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With Australia whooping the English cricket team during the Ashes series again this summer I thought it about time we looked at a more lively series between the nations. And what a lively series it was! The “Bodyline” series will go down in history as the most controversial and pivotal set of games in the sport’s history. That’s saying something considering the issues of corruption, underarm bowling and the “chucking” Indian lining the summer papers over the past fifty years. The events of 1932-33 are well worth documenting, so thankfully the ABC has come up with an insight into the attempts to curb the best batsman in history, Donald Bradman.

Bodyline - It's Just Not Cricket

The Show
Hitting Australian screens a couple of years ago for the first time, Bodyline: It’s Just Not Cricket is an in-depth look at exactly how the Bodyline series came about. For those not in the know England captain Douglas Jardine used a tactic of bowling short-pitched balls at the batsmen (mostly to the great Don) with a six-man leg-side trap waiting for a lofted defensive stroke in their direction. In other words, England opening bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce bowled with the intent to knock the batsmen’s head off or get him out when he tried valiantly to defend his body, more often than not already battered from a series of short-pitched balls.

It is testament to the rivalry between the two countries that a team would go to such lengths to succeed. Sport has a way of bringing out the nastiest of competitive instincts, and Bodyline is certainly no exception. I suppose it came as an even bigger shock because the Ashes series was deemed to be a good chance to strengthen the ties between Australia and “the mother land”.

If anything you can tell how much cricket has changed over the years. There’s none of the pompous sportsmanship and gentlemanly demeanour displayed by the players, nor does anyone become offended when a batsmen walks out wearing a certain type of cap (unlike when Douglas Jardine walked to the crease). But the underlying fierce element of competition was inherent in this series all those years ago, sadly continued only by the Australian team in the most recent set of Test matches.

Bodyline - It's Just Not Cricket

The 59-minute long production not only talks about the bodyline tactic but also the issues surrounding the game at the time. We get to look at the controversy surrounding Bradman’s writing contract threatening his playing status, the state of the game at the time and the origins of the intimidatory tactic of bowling at the body of a batsmen.

Nothing sums up the attitude to the bodyline series better than Australian captain Bill Woodfull, whose words go down in cricket folklore as epitomising the thoughts of the players during 1932-33. He simply stated, “there are tow teams out there, one is playing cricket. The other is making no attempt to do so!” What happened afterwards is well worth a look, as is this relatively short but detailed look at a key moment in cricket history. At least it will provide a lot more excitement than watching another England batting collapse this summer.

Video
The show is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16:9 enhanced, looking very impressive on the whole. There is a large amount of stock footage from the series that obviously looks worse for wear, but it’s still a welcome addition to the disc and retains its sharpness despite its age. The newly filmed footage of interviews with key players, scribes and documentarians comes up a treat, with the colours being very impressive and vibrant. There is the standard ABC-style softness to the whole production but sharpness remains quite good.

This piece couldn’t have looked any better, with the mixture of archival footage and interviews being great on the eye overall. You’ll be focused squarely on what everyone has to say and watching Larwood and Voce try and hammer the Australian batsmen. Very impressive.

Bodyline - It's Just Not Cricket

Audio
Not much to report here, as the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack does the job required. Dialogue is clear at all times and the small number of effects are free from any distortion. No distractions here.

Extras
Sadly, there’s nothing at all here to pad out the disc, pardon the pun. But this probably ensures you’ll get the disc at a relatively low price considering the short-ish running time as well.

Overall
This is a must have for cricket buffs. You can’t go past one of the most important series’ in the game’s history, also possibly the blackest day in cricket before the corruption scandals took over just recently. You won’t need any other material on bodyline because this show covers the lot. The bare-bones disc is accompanied by a great video transfer and serviceable audio. Definitely worth a look during a rain delay in the cricket this summer.


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