Sir Donald Bradman of Australia– the greatest
Don was, by a country mile ,the greatest ever cricketer to have set his foot in Ashes contests . His batting achievements is unparallelled across eras. He has set up extreme benchmarks which is impossible to achieve by anyone else in batting. Having played international cricket from 1928 to 1948 ,with 9 years lost to World War and it’s aftermath, and much lesser frequency of games those days, Don would have reached unimaginable heights had he played more tests . Out of the 11 test series he played, 8 were Ashes series and he played his 1st test in one of them with poor returns of 18 & 1. With medium height, somewhat on shorter side , Don poccessed all the strokes and he was equally at ease both off front and backfoot and scored his runs at good pace. Remember, players during those eras used to play on uncovered wickets ,so pitches could change character during a match. Don scored 423 runs at 66 average in his 1st Ashes series in Australia in 1928/29. That followed his still existing world record of 974 runs at 139 average in 5 tests in England in 1930 with 4 centuries !! His top score was 334 at Headingley of which 309 was scored on the first day itself, scoring 100 before lunch, 200 before tea and 300 before stumps, another feat which nobody has matched till date. His massive impact made England think hard to restrict his scoring areas , which they succeeded to great extent in the next Ashes series in Australia 1931-32 under Douglas Jardine’s captaincy. Jardine with the help of his two fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Voce employed the much criticised bodyline bowling tactics by which the fast bowlers bowled right at the batsman’s body at extreme pace with packed legside field. Bradman struggled to get going as that tactics though met with no appoval allowed England to get the better of Don at least once to win the bodyline series. Bradman scored 396 runs with 1 century at 56 average , returns perfectly acceptable for any other World class batsman but not him. After that little setback (massive by Don’s standards) , normal service resumed from the next Ashes series itself as Don made sure that he owned all the remaining Ashes series that he were to play in his career. 758 runs with 2 tons at 95 average in 1934 in England; 810 runs in Australia with 3 tons at 90 average in 1936/37; 434 runs at 108 average with 3 tons in 1938 in England; 680 runs at 97 average in Australia in 1946/47 with 2 tons and finally 508 runs at 72 average in his last Ashes series in England in 1948.
He was struggling for runs in the 1st 3 tests of 1934 Ashes having scored only 143 runs at 28 average in England. However he came back all guns blazing with a brilliant 304 followed by 244 to aggregate 758 runs for the series to rest all doubts about his form.
As a captain, Don was a shrewd tactician . No better example of that than in the Ashes series in 1937. In the MCG test both teams had low scores in 1st innings and with rains making the pitch damp, before Australia’s 2nd innings, Don chose to open the innings with his bowlers in the 1st 3 batting spots followed by two of his batsmen with the obvious intentions to buy more time so that the pitch get drier and plays better. After 97/5, Bradman came at number 7 and build up a strong partnership with J. Fingleton of 346 runs to change the match on its head . Fingleton scored 136 and the Don hammered 270 with 22 fours on a much improved pitch to take Australia to 564 and the hosts won by a crushing margin of 375 runs. That was some captaincy !!
Don scored 5028 Ashes runs in 37 tests with 19 hundreds at 89.78 average. In England he scored 2674 runs at 103 average with 11 hundreds in 19 tests. All were mind blowing statistics , impossible to replicate. In his last ashes test innings he was bowled for zero and thus could not achieve 100 average in his overall test career ,which saw him amass 6996 runs in 52 tests with 29 hundreds.
Don Bradman was the greatest ever batsman in World cricket history and biggest Ashes legend ever. No body had a greater impact than him in Ashes contests . It will take a superhuman effort ,if his Ashes feats are to be replicated.