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Trevor Wedlake's Writings
Ashes to ashes

Published in the Village Journal March, 1975

Hope turned to the wrong type of ashes in Sydney on January 9th when Australia won the 4th Test having drawn the 3rd and won the first two. All the excitement and tension, (and a little sadness), that have accompanied this tour have been brought about by good old fashioned fast bowling. Lillee, who we all thought was “over the hill”, and Thompson, the young typhoon we’d scarcely heard of, have intimidated and wounded our best batsmen.

Anger and controversy have often attended England-Australia Test matches, and these two imposters have usually intruded because of hostile fast bowling. Fast bowling is to cricket what the heavyweight division is to boxing, it is the big crowd-puller. Spin bowlers have their wiles and guiles and artistry, but fast bowling is primeval; it is one male pitting his strength and nerve and sinew against another.

The 1932-3 series in Australia caused more uproar and ill-feeling than any before or since. England' s great fast bowlers under the autocratic and fearless D.R. Jardine were the cause. Jardine had devised his barely ethical body-line theory to contain Bradman, and Larwood was his main agent. To a packed on-side field Larwood sent down his short pitched deliveries at great speed and with an accuracy not seen in Australia on this tour.

Australian batsmen were felled and carried off. Pandemonium broke out in the crowds. England could not practice until the grounds were cleared of the public. Cables were exchanged between M.C.C. and Australia and high diplomatic intervention has been hinted. Jardine, determined to reduce Bradman to mortal dimensions, would not relent. England won four Tests to one.

In the Melbourne Test beginning December 30th 1932 which Australia won there was a memorable incident though not involving bodyline. England left out Verity and played Bill Bowes in his only Test of the tour. Bowes, bespectacled and professorial was the master of the late away-swing technique. He was bowling when Bradman, the master of all bowlers, whose average even body-line could only reduce to the fifties, came in to bat.

Bradman was the greatest run-making machine cricket has ever seen. He hit a hundred hundreds in three hundred innings; he never hit the ball in the air. His eye and reflexes were immaculate. Bradman left the pavilion, the great crowd basked in the sun as confident and complacent as a butcher' s cat. He approached the crease in along curve to allow his eyes time to adjust to the light. He took guard and Bowes began his run. When he was about half-way to the stumps the crowd erupted into a great frenzy of cheering. Bradman,
concentration molested, drew away and Bowes stopped. Before returning to his mark Bowes idly motioned deep square leg in much shorter.

Bradman ready, Bowes ran in again, and again the crowd bayed and cheered, and Bradman pulled away and Bowes stopped; and just for something to do posted mid-on to short mid-on. Walking back, Bowes realised what he had done and wondered if the ruse would work. Had his gratuitous re-deployment of the field and the fact that frustrated fast bowlers usually react with a bouncer, led Bradman to expect one?

Bowes ran in to begin the over and bowled as fast and straight as he could. Bradman, perfectly in position for the shot, hooked, and the ball, only just short of a length was through him, and hit the stumps. The England players gasped, the crowd was hushed, Bradman left for the pavilion. In the second innings he hit 103.