Bodyline, also known as fast leg theory bowling, was a cricketing tactic devised by the English cricket team for their 1932–33 Ashes tour of Australia. It was designed to combat the extraordinary batting skill of Australia's leading batsman, Don Bradman. Bodyline bowling simply meant hurling the cricket ball not only at the leg stump but aiming it deliberately at the body of the batsman. This would force the batsman to hook or pull, usually getting caught at square leg or on the leg side boundary. In case the batsman defended, the ball would bounce to a close leg fielder. Almost all fielders were positioned on the leg side, with as many as six in close positions. The batsmen never wore a helmet at that time, nor was there proper protection gear used apart from gloves and pads.
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1932-33 Bodyline series
The 1932–33 Ashes series is the most controversial in the history of Australian–English Test cricket. The English team, desperate to contain Australian batsman Don Bradman and win back the Ashes, adopted a controversial strategy. Technically known as ‘fast leg theory, it was better known as ‘Bodyline’. During Australia's tour of England in 1930, the young don Bradman dominated the English bowlers. In that test series, Don Bradman scored a whopping 974 runs at an average of 139.14, Including one single century, two double hundreds and a triple hundred(334) which broke the world test batting record. This caused significant disquiet for the English cricketing community but elation in Australia where Bradman returned as a hero.
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In preparing for their 1932 tour to Australia, England sought a way to stifle Bradman’s scoring. Their captain, Douglas Jardine, developed an approach in which the ball was bowled fast and short, rising to the batsman’s body while fielders hovered close to the leg side. The strategy was intended to intimidate the batsman, stifle the swing of his bat and force him to play defensively. But it also posed a genuine physical threat. While the bodyline tactic succeeded in curtailing Australia's run rate, it caused much controversy. During the 3rd test at Adelaide, Australian captain Bill Woodfull was struck down by a ball to the chest and the team wicketkeeper, Bert Oldfield, suffered a fractured skull. Bodyline bowling was deemed not to be sporting in what was considered a gentleman’s game and such was the controversy that it put a strain on diplomatic relations between England and Australia for a period of time.