Cricket's 300 Men
Author: Christopher Hilton
Publisher: Breedon Books
Rating: 3 stars
By David Taylor
30 Mar 2009
I picked this up a couple of years ago at The Oval, having never seen it anywhere else. Although GBP16.99 for a book of fewer than 200 pages seemed a little steep, there is plenty of information within, and it took a good few days to read it properly (I settled on a chapter a day).
As the title suggests Hilton, a former journalist better known for writing on motor racing - his other books include biographies of Tazio Nuvolari, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumaker along with an account of the Le Mans 1955 tragedy - has written the stories of Test cricket's 19 triple centuries, or to be precise 18 and one quadruple hundred. Told in chronological order, each gets a chapter, along with a sketched picture of the batsman - some likenesses are better than others - and the scorecard of the match.
Another nice detail is a full page copy of a report from a newspaper of the time, although I often found myself reading the other reports - 'Apprentice for Persian Opera' might well have been more interesting than Bob Simpson's 311 at Old Trafford. The subtitle for the Test is, not surprisingly, 'Runs Came Slowly' (even more so when it was England's turn to bat).
There are annoying little errors here and there - Wisden Cricketer's Almanack loses its final 'k' , as it often does; Matthew Hayden's triple hundred against Zimbabwe is recorded as taking six hours 48 minutes (he's good, but not that good, it was two hours longer); the match scorecards don't give the score at the fall of each wicket, which has been standard since the 19th century.
I learned a few things about some of these innings - I didn't know, for instance, that Bradman's first treble at Headingley was interrupted by a hoax telegram claiming his house was on fire - needless to say, he didn't let it distract him. I also hadn't realised how poorly attended Test cricket was in England in the 1960s. Only 5000 were present to see John Edrich's 310 v New Zealand in 1965, and the final day of an earlier match had attracted only 107 paying customers. Each chapter is presented in an easy-to-read fashion, but given that most of the participants (and suffering bowlers) are still alive I'd have liked to see some recollections of those players, looking back at the match. There is an over-reliance here on contemporary reports in the newspapers and Wisden.
Overall, not a bad read, it's not an easy book to track down (although the publishers have their own website) but if you can find it going for under a tenner I'd say it was well worth it.