On this day: Don Bradman smashes record
AT JUST 21 YEARS OLD, Don Bradman scored the highest number of runs by a single batsman in a single day’s play – 309 runs not out, setting a world record. In a watershed moment for Australian cricket, Bradman’s innings beat Clifford Roach’s record of 209 runs by a stunning century – setting a record that remains unbeaten today.
In the third Test of the Ashes series at Headingley, Leeds, on Friday 11 July, 1930 he beat the English at their own game, launching his career as an international cricket superstar.
“Amidst multitudinous cheers Bradman beat the record for the highest innings by any Test-match batsman,” reported The Guardian on 12 July 1930.
“Bradman’s bat hammered perpetually: when he ever did stop scoring for a few balls it was as though he had merely run out of nails momentarily.”
Australian cricket put on the map by Bradman’s batting
Bradman’s performance stunned commentators and crowds.
“He went on in that series to score twelve centuries on the tour, which was also a record, and scored several double centuries as well, so he was miles and miles ahead of anyone they’d ever seen playing before,” says David Wells, curator of the International Cricket Hall of Fame in Bowral, New South Wales. “It was significant to the English, because they were surprised, but it was more significant to Australia because it showed we had the capability of getting up the nose of the Mother Country.”
An English newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, dubbed the series ‘Bradman vs. England’. Bradman’s celebrity as a standout Australian cricket player was growing rapidly off the field, and exploded on his return to Australia.
“He was feted wherever he went, separated from the rest of the team. They put him on trains and gave him public receptions in the different state capitals,” says David. “He helped Australians feel good about themselves at a time when things were hard. There was the Great Depression, but he was young, he was good looking, he played cricket in a very positive way and he played it very, very well, so he helped people forget about their daily worries.”
Don Bradman shaped Australian cricket’s character
But it wasn’t just The Don’s sportsmanship that people admired; it was his stoic modesty and humility.
“The way he played cricket and the way he lived life was very straight,” says David. “He was uncomplicated and the values he’d learned from his parents in Bowral he stuck to all his life. Despite that, he became an enormous superstar and kings and queens and prime ministers all wanted to meet him, [but] he essentially remained unchanged.”
“He symbolised a whole generation’s values – the generation that grew up during World War I. Honesty, dignity, determination and courage, honour, pride, ambition and competitiveness…[He felt] the lessons he learnt on the cricket field served him very well throughout his life, and taught him how to live a good life.”
Widely considered the greatest cricketer of the 20th century, Don Bradman’s Test batting average of 99.94 is still unsurpassed. He retired from Test cricket in 1948, and passed away in 2001.