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Northamptonshire in Print

Having joined the County Championship in 1905, 15 years after it began and 37 years after the club was formed, Northamptonshire have rather less of a history than most counties. In the circumstances the county’s bibliography is rather shorter than many, but there remains plenty of interest, and they were certainly amongst the easiest to select my two ‘wants’ from.

There are two major histories of the club, the first from 1959 and the second from 1993. The first is Northamptonshire Cricket: A History from Jim Coldham, and the second is the county’s volume in the Christopher Helm series, written by Matthew Engel and Andrew Radd and published in 1993. There is also another history, which covers the period 1974 to 2013, written by Andy Roberts and titled Fields of Maroon and Gold.

In terms of biographies there is one man profiled from the county’s earliest years, the much travelled Trinidadian all-rounder Sydney Smith, who was with the club between 1907 and 1914. An excellent biography of Smith was published in 2014, Cricket’s Mystery Man by Bill Francis.

The only ‘biography’ of a between the wars Northamptonshire player is only a brief