A Century in Three Overs.

Sir Don Bradman is famous for many amazing achievements. He is regarded by many as the greatest batsman of all time and finished his career with an average of 99.9 runs.

One of his lesser known, but still impressive achievements, is the century he scored in just 3 overs, off only 22 balls.

Bradman scored the unfathomable century at Blackheath Oval in November 2, 1931. Was it the fresh mountain air, the 1000m altitude or the kookaburras cheering him on from the pine trees surrounding the oval? Who knows, but either way it a was a remarkable innings.

Bradman recorded the following figures on the way to his century:

1st Over 6 6 4 2 4 4 6 1 (33)
2nd Over 6 4 4 6 6 4 6 4 (40)
3rd Over 1 6 6 1 1 4 4 6 (27) & 2 to Wendell-Bill.

It was very kind of Bradman to let his batting partner, Oscar Wendell-Bill, score some runs during the blitz. It’s also surprising that he recorded two singles during the century, and that he was not on strike for the first or fifth ball of the third over.

The world-record innings was not scored while playing in the baggy green. It was reached while representing a Blackheath XI against a Lithgow XI to commemorate the opening of the Blackheath wicket. In total, Bradman made 256 including 14 sixes and 29 fours, despite renowned bowler Bill Black being introduced into the attack.

Not only was the century the fastest in history, it was also witnessed by a crowd so large it is unlikely to have been matched since. The young boys among that crowd had come to see the great man play and were also employed to retrieve the ball from the road, people’s backyards and the pine trees after Bradman had dispatched yet another boundary. The collection of the ball is included in the 18 minutes that it reportedly took for Sir Don to reach his ton.

After the game, Bradman wrote about the innings with the humility that was as famous as his sporting talent, saying,

‘It is important I think to emphasise that the thing was not planned. It happened purely by accident and everyone was surprised at the outcome, none more so than I.’

Obviously Blackheath Oval is relatively small and the boundary fence may not measure the same diameter as the MCG or Lords. Bradman was not facing a rampaging Harold Larwood, nor Dennis Lillee or Sir Richard Hadlee. He was instead battling the bowling attack of the Lithgow XI.

Furthermore, he had a little assistance not available to modern day cricketers. He faced overs of eight balls, so over the space of three overs he had an extra six balls in which to compile the ton. That said, he still reached a hundred within the modern-day 3 overs.

Could it be repeated?

Perhaps it has been, somewhere. Perhaps in a game of grade cricket somewhere in the world.

In first-class cricket, the fastest century belongs to David Hookes. The Australian hit 102 runs off 34 balls while playing for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match against Victoria back in 1982. Even in T20 cricket, which was created solely for big hitting and boundaries, the fastest hundred is still slower than Bradman’s Blackheath best. Indian batsman Rohit Sharma scored 100 from 35 balls against Sri Lanka in 2017.

Technically it is possible.

A batter could score 102 runs within 17 balls, then hit a six off the 18th ball just to rub it in to the bowler. It would be a remarkable feat, requiring skill, audacity, timing, power, technique and perfect footwork, all of the traits which distinguished Sir Don Bradman.

This feat, and many other which accompanied Sir Don, does make one ponder…do today’s cricket coaches give kids a golf ball and a cricket stump, and instructions to hit the ball against a water tank for hours on end?

Image: Alessandro Bogliari

Shot by His Own Camel.

John Ainsworth Horrocks died from a gun wound caused by his camel, and despite other notable deeds during his life, this is how he shall always be remembered.

The pastoralist and explorer hadn’t offended the camel in any particular way, apart from loading it with supplies on the long and arduous trek into the unforgiving landscape of northern South Australia in 1846. It was in fact the first camel to be introduced to Australia and is often cited a proof that Horrocks pioneered the use of animals for the exploration of the country.

Horrocks had long regarded the camel as temperamental and obstinate, as it was said to be constantly biting people and other animals, but he had never considered it murderous or vindictive.

The cantankerous camel joined six horses and twelve goats, as well as Horrocks’ travel companions, on a journey from the pastoralist’s property of Penwortham into the northern expanse of South Australia. The journey began on 29 July, 1846 and would take the party through the Flinders Ranges.

Six men set off on the trek which Horrocks initiated and funded because he simply felt the need for adventure. He had already amassed considerable wealth as a sheep farmer and is credited with establishing the first vineyard in the Clare district near Adelaide, which is now one of Australia’s most famous wine districts.

It was his sense of adventure and independence which led to his pastoral success. Horrocks did not wait in Adelaide for the completion of official land surveys, but followed the advice of explorer Edward John Eyre and, at just 21 years of age, explored land near Hutt River north of Adelaide. Finding it to his liking, he established a village in 1839 and named it Penwortham after the village of his birth in England.

Records indicate that when Horrocks arrived in Adelaide, on his 21st birthday, he bought with him a family servant, a blacksmith, a shepherd, four merino rams, sheepdogs, tools, sufficient clothing for five years…and a church bell.

The farming supplies and the personnel were put to good use, and even though he was only granted title to some of the fertile land that he was farming, he persisted and grew his flock to 9000 sheep.

The same restless spirit had prompted Horrocks to run away from school in Paris in 1833 and rejoin his family in Vienna. Thus, it was not entirely surprising that the young man announced his intention to take the camel and a groups of explorers into the outback, claiming,

‘I want a more stirring life’

The specific purpose of the journey was to search for new agricultural lands near Lake Torrens for the ambitious young Englishman, who was described as being 6 ft 2 ins (189 cm) tall, dark haired with blue eyes and possessed of a ‘rugged constitution’.

Despite Horrock’s rugged constitution and the camel’s inherent ability to survie in the harsh expanse of the Australian desert, the travelling party ran into trouble. The horses had been without water for two days when they reached Depot Creek, an old campsite of Eyre’s, on August 21.

The campsite provided an ideal base and the group remained there while making several exploratory trips into the surrounding region. One of the locations they visited was Lake Dutton, and this is where the camel became more than a nuisance and caused Horrocks’ demise.

On September 1, Horrocks loaded his rifle and took aim at a bird. The kneeling camel moved while Horrocks was attempting to reload his gun and the cock caught. This caused the gun to discharge and the round tore off the middle finger of his right hand and removed a row of teeth. Suffering from his injuries and stuck out in the middle of nowhere, Horrocks was rushed back to Penwortham as quickly as possible. He arrived on September 19 but doctors were unable to save him, and he died on September 23.

Horrocks remains buried at Penwortham and his former home is now an interpretive centre. John Horrocks Cottage is also is the oldest stone building north of Gawler, SA.

What happened to the camel?

While on his death bed, Horrocks ordered it to be shot.

Image: http://www.trove.nla.gov.au, Mads Severinsen