The timeless match

GULU EZEKIEL

Don Bradman, with an unbeaten century, effectively countered Larwood's thunderbolts.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

NEARLY three-quarters of a century later and the 1932-33 England tour of Australia — forever dubbed `Bodyline' — still ranks as one of the most contentious and talked about series in the history of cricket.

The form of bowling was devised specifically to stanch Don Bradman's torrent of runs against England. In 1930 in England he had amassed 974, a record that stands to this day.

Directed at the line of the body with a packed leg-side field to catch anything the batsman may fend off, it was within the rules of the game but was considered to have contravened its spirit and was soon outlawed.

But not before it had pummelled and pounded numerous Australian batsmen, England won the Ashes by a stunning 4-1 margin, reduced Bradman's average to almost half — and nearly caused a split in the Empire between Britain and its colony.

MCC (England) captain Douglas Jardine had devised the tactics and his fast bowling battery, particularly the fearsome Harold Larwood, carried out the plan perfectly. The Australian attack on the other hand simply lacked the fire-power to retaliate in kind.

Bradman had missed the first Test at Sydney through an injury and a contract dispute with the Australian Board almost kept him out of the second at Melbourne.

Jardine's plan clicked from the start. England won by 10 wickets at Sydney, despite a masterly 187 not out by Stan McCabe, hooking everything in sight in smashing 25 boundaries. Larwood was in devastating form with five wickets in both innings while his partner, the left-armer Bill Voce had six in the match.

But Jardine and his henchmen knew their tactics would be truly tested only when Bradman returned and the build-up and anticipation leading to the second Test at Melbourne was tremendous.

Australia made wholesale changes in its team while England made only one, bringing in a fourth fast bowler and omitting the lone spinner, Hedley Verity. Its intentions were clearer than ever. Bill Woodfull won the toss and batted first. But although the pitch turned out to be flat, Australia could only muster 228. Opener Jack Fingleton was the only batsman to cope with Larwood and company with a top score of 83. But the massive crowd only had eyes for their champion. Bradman's opportunity came after two wickets had fallen for 67 runs.

The roar that greeted his walk to the wicket was so loud and sustained that the batsman had to pause for it to die down before taking guard against the bowling of Bill Bowes. The first ball was pitched well outside the off stump and a little short. The batsman moved across to try to pull it down the leg side, but instead top edged the ball onto the stumps. Ironically, it would be Bowes' only wicket in his lone Test in the series.

The crowd, roaring in encouragement just a few seconds before, was now stunned into funeral-like silence as Bradman made his way back. At short-leg, the normally taciturn Jardine did an impromptu jig. It would be about the only occasion he would show any trace of emotion on the field during the entire tour.

If Australia's batting was disappointing, that of the Englishmen was shocking as they folded up for 169. Fast bowler Tim Wall picked up four wickets. But it was master leg spinner Bill O'Reilly who bowled with the most venom, taking five for 63.

Australia's lead was only 59. But those runs proved precious as England's pace attack began to strike one blow after another in the second innings, despite the lifeless track.

This time Bradman came to the wicket with the score reading a shaky 27 for two, joining his captain Woodfull. He was on a pair and the crowd held its breath as Larwood pounded in, his leg-side field in place. Two sizzling bouncers followed. Bowes came on and was hooked crisply for four. It was a shot similar to the one that had led to his first innings downfall. But this time it allowed Bradman to get off the mark.

Bradman was countering Larwood's thunderbolts in a unique style, stepping away to the leg side and hitting through the vacant off side field. Though some of his team-mates disapproved of the tactics, it brought him enough runs in this innings and the series to once again top the averages, even if 56.57 was about half of that in his previous series against England.

Larwood removed Woodfull (26) and after McCabe went for a duck, it was Victor Richardson (grandfather of the Chappell brothers) who provided support to Bradman. Their stand of 54 was scored at better than a run a minute as Don reached his half-century in 90 minutes. But as the bowlers made inroads and wickets began to fall at regular intervals, Bradman took charge. At 176 for six, the lead did not appear to be enough. Wall hung around to add 28 with only three coming off his bat. Bradman hit Larwood for nine in an over as he desperately tried to farm the strike.

When the ninth wicket fell at 186, he was still two runs short of his century. Last man Bert Ironmonger was a genuine No. 11 but managed to hang on. Voce pinned down the master batsman and it was only off the final ball of the over that he was hooked for three which heralded Bradman's century. The applause of the ecstatic crowd held up the game for several minutes. Ironmonger was run out in the next over and Australia was all out for 191. Bradman's lion share was 103 not out, made in 185 minutes from 146 balls with seven boundaries. He would amass 29 tons in his amazing Test career, including two triple hundreds. But for sheer drama and audacity this one probably ranks as his best of all time. It would be the home side's final century of the acrimonious series. The target for England to go two-up in the series was 251. It was only briefly in the hunt, folding up for 139. O'Reilly once again bagged five wickets while Ironmonger picked up four with his left-arm spin.

