March 06, 2019 8 min read

Donald George Bradman was the youngest of the four children of George and Emily Bradman, and was born on August 27th 1908 in Cootamundra, New South Wales. His almost-obsessive perfectionism began when he was a child and his ability as a batsman attributed to his practice using a stump, golf ball and curved brick platform against which he threw the ball, which returned at high speed and different angles.

As a child he played almost exclusively on matting-over-concrete pitches, on which the ball bounced more quickly and higher than on turf. He adopted an unusual grip and his shots were dominated by the hook and the pull. His hands close to his torso as a result of his unusual backswing, his stillness at the crease, extraordinary balance and quick feet all contributed to his being able to change stroke mid-swing, when necessary. He either advanced well down the wicket to drive, or played so far back that his feet were level with the stumps when he cut, hooked or pulled.

Bradman left school in 1922 and individual scores for his local club, Bowral, including 234 and 320 not out, followed. The New South Wales Cricket Association selected him to attend practice sessions in Sydney in 1926, resulting in him joining St George club. He made 110 on debut and was selected for the New South Wales 2nd XI at the start of 1927.

Bradman made his first class debut for New South Wales at the Adelaide Oval the following season, 1927-28, aged nineteen, and scored 118, making another century at the Sydney Cricket Ground against Sheffield Shield champions Victoria. England toured Australia in 1928–29 and Bradman moved to Sydney, making a century in both innings in the season’s first Sheffield Shield match against Queensland. His 87 and 132 not out against England resulted in his election for the First Test in Brisbane, in his tenth first class match.

England won the first two Tests by huge margins, Bradman became the youngest player to make a Test century - 112 - in the Third Test in Melbourne. Australia won the Fifth Test and Bradman made a first-innings century, 123. He ended the season on 1,690 first-class runs at 93.88, including 340 not out against Victoria. Bradman’s average of 113.28 in 1929–30 included 452 not out against Queensland.

Australia’s tour of England in 1930 started at Worcester, where Bradman made 236 and became the first Australian to score 1,000 runs by the end of May. The First Test was won by England, Bradman making 131 in the second innings. Australia won the Second Test at Lord's and Bradman made 254. In the Third Test at Headingley he made a century before lunch, added another hundred between lunch and tea and finished the day on 309 not out, the only man in Test cricket history to score 300 in a day. He took his score to 334 the following day.

Australia regained the Ashes in the Fifth Test at the Oval, winning by an innings, Bradman finishing the Test series with 974 runs, averaging 139.14, including four centuries, two of which were double hundreds and one a triple. He made 2,960 first-class runs at 98.66, including ten centuries.

Bradman’s modesty and introspection were interpreted as ‘aloofness’ and ‘mean-spiritedness’ by some, to which he responded that the attention embarrassed him, saying that ‘I have always endeavored to do my best for the side, and the few centuries that have come my way have been achieved in the hope of winning matches. My one idea when going into bat was to make runs for Australia.'

Bradman’s accumulation of runs continued against the West Indian tourists in 1930–31, including 223 in the Third- and 152 in the Fourth Test, and against South Africa the following year, which included scores of 226, 112, 167 and 299 not out in the Five-Test series. In fifteen Tests Bradman had scored 2,227 runs at 131, including ten centuries, six double- and one triple century. A high proportion of his runs came in boundaries, fours, never sixes, which conserved energy and eliminated any chance of being caught.

The resulting commercial offers Bradman received would clearly affect his private life and any such activities were reduced. The police were called to his wedding in 1932, as uninvited people entered the church and stood on chairs and pews. He and his wife, Jessie, honeymooned in the USA and Canada on a seventy-five-day-long private cricket tour.

The English press’s semi-serious suggestion that there be ‘a legal limit on the number of runs Bradman should be allowed to make’ and the MCC’s appointment of Douglas Jardine as captain of the MCC team to tour Australia in 1932-33 were combined in an attempt to reduce the player’s run-scoring abilities.

The MCC selected five fast bowlers in the touring party, including Harold Larwood and Bill Voce, who practiced the ‘leg theory’ tactics of bowling short-pitched bouncers into the batsman’s ribs, with all but one or two of the fielders positioned on the leg side. Bradman played against the MCC in its pre-Test match against an Australian XI at Melbourne and withdrew from the First Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground , won by England. England’s so-called ‘Bodyline’ tactics were described by the Australian press as ‘cankerous’ and ‘despicable’.

Bradman returned for the Second Test at the MCG and made up for his first-innings golden duck in the second with 103 not out and Australia levelled the series. Relations between the two countries continued to be strained when several Australian batsmen were struck by bouncers, comments including those of the Australian captain, Bill Woodfull, that ‘There are two teams out there and only one of them is playing cricket’ and the Australian Board of Control’s citation of poor sportsmanship to the MCC, added to the tension. The MCC won the Third, Fourth and Fifth Tests and regained the Ashes. As the series had progressed Bradman had improvised his stroke play. He averaged 56.57.

