England’s cricketers beat Australia in the first Test of the 1932 Ashes series on this day – in a tour they won 4-1 after using controversial bodyline bowling tactics.
Harold Larwood, the spearhead of the bruising new technique of aiming directly at opponents, dismissed 10 batsmen during the initial five-day encounter in Sydney.
And England won the Test by 10 wickets after going into the final innings needing only a single run to beat Australia’s total of 524.
The victory surprised many who witnessed the antipodean side’s superior batsmen rout their greatest rivals on English soil two years earlier.
It also sparked a furious row – and even a diplomatic incident with a threatened trade boycott in Britain – after England were also accused of being “unsportsmanlike”.
Australia’s captain Bill Woodfull vowed never to use the now outlawed tactic used by Douglas Jardine’s men, which he said brought “discredit to the game”.
But the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which governed the sport in England, fully backed Jardine and claimed their hosts were merely “sore losers” and demanded an apology.
Furthermore, they dropped batsman Nawab Pataudi, an Indian prince who scored his Test debut century for England in Sydney, after he dissented against bodyline tactics.
After he refused to stand in the organised fielding formation, Jardine is said to have commented: “I see his highness is a conscientious objector.”
However, in Sydney, the bodyline technique - which the English called fast leg theory and designed to get the batsmen caught out behind square leg - had not yet been tested on the great Don Bradman.
The legendary Australian, who scored 974 runs with a still unbeaten innings batting average of 139.14 during the 1930 Ashes, had missed the Sydney Test due to illness.
Jardine, who is said to have become hostile to the Australians after they denied him a century when he scored 94 playing for Oxford University in 1921, claimed Bradman was scared after seeing bodyline bowling being used in the warm-up matches.
The technique, highlighted in British Pathé footage showing the tourists’ first match against the state of Victoria, did have an effect.
Bradman, who was later knighted after earning a record career Test average of 99.94, was bowled out for a duck in his first innings upon his return in Melbourne.
But, on his return to bat, he scored 103 and the helped the Australians win the match by 111 runs.
This was to be the home side’s last victory of the series, though, with England winning the three remaining Tests in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney again.
The most infamous Test during the so-called Bodyline Tour was the third – when Woodfull’s chest was badly hurt and Bert Oldfield suffered a fractured skull.
Despite Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons persuading his country’s cricket chiefs to withdraw their “unsportsmanlike” allegations, the MCC themselves went on to ban bodyline bowling in 1935.
The row echoes the current furore over England all-rounder Stuart Broad, who controversially refused to walk after an umpire hadn’t noticed him edge a ball to slip via the Aussie wicketkeepers’ gloves in the Summer 2012 Ashes in England.
In the first Test of the current 2013-2014 winter series held in Australia, he has been booed by fans and branded a “smug Pommie cheat” by Australian newspapers.
Australia won the match in Brisbane by 381 runs after a catastrophic England batting collapse.
- Sports & Recreation