Sun, Snow and StrikeMartin Chandler |
Author: Evans, Colin
Publisher: Max Books
Rating: 3.5 stars
Back in 2009 Max Books published Colin Evans’ Mods and Blockers, one of the very best books I have reviewed for Cricketweb. Seven years on we finally have a sequel, of sorts. Like its predecessor Sun, Snow and Strike is very much a period piece, albeit the period is a decade on. It is not however quite such an ambitious project, on this occasion Evans focussing his attention on a couple of discrete aspects of Lancashire’s 1975 season.
The reference in the title to sun and snow refers to a remarkable match played at Buxton in early June. Buxton is up in the Peak District and whilst the ground no longer sees any First Class cricket in those days Derbyshire hosted matches there on a regular basis. In 1975 Lancashire batted first on a glorious sunny day and hammered an understrength home attack to the tune of 477-5 in the one hundred overs available to them. There was a century for former England man Frank Hayes, and a stunning unbeaten 167 from Clive Lloyd. At the close Derbyshire were struggling on 25-2.
Next day was the Sunday and, in the rather ludicrous way the fixtures were arranged in those days, Lancashire had a round trip of almost 400 miles to play a Sunday League game against Essex. Back in Buxton on Monday morning the teams woke up to a remarkable sight. Snow, and plenty of it. Harold ‘Dickie’ Bird soon called play off for the day. The sun returned for the third day and on the treacherous snow damaged pitch Derbyshire capitulated for 42 and 87.
Evans was at the ground for the Manchester Evening News. He was filling in for their regular cricket correspondent, Brian Bearshaw, who was in London readying himself to cover the first World Cup that was about to start. The young reporter had not covered a County Championship match before, a rather different task in those far off days when portable computers were the stuff of science fiction. I had never really thought about how cricket reporters got their work to their employers in those days before reading Evans’ memories. They conjure up some amusing mental images of queuing for telephones and conversations with copy takers who were experts in the English language but knew nothing about cricket.
Naturally Evans gives a full account of the cricket. There is some straight reporting, some background information (mainly to set up the second part of the book) and one passage that, having opened the book on the day the inquest into Phil Hughes began, most certainly got me thinking. A few months earlier Peter Lever had been distraught because of the near-death experience he had unintentionally inflicted on Ewen Chatfield in a Test in New Zealand. On a wicket where deliveries on a good length often leapt throat high Lever was, unsurprisingly, bowling at nothing like his full pace at Buxton.
So on to ‘Strike’. Back in 1975 the British economy was in a mess. Inflation was running at 25% and the previous winter had seen the three day week. No one had much money and cricket clubs were no different. Lancashire had some star players who weren’t happy to see a pay increase well under the rate of inflation. There was plotting aplenty and, on the pretext of injuries, a withdrawal of labour by a handful of players. It is not a big story now by any means, but might have cost Lancashire the Championship that year, and for Lancashire supporters the opportunity to read about the episode is very welcome.
Back in 2009 I rated Mods and Blockers so highly I gave it 5 stars, a decision I have never had cause to reconsider. I enjoyed Sun, Snow and Strike just as much, but it is very much a vignette in comparison and the appeal to those who do not follow the Red Rose rather more limited. So just 3.5 stars for Evans this time, but this little book is still an excellent read. The cost is modest, a snip at £8 direct from the publisher or, for the bibliophile, there is a numbered limited edition of 30 copies signed by many of the Lancashire side of the time. The cost of that is £25.