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Touched by Greatness: The Story of Tom Graveney, England's Much Loved Cricketer
Touched by Greatness: The Story of Tom Graveney, England's Much Loved Cricketer
by Andrew Murtagh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy book on a great player, 20 July 2014
Those of a certain age will recall Andrew Murtagh as a bustling, whole-hearted seam bowler for Hampshire in their successful period of the 1970s. With this book on the legendary England batsman, Tom Graveney, he proves himself an even better writer.

My earliest televised memory of cricket was a Test match in which England were playing the West Indies in 1966. It was the final match of the series in which we has been soundly beaten by a Sobers-inspired team of fine players. Yet for that last Test, Brian Close was recalled as captain and England recovered from a parlous 166-7 to make 527, largely thanks to Graveney, who made a quite magnificent 165, sharing a huge partnership with John Murray, who made 112. We then went on to win the game, which didn't happen that often against the West Indies side of that era.

I still recall the easy, languid style of Graveney as I watched on my uncle Geoff's old black and white television. That high back lift and high grip on the bat, as well as a technique that looked comfortable and organised. He always seemed to have so much time, a sure sign of a good player and his record confirms that he was much more than that.

48,000 first-class runs and nearly 5,000 in Test matches, both at a mid-forties average. Yes, he could play, but it was not so much the runs that he made as the way that he made them - it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it, as the old song goes. Tom Graveney had style, grace, elan and the ability to make a dull day's cricket that much better, simply by taking guard.

The surprise is that he didn't play more for England, but as we in Derbyshire know all too well, the selection of England sides for many years after the Second World War was riddled with bias and snobbery. A man prepared to stand his ground, Graveney upset officialdom at times and their response was to omit him from teams, in favour of others who weren't in the same league.

It was England's loss, but very much his county's gain, as Graveney gave first Gloucestershire and then Worcestershire sterling service. While some international players coasted through their county commitments, Graveney was often the difference between his county winning and losing games, his form for Worcestershire a major reason for their championship successes of the 1960s.

He later became a respected commentator, very much in the Jim Laker vein of letting the pictures do much of the work and chipping in when it was worthwhile. Then, and somewhat ironically in the light of much of what had gone on before, he was elected president of the MCC, where his genial nature and willingness to talk to everyone, irrespective of their background, won him many more friends.

A book on a player of such importance is long overdue and it is to the credit of both author and publisher that it has seen the light of day. Tom Graveney is 87 and not in the best of health but the easy conversational style of the author and the excellent collection of photographs transports the reader back to a time when the player was in his pomp and the game seemed far more innocent than it does today.

A worthy addition to any cricket library and perhaps my favourite book of this summer.

The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest
Price: 0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - download now!, 5 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As the first play I have read for enjoyment, I was somewhat apprehensive as to how I would enjoy it. As a fan of Wilde's other works (both The Picture of Dorian Gray and assorted poems), I was eager to sample perhaps his most famous play - and I wasn't disappointed!
Stylishly written and incredibly witty, I would recommend this to anyone - and as it's free, there's no reason not to download!

Price: 27.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably addictive game, 19 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dominion (Toy)
After years of playing games of all kinds, here's one that is quick to pick up and once you have, you will want to play all the time.


A Half-Forgotten Triumph: The story of Kent's County Championship title of 1913
A Half-Forgotten Triumph: The story of Kent's County Championship title of 1913
by Martin Moseling
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A delight from start to finish, 19 Feb 2014
OK, from the start I will declare a specific interest in this book, as anything covering the so-called 'Golden Age' prior to the First World War will always arouse my interest.

It was an age of gentility, innocence and huge interest in cricket, with the first-class calendar featuring some of the giants of the game's history. WG had gone, but youngsters like Jack Hobbs and Frank Woolley had emerged to capture the imagination of the large cricketing public. They read about these players, but to see them had to go to games. And did, in large numbers.

Woolley was, of course, a batting genius, subject to periods of fallibility but more often than not a player of extraordinary charm who could make batting look like the easiest thing in the world. By the time his career ended in 1938, he had amassed a staggering 59,000 first-class runs, not mention 2,000 wickets with slow left-arm and over a thousand catches. It is safe to say that we will never see his like again.

