Fifty Incredible Cricket matches
Author: Patrick Murphy
Publisher: Stanley Paul
Rating: 4 stars
By David Taylor
23 Jun 2008
A few years ago, I belonged to a cricket book club, one of those organisations where you have to buy a book a month, or something like that. When our daughter arrived we had to make a few cutbacks, and the book club went. But this was one of the best things I bought from it. Patrick Murphy, also known as Pat (and as a BBC sports reporter) selected fifty matches from 1870 to 1986 for this compilation. Each has the full scorecard and a report of four or five pages. All but one (Ireland's extraordinary demolition of the 1969 West Indians - as he said, "with a name like mine, I owed it to Hibernia to include that one") is a first-class match. As he explains, the one-day game is contrived in nature and supposed to provide tight finishes anyway. Bob Willis, who played in two of the featured games (both Test matches against Australia, you should have a pretty good idea which they are), writes the foreword. It's not as dull as he can sometimes come across on TV.
Here's an idea of the material on offer: Fred Tate's misfortune at Old Trafford in 1902; the run feast between Bombay and Maharashtra at Pune in 1949 (he notes the unlikely presence in the Bombay team of Englishman Patrick Dickinson); the Somerset medium pacer Bertie Buse's 1953 benefit match, completed in a day; a last ball win by Glamorgan over Essex that helped them to the 1969 Championship. Only ten of the matches featured are Tests (neither tie is here, though), and there are a handful of overseas domestic games, but it's fair to say the emphasis is on county cricket, with its rich pageant of characters fully explored. The author writes in his introduction that he was struck by the frequency with which matches involving Somerset and Warwickshire occur. In one episode Alec Bedser tries to give the Warwickshire no. 11 Eric Hollies 'one off the mark', without success. For some of the later games, Lancashire beating Derbyshire after the snow in 1975 for instance, or Pat Pocock's seven wickets in 11 balls against Sussex, Murphy has interviewed some of those who took part.
I have to say this is not an easy book to find (although I have seen it on the Net), but well worth tracking down. Those who've enjoyed Stephen Chalke's recent work will particularly enjoy it I think.