Cricket on the Edge

Published: 2020
Pages: 218
Author: Cawkwell, Tim
Publisher: Sforzinda Books
Rating: 4 stars

I remember 1975 very well. The first cricket world cup, The Prudential Trophy as it was known, was due to be played. England were bound to win, or so we all thought. In fact we didn’t win it, nor the next one, nor any of the following ten and we had long since given up expecting to. Until 2019 that is when, finally, in one of the most dramatic cricket matches ever seen, the cup came home to England at last.

To go with the World Cup we had an Ashes series. It was perhaps not of the quality of 1981 or 2005, but it was a fine contest nonetheless, and Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley will live as long in the memory as long as the deeds of Ian Botham and Bob Willis at the same ground in 1981, and of Andrew Flintoff and the rest of Michael Vaughan’s team in 2005.

Not that those were the only highlights of a glorious summer. Somerset won the last, for now, ‘proper’ fifty over final at Lord’s. Essex won the Blast, and Lancashire carried all before them in the Second Division of the County Championship. Sadly we could not have everything, as Marcus Trescothick did not score a century to enable Somerset to be crowned County Champions for the first time, but Essex were worthy winners nonetheless.

Last summer’s cricket was a welcome distraction from another issue that dominated our lives, that being the total Horlicks that both sides of the Brexit imbroglio made of it – surely politics has never been done quite so badly? I mention the issue because of the very clever analysis of the situation in the prelude to Tim Cawkwell’s splendid book. This year of course the situation is rather different. We have no Brexit, although even that would certainly have been better than the current ‘unpleasantness’ that sees the UK and much of the rest of the globe in lockdown, and the prospect of no cricket at all being played in these islands this summer, something that has not happened since the game was first played, back in Medieval times.

I have already relived the summer of 2019 once, through the eyes of Ben Stokes in this one. That view is one from a grandstand seat of course but, with plenty of time on my hands this summer that would otherwise have been watching live cricket I have enjoyed reading about the 2019 international summer again, this time from the perspective of the onlooker.

I have reviewed each of Cawkwell’s three previous books, here, here and here. It is hardly surprising that his writing ambitions have broadened year on year. Nor, although he was not without writing experience when he set out on this journey, is it unexpected that the results of his labours have grown more satisfying to his reader with each succeeding year.

Hitherto Cawkwell’s books have dealt with the County Championship, and indeed that is a large part of their appeal. Thus whilst I enjoyed Cawkwell’s take on the World Cup and the Ashes the reminders of the domestic season, which crop up from time to time throughout the book, were my favourite passages. In fact Cawkwell seems to have cornered the market in that particular department and I would certainly put his name forward for a slot in a future edition of my favourite current cricketing periodical, County Cricket Matters.

There is something rather idiosyncratic about the way Tim Cawkwell writes about cricket, the more so as he justifiably gains in confidence with each new book. There is the odd glimpse towards his own life, and he is not frightened to, at times, look at his subject in a wider context, his thoughts on the Brexit issue being the most obvious manifestation of that, but not the only one.

What you don’t get from Cawkwell however is anything too opinionated. He is certainly a man who looks at things in the round and the views that he expresses in his concluding chapter are certainly food for thought. Like many of us Cawkwell is a great lover of county cricket and he may well have had his own knee jerk reaction the ‘The Hundred’ and the pushing out to the margins of the season of our beloved County Championship. If he did then, unlike some of us, he did stop and think that there must be another side to the argument and, having worked out what it is, he goes on to explain that even if he does not really like it.

Of course Cricket on the Edge was completed before life around the world changed so dramatically for all of us, but there is plenty here to demonstrate that Cawkwell is a true cricket lover albeit, importantly, not one who is unable to see the bigger picture. Whether we do see any cricket at the fag end of the 2020 season or not I would certainly like to read his thoughts again come September, and hope very much that the editor of the aforesaid County Cricket Matters is reading this review.

Like its three predecessors Cricket on the Edge is self-published although someone has certainly added a bit of polish to the finished product. Reading the acknowledgments I suspect that someone may be Mrs Cawkwell. Once more there are plenty of photographs, not always brilliantly reproduced, but interesting nonetheless. The book closes with the best of them, an full page shot showing three Essex slip fielders and three idle helmets. Not far behind however is a snap from the family album. In February of last year Cawkwell lost his father, who had reached the grand old age of 99. Alongside a classic George Beldam photograph of FS Jackson jumping out to drive we see the teenaged Cawkwell senior playing the same shot – a wonderful tribute.

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