England v Australia, The Oval, 5th Test, 1948 October 3, 2010

Donald gets a duck

Stephen Fay
The googly that made 99.94 legendary

Being taken to The Oval on August 14, 1948 was my birthday treat. A family friend took me into the press box on a bright, clear morning, and England were already 30 for 4.

I was introduced to Jack Hobbs, a kindly figure who told me about oiling my new bat. Then I went to sit on the grass, and watched England dismissed for 52.

There was plenty of chatter, and I recall rabbiting on about the importance of a good foundation as Arthur Morris and Syd Barnes took Australia's score past 100. The most irritating thing was that they were delaying the moment we had all really been waiting for - Don Bradman's last Test innings.

Bradman had scored heavily during the summer, but RC Robertson-Glasgow had detected a tendency at the start of his innings to play the ball where it wasn't. Eric Hollies, who had been selected in place of Jim Laker, had bowled to Bradman at Edgbaston for Warwickshire and thought he could not read the googly. When Hollies finally dismissed Barnes, the Don walked to the wicket to continuous applause. Norman Yardley, England's captain, called for three cheers. Bradman wrote in his autobiography that the reception stirred him deeply and made him anxious.

Hollies' first ball was a legbreak. The next was a good-length ball, and Bradman played three parts of the way forward to it.

"It looked to me as though he had decided it was a legbreak, and that he would let the ball turn away from him," Hollies wrote later. "However, [it was the googly] and the ball turned in just enough to pass the edge of his bat and hit the middle and off stumps."

Bradman's monumental duck meant that his Test average was stuck on 99.94. For myself, I felt very glad he was gone but extremely sorry not to have watched him bat. As he trudged back to the pavilion, Bradman confessed that he had "rather a sad heart". (Note the "rather".) In the press box, Jack Fingleton and Bill O'Reilly, two of Bradman's old team-mates, were laughing. But that is another story.

Stephen Fay is a former editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly.
This article first appeared in the Wisden Cricketer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Billy on October 6, 2010, 21:12 GMT

    My comment in the previous post about every generation of cricketers being different and having structural changes which affect the way you read the stats can be illustrated by some examples: World Series era - some players missing, helmet, ODI mentality truly starts to take hold etc. Post World Series era - professionalism has a full grip on cricket (stricter training, more money etc.), West Indies dominate and handling true pace and bounce becomes a necessary skill, long and true Test match series (instead of the many two and three test series played today) etc. 1990s until mid 2000s - Australia dominates, a strong South Africa emerges from ban, short boundaries and smaller grounds, the natural scoring rate becomes 300 in a day etc. Current generation - T20 mentality takes hold (significantly more money in the game, shot variety improves, shot selection becomes poorer), UDRS, importance of TV viewership etc.

  • Billy on October 6, 2010, 20:52 GMT

    ZA77, I can see we disagree on a few major points, the biggest one being that you believe that cricket was still in its initial growth phase when Bradman was playing. I agree that an industry still in initial growth levels can produce some amazing stats and results, hence you think Bradman's average is similar to that analogy. That's fine, it's a good debate to have. I do have one method of analysing the effect of Bradman on bowlers in that era. I'll try and replace Bradman's runs with another batsman who averaged 50 rather than 99 and see the bowling averages would have improved. Unfortunately, they still didn't play enough matches because of scheduling, but would be interesting to do it all the same. Also, I haven't heard of some of the bowlers you mentioned, so must look into that as well. By the way, I have two other comments. Did you post an All Time World XI? Would be interested to see whether you would include Bradman. Also, I'm not a journalist.

  • Raj on October 6, 2010, 20:11 GMT

    I am not taking any particular side but I have to admit the that it was fun to read the recent comments posted here. @ZA77...you have amazing bookkeeping of all the stats. Maybe you should consider working for cricinfo!!

  • xeeshan on October 6, 2010, 11:53 GMT

    Dear Billy CC, I think you are journalist as you have ability to convey your points better than others. At start it is easy to get on top positions as competition is not in a proper manner. Same case Sir Don due to great depression and cricket without globalization, he maintained 99.94 as I think Sutcliff was better qualitywise and also Headley too. If someone played Jason Krejza without helmet does it means he could play Warne If he was wearing helmet. Don travelled only four times in his entire carere on same route from Australia to England only as Tendulkar 34 time for test cricket. I am not counting here one day cricket. Hammond faced too much difficulties as he travelled eleven times. Technology always favoured to bowlers mostly because they are working on weakness of batsmen. Batsmen are working to cover their weaknesses but one good ball is enough. Captain played an important role for making strategy and if we count top ten captain in history he faced none.

