Don Bradman, Arguably the greatest batsman ever in the history of the game has played many great innings throughout his career. In his 52 Tests, Bradman has scored 29 centuries, 2 of them triple hundreds.
Don Bradman played an innings of 299 not out and scored 9 more double centuries. But the one innings he played on this day during 1936-37 Ashes series is considered as his top-ranked innings as per Wisden, the holy book of cricket records.
Not only it was a magnificent exhibition of batting master class, the events leading to that test match and the ground conditions made this a superlative effort. It was Bradman’s first assignment as captain. Around a month before the series commenced Bradman faced a huge personal tragedy when His day-old baby son, the first child born to him and his wife Jessie, died. He battled his personal loss and returned to cricket two weeks later in a match against Victoria and score 192.
However, the Test series started and brought new kind of problems. In those days of uncovered pitches, weather and ground conditions had a much bigger say in the results. Along with that Bradman’s early off-form did not help. England took a comfortable 2-0 lead in the series and Bradman’s scores were 38, 0, 0 and 82. In those sticky wickets, he never looked comfortable and Australian team was all out below hundred twice in the first two tests. There were also reports of dressing room unrest and Four Australian cricketers, McCabe, O’Reilly, Chuck Fleetwood-Smith and Leo O’Brien, were asked to appear before the Australian board. Lots of news regarding discontent of players regarding Bradman’s tactics are also out in the media.
Among all these distractions and pressure, Bradman was preparing himself to make a strong comeback to form. He knew a good score should be round-the-corner. In the New Year test in Sydney, he started positively by winning the toss for the first time in test cricket. Under gloomy skies, he decided to bat but England pacers dominated. Bradman was out for 13, giving more air to speculations about his form and mindset. Australia reached 200 thanks to McCabe’s 63 and after significant rain, in a wet pitch, Bradman declared the first innings at 200 for 9. England was immediately under trouble and no one could stand up to Australian bowlers except Wally Hammond.
Curiously, the pitch was still wet and Bradman did not want to bat hence he asked his bowlers to bowl defensively. On the other hand, Gubby Allen, the England skipper, thought a similar plan and declared the innings at 76 for 9. To counter the pitch condition Bradman sent his two bowlers Billy O’Reilly and Chuck Fleetwood-Smith to open. The tactic was somewhat successful and when Bradman came out to bat at the fall of the 5th wicket, Australia had 97 on board. He started carefully and spent a good amount of time to settle himself in a drying pitch. On 5th January, day four of the test match, he and Jack Fingleton started at 194 for 5 and added 249 more runs before Fingleton was out. Bradman was in his sublime best as he played the ball late with minimum risk. England bowlers faced difficulty to manage a wet ball and he took full advantage of this. He ended the day unbeaten on 248 and Australia on 500 for 6. He kept batting next day and when he got out after scoring 270 Australia’s lead had crossed 650. Finally, they got all out for 564 and coming out to bat England was bundled out for 323 giving Australia a win by 365 runs.
With that one innings, Bradman changed the fortune for himself as well as the entire team in that series. He followed up with 212 in Adelaide and 169 in Melbourne leading Australia to victory in both occasions and hence Australia became the first team to overcome a 0-2 deficit in a series to win 3-2.