Inside The Boundary

Published: 2015
Pages: 55
Author: Wellsteed, Geoff
Publisher: Geoff Wellsteed
Rating: 3.5 stars

Geoff Wellsteed’s little book tells me my home town of Reading, Berkshire, twenty odd miles from West London, has produced as many as 26 First Class cricketers. There are some big names amongst the 26 as well. The spine of the Surrey side that won seven consecutive County Championships in the 1950s came from a town that, in those days, was known mainly for beer, biscuits and bulbs. The Bedser twins, Kenny Barrington and Peter May were all born in Reading.

Reading has produced an England captain as well, the Corinthian but ultimately tragic figure of Percy Chapman. Tom Dollery was a contemporary of the Surrey quartet, and also an England player although more famously the man who led Warwickshire to the title in the last year before Surrey’s monopoly began. The rather more recent figure of Aftab Habib, who was a little unfortunate to be selected for England just twice in 1999, was the town’s sixth Test cricketer.

Underneath those high flyers there are, perhaps surprisingly, just two men who represent that great body of English county cricketers who make their living from the game but never trouble meetings of England selectors. The first was Arthur Croom, who gave yeoman service to Warwickshire as an opening batsman throughout the inter war period.

The other honest toiler, of more recent vintage, is Tim Hancock, who played for Gloucestershire between 1991 and 2005. Hancock holds one unique honour, and one that sadly eluded Wellsteed, in that he is the only First Class cricketer to have dismissed this reviewer. He was about twelve at the time and had been selected for a South Oxfordshire village side in order to, so my teammates and I wrongly assumed, make up the numbers. When he was eventually thrown the ball I had to face the hat-trick delivery. I skilfully negotiated that, although I was unable to prevent the youngster taking three in four. Later on, complete with over-sized pads, he played a very polished innings of 20 or 30 to take his team to victory, and we all realised then he was going to go a lot further in the game.

Of the other 17 men featured in Inside the Boundary as many as seven of them played just once at First Class level, three more twice and two men three times. The only other man whose name I recognised was Geoff Kirby, although I quickly worked out it was a different Kirby, David, who had played for the amateurs in the very last Gents v Players match in 1962.

I knew what I was getting with Inside the Boundary when it arrived, and I have to say I was a little sceptical as to what it might consist of. After all the Bedsers wrote three autobiographies between them, Barrington two and May and Dollery one each. There is also a biography of Chapman, and one of the Bedsers, and May is the subject of two. Could Wellsteed really say anything interesting or shed any light on their lives in two or three pages?

The good news is that he can. Although there is, as there must be, an element of an explanation of his subject’s cricketing achievements his essays do concentrate on their links to the town and its environs. The approach is much the same with the lesser lights and there are some interesting human stories too. The research is impressive as well. Roger Miller played seven times for Cambridge University and MCC in the early 1880s and died in 1912. With not much to go on Wellsteed does an impressive job of tracking Miller’s life.

So how do I rate a book like Inside the Boundary? There are many people around who love the game of cricket and its literature. None could fail to enjoy this engaging study, but they would probably be left with the feeling that the common link between all the book’s subjects was just a little too centre stage. Redingensians on the other hand, or anyone with any knowledge of or affection for the town, will be much more impressed. There are of course rather more who fall into the former category than the latter so, on the basis it is 3 stars for the likes of Archie Mac, and 4.5 for me, I shall say 3.5 overall.

Inside the Boundary is self-published, so if anyone would like to acquire the book conventional bookshops are not the place to look. There are 121 copies all told, one for every run of Chapman’s solitary Test century, and copies can be ordered directly. CricketWeb can forward on all enquiries and, for those in the southern hemisphere, I believe Roger Page will shortly have the book in stock.

And finally, for anyone who would like to see the locations described in the book, I believe Keith Walmsley, a fellow resident of Reading and author of the splendid Brief Candles, provides a very interesting guided tour at a modest cost.



If the price is ok I would like to buy a copy of Inside the Boundary for The Cobbold Family History Trust. One of the subjects of the book – George Wood – is on our family tree. Please tell me how to buy it. Thank you, Anthony.

Comment by Anthony Cobbold | 6:10pm BST 12 October 2016

I think the author’s email is geoffwellsteed@hotmail.com

Comment by Martin Chandler | 7:24pm BST 13 October 2016

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