Don Bradman—The Greatest Batsman of All Time

Don Bradman (1908–2001) is known as the greatest cricket batsman of all time. A boy from humble origins, he conquered the cricket world, received an OBE, and became one of Australia’s national heroes. His batting average of 99.94 remains unbeaten today.

By Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

A humble man of great integrity, Bradman was greatly admired by people from all walks of life. In this Expedition, we’ll visit key places in Bradman’s life and sporting career, exploring some of his most important sporting moments.

Worlds Greatest Batsman Don Bradman, The Pictorial (1930) by The Australasian PictorialBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

During the 1920s a young Don Bradman learned to play cricket in the country town of Bowral, New South Wales, Australia. The townspeople loved cricket and had created an oval in 1909.

Don took to cricket like a duck to water, and by his teens he was breaking district records. Later in life, when he became a world-famous cricketer, the town saved up enough money to buy the oval land from the local church and renamed it Bradman Oval in honour of their beloved town ‘son.’

When Don was a boy the oval had only a rough concrete pitch over which matting was laid by the players to smooth the ball’s bounce. The town bought the oval for £1000 from the local church in 1934, taking 10 years to pay it off. Today the ground has a turf pitch, irrigation and a fast outfield.

Glebe Park Cricket Match (1926) by Photographer UnknownBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

In the early 20th century Australia had a cricket craze. Cricket clubs sprang up in towns across the nation and brought communities together. In this photo, Don Bradman is seated front row in cap, his father George stands top right, and his uncle Dick Whatman is seated centre with moustache and cap.

Mittagong v Bowral District Cricket teams (1925) by Photographer Unknown - Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Don’s parents, George and Emily—pictured here in the backyard of their home at 20 Glebe Street, Bowral—both loved cricket, and exposed Don to the sport from an early age.

Don Bradman's Parents (1930) by FairfaxBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

He was famous for practicing and playing cricket as much as he could. It was during this time that Don met Jessie Menzies, a local farm girl. As children they walked to school together across the oval. Years later Don asked Jessie to marry him—she was the love of his life.

Don’s father built the family’s humble brick house with the help of his sons, Don and his older brother Victor. It stood across the road from the Glebe Park cricket ground, allowing Don plenty of opportunity to practice.

Don regularly practiced on a rainwater tank stand with a golf ball and cricket stump, at his first home on Glebe Street. This helped his hand and eye coordination become very strong. In those days homes in Bowral did not have town water supply.

Film Reel, Bradman at Tankstand (1932) by Paulette McDonaghBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The Bradman’s home was diagonally across the road from Glebe Park oval (now the Bradman Oval). Here you can see the proximity of the house to the oval.

This photo shows Don Bradman as a teenager in the backyard of the family home. He was the youngest of 5 children.

Young Don Bradman in back yard (1927) by Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

One day when Don was keeping score at Glebe Park for the Bowral town team he was asked to bat late in the innings as the team was a player short. He made 37 runs (not out). He filled in again the following week and was again not out with 29 runs.

One day when Don was keeping score at Glebe Park for the Bowral town team he was asked to bat late in the innings as the team was a player short. He made 37 runs (not out). He filled in again the following week and was again not out with 29 runs.

“I came into possession of a real bat and I was the happiest boy ever. Given to me by Bowral Town team. It was man’s size but that didn’t matter . . . [My] father cut 3 inches off the bottom. I went into the paddock with my prized possession, played shots at imaginary balls till the light failed.”

Don Bradman, local record & first bat (1926) by Bradman Museum Collection.Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Don etched some of his best innings, including his district record of 300, into the bat. Rival cricket teams began to ask Bowral to not let young Don bat. Can you imagine how hard it would be to score 300 runs in a match?

In cricket, a ‘run’ is equivalent to a point in any other sport. To be ‘not out’ means that the day’s play ends without the batsman being caught out by a fieldsman or the wicket being hit by the ball.

Don Bradman's First Bat (Back) (1918) by City & Suburban Sports ManufacturersBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The Bradman Gallery at Bradman Museum has many of Don’s personal cricketing items which he donated, such as trophies, his baggy green captain’s cap and his captain’s blazer. The gallery showcases his sporting career and life after cricket, from his boyhood to the end of his life.

In 1921, Don’s father took him to his first international Test cricket match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where his hero Charlie Macartney scored 170 runs for Australia against England. He said to his father, ‘I shall never be satisfied until I have played on this ground.’ His dream came true in 1926, when he was selected to play for NSW state cricket after a trial on the SCG. In 1930 he batted at the SCG against Queensland, making 452 runs (not out) - a world record, never beaten on the SCG.

