In the shadow of the Don
For better or for worse, the achievements of Wally Hammond will always be compared to those of Don Bradman. Hammond's career ran roughly parallel with that of Bradman, and nearly every record Hammond set was bettered by Bradman. It is, though, a mark of Hammond's greatness that only a batsman of Bradman's quality could emulate and surpass his performances.
Hammond was the first batsman to aggregate over 900 runs in a series when he made 905 runs in the 1928-29 Ashes, including two consecutive double-centuries. Bradman, though, went a step further, scoring 970 runs in the following Ashes, in 1930. In the same series, he made a century in the first Test, a double-century in the second, his highest score of 334 in the third, and another double-hundred in the final Test. When Hammond's unbeaten 231 in Sydney gave England a 2-0 lead against Australia in the 1936-37 series, Bradman responded brilliantly with 270, 212 and 169, and Australia became the only team to win a series after being 2-0 down.
Between 1928 and 1939, Hammond was the highest run-scorer in the game, making 6150 with 19 centuries at an average of 61.50. Bradman's stats were extraordinary during the same period - he aggregated 5093 runs from just 37 Tests at an average of almost 98, with 21 centuries.
Hammond also had an appetite for huge scores and made seven 200-plus scores, next only to Bradman (12) and Brian Lara (9). Hammond's form, though, fell away drastically after the war. He scored just two fifties in eight games at an average of 30.50.
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Hammond scored over 50,000 runs in first-class cricket, with 167 first-class centuries, at an average of 56.10. He also made 36 double-hundreds and four triple hundreds in first-class matches, bettered only by Bradman, who made 37 doubles and six triples.
Hammond was a top allrounder in first-class cricket, picking up 732 wickets at an average of just over 30. He had 22 five-wicket hauls with a best performance of 9 for 23. He was also an outstanding fielder and held 110 catches in his Test career - the first to a century of catches in Tests - and 820 in first-class cricket.
Hammond went past Jack Hobbs' Test aggregate of 5410 runs in June 1937 and held the record for 33 years until the mark was surpassed by Colin Cowdrey. This remains the longest any one player has held the record. Hammond was also the first batsman to score 7000 Test runs and still remains the fastest to the mark in terms of number of innings played. His unbeaten 336 against New Zealand in 1933 remained the highest individual score for five years till Len Hutton made 364 at The Oval in 1938. Hammond's triple-hundred is still the fastest in terms of minutes played and included 10 sixes, four more than Bradman managed in his career. This remained a record till Wasim Akram struck 12 during his 257 against Zimbabwe in 1996-97.
Strikingly, Hammond was much more prolific in away matches, scoring 4245 runs at an average of over 66. In home games he scored 3004 runs at an average of just over 50. He feasted on some poor attacks during his time, though, averaging over 60 against South Africa and nearly 80 against India. New Zealand turned out to be his favourite opponent; he made six centuries against them at an average of over 112.
The team Hammond struggled against most was West Indies: he averaged just 35.50, with one century in 13 matches against them. He averaged over 51 against Australia, with nine centuries. Seven of his centuries against Australia came in wins, which remains a record.
He was also a renowned player on bad pitches and his 32 out of an England total of 76 in 1936-37 is considered one of the best knocks on a "sticky" wicket.
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Hammond was the leading run-getter with 440 runs at an average of 55 in the Bodyline series in 1932-33, which England won 4-1. His favourite ground was the SCG, where he averaged 161.60 overall and an incredible 251.67 before the war. He made four centuries in five matches at the SCG, including two in the Bodyline series.
|Shivnarine Chanderpaul||Bourda, Guyana||7||758||126.33||4||2|
Though Hammond's career stats are impressive, his captaincy was not quite as successful. He won four Tests and lost three of the 20 matches he captained, and won only one Test after the war. One of his most memorable wins came at The Oval in 1938, when he declared at a massive 903, knowing the injured Bradman would be unable to bat. England went on to defeat Australia by an innings and 579 runs, which remains the largest margin of victory in terms of runs in Tests. Hammond averaged over 55 as captain with five centuries, all of which came in his first 12 Tests as leader.
Hammond averaged nearly 70 in wins, with 10 centuries, but just over 29 in defeats (with no hundreds).
His batting was consistent across all four innings, ranging between a high of 66.08 in the second innings to 46.46 in the fourth innings.
He was also one of the finest batsmen at No. 3, with an average of nearly 75, behind only Bradman and Ken Barrington. From that position, he scored 14 centuries in just 52 innings. He was less successful at No. 4, where he made seven hundreds in 66 innings. He partnered Herbert Sutcliffe in five century partnerships and the pair was among the most prolific for the second wicket.
Hammond occasionally struggled against high-quality pace bowling. He fell to the West Indian fast bowler Learie Constantine eight times in 10 Tests, and was bowled on four occasions. But the bowlers who dismissed him most often were two spinners - Bill O'Reilly and Cyril Vincent, who got him 10 times each. Bradman picked up only two wickets in his career; one of them was that of Hammond.