Ken Archer went on to play just five Tests for Australia and never hit a fifty © Getty Images (File Photo)
Ken Archer went on to play 5 Tests; he never hit a fifty © Getty Images (File Photo)

December 22, 1950. Ken Archer had started his Test career with wonderful application on a fast, seaming, difficult wicket. And then at lunch, Don Bradman spoke to him. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at day when the great man’s advice made the youngster lose his wicket.

Can a youngster hope for better guidance than the great Don Bradman himself taking the trouble of sharing tips and tricks of the trade?

In fact, such advice is often overrated. As in life so in cricket, individuals are different. A path that has led one to supreme success can easily send another along the trail to destruction.

Queensland opener Ken Archer found this out the hard way during his debut against England at Melbourne.

On a green and fast pitch, he opened the innings against some excellent, testing swing bowling by Alec Bedser and Trevor Bailey. At the other end, the experienced Arthur Morris fell to his eternal nemesis Bedser very early in the innings.

And after a superb display of controlled aggression, Neil Harvey finally snicked the Surrey bowler to Godfrey Evans behind the stumps. The ball was moving in the air and cutting off the turf, and the young Archer was feeling rather pleased with himself when he walked back unbeaten at the end of the first session.

However, in the pavilion, Don Bradman — member of the Board and a selector since his recent retirement — buttonholed him.

“What are you saying as they come in to bowl?” the great man asked.

“I suppose I’m saying ‘You’re not going to get me out’”, Archer offered.

The little man shook his head. “Wrong, wrong, wrong. Alec gave you two half volleys in the session and you pushed them both back. You know what I used to say as the bowler came in? No matter who it was, I’d tell myself: ‘Where can I best hit this for four?’”

Archer’s shoulders slumped. He responded meekly, “Well Don, I don’t think I’m as good as you.”

However, the words of The Don were still playing in the back of his mind as he resumed his innings after lunch.  Bailey send down a ball swinging away wide outside the off-stump. Archer attempted an extravagant drive. In the second slip, Bedser shot out his giant palm and caught the travelling ball. Archer’s innings, a superb exhibition of self-discipline and concentration before the break, came to an end for 31.

He did bat determinedly in the second innings as well, but was out for 46, this time caught by Bailey off Bedser. The young man, rather confused after the advice, went on to play 5 Tests and never hit a fifty.

Australia won the low-scoring match at Melbourne by 28 runs.

Brief scores:

Australia 194 (Neil Harvey 42; Alec Bedser 4 for 40, Trevor Bailey 4 for 37) and 181 (Ken Archer 46; Freddie Brown 4 for 26) beat England 197 (Freddie Brown 62, Godfrey Evans 49; Jack Iverson 4 for 37) and 150 (Len Hutton 40; Bill Johnston 4 for 26) by 28 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 http://twitter.com/senantix)