Which England bowler prevented Sir Donald Bradman from averaging 100 runs in Test match cricket?

The late Sir Donald Bradman, who died on February 25, 2001, was, unquestionably, the greatest batsman in the history of cricket. ‘The Don’, as he was affectionately known, was the scourge of England between 1928 and 1948, scoring 19 centuries in Test matches and being on the winning side in six out of seven Ashes series. The only exception was the infamous ‘Bodyline’ series of 1932/33, during which England resorted to the tactic of bowling short, fast deliveries on the line of leg stump in an effort to unsettle Bradman; England won that series 4-1, but Bradman still averaged 56.

All told, Bradman scored scored 6,996 runs in 52 tests at an average of 99.94. He made his final appearance, as captain, in the fifth and final Test of the Australia tour of England at the Oval in August, 1948. England won the toss and elected to bat first, but were skittled out for just 52, with only opening batsman Sir Leonard Hutton reaching double figures and fast bowler Ray Lindwall taking 6-20 off his 16.1 overs.

Australia made a solid start to their first innings, with openers Sid Barnes and Arthur Morris putting on 117 before Barnes was caught at the wicket by Godfrey Evans off the bowling of leg-spinner Eric Hollies. Bradman, who needed just four runs to average 100 in Test cricket, arrived at the crease to a tumultuous ovation from the crowd and three cheers, led by England captain Norman Yardley.

However, his final Test innings proved hugely anti-climactic. Clearly emotional, Bradman survived his first ball from Hollies, although he later admitted that he was not sure he really saw it, but was clean bowled, second ball, for a duck, by what he later described as ‘a perfect length googly which deceived me’. Australia went on to win the match by an innings and 149 runs, and the series 4-0, but Bradman finished his Test career just 0.06 short of an average of 100 runs.

Which was the first Test cricket team to win after following on?

For readers unfamiliar with the concept of ‘following on’ in Test cricket, Law 14.1.1 of the Laws of Cricket states, ‘In a two-innings match of 5 days or more [such as a typical Test match], the side which bats first and leads by at least 200 runs shall have the option of requiring the other side to follow their innings.’

In the history of Test cricket, which dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria, just four teams have won after following on. England famously did so in the third Test of the 1981 Ashes series – subsequently dubbed ‘Botham’s Ashes’ – at Headingley, Leeds, after trailing by 227 runs at the completion of the first innings. Having scored 174 in the first innings, England were 137-7 and still 92 runs behind Australia’s first innings total of 401-9 declared when Ian Botham was joined at the crease by fast bowler Graham Dilley. To cut a long story short, Botham went on to make 149 not out and Dilley a Test high score of 56 and Bob Willis took 8-43 in the second innings as Australia were dismissed for a paltry 111 in pursuit of 130.

However, Headingley was not the first time England had beaten Australia after following on. In the first Test of the 1894/95 Ashes series at the Sydney Circket Ground (SCG) in December, 1894, Australia batted first and recovered from 21-3 to post massive first innings of 585 all out, with the diminutive Syd Gregory top-scoring on 201. England made 325 in the first innings and 437 in the second, setting Australia a target of 177. At 113-2 at the end of the fifth day, the home side looked certain to win, but lost their last eight wickets for 53 runs, with slow left-armer Bobby Peel taking 6-67, to give the visitors an unlikely victory.

Where and when was the first ‘Ashes’ Test match?

The ‘Ashes’ is, of course, a biannual Test cricket series between England and Australia, which epitomises the rivalry between the two nations and, as such, is the most celebrated bilateral Test series in history. Although not recognised as such at the time, the first Test series between England and Australia was played in March and April 1887 and resulted in a 1-1 draw. However, the term ‘Ashes’ was not used until after a one-off Test match at The Oval in August, 1882.

On that occasion, Australia were bowled out for 122 in their second innings, setting England a target of just 85 to win. At 51/3, with W.G. Grace at the crease, England looked certain to win, but Grace was caught by Alec Bannerman off the bowling of Harry Boyle for 32 to reduce the hosts to 53/4. Thereafter, fast bowler Fred Spofforth, a.k.a. ‘The Demon Bowler’, made short work of the remaining England batsmen, taking 7/44 to give Australia its first Test victory over England on English soil.