He was a poor starter, but once set aimed to dominate the bowling, his carefree attitude accounting for a first-class average that just cleared forty, but ensuring the love and admiration of generations of cricket followers. He was a mainstay of the side at the age of 26 in 1913, but by no means a one-man band.

Opening batsman Wally Hardinge was close to 2,000 runs, one of eighteen occasions on which he passed a thousand runs in stylish manner. James Seymour was an excellent number three and outstanding fielder, while Edward Humphreys was another who, like Seymour, passed 1500 runs in an excellent summer for the 'Garden of England' county.

Like all good sides they had people down the order who contributed runs when most needed and in Fred Huish had a wicket-keeper worthy of a place in an outstanding lineage through Ames, Evans, Knott and Downton.

Seam bowler Arthur Fielder often made early breakthroughs, but Kent had the greatest slow left arm bowler of the period in Colin Blythe. While his powers were on the wane - and the book points out that he was set to retire from cricket to become a coach after the war in which he was killed - he was still good enough to take 145 wickets at just 15 in the season.

2,500 wickets at 16 in a career. The statistics are extraordinary but reflect a bowler in complete control of his powers. Like Yorkshire's Wilfred Rhodes, his greatest weapon was flight, turning it just enough to beat the middle. He enjoyed success against batsmen who 'took him on' in the spirit of the day, but from a classic action bowled long spells without any diminishing of his powers.

The fixture lists of the time meant that counties didn't play all the others and Kent's success came despite not playing against a fairly mediocre Derbyshire side of the time. Common sense dictates that they may have disposed of us very easily...

This is a terrific read and deserves a far wider audience than Kent fans alone. The authors deserve full credit for a book that is an absolute delight from start to finish. Lavishly illustrated, with pictures of players and grounds from the period throughout, I savoured every turn of the page.

It is a book I have had for some time, but took my time over. Now it is finished, I may just start it all over again. Shortlisted among the cricket books of the year, it certainly makes it into Peakfan's top three.

Bradman's War
Bradman's War
by Malcolm Knox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.60

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting read, 22 Dec 2013
This review is from: Bradman's War (Hardcover)
This is my last book review of 2013 and is up there as one of the best I have read all year.

Malcolm Knox is a fine writer and this detailed look at the 1948 'Invincibles' from Australia, who visited these shores under Donald Bradman, reads like the most exciting of novels. They were a fine side, though the austerity of post-war England and the ongoing issues with rationing meant that they were fitter and stronger than the sides they faced. Many of the county sides featured players from the pre-war era, most of them too old and too slow for the powerful physical specimens who confronted them. Younger players were very inexperienced and it was a one-sided contest.

The cricket authorities played into their hands as well, agreeing to a new ball every 65 overs that meant their key pace bowling spearheads, Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, could lead the attack, come back for another burst then have the advantage of a hard new ball after tea. While the side had good spinners, they became a secondary consideration as Bradman aimed to batter the England side into submission. His experiences against Harold Larwood and Bill Voce in the winter of 1932-33 still rankled, as did the way that England had ground his side into the dust at The Oval in 1938, racking up 903 runs as Bradman was carried off with an ankle injury. The plans of his players, and those of England, to resume the Ashes in a new spirit of friendship were dashed very quickly

Bradman agreed to return to England for one last time in 1948, not content to play the hoped-for fun series in the euphoria of post-world war Britain, but intent on getting his own back on an England side that had a small number of good players but too many who were past their prime. He wanted to win not just the Test series, but to go through the tour unbeaten and leave an indelible memory on the cricketing public. He managed that, but at a cost.

It was a tour he nearly didn't make after periods of ill-health, but while not the player of ten years earlier, his side had depth in batting and two of the greatest-ever fast bowlers. Bradman's methods saw him come into conflict with members of his team, many of who had gone through the pressures of war and wanted only a pleasant sporting release against people they had fought alongside. There was a definite rift between those who had served and Bradman, who had been invalided from the war. Their discomfort at the tactics used is well-documented and the tale beautifully told.

It is a fine book and a memorable one. The depth of research is admirable, as the tour is documented in match by match detail. There's only one error, unfortunately repeated twice in reference to a Derbyshire player of the time. We never had a player named 'Fred' Pope, who was apparently in the England reckoning in that summer. We did have Alf Pope and perhaps 'Alfred' is where the confusion has arisen, but he didn't play county cricket after 1939. His brother George is the player referred to and I hope the error is corrected in a future paperback edition.

