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Book Review
Ashes 2005: The Greatest Test Series
Published: 2005
Pages: 220
Author: Gideon Haigh
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd
Rating: 4 stars
By Archie Mac
22 May 2006


I have put off reading this book for quite a while for two reasons.

Firstly, the book was only released in Australia in paperback form, and I really wanted a hardback edition.

Secondly, when my copy arrived from England, Gideon Haigh's inscription really hit home that we (Australia) had actually lost the Ashes:

To Sean,
2-1!
Happy days!!
Gideon Haigh


Well I think he should enjoy the moment...

Haigh, like fellow cricket writer David Frith, was born in England and raised in Australia.

Unlike Frith however, who remains impartial when the two countries clash for the Ashes, Haigh is an unabashed England supporter. Although he is not sure exactly why he ended up following the fortunes of the English cricket team, the fact that he also supports the Geelong Cats in Aussie Rules football means he has not had much to meow or roar about in recent history.

I remember reading an anecdote about the great cricket writer Robertson-Glasgow (which I could not locate to quote in this review much to my chagrin). On walking past a newsagent, Robertson-Glasgow saw the following billboards side by side: the first read "Read Robertson-Glasgow on cricket in the Times". The second; "read the Guardian and find out what really happened in the Match". The joke was that Robertson-Glasgow did not report on the match per se, but was much more interested in the characters and peripheral events taking place.

This very much reminds me of the way Gideon Haigh has written Ashes 2005. He does not give you a ball-by-ball account of each session - far from it. In fact, he dedicates on average less than three pages to each day's play throughout the series. So if you have not watched the Tests you may struggle somewhat, although the full score cards of each Test is provided.

If you have already watched the 2005 Ashes series though, then this is the book for you.

This is Gideon Haigh at his cricket writing best, which equals cricket writing at its best. His pen portrait of Shane Warne is the best I have read on the great spin bowler, and that includes the four biographies I have perused.

There are also some great one-liners such as: "he may sometime forget he is married but Warne never forgets a wicket". He criticises and praises seemingly without favour, and Jones' keeping, Ponting's captaincy and even Buchanan's coaching all come in for criticism during the book.

He also writes off Jason Gillespie - "perhaps his last hope is to be written off by a newspaper columnist. Jason, you're gone. I hope that helps".

The author covers none of the lead-up ODI matches, concentrating on the main event, and has more anecdotes than a sportsman's night featuring Trueman, Walters, O'Keefe and Tufnell on the same card.

A great read - don't miss Ashes 2005.

In Australia, the book is titled A Fair Field and No Favour, and is published by Scribe.

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