A spoof epitaph, written by English journalist Reginald Shirley Brooks, subsequently appeared in the ‘Sporting Times’. It began, ‘In affectionate remembrance of English cricket…’ and ended, ‘The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia.’ Three weeks later, the England team, led by the Hon. Ivo Bligh, embarked on a tour of Australia. England lost the first Test by nine wickets, but won the second by an innings and 27 runs and the third by 69 runs, thereby completing their quest to ‘recover the Ashes’. Indeed, the ‘Ashes’ ceased to be just a metaphor when Bligh was presented with a small, terracotta urn – nowadays kept permanently at Lord’s Cricket Ground in St. John’s Wood, London – containing the ashes of a burnt cricket bail.

How many Test cricket matches have finished with the scores level?

In the history of Test cricket, which dates back to March, 1877, just four matches have finished with the scores level. Before examing the gory details, it is worth making the distinction between a ‘draw’ and a ‘tie’ as far as Test cricket is concerned. To win a Test match, the side fielding second must bowl out the opposition – that is, take all ten wickets – in the fourth innings. Otherwise, the result is a draw, unless the scores are equal on completion of the fourth innings, in which case the result is a tie.

The first two Test matches to finish with the scores level were both tied and, interestingly, both involved Australia, albeit 26 years apart and on two different continents. In the first Test of the West Indies tour of Australia at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, commonly known as the Gabba, the visitors batted first and set the hosts a target of 233 runs in the fourth innings. On a deteriorating pitch, the ‘Baggy Greens’ were reduced to 92-6 at tea on the fifth and final day, but recovered to 226-7 before losing their last three wickets for just six runs to create history.

Fast forward to September, 1986, again in the first Test of the Australia tour of India at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, the visitors set a healthy target of 348 runs, having declared their second innings at 170-5 at the end of day four. The ‘Men in Blue’ started their run chase promisingly, with opening batsmen Sunil Gavaskar, who was playing his hundredth Test match, top-scoring with 90 as they reached 331-7. However, the tail did not exactly wag and, when tailender Maninder Singh was trapped lbw for a duck by Greg Matthews, they were still one short of a winning total.

For the record, the other two Test matches to finish with the scores level were both drawn. In December, 1996, in the first Test of the England tour of Zimbabwe at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, the scores were 376 & 234 and 406 & 204-6, in pursuit of 205. In November, 2011, in the third Test of the West Indies tour of India at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, the scores were 590 & 134 and 482 & 242-9.

Which male cricketer has taken the most catches in a Test match?

At the time of writing, the male cricketer who has taken the most catches in a Test match is Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane is a talented middle-order batsman, who has played 82 Test matches for India, scoring 4,931 runs in 140 innings, at an average of 38.52, including 12 centuries and a high score of 188, achieved against New Zealand at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore, India in October, 2016.

However, despite standing just 5’5″ tall, he is also a specialist slip fielder and has taken 99 catches in Test matches. His record-breaking tally of eight catches in a single match came in the first Test of the India tour of Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium in August, 2015. He took three catches in the first innings and five in the second but, even so, his efforts were in vain as India were skittled out for 112 – with left-arm spinner Rangana Herath taking 7-48 – in pursuit of a target of 176 in the second innings.

Nevertheless, Ramakrishnan Sridhar, former fielding coach of the Indian national team, later lavished praise on Rahane for his dedication to the art of slip fielding. He said, ‘Let’s make no bones about it – he works really hard at it. He takes hundreds of catches and he is very specific about where he wants them, what he wants to do, at what height he wants them, what he’s likely to get in the match.’

For the record, six fielders have taken seven catches in a Test match, the most recent of them being Indian opening batsmen Kannaur Lokesh (KL) Rahul, who did so during the third Test of the India tour of England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham in August, 2018.