Monday, 27 April 2020

I Don't Like Cricket...

A Last English Summer: The Biography of a Cricket SeasonA Last English Summer: The Biography of a Cricket Season by Duncan Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like any love affair, my love affair with cricket has its ups-and-downs. But whatever the downs (sledging, booming muzak accompanying every wicket or boundary, the WWF-isation of Twenty20 competitions) I always like to keep up-to-date with the scores. If it's on TV I'll usually watch; live is good but I'm as happy with the highlights on Channel 5 and live radio coverage on TMS. I still go to the odd game, if I can, whether it's village cricket, Test Match or odious ODI. But what I really like is the County Championship. The slow, relaxed (almost narcoleptic) pace of early championship games is about as relaxing and perfect (on a warm, spring day) as sport gets. For me, anyway. So I'm missing it, somewhat, this year, for obvious reasons. And instead of following it, I've been reading about it. Having heard the wonderful Radio Four adaptation of Duncan Hamilton's biography of Neville Cardus last year (and enjoyed it immensely) I thought I'd search out another of Hamilton's books on cricket. And I'm at a loss to know why it's taken me so long. If this isn't the best, most lyrical, poetical and wonderful cricket writing available today then I don't know what is. It's clear Hamilton has taken a leaf out of Cardus's book, perhaps quite literally. The debt is acknowledged early on, but the book is less derived than inspired by the great vein of cricket writing Cardus began. Quite honestly, it's a damn good book whatever it's about although you have to like cricket, I suppose, to get the most out of the prose. Each chapter is ostensibly about a match Hamilton attends in the summer of 2009 but, taking the advice given to Cardus when first sent to Old Trafford by the Manchester Guardian, Hamilton eschews dry statistics (though there is a scorecard included for the nerds!) and gives a flavour of each game, a gem of writing that brings a moment of the game to life so vividly you could almost have been there. Indeed, I was at some of the games described, notably at Scarborough watching the ex-captain of England, Michael Vaughan, being sent to field at third man at each end by the (then) captain of Yorkshire. How are the mighty fallen... If you're missing cricket, read this book. You won't regret it. And rain will never stop play!

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