ico-h1 CRICKET BOOKS

Born in Bolton

Published: 2020
Pages: 127
Author: Ogden, Geoff
Publisher: Max Books
Rating: 3.5 stars

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There have been at least 38 men who have appeared in First Class cricket who were born in Bolton, a town in central Lancashire around 15 miles north west of Manchester that has, currently, a population of just under 200,000. The first, Walter Hardcastle, first appeared as long ago as 1869 and the most recent, the 23 year old Lancashire all-rounder Josh Bohannon, made his debut in August 2018.

Of the 38 all bar seven played their First Class cricket for Lancashire, and a third of them played eight or fewer times. On the other hand a dozen have played Test cricket and another, leg spinner Matt Parkinson, is also an international. The most famous of all is one of the few who did not play his county cricket for Lancashire, Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson, and the other Test players are Dick Barlow, Walter Brearley, Bill Farrimond, Dick Tyldesley, Charles Hallows, Dick Pollard, Roy Tattersall, Mike Watkinson, Saj Mahmood and Haseeb Hameed who all played for England and last, but by no means least, left arm pace bowler Alf Hall who took forty wickets in seven Test appearances between 1922 and 1931.

Born in Bolton is, unsurprisingly, a set of pen portraits of those 38 players. Helpfully there is also some context by way of a useful introduction from author Ogden, who was no mean player himself at club level, and a couple of short essays from David Kaye and Jack Williams looking at the history of the game in the Bolton area.

Putting together collections of short pen portraits is never easy. In the case of the bigger names most have been written about extensively in the past and it is difficult with just a few hundred words available to persuade those who are familiar with the subject to invest. That is all very well with books that are intended to appeal to a mass audience and provide an introduction to their subject but much more difficult with a book such as this whose target audience is, essentially, a niche one.

Ogden is perhaps fortunate therefore that not many of those that he deals with have been written about extensively before. There is a biography of Jack bond and of Dick Barlow but that pair apart only Frank Tyson and Barlow again have written autobiographies. Of the others there is not a great deal to be found elsewhere and if nothing else Ogden makes the point once more that for anybody looking to write a biography of an interesting cricketer from days gone by that the mercurial Walter Brearley would be a fascinating subject.

Some of the more obscure subjects, particularly the ancients, are dealt with in no more than a couple of hundred words and the biographies portraits tend towards a straight forward account of the individual’s cricket career but some insights are provided and, particularly with those who the author knew and has seen play his writing becomes more rounded. There are also a number of illustrations in both colour and black and white and in particular a splendid head and shoulders snap of a relaxed ‘Typhoon’ which I had not previously seen.

Two of the essays that are particularly impressive and, perhaps inevitably therefore, are also two of the longer ones are on Duncan Worsley and Hameed. Worsley was and is a great friend of Ogden and briefly promised much for Lancashire in my very earliest days of following the Red Rose and I enjoyed learning more about his life in and outside the game. As for Hameed he is the great enigma for all Lancastrians and Ogden’s feelings about him are shared by all of us, those being an inability to understand why such a prodigious talent failed to fully flower at Old Trafford, and the hope that Nottinghamshire somehow manage to provide the spark that will see him restored to the top of the England batting order where he briefly looked so at home in India in 2016/17.

In conclusion I have to say that I much enjoyed reading Born in Bolton, although I have to concede that as a Lancastrian I was probably always going to. In terms of attributing a rating to it I nonetheless believe it is certainly worth the 3.5 stars I have given it on any level, but for fellow Lancastrians it is certainly a notch or two higher. The book is available directly from publishers Max Books and In addition to a standard edition at £9.95 inclusive of UK postage there is also a limited edition of 30 copies signed by seven of those featured, including Hameed,  at £25 inclusive.    

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