1948 June 30, 2012

721 all out... in a day

Essex were the only county to bowl the 1948 Australians out, and what's more they did so in a day - but not before the tourists had amassed a world record score

Early on the legendary Invincibles tour of 1948, Essex managed something few others teams achieved that summer - they bowled out the Australians, Don Bradman and all, and did so inside a day. The only problem was the tourists rattled up 721 before they were dismissed. It was - and remains - the most runs scored in a single day in first-class cricket, and the massive total included only nine extras and not one leg-bye.

In their opening five first-class matches the Australians had already shown what a formidable batting side they were and how quickly they could score. Four times they had racked up more than 350 runs in a day, and at The Oval less than a fortnight before they met Essex they scored 479 for 4 on the opening day against Surrey, going on to record their fourth win by an innings. The only slight hiccup had come in a low-scoring rain-affected game against Yorkshire, where they edged home by four wickets.

After thrashing the students at Cambridge, the Australians headed by coach to Southend to meet Essex and 24-year-old Trevor Bailey hitched a ride with them. Bailey had top-scored for the university and was already a regular in the Essex XI. After the first-day onslaught he wished he had stayed in Cambridge.

The Australians picked a strong side, their top four all in the Test team, and Bradman returned after missing the Cambridge game. He had only batted three times on tour - resting between innings victories - but had nevertheless scored 334 runs at 111.33. Bill Brown had a double-hundred at Fenners to his name, while Sid Barnes, his opener partner, came into the match on the back of 176 against Surrey.

Bradman won the toss and, to the appreciation of the 16,000 crammed inside the compact Southchurch Park on a sunny Saturday, decided to bat. The summer was all about the Australians and everyone wanted a chance to see Bradman in action on his farewell tour.

They only had to wait 95 minutes but in that time Brown and Barnes put on a breezy 145 runs for the first wicket, the only flutter coming when Brown's off stump was removed early on off a no-ball. Their otherwise untroubled progress ended when Barnes hit his wicket trying to cut offspinner Ray Smith. To loud applause Bradman strode to the middle. It was expected he would play out the remaining 25 minutes before lunch; instead he reached the break on 42, with his side on 202 for 1.

Legspinner Frank Vigar was given the last over of the morning. Bradman left the first ball and then cracked the next four to the midwicket boundary. Essex captain Tom Pearce kept reinforcing the leg side, Bradman kept threading the ball between the fielders. Before the final ball, wicketkeeper Frank Rist said to him: "Haven't you got any other shots?" "I'll show you those after lunch," Bradman replied, before threading the sixth ball to precisely the same place for his fifth consecutive boundary. Then he turned to Rist and said: "I did say after lunch."

By the time Bailey had Brown caught in the gully by Dick Horsfall, he and Bradman had added 219 in 90 minutes and the Australians were on 364 for 2. That brought Keith Miller, who headed the tourists' batting averages, to the middle. A flamboyant and aggressive batsman, his arrival was a daunting prospect; only, he was not remotely interested in what he saw as cheap runs. As Bailey bowled his first ball, Miller stood back with his bat raised and allowed the ball to hit the stumps.

What followed has never been agreed on. Some say Miller changed and went to the races, others than he resumed a poker game, others that he was proving a point to Bradman. What is beyond doubt is that he regarded the amassing of runs in such a way as wrong and wanted no part of it. "I got sick of the slaughter," he said, adding he thought Bradman was wrong in not allowing some of the younger players a chance against a side they knew beforehand to be weak.

"After hitting the stumps, I commented to Bradman, who was at the non-striker's end, that he had not appeared very interested," Bailey recalled. "Don replied: 'He'll learn.'"

After that briefest of lulls, the battering continued. Bradman, who brought up his hundred in 77 minutes, was eventually dismissed swinging across the line when he had scored 187 in 124 minutes. In all, he hit 32 fours and one five, and his scoring rate of 90 runs an hour was the fastest in his career. "[It] was all part of his deliberate, merciless, efficient plan, brilliant in its execution, to build up the biggest possible psychological advantage for the Australians over the English bowlers as a whole," was the verdict of the News Chronicle.

