Between Wickets 8

Published: 2019
Pages: 156
Author: Cardwell, Ronald (Editor)
Publisher: Mansfield Publishing
Rating: 4 stars

‘O ye of little faith’ was one of father’s favourite rebukes, and were he still alive he would certainly have had cause to use it on the subject of Between Wickets. It is now two years since issue seven of this nominally twice yearly journal appeared and, despite those involved in its production repeatedly telling me that it was merely ‘delayed’ I had, I have to confess, concluded some months ago that this splendid journal had gone the way of the likes of The Cricket Quarterly and Cricket Lore.

There are however occasions when we are all pleased to be proved wrong and I have no hesitation in admitting that when I was told a couple of weeks ago that my copy of BW8 was ready for me to collect I was delighted, and the 80 mile round trip was well worth the effort. This edition is not, I will concede at the outset, quiet as fascinating for me as BW3, which I reviewed here, but there was much in that one that could have been written to my order and, I suspect, BW8 is likely to appeal more to many of its audience.

The preliminaries out of the way and the first contributor is Michael Knox, who writes on the subject of the two greatest Test matches he has seen. Neither involve England but both feature Australia. Nonetheless even I must concede that they are fair choices. Next up is New Zealander Lynn O’Connell whose mission is to argue that dodgy selection may have robbed the 1937 New Zealanders of the victory against England that, in the event, they had to wait more than 40 more years for. He argues a tricky case very well.

Veteran Aussie writer Mike Coward features next, celebrating the, in 2018, fiftieth anniversary of West Australia’s 1968 Sheffield Shield victory. Coward gives way to Greg Growden, who writes amusingly about his Most Interesting Cricketers.

Gideon Haigh is older than he looks, something I did know, but it is still difficult to believe that it is a quarter of a century since his masterly account of the World Series Cricket schism first appeared. Daniel Brettig celebrates the appearance of a new edition of The Cricket War. Where will that one figure in the table of the best fifty Australian cricket books since 1946? We don’t yet know, as Part 1 of Greg Manning’s article on that subject only deals with numbers 50 to 20.

The Editor and New Zealander Bill Francis then present a tribute to the late, great Bevan Congdon before another Francis, Bruce, then gives his side of the story of his selection for the 1972 Ashes squad. A second piece from Mike Coward, set in the UAE, then gives way to one from an English writer, albeit one currently resident in Northern Ireland.

Richard Lawrence is usually to be found in charge of book reviews for the ACS Journal, but in BW8 he contributes something very different. His subject is an, on the face of the scorecard, relatively uneventful match between Kent and Hampshire in 1921. Inevitably there is an important story that is not apparent from the card, and it is a piece I much enjoyed.

Rob Franks contribution to BW8 is for hard core bibliophiles only, its subject matter being the rarest New Zealand cricket book of them all. Following Franks is Peter Kettle, and a look at the batting methods of some bloke called Bradman, who regular readers may have heard of.

David Jenkins has been published several times by The Cricket Publishing Company, all biographical works on Australian cricketers and three of which Archie and I have reviewed on Cricketweb. He turns up in BW8 as well, but many miles from the country of his birth. Jenkins lives in Dublin now, and contributes an excellent piece on Ireland’s inaugural Test.

The essays conclude with a debutant, Miles Katay, who writes an interesting piece on Cricket as Narrative before BW8 moves onto the important subject of book reviews. As ever BW cannot be accused of brevity here, and more than thirty pages deal with just nine titles. Haigh features twice, once with his anthology from 2017, An Eye on Cricket, and Manning reviews the new edition of The Cricket War, which thus features twice.

The book reviews are followed by a selection of obituaries and, finally, some brief notes on the contributors and that would be that, had I not left the most thought provoking article until last. Sequentially the piece is before even Knox’s, and is by the Editor himself. Cardwell harks back to the much admired Ray Robinson and more particularly something he wrote back in 1980, Chivalry Shows Out. Robinson’s take is concerned with players, and contains some examples of sporting behaviour by cricketers.

It is no surprise to read of moments of exemplary behaviour involving Garry Sobers and Frank Worrell. Less obvious perhaps but still not a surprise is the appearance of Mike Brearley, and the appearance of the names of Rod Marsh and Chappelli do raise an English eyebrow, but they all played the game the way it should be played. Personally I couldn’t help but think of the way a section, depressingly large, of England supporters treated David Warner and Steve Smith in the summer just gone. Sugar Ray would doubtless have disapproved of what caused the hostility, but I fancy he’d have been appalled by the booing – I certainly was, and I hope we do not see its like again.

But I digress. BW8 is highly recommended. In the Southern Hemisphere copies can be sourced Roger Page, and north of the equator from Boundary Books.

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