half of the final day. They did so for the loss of three wickets, helped by interruptions due to poor light.

Bradman’s record stood for two years before his arch rival Wally Hammond went past it at Auckland, scoring 336 not out. And at The Oval in 1938, Bradman was the first to congratulate Len Hutton as he cut Chuck Fleetwood-Smith to go past the score.

However, on that July day, in Bradman’s native Bowral, as the news filtered in through the wirelesss, the town went through a spasm of excitement. Neighbours called constantly at the Bradman house, to enthuse over the newest tidings of triumph. It led The Don’s mother, Mrs Emily Bradman, to exclaim, “If these records continue much longer, I don’t know how I am going to stand it.”

The local hotels reported splendid business. And as one report put it on the day after his 334, “If the toasts drunk to his health and long life count for anything, Bradman bids fair to put Methuselah’s record for longevity where he has already put most of the cricket records.”

21-year-old Don Bradman scores 309 in a day in the 1930 Ashes series

WH Ferguson depicts Don Bradman s innings of 334 at Headingly in 1930. Bradman hit 46 fours, six three, 26 twos and 80 singles. Ferguson was a scorer who recorded each and every innings of the 52 Tests Don Bradman played.

Brief scores:

Australia 566 (Bill Woodfull 50, Don Bradman 334, Allan Kippax 77; Maurice Tate 5 for 124) drew with England 391 (Wally Hammond 113, George Geary 44, Percy Chapman 45;  Clarrie Grimmett 5 for 135) and (following  on) 95 for 3.

(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)