The Greatest Batsman in Test with an iconic average 99.94 | Sunday Observer
Sir Don Bradman:

The Greatest Batsman in Test with an iconic average 99.94

18 September, 2022
Bradman goes out to bat

Sir Donald Bradman, AC, was arguably the “Greatest Batsman of All Time” who ever lived and the “Greatest Cricketer of the 20th Century.”His unmatched feats and rich legacy continue to live on with his “All-Time Highest Test Batting Average” of the iconic 99.94 cherished by millions across the globe.

The story that the young Bradman practised alone with a cricket stump and a golf ball is part of Australian folklore. As a batsman, he was committed to attacking, entertaining cricket and drew spectators in record numbers. Following an enforced interruption due to the Second World War, he made a sensational comeback, captaining an Australian Test team known as The Invincibles.

Nicknamed “The Don,” his Test career of 52 matches featured6,996 runs that include 29 centuries, 32 catches and 2 wickets. He held the world records of the ‘Most Test Triple Centuries’ of 2 and ‘Most Test Double Centuries’ of 12. His First-Class career of 234 matches included 117 centuries, 131 catches, one stumping and 36 wickets.

Birth, growth and family

Donald George Bradman was the youngest son of George and Emily Bradman. He was born on August 27, 1908 at Cootamundra, New South Wales. He had a brother, Victor, and three sisters - Islet, Lilian, and Elizabeth. They lived in the hamlet of Yeo Yeo, near Stockinbingal and it is now the “Bradman Birthplace Museum.”He scored his first century at 12, an undefeated 115, playing for Bowral Public School.

Bradman’s father took him to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to watch the Fifth Ashes Test in 1920. On that day, Bradman formed an ambition, “I shall never be satisfied,” he told his father, “Until I play on this ground.” Bradman left school in 1922 and became a regular member for the Bowral team in the Berrima District competition, scoring 234 against Wingello and 320 not out against Moss Vale in the final.

Bradman played grade cricket in Sydney for St. George in the 1926-27 season. He travelled 130 km from Bowral to Sydney every Saturday and scored 110 on his debut. On January 1, 1927, he turned out for the New South Wales (NSW) second team. Bradman made his first-class debut at the Adelaide Oval, aged 19, scoring 118. In the final, he made his first century at the SCG, against Victoria. He moved to Sydney for the 1928-29 season and in his first Sheffield Shield match scored a century in each innings against Queensland.

Bradman married Jessie Martha on April 30, 1932. The two had an impeccable marriage and were devoted to each other for 65 years, despite personal tragedy: their first-born son died as an infant in 1936; their second son, John, born in 1939, contracted polio; their daughter, Shirley, born in 1941, had cerebral palsy. Lady Bradman died in 1997 aged 88 and The Don followed her on February 25, 2001, aged 92.

Test debut in Ashes series

Bradman scored 87 and 132 not out during the first matches against touring England team for the Ashes Series 1928-29. He was 20 when chosen to play for Australia Test team in the First Test at Brisbane on November 30, 1928. Batting at No. 7, he scored 18 and 1. The selectors dropped him to twelfth man for the Second Test at SCG.

Recalled for the Third Test at Melbourne, Bradman scored 79 and 112, becoming the youngest to make a Test century. In the Fourth Test at Adelaide, Bradman after scoring 58 experienced the only run out in his Test career. In the Final Test at Melbourne, Bradman top-scored with 123.

Bradman completed the season with 1,690 first-class runs, averaging 93.88. His first triple century of 340 not out in the Sheffield Shield match against Victoria was a ground record for the SCG. His 452 not out against Queensland at the SCG was a world record in first-class cricket.

Bradman started the England Ashes tour of 1930 with 236 at Worcester. He scored 1,000 first-class runs by the end of May, becoming the fifth player (and first Australian) to achieve this rare feat. In the First Test at Nottingham, Bradman hit 131. In the Second Test at Lord’s Bradman scored 254 which later in life, he rated as the best innings of his career.

In the Third Test at Headingly, he made 334, another world-record. In the process, he scored a century before lunch and another between lunch and tea and remained 309 not out to become the only Test player to pass 300 in a day’s play. In the Fourth Test at Old Trafford, he scored 14.

