Without rivalry, the path to success is bland, be it in sports, business or any other field. Rivalry is not hating, it’s a partnership in disguise that helps one grow. However, there are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. On this day in 1933, an unprecedented event happened in cricket between two of the biggest rivals.
In cricket, there are few rivalries that spark a great contest. As we all know, India and Pakistan contests are known as one of the biggest rivalries. But, the mother of all is between England and Australia.
It all began in 1882, when England were thrashed by Australia at the Oval. After their win, a bail was burnt and the ashes of those bails was pouched in a bag and was kept for display at the Lord’s. Since this incident, the Test rivalry between the two teams was named the Ashes.
If that was one incident that sparked a rivalry, in the 1932-33 series, there was a much bigger one coming. In fact, an uglier one to be precise.
The famous “bodyline”
Why was it uglier? What happened in that Ashes? The answer to that lies in the 1930 tour. Australia toured England for five matches and won the series 2-1. Sir Don Bradman picked the bones out of the England bowlers and amassed 974 runs in just seven innings. He had hit four centuries out of which, one was a triple (334), two double centuries (254 & 232) and a 131.
The aftermath of this series is what led to the famous “Bodyline series”. Bodyline, in simple terms, is to bowl fierce bouncers towards the rib and shoulder area of the batsman with five fielders surrounded from leg slip to short leg.
This was the method adopted by England to stop the greatest batsman of all time. The mastermind behind the tactics was England’s skipper Douglas Jardine.
The five match Ashes series in 1932-33 started with an England win. Sir Don didn’t play the first Test. He returned in the second Test and despite a first-ball duck in the first innings, he marshaled his troops to a win with an unbeaten century in the second innings. After the defeat, in the third Test at the Adelaide Oval, Jardine came up with the ploy of bowling it into the body.
Batting first, England posted 341 after batting one and a half days. Australia lost Jack Fingleton for an eight-ball duck. As soon as Sir Don came in to bat, Harold Larwood, with his first delivery, struck Bill Woodfull on his chest. After the blow, clutching his chest, Woodfull went down.
On the next ball itself, Jardine stopped Larwood in between his run-up, and the field was set for the bodyline. With a barrage of deliveries towards the ribs, chest, shoulders and head, the crowd grew anxious and started booing. Mind you, this was in times when there were no helmets for the batters.
Australia closed the day on 109/4 with Sir Don, Fingleton, Woodfull and Stan McCabe back in the hut. There was a rest day allotted before the start of the third day. In any case, there was no respite for the Australian batters even on the third day.
England started with the same ploy, and Australia were looking to fend away. But, in the afternoon session of day three, wicket-keeper Bert Oldfield suffered a blow to his head and collapsed immediately. The tensions grew and Woodfull came out to check on Bert and the crowd were ready to pounce at any time. There were armed policemen barricading near the boundary. Luckily enough, none of them barraged in.
Once the mob calmed down, Jardine made another grave mistake when he put himself to field in the deep. An angry mob started to throw fruits at him.
Eventually, England went on to win the Test match by a massive margin of 338 runs, and they won the series 4-1. Even after 90 years of this incident, day three of the third Test remains the most dramatic and chaotic day in cricket history.