Following in Don Bradman's footsteps in sunny Aberdeen

UAE's cricketers have been treading famous turf on their Cricket World Cup League 2 tour to Scotland

Don Bradman top scored with 123 as Australia's 'Invincibles' beat Scotland by an innings at Mannofield, in the last match of their tour in 1948. Image taken at Aberdeenshire Cricket Club.
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Given the state-of-the-art facilities they are used to back at home, the UAE’s leading cricketers might be forgiven for feeling trips away can be something of a comedown.

Certainly, the setting for their Cricket World Cup League 2 series in Scotland this month is a world away from the cavernous grandstands of Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Cricket Stadium, and the ring-of-fire floodlights of Dubai.

Aberdeenshire Cricket Club, based in a suburb a leisurely 30-minute walk from the city centre, is situated on a pronounced slope.

On a number of occasions in UAE’s two matches so far, balls have been hit over the stone walls that mark the edge of the ground, and into neighbouring gardens.

On occasions, when they have stayed within the field’s perimeter, time has been spent searching the foliage for balls hit beyond the boundary rope.

If it is different to what the touring players are used to, they need to be aware of something significant: they have been treading historic turf.

Just shy of 74 years ago, the ground in Mannofield was the site of Donald Bradman’s last match in Britain.

It was the last match of the 1948 Ashes tour, during which Bradman’s Australians had established themselves as one of history’s greatest ever teams.

The two-day fixture at Mannofield was the last in a 34-match tour which they went through unbeaten, earning themselves the moniker “The Invincibles”.

They beat England 4-0 in the Test series, although those are not the most memorable digits of that tour.

Famously, Bradman went to the crease for his final Test at The Oval, requiring just four runs to end his career averaging 100.

He was bowled second ball by Eric Hollies, the Warwickshire leg-spinner, leaving him with a career average of 99.94.

A front cover of the souvenir brochure of the visit of the 1948 Australians hangs in the Bradman Suite at Aberdeenshire Cricket Club.

Remarkable as it seems today, in a climate where tour matches are scarce and the international game itself is being fractured by the onset of T20, the final Test did not mark the end of the tour.

Instead, the Australians headed north and played two matches against Scotland, first in Edinburgh and then, three days later, in the far north east of the country in Aberdeen.

Bradman capped his final tour with an innings of typical majesty, making 123 in 90 minutes on the second morning of the game.

“As a spectacle it must have been my best effort on the trip,” Bradman later said.

The CWCL2 matches involving Scotland this week have attracted crowds numbering in triple figures.

Back when Bradman came to town, the home club had to erect temporary stands. It is estimated 21,000 came to watch over the course of the two days.

The swarm of supporters is little surprise, given his standing in world sport.

According to Jack Nixon, a sports writer for the Press and Journal newspaper, Bradman would have been one of the most recognisable faces in all of sport at the time, alongside the likes of footballer Stanley Matthews and Fanny Blankers-Koen, the athlete who had dominated the 1948 Olympics.

“That was a moment in time when people stood back and said, ‘Wow, this is something special,’” Nixon, 82, said of Bradman’s Invincibles playing at Mannofield.

“I like to think hospitality counts. They would have been warmly received.”

And not just by the supporters. A day after the game, the Invincibles made the 80km journey from Aberdeen to Balmoral Castle, and met the royal family.

The fact a fixture in Aberdeen was the last of note for the sport’s greatest ever batter might seem a quirky item of trivia, but the area has a proud history in the sport.

At times in the past it has been said to have had as many clubs active as Yorkshire, which is regarded as the heartland for cricket south of the border in England.

Scottish internationals produced by the city have been many. Matthew Cross, for instance, is captaining them for this series of one-day internationals on the ground where he first started out in the game.

The likes of Kyle Coetzer and Michael Leask are also local boys.

“A lot of achievement comes out of Aberdeen,” Nixon said. “We should be very proud of that.”

Updated: August 14, 2022, 7:42 AM
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