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When the courageous Stan McCabe defied Larwood and Voce’s Bodyline hostility

Stan McCabe and Bradman
by Wisden Staff 2-minute read

With his aggressive intent, Stan McCabe triumphed against the ferocity of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce in the Sydney Test of 1932/33, producing one of the finest knocks against pace. When he bettered that six years later at Trent Bridge, even the great Don Bradman couldn’t stop himself from singing tones of appreciation.

The story of the Bodyline tour is one of cricket’s foremost pieces of folklore. England captain Douglas Jardine’s ruthless employment of leg-theory and the ferocious bowling of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce combined to render Bradman mortal. There was, however, one batsman they failed to tame.

Bradman did not feature in the first Test at Sydney, owing to a dispute with the Australian board. In his absence, his team-mates endured Larwood at his most hostile and were found wanting.

Apart, that is, from Stan McCabe, who responded to the hostile, short-pitched barrage with an onslaught of his own – repeatedly hooking Larwood and Voce to the boundary on his way to an unbeaten 187. The man himself would later describe his efforts as an “impulsive, senseless innings, a gamble that should not have been made but came off against all the odds.” Those who saw it describe an innings of raw courage and defiance, and it goes down in history as one of the finest knocks ever played against genuine fast bowling.

England claimed the match by 10 wickets and went on to seize the series 4-1, with McCabe making 385 runs at 43, but six years later he exacted vengeance by smashing 232 not out at Trent Bridge, Larwood and Voce’s old stamping ground, during the first Test of the 1938 Ashes. Returning to the pavilion having scored at a rate of one run per minute, McCabe was greeted by Bradman, his captain, who said: “If I could play an innings like that, I’d be a proud man, Stan.”

First published in 2008.

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