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5.0 out of 5 stars An affectionate take on an under told story, 31 Aug 2013
This review is from: Then Came Massacre: The Story of Maurice Tate, Cricket's Smiling Destroyer (Hardcover)
Maurice Tate is one of the great players. He made his Test debut in the same Test as Herbert Sutcliffe. He was the first man to dismiss Donald Bradman in Test cricket. He claimed 2784 first class wickets at an average of 18 and scored over 20,000 first class runs. In the mid 1920s he was universally considered to be the best bowler in England claiming over 200 first class wickets two seasons in succession. He claimed 155 Test wickets and scored a Test match hundred. Despite this record of success he is almost unheard of by most cricket fans. A new book by Justin Parkinson hopes to put that right.

"Then Came Massacre" is an affectionate portrait of Tate by a Sussex fan and we get an insight into Maurice Tate the person as well as the bowler. Tate made his first class debut at the age of 17 for Sussex but that is not where the cricketing story begins for the Tate family. Maurice's father Fred was a professional cricketer who become infamous in his only Test where he dropped a catch and was the last man out in a close run chase. Many blamed Fred for the loss of that game in 1902, most notably himself. It is suggested at the time that he said his boy would put things right, and Maurice certainly did.

As with any great cricketers biography it is all too easy to fall into an exercise of just listing numbers of wickets and runs scored, and Parkinson is careful not to enter this trap. While there is plenty of facts and figures to keep the cricket nerd happy these are always in context and aide in telling the narrative of Tate's career. We learn of his family life before and during his cricket career and how this shaped him as a man. We are told he endured the wrath of the Essex captain, JWHT Douglas, when he returned home early from a coaching job in South Africa that Douglas had secured for him. For a professional to so risk the wrath of a esteemed amateur says a lot about the character of Tate. It is always interesting to get an examination of the politics that the Amateur/Professional divide created in cricket.

The turning point in Tate's career from county journeyman to world class performer came when he made the decision to change his bowling style from off spin to pace. There are a few stories explored in this book, but without question one of those that had the biggest part to play in the decision and Tate's subsequent career path was his captain at Sussex, AER Gilligan. The change began in 1922 and was fully formed by the start of the next season where no took more wickets in first class cricket than Tate.

This book has an excellent pace to it and covers the key events in Tate's life and his career. Before I picked it up to read it I had heard of Maurice Tate but had no idea how big a part he played in cricket at this time. He was on the bodyline tour, be played with and against some of the greatest players of all time and was considered by them to be amongst their number. For a modern take on a criminally under told story Parkinson's book is a must read.
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