By Andrew Spence
Cricket’s most infamous Test series has been immortalised in a new bar at one of Australia’s favourite ovals.
The Bodyline Bar will open on Saturday at the Adelaide Oval to coincide with the first day of the Adelaide Ashes Test – the first to be played in a day/night format.
The bar is in the western members stand at Adelaide Oval, which was also the site of the bloody third match of the 1932-33 Bodyline series between Australia and England. It features a range of memorabilia from the Bodyline series and is designed to capture the feel of a bygone era.
A $535 million redevelopment of Adelaide Oval was completed in 2014 and transformed the historic oval into a world-class stadium.
South Australian Cricket Association President Andrew Sinclair says planning for the Bodyline Bar began in 2012 and the space set aside soon after but it had taken longer than expected to come to fruition. However, he says its opening to coincide with day one of the first day/night Ashes test was ideal.
“The quality of the fit out is top notch with a view towards trying to create the ambience of a Long Room at the MCG or Lords,” SACA President Andrew Sinclair says.
“The Adelaide Oval has a lot of corporate suites but it doesn’t have a room that really recognises the history of Adelaide Oval and that’s what this is about.
“Part of the reason the redevelopment has been so successful is because it has an eye on the history of Adelaide Oval – we’ve kept the scoreboard and the hill and I think this (bar) is the same. Adelaide Oval and the Bodyline Series seem to go hand in hand when you talk cricket so it was an opportunity to say ‘why don’t we celebrate that’.”
Day two of the third test at Adelaide Oval in 1933 was possibly the single most intense day of the infamous Bodyline series. The Australian batsmen, including Sir Donald Bradman faced a barrage of short-pitched bowling and when captain Bill Woodfull was struck in the heart by a ball from Harold Larwood, police lined the boundary in preparation for a riot.
The riot never eventuated but a guard armed with a rifle was posted to the Adelaide Oval pitch each night of the match amid fears the irate public would dig up the wicket. His rifle is now on display in the Bodyline bar.
Other items in the bar include Clarrie Grimmett’s full playing outfit, a bat signed by both Bodyline sides and the clock that overlooked the ground in 1933 from the top of the members stand.
Tables in the bar have been fashioned from the turnstiles that let fans into the ground from 1880 to the early 2000s and three televisions will show highlights from the Bodyline series while a speaker plays radio commentary from 1933.
The walls feature large images of 17 of the players who took part in the game, including Bradman, Woodfull, Victor Richardson, Grimmett and Bert Oldfield and England’s Douglas Jardine, Larwood and Wally Hammond. The images and their accompanying descriptions were taken from cricket cards included in cigarette packs in 1933.
It is believed to be the only bar in the world that celebrates the sport’s most infamous series between its fiercest rivals. Bodyline was a tactic used by England whereby its pace bowlers aimed short-pitched deliveries at the upper bodies of Australian batsmen and placed the field accordingly. It ultimately led to a change to the laws of cricket in 1935, which effectively outlawed the practice.
The 210-person capacity bar is set to be a permanent fixture at Adelaide Oval during cricket and football seasons. Like several other rooms in the ground, it is also available to be hired out for private functions such as birthday parties when matches are not in progress.
Sinclair says the wood floors and joinery and the brass beer tap fittings were all designed to give the room a sense of grandeur.
“It’s trying to recognise the history of the most historic Test match ever played at the Adelaide Oval and I hope it’s there for a long time.”
Despite the bar not being open yet, SACA members are already voting with their feet. A ballot system was used to grant access to the Bodyline Bar during the upcoming test and all 15 sessions are booked out.
Coincidentally, the record for the biggest test match cricket attendance at Adelaide Oval – 50,962 – was set during the Bodyline Test in 1933. That record is expected to be broken this weekend. The Bodyline Test also holds the Adelaide Oval attendance record of 172,361 across the five days of a test.