When a Cricket Captain reversed the Team’s batting lineup | Sir Don Bradman | Greatest Ashes Comeback

When a Cricket Captain reversed the Team’s batting lineup | Sir Don Bradman | Greatest Ashes Comeback

Cricket is a game of strategies and the game is played both on the ground and in the mind. Test Cricket, the longest format in the sport allows out-of-the-box strategies. Some of these strategies work and some don’t. When some of these strategies work, it stuns the audience and the captain is applauded for the move.

Here is one such instance from the cricket archives which was won purely by the understanding of the game and some thinking out of the box from “The Don”, Sir Donald Bradman

Presented by: Raghunath Nair


The Don

Cricket is a very traditional game that has been played in a traditional manner for centuries. A simple game of Bat and Ball can be played like a game of chess with twists and turns from every move made on the ground.

One of the most amazing and brave tactics made in cricket history came from none other than Sir Donald Bradman himself.

The Tactic of reversing the batting order where the best batters came as tailenders and the actual tailenders batting in the top order.



Melbourne – 3rd Test Ashes Series

The Third Test in the 5-match 1937 Ashes Series was played in Melbourne and was played on January 1. Australia Was captained by Sir Donald Bradman who was under pressure as a captain, captaining an Ashes Series for the first time. He was also not amongst runs going into the third test match. England already had won the first two Test matches and was looking at closing the series in Melbourne

After winning the toss, Bradman chose to bat on a moist wicket.  This seemed a blunder as the wicket was clearly showing signs of being a bowler’s paradise.


The 1937 Ashes Series witnessed one of cricket’s strangest captaincy calls made in Test.

Melbourne was the venue for the 1937 Test Match played on the 1st day of the New Year.

First innings:

The wicket was truly a bowling wicket and Australia lost their first wicket at 7 runs bringing the Australian captain to the crease with a score – 1/7.

The Bowlers were having a field day with the batsmen struggling to put the bat on the ball. Don Bradman struggled to reach 13 runs before he too was dismissed in the green top.

The score was 2/33 when the great man fell.

Jack Fingleton and Bert Oldfield gave the Australian score some respectability and saved Australia from an embarrassing first innings score. Rain brought an early close on Day 1 and the Score read 200/9. The game resumed on the second day only by lunch and to get maximum advantage of the wet pitch, Bradman did the impossible by declaring the innings to let England bat on the Day 2 pitch. The pitch was getting worse and worse and Don wanted to get some advantage for his bowlers too.

Bradman’s early declaration and sending England in to bat on Day 2 on a wet wicket proved to be a masterstroke as England too collapsed on the difficult wicket. Only Wally Hammond made some respectable score. Extras were one of the major contributors.

With Australian bowlers now dominating, the pitch was equally difficult for the England batsmen who too started losing quick wickets. Bradman sensing that Australia may have to bat again on this difficult track, tried to slow the pace of the game and asked his bowlers to bowl defensively. He asked the bowlers to not look for wickets and bowl wide balls. He also took out his close-in fielders. Even then, England lost nine wickets in 28 overs and succumbed to 76/9.

Gubby Allen

Captain Gubby Allen for England repeated the decision made by his Australian Counterpart to declare the innings. Australia was forced to bat again for the last half hour of the day.

This was the second-lowest declared total at the time. The spectators were awed to see both teams declaring their first innings with very little on the board.


Second innings

While the pitch still had demons, Bradman knew bright sunshine is expected in the following days which may help the wickets to ease up. But the threat of the last half hour could prove lethal.

Bradman tried his best to delay the proceedings using all possible methods to slow the game.

To everyone’s surprise, Bradman pulled a rabbit out of the hat by reversing his batting order to protect his best players from the worst of the conditions.

He send his two tail-end batsmen, Billy O’Reilly and Chuck Fleetwood Smith to open the innings to protect his genuine batters and himself from the agonizing half-hour play.

The English Players were amused to see the tailenders taking the opener role.

The Melbourne crowd was critical of Bradman’s decision and with Billy O’Reilly caught on the first ball, the crowd showed their displeasure towards this unorthodox move.

After the first wicket, everyone expected commonsense to prevail and a genuine batsman would take the crease. But to their surprise, No. 10 Batsman, Frank Ward came in the number 3 position.

Luckily, both the batsmen played with caution and with some good luck were able to weather the storm. They remained unbeaten till the close of play. This tactic proved a brilliant one for the Australian team as the tailenders were able to occupy the crease for a long time.


Day 3

The overnight batsmen were in for a surprise with Fleetwood Smith getting out without troubling the scorers.

The crowd roared in anticipation of the Don’s entry to the crease but instead saw the number 4 Australian taking the captain’s batting position.

Bradman came in after the 5th Wicket with the score – 97/5.

Bradman had to bring his brilliant batsmanship to remain unbeaten at close of play.


Day 4

Bradman went into bat in the morning being under the weather and battling flu. He was weak and seeing this, England kept a defensive field to not allow easy boundaries and make Bradman run.

Bradman braved through his illness and took singles with the occasional boundary.

Bradman And Fingleton

Sun had started to peak out in the cloudy weather and the pitch started to ease up for the batsman. It was time for the Australian batters to take advantage of this.

Bradman along with Fingleton had a 346-run stand partnership for the sixth wicket. This was a world record then. Fingleton also scored a century (136)

By the End of the day’s play, Australia was 500/6 and the Don was on 248.



Day 5

The next morning, Don carried his score to 270 before being dismissed after a record 7 hours and 38 minutes stay at the crease. His score at number 7 was also a world record then.  The Final Lead was 688 and England was well and truly batted out of the game.

The Australian spinners, O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith attacked the English batsman and England was eventually bowled out. Australia won the match with 365 Runs.



Sir Donald Bradman’s tactics not only won the game for team Australia but also went on to carry the momentum and take the Ashes series 3-2 in one of the most memorable Ashes Series ever. His Unorthodox captaincy helped him to cement his role as the Australian captain for years to come.

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