Cricket’s Pure PleasureMartin Chandler |
Author: Cawkwell, Tim
Publisher: Sforzinda Books
Rating: 3 stars
There are a few cricket books that are devoted to a single match. Off hand I can think of a handful of Test matches, and a couple of County Championship matches. One of the latter is mentioned by Cawkwell here, that being the famous victory that Hampshire pulled off against Warwickshire in 1922 after being dismissed for 15 in their first innings. That one is a proper hard back book. The other I have in mind is a 16 page booklet by Peter Barnsley on a Worcestershire v Kent match in 1909 made famous by a tenth wicket stand of 235 between Kent’s Frank Woolley and Arthur Fielder. Cricket’s Pure Pleasure concerns the match at Lord’s last September during the course of which Yorkshire, despite being defeated by their closest rivals Middlesex over the four days, clinched their second successive Championship.
The background to the book is curious. Cawkwell is an expert on the subject of the cinema. He is clearly a cricket lover as well, but is honest enough to admit that only once before, at the Mumbai Test in 2006, had he sat through an entire First Class match. He lives in a Minor County, Norfolk, and it is not clear whether he follows a particular First Class county, be it Yorkshire, Middlesex or one of the other sixteen.
This remarkable match began with Ryan Sidebottom taking a triple wicket maiden. Unfortunately for him Cawkwell missed that, and he arrived just in time for the fall of the fourth Middlesex wicket at 14. The home side limped along to 106 and when a last wicket partnership of 78 between pace bowlers Sidebottom and Jack Brooks took the lead to 193 early on the second day the match seemed destined to be a routine victory by the Yorkshiremen. They had become uncatchable, and therefore Champions, at exactly 3.06pm on the first day.
Middlesex weren’t about to lie down and die however. Nick Compton batted for more than six hours for 149, and he was seventh out at 380. The eighth wicket then put on 47 more before James Harris and number ten Toby Roland-Jones added another 146 for the ninth wicket. Home skipper James Franklin closing the innings as soon as Roland-Jones completed a century, his first in the First Class game. Yorkshire had the whole of the final day to score 381. In the event they were shot out for 134, and without Alex Lees 62 the margin of victory would have been even more than the 246 it eventually was – and that for a side who had been dismissed shortly after lunch on the first day.
Cawkwell tells the story of the match from his own perspective. There is no great technical analysis, nor any pen portraits of the combatants, just a description of the very great pleasure he took from watching a fascinating game of four day cricket unfold. There is the occasional digression during the match, usually relating to some aspect of Cawkwell’s passion for the cinema, but nothing too left field, until right at the end when he begins a cricketing analysis of Jeremy Bentham’s pleasure principle. Cricket’s Pure Pleasure probably isn’t the time or the place for that, but it is an interesting subject and certainly one worth returning to in the future.
Many of the 58 pages are taken up with photographs, all taken by Cawkwell himself. In that respect he is no Patrick Eagar, but then only a handful have ever even been close. As it is there is a particularly good shot of Roland-Jones bowling to a field with four slips and two gullys, spoiled slightly only by Cawkwell not telling us where the one Middlesex fielder not in shot is stood. The book closes with a single monochrome image of Father Time. I wouldn’t pretend to know anything about photography, and there may be many aspects of that one an expert would criticise, but I find it both striking and atmospheric.
To use a phrase I learnt from Archie Mac Cricket’s Pure Pleasure does not outstay its welcome, and indeed can be read in full in a tea interval. Whether too many will want to shell out £8.90 for the book I am not entirely convinced, but it is an interesting and unusual title and whilst I can’t see it being long listed for too many awards Cawkwell has every reason to take pride in his first cricketing publication. I hope it is not his last.