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on 21 July 2013
Trundlers. Dobbers. Line and length merchants. Medium pace bowlers have gone by many names over the history of the game and have largely had an unworthy press. Everyone loves the mystery and magic of a great spin bowler, as well as the sheer excitement of a fast bowler steaming in off his full run (except for the batsman facing, of course).

Harry Pearson's latest book is a celebration of bowlers whose heyday came in the age of uncovered wickets, when their command of line and length made them the trickiest of all bowlers. You might get down the track to a flighting spinner and hit him on the full toss. You might get respite from a quick bowler who was errant in line and length, but the trundler would always be at you, making you play and getting available assistance from the ball, wicket and weather.

Those uncovered wickets at times rendered them unplayable and Harry Pearson's book is a cavalcade of the great bowlers through the history of the game whose feats have entered into folklore. Thus the book starts with Edward 'Lumpy' Stevens, whose eighteenth century lobs were of such accuracy that they necessitated the introduction of a third, middle stump, where previously a batsman would not have been out when it passed through the gap. The names of the intervening period are also discussed, but the book really comes into its own with the advent of the golden era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

There's George Hirst, whose inswing was so pronounced that at times it was 'like facing a throw coming in from the covers' and Maurice Tate, that most worthy of bowlers from Sussex, not remotely built like an athlete but a man who would willingly bowl all day and find the right line and length every time. Then there's perhaps the greatest of them all, Sydney Barnes, who played occasionally for Lancashire, for England when they made it worth his while and in the leagues until he was old enough to be less of a problem, but never was. When one talented young batsman in the Bradford League said that he intended to play him by blocking the good balls and wait for the bad ones, he was quickly told "You'll wait all year, lad"...

Derbyshire's contribution to the world of fast-medium is humorously described as being 'like Cliff Richard is to pop music; not necessarily the best producer of it, but one of the most persistent'. Such humour abounds in a book that carries the authors trademark bon mots throughout and it is all the better for it. Cliff Gladwin is referred to at some length, 'tiptoeing to the wicket off a short run and bowling feisty in-swing that ninety-nine times in a hundred pitched on a good length" but Les Jackson isn't, on the grounds that he was too quick for consideration in such a book.

Perhaps the greatest post-war exponents were Tom Cartwright and Derek Shackleton, who wheeled away for hundreds of overs every season and snared thousands of victims. They rarely bowled a bad ball and bowled with such economy of effort that each season saw over a thousand overs at an average of two runs per over. All this and little consideration for warm-ups, Shackleton's concession to such things being to comb his hair and smoke a cigarette. Yet in 1962 he bowled 10,303 balls in first-class cricket, the last man to break the five figure barrier and this at the age of 38.

Harry Pearson is an endearing writer and the book is enlivened by his sharp wit and way with words. Anyone who read his affectionate look at league cricket Slipless in Settle will enjoy this one. It does lack a little focus at times and to describe Alan Davidson, among others, as a trundler is stretching a point, while the inclusion of Doug Wright, admittedly a faster than usual leg-spinner, is surprising. There are also factual errors, but if one is reading the book purely for entertainment as opposed to research purposes it does its job.

It didn't win the MCC Book of the Year award for nothing and it is one that I would heartily recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about some of the greats of the game and enjoy a few laughs in doing so.
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on 21 May 2013
This is a fascinating book which brings to life the often-forgotten world of medium-pace bowling. The early chapters, on the likes of Barnes and Lohmann, are particularly interesting, with the author looking in detail at the origins of overarm bowling and the techniques and innovations developed during the Victorian-Edwardian era. My one gripe is that too many bowlers have been lumped in as "trundlers", the title possibly a little pejorative, or at least self-mocking. The spectrum of medium-to-medium-fast bowling is wide and it seems a tad unfair to group world-beating "effort bowlers", such as Maurice Tate and Alec Bedser, with some rather more pedestrian county dobbers. But Harry Pearson is a superb writer who argues the case for rescuing so many bowlers from obscurity. For someone so entertaining, he is also meticulous in his research. A terrific and thought-provoking read.
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At his best Harry Pearson is a brilliant writer. Not many people can claim to have written seminal books about cricket AND football, but Pearson can, with Slipless in Settle and The Far Corner. In these books he wrote with passion and good humour about cricket and football as played in the local leagues of northern England. What perhaps made these books so outstanding is that they were written in such an entertaining way that they could be enjoyed by people who could not give two hoots about our two national games, but were also informative enough to be appreciated by aficionados of cricket and football. Whilst The Trundlers is another excellent book I suspect it will not have quite the same universal appeal. In this latest book Pearson writes about crickets answer to beige, the medium pace bowler. Going as far back as the 1700's he gives us potted biographies of some of cricket's most illustrious medium pacers, like the truculent S.F Barnes and Maurice "Chub" Tate, as well as giving mentions to some that were not quite so illustrious. Pearson also tells us about the different ways that a ball can swing and how the bowlers make this happen; these sections require a little knowledge of cricket, hence my assertion that this book may not be to a non-cricket watchers taste.

