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