This fascinating story of the 1937 tour to Germany by the Gents of Worcester is a jewel. The cast of characters numbers aristocrats and eccentrics on the English side and dastardly Nazis, straight from an Indiana Jones film, on the other. But there are touching accounts from less stereotypical figures like German Felix Menzel, who both played and made the tour possible, and the 16 year-old virgin tourist Peter Robinson, who drinks beer for breakfast, visits a night-club and tries cigarettes for the first time.
1937 Berlin provides a sinister background - 'we could always hear the sound of machine guns' - and an early close-up of a nation descending into a self-made hell. Cricket provides a neat moral contrast between the gentlemen amateur Englishmen clad in whites and the ruthless Nazi regime in its black SS uniforms. The divergence in values starts with vociferous appeals of 'Aus' at every half-chance, and goes far deeper and more insidiously into the whole fabric of the government and society they are visiting. But both sides were guilty of mixing politics and sport and the context of coming war is clear- one shadowy English ringer arrives from 'nowhere' and is later SOE - draw your own conclusions, Mr Bond.
The author, a cricketer himself, writes knowledgeably and fills in the inevitable lack of documentary evidence with speculative but stirring accounts of the matches. He writes in a genial, self-effacing style - he would probably smile ironically and blush to be at #1 in German history, as he is now - which comfortably lurches between historical eras and contemporary asides on the state of cricket today. As a 'gentleman amateur' he is also modest about the hard sleuthing required, passing it off as almost a lucky find. He is also a master of the digression - 'because he can' - and the sideways anecdotes that spin off his main pitch are just as entertaining as the main thrust.