This picture was taken on a hot sunny day at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Somewhere in the crowd sits Don with his father, watching his childhood hero, Charlie Macartney, bat a record innings. It took a 3 hour train ride to Sydney from Bowral.

Macartney Australia's Greatest Batsman. Front page. (1921-03-02) by The Sydney MailBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Don not only played on the SCG, in January 1930 he broke the world record there, scoring 452 runs. The feat made international news and Don an instant sports celebrity. The rival team chaired him off the field at the end of play. Cricket was only played in daylight until 1978.

Don Bradman, Breaker of World's Cricket Records (1930-01-06) by Daily Telegraph Pictorial. National Library of AustraliaBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Don made so many runs, they overflowed in the score sheet. Notice the inscription made by the score-person on the far left: ‘Bradman 438 world’s record in 406 m’—meaning Don broke the previous world record in 406 minutes, faster than 1 run per minute.

452 Scoresheet (1930) by Cricket NSWBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Bradman’s talents caught the attention of Australian cricket selectors, and in 1930 he travelled to England with the Australian team for his first Ashes Test series. During the 3rd Test match at Headingley Cricket Ground in Leeds, Don amazed the world scoring 309 runs and not-out by the end of the day—the most runs scored by a batsman in a single day’s play. This was a new Test record. He went on to make 334 runs, the highest score ever by one batsman in a Test match.

After his treble century (not out) Don was cheered by crowds at Leeds cricket ground. He had broken the Test record. The date was 11 July 1930.

Don Bradman, in Leeds crowd England (1930-07-11)Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The person who commentated, for the Daily Mirror UK newspaper, on the day of Don’s record innings ‘treble century’ at Leeds was his childhood hero Charlie Macartney.

Bradman's Amazing Treble Century Billboard (1930-07-12) by Daily Mirror UKBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

As part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations in 1988 this trophy was presented to Don Bradman in recognition of his 309 runs in a single day’s play at Headingley Cricket Ground on 11 July 1930. The inscription reads, ‘The Best Single Performance by a Male Athlete (1788-1988).’

Don Bradman - Best Single Performance by a Male Athlete (1988) by Mark Kelly Photography. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Don played Test cricket for 20 years retiring in 1948. He captained the Ashes team that year, known as ‘The Invincibles’. He played his final match at The Oval in London. He was the longest running Australian Test captain (1936‒1948), and the only Australian cricketer to have been knighted. His near perfect batting average of 99.94 is still twice as good as the next best Test batsman. He achieved it all without scandal and is remembered for always playing in the ‘spirit of the game’.

The 1948 Australian Test team photo. Bradman led a team of experienced and talented players who went undefeated in all 32 matches played a feat still unmatched today. Many of the players had served in the war, and they forged enduring bonds. Today, players enter The Oval through The Bradman Doors.

Invincibles Team (1948) by The Sport & General Press Agency Racquet Court Fleet Street, London.Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

In 1936 Don was named captain of the Australian team. This Baggy Green cap was given to him at that time. Today, all Test players are given a Baggy Green cap and unique number when they play for Australia. For many, it is their most prized possession as cricketers.

Don Bradman's Captain's Cap (1936/1937) by Mark Kelly Photography. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Many children looked to Don Bradman as their cricketing hero much the same way he had looked up to Charlie Macartney. Don inspired children to play cricket and do their best in sport. In addition to skill, he promoted the values of integrity, dignity, courage, modesty and determination.

Don Bradman, Adulation by crowds, Bradman in England (1938)Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

In 1989, Don and his wife Jessie opened the Bradman Museum at Bradman Oval in Bowral, donating many treasured cricket objects to establish the museum and tell the story of cricket for future generations. Jessie died in 1996, and Don died in 2001. 

It tells the story of cricket from medieval times to the present. The oval continues to be enjoyed by cricketers, tourists and the local community. Visitors pay their respects to the boy from Bowral who became the greatest batsman of all time.

Today, a quiet memorial for them is set in a flowering garden overlooking the oval where Don first learned to play cricket, and where he and Jessie walked to school each day as children.

This plaque marks the place where Don and Jessie’s combined ashes were laid to rest on 18 October 2001. It overlooks Bradman Oval, amongst Jessie’s favourite flowers, including the Bradman Rose, a red rose named for Don.

This life-size statue of Sir Donald Bradman was unveiled in 2002, a year after his death on 25 February 2001. It stands at the head of a memorial pool dedicated to Australian cricketers, which was unveiled by Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 1996.

"A final salute statue" statue, by Tanya Bartlett (2002-02-25) by Bradman MuseumBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Cricket legends often visit the museum to pay their respects to Don Bradman and learn about the spirit of cricket. Here, former Test cricket legend Steve Waugh gets a close look at Don’s first bat.

Bradman's First Bat (2019) by Cole BennetsBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

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