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A fully fit Donald Bradman returned to first-class cricket in 1936-37 after a two-year gap. Although he got runs in his first few Sheffield Shield games, they did not come easy. He was struggling to get his timing and hand-eye coordination right after such a long hiatus. As a result, he decided to concentrate on running hard between the wickets.

The summer of 1936-37 proved to be eventful for the Don. He was appointed captain of Australia, a decision that came as a shock to all those who had praised Victor Richardson's leadership on the 1935-36 tour of South Africa, one that Bradman had missed. The Don was also made a member of the national selection committee. On the personal front, he awaited the birth of his first child. He was overwhelmed to have a son, but the child died shortly after birth.

A legend forever............An Indian fan garlands a bust of Sir Don Bradman after the legend's demise in February 2001.

A tragedy of this magnitude was bound to affect any individual, and the Don was no exception. He made a poor start as Australian captain, losing the first two of five Test matches. No team in Test history had come back from such a perilous position to win a series, and a second consecutive series win by England on Australian soil, following the one in 1932-33, seemed imminent.

The Don's leadership was criticised, and there were rumours that all was not well between him and his team. This insinuation was not too difficult to believe, considering the protests over the removal of Richardson.

It was a situation the Don wasn't used to being in. Only two things could happen from this point onwards. Either he would be disgraced further, or he would come back with a bang.

In the third Test, the series on the line, Bradman displayed his astuteness. Australia batted first and scored 200-9 before the Don declared the innings. The conditions at that stage were overcast. Then came a downpour, and when play resumed, the English batsmen had to contend with a sticky, unpredictable wicket. Those were the days when pitches were left uncovered even when it rained, making the wicket a dangerous one to bat on. The Australian bowlers did a fabulous job and the wickets fell like ninepins. But the conditions still hadn't changed all that much, and the Don realised that if England were bowled out in no time, the Australian batsmen would face similar problems. Hence, he ordered his bowlers and fielders to slow the game down.

But Gubby Allen, Bradman's English counterpart, tried to outsmart the Don by declaring at 76-9. The Aussies had no option but to bat through the remaining minutes of the day's play. Bradman gambled by promoting his tail-enders, leg-spinner Bill O'Reilly and left-arm spinner Fleetwood-Smith to open the innings. It was a bold move, the idea being to shield his main batsmen from the vagaries of the wet wicket. The move worked. O'Reilly fell for a duck, as did Fleetwood-Smith, but the latter survived until the close of play. A clear sky, bright sunshine and a settled wicket greeted the teams on the next day. The score was 97-5 when Bradman arrived at the wicket. He proceeded to add 346 with Jack Fingleton, who scored 136. The Don amassed 270 and guided his team to a total of 564. Fleetwood-Smith and O'Reilly murdered the English batsmen in the fourth innings, and Australia won by 365 runs.

The floodgates had opened. Bradman scored 212 in the fourth Test and led his team to a 148-run victory. It was an uncharacteristic innings, in that he had restrained himself for most of it, aware that one mistake would cost his team the Ashes. But no Australian was complaining.

The series was now level at 2-2, and the fifth and final Test at Melbourne was eagerly awaited. There was no bigger stage, literally and figuratively, for the Don to stamp his authority on the series. He left an indelible imprint with a grand innings of 169. His team won the Test, and with it, the series 3-2. It remains the only instance of a team winning a five-Test series after losing the first two. On two occasions in the 1970s, India levelled a five-Test series after being 0-2 down, but lost the final Test.

The Don had regained his prized place in Australian hearts with a trio of outstanding knocks, all of them scored under incredible pressure. They don't make them like him any more.

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2 IndiaIndia 112
3 cricketPakistan 111
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7 sri LankaSri Lanka 85
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4 AfricaSouth Africa 119
5 EnglandEngland 116
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7 Pakistan Pakistan 104
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9 AfghanistanAfghanistan 78
10 BangladeshBangladesh 74

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