Ashes Test Matches at Emirates Old Trafford

Published: 2023
Pages: 40
Author: Young, David and Masey, David and Lorimer, Malcolm
Publisher: Lancashire Heritage Group
Rating: 3.5 stars

The problem with books of cricket statistics is that they are, inevitably, out of date as soon as they appear, and it is no surprise that the internet’s ability to update records in real time has hugely reduced the demand for books of that type.

Bearing that is mind I can see that Max Books would have had a tricky decision with this one, which in large part is a collection of cricket statistics. Unlike most such books however this one did have the chance to be guaranteed to be up to date for at least four years.

Had this survey been held back for another month that would have been the case, but the lure of publication in advance of this year’s Ashes Test was too strong so, come the evening of Sunday July 23 this one will be out of date, but then I don’t suppose that in the scheme of things that will matter all that much.

Statistics that are devoted to a single ground, fixture or other specific criteria are not so easily found as general records, so books such as this one are always valuable, but just to make sure the book appeals beyond the purely statistically minded the team responsible for the book have also made a selection from the 32 Ashes Tests played at Old Trafford and selected six of them for a description of the match with accompanying illustrations.

Four of the six matches selected would, I suspect, be unanimous choices from any electorate invited to express an opinion on the subject. They are Fred Tate’s match in 1902, Jim Laker’s in 1956, Richie Benaud’s in 1961, and then that stunning encounter in 2005 when Ricky Ponting led Australia through that nail biting rearguard action before a fifth day full house.

The first of the other two would not, I suspect, make the list of too many. The draw in 1934 looks, from a cursory glance at the card, like a pretty dull encounter, Australia ending on 66-1 in pursuit of 260. It might however have been a famous victory for England had not Australia, thanks to a catalogue of missed catches, been able to avoid the follow on.

And I cannot imagine that, in the free vote I envisaged earlier, anyone would have chosen the sixth match featured, that of 1938. Perversely that is match that made no contribution whatsoever to the statistics that are the book’s mission statement, simply by virtue of the fact that poor weather ensured that there would not be a single ball bowled over any of the four days set aside for the match. The story of the vicissitudes of the Mancunian climate however, perhaps by virtue of its having been told so rarely, fully justifies the choice.

Those match descriptions and reports are all well written accounts, but no less interesting are the statistics. Who is the man to have played the most Ashes Tests at Old Trafford? A couple of Englishmen, WG Grace and AC MacLaren, have both managed five, but beating them by one is Aussie Syd Gregory, although his ten visits to the crease brought Gregory just 120 runs at an average of 12.00, less than half his career figure.

I was a little surprised to see that the top five run scorers in the matches are all Australian, in order Allan Border, Steve Smith, Steve Waugh, Bill Lawry and Bob Simpson all appearing ahead of the leading Englishman, Kenny Barrington. On the other hand the two leading wicket takers are English, Tom Richardson being a single wicket ahead of Jim Laker.

The career records of every man to have appeared in the 32 match series are set out and a great many interesting tables and snippets of information are extracted from those. All in all Ashes Test Matches At Emirates Old Trafford is an excellent idea, well executed and reasonably priced, the large format and nicely produced booklet being published in a limited edition of 100 that are available from Max Books at £6 including UK postage and packing. I anticipate copies will also be on their way to Roger Page in Melbourne (email rpcricketbooks@iprimus.com.au)

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