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Watching Winx yesterday was like watching Don Bradman bat

Winx ridden by Hugh Bowman. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)
Expert
14th April, 2018
12

When Winx settled in at the tail of the field at Randwick yesterday in the most meaningful race of her stellar career, she reminded me how Don Bradman started his innings in a similar situation 71 years ago at the SCG.

Winx needed to win to draw level with Black Caviar on a record 25 successive victories, while The Don needed three figures against India to become the first Australian to crack 100 first-class centuries.

It was my privilege to watch both live.

As a cricket-mad eight-year-old, I was sitting on my father Broughton’s shoulders on the grass in front of the then Sheridan Stand at the southern end of the SCG.

I had the best seat in the house of a near capacity 33,000 crowd, three times the number who turned up on Friday.

The Don was batting with the debonair Keith Miller after the early loss of two Australian XI wickets against India in a tour game.

Bradman started slowly and took awhile to settle in on the important innings required, just as Winx did yesterday a kilometre down the road from the SCG.

Once both settled, they completed their targets in the way champions always do – with pure brilliance.

When The Don reached three figures, at least 20,000 hats filled the air. Dad’s hat whistled past my nose, never to be seen again – the air was electric, the applause deafening.

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I remember that day as vividly as if it was yesterday.

The Don went on to crack 172 in a run a minute gem that included 18 boundaries and a rare six, while Miller was out of character with his 86 in 154 minutes with seven fours.

I clearly remember saying to Dad how I wished I could meet this great man, shake his hand and get his autograph in an era of no television.

“You never know, you might one day,” was Dad’s reply.

When I did meet The Don 17 years later having started at The Sun newspaper as a cricket writer, I told him the story.

“That’s a nice story, David,” he said.

“Your dad was right, so let’s go over in that corner and have a quiet drink,” began 45 minutes that were so memorable I had to pinch myself to ensure it even happened.

Winx’s connections must have had the same feeling yesterday.

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In a strange coincidence, both The Don and Winx had early career setbacks before they ruled their respective sporting worlds.

Bradman made his debut against England in the first-ever Test at Brisbane, scoring 18 and 1 in a whopping 675-run defeat.

He was relegated to the drinks waiter’s job for the second Test at his home ground SCG – the only time in his career he was dropped.

After another Australia defeat, he was reinstated for the third Test at the MCG where he cracked 79 and 112, and he was on his merry way to legend status.

Australia's Don Bradman (r) batting

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Winx won her first three races starting in June 2014 but won only one of her next seven.

But from May 2015, the mighty mare has won her record-equalling 25 successive races over 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 2000, 2040 and 2200 metres that include three Cox Plates, three Chipping Norton Stakes and three George Ryder Stakes.

Both Sir Donald Bradman and Winx will be revered forever, and it’s well worth repeating how privileged I feel to have seen their crowning achievements live.

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It’s also worth mentioning The Don’s 117 first class centuries have never been matched.

Justin Langer is the next best Australian with 86 first-class centuries, followed by Darren Lehmann’s 82, Ricky Ponting’s 82 and Mark Waugh’s 81 – all retired.

The Don and daylight.

There’s every indication it will be Winx and daylight by the time the mighty mare calls halt.