The Bradmans moved to Adelaide at the start of 1934. He joined South Australia as captain, the chief incentive being work in stockbroking to supplement his cricket. In the 1932-33 domestic season he had averaged 132.44 for New South Wales. Bradman’s made a double-hundred in Australia’s opening game of the 1934 tour of England, but until the fixture against a representative eleven at Sheffield, before the Fourth Test, he struggled for runs. His 140 saw a return to form and he made 304 in the drawn Test Match at Headingley. In the Fifth Test at the Oval, Bradman and Ponsford put on a world-record 451 runs in Australia’s first innings, Bradman’s contribution 244 off 271 balls, Australia regaining the Ashes with a 562-run win.

Bradman was struck by severe appendicitis shortly before the Australian team were due to return home and he missed the 1934-35 Australian season. Despite missing Australia’s tour of South Africa in 1935-36, Bradman and his South Australia team won the Sheffield Shield, with his individual scores against Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania 233, 357 and 369 respectively.

In October 1936 Bradman captained the Rest of Australia XI against the Test team who had beaten South Africa 4-0 the previous winter. Bradman made 212 and his team recorded a significant victory. He made 192 against Victoria in the final match before the Ashes series began. The MCC won the first two Tests and Bradman, now captain of Australia, struggled for runs until the second innings of the Third Test at Melbourne, which was attended by a world-record 351,000 spectators.

Bradman’s brilliant captaincy in adapting to the conditions and to his own ill-health resulted in an Australian victory, Bradman scoring 270. In he Fourth Test at the Adelaide Oval Australia levelled the series, with Bradman constructing a lengthy innings in Australia’s second, making 212 from 395 balls. Australia sealed the Ashes with an innings victory in the Fifth Test, Bradman making 169 in the first innings. On Australia’s 1938 tour of England, Bradman became the first player in history to make 1,000 runs by the end of May twice.

He made thirteen centuries, totalled 2,429 runs and finished with the highest average - 115.66 - ever recorded in an English season. Australia retained the Ashes, the series drawn 1-1, which included victory in the Fourth Test at Headingley, England winning the Fifth Test, by an innings and 579 runs. Bradman’s health declined during August, compounded by a broken ankle in the Fifth Test. His recuperation resulted in maintenance of form in season 1938-39, in which he captained South Australia to the Sheffield Shield and scored six consecutive centuries, twenty one hundreds in thirty four innings in 1938 and 1939. In 1939–40 Bradman scored 1,448 runs at 144.8, including three double hundreds, for South Australia.

Bradman spent the beginning of the Second World War as a PE supervisor and resumed stockbroking in 1942, his physical- and mental health deteriorating during the war years. The South Australian Cricket Association appointed Bradman as their delegate to the Australian Board of Control at the end of the war and he resumed his role as a Test selector and administrator. His health continued to suffer, as Bradman combined playing, running his own business and fulfilling his Australian Cricket Board duties.

He made himself unavailable for Australia’s 1946 tour of New Zealand but was ready for the visit of the MCC and the 1946-47 Ashes series. In the First Test at Brisbane Bradman made 187, and 234 in the Second Test at Sydney, Australia winning both by an innings and the series 3-0. Bradman’s series average was 97. Bradman scored his hundredth first class century at Sydney against the Indian tourists in November 1947, scored 715 runs in the five-Test series, averaged 179 and scored a century in each innings in the Melbourne Test.

Bradman announced that the 1948 tour of England would be his last. The English public responded by filling grounds wherever Australia played. He was described as ‘The most-celebrated man in England... next to Mr Winston Churchill.’ Despite ill-health Bradman finished the tour with eleven centuries, 2,428 runs and an average of 90. In the Fourth Test at Headingley England declared on the fifth day, setting Australia 404 to win on a wicket that was badly-damaged and which Bradman, with 173, and Australia, achieved in the last hour.

Bradman’s failure in the Fifth and final Test at the Oval - he was bowled second ball for nought - meant that he retired from Test cricket with an average of 99.94, Australia winning the Test, the series 4-0, and completing the tour unbeaten, He scored 29 centuries in 80 Test innings. Wisden described him as ‘The greatest phenomenon in the history of cricket, indeed in the history of all ball games.’

On returning to Australia, Bradman played in his testimonial match at Melbourne, scoring his 117th and final century. In the 1949 New Year Honours list he was knighted for services to the game. For the remainder of his life Bradman pursued a career in the administration of the game. He opened the ‘Bradman Stand’ at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1974 and the Adelaide Oval did the same in 1990.

Bradman returned to Bowral in 1976, where the new cricket ground was named in his honour. On 16 June 1979, the Australian government awarded Bradman the Companion of the Order of Australia. He acted as one of South Australia's delegates to the Board of Control from 1945 to 1980 and was on the selection committee for the Australian Test team between 1936 and 1971. He served as chairman of the board of Control between 1960–63 and 1969–72.

Cricket journalist Michael Coward’s summing-up included, ‘Bradman was more than a cricket player nonpareil. He astute and progressive administrator, an expansive thinker, philosopher and writer... In some respects, he was as powerful, persuasive and influential a figure off the ground as he was on it.’ After his wife's death in 1997, Bradman suffered from pneumonia and died on February 25th 2001.

Bradman became the first living Australian to be featured on an Australian postage stamp and on a 20-cent coin after his death. His views on sports players remained unchanged: ‘When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, courage, and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.’

Own your very own Don Bradman memorabilia with this framed cricket print of Don Bradman's final bat. 

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