Author: Neil Jenkinson
Publisher: Paul Cave Publications LTD
Rating: 2.5 Stars
By Archie Mac
19 Apr 2010
I first became interested in Phil Mead after reading a short bio of the Hampshire dour run machine in Patrick Murphy's classic The Centurions.
The way Mead would go through his ritual before each ball, of tugging his cap four times, tapping his bat in the block hole four times and then taking four shuffling steps up to the crease. This fascinating ritual could not be hurried by exasperated bowlers.
The chapter on Mead by Murphy was only nine pages in length, so I was looking forward to reading a full length biography of the player who scored more runs for one team than any other play in the history of first class cricket.
In the end this book by Neil Jenkinson was, on the whole, a disappointment. For the majority of the book he simply goes through a selection of matches from each county season, giving highlights from Mead's year. Despite being well written it is simply for the most part boring. Without quoting directly from the book, it runs something similar to;
Mead scored 12 &31 against Yorkshire on a wet track, but then found form scoring 52 & 121* against Surrey, saving Hampshire from defeat. It was then onto Lords.........Yawn!
The most frustrating thing is that occasionally the author writes a chapter that is both informative and interesting, featuring anecdotes and insightful observations on cricket from the period.
With players in the Hampshire team with personalities such as:
Lionel Tennyson, a war hero, nephew of a former poet laurite, who had the Hampshire wicket-keeper as his personal valet.
George Brown arguably the only true all-rounder in first class cricket; wicket-keeper good enough to keep for England, a bowler who claimed 626 wickets and a batsman with 37 centuries.
With players and personalities like these it seems strange that the author could not find enough to sustain a more interesting book. He does manage it occasionally and I learned a lot about the old pros of the Hampshire team from the 1920s. Alec Kennedy was one in particular who came across as selfish and very protective of his place in the team, apparently giving the committee unfavourable reports on young bowlers he thought may prove a threat to his own position.
In the end it is hard to recommend this publication, if you want to know about Phil Mead read chapter 20 in this book and the brief bio by Patrick Murphy in The Centurions.
Thankfully the author does include my personal favourite anecdote about Mead which captures the essence of the man;
Maurice Tate was a slow bowler, however after becoming frustrated by the dead bat constantly presented by Mead, Tate decided to bowl fast and produced a ball that he was to become famous for; it pitched off and took leg. This ball that bowled Mead was considered to be one of the great deliveries. Questioned many years later on whether he complimented the bowler, Mead quietly replied "I never encouraged bowlers."