  • xeeshan on October 6, 2010, 11:22 GMT

    Dear Billy CC, yes Sir Don had talent and I respect him as a legend but what he faced was at very initial level. Whenever any field started it is very easy to get above positions but with the passage of time, it became very difficult. Top fast five bowlers faced by Sir Don are Gubby Allen 82, Larwood 78, Ken Farnes 60, Constaintine 58 and Charlie Griffith 44. Fast Medium Voce 98, Bowes 68, White 49, Bell 48 and Geary 46 Leg Break Wright 108, Walter Robbin 64, Peebles 45, Hollies 44 and Macmillan 36 and Off Break / SLAO Laker 193, Mankad 152, Verity 144, Vincent 84 and one more. In Tendulkar case Walsh 519, Hadlee 431, Wasim 414, Ambroze 405, Ntini 390. Fast Medium McGrath 563, Pollock 421, Vaas 355, Kallis 261 and Hoggard 248. Leg Break Warne 708, Kaneria 261, Qadir, MacGill, Mushtaq Off Break / SLAO Murli 800, Vettori 325, Saqlain 208, Emburrey 147 and Panesar 126. I hope you can understand my point now. See the difference between bowling faced by two legends from different era.

  • Billy on October 6, 2010, 8:31 GMT

    Geoffrey, thanks for your comments. I agree with that quote that a champion in one era will be a champion in another. This is what evolution and adapting is all about. ZA77 conveniently ignores how he thinks a modern day great transported back into the 1930s would perform under the following conditions: without a helmet, with a very weak bat compared to today, poor training facilities, travelling for months in a ship, having to work to earn an income as well as playing cricket, spending many months without family contact when on tour, getting used to facing the same bowler a few times every three years, and a significantly lower standard of living due in part to the Great Depression and previously World War 1.

  • Billy on October 6, 2010, 7:18 GMT

    ZA77, I'm not saying bowlers those days were good or not good. I'm saying that your argument is flawed from the start. You are trying to somehow compare a 1930s to 1940s Bradman in an amateur era with different conditions and trying to fit him into a modern era pattern. Things change in 40 years, it's called evolution. If you believe Bradman had talent in an amateur era and enough talent to average 35 to 40 runs better than the next best, then it is possible that he would have been talented 40 years later. Had Bradman played in the professional era, there would be many benefits for him: helmets, batting technology, existence of training regimes, videos to examine all these wonderful deliveries you think have been invented over the last 40 years etc. This is the reality you have to accept as a critic. You can't just transport someone from the 1930s and put him in a match in the 1970s or 1990s and tell him to bat. If you could, then I would agree with you: the 1930s Don can't average 99.

  • xeeshan on October 6, 2010, 4:55 GMT

    Dear Billy CC, Please list name of bowlers which you think were quality bowlers faced by Sir Don. In 150 bowlers who took 100 or more, he faced only six of them like Tendulkar faced 40 bowlers fast + fast medium. Tate left cricket in early thirties then from 1931 to 1937 in main part of his career, he faced none THEN Verity completed 100 before world war II and then emergence of Wright. Walter Robbin, Ian Peeble and Eric Hollies were not high caliber bowlers. Bradman knew he had problem to face boosie. If he had name of googly, why not other know about the terminologies. Reason is that you do not want to accept reality and nothing else. He played cricket on mat over concrete pitches and these pitches became difficult after rain only and he was unable to create master inning on these pitches. In bodyline series if he maintained 56, does it mean we should apply it on whole career of others. Larwood was an ordinary bowler, without bodyline series he took only 45 wickets.

  • xeeshan on October 6, 2010, 4:27 GMT

    If I have not seen him play did Mr. Anthony see him how we could play. He was NOT an elegant batsman. BillyCC, those days if bowlers were so good, why they had not domination in game. Verity striking rate was 113.1 in Australia. Playing Larwood and others and maintained 56 does not mean he could play Marshall, Garner, Holding and Robert at a time. Why you are decribing bowlers, why you are not talking about attacks faced by him. Weakest attacks with amatuer bowlers faced by him. Sutcliff average was 78.28 and then 66.85 due to O Reilly. It means from quality point of view he was better. Flipper specialist Grimmett was there but if you are saying that bowlers could do bowling and they did not know about it, what can I say upon it. He maintained average against amatuer of England 89.78. He played 26 timeless matches too. He played cricket coloney cricket at international level as Australia was coloney of England those days.

  • Billy on October 5, 2010, 22:22 GMT

    ZA77, your comments reflect only on some core reading of Bradman's career and on the generally available cricketing commentary at the time. This is evident by the fact you can vividly describe the current generation and the 1970s and 1980s, but really, how much do you know about the bowlers of Bradman's era? Have you bothered to look at tapes and to look at Bradman's record in first class cricket against Australian bowlers (who you name as being better than their English counterparts)? The fact is, bowlers in Bradman's era would have had their own subtle variations. In those days, people may not have given these deliveries special names but it is not hard to believe that bowlers had variety. Also, Bradman played for South Australia and New South Wales, and had opportunities to play a variety of bowlers in first class cricket. And I still don't understand your point about timeless test matches, which you have made in the past.

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