During two unforgettable weeks in January 2004 visiting Sydney to learn of Bradman, I enjoyed the company and knowledge of Phil Derriman, while having the personal satisfaction of giving a talk to the 'Bradman Museum Society' at the Bradman Oval in Bowral.
Quote from page 50 of Bradman's 'Farewell to Cricket', "I must tell of a match at Blackheath, New South Wales. It was only a second class fixture and I was playing against a team from Lithgow on a malthoid wicket.
Included in my score of 256 were 14 sixes and 29 fours. Batting with Wendell Bill, I at one stage scored 100 out of the 102 added in three overs. The following are the hits which made up the 102:-
The scoring shots made by Wendell Bill in those three overs were the first and fifth singles in the third over. Residents of Cairns (NQ) claim that the fastest hundred ever scored was made there in 1910 by Lorry Quinlan - 18 minutes. No time was recorded at Blackheath, though I think it must have been less than 18 minutes." (It is likely the 'Don' would have taken to Twenty20.)
Phil told me of this feat and during the trip, the remote Blackheath ground, now in the form of a bowling club, was finally located. Imagine my astonishment and delight, when behind the bar was Melissa Gledhill whose grandfather, Jack Boyd, had actually played in this famous match. The bat with which Bradman scored those runs was locked away in an old glass cabinet and only following explanation of our 'Bradman Study' was Melissa persuaded to open the cabinet.
Taking the bat outside and being photographed in the Bradman stance and then sensing the perfect balance and almost weightlessness of its pickup was a magical experience. The feeling was not far removed from that of the stump with which Bradman evolved his 'Rotary' batting style. The thought of balsa wood and model aircraft also came to mind. It was abundantly clear that such a light bat was a necessary and integral part of Bradman's versatility and dynamic mode of play.
When discussing weight of bats it is worth throwing into the pot that Jack Hobbs, scorer of 61,222 runs and 197 centuries (both records) wrote as follows:-
"I helped my father at various odd jobs on the Jesus College, Cambridge, ground during school holidays, such as scouting at the nets and soon opportunities came of playing a sort of cricket with the college servants, using a tennis ball, a cricket stump for a bat, and a tennis post for the wicket. This simple practice laid a wonderful foundation, giving me a keen eye and developing the wrist strokes which I had seen in the college matches. Boy as I was, I tried to emulate the same strokes, and I was surprised at the number of successful strokes I managed to make. That was the way in which I became a natural batsman. The footwork came automatically, and the practice became a great source of enjoyment when I recognised how important everything was.
The straight stump helped me to sense the importance of the straight bat. Perhaps I tried to over flourish, but I learned to appreciate the grace, beauty, swing and rhythm of stroke play and, above all, balance."
Bradman's golf ball and stump is of course part of cricket folklore. Those wishing to encourage young cricketers may wish to consider the similarity and merits of the simple form of development adopted by these two great players, who were not 'Taught' to bat but more 'Learned' how to gain mastery over a moving ball. In this way they were adhering to the Walter Hammond maxim "A good shot is one that controls the ball." As natural batsmen both Bradman and Hobbs tend not to express their play solely in terms of technique, rather they stress the instinctive human rhythms and balance which allowed them to shape the line and length of the ball to their benefit.
To conclude, the
bat with which
scored all his
18 centuries, in
the summer of
just 2lb 2oz.
holding the bat
arms and body
through to the