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Hedley Verity: The bowler who dismissed Sir Don Bradman the most times but died a prisoner of war

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Sir Don Bradman was a colossus in cricket. 6996 runs at a never-to-be-broken average of 99.94. 29 tons, 12 double hundreds and two triple hundreds. Even by today’s modern standards of big bats, flat pitches and small boundaries, Bradman’s feats remain unequaled. His records continue to stand the test of time, be it most runs in a series, most runs in a day, most double tons and most triple tons. Any bowler who dismissed Bradman himself shot to fame and was included in a special list.

One such bowler was Hedley Verity, the England left-arm spinner from Yorkshire. In 18 Tests in which Verity played against Australia, he dismissed Sir Don Bradman eight times, the most by any bowler. His overall statistics are also wonderful, having taken 144 wickets in 40 Tests at an average of 24. In first-class cricket, his tally of 1956 wickets at an average of 14.90 puts him in a magnificent league.

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However, Verity’s story is of tragedy. The Second World War ended cricket in England in 1939 and he was drafted into the army. However, during the campaign in Italy, Verity died a prisoner of war in 1943. Thus, one of the greats of cricket was taken away at just the age of 38. On his birthday on May 18, we take a look at the impact Verity had in England’s Ashes series against Australia.

Dismissing the Don, Perfect 10s

Perhaps the best moment of Verity came in the 1934 Lord’s Test against Australia. In that match, Verity dismissed Bradman twice and England won the match by an innings. His haul of 15/104, including 14 wickets in one day, remains an Ashes record. The impact of Hedley Verity’s spell can be gauged into broader perspective. For the next 75 years, England would not win a Test at Lord’s.

Hedley Verity Army
Hedley Verity during Second World War (Credits: Twitter)

Bradman’s summation of his rival was aptly summed up when he said, “With Hedley I am never sure. You see, there’s no breaking point with him.” Big words indeed coming from the Don himself.

In other instances, Verity is best remembered for taking two perfect 10s in his career. In 1931 against Warwickshire, he took 10/36 in 18.4 overs but against Nottinghamshire in 1932, he took 10/10 in 19.4 overs and it remains a world record for the cheapest perfect-10 in history.

Dead In War

Verity played his last match in 1939 against Sussex in Hove but the Second World War postponed the championship and he was drafted into the British Army in the first battalion of The Green Howards. After serving time in India, Northern Ireland and Egypt, he arrived in Sicily for the assault on Catania on July 1943.

Hedley Verity Bowler
Hedley Verity (Credits: Twitter)

In an essay by RC Robertson Glasgow in Wisden, Verity received his wounds in the Eighth Army’s first attack on the German positions at Catania, in Sicily. The enemy fire increased, and, as they crept forward, Verity was hit in the chest. “Keep going and get them out of that farm-house,” Verity was reported to have said.

Hedley Verity was taken to Naples on July 26 in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions and was taken to a military hospital in Caserta. However, his condition deteriorated.

After a series of haemorrhages which couldn’t be stemmed, Hedley Verity died on July 31 at the age of 38. His family got to know about the news only on September 1. Today, there is a cemetery in Italy where Verity is buried. There is a simple message in that which says, “Thank you for looking after our men.”

Hedley Verity remains the only bowler to have dismissed Sir Don Bradman the most but his tragic death at the age of 38 due to the Second World War will forever leave every cricket fan sad.

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