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Watch: Bodyline body-blow – The Bradman first-baller that kicked off cricket’s most controversial series

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Watch: At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Don Bradman walked out to bat for the first time in the Bodyline Series of 1932/33, against Bill Bowes. He was bowled first ball.

Bradman had missed the first Test match of the series, in Sydney, due to a contract conflict with the Australian board. England won by 10 wickets despite Stan McCabe’s iconic 187. Harold Larwood led the rout with 5-96 and 5-28, while Herbert Sutcliffe, Wally Hammond, and Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi all got hundreds.

However, with everything sorted, Bradman was back for the second Test match, in Melbourne. The Australian fans, dejected after the defeat, hoped their hero to rise the occasion. Bill Woodfull won the toss and batted, but was bowled by Gubby Allen soon afterwards. Leo O’Brien, promoted to No.3, was run out. Australia were 67-2. It was Bradman’s turn to bat.


The expectations were immense, and the applause was loud. As he often did at that enormous ground, Bradman took a long, semicircular path – to allow the applause to subside as well as to get used to the light.

The bespectacled, deceptively dangerous Bowes waited at the top of his run-up. Twice he had to abort his run-up, waiting for the crowd to go quiet. To kill time, he moved mid-on closer, pushed fine-leg back. Bradman noticed every change. Amidst the wait, Bowes kept asking himself what Bradman was likely to expect first ball: “He expects a bouncer, can I fool him?”

The ball came slower than Bradman had anticipated, and was not as short. The great man had positioned himself for the pull – but could only manage a bottom edge. It took “a solitary woman’s clapping” to break the silence after what felt like ages.

However, not everyone was as quiet. Certainly not Douglas Jardine, who broke into a celebration uncharacteristic of the man they called the ‘Iron Duke’. “Jardine, the sphinx, had forgotten himself for the one and only time in his cricketing life. In his sheer delight at this unexpected stroke of luck, he had clasped both his hands above his head and was jigging around like an Indian doing a war dance,” wrote Bowes in Express Deliveries, his delightful autobiography.

Watch Don Bradman’s golden duck here:

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