Jardine’s men had employed Bodyline at Sydney.
While Harold Larwood had pulverised the home batsmen during the 10-wicket victory with this terrifyingly new mode of attack, Don Bradman had missed the Test, being caught in a row with the management over a newspaper contract.
There was a good chance that the biggest icon of Australian cricket could missed the series entirely. Bradman felt morally obliged to fulfil the contractual writing and broadcasting assignment.
It was RC Packer, the proprietor of Associate Newspapers, who solved the issue. The grandfather of Kerry Packer, the media mogul who changed the face of cricket, released Bradman from the contract. As a result, Bradman was back at Melbourne, and the crowd went crazy when he emerged at the fall of the second wicket with the score on 67 for 2, after Leo O’Brien had been run out.
Yorkshire paceman Bill Bowes was the bowler about to run in, and this is how he described the scene in his excellent autobiography Express Deliveries:
“Every step he took toward the wicket was cheered, and Bradman, a cunning campaigner, came from the darkness of the pavilion and walked towards the wicket in a huge semi-circle. He was giving the crowd time to quieten and also accustom his eyes to the glare. He was cheered as he took up his guard, cheered as he looked round the field to see the disposition of the fieldsmen.
“The cheering continued at the same volume as I ran up to bowl. It was deafening. I had to stop in the middle of the run-up and wait for the noise to subside. To fill in time I asked my mid-on to move up to silly mid-on. Once again I began my run. Once again came a terrific roar. Once again I had to stop. This time I moved my fine-leg fieldsman to the boundary edge.”
Bowes was already working out ways to capitalise the situation. He continues:
“I saw Don eyeing those changed positions with a look of determination. Then the thought flashed into my mind, ‘He expects a bouncer – can I fool him?’ I ran up to bowl with the most threatening expression on my face that I could muster. Don stepped across the wicket intending to hit the ball out of sight. But, as the ball flew towards him, he realised it was not a bouncer at all. In a manner that only a really great batsman could achieve, he changed the elevation of his intended shot and got a very faint edge on the ball, but his defensive move was ineffective. He was bowled out. The crowd was stupified. Bradman walked off the field amid a silence that would have been a theatrical producer’s triumph. The spell was broken by a solitary woman’s clapping. The feeble sound rippled above the hushed throng and then an excited chatter broke out all over the ground.”
And finally in the recollections of Bowes we glimpse perhaps for the only time the human side of Douglas Jardine the ruthless captain.
“And it was then I noticed Jardine. Jardine, the sphinx, had momentarily 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.”
Jack Fingleton who got 83 that day, was the batsman at the other end. He later recalled something that Bowes omitted from his autobiography. “In the great hush that descended on the ground when Bradman was bowled, Bowes just put his hands on his hips and turned around to me and the umpire and said to me in broad Yorkshire, ‘Well I’ll be foocked!’”
Australia got 228, and with Tim Wall and Bill O’Reilly bowling well in tandem, dismissed England for 169. In the second innings, Bradman could not be stopped. The conditions were difficult, and he walked in at 27 for 2. But as his great rival Wally Hammond recalled in Cricket my Destiny,
“As he walked in you could see ‘Not this time!’ written in letters of fire across the sky! And when he had leisurely played himself in, he made 103 not out from a total of 191. How well I remember him staring down the pitch as I bowled over after over, trying to keep the runs down and rest the fast bowlers. I took 3 for 21 that innings, but with Don I could do nothing, even if he could do little with me.”
Set a target of 251, England were bowled out by O’Reilly and Bert Ironmonger for 139. The 111-run victory squared the series, and the country of Australia went home with the peaceful thought ringing in their minds, “The Don is back and everything is all right with the world again.”