The Bodyline Bat

"There are two teams out there. One is trying to play cricket, the other is not." Australian Captain Bill Woodfull

Bodyline Bat (Back) (1932) by Crocket & Son and Donation by John Clancey. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame


The term ‘Bodyline’ was first used by the Australian sports journalist Ray Robinson during the England cricket tour to Australia in 1932-33.

England called the tactic 'leg theory'. It was essentially a tactic used by fast bowlers to take wickets by intimidating batsmen with the ball.

Quick bowlers, and they had to be very swift for the tactic to work, would bowl short, rising deliveries aimed at the batsman’s body.

The batsman would be forced to fend the ball off defensively to a packed, close, leg-side field who would snap up the catches commonly offered.

It was Don Bradman’s phenomenal success in the 1930 Ashes series that sowed the seed for Bodyline. England were expected to easily beat Australia in 1930, but Bradman's Test scores of 131, 254, 334 & 232 saw Australia win the series 2-1.

Bradman’s series Test average was 98.66.

Australian batsmen (especially openers Fingleton, Ponsford and Richardson) were struck many painful blows, to the crowds’ displeasure, who heckled the Englishmen.

Although Bradman was only hit once in the series, on the upper arm, he spent much of his time avoiding the ball at the expense of making runs.

England won the series and blunted Bradman to a Test series average of ‘only’ 56.57 runs per innings. The tactic worked.

With depth of ill-feeling between the two teams, the 'unsportsmanlike' tactic was eventually banned and a law was introduced to prevent no more than two fieldsmen gathering between square-leg and the wicket-keeper.

The Bodyline Bat

28-year old Bill Clancey of Terang, Victoria, won this bat in a ‘two-bob’ raffle run by Catholic Young Men's Society at the conclusion of the 2nd Bodyline Test in Melbourne.

Bill, who was afflicted by polio, gave the bat to his cousin Tony, who played with the bat with his brother's and friends.

In 1965 Tony gave the bat to Bill's son John. Mindful of the bat’s historical significance, John Clancey ‘retired’ the bat and carefully guarded it for decades wrapping it in a St Kilda Football Club towel.

In 2016 when travelling to Queensland for a holiday with his wife Ann, he visited the Bradman Museum and, impressed by it, decided that he should donate the bat to the museum.

The Bodyline Bat features the original signatures of the England touring squad and Australian 2nd Test Team:

On the left side (England) the signatures read: DR Jardine, RES Wyatt, GO Allen, M Leyland, WR Hammond, FR Brown, L Ames, Maurice Tate, TB Mitchell, W Voce, H Verity, WE Bowes, H Larwood, E Paynter, Geo. Duckworth, H Sutcliffe, Pataudi.

And on the right side (Australia): WM Woodfull, VY Richardson, Don Bradman, TW Wall, WA Oldfield, LPJ O'Brien, WJ O'Reilly, JH Fingleton, H Ironmonger, RK Oxenham, Stan McCabe, EH Bromley, CV Grimmett.

England and Australia signed the bat at the beginning of the 1932/33 Ashes series in Australia, which would not have been out of the ordinary at the time.

Yet, by the end of the series in late February, you would not have been able to get the teams together in the same room. Making this signed bat a rarity.

Don Bradman drives Verity, Bodyline (1933) by Herbert FishwickBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

"There are two teams out there. One is trying to play cricket, the other is not."

Australian Captain Bill Woodfull.


Image of Don Bradman driving Hedley Verity at the SCG in the 5th Test of the Bodyline series 1933.

Credits: Story

Bradman Museum © 2019

Object and Images:
Bodyline signed Bat. Donation John Clancey. Bradman Museum Collection.

Bodyline signed Bat capture by Google ArtCam, 2018.

Bodyline series photograph by Herbert Fischwick, 1933. Bradman Museum Collection.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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