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    When Aussies other than Donald Bradman went back to school to prepare for the Ashes

    Downside Abbey hosted the 1930 Australians before the first test, with one notable exception. Photo: Skyld Berry/Downside Abbey

    England manager Brandon McCallum continues to invent new methods to prepare his team for the Test series, but nothing is stranger than preparing Australians for the ashes of 1930.

    McCallum though like preparations that use the spirit, these Aussies have chosen the spiritual. They visited Downside Abbey in Somerset during the three days immediately preceding the first Test in 1930, all Australian players except Donald Bradman, 21, on his first tour, who refused to go.

    A story survives in the West Country that Bradman refused to go with the rest of the Australians because Downside is a Catholic and he belonged to the Church of England. It is also credible due to rumors of an sectarian split within the Australian team: during the 1936–37 Ashes series, four players, all Catholic, appeared before the Australian council and asked if they were doing any better under Bradman's captaincy.

    Even before the Ashes series began in 1930, Bradman made a splash. By the end of May, he had hit 1,000 runs, as only W. G. Grace and three other English batsmen had done. It was an even bigger achievement for a member of the touring band, especially for a newcomer to England. The only touring batsman to do so since was, of course, Bradman again in 1938. On June 10, 1930, the Australians, under Bill Woodfull, quickly ended a three-day game against Cambridge University. Bradman scored only 32 points, but it was his most successful bowler match. He took three wickets in every innings with a broken leg – and only 30 in his entire first-class career.

    The tourists without Bradman took the train from Cambridge to Bath to travel south for an hour to Downside. The school magazine does not tell us exactly how this invitation was sent, but there was a long association in that a Downside monk became Sydney's first Catholic Archbishop.

    The Raven, Downside's annual magazine, reports that Australians were herded right up to school buildings to thwart “the efforts of some photojournalists. They then proceeded to Allan, where they took a bath with members of the School, after which light refreshments were served in the Lecture Hall, which had been transformed from a cold and austere school room into a sumptuous living room.”

    “The Australians got up for a late breakfast, after which Mr. Woodfull asked the principal to give the school the rest of the day off.” During this visit, everyone seems to have given everyone else cigarette cases: on this occasion, the headmaster gave gold and silver cigarette cases to Woodfull (who later became the headmaster of Melbourne High School).

    “In response, the Australian captain said that he very grateful for the gift and that he was invited to Downside for a rest and a change of air, which they really needed after the stress of hotel life and constant publicity. These Aussies and McCallum's England team have a lot in common: a desire to get away and settle down right before the Ashes series.

    Following this, Australia's best batsmen (other than Bradman) went to the cricket field and took turns batting in the center against the school's 1st XI bowlers. The boys were joined by Evelyn Hill, who took 33 wickets for Somerset, and Devon's captain, who never played first-class cricket, but still: even in the absence of Bradman, these guys had to play against several batsmen, whose first-class averages are one of the first places for all time.

    Woodfull himself, nicknamed “Invincible”, ranks ninth in the first class average – 64.99. His opening partner, Bill Ponsford, is eighth with 65 and is still the only batsman to ever hit two first-class scores out of 400. Alan Kippax also had a bat against the boys: his 57 is 22nd. average for the first class. .

    Then there was the great wunderkind from Australia, who before this tour was not Bradman at all, but Archie Jackson. In the English test series in Australia in 1928-1929, Jackson, when he was only 19 years old, scored 164, which is very stylish. “The sheer brilliance of his strokes during this delightful performance could hardly be surpassed,” Wisden said. Jackson was the next man, only he died of tuberculosis at the age of 23.

    Then came Vic Richardson, who continued to beat on the pavilion, which was open for the arrival of the Australians and still stands on the shore behind the bowler's hand. Raven did not let up, noting: “The school performed very well, several good catches were made.” master class on carpal rotation for boys in nets. Shane Warne of his day, with even more pitching types, Grimmett finished his career with the most Test wickets to that point, 216, and averaged nearly seven wickets per game.

    At three o'clock some Australians went to play golf or tennis, while others accompanied the headmaster to Cheddar and Wells. Dinner was served at 7:30 pm in the school cafeteria and was attended by Maurice Turnbull of Downside Old Boy who represented England in cricket and Wales in rugby. “Before going to sleep, everyone retired to the lecture hall to eat or play pool.”

    Bradman made final preparations for the series away from their teammates. Photo: Central Press/Getty Images

    The next morning – and this was the day before the First Test at Trent Bridge – Australian tour manager Mr. Kelly said after exchanging cigarette cases that their stay “was the most enjoyable part of their tour.” Afterwards, they “played clock golf in the rock garden”, had lunch, and then finally left by car for Bristol, accompanied by a charaban of about 40 school cricketers and prefects, to escort them from the station to Nottingham, where they arrived. early evening. .

    “As each car drove away, a terrible roar came from the school, which grew louder until it reached a climax when Mr. Grimmett was in the last car, waving his arms, he was especially popular because of his exceptional good nature and his willingness to sign any copy of his bowling book. Yes, Shane: Clary could milk too.

    Did this visit bring much benefit to the Australians? Not in the short term: they arrived in Nottingham too late to train at Trent Bridge and lost the first Test by 93 runs, although Grimmett took 10 wickets. However, in the long run, the Australians won the series 2-1 and reclaimed the Ashes.

    So where was Bradman while the rest of the Australian players returned to school: did he boycott Downside for religious reasons? ?

    Bradman in the 1930 Ashes scored the most runs ever recorded in a Test series, 974. He was signed to write a book at the end of the tour (for which he was fined by the Australian board of directors for breach of contract). In it, he explains his absence from Downside.

    “While Woodfull and the others went to Downside College (so in (original), I took advantage of the holiday to spend a holiday with Mr. Alf Stevens, former mayor of my hometown and captain of the Bowral Cricket Club. Long before I got Australian player status, Mr. Stevens told me that if I was ever chosen to travel to England, he would be there to see me.” It's a reasonable explanation.

    It's even possible that Bradman, being Bradman, snuck into the net at Trent Bridge the day before his teammates arrived. He scored 131 in his first Test in England, only bowling when he threw his hands on the googly (chopping the ball in his first innings).

    In the second Test at Lord's, Bradman played what he considered his best serve, 254. In the third at Headingley, he scored 334. As in England, the rest is history.

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