When Don Bradman bowed out at 'Scarbados'
After a spot of Verity – and a spot of lunch in Ugly Mugs Cafe – I would have pointed said time machine in the direction of Trent Bridge six years later, where Don Bradman reckoned that Stan McCabe played the finest innings he ever saw.
If it was good enough for Bradman, then it’s good enough for me, his team-mate striking 232 in the Ashes Test.
After a spot of McCabe – and a spot of tea in the Trent Bridge Inn – I would probably head for Scarborough next to watch Bradman himself on his final appearance in England.
For it was in September 1948, 75 years ago this month, that ‘The Don’ bowed out at ‘Scarbados’, scoring a century, of course, at the fag end of the famous ‘Invincibles’ tour.
What a treat it must have been for those spectators who attended the three-day fixture at North Marine Road between HDG Leveson-Gower’s XI and Bradman’s tourists.
Sir Henry Dudley Gresham Leveson-Gower – known as ‘Shrimp’ – was a former player himself and heavily connected with the Scarborough Festival, where each year his team – invariably star-studded – played against that summer’s tourists.
After a spot of breakfast at the North Bay Cafe, or its 1948 equivalent, I would have taken a leisurely stroll along North Marine Road and into the great amphitheatre to see a crack Australian team with such luminaries as Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller against a representative XI that included the likes of Yorkshire’s Len Hutton and Norman Yardley, the Yorkshireman Jim Laker, Bill Edrich, Godfrey Evans and Alec Bedser.
Not the worst line-up, was it, in a match that could have masqueraded as a Test, such was the quality of personnel, although the convivial atmosphere in which such fixtures were played meant that they were essentially relaxed affairs at the end of a long season.
Those lucky enough to be present would have seen a Leveson-Gower side captained by Walter Robins win the toss and choose to bat. There was instant disappointment for much of the crowd when Hutton was bowled for a duck by Lindwall, who starred with 6-59 as the hosts were removed for 177, Laurie Fishlock top-scoring with 38.
The first day was rain-affected – the hosts had finished it on 94-2 – and a crowd impatient for Bradman had to wait until the closing stages of day two to see him stride out of the red-bricked pavilion. In around half-an-hour’s batting, he proceeded to an unbeaten 30 as the Australians closed on 140-1, 37 behind. With him at stumps was Sid Barnes (47) following a sparkling 62 from Arthur Morris, who was bowled by Yardley. On day three, as the realisation dawned that this would be Bradman’s last innings in this country, an estimated 17,000 gathered – a figure that seems a little hard to believe for anyone familiar with the venue, but perhaps not inconceivable.
He was escorted to the crease by two burly policemen – effectively bodyguards to keep back the throngs of wide-eyed schoolboys – and proceeded to his century just before lunch, his 11th of the tour.
After a spot of lunch at the North Bay Cafe, or perhaps not, Bradman upped the ante afterwards, treating the crowd to some fireworks.
“Bradman amused himself by hitting two consecutive balls from Laker for six apiece,” reported the Times, “but even he had to be out in the end, caught off a skier on the off-side.” Hutton was the catcher and Bedser the bowler, Bradman dashing from the scene as though late for a train.
Jack Fingleton, the Australian cricketer/writer, observed: “He continued running, bat, gloves, cap and bat fluttering from his hands, and almost before this huge Yorkshire crowd at the Scarborough Festival had had time to warm its hands in appreciation to him, Bradman was lost to view forever as a first-class batsman on an English ground.”
Bradman his 153 and Barnes 151 as the tourists scored 489-8 declared, Leveson-Gower’s XI ending the game on 75-2. “When all was nearly over, all the gaiety and fun, Bradman went on to bowl,” said the Times. “So we came to the end of the first-class season, with Auld Lang Syne and the National Anthem played. There are long months to pass before we see the like of it again. But, alas, no Bradman.”
During the match, Yorkshire bestowed on Bradman life membership and presented him with a silver salver in recognition of his efforts at Headingley, which included two Test triple centuries. He described the reception there as “the greatest I have ever received from any public anywhere in the world”.