Headingley, 1930

by Andrew Starkie

Every cricket nut for miles around made their way to Leeds for the third Test in the summer of 1930.  Two weeks previously, young Don Bradman had helped level the Ashes series at Lord’s with 254, a ground record, and it seemed all in Yorkshire wanted to see him play.

At home, Australian cricket fans were experiencing the first ‘direct’ radio broadcast as English commentary was relayed by radio telephone to Sydney and then into Australian homes by local announcers.  Recorded crowd noise and tapping of a pencil on the studio desk to simulate bat on ball entertained bleary-eyed fans.

On the morning of July 11, Bill Woodfull won the toss and elected to bat on an uncovered, patchy and untrustworthy pitch.  A stiff wind raced across Headingley and Maurice ‘Chubby’ Tate and Harold Larwood were expected to cause the Australian batsmen trouble.  Archie Jackson came in for his first Test of the series and opened with his captain.  He managed a nervous single before Tate had him caught at square leg.  The score was 1-2.

Eager applause greeted Bradman as he headed for the middle.  As he took block and relaxed over his bat, an expectant hum filled the air.  Every vantage point in the ground was taken.

Bradman opened his scoring with a two, then a boundary and another two.  He survived an early LBW appeal and set about driving and nudging control away from England.  The pitch held few suspicions for him.

Bradman had his century before Lunch.  Previously, the only Australians to achieve this feat were the great Victor Trumper and Charles MaCartney.  Woodfull was more cautious, contributing 29 to the lunchtime score of 136.

Woodfull was bowled by Hammond upon reaching his half-century and Bradman was joined by Alan Kippax.  The fast scoring continued and by Tea the score was 2-305 with Bradman on 220.

Scoring slowed marginally in the final session.  Kippax’s supporting role ended on 70 from 176 balls, caught at point by the England Captain, Percy Chapman.

Bradman brought up his 300 – the first triple century in Test cricket – after five and a half hours.  He off-drove the final ball of the day to the boundary to close on 309.  Stan McCabe was 12, Australia, 3-458.

Taken from the balcony or grandstand, this photograph captures a moment at the end of play as Bradman makes his way up the players’ race.

A light early evening sun settles over Headingley.  Male spectators wear jackets, possibly a requirement of the Members’ enclosure.  Many wear hats and caps and heavier coats drape over seats.  A man in the foreground is carrying a brief case, perhaps having raced to the cricket on his way home from work on this Friday as news of the Bowral Wonder’s innings spread through Leeds.

Females are showing off the latest Summer dresses, coats and hats.  Acolyte schoolboys in whites, club caps and blazers are pushing to the front to be close to cricket’s new hero.  They will dream to be like him.

Bobbies are clearing a path for Bradman as spectators spill onto the ground, stand on bench seats, crane their necks and surge forward.  Some have the courage to pat him on the back.  Press cameramen jostle for front-on shots.  All attention is on the young Australian.  Those present buzz with the privilege and joy that accompany Test cricket’s greatest day.

Don Bradman carries his cap, gloves and bat in his left hand.  A hint of tiredness stretches across his shoulders and brow.  He appears removed, becalmed, hardly noticing the clamour around him.  Minutes earlier he had smiled and waved his cap and bat at the acknowledgement of his 300.  Now, he gives the impression of wanting the sanctuary and privacy of the dressing room.

Bradman looks older than twenty-one.  His is more mature and sober than the mischievous, unsuspecting faces of young Diggers in wartime photographs.  He already appears the earnest stock and share broker he will later become.

Interestingly, Bradman is the only cricketer in this photograph.  McCabe and the Englishmen have left the field, or are respectfully waiting on the ground so he can experience this moment alone.

All of Yorkshire and much of England were caught in Bradman fever.  The front pages declared: ‘Bradman v England’ and ‘Don Bradman’s Amazing Triple Century’.  However, not all rejoiced.  Next morning, an anonymous telegram arrived for Bradman declaring his house had burned to the ground.  Obviously designed to get him out of the country and on a homeward bound ship, young Don was reassured by his teammates the telegram was a hoax.  He and McCabe headed out for the day’s play.

The Day Two pitch was harder and faster and England’s bowlers more determined.  McCabe and Victor Richardson lost their wickets quickly.  Bradman was out on 334: caught by wicketkeeper Duckworth, from Tate’s bowling.

He faced 448 balls in 383 minutes, hitting 46 fours, 6 threes, 26 twos and 80 singles.  Despite not hitting a six, his strike rate was 74.55.

Australia’s innings ended before Lunch on 566.  Tate had the figures of 5-124 and Larwood, 1-139.

