The Ashes

Reminiscing The Greats, A tactic which pulled off the best innings in cricket history

Modern day cricket is a batsman dominating Cricket. With every passing year we witness modern day batsman going past the records of old one’s. But, as they say, “Old is Gold”. The Greatness of modern day batsman can’t be measured with the greatness of old one’s, only on the basis of stats.There was a time when bats were as thin as a snooker stick, when a bowler could bowl 6 bouncers in 6 balls, when a batsman after it rained had to bat on a complete wet wicket. There is no denying the fact that the game was tough those days and to let you know how tough it was,we’ll take a look at an incredibly tough encounter.

After losing The Ashes 1934 at home. In 1936, England toured Australia to play a five match test series with Gubby Allen as captain. Don Bradman was announced to lead Australia for the first time, the newly appointed captain had already set such high standard as a batsman that alot was expected from him as a captain too. As the team was highly reliant on his batting it was yet to be found that how would Bradman perform as a batsman with an added pressure of captaincy.

First test started at Brisbane, with England having a decent first inning lead of 102 runs and secured a formadable target of 381.Australia in reply rattled down on 58 on a wet wicket with Bradman scoring a second ball duck. While the Australian skipper didn’t have an ideal start to his campaign England captain, Gubby Allen on the other hand ended the game with 8 wickets and fighting 68 in the 2nd innings. 2nd test in Sydney was all about Wally hammond’s brilliance, after toiling hard for two days on the field the only thing Aussies would have never wanted was rain but…it seemed as if they were having on a real tough luck. Batting on a wet wicket for the second time in the series, Australia was all out on 80 with Bradman scoring a golden duck.

© Cricket Australia

Although he had a decent partnership with Stan McCabe with 82 to his name yet it was not enough to save his side from an inning and 22 runs defeat. England were 2-0 in the 5 match series winning both tests quite convincingly.The press and public had already declared England as the winners of Ashes 1936-37.

Australian media was all over Bradman saying the captaincy was effecting his cricket its hard to believe but Bradman wasn’t as popular and renown as he is now, there were rumours that Bradman wasn’t getting the kind of support from his senior pro’s that a captain usually gets. Bill’O reilly and Jack Fingleton wanted Stan McCabe to lead the side hence the Australian board and selectors decided to go with Bradman.

Melbourne was all set for the third encounter.Australia won the toss and decided to bat first. “It was 7 for 1 when the crowd began to roar as the saviour Bradman walked into bat on an island green in the sunshine” as Neville Cardus described. The roar couldn’t last long as the England captain handed over the ball to his slow left arm orthodox, Hedley Verity who dismissed bradman for 13.

The home crowed could sense an ashes defeat was on its way.Australia were 181 for 6 close to the end of play as rain started pouring, play was stopped for the day. The England skipper looked satisfied as his team was in a decent position. Day 2 – Started off what bradman described as “the worst i ever saw in my life”. The pitch was badly effected by the rain.The play started after lunch, wickets started to fall as Australia were 200 for 9 when bradman decided not to send his 11th batsman in and declared the innings, what he called “a sensational battle of tactics”. The condition of the pitch at that moment was described as the worst pitch for a cricket field.

Neville Cardus described it as, “I could scarcely believe my eyesight as I saw the ball’s preposterous described all manner of angles and curves;it was here, there,it was everywhere, spitting, darting, good length ball would rear to the Batsman chin; another exactly the same length, would flash into the blackhole like a stone skimming over ice”.

England batting order fell in a blink of an eye. They were 7 down for 76 as bradman began to scare of the fact that he and his Batsman are just 3 wicket away from facing the same unplayable wicket.He called his bowlers and asked them not to dismiss any other batsman by bowling wide of the crease.He removed fielders from the close catching position and put them on the boundary.”Every moment,he wrote,”I was afraid Allen would see through my tactics”.

As the Hammond was dismissed and England were 4 down for 68, Allen’s senior players advised him to declare the innings so their Bowlers can attack Australian Batsman in the last hour of the day’s play. Cardus wrote,” I doubt if any Australian Batsman could have stayed in 10 minutes”.Allen was worried that if he declares the innings, Bradman would counter by immediately declaring his second innings and ask England to bat again.Allen also had at the back of his mind that the next day was Sunday,the rest day and declaration can cost them when the play resumes after the rest day on Monday in different conditions.

After all these if’s and but’s Allen had to make a decision,he finally decided to declare the innings at 76 for 9 and decided to give his bowlers a chance to attack Australian Batsman in last 45 minutes of the day’s play.The cunning Bradman called the umpires, George Borwick and John Scott and asked them to confirm from Allen if he had declared the innings. The umpires got aware of bradman’s intention which was to play for time. Bowrick in reply said ,”I see what you mean, I’ll go and confirm it”. The umpires went into the England dressing room and confirmed from Allen, which resulted in 5 minutes delay.

However Bradman made a decision which Allen and his team would’nt have expected even in their dreams, he reversed the batting order to protect his best players from facing the disastrous conditions he asked his two tailender’s Chuck Fleetwood and O’Reilly to open the innings.O’Reilly got out on the first ball..Bradman sent his another tailender Frank ward at no.3, there wasn’t a worse Batsman than Chuck Fleetwood those days but he and Frank ward somehow managed to go through 18 balls as the umpires called off the play due to bad light.Next day was Sunday which was a rest day. Monday morning witnessed a huge crowd the Wicket was a lot better as compare to the Saturday’s. But still the England opening bowler Bill Voce who had taken 13 wickets in the first two tests was making it hard for the Batsman to stay. Chuck Fleetwood got out soon Bradman sent another lower order batsman in, His plan was to play for the time while the sun dried the pitch.

After the fall of each wicket the crowd was expecting bradman to make his way in to the middle Keith rigg came in at no.4 he and Frank ward batted for an hour, while the sun completely dried the pitch. Bill brown and Fingleton came at no.5 and no.6 after Keith and Frank departed. Bradman finally came at 7.Australia were 221 runs ahead. Neville cardus wrote,”Everything was depended on bradman and he knew it”.He was 56 notout at the end of day’s play.The next morning on a dry wicket in a bright sunshine bradman completed his 100,the 100 became 200.bradman was 248 notout at the end of day’s play he and Fingleton put on a record 346 runs partnership for the sixth wicket in the history of Australian cricket.

Bradman was criticised after the end of match by his critics they accused him of being cowardly hiding down the order. Bradman mentioned,”Some were unkind enough to suggest that my purpose was to avoid batting on a wet wicket,of course it was;but only because such avoidance was necessary in the interests of the team”.Later Wisden declared bradman’s inning as the greatest in the history of the test cricket because of the difficulty of the conditions and circumstances.

Neville cardus wrote,”Related to his cricket in England in six years ago as the honest mason’s productions are related to architecture”.The inning was all hardwork it was like a dedicated labour at work.England left arm spinner, Verity troubled him alot in the first two tests and struggled continued when Verity bowled a long spell before the lunch right through to after tea but the great man was rock solid and survived through the spell.

The next morning Verity finally ended the bradman’s longest test innings by dismissing him on 270 which lasted for 7 hours,38 minutes.It is still a record score by no.7 Batsman in test cricket. Bradman was out of sorts and was too ill to lead the team on the field for the fourth didn’t matter much as England fell short of 365 runs chasing a huge target of 688. In the fourth test, bradman scored a double hundred ( 212) and 169 in the 5th test.Australia won both the matches and retained the Ashes with 3-2.Bradman became the only Australian Captain to win a five match series after losing the first two tests.

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