A second-string middle order might have been expected to provide some respite but Essex were punch drunk and their bowlers tired. Ron Hamence made 46 and then Sam Loxton and reserve wicketkeeper Ron Saggers put on 166 for the sixth wicket in 66 minutes. Saggers, celebrating his 31st birthday, brought up his maiden first-class hundred in 94 minutes, Loxton his in 76 minutes.

Writing for the AAP agency, former Australia spinner Arthur Mailey said the crowd started to leave an hour before the close as they were "so surfeited with the slaughter". The Guardian dryly noted "interest started veering to the microphone announcements of children searching for their aunts and wives wondering about their husbands". Mailey added Essex became so demoralised they dropped easy catches and bowlers barely bothered setting fields.

But Loxton's dismissal brought relief and Essex took the last four wickets for 57, the final one falling within ten minutes of the scheduled close and so sparing their shattered openers from having to face the Australian opening bowlers that evening.

At the fall of the final wicket the crowd swarmed onto the pitch and the handful of police on duty had to clear a way back to the pavilion for the players. Hundreds remained until the Australians left to board their coach, and when they left the sanctuary of the pavilion they were besieged by autograph hunters

It is claimed the Essex scorer completely lost track of what was happening, such was the rate of scoring, and the county's scorebook certainly contains a number of corrections. The scoreboard itself was left high and dry as the hundreds column only went up to six, and remained blank when the Australians passed 700.

Four of the Australians scored hundreds and four Essex bowlers brought up their own less welcome centuries. Bailey, who broke a finger on his left hand early in the day stopping a pull at short leg, took 2 for 128, including Miller's gift, while Peter Smith grabbed three late wickets to finish with 4 for 193. Essex managed to send down 129 overs in the day.

At least the Essex players had a rest day on the Sunday to recover, although it did them little good. Another full house packed the ground on the Monday - the Whitsun Bank Holiday - and watched the home side, minus the incapacitated Bailey, dismissed for 83 and 187 to give the Australians their fifth innings victory, with a day to spare.

The match, or more accurately the way the Australians approached it, set the tone for the summer. It was not about individual achievements so much as results. In his biography of Bradman, Charles Williams wrote: "They collectively announced their true intentions. Opponents were there to be defeated; and were, whenever possible, not just to be defeated but to be annihilated. The purpose was to establish a psychological ascendency over any and every opposition to carry through to the Test matches."

What happened next?

  • The Australians went the entire summer without losing a match, winning the Test series 4-0. They made 350 or more in 24 innings. Outside of the Tests, the highest total against them was Nottinghamshire's 299 for 8. Twice the Australians failed to reach 200, but they dismissed opponents for less than that figure no fewer than 37 times, and in seven innings for under 100
  • The Australians were bowled out 23 times on the tour. Surrey did so at The Oval in May but not before the tourists had made 632. Earlier in what was an eventful month Yorkshire dismissed them for 101, their lowest score of the summer
  • Don Bradman scored 2428 runs on the tour at 89.92, with 11 hundreds
  • In 1964, Trevor Bailey captained Essex to a six-wicket victory over Bobby Simpson's Australians on the same ground - Southend

With thanks to Keith Walmsley of The Cricket Society for corrections to the original article

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? Email us with your comments and suggestions.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ramanathan on July 3, 2012, 15:12 GMT

    If I am not mistaken Essex bowled 142 overs on that day and the run rate was just above 5 runs per over, still a great achievement

  • Christopher on July 2, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    Thanks @Meety...I hadn't heard that story before but it sounds entirely plausible. In one match,the point boundary was short and Bradman square drove an outswinger over point for six. The close in fielder commented that it was a fluke. Bradman replied,'Think so?'. The next over to the same bowler,he hit the the same shot to the same ball for the same result.After the 29 tour in Australia,Sir Pelham Warner commented that 'Bradman makes error after error and doesnt seem interested in correcting them.'When Bradman played Surrey,Sir Pelham's County side on the subsequent tour,he commented that he was very careful to make no mistakes.He finished with 252 not out.On the 34 tour of Eng,he excused himself early from dinner with Neville Cardus on the grounds that he needed to make at least 200 the next day and needed rest.When Cardus commented that the law of averages were against him,he replied,I dont believe in them.He went on to make 304 at Leeds.His mental acuity defies any comparison.

