On this day in 1948, Sir Donald Bradman scored his last century of a glittering cricket career is his testimonial at the MCG. ‘The Don’ is arguably the greatest cricket player of all time and retired from international cricket with a test average of 99.94, a statistic that nobody has come close to since and probably never will. To put this into perspective, in today’s game a test average of around 50 is considered as an extremely good record.
Bradman was born in Cootamundra, New South Wales on 27 August 1908 and scored his first century when he was just 12 years old. He represented Australia during 20 years either side of WWII, playing in 52 test matches, scoring 29 centuries with a highest score of 334. Bradman also has the highest test batting average for a 5-test series and the record for the most runs in a single days’ play at 309. He is the also only batsman to have scored more than 5000 runs against a single opponent (England being on the receiving end).
Bradman retired from tests in August 1948, after the final match of an 8 month tour of England which he had captained. The tributes continued to flow after his retirement though and in 1949 he became the only Australian cricketer to be knighted. In 1988 the Australian Confederation of Sport voted him greatest male athlete of the past 200 years.
Bradman was so good that the English cricket team designed a tactic, specifically to combat his incredible batting skills. This tactic was known as ‘Bodyline’ and was repeatedly bowling bouncers, a delivery that was bowled towards the body of a batsman on the line of leg stump, in the hope that a rash shot from the batsman would take the ball to multiple fielders behind square leg. This tactic was first introduced in the 1932-33 Ashes series in Australia and was seen as intimidating and physically threatening, even to the point of being against the spirit of the game. However the tradition has stuck and today bouncers are a technique commonly used by fast bowlers.
Bouncers are seen as one of a fast bowler’s weapons to take wickets and are used to try and intimidate the batsman, not cause any harm. Last week the issue of safety re-emerged after a bouncer in an Australian Sheffield Shield game had devastating consequences when 22 year old Sean Abbot struck Australian international Phillip Hughes on the neck. Hughes never regained consciousness and died in hospital two days later, a practically unheard of tragedy in the history of cricket. Despite the huge advances in technology and safety, this incident is a stark reminder of the dangers involved with playing sport. Hughes was a hugely respected player and individual as has been seen by the outpouring of emotion since the tragedy. His funeral took place in his hometown of Macksville earlier today, Australian captain Michael Clarke was one of the pallbearers, and Cricket Australia have retired Hughes shirt number of 64 and amended his final score to show 63 not out forever.
So today we should remember the incredible talent that was Sir Donald Bradman and his remarkable playing career that rewrote the record books. Just last week Brendon McCullum scored his second double century of 2014 to go alongside a triple hundred, a set of scores only previously scored by Bradman. McCullum was also a former teammate of Hughes and we should also take this moment to remember Hughes, who at the age of 25 had his life taken away whilst doing what he loved most.