Jonathan Agnew's Cricket Year 2008
Author: Jonathan Agnew (editor)
Publisher: A & C Black
Rating: 3 stars
By David Taylor
11 May 2009
The 27th edition of the Cricket Year is the latest in a series which actually began with the first Pelham Cricket Year in 1979. Benson & Hedges began sponsoring the title in 1982 and the editions have been numbered from that date. The Cheltenham and Gloucester building society was its benefactor from 2003 to 2007, but now that tobacco sponsorship is no longer approved of and the banks don't seem to have as much money anymore, the book simply bears the name of its editor, the former Leicestershire and England fast bowler and BBC commentator.
For those of us who have a number of the earlier editions, the difference is obvious at a glance. The Pelham books weighed in at a meaty 700 pages or thereabouts. By its sixth edition the B & H title had slimmed down somewhat, not always a bad thing with those searching for shelf space, but still a substantial 479 pages. I can only assume that the lack of a sponsor, while keeping the price at its 2006 level, has caused cuts to be made. But at barely more than 10p a page this is still pretty good value. One of the book's selling points is its publication just weeks after the close of the English season, well before Wisden, indeed it's possible to pick up a copy in time for Christmas. Where previously the end of the season was used as its cut-off point, this one goes right up to the now infamous Stanford match on 1st November. Sir Allen is photographed three times in the space of six pages, once each with the England and his own team and also showing off his money at Lord's.
The mention of photographs brings me to another of the book's strengths - apart from those pages dealing with statistics, which I'll come to shortly, almost every page has a colour photo, and the quality is excellent throughout. There are collectors' pieces here - a picture of Andrew Flintoff playing for Lancashire, and one of Simon Jones running in purposefully for his new county Worcestershire. He's back on the physio's bench now, sadly.
The chronology of the international sections is somewhat hard to follow - that for England begins with South Africa's series in England in 2008, then goes back to the tour of New Zealand, forward to the return series in England, and finally back to England's visit to Sri Lanka at the end of 2007! - and coverage of the Tests is limited - South Africa's four Tests get a combined total of five pages; surely there should have been a report for each match. The biggest and most noticeable omission from earlier editions is the loss of all coverage of overseas domestic cricket. Indeed the four other full members of ICC get just 50 pages between them - this is primarily a book for the English supporter.
With that in mind there is a substantial statistical section, each county's players' scores and bowling figures laid out match by match, and a summary of the best performances from the season. Who remembered, for instance, that Vikram Solanki hit the highest innings in the Championship in 2008? Apart from Worcestershire supporters, perhaps. And there are features on James Anderson, Michael Vaughan and Durham, as well as a preview of the 2009 Ashes by Justin Langer - perhaps unsurprisingly, he predicts an Australian win.
Still, not a bad read - if you've bought it in the past it's worth keeping the sequence going for now, although I wouldn't want to see it get any smaller.