George Pilch: His Day in the Sun

Published: 2016
Pages: 32
Author: Musk, Stephen
Publisher: Red Rose Books
Rating: 3.5 stars

Tall tales of cricketing derring-do were a staple in boys’ fiction for years, only dying out in the 1960s. Cricket was always a fertile source of inspiration for writers, perhaps because there have always been so many matches in real life that demonstrate that remarkable things do happen.

This monograph by Stephen Musk represents a welcome return to publishing by Red Rose Books. It is the second time they have published Musk, who has also contributed two titles to the ACS ‘Lives in Cricket’ series. No one could accuse Musk of chasing a bestseller though, all of his books dealing with a personal passion, cricket in Norfolk.

As its title suggests George Pilch: His Day in the Sun, tells a story that would stretch credibility, were it not for the fact that it really happened, way back in 1905. As the game concerned was one in the Minor Counties Championship it is also one that is long forgotten.

Although he wasn’t a direct descendant of the famous Fuller Pilch, who was one of the great cricketers of the early 19th century, George Pilch did come from the same family. George however never played a First Class match, and although his Minor Counties career lasted for more than twenty years he only ever appeared in 36 Championship fixtures.

At club level Pilch was a successful cricketer, primarily a pace bowler but also a useful hard hitting late order batsman. For the county side he took just 27 wickets at 38.62 in those 36 matches, so clearly wasn’t regarded as a frontline bowler. With the bat his average was 8.47. Other than during his day in the sun he reached thirty just twice.

The big match was against Cambridgeshire in 1905. Pilch was 27, so in his prime. The previous summer had seen Norfolk finish 16th out of 20 but the new season produced a massive improvement and, to increase the drama of the moment, they went on to win the title in 1905.

The wicket for the Cambridgeshire match was dreadful and Norfolk, winning the toss and choosing to bat, were all out for 40. Batting was no easier for Cambridgeshire but they managed 108. When Pilch came in, at the fall of the seventh Norfolk second innings wicket, the lead was just 40. Then Pilch bludgeoned his way to 88 before he was out with the score on 260. The last two wickets added nothing, but Cambridgeshire collapsed for 68 to give Norfolk a comfortable win.

Pilch had never looked like producing that sort of pyrotechnics before, and he never did again. Musk tells the story of the match, and the rest of Pilch’s life in an engaging and enjoyable way. George Pilch: His Day in the Sun is an excellent way of passing an odd twenty minutes or so, and is highly recommended.

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