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Midlands cricket fan "@Peakfan Blog" (Scotland)

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Summer's Crown: The Story of Cricket's County Championship
Summer's Crown: The Story of Cricket's County Championship
by Stephen Chalke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, by any standard, 12 April 2015
As regular readers of my blog will know, I am parochial when it comes to my cricket. Yes, I am a cricket fan per se, and will happily watch people playing it on a beach, but county cricket is my thing. I follow England, but given the choice between a strong Derbyshire or national side, I will take my county every time, thank you.

I still regard the County Championship as THE competition and, that being the case, I was always likely to enjoy this book by Stephen Chalke, one of my favourite cricket writers, on its history from its origins in the late nineteenth century.

Yet to say that I like this book in no way does it justice. Indeed, even in the face of tough opposition from some of the author's other work, this is a tour de force. Seriously, it is that good.

The only negative I could think of is that reading this in bed will leave you in danger of looking like Mike Gatting after Malcolm Marshall rearranged his nose in the Caribbean a few years back. It is a weighty tome, but it could not have been done in such detail in any other way. It is lavishly illustrated, with many photographs I have never seen before, such as that of William Whysall's funeral cortege going through Mansfield, where I went to school. The photographs of old grounds and players are well researched and complement the text well and the overriding feel of the book is one of quality.

The text? As I expected it is outstanding, coupling relevant facts from the decades and years in question, with just the right number of anecdotes to keep it light and interesting, as well as informative. I have been reading cricket books for closer to fifty years than forty, yet came across facts and stories that I had never seen before. Some of these stories can only have been unearthed by someone who has chatted to old cricketers, as they are some way removed from the formulaic rehashing of old tales picked up from numerous books over the years. The author's love of cricketers, as well as cricket, shines through and makes every turn of the page a joy.

The statistics are sufficiently detailed and the layout of the book is attractive. A big plus is the font size, perfect for those, like me, whose vision is some way removed from being 20/20 and who might still struggle if they ate industrial quantities of carrots.

I have not yet finished it, but know that as soon as I do I will want to start again, probably picking up something that I missed the first time around. At £20 it isn't the cheapest book on the shelves, but given its quality it is actually very good value. As we embark on another season of county cricket, this is a book that you could keep in your match day bag, to bring out when the weather is inclement and you need something worthwhile to help you pass the time.

Of all the cricket books I have read over the years, this is probably my favourite. Seriously, it is that good, so do yourself a favour and buy one while stocks last.

Be assured, this one is set for 'classic' status.

Frith's Encounters
Frith's Encounters
by David Frith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.79

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great thrills of my time in writing my blog on ..., 7 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Frith's Encounters (Hardcover)
One of the great thrills of my time in writing my blog on Derbyshire cricket has been the contact it has brought with former players. Having spent the best part of fifty years in watching, admiring and, in my callow youth, idolising them, it is a pleasure to now speak to them and listen to their wonderful stories of lives in cricket.

I am fortunate in that I've yet to meet one who was less than friendly, wasn't supportive of what I was doing nor keen to be involved. I am grateful to all of them.

David Frith has been meeting, interviewing and acquiring collections of memorabilia from cricketers for several decades. He is up there among my favourite half-dozen cricket writers and has produced some excellent work, especially on cricket and cricketers prior to the onset of the last world war. His Bodyline Autopsy remains one of my favourites on the game.

This book is a collection of articles that first appeared in The Wisden Cricketer and The Cricketer between 2007 and 2012. There are seven new pieces and the articles are, as is always the case with anything by the author, a delight. The names roll across the pages like a Who's Who of the game. Bowes, Cowdrey, Hutton, Larwood, Miller, O'Reilly, Rhodes...to have made the acquaintance of such people must have been a joy.

Or was it? Some of them appeared to have been awkward, a few cantankerous and a small minority worth neither time nor effort. Depending on your stance on the matter, the author's candour in reporting this, warts and all, is either refreshing or, at times, a little painful.

This is especially so in the first chapter, which is a run through those not quite worthy of making the book's final cut. There is an element of what appears to be score-settling in a couple of cases, while the author's honesty extends to remembering one former Australian hero for 'his pugnacious attitude and, alas, bad breath'. Whether the reader needs to know such things is open to debate; less so is Mr Frith's unerring ability to paint tiny, colourful vignettes that bring the subject to life.

As he says within the text, in shaking the hand of Wilfred Rhodes, one is a handshake away from W.G. Grace - and dismissed him, several times. In reading such a book by David Frith, one is immediately in the company of their greatness and all the better for it.

If you have the back copies of the magazines then you have much of what is here, though the convenience of them all in one nicely produced volume cannot be overstated. The new pieces, on the likes of David Bairstow, Tony Greig and Peter Roebuck are honest, even if the latter smacks somewhat of being wise after the event.

All in all it is a fine purchase. Some parts you will find controversial, but the great thing about the author is that he doesn't dodge subjects and it makes the reading far better than more anodyne, readily available material would have been.

A worthy Christmas purchase? Definitely.

Frith's Encounters is written by David Frith and published by Von Krumm Publishing. It is available through Amazon, priced £13.49 and from all good book shops.

Coin Dozer
Coin Dozer
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Good fun, 1 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Coin Dozer (App)
Addictive...just good fun. Have to wait for coins to regenerate

Mini Pets
Mini Pets
Price: £0.00

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid!, 1 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Mini Pets (App)
Rubbish..ok for very young but too many instructions for them

Dead Simple (Roy Grace series Book 1)
Dead Simple (Roy Grace series Book 1)
Price: £0.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!, 29 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great story well written. Highly recommended with lots of twists

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: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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!

Dominion Board Game
Dominion Board Game
Offered by CJ-MaX
Price: £44.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably addictive game, 19 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dominion Board Game (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
Price: £20.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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

6 of 6 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.

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