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Bodyline, also known as fast leg theory, was a cricketing tactic devised by the English cricket team for their 1932–33 Ashes tour of Australia, specifically to combat the extraordinary batting skill of Australia's Don Bradman. A Bodyline delivery was one where the cricket ball was pitched short so as to rise towards the body of the opposing batsman on the line of the leg stump, in the hope of creating legside deflections that could be caught by one of several fielders in the quadrant of the field behind square leg. This tactic was considered by many to be intimidatory and physically threatening.

Although no serious injuries arose from any short-pitched deliveries while a leg theory field was set, the tactic still led to considerable ill feeling between the two teams, with the controversy eventually spilling into the diplomatic arena. Over the next two decades, several of the Laws of Cricket were changed to prevent this tactic being repeated. Law 41.5 states At the instant of the bowler's delivery there shall not be more than two fielders, other than the wicket-keeper, behind the popping crease on the on side.[1], commonly referred to as being "Behind square-leg". Additionally, Law 42.6(a) includes: The bowling of fast short pitched balls is dangerous and unfair if the umpire at the bowler's end considers that by their repetition and taking into account their length, height and direction they are likely to inflict physical injury on the striker...'[2]

The occasional short-pitched ball aimed at the batsman (a bouncer) has never been illegal and is still in widespread use as a tactic.



The Australian cricket team toured England in 1930. Australia won the five-Test series 2–1,[3] with Don Bradman scoring an astounding 974 runs at a batting average of 139.14, an aggregate record that stands to this day.[4][5] By the time of the next Ashes series of 1932–33, Bradman's average hovered around 100, approximately twice that of all other world-class batsmen.[6][7] England feared that without resorting to drastic tactics, they might not be able to defeat Australia until Bradman—then aged 24—[6] retired, something that might be over a decade away. It was believed that something new was required to combat Bradman,[8] but it was believed more likely that Bradman could be dismissed by leg-spin as Walter Robins and Ian Peebles had supposedly caused him problems; two leg-spinners were included in the English touring party of 1932–33.[9] This view gradually came to change leading up to 1932.

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