I've always been a little wary of books that have effusive praise on the cover.
"One of the greatest ever books on the Ashes" is loud and clear at the bottom of the front cover of this one, from no less a pen than that of the late Frank Keating of The Guardian.
He was right, though. This engaging tome does, very simply, what it says 'on the tin'. Fourteen Ashes 'legends' discuss their greatest match in the oldest international cricket contest and their memories of the tour in which it took place. While I am not sure that Ashley Giles is worthy of the accolade 'legend' (ten wickets at 57 in the series in question, with some staunch batting) the subjects have played their part in ensuring that this remains the greatest, most keenly contested and eagerly awaited battle in the cricket calendar.
So here, side by side, we have Neil Harvey, David Gower, Justin Langer, Bob Willis, Geoff Boycott, Jeff Thomson, Glenn McGrath and more recounting their memories through the able pens of Sam Pilger and Rob Wightman.
Their great skill is to present the pieces in a way in which you feel you are sitting with the subject in your favourite local and listening to their story with a pint in your hand and a hot fire in the grate. While the book has obvious topicality in the middle of an Ashes summer, it will be equally relevant and enjoyable if you are looking at it during the coming winter, perhaps curled up in bed, or at any other time for that matter.
Some of the tales have been told before and there's no great surprise in the matches chosen. Yet, having read on many occasions of the comeback of Geoff Boycott at Trent Bridge in 1977 and how he ran out local favourite Derek Randall before playing two match-winning innings, here it comes across with the freshness of the first time, no mean feat.
Some pieces are better than others, but that is largely down to the personalities of the subject. Thus, Merv Hughes and Jeff Thomson come across perhaps better than Mark Taylor, but giving a favourite in such a book is like choosing your favourite child - impossible.
Once again, Pitch Publishing has come up with the goods and produced a book that will stand the test (pardon the pun) of time and still be worth buying in a second hand shop in fifteen years.While first published in 2006, this revised and expanded version is well worth the money, especially if you missed out the first time.