In the Final Test at The Oval, Bradman made 232. In the Test series, Bradman scored 974 (7 innings) at 139.14, which stays a world record of ‘Most Runs in a Test Series.’ He scored one triple century, two double centuries and one century and Australia regained the Ashes 2-1. His first-class tally, 2,960 runs with 10 centuries at 98.66, was another enduring record, the most by any overseas batter on a tour of England.

Bradman’s highest average

The West Indies made their first tour of Australia in 1930-31. Bradman made 223 (297 minutes) in the Third Test at Brisbane and 152 (154 minutes) in the Fourth Test at Melbourne. During the 1931-32 season Bradman made 30, 135 and 219 for NSW against the South Africans. In the Test matches with South Africa, he scored 226 (277 minutes), 112 (155 minutes), 2 and 167 (183 minutes) and his 299 not out in the Fourth Test at Adelaide was the highest score in a Test in Australia. Also, his batting average of 201.50 stays a world record for the highest in a Test series.

By February 1932, Bradman had played 15 Tests, scoring 2,227 runs at 131. He had played 18 innings, scoring 10 centuries, six of which extended beyond 200. His overall scoring rate was 42 runs per hour, with 856 (or 38.5% of his tally) scored in boundaries. Bradman toured the United States and Canada in 1932, playing 51 games in 75 days, scoring 3,779 runs at 102.1, with 18 centuries.

During the Ashes Series of 1932-33, a world record crowd of 63,993 thronged to Melbourne to watch Bradman play in the Second Test. He anticipated receiving a bouncer as his first ball and he moved across his stumps to play the hook shot. The ball failed to rise and Bradman dragged it onto his stumps, the first-ball duck was his first in a Test. Bradman scored an unbeaten 103 in a team total of 191 in the second innings.

The Australians won the Third, Fourth and Fifth Tests convincingly and regained the Ashes. In his farewell season for NSW, Bradman averaged 132.44, his best. He was appointed vice-captain for the 1934 Ashes tour of England and he started with a double century at Worcester.

After three Tests, Bradman had just 133 in five innings. In the first innings of the Fourth Test, Bradman made 140, then he batted the entire second day and into the third, putting on a world record partnership of 388 with Bill Ponsford, scoring 304 (473 balls, 43 fours and 2 sixes). In the Final Test at The Oval, Bradman and Ponsford recorded a massive world record partnership of 451 runs for the second wicket with Bradman contributing 244 in 271 balls.

At the end of the tour, Bradman experienced an acute appendicitis and underwent surgery in London. It took months for him to recover and return to Australia. In 1936, he took his adopted state to its first Sheffield Shield, contributing 233 against Queensland, 357 against Victoria and 369 against Tasmania.

In 1936, the Australian Test team for Ashes played a Rest of Australia team captained by Bradman in Sydney and the Test XI suffered a big defeat, mainly due to Bradman’s 212. Bradman was appointed Test Captain of Australia for the Ashes Tests series of 1936-37. He was 28.

Best Test Match Inning

At the Third Test at Melbourne, Bradman won the toss on New Year’s Day 1937, but failed with the bat, scoring just 13. In the second innings, Bradman scored 270 off 375 balls, which is the world record for the highest score for No. 7 batsman. In 2001, Wisden rated this as the best Test match innings of all time.

In the Fourth Test, at Adelaide, Bradman played another patient knock of 212 from 395 balls. In the Final Test, Bradman with more aggression top-scored with 169 (191 balls) in Australia’s 604 and Australia won by an innings. Australia’s achievement of winning a Test series 3-2, after outright losses in the first two matches has never been repeated in Test cricket.

During the 1938 Ashes tour, Bradman played the most consistent cricket of his career. Playing 26 innings, Bradman recorded 13 centuries (a new Australian record) and again made 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May, becoming the only player to do so twice. In scoring 2,429 runs, Bradman achieved the highest average of 115.66 ever recorded in an English season.

In the First Test at Nottingham, with Australia forced to follow-on, Bradman fought hard and secured the draw with 144 not out. It was the slowest Test century of his career. He played a similar innings of 102 not out in the Second Test at Lord’s and Australia managed another draw. Rain completely washed out the Third Test at Old Trafford.

Bradman’s best Test

Australia’s opportunity came at the Fourth Test at Headingly, a Test described by Bradman as the best he ever played. Bradman scored 103 out of the total 242. In the second innings, Australia slumped to 4/61, with Bradman out for 16, but Australia managed to win and keep the Ashes.

