Norfolk’s Splendid Innings

Published: 2017
Pages: 28
Author: Musk, Stephen
Publisher: Red Rose Books
Rating: 3 stars

It is more than a decade now since I first bought a book from Red Rose Books. In those days their output had primarily been in the reprinting of some of the oldest and rarest books from the Victorian era. There was always a Lancashire bias, but other cricketing subjects were covered too. More recent publications have tended to be slimmer and, in the main, comprised new writings on the earliest years of Lancashire cricket. With Stephen Musk, however, the emphasis is southwards and eastwards; to East Anglia and, more specifically, Norfolk.

Red Rose have published Musk’s research twice before, in 2012 and 2016. The latter was a study of George Pilch, a relation of the famous Fuller Pilch which we reviewed here. Pilch’s career peaked in 1905. Before that Red Rose had published Musk’s monograph on the subject of John Anstruther Berners, a wealthy landowner who, despite modest playing ability, had an interesting role in Norfolk cricket in Victorian and Edwardian times. The game that is the subject of Norfolk’s Splendid Innings took place in 1885. So it is not without good reason that Musk thanks his publisher for his willingness to take a chance on my somewhat arcane musings on Norfolcian cricket prior to the Great War.

The match with which Musk is concerned was played at Lord’s, with the MCC playing host to Norfolk. The visitors racked up the huge score of 695, the home side getting as far as 297 for 6 before the curtain came down on the two-day game. Musk begins his account with a brief history of the Norfolk club prior to 1885, followed by a summary of their season before the trip to Lord’s. Finally, in terms of introductory material, come some biographical details of the Norfolk side. None went on to achieve great things in the game, although a few did play at First Class level. They are interesting, if mostly just brief pen portraits.

The heart of the book is of course an account of the match itself, culled from a number of sources. The first three Norfolk batsmen in the order contributed centuries, and another was unbeaten on 89 at the fall of the last wicket. The scorecard is reproduced as well, of course, both at the end of the first and second days.

The penultimate part of the booklet is what makes the whole work a little unusual, and was certainly the highlight for this reviewer. In researching the story of the match, the various sources Musk consulted threw up a total of fifteen points of disagreement. He examines all of these and explains why he reached the conclusions he did.

Norfolk’s Splendid Innings rounds itself off with a brief look at the rest of Norfolk’s season, including a return match that was rather less successful for the East Anglians. Finally there is a brief look at how the rest of the decade played out for Norfolk before a list of sources and, in the manner of many years ago, a list comprising a selection of the publisher’s back catalogue. All are limited editions but many are still available via www.redrosebooks.co.uk. Norfolk’s Splendid Innings is one of the shorter runs, just 30 copies, so anyone interested shouldn’t wait too long before ordering.

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