Harry Pearson's books are always worth a read and this is no exception. Also, any book that gives a mention to the wonderfully named Brian Brain can't be bad.
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on 11 June 2013
Harry Pearson has written entertainingly about cricket, and will do so again, I hope, but this is a disappointment. Pearson's chosen brief is to deal with "bowlers who delivered the ball at between 55 and 75mph". These he describes variously as "trundlers", "dobbers", "wibbly-wobbly men" and so on. There could be an interesting study done here, perhaps focussing on the development of techniques over time. This isn't it. Rather, what Pearson offers is a series of miniature pen-portraits of a collection of seamers throughout history. But sadly, there's nothing new here, no original research, and no new insight. Any book that suggests that Alan Davidson (a strike bowler who was significantly quicker than 75mph) belongs under the heading of "trundler" has problems. Mentioning the leg-spinner Douglas Wright as a "trundler" because of the speed at which he bowled is just weird. And there are too many factual errors - for example, JJ Ferris was an orthodox left-arm spinner, not a "left-arm seam bowler" or a "left arm wobblyman". It's wrong that Jack Massie "never played cricket again" after being wounded at Gallipoli - indeed, he afterwards opened the bowling at Lord's. It was a later injury to his foot on the Western Front that ended his career in first-class (but not club) cricket. Gary Gilmour isn't "short". I faced Mike Whitney early in his career, and I can promise you that (like Davidson) he was distinctly quicker than 75mph. There is a bizarre digression, a chapter on underam bowlers, some of which seems to be cribbed word-for-word from Gerald Brodribb's book on the subject (which is, in fairness acknowledged - but what is this material doing in this book?). And, towards the end, the book just degenerates into lists and strange digressions (who really cares what Pearson's father thought of Max Walker's intelligence or that Pearson finds Elquemedo Willett's name amusing?). It's whimsical, if whimsy if your thing, but if you have read at least two cricket books before this one, you'll learn nothing here.
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on 12 July 2013
Pearson has the happy knack of producing lots of factual information with wit and charm. His name on the cover is a guarantee of a good read.
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on 20 June 2013
You'll probably enjoy reading this book because Harry Pearson writes well. But it isn't his finest hour and reads like a publisher's attempt to churn out another book for a profitable author.
The biggest problem is lack of focus. "Trundler" and "dobber" are used time and again to define the bowlers covered by the book, yet many of those you'll read about were far too quick to fit that description even if they weren't truly "fast". Alan Davidson, Chris Old, Ken Higgs? I guess "The Fast-Mediumers" isn't a very marketable title.
It's all pleasantly done, but tends to wander off topic - for some reason there's even a chapter on underarm lob bowling - and is rather lazy in its analysis. "Where have all the trundlers gone?" is the lament in the closing pages. Well, using the author's broad definition, they're alive and well in just about every county side.
Worst of all, in a book that purports to be a general survey of its subject, there's no index. So if you want to look up Jeremy Coney, you can't.
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on 20 August 2013
My review title is actually a quote from the book, so I don't feel too guilty about pinching it, but I think Harry Pearson realised from the 'start of play' that he was setting himself a huge target, in trying to make an interesting and amusing story about the forgotten men of cricket - the medium pacers, or eponymous "trundlers". Inevitably perhaps, what he has produced is mildly diverting, but not exactly a roller-coaster read. In fact the ups and downs of the tale come more from whatever level the bowler's arm comes over at (or under) rather than the actual subject matter as the book takes us from early ball-rollers, through the round-armers to the great 'dobbers' of the post-war years. Pearson is right that pacemen and spinners get all the attention in cricket literature, but there is a reason for that - their stories and exploits are more dramatic/eccentric generally, and sadly this book falls well short of the author's other forays into cricket writing.
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on 27 May 2013
Harry Pearson does it again with a read as good as Slipless In Settle - there is no higher praise. With his trademark incisive analysis and boundless affection for his subject, Harry turns the spotlight on an undeservedly ignored breed of cricketer.
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on 19 September 2014
Very funny, great read for any cricket fan
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on 7 February 2016
Excellent read, quick delivery.
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