While it is probably too late to slip a Christmas hint to the someone special in your life, I'd heartily recommend this book to someone who likes a good read, enjoys cricket history and has a few quid in gift money to spend after the coming festivities.

It is definitely worth it.

The Real Jeeves: The Cricketer Who Gave His Life for His Country and His Name to a Legend
The Real Jeeves: The Cricketer Who Gave His Life for His Country and His Name to a Legend
Price: 3.81

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful piece of writing, 10 Nov 2013
Few cricketers have been afforded the honour of a biography after a career that encompassed a mere two seasons of first-class cricket and only fifty matches. Percy Jeeves is far from a household name among cricket followers, although that surname, appropriated by PG Wodehouse after seeing him in action at Cheltenham in 1913, is of far greater literary fame.

Having said that, Jeeves' story is one that thoroughly deserved to be told and it is apposite that I am reviewing it on Armistice Sunday, the player having lost his life in the carnage of the Western Front on 22 July, 1916. Only two years earlier, he was starring for Warwickshire after being overlooked by his native Yorkshire and was making a great impression on the English county cricket scene.

In those fifty first-class games, he played several hard-hitting innings and made 1200 runs, although his average of just sixteen was perhaps not a true reflection of his talent. He was a fine fielder too, with a good pair of hands and a strong arm, but it was as a bowler that Jeeves looked set to hit the heights.

In those two summers he finished with one short of two hundred wickets at a shade over twenty runs each. Bowling right arm, somewhere between medium and fast, he was probably over-bowled but looked set to be the fulcrum of his side's attack for years to come. He got movement, often extravagant and late, but was very accurate and took many of his wickets through clean bowling batsmen, often when they were well set with a ball that had extra nip.

He was only 26 at the outbreak of war and, having qualified for Warwickshire, doubtless looked forward to a long career. His name was already being mentioned in terms of national selection and his ability to bowl long spells without losing hostility made him hugely popular with the county supporters.

Then came the war and Jeeves, who played his last game for his county in August 1914, volunteered to serve in the October, one of 100,000 men who rushed to enlist in the first weeks of the conflict. They said it would all be over by Christmas, but that was far wider of the mark than any delivery bowled by the player.

After training, he was sent to France and soon, with thousands of others, discovered the true horror of perhaps the worst-ever conflict. Waist-deep liquid mud, rotting corpses, infestations of rats and lice became the daily challenge, along with nights spent under a single damp blanket for 'warmth'. The true horror can only be imagined, but the author does an equally fine job in conveying the daily nightmare as he does in recounting the everyday life of the pre-conflict cricketer.

It is a wonderful book, worth far more than most of the formulaic cricket autobiographies you might pick up on your travels. The author shows a keen eye for detail and the benefit of considerable research that brings the player, his life and times together in a memorable, if ultimately heart-breaking read. A number of the protagonists who flit across its pages died in the same conflict and one is left with a considerable feeling of loss by the end.

Percy Jeeves is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial near the Somme battlefield. His body, like that of many more, was never found as he moved from the cricket field to the Elysian equivalent in a forlorn and hopeless attack on a fortified German position. He died in the attack alongside 231 colleagues of his regiment, a man cut short in his prime like so many others from all walks of life.

Brian Halford's book deserves a wide audience. I'd go as far as to say it NEEDS to be read. Percy Jeeves won plenty of cricket matches for his county, but gave his life for his country.

It was the ultimate sacrifice and the author has made a major contribution to cricket literature with this memorable book, that is deservedly among the contenders for the 2014 Cricket Book of the Year.

Never a Gentlemen's Game: The Scandal-filled early years of test cricket
Never a Gentlemen's Game: The Scandal-filled early years of test cricket
Price: 6.35

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scandalous and thought-provoking, 6 Oct 2013
Over the years I have worked my way through thousands of cricket books. Tour accounts, biographies, autobiographies, club histories - I've not read them all, but probably more than most.

On the basis of that track record, I'd say that the modern era is a very fine one for cricket writing and there are some excellent authors out there. Up there with the very best, on this evidence, is Malcolm Knox. Among many other things he is former cricket correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and this book is genuinely a masterpiece.