Australia had won by 111 runs to level the series. "Bodyline beaten" screamed the newspapers. But Australia's joy was short-lived. The placid MCG track had taken the sting out of the fast men, but not for long. Larwood was soon back to his best. His 33 wickets in the series were decisive and England swept to victory in the next three Test matches amid bitterness and acrimony. Larwood would never play for England again. But he had done his job manfully.

The scores

Second Test, Australia v England, Melbourne, Dec. 30 1932 to Jan. 3 1933, Australia won by 111 runs.

Australia — 1st innings: J. H. W. Fingleton b Allen 83; W. M.Woodfull b Allen 10; L. P. J. O'Brien (run out) 10; D. G. Bradman b Bowes 0; S. J. McCabe c Jardine b Voce 32; V. Y. Richardson c Hammond b Voce 34; W. A. S. Oldfield (not out) 27; C. V. Grimmett c Sutcliffe b Voce 2; T. W. Wall (run out) 1; W. J. O'Reilly b Larwood 15; H. Ironmonger b Larwood 4; Extras (b 5, lb 1, w 2, nb 2) 10; Total 228.

Fall of wickets: 1-29, 2-67, 3-67, 4-131, 5-156, 6-188, 7-194, 8-200, 9-222.

England bowling: Larwood 20.3-2-52-2, Voce 20-3-54-3, Allen 17-3-41-2, Hammond 10-3-21-0, Bowes 19-2-50-1.

England — 1st innings: H. Sutcliffe c Richardson b Wall 52; R. E. S. Wyatt lbw b O'Reilly 13; W. R. Hammond b Wall 8; Nawab of Pataudi (Sr) b O'Reilly 15; M. Leyland b O'Reilly 22; D. R. Jardine c Oldfield b Wall 1; L. E. G. Ames b Wall 4; G. O. B. Allen c Richardson b O'Reilly 30; H. Larwood b O'Reilly 9; W. Voce c McCabe b Grimmett 6; W. E. Bowes (not out) 4; Extras (b 1, lb 2, nb 2) 5; Total 169.

Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-43, 3-83, 4-98, 5-104, 6-110, 7-122, 8-138, 9-161.

Australia bowling: Wall 21-4-52-4, O'Reilly 34.3-17-63-5, Grimmett 16-4-21-1, Ironmonger 14-4-28-0.

Australia — 2nd innings: J. H. W. Fingleton c Ames b Allen 1; W. M. Woodfull c Allen b Larwood 26; L. P. J. O'Brien b Larwood 11; D. G. Bradman (not out) 103; S. J. McCabe b Allen 0; V. Y. Richardson lbw b Hammond 32; W. A. S. Oldfield b Voce 6; C. V. Grimmett b Voce 0; T. W. Wall lbw b Hammond 3; W. J. O'Reilly c Ames b Hammond 0; H. Ironmonger (run out) 0; Extras (b 3, lb 1, w 4, nb 1) 9; Total 191.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-27, 3-78, 4-81, 5-135, 6-150, 7-156, 8-184, 9-186.

England bowling: Larwood 15-2-50-2, Voce 15-2-47-2, Allen 12-1-44-2, Hammond 10.5-2-21-3, Bowes 4-0-20-0.

England — 2nd innings: H. Sutcliffe b O'Reilly 33; M. Leyland b Wall 19; Nawab of Pataudi (Sr) c Fingleton b Ironmonger 5; W. R. Hammond c O'Brien b O'Reilly 23; D. R. Jardine c McCabe b Ironmonger 0; L. E. G Ames c Fingleton b O'Reilly 2; R. E. S. Wyatt lbw b O'Reilly 25; G. O. B. Allen st Oldfield b Ironmonger 23; H. Larwood c Wall b Ironmonger 4; W. Voce c O'Brien b O'Reilly 0; W. E. Bowes (not out) 0; Extras (lb 4, nb 1) 5; Total 139.

Fall of wickets: 1-53, 2-53, 3-70, 4-70, 5-77, 6-85, 7-135, 8-137, 9-138.

Australia bowling: Wall 8-2-23-1, O'Reilly 24-5-66-5, Grimmett 4-0-19-0, Ironmonger 19.1-8-26-4.