Some of you may remember my husband Mark did a guest post a short time ago. Well, he’s back on The Mayfairy with more cricket based chatter. Begged me to let him do it again. Just begged. Didn’t get annoyed when I said he begged to be on my blog last time at all, not even a little bit. Hence why he begged again. Enjoy.
Don Bradman is a name that has passed into cricket lore. His name is also on a door… doors, in this case. It was through such doors that ‘The Don’ passed on 14 August, 1948 for his final test innings at The Oval in South London.
In Australia they say the trouble with God is he thinks he’s Don Bradman. But the good Lord saw fit to reward such blasphemy by leaving him on 99.94% Test batting average. Even so, the game’s bible, Wisden, called him “the greatest phenomenon in the history of cricket”. When Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison, his first question was “Is Sir Don Bradman still alive?” He was… but divine intervention left him stranded again before reaching the ton, passing away at the age of 92 in 2001. Not a bad innings.
His last test innings, however was not at Lords, but at The Oval, the traditional ground for the final match of the year and the place where the Ashes originated when the cremated cricket bail was interred in the 6″ terracotta urn in 1882, when ‘English cricket died’ after losing to the upstart Antipodeans for the first time. The Oval was also the first ground to host International cricket two years earlier.
It was the fifth test of the 1948 Ashes series. Australia were already the winners with an unassailable 3-0 lead. They continued that form, bowling the hosts out for a paltry 52, before piling on 389 in reply. The Aussies were well placed when The Don came into bat. He received a huge ovation and the English players gave him three cheers. That’s all they gave him. He only needed four runs to reach 7,000 and achieve the century career average. His previous scores were 232, 244 and 77, so four measly runs looked a formality. What’s more, a slow bowler was on, a leg-spinner by the name of Eric Hollies, who would achieve immortality.
A customary cover drive to the boundary would do it. He dealt with Eric’s first ball. The second deceived The Don. Eric varied his stock leg-break, with a pitched-up googly. The ball went between the great man’s bat and pad, bowling him, without scoring. He was in fact a victim of his own side’s success. Had they not bowled England out for 188, winning by an innings and 149 runs, The Don would have had another chance to bat in the second innings to achieve the milestone.
The Oval has been home to the Surrey County Cricket Club since 1845. Recently they decided to restore the doors that The Don walked through for the final time to their former glory and named them ‘The Don Bradman Doors’ After all, no other cricket ground can claim that. The two doors lead from the corridor behind the Galadri Museum to the Pavilion Terrace. The hallway is covered with Bradman mementos, including a signed print of a painting celebrating Sir Don walking out to bat. I was privileged to spend a few minutes of The Don’s 92 years when I met him in Australia in the 1990s and he signed a caricature I drew based on his final Test walk and wearing the famous baggy green cap. This is one of my treasured possessions.
So remember, If you achieve the heights that The Don did in his unequalled career they will name doors after you… but not just any doors, and not just any sporting god.