Don's Oval zero

The Don's previous Test innings at The Oval had been 232, 244 and 77. During the 1948 tour he had scored 146 and 128 against Surrey on the very same ground. Bradman must have been thinking of these feats and wishing to bid farewell to his Test career in a fitting manner. By K. CHANDRAMOULI.

It was not a problem in advanced arithmetic or algorithm. It was verily an irony of fate, a cruel one at that, that the indisputably greatest batsman of all time should have had to bid farewell to international cricket with a..... duck!

It was a typical English summer in 1948 when the Aussies were visiting England for their first post-World War-II series against their traditional rivals. Hitler and the Second World War had deprived the Englishman of his entertainment — cricket.

That was the August Saturday which saw crowds thronging at The Oval to see the Don bid farewell to Test cricket. The Aussies under Don's captaincy had already clinched the series, maintaining an unbeaten record when they arrived at Kensington Oval for the fifth and final Test.

As he went out to toss for the last time, Bradman's Test average was 101.39 and he required a mere four runs to reach a career aggregate of 7000 runs. Those four runs would also give him a three-figure Test average.

The English skipper won the toss and elected to bat. Soon the team was back in the pavilion shot out for 52, its lowest score on home soil. Barnes and Morris easily overhauled this and in no time the Aussies were 117 when Barnes was out. The Don entered next with his collar upturned as usual. He had to be escorted through the crowds, which had gathered all the way to the wicket. Hats and cushions were thrown in the air as he walked between two rows of spectators stretching almost three quarters of the way to the pitch.

The Don's previous Test innings at The Oval had been 232, 244 and 77. During the present tour he had scored 146 and 128 against Surrey on the very same ground. Bradman must have been thinking of these feats and wishing to bid farewell to his Test career in a fitting manner.

The English captain, Norman Yardley, said to his team, "We will give him three cheers when he gets on the square". Then turning to Eric Hollies, he said, "But that is all we'll give him. Then bowl him out!" Bradman stood modestly with cap in hand as three cheers went up. Yardley shook him by the hand. The game proceeded thereafter.

Here, we take a break. After the memorable fourth Test at Leeds where Australia became the first team to score over 400 runs in the fourth innings for a win — Bradman contributing 173 not out — the Don took the weekend off in Wales, returning for the game against Warwickshire, where he was facing Eric Hollies for the first time since 1938.

Warwickshire lost the match tamely, but Hollies took nine of the 11 wickets that fell, including eight without much assistance from the pitch. His first innings haul of eight for 107 included Bradman bowled by a top-spinner. Hollies had deliberately refrained from bowling his googly and allowed Bradman a quarter of an hour of gentle bowling practice. He had discussed the strategy with his county captain Tom Dollery. They had concluded that Bradman had not spotted his googly during his first innings score of 31. "I know I can bowl him with it. I'll give it to him the second ball at The Oval".

At the Oval Test, Hollies' first ball, bowling round the wicket, was a leg-break, which the batsman played defensively. His second one was a googly. It drew Bradman forward but not far enough to smother the spin. The ball broke in and removed the off bail. Bradman was out! The moment stunned the crowd as well as Bradman.

The Don returned to the pavilion amidst thunderous applause. Hollies who had plotted his fall turned to Jack Young and lamented, "Best ball I I've bowled all season and they are clapping him!" That evening he rang up Dollery and told him triumphantly. "He never saw it, Tom".

A cartoon in The Melbourne Herald next day depicted Hollies as "the prickly fellow who put the zero in Don"! The "Hollies Duck" is one of cricket's amazing noughts. It almost never came about, for, when the invitation to play in the Test arrived, Hollies told Leslie Deakins that he would rather play for Warwickshire since the rubber had already been decided, and playing the Test would mean his missing out on two county games. The county management prevailed upon their homeboy to play in the Test.

Did the reception accorded to Bradman emotionally affect his concentration? He admitted he had been "stirred". Some say he had tears in his eyes. But when asked about it years afterwards, Bradman said, "let it remain as one of the imponderables in cricket to be debated in the Elysium."

Bradman was a colossus. In 1931, the laws were amended to tackle the batting phenomenon .The wicket was made slightly higher and wider! Moving goal posts? It made no difference to his scoring! Bodyline was `invented' to contain him. It did. His average plummeted to... 57! Was it cricket?

After retiring, Bradman became the first Australian to be knighted. The Don passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92.