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Masterly Batting: 100 Great Test Centuries Hardcover – 1 Oct 2013
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Top customer reviews
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.
"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.
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.
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The start of the book was a little dull with a lengthy description of the methodology used to decide what qualified as one...Read more