Stamp of approval
When I went to England for the first time, in 1948, I didn't have a bat of my own, didn't have any pads, didn't have any batting gloves. When we got over there, there was this guy called Frank Bryan who used to make cricket pads, and we all got a pair each. Slazenger used to make the Don Bradman-autographed Sykes bat then, and we got two each of those as well.
I used one of those bats after a few failures early in the tour. I promised myself that if I got another Test, I would use the new one. I got my opportunity in Leeds, and took the spanking new bat and made 112 and 4 not out. Those were the only runs that bat ever made. The reason for that was that Stewart Surridge, the SS bat-maker, happened to be at the game, and he said he would like me to use his gear in future.
Later, there was this one time when Sammy Loxton, who was my room-mate on the 1948 tour, happened to be home for dinner. He was on his way to Adelaide to watch a Test match. He asked, "Where's that bat of yours that you used at Leeds?" I said it was in the cupboard. "I'm going to take it to Adelaide with me," he said. I said, "What for?" He said, "Mind your own business. I'll bring it back."
In Adelaide he met Bradman, and he unwrapped the bat and said, "This is the kid's, from Leeds. Would you like to put something on it?" Bradman wrote on the bat, "This bat is a symbol of a great innings by my friend Neil Harvey during Australia's greatest-ever Test victory. Leeds, 1948, - Don Bradman." That's on the back of the bat in fountain-pen ink, and it won't come off. It's a treasure. My daughter has kept it safe along with my 1948 blazer and baggy green of that year.
As told to Nagraj Gollapudi