It isn't new. Indeed, it came out before Christmas last year. I have had it for some time, courtesy of the publishers and wanted to do a review that did it justice, so I have read through this one twice. It does, after all, cover a period of the game's development of considerable interest to me, but in all those years of reading, I haven't seen one that made such an impact.

This is, in short, quite brilliant. It may not be to the taste of those who enjoy their cricket reading light and fluffy, like one of Mary Berry's cakes, but if you're looking for a read that will tell you what the game was like in the late nineteenth century and you're happy to take your time, this is one for your Christmas list, beyond doubt.

The author paints a vivid picture of the major protagonists of an era far removed from the game for gentlemen as most picture it. Thus we see teams and individuals only prepared to tour when their at times exorbitant financial demands were met. The leading figure of the day, W.G. Grace, only agreed to tour Australia as an 'amateur' captain on guarantee of a fee of 3,000, plus free travel and expenses for his wife and two youngest children. Such a fee had the purchasing power of around 215,000 today and is but one illustration of the player's keen idea of his worth, while his professional team mates took home less than a tenth of that figure and chuntered in the background.

There are tales of gambling on matches, while the characters of the period flit across the pages in captivating style. We read of players falling ill with smallpox, contracting a 'social disease', having fights, stealing from team mates and going out to play considerably the worse for wear. Of sides travelling with only twelve players for a tour lasting months, of a player selected as reserve wicket-keeper in error, never having done so in his life.One of the finest Australians, 'The Demon' Spofforth gave it all up at the height of his powers to emigrate to England and run his father-in-law's company, turning out for Derbyshire when time permitted. Some declined to take time off their work to play.

It is breath-taking, spell-binding stuff, one in the eye for those who say that modern players don't know how to behave like their predecessors. This extraordinary book confirms that nothing in the game is new. Crusades against throwing, tragic personal lives, riots on and off the field and a desire to make money on all sides makes this a must-read book.

Disputes were not settled over a gentlemanly glass of port. Jackets came off and they were often resolved by fists and long-time feuds. If you read this book you will never picture the formative period of the game's history in the same way. It is quite simply outstanding.

When Cricket Was Cricket: The Ashes: A Nostalgic Look at a Century of the Greatest Rivalry
When Cricket Was Cricket: The Ashes: A Nostalgic Look at a Century of the Greatest Rivalry
by Adam Powley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine book, worth the money, 15 Sep 2013
After forty years of reading cricket books of all shapes and sizes, it is quite something to come across one that has a collection of photographs that are previously unseen.

This delightful book from Haynes Publishing has some wonderful pictures of Ashes encounters from the nineteenth century onwards and each turn of the page is a joy. Whether it is CB Fry with a group of admirers, Jack Hobbs in his back garden or the Australians visiting a factory, this collection is quite special and is accompanied throughout by informative text.

Old photographs of Test match grounds are fascinating, while my personal favourite is of England legends "Tiger" Smith, Sydney Barnes, Frank Woolley and Wilfred Rhodes sitting together at a 1961 Test match. What tales those greats could tell...

A delightful coffee table book, or one for the side of the bed to dip into at will - this is well worth the money and is a fine addition to any cricket fan's collection. Adam Powley has done a very good job and the publishers can be proud of their efforts

Then Came Massacre: The Story of Maurice Tate, Cricket's Smiling Destroyer
Then Came Massacre: The Story of Maurice Tate, Cricket's Smiling Destroyer
Price: 3.87

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful read on a great player, 1 Sep 2013
Cricketing sons rarely live up to the reputation of their fathers. There are dozens of examples over the years and the struggles of such players have been well enough documented in cricket literature.

Few have matched the feats of Maurice Tate. His father, Fred, was a journeyman professional who took over 1300 wickets for Sussex at 21 with right arm spin perhaps at the pace of Derek Underwood. He is unfairly remembered by most for his role in the 1902 Test at Old Trafford against Australia, when, after dropping a catch in the deep, he was bowled with only four runs needed for victory.

It doesn't tell the full story, as Tate was in unfamiliar territory and more often fielded at slip, while expectation of number eleven, a batsman of modest achievement, bailing you out when a much-vaunted batting lineup had failed was patently unfair. Such was Tate senior's lot, but his son, as he predicted after the match, did him proud. While Fred subsequently became county coach of Derbyshire for a period, Maurice did considerably better.