  • Andrew on July 2, 2012, 4:02 GMT

    @hyclass - IT Figures (blog on this site), has done many different analysis on The Don. Where the Don really was a class above, is when he crossed 50, from there on he would average 150. Which is way ahead of other greats. The key with playing The Don, was get him out before he reached 10, otherwise, the odds diminish of ever getting him out. I read an article here recently, where a bloke was on debut & batting with The Don & the new ball was due soon. So The Don decided to drive the ball past mid on where a fast bowler was stationed, however, not content with making him merely fetch the ball, he deliberately timed the ball so it wouldn't reach the boundary, ensuring that bowler had a lot of huffing to do. The Don told his co-batsmen exactly what he intended to do & hit about 5 or 6 shots in an over to exactly duplicate his plan! PS: in reference to 35/36, that's why I mentioned sports medicine, as he was prone to an extent to illness. In todays terms he could of played till FIFTY!

  • Christopher on July 1, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    @Meety..Bradman played 234 1st Class matches but lost the 1935/36 season to illness and then at least 6 years to WWII. The tour numbers above show that players during that period played a considerable number of 1st Class matches on any tour.The Team would often stop along the shipping route home and play exhibition matches.Bradman also responded personally to all correspondence reputed to be 600 letters per week at his height.What is more remarkable is that all of them needed full time employment outside cricket to survive.The stress of Bradmans battles with CA during the Depression to be allowed to work outside cricket certainly impacted on his performance against the 1931 WI and may have contributed to his illness.His most telling cricket numbers are the percentage greater than his contemporaries that his average is,the conversion rate of 2x 100s to 1 x 50 and a hundred less than every 3 innings.Its unheard of at any level of cricket.I suspect his average would be far superior today.

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    Trevor Bailey once said on Test Match Special that his biggest regret was that he never bowled against Bradman. Perhaps he had obliterated this match from his memory.

  • Christopher on July 1, 2012, 12:57 GMT

    @Meety...the general perception has been that better fielding would have slowed him down.Having read many Bradman biographies and most related works,it's clear that his ability to place the ball was exceptional rendering field placings almost irrelevant.Even related articles on this site re Bradman describe him announcing exactly where he will hit the ball in advance,to queries by incredulous bowlers and fielders and then doing so.Virtually all of the modern advantages that current cricketers enjoy would have improved on his record,not detracted from it.Allied to extreme mental acuity was a physique that didnt fatigue and extraordinary preparation.He was also entirely dispassionate in execution.After making 299*v SA in over 40 degree heat,the SA captain described him running the first 2 hard from the last ball of the day on the chance of a misfield and third.Regardless of where he was born and transcending cricket,he was an extraordinary human being whose like rarely graces our paths.

  • cool on July 1, 2012, 10:28 GMT

    Many people drag Tendulkar (necessarily/unnecessarily) in the comments of any article, that itself is a proof of his greatness....

  • Andrew on July 1, 2012, 10:28 GMT

    @hyclass - I often wonder about what would happen if you could teleport Bradman from the 1930s & put him into modern cricket. Better sprung bats, covered wickets, better sports medicine, more protective equipment & shorter boundaries, sometimes I think he would ave 120, on the other side of the coin, the endless touring, & better fielding -maybe "only" average 80? Dunno, would be fascinating!

  • David on July 1, 2012, 8:46 GMT

    @gudolerhum. No allrounder like Sobers?? Are you serious??? Do you actually follow international cricket?? There have been TWO "in a league of their own" international allrounders: Sobers, and Kallis. You are correct when you say one cannot compare Bradman to Tendulkar. There is no comparison. However, Sobers and Kallis have stats that are very very close. They can be compared. And interestingly, both have a higher batting average than Tendulkar!

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    The info seems a bit wrong. it says "Essex were the only county to bowl the 1948 Australians out" but in the article itself it has mentined a game with Yorkshire. In that game the aussies were bowled for 101 in first innings. (one was absent hurt, but it still counts to all out)

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