It has been said that Bradman was to sport what Einstein was to science and Mozart to music. Some sports fans might think that’s a bit flattering to Einstein and Mozart. –Cricket writer, Roland Perry

Simply the best!

By Roger Childs

Bradman stands head and shoulders above all of the thousands of batsmen in the history of cricket. He scored 118 in his opening first class match in 1927 and would go on to make, on average, a century in every three innings until his retirement in 1948.   

He averaged over 95 per innings in all first class matches and finished his career with a test average of 99.94!  This is an incredible 30+ better than the next highest. Amazingly, he came within 4 runs of finishing with a test average of 100.

An extraordinary start to his career

Bradman was born in the small town of Cootamundra, New South Wales and played his early first class cricket for the state. Later he moved to Adelaide and represented South Australia. He showed tremendous talent as a school boy and in club matches, and once scored a century off three 8 ball overs! 

On debut for New South Wales in 1927 he scored a century, and hit 79 and 112 in his second test in 1928. Later in the year he made his highest ever score: 452 not out. In 1930, now 21, he was picked in the Australian team to tour England. His reputation had preceded him, but his performances exceeded expectations:

  • 236 in the first match against Worcester
  • 2960 runs for the tour at an average of 98.66
  • 309 on the first day of the Leeds test and when dismissed the next day his 334 was at that time a world record for a test innings
  • two more double centuries during the series
  • 974 runs in the five test series.

Bradman had created a lot of records in his first three years of first class cricket. But could he keep it up?  Yes indeed!

The master batsman

When he retired in 1948 he had amassed 28,067 runs at an average of 95.14 and scored 117 centuries. His average was 50% higher than any other player in the long history of the game.

Asked about his success, Bradman replied I treat every ball as though it was the first ball. Cricket writers have long debated what made Bradman so outstanding and so much better than any other batsman. What were the secrets to his success?

  • He had supreme confidence in his ability: …I never consider the possibility that anyone can get me out.
  • His wonderful eye and superb footwork enabled Bradman to be in position when the ball arrived, giving him options on where to place it.
  • Whether hooking, cutting or driving he kept the ball on the ground. Geoff Armstrong 
  • Beneath the calculated devastation lay a rich seam of creative batsmanship, vigorous in execution, astonishing in certainty. E W Swanton 

“The Don” was not particularly strong or stylish, but hit the ball with tremendous timing and awesome power. In his classic, best seller The Art of Cricket, he wrote: The emphasis is on power and aggression not technique.

When he was dismissed he did not argue or demur, but quickly walked back to the pavilion with his bat under arm. 

An Australian legend

As captain of Australia from 1936 he never lost a series and after retiring continued to serve the game for many years as a coach, selector and administrator.  He was a hugely popular man in a country that loves cricket and the song Our Don Bradman was a hit in the 1930s. At times he would receive a daily mail delivery of 600 letters. Replies would go back at the rate of about 80 per day and he would always respond to children. He also wrote a book – The Art of Cricket – which not surprisingly became a best seller.

Always a humble and modest man, Don Bradman was knighted for his services to cricket and in 2001, when he died, he featured on the cover of TIME as well as many other magazines. In the State Library of South Australia there is wonderful Bradman multi-media exhibition which is a must for all cricket fans.

The final test

The place was The Oval in London and the date was 14 August 1948. Bradman had announced that this would be his final test and when he walked out with Australia 117 for 1, the sell-out crowd rose to their feet and clapped him on his way to the wicket. Then before he faced a ball the English players gave him three cheers.

Leg spinner Eric Hollies bowled to the great man who blocked it. The second ball was a googly (the leg spinner’s off break bowled from the back of the hand), Bradman didn’t pick it and was bowled. In his trademark style he immediately put his bat under his arm, took off his gloves and strode briskly back to the dressing room. The initially stunned crowd stood and cheered him all the way, knowing that this was the last occasion they would see the greatest batsman of all time. 

It was an unexpected anti-climax to a sensational career; Bradman had gone to the wicket with a test average over100 and left with it at a mere 99.94!

Bradman is one of the greatest sportsmen of all time and his achievements as a cricketer were at a level of excellence unmatched before or since. 

As the annual cricket almanac Wisden said ‘he reinvented the game’ and in so doing achieved a standard nobody else is ever likely to reach. –Cricket writer, Barry Norman.