FOX'S 20TH CENTURY: 1930-35: Don Bradman

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The Independent Online
WHEN CONSIDERING Bradman's undoubted right to be among the sporting greats of the century, the only problem is deciding in which span of five years he was at his greatest. His career in first-class cricket lasted from 1927 until 1948, and he was famously out for a duck at The Oval when, in his last innings for Australia, he needed only four runs to give him a Test match average of 100.

The early Thirties probably saw him at his most effective. It was then that his stature in the game was firmly established. On his debut for New South Wales he scored 118 against South Australia and he continued to score, on average, a century on every third visit to the crease. His first-class record was 28,067 runs (average 95.14), including 117 centuries. He six times took his score beyond 300 and 37 times past 200. His 452 not out against Queensland in 1929-30 remained a world record for 29 years. His Test average was 99.94.

The son of a farmer, Donald George Bradman revealed his batting ability as a boy in Bowral, New South Wales. By the time he was 20 he was playing for Australia, whom he captained 24 times.

What made him exceptional? It was not as if his style came from the pages of a coaching manual. He was only 5ft 7in tall and his eyesight was not perfect. However, he had good shoulder strength and, above all, he was light on his feet. His timing was superb and his concentration intense.

He looked on even a slightly less than perfect delivery as a loose ball. After embarrassing England on their own grounds, he had to suffer their controversial reaction in Australia where, in the 1932-33 season, they employed bodyline bowling.

He was subdued by the violence of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce's short- pitched deliveries, but only to the extent that his average fell to 56. However, amid huge debates over the ethics of England's tactics, they regained the Ashes. Bradman himself refused to comment or criticise the English bowling.

His batting drew huge crowds. When he was out, the grounds would quickly empty. New South Wales suffered a severe reduction in income when, in the 1935-36 season, he joined South Australia. After his retirement he became a shrewd administrator, selector and author. He was knighted in 1949. Now 91, he lives a reclusive life in Adelaide, refusing to be involved in any celebration either of his age or unsurpassed contribution to cricket's history.