England at the Gaddafi Stadium

Published: 2016
Pages: 24
Author: Battersby, David
Publisher: Privately published
Rating: 4 stars

I enjoyed The Shadow of Packer, an interesting account of England’s winter of 1977/78 during which they toured Pakistan and New Zealand. The book was presented in an unusual way, and this ‘supplement’ to it represents another feature I don’t recall seeing before.

The story is that after the book was announced, and presumably complete and ready for release, two Englishmen who had been at the first Test in Pakistan made contact with David Battersby. Their memories, and a dozen or so photographs from one of them, prompted Battersby to produce this booklet.

The match is clearly one that fascinates Battersby, although the scorecard suggests it was eminently forgettable. Pakistan won the toss, batted, and in his first home Test Mudassar Nazar recorded what remains the slowest century Test cricket has seen, in 557 minutes. Barring a sea change in the way the game is played it is a record he is likely to retain in perpetuity. Had Geoffrey Boycott had his way however it might not have lasted the match. In England’s reply of 288 Boycs took 345 minutes to get to 63. There was just time for Pakistan to reach 106-3 in their second innings before time ran out.

The game was interrupted by a riot on the third day. It was not a protest against the funereal pace of the game but a calculated political move by the Bhutto family. Battersby offered some background to those events in The Shadow of Packer, but his account of the match here contains a detailed explanation.

The most interesting part of the booklet is the closing five pages in which Battersby’s two correspondents explain why they were at the game and what it was like to go to an away Test in Pakistan not so very long ago. There was no industry taking England supporters to Lahore in those days, and both men were travelling on their own and immersing themselves in the local culture.

The photographs taken by one of the men, identified only by his christian name, are remarkable. Patrick Eagar he isn’t, and in fact only one of the shots is of the play but they remain compelling. They show the ground, the crowd and some images of the riot. Particular striking is the colour of the outfield, and of the sky.

England at the Gaddaffi Stadium stands happily on its own, although I don’t suppose many will buy it unless they already own The Shadow of Packer. I unhesitatingly recommend it. There are one or two issues with the line spacing in the narrative, but otherwise it is an excellent effort for a self-published venture. It is printed on decent quality paper and the reproduction of the photographs, so often the bane of the author/publisher, is excellent.

Potential purchasers should not be put off by the limited edition tag. This isn’t a money making venture, the fifty signed and numbered copies being available for only £3.99 including postage and packing. If interested in buying a copy please contact us by email and we will pass your details to the author.

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