The Miracle Match

Published: 2014
Pages: 227
Author: Brayshaw, Ian
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books
Rating: 4 stars

The Miracle Match
The Miracle Match

I was drawn to this book by the superb cover. Dennis Lillee, one of the most charismatic of all fast bowlers appears to be ready to turn on his heels and steam into bowl. Determination and menace edged on his face.

My appetite was further wetted when I read the by-line under the main title “Chappell, Lillee, Richards and the most electric moment in Australian cricket”.

Excitement ensued as I assumed this was the Boxing Day Test match of 1981, when Australia narrowly defeated the West Indies in a thriller with Lillee breaking the world wicket taking record. It came as a shock that the match featured was in fact a domestic one day match between Queensland and Western Australia.

To be honest at this point, given my less than enamour with one day cricket, I thought about giving it away. I am glad to advise I stuck with it, mainly because my previous experiences of the author Ian Brayshaw had been positive.

I’m glad I stuck it out as Brayshaw has crafted a fine read. The strength of the book is that the author manages to elicit interviews with all the protagonists and his ability, perhaps due to the fact he himself played in the match, to procure honest discourse with the game’s participants. This produces a real sense of the tactics and feelings of the players during the match.

The game itself took place in 1976 and was a semi-final, the winner to play Victoria for the one day domestic title. The pitch, were it to be prepared for a one day match in 2014, would be condemned as unfit for play. The fast strip so favoured bowlers that neither team managed to make 100.

If Brayshaw was to dissect each delivery the reader would quickly feel somnolent. Thankfully he discusses only deliveries which have meaning and in addition provides mini pen portraits of the main combatants. It is the author’s ability to weave these mini bios in with the match progression that lifts The Miracle Match above the ordinary match description. His habit of speaking in the first person is a little unusual, however it actually works well, providing an almost conversational feel to the book.

Brayshaw manages to keep the reader’s interest throughout the 227 pages of The Miracle Match. No mean effort for a one day game. It is a testament to the writer’s skills and the quality of this match that it is engaging throughout. To be there would have been a real privilege and must have been great entertainment from the players.

It turns out that the players were paid $18.00 each for the match, with the sponsor’s promotional girls earning more. No wonder most of the world’s best were to sign, virtually en masse, for World Series Cricket the following year.

I won’t tell you the winner as it will make the book the more interesting if you peruse it without knowing the result. Finally do remember you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and that The Miracle Match is the exception that proves that particular rule.

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