The Don’s Dozen: 12 amazing stats about Sir Donald Bradman on his birthday

On Sir Don Bradman's 112th birth anniversary on August 27, 2020, there is perhaps no better way to pay tribute to him than by recalling 12 amazing statistics about the master batsman.

British Statesman Benjamin Disraeli is believed to have famously said, “There are three kinds of lies – lies, damned lies and statistics.” And indeed, be it the state of the economy, film box office records or even COVID statistics, we are always advised to take numbers with a pinch of salt and appropriate context as “they do not always tell the complete story.”

In some very rare instances, however, statistics CAN actually tell you a lot. And one of those rare cases is that of the person who would have turned 112 today – Sir Donald Bradman. Considered by many to be the greatest batsman – some would insist that he was the greatest cricketer as well – of all time, Bradman is perhaps best defined by the numbers he ran up.

Not because he was a boring batsman or a dull sight. No, he was quicksilver on the crease and incredibly entertaining. But he was prolific in a manner that had not been seen before. Or since. No one has made scoring masses of runs as regular a habit as Don Bradman. Small wonder that bowlers despaired of dismissing him, and one of them even is believed to have remarked: “there is no right way to bowl to the Don.”

So, on his birthday, there is perhaps no better way to pay tribute to him than by recalling twelve amazing statistics about the master batsman:

THAT batting average in Tests

Donald Bradman averaged 99.94 in Test cricket, over 52 Test Matches. Many love to point out that had he scored a mere four runs in his final innings, he would have averaged a hundred. Well, even without averaging a hundred, his batting average is miles ahead of anyone else. The second-best average, among those who have played a minimum of 25 Test Matches, is 62.84 by Steve Smith in 73 Test Matches. Actually, the Don averaged more in a single innings than Sunil Gavaskar and Geoff Boycott put together. Or if you wish for a more modern comparison, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman put together. Yes, different eras, but the statistic is stunning.

THAT batting average in first-class cricket

Everyone knows the 99.94 batting average in Tests, but not too many know that Bradman also possess the highest batting average in first-class cricket. In 234 matches spread across more two decades, Bradman averaged a staggering 95.14. That is more than twenty ahead of the second-best.

The century-maker

Scoring a Test hundred might not be as difficult as it once was, but the three-figure mark remains an important one. Well, Bradman averaged more than a century every second Test Match. He had 29 centuries in 52 Tests, and in eighty Test innings. So basically he was scoring a century in almost every third innings. Contrast that with Steve Smith, who has 26 centuries in 131 innings, which is a century every fifth or sixth innings. Bradman was equally prolific in first-class cricket, running up 117 centuries in 338 innings in 234 matches, a century every second match and every third innings or so again! No one even comes close to that.

And a BIG century-maker at that

If Bradman got past a hundred, there was little chance that he would “give it away.” No, the little Aussie more often than not ran the opposition ragged. Of the 29 Test centuries he made, ten were double centuries and two more were triple centuries. Incidentally, one of the double centuries was an unbeaten 299. So if Bradman got past a hundred in a Test Match, there was a more than forty per cent chance that he would go on to get a double century. Incidentally, in first class cricket, his average when he scored a century was 216.48!

And super non-century maker too!

Bradman scored relatively heavily even when he did not get a century. In his 338 first class innings,he got a century in 117. Guess what his average was in the 221 innings in which he did NOT score a century? A mere 58.20! Need context? Geoff Boycott’s career first class average was 56.83 and Rahul Dravid’s was 55.33! But then 58.20 was “low” by Bradman standards, which takes us to the next point…

Bradman Fails!

During Australia’s tour of England in 1930, Bradman’s first tour, newspaper placards evidently announced “Bradman Fails” in the course of a match between Australia and Glamogan. Bradman had made ONLY 58.

Shackled by Bodyline?

A lot has been written about how Bradman was “restricted” by Douglas Jardine’s extremely controversial leg theory strategy, now (infamous) as Bodyline. Bradman ONLY averaged 56.57 in the series and had one century and three fifies in eight innings. That means a score of fifty every other innings. The English were delighted to have restricted him to that many. And if that does not tell you the kind of scoring Bradman habitually did, nothing will.

A man for a crisis

In his Test career, Bradman often had to walk in when wickets had fallen cheaply. On sixteen occasions, he went into bat with less than 10 runs on the scoreboard. His average in those sixteen innings? 108.53. Of his seven test double

A man who could open

He was generally a top order batsman but Bradman opened the innings a few times in first class cricket. On nine occasions, to be precise. His average was 104.50. Perhaps he should have stuck to opening and got that career average past hundred!

Not a six hitter though

He scored runs by the truckload, and he often did so at a fair clip, but Bradman seemed to have perfected the art of scoring briskly without taking too many undue risks. Nothing sums up this approach better than the number of sixes he hit in his Test career. Just six. Five off England. One off India. He DID hit 618 fours though!

A fast scorer

Scoring a century in a single session of Test cricket is supposed to be quite an achievement. Bradman did it six times. Yes, over rates were way better then, but still, six times the Don got to a hundred between either the start of play and lunch, between lunch and tea or between tea and the end of play. Two of these came in the famous Test at Leeds in 1930. He walked in to bat with the score at 2 for 1. At lunch, he was on 105. By tea, he was on 220. And at end of play, he was 309 not out. The bowling attack was not too bad – Maurice Tate and a certain Harold Larwood were among the bowlers. Incidentally, only two other Australian batsmen crossed fifty: Woodfull (50) and Kippax (77). There was only one other score over fifty in the remainder of the Test: 113 by Wally Hammond. And the Don scored three hundred in a day! That does not tell you something. It tells you everything!

And one fourth of the Australian batting…literally

In his Test career, Bradman accounted for 26 per cent of all the runs scored by Australia. ‘Nuff said!

PS: …and one more thing (two actually)

Everyone knows that Don Bradman was a run machine but the man with the second highest first class batting average is an Indian. And not too many know him. Not Gavaskar, not Tendulkar, not Kohli, but Vijay Merchant who averages 71.64 in 150 matches. In fact, the second highest first class batting average for anyone having played more than 200 matches is again that of an Indian. And again, not many remember him – Vijay Hazare 58.38 over 238 matches.

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