Ashes 2010: Archie Jackson – The ‘Other Bradman’

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above: Bradman, but did you know of the ‘other Bradman?’

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Donald Bradman made an inauspicious start to his test career at Brisbane during the first test of the 1928/29 Ashes series, managing only 18 and 1 as Australia were hammered by a still test record 675 runs. He was promptly dropped for the only time in his career for the next test, before returning and finishing the series with 468 runs at 66.85.

But Bradman wasn’t the young batsman lauded most by Australians at the time as they looked to rebuild a side that was in the process of being hammered 4-1 by A.P.F Chapman’s England side. That honour was bestowed on a man one year younger than Bradman – his New South Wales team mate Archie Jackson.

Jackson, who made his first-class debut for New South Wales at the age of 17, was often referred to as a second Victor Trumper for his grace, elegance and nimble footwork. The clamour for his elevation to the Australian side finally swayed the selectors in time for the fourth test of the series at Adelaide (see scorecard). Australia soon slipped to 19 for three, but nineteen year old Jackson stroked his way to an effortless 164, becoming the youngest player at the time to score a test century.

It seemed that Australia had found two young batting geniuses on which to rest its hopes for reclaiming the Ashes in England in the summer of 1930. Indeed, The Sydney Morning Herald gave Jackson primacy over Bradman calling the younger man “the greatest of present-day batsmen”. But Jackson’s story was about to take a very different direction to that of Bradman.

On that 1930 tour, Bradman had the most formidable test series of any player before or since, scoring a colossal 974 runs at 139.14, and in the days when touring sides actually played competitive first-class matches, he hit 2,960 runs at 98.66. Jackson though struggled with illness and bad form, but still showed glimpses of his talent with a century against Somerset.

That hundred helped force Jackson back into the side for the fifth and deciding test at The Oval (see scorecard). Here Jackson and Bradman combined in a partnership of 243, made against hostile bowling from Harold Larwood. Jackson, who “took frequent shuddering blows to the body” made a battling 73 to Bradman’s 232 and Australia won by an innings to regain the Ashes.

But the bouts of illness became more frequent and after a poor series against West Indies, Jackson was dropped from the Australian side. It was to be his last first-class match as just prior to the start of the 1931/32 season, Jackson collapsed in his hotel room and coughed up blood .

Jackson continued to play grade cricket in Brisbane where he relocated as part of his convalescence and scored heavily, but running between the wickets was proving more and more difficult. Finally, with the test match that would see England regain the Ashes in the infamous 1932/33 series going on down the road at The Gabba, Jackson died of tuberculosis at the age of 23. His body went back on the same train as the English and Australian sides returning to Sydney for the final test.

We will never know that if blessed with good health, Jackson would have turned out to be a better batsman than Bradman, but it can be said with some certainty that he would have had a long and successful test career and been recognised as one of the great Australian batsmen.

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