10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2013
I came to this excellent book with some trepidation as it was given to me as a birthday present and my initial thoughts were "Oh no not another cricket book" - like the 'History of West Indian Cricket' given to me by my parents when I was 17.
It turns out I had nothing to worry about. This book has all the virtues: a wonderful premise "What are the best 100 centuries ever?", a ticklish conundrum at its heart "What criteria shall we use to measure the innings against?" - this makes fascinating reading at the start of the book - and last but not least, the book features strong and engaging writing throughout from an array of contributors at the top of their game.
In other words the subject is inherently gripping and the bold step of using a panoply of writers some of whom such as Derek Pringle were actually at the other end of the crease as history was made, has paid off handsomely. Why? Because this eclectic approach means each essay is an individually crafted thing often with an angle and a style of its own which always makes for an engrossing and varied read. I say "always" a good read because it's not a book you need to sit down and read from start to finish, though you can if you like, like one of those top 100 TV programmes, culminating in the greatest ton of them all.
But the format of short essays also lends itself most agreeably to that time spent in the smallest of rooms where the greatest of thoughts often occur. Indeed, the varied lengths of the essays accommodate the swiftest of visits as well as those more leisurely appointments.
If you enjoy cricket any shape or form, I can recommend this book most heartily.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2013
Having moved to a small English village some 12 years ago, I had my first encounter with cricket! The village is very passionate about the game and has two pretty good teams. I have have been learning the ins and outs (!) and bought this book as it looked really interesting and I thought I might learn something more .. Anyway, to the book itself..
"Masterly Batting by Patrick Ferriday and Dave Wilson is subtitled '100 Great Test Centuries', though once you start reading it quickly becomes apparent that it's intended to be the greatest. This is confirmed by the section entitled Measuring Stick, which details ten categories on which each innings is assessed. The actual algorithm isn't shown, though there is quite a lot of detail in the discussion of each category, which include match impact, bowling attack and conditions.
But the main part of this book is the articles on each innings chosen for the top 100. The first part lists the innings ranked 51-100 and has just a page on each, the second covers innings 26-50 and no byline is shown for those, however there's a section at the back which lists each author's work. As Eric D Morley would say, the innings are presented in reverse order. There are no photos, but that doesn't really detract from it. Also there's no index or contents, though the latter would act as a spoiler.
The most significant section is entitled "Pinnacle" and has longer pieces (six or seven pages) on the top 25 innings, each listing the author. SOme of my favourite cricket writers are featured, such as David Frith (writing on Neil Harvey) and Stephen Chalke (Herbert Sutcliffe). Those batsman will show that all eras are represented, again there's a table at the back showing how many come from each era, which cover the time span 1884-2012. That section at the back also lists which grounds are most featured, which countries and also the most successful batsmen (not too suprisingly Bradman and Lara are tops).
The writing is great, really brings to life each innings, especially in the final section, though there are many different styles (about a dozen or so different writers) which I must admit don't all appeal to me, but that's just personal taste.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2014
The depth of research that lies behind recent publications is astonishing. It all started with cricinfo creating a full database of Test matches.
The authors have developed a scientific approach to ranking Test match centuries and as fas as I can tell kept personal bias out of it. It is gratifying to see so many Asian centuries given pride of place. I find myself in agreement at seeing Tendulkar figure so infrequently. He's a record chaser. What I'm surprised about is certain omissions: Compton's 184 in 1948 against Bradman's might bowling attack, Majid Khan's 110 against Australia in 1980, Hutton's 156 not out against Australika in 1950/51 and SImpson's knock of the same score in the next Test, Gower's 153 against West Indies in 1981.
I was also surprised that Laxman's 281, Botham's 149 not out and Hanif Mohammed's 337 did not figure higher. Arguably, I'm not an Indian I hasten to add, Laxman's is the best of the lot.
Still, it gets the juices flowing. A good book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2014
I picked up Masterly Batting: 100 Great Test Centuries about a month back, and finished reading it last night. I bought it expecting - and hoping - for a breakdown of Test feats with the willow that was full of refreshing whimsy, insightful insight, and flowering prose of Cardusesque qualities, full of sepia-toned reflections of the great towering figures of the past: Compton, Bradman, Grace, Bannerman, Trumper et al. For recentism, I figured they might go as far as to include Viv Richards or Gavaskar, Border or perhaps Gower or Cowdrey.
Turns out I was partly wrong, though not to the detriment of the book. I did not expect the book to exclude feats of the 1990s and 2000s simply because I thought there were no such feats to speak of - on the contrary, some of the most famous lie in these decades - but I did expect the book to adhere to a seemingly predominant conservative trend of rose-tinted 'to-the-rear' viewing that is found in most cricket history books.
What I found instead was a bar-fly's debate with a group of informed friends on what was the best one-hundred centuries ever scored, with a Cambridge-scholar's mathematical framework doing most of the leg work to calculate their value based on a feat of statistical wizardry that took into account the series, the year, the opposition, injury, weather, pitch, captaincy, form, age, impact on the game, on the team, on the career of all players involved; somehow all of this was broken down into numbers and totalled into a score, and thus the innings were ranked. Though the first chapter - which deals with this calculation - is a bit of a sleeping pill for all those who do not hold the relevant post-grad degree, the writers anticipate critical broadsides levelled at them by agreeing that a) it is an overly quantitative analysis of a largely qualitative concept, and b) that the greatest knocks ever made were not necessarily centuries.
What I also found, contrary to my expectations, was that there was little common thread running through the essays. They were written by numerous people, including former players, and one was written by the batsman himself! Though plenty of evocative, Dickensian prose intertwined many of the essays, others were decidedly Jack Hobbs-like: knowledgeable, written by someone who went there and did it, but by no means gifted with the pen and the ink. One, on a Pietersen innings, was so distastefully filled with bold-type phrases like BOOF and SLAM that I may as well have been reading a Batman comic strip. KP may as well have written it. Suffice to say the style of writing varied greatly through the essays, though none (okay, perhaps the Pietersen one) were actually bad.
There are some gems, and some lovely sentiments and lessons that can be learned from this publication - I shall cease calling it a book, because it is not a book, it's an edited collection of essays - and I'm glad I read it. The vast, vast majority of the centuries included were ones by players that I had heard of, almost all bar a couple of early South African Test crickets, however I did not know all the individual centuries by rote and it was a joy to learn of some of the hundreds made by the great players of the past. The idiosyncrasies of the mathematical calculation systems meant that those hundreds for which a player is most known were not necessarily the hundreds that were brought to light by the equations. Not all were made by players who went on to have successful careers, neither. The weight allotted to opposition, percentage of team innings, and scoring speed, throw up some interesting centuries in the top ten - mostly against the West Indies of the '70s and '80s - and the number one century I did not expect. I bet you can't guess what it would be.
The only thing it really lacks is pictures. There is not one image in the piece. For all the joy brought by connecting the reader with these hundreds, many of which may be before his time, out of his geography, or simply out of his knowledge for whatever reason, barred to him by the passage of time, language, or team loyalty - for all this, there are no visual aids to enrich our learning. Pictures have a way of truly connecting us for the first time with that which we have not seen before. When we remember centuries, we remember images of them happening. For whatever reason, be it copyright, cost, or simply the thought not occurring or the image not existing, only the words of these hundreds, be they remembered by many or only by few or none, are communicated to us. The image remains only imagined.