On This Day: The Battle of Adelaide

On This Day: The Battle of Adelaide

Time and time again Test matches Down Under have given the fans glimpses of the 'Bodyline' as the rivalry between the Aussies and England continue to stamp its authority.

1933 Ashes Test
The 1933 Ashes Test. (Photo Source: Twitter)

The Ashes has a history where the game saw the ferocious temptation the famous ‘Bodyline’ bowling get introduced that went on to bear a significant path even until today. Attributes of lethal pace, bounce and a barrage of short-pitched deliveries grew on Australian pitches that assisted bowlers bearing this feature. Time and time again Test matches Down Under have given the fans glimpses of the ‘Bodyline’ as the rivalry between the Aussies and England continue to stamp its authority.

In recent memory, it was the 2013-14 show led by left-arm pacer Mitchell Johnson who had a crack at the English tourists with venomous pace and effective short-pitched bowling, sometimes referred to a ‘chin music’. The England batsmen failed to face Johnson’s tirades that was on offer. The left-arm pacer mastered the art of short-pitched bowling as he wrecked apart the visitors to earn worldwide respect.

His 37 wickets in the series was one of the best ever spells of fast bowling that brought back the analogy of the historical affair that dates back to Adelaide in 1933. In the recently concluded Ashes series which the Aussies won 4-0, Mitchell Starc somewhat manoeuvred in the same path of Johnson and was pleasant to watch in the third Test at the WACA in Perth.

So how did the art of ‘Bodyline’ have an impact, that shook the cricketing fraternity dated back in 1933 at the Adelaide Oval that almost caused a riot in the historic stadium? The Test match underwent exactly in this time of the month 85 years ago that caused a rift in relations between the two nations. It is still considered as the most controversial tour in history of the game by Wisden Cricket.

The Englishmen led by Douglas Jardine commanded his bowlers to concentrate their lines near the leg stump as they cramped the Aussies for space bowling with pace and forcing them play at the deliveries offered. On the 2nd day of the Test after England‘s 341, the Aussies came into bat and were greeted by hostility. Harold Larwood, who opened the attack for the visitors, struck Aussie skipper Bill Woodfull between the shoulder and the heart region as the latter clasped his chest in serious pain.

The crowd booed loudly as Jardine cheered his bowler to unsettle Sir Donald Bradman in the other end. What followed next got the fans more infuriated with Larwood asked to bowl short and the field was changed to one for the ‘Bodyline’. Moments later Woodfull’s bat was knocked out of his hands and the fans went mad at Larwood. Security was briefed up but there was a fear the pitch may get invaded anytime by the Aussie fans.

The ‘Bodyline’ approach worked for England as wickets tumbled that included Bradman getting caught fending off a short delivery. Bill Ponsford was the player that took a painful approach allowing the short balls to hit him as he stayed put on the pitch to try and defy Larwood & Co. Woodfull departed for 22 runs bruised with the barrage of the short balls. Australia managed to end the day at 109/4 as the fans went berserk to discuss what they witnessed during the game.

A day later Larwood was at it again getting wicketkeeper Bert Oldfield caught in two minds on how to Olay a rising short ball that eventually hit his head as he collapsed on to the ground. The fans’ anger and cries grew from there on even further almost putting the police on alert once again for any calamity on offer. Oldfield had a fractured skull which scans revealed later.

The Aussies were bowled out for 222 runs as the visitors were booed by the fans. England went on to win the infamous Test match that controversially went on to spill into the diplomatic arena as well. Modern day cricket has seen the effect of the ‘Bodyline’ be curbed although laws still allow the short pitch deliveries to be bowled.