Ten To Win …… and the Last Man In

Published: 2021
Pages: 303
Author: Blofeld, Henry
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Rating: 4 stars

I think this is the book you would surely hand to anyone who mutters the words “I find cricket boring”. The author has amassed some of the most exciting games of cricket ever played, all told in the chatty and impudent style of ‘Blowers’. 

Henry Blofeld explains in the preface that this is a personal selection and that a few favourites of the reader may be missing. I must admit I was surprised that the one run West Indies victory over Australia in 1993 was not included. I wonder whether this was because Blofeld had not witnessed this match in question. After all he appears to have been at almost all of the matches for the 1950s onwards that are covered in the book.

Each match is covered in a similar way. Blofeld provides a brief description of how it was won before taking us back to the start of the game. He also provides lots of short bios of the main participants, although never losing the main focus of the match description.

Each match is allocated between 6 to 15 pages and while mostly Test matches are covered there are also a few ODIs, and even a famous schools match. England is the main country featured and only nine out of the 30 matches reported on do not include England.

Overall the matches covered which Blofeld watched live are written with a greater sense of urgency and will also have the advantage of being known to a lot more readers. His coverage on the earlier games is still outstanding though, and I enjoyed them all. My favourite description was the only non first class game described, that being the Eton and Harrow inter school game of 1909.

I have to say as an Australian in places the book was tough going. The Aussies seem to be on the wrong end of every close game in the last 40 years. The two at Headingley being the most painful since both were lost from what appeared impregnable positions.

The title of the book is from the famous Henry Newbolt poem Vitai Lampada, which reads in part:

Ten to make and the match to win –

A bumping pitch and a blinding light,

An hour to play and the last man in.

Blofeld, has clearly performed a great deal of research and writes that after delving into old newspapers and books he has now elevated the great South African All rounder Aubrey Faulkner to his equal all time favourite cricketer alongside the Boy’s Own Hero Denis Compton. Blofeld also occasionally quotes from some fine writers, my favourite being Bill O’Reilly’s description of a poor shot from Arthur Morris against perhaps the fastest spell in cricket history by Frank Tyson; A suicidally wild shot borrowed unspoiled from kerosene cricket. Ouch!

This will be a hot item for the cricket lover this Christmas and deservedly so. I’d rate this about the best coverage of cricket matches since Ralph Barker’s superb Purple Patches circa 1987.

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