ico-h1 CRICKET BOOKS

County Cricket Matters Issue 4

Published: 2020
Pages: 36
Author: Chave, Annie (Editor)
Publisher: County Cricket Matters
Rating: 5 stars

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When I began my review of the third edition of County Cricket Matters (CCM) I posed the question as to whether it is too soon to suggest that  has become an established part of our summer game?

I expressed the view then that perhaps it was a little too early to say, and in that I still believe I was right, but I would like to think now that it has as, when this fourth and latest copy arrived, it genuinely felt like an old friend was dropping in, something of an unusual experience in itself in recent months.

Of course no one and nothing has had things easy this year, and most of the old certainties have been undermined, but the reality is that those of us who love county cricket have been fearing the worst for some time. The future of English domestic cricket is one of those difficult subjects that is not always easy to think about. It helps greatly when thoughts can be shared with kindred spirits.

But that is enough of my musings. What is in CCM this time around? Star billing is Annie Chave’s interview with David Gower. Why is it that Gower manages to sound so damned reasonable even when he expresses views that you don’t share? No doubt in part that is because he is a genuinely pleasant bloke, as well as a knowledgable and articulate one. Now that he is at a bit of a loose end following that perverse decision from Sky last year he could do a lot worse than consider a career in politics.

There are two other interviews, one with another England cricketer, and the other with Roy Stride, a man I have to confess I had never knowingly heard of before reading CCM4. He is the frontman of what my late father would have mockingly described as a modern beat combo, but whilst the old man might not have much enjoyed Roy’s music he would have nodded sagely at the views on cricket that are expressed out in his conversation with Annie.

Jack Russell is interviewed by Peter Moore, and comes out with a classic line on the subject of his post cricket occupation; Well, I thought, if Rembrandt can do it then why can’t I? an observation which, to start with, had me laughing out loud. It still brings a smile to my face, but with time has come the realisation that that sort of attitude is precisely why he turned out to be such an outstanding cricketer before he discovered his second calling as an artist.

Naturally this issue of CCM contains some examples of what are best described as historical reflections. Paul Edwards tells us that he first went to a county match as long ago as 1965, and his piece goes on to articulate the reasons for his love of cricket. A little younger is Mark Sands, who pays homage to the Playfair Cricket Annual, a hardy annual that he first acquired in 1980, by which time it was already 32 editions old. Let us hope it will continue for many years to come. Chris Baker also goes back in time, in his case to a time after Edwards but before Sands, when he fell for cricket. He cleverly contrasts what we had then with what he found, thirty years of family and employment distractions later, was going on when he rediscovered the world of county cricket.

There is more of the same from a couple of Yorkshire folk, Sharron Webster and Jonathan Doidge. Sharron continues the deeply personal memoir of the game and her family that she began in CCM3. For her story the Yorkshire aspect is perhaps incidental to the main theme, whereas for broadcaster Doidge it is front and centre of his look back at the time of the Bay City Rollers and his involvement in cricket since then.

Rob Kelly wrote one of the best cricket books of 2018, Hobbsy, a biography of the Essex, England and, latterly, Glamorgan leg spinner. To CCM4 he contributes a short profile of his man which should encourage readers of the issue to snap up the last few copies of a book which really is required reading for aficionados of county cricket in the era in which Hobbs played.

As a Lancastrian I read Dan Whiting’s look at county rivalries with particular interest. Other than the classic ‘Roses’ encounters do other neighbouring counties feel as strongly about their local ‘derbies’ as those of us from either side of the Pennines? It is not a question to which I had previously given a great deal of thought.

One piece, by Ed Bayliss, sees CCM moving in a slightly different direction by covering a statistical issue, and a very relevant one too. How does a change of county affect a batsman’s average? Looking at recent seasons Bayliss examines the contrasting fortunes of those who have switched employer, ranging from Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s +16, to Nick Compton’s -25.

Of course the impact of COVID-19 cannot be ignored, and Richard Clark* looks at the women’s county game and, on a rather different note James Mettyear, man of Sussex, bases his contribution on a story (entirely free of any breaches of the Coronovirus Act 2020) of how he managed to catch a glimpse of some live county cricket in this strangest of summers.

The first book of Richard Clarke*, Last Wicket Stand, has just been published by Pitch. Based on the ‘taster’ that he contributes to CCM4 it should prove an interesting read and,for CCM regulars, right up their proverbial street. The book is written against a backdrop of following Essex around the country for their successful 2019 Championship campaign, in the course of which Clarke has gathered his thoughts on life and cricket.

For light relief, but with a dark touch, there is a continuation of Derek Payne’s revelations from the inner sanctum of the ECB, and two other regulars are Craig Tranter’s quiz, and a crossword contributed by Princely Entry. As to the quiz I got question one right in a heartbeat, but after that my performance was patchy to the say the least. The crossword on the other hand I have yet to attempt. It looks to me like a real challenge and is one which, in the hope I may see either or both of my brothers in law at Christmas, I shall defer proper consideration of until then.

So five stars again for CCM4, in part for the idea and the principles on which it is founded, but also because without exception the various features which it contains are all well worth reading.

County Cricket Matters costs £2.50 together with £1.50 UK postage and packing and can be purchased here

*I had to do a double take, but there are definitely two Richard Clark(e)s

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