From 1922-25, Maurice Tate was perhaps the greatest player in the world. If he wasn't, there were few better, as he took 852 wickets in three calendar years, including an Australian tour. He added a thousand runs a summer and took at least 200 wickets in each of them, bowling 38,000 balls in that time. All this after switching from bowling spin at his father's pace to fast-medium at the suggestion of his county captain.

The workload was colossal, even for a man of Tate's strapping build and probably cost him some of his long-term effectiveness. Yet his bowling was a model of getting the most from a run up and action. He only ran in eight paces, yet scores of batsmen were beaten for pace by a quicker ball that 'fizzed'; great players too. Tate was responsible for five of Donald Bradman's first thirteen Test dismissals, this at a time when Tate was past his peak and Bradman very much at his.

Tate was a celebrity in an era when such status came less easily than today. His ready smile and big feet, as regularly utilised by Daily Mail cartoonist Tom Webster, ensured that this would be the case and he was endorsed several products, including an energy supplement, chocolate, washing powder and cigarettes.

All of which suggests that Tate was a wealthy man, at least for the period, but that was far from the case. A succession of poor business ventures dogged his personal life and he flitted from pub to pub as landlord after his career ended, without making a success of any of them.

To some extent, history has forgotten him, although Sussex fans voted him their greatest-ever player in 2003. Rightly so, as he took 2784 wickets for them at 18, adding in 21,000 runs at 25 with 23 centuries for good measure. The figures are staggering, but Maurice Tate was far from an ordinary player. His 155 Test wickets came at a time when there were no opportunities to 'boost the stats' against lesser opposition and he should be judged alongside the greats of the game by any standards one cares to mention.

Justin Parkinson has done an admirable job with this book, which is beautifully researched, well laid-out and engagingly written. Too many books recount the major events of a career without helping you to get close to and better understand the subject. By the end of this one, I felt I 'knew' Maurice Tate and felt the better for it.

Once again, Pitch Publishing have come up with a worthy, eminently readable book that deserves to do well.

It certainly gets a Peakfan thumbs-up.

Ashes Match of My Life: Fourteen Ashes Stars Relive Their Greatest Games
Ashes Match of My Life: Fourteen Ashes Stars Relive Their Greatest Games
by Sam Pilger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.55

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine updated version of a modern classic, 11 Aug 2013
I've always been a little wary of books that have effusive praise on the cover.

"One of the greatest ever books on the Ashes" is loud and clear at the bottom of the front cover of this one, from no less a pen than that of the late Frank Keating of The Guardian.

He was right, though. This engaging tome does, very simply, what it says 'on the tin'. Fourteen Ashes 'legends' discuss their greatest match in the oldest international cricket contest and their memories of the tour in which it took place. While I am not sure that Ashley Giles is worthy of the accolade 'legend' (ten wickets at 57 in the series in question, with some staunch batting) the subjects have played their part in ensuring that this remains the greatest, most keenly contested and eagerly awaited battle in the cricket calendar.

So here, side by side, we have Neil Harvey, David Gower, Justin Langer, Bob Willis, Geoff Boycott, Jeff Thomson, Glenn McGrath and more recounting their memories through the able pens of Sam Pilger and Rob Wightman.

Their great skill is to present the pieces in a way in which you feel you are sitting with the subject in your favourite local and listening to their story with a pint in your hand and a hot fire in the grate. While the book has obvious topicality in the middle of an Ashes summer, it will be equally relevant and enjoyable if you are looking at it during the coming winter, perhaps curled up in bed, or at any other time for that matter.

Some of the tales have been told before and there's no great surprise in the matches chosen. Yet, having read on many occasions of the comeback of Geoff Boycott at Trent Bridge in 1977 and how he ran out local favourite Derek Randall before playing two match-winning innings, here it comes across with the freshness of the first time, no mean feat.

Some pieces are better than others, but that is largely down to the personalities of the subject. Thus, Merv Hughes and Jeff Thomson come across perhaps better than Mark Taylor, but giving a favourite in such a book is like choosing your favourite child - impossible.

Once again, Pitch Publishing has come up with the goods and produced a book that will stand the test (pardon the pun) of time and still be worth buying in a second hand shop in fifteen years.While first published in 2006, this revised and expanded version is well worth the money, especially if you missed out the first time.

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