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Ashes History - Star batsmen

Donald Bradman
Bradman stood out in his second Ashes series in 1930

Three players dominated the first half of the 20th century - Jack Hobbs, Donald Bradman and Len Hutton.

Hobbs starred in England's tours of 1911-12 and 1928-29, hitting 662 runs at an average of 82.75 in the former.

Bradman made his debut in 1928 and his success over the next few years saw England devise the controversial Bodyline tactic to try to curb him.

And Hutton set a new record of 364 as England won the last Test before World War Two in impressive style.

In a distinguished career that brought him 61,237 first-class runs and 197 centuries, Hobbs' Test highlight was arguably his three centuries in successive matches in 1911-12.

England were unable to continue their dominance, though, as the First World War intervened.

When they returned to Australia in 1920-21 the hosts were rampant with bat and ball, led by 21st captain Warwick 'The Big Ship' Armstrong to their only 5-0 series win.

The tone was set when the visitors were given 659 to win in the first Test. England suffered an innings defeat in the second, lost the third by 119 runs, the fourth by eight wickets and the fifth by nine.

Armstrong was also at the helm in 1921, when Australia went unbeaten throughout an Ashes tour for the only time in Ashes history, the trip including 34 matches from May to September.

1948 Ashes - Bradman bows out at the Oval

Bradman made his debut in 1928-29 - Hobbs' last tour - but came into his own in 1930, making 974 runs at an average of 139.14 as Australia won back the Ashes urn by a 2-1 margin.

His feats included a 131 at Trent Bridge, a flawless 254 at Lord's, a first innings 334 at Headingley, and 232 at The Oval.

Clearly, stopping Bradman was key for England, and new captain Douglas Jardine devised a plan to do just that for the 1932-33 tour.

Using the pace and accuracy of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce, England employed short-pitched bowling, forcing batsmen to defend themselves, and deployed leg-side fielders to snatch the resulting edges.

Bradman found a way to deal with the tactic - he averaged a nearly-mortal 56.57 in the series compared to his career average of 99.94 - but his team-mates were not so lucky.

When Larwood struck Australian captain Bill Woodfull above the heart in the third Test in Adelaide, the crowd was incensed and a riot closely averted.

Australia regained the Ashes in 1934, winning 2-1 on tour, with Bradman (304) and Bill Ponsford (181) sharing a fourth wicket stand of 388 at Headingley.

Hobbs and Hutton
Hutton (right) followed Hobbs as England's leading scorer

In the fifth at The Oval they surpassed that in the first innings with a 451 second wicket stand, Ponsford hitting 266 and Bradman 244, as Australia won by 562 runs.

Australia took a close 1936-37 series 3-2, although Wally Hammond hit 231 in the second game. Bradman bettered that with 270 in the third Test at Melbourne.

The final pre-war Ashes series saw Bradman pass Hobbs' record of 12 Ashes centuries totalling 3,636 tour runs, but England's Len Hutton stole the limelight.

A high-scoring first Test at Nottingham was drawn, and the second at Lord's ended the same way despite a first innings of 240 from Hammond.

England squared the series at the Oval, and the match belonged to Hutton, who batted for over 11 hours for his record-breaking 364.

The home side notched up a record 903 in the first innings and went on to win by an innings and 579 runs.





see also
Ashes Legends XI
18 Sep 06 |  England

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