Holmes and Sutcliffe: The Run Stealers

Published: 1970
Pages: 228
Author: Duckworth, Leslie
Publisher: Hutchinson
Rating: 1 stars

Holmes and Sutcliffe: The Run Stealers

I am yet to enjoy a cricket biography, in which the author combines two careers in the one narrative. This was especially a problem with this book, as the players discussed had such disparity in success. Percy Holmes was a solid county pro playing over 500 first class games, but only 7 Test Matches. Herbert Sutcliffe on the other hand played in over 700 first class games and 54 Test Matches. He also managed 4,555 Test runs at the superb average of 60.73, and is still considered by many to be one of the great openers in the history of cricket. The book by necessity follows the career of Sutcliffe to a much larger degree, and as a result Holmes is reduced to almost a supporting role.

The fact the book favours the sparkling career of Sutcliffe is understandable, and of minor importance. The real problem I had with this publication is a much more simple one, it bored me to tears. For those afflicted with insomnia forget the horlicks or sleeping pills; a few pages of this book should have the reader in a somnolent state, guaranteed.

I read this book mainly because the authors first work S.F. Barnes – Master Bowler drew high praise from the greatest of all cricket writers Sir Neville Cardus who had this to say of the Barnes book as ‘a classic biography’ and as ‘the most fascinating cricket book that has come my way in a long time’ It is hard to imagine that their could be such a falling off in quality from one book to the other, but as I have not read Leslie Duckworth’s first offering I will reserve judgement.

It appears after reading this book that Mr Duckworth did little more then sit at his desk with the appropriate Wisdens, and systematically summarised each season of his subjects first class cricket matches. 98% of his quotes seem to have been taken directly from The Cricketers’ Almanack. Early in the book Leslie Duckworth mentions that he wrote a letter to Holmes but does not seem to have gleaned to many insights to his subjects opinions of his cricketing battles. So it was surprising to find in the books final chapter that the author was a personal friend of both Holmes and Sutcliffe. This last chapter even has some insights into both mens personas and opinions on the modern game. It left me feeling this book could have been so much more.

The name of the book came from penchant of both men for stealing quick singles during their many opening partnerships. Their understanding was apparently so in sync that they rarely called for these short runs.

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