England set about replying to Australia’s total.  Despite a gallant century by Wally Hammond, they were all out for 391.  New Zealand born leg spinner, Clarrie Grimmett, who made his Test debut in 1925, aged 33, claimed 5 wickets.

Woodfull enforced the follow-on, however, rain moved in over Yorkshire and this match which began with such brilliance and ebullience ended quietly in a draw.

The teams turned to Old Trafford, Manchester, for the fourth Test.

Ashes tours were once longer and slower than the compacted and rushed affairs they are today.  Before the 1930 Ashes tour, the Australian squad played exhibition games in Western Australia and Tasmania before sailing from Fremantle late March. It did not return until October.  Tests included, the Australians played 31 matches in England.  They played twelve three-day tour games before the first Test.

The Orient Liner Orford introduced many of the Australians to luxury and opulence  they had never experienced before.  They ate exotic foods, and participated in the many games and social events offered onboard, while enjoying the flattering attention of other passengers.  Most squad members were from lower middle-class homes and an Ashes tour enabled them to escape the realities of difficult economic times.  Players were paid a base salary of 600 pounds plus 50 pounds for equipment.  Despite being subject to a strict behaviour code and not permitted to engage in any paid employment on tour, most considered themselves privileged.

After stop-offs in wondrous places like Ceylon and Egypt, the Australians travelled by train through Europe and eventually reached London late April.

England was barely waking from Winter when the Australians played their tour opener at Worcestershire.  The home side were dismissed cheaply before Bradman gobbled up 236.  It was the highest score by a batsman in his first innings in another country.

The voracious scoring continued for Bradman as tour games came and went.  He became the first Australian to score 1,000 runs by the end of May.  Only the likes of W.G. Grace had done this.  Bradman’s fame spread and capacity crowds corralled their appreciation as they also sought distraction from the deepening economic depression.

Great expectation met the two teams when they arrived at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, for the first Test, mid June.  England held the urn after a convincing series victory in Australia eighteen months earlier, and with Hammond, Bert Sutcliffe, Jack Hobbs and Tate, hoped to retain the Ashes.  The Australians believed the experience of Woodfull, Bill Ponsford and Grimmett, and the unemcumbered talent of Jackson, McCabe and Bradman provided a strong chance.

Two five wicket efforts by Grimmett and a second innings century by Bradman in his maiden Test in England and fifth of his career, weren’t enough.  Consistent bowling and solid opening partnerships from Hobbs and Sutcliffe, helped England claim victory by 93 runs.

At Lord’s, Indian born, Kumar Duleepsinghi, affectionately known as ‘Mr. Smith’, scored 173 of England’s first innings 425.  Duleepsinghi’s career would be hampered by poor health.  He played only 12 Tests and died early of a heart attack.

Bradman’s double century and Woodfull’s 155 pushed Australia to 729.  Chapman scored his only Test century in England’s second innings, however, Grimmett’s 6 wickets ensured a small chase.  The tourists won by 7 wickets.

Like at Headingley, the Old Trafford Test ended in a draw as poor weather continued to scuttle Northern England’s Summer.  Bradman was dismissed by leg spinning Scotsman Ian Pebbles.

The teams again headed south to London for the decider.  Unlike other Tests of the series, which were four day matches, the Oval was to be ‘timeless’ – a result was certain.

Percy Chapman was replaced by Bob Wyatt to add experience and steel to England’s batting.  Sutcliffe’s century formed the basis of England’s formidable first innings 405 and the home crowd were feeling comfortable when the Australian innings opened.  That confidence dissipated as Bill Ponsford scored his first hundred of the series and Bradman, his third double century.  Larwood targeted Bradman and Jackson with short bowling and this Test became the genesis of the Bodyline series.  Australia scored 695.

In his sixth and final Test, slow medium left-hander, Percy Hornibrook, of Obi Obi, Queensland, produced the remarkable career best figures of 7-92 to bowl Australia to Ashes victory by an innings and 39 runs.

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Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Andrew,

    Superb.

    Really enjoying these weekend features. Forgot to comment about Elvis and Lionel. Are there any other famous sporting Lionels?

    Here’s one that you might be aware of:

    DG at Headingley:
    4 Tests
    963 runs
    334 hs
    192.60 ave
    4 tons (one scored at each Test)

    DG at Old Trafford (across the Pennines)
    3 Tests
    81 runs
    30* hs
    27.00 ave
    0 tons

    PS Reprising your Masters article would be great.

    Flynny

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    Andrew,

    How silly of me?

    Lionel Messi

  3. The photo, held by Hulton Getty, is of the next morning, after he was dismissed.

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