Did Sir Donald Bradman really score a century off 22 balls?

The short answer is yes, he did. Really. On November 2, 1931, Bradman and his New South Wales teammate Oscar Wendell Bill represented a Blackheath XI against a Lithgow Pottery XI in a match to christen the newly-installed malthoid wicket at Blackheath. With the two star names together at the crease, Lithgow brought on off-spinner Bill Black who, as Bradman was reminded, had bowled ‘The Don’ for 52 in an exhibition match in Lithgow two months earlier.

Bradman reportedly told Wendell Bill, ‘I think I’ll have a go.’ Over the course of the next three eight-ball overs, he proceeded to dispatch Black and his teammate Horrie Baker to the far-flung corners of the Blue Mountains. Off the first, over from Black, Bradman scored 33 runs, including three sixes, three fours and a single off the last ball to retain the strike. Off the second, from Baker, he scored 40, courtesy of four fours and four sixes and off the third, again from Black, 29, including two fours and three sixes. Wendell Bill contributed just two singles, on the first and fifth balls of the third over, to rotate the strike.

With uninspiring figures of 2-0-62-0 to his name, Black pleaded to be taken off again, but that made little difference to Bradman, who went on to score 256, including 29 fours and 14 sixes. For the record, Wendell Bill scored 68. Reflecting on his innings, Bradman said later, ‘…everyone was surprised at the outcome, no-one more than I’, adding that, ‘…in later years he [Wendell Bill]

said he got more notoriety out of the two singles he scored in those three overs than anything else he ever did in his life.’

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