In 1938-39, Bradman led South Australia to the Sheffield Shield and made an unprecedented six consecutive centuries to equal Charles Burgess Fry’s world record of 1901. Also, Bradman totalled 21 first-class centuries in 34 innings.

Bradman’s most productive ever for South Australia was the 1939-40 season: 1,448 runs at an average of 144.8. He made three double centuries, including 251 not out against NSW, the innings that he rated the best he ever played in the Sheffield Shield. However, it was the end of an era with the outbreak of the World War II.

Bradman joined the Royal Australian Air Force in June 1940 and later transferred to the Australian army. He was posted to the Army School of Physical Training at Frankston, Victoria, as a Lieutenant to act as a Divisional Supervisor of Physical Training. He was released in June 1941.

The Ashes resumed after the war when England toured Australia in 1946-47. Still captained by Bradman Australia were convincing 3-0 winners. Bradman regained his finest pre-war form in making 187 in the First Test at Brisbane. He followed it up with 234 in the Second Test at Sydney and with Sid Barnes established a still-standing record of 405 for the fifth wicket. Australia won both the Tests by an innings with Bradman as the leading batsman with an average of 97.14.

On November 15, 1947, Bradman made 172 against India for an Australian XI at Sydney, his 100th first-class century, becoming the first non-Englishman and the only Australian to achieve the milestone. In the five Tests against England, Bradman scored 715 runs and his average of 178.75 was the second best in a Test series.

Invincible Australian team

In 1948, Australia set new standards, completely outplaying its hosts to win 4–0. This Australian team, led by Bradman at 40, has gone down in history as The Invincibles. Playing 34 matches including the five Ashes Tests, Australia remained unbeaten, winning 27 and drawing seven.

Bradman compiled 11 centuries, amassed 2,428 runs at 89.92 in the series. His highest score of 187 came against Essex, when Australia compiled a world record of 721 runs in a day. He scored 138 in the First Test at Trent Bridge. In the Fourth Test at Headingly, Australia set a world record for the highest ever successful run-chase in Test history by reaching 404 on the last day for a seven-wicket victory with Bradman contributing 173 not out.

The 1948 Ashes series ended with one of the most poignant moments in cricket history. As Bradman played his final innings for Australia in the Fifth Test at The Oval, Bradman’s Test batting average stood at 101.39. He needed to score just four runs to end with a career batting average of exactly 100. However, Bradman made a second-ball duck, bowled by an Eric Hollies googly that sent him into retirement with a career average of 99.94.

Bradman is the only player in the world to have scored 5000 runs against a single opposition, scoring 5028 runs against England. For Bradman, it was the most personally fulfilling playing days. After returning to Australia, Bradman played in his Testimonial match at Melbourne, scoring his 117th and last century.

The following year he published a memoir, “Farewell to Cricket.” Bradman accepted offers from the Daily Mail to travel with, and write about, the 1953 and 1956 Australian teams in England. “The Art of Cricket,” his final book published in 1958, is an instructional manual.


Wisden hailed Bradman as “the greatest phenomenon in the history of all ball games.” The statistics show that “no other athlete dominates an international sport to the extent that Bradman does cricket.” Statistician Charles Davis compared the number of standard deviations that stand above the mean for their sport: Bradman (Batting average in Cricket) – 4.4; Pele (Goals per game in Football) – 3.7; Ty Cobb (Batting average in Baseball) – 3.6; Jack Nicklaus (Major titles in Golf) – 3.5; Michael Jordan (Points per game in Basketball) – 3.4.

Bradman’s portrait was hung in the Long Room at Lord’s. Adelaide Oval opened a Bradman Stand in 1990. Bradman inaugurated a Bradman Stand at the SCG in 1974. Bradman delivered the keynote speech at the Centenary Test at Melbourne in 1977.

In the 1949 New Year Honours, he was appointed Knight Bachelor for his services to the game, becoming the only Australian cricketer ever to be knighted. The Australian government awarded the nation’s second-highest civilian honour, Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) to him in 1979.

As early as 1939, Bradman had a Royal Navy ship named after him, HMS Bradman. In the 1963 edition of Wisden, Bradman was selected as one of the Six Giants of the Wisden Century. Bradman had been inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame (1985), the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame (1996) and the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame (2009).

(The author is an Associate Professor, International Scholar, winner of Presidential Awards and multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He has a PhD, MPhil, and double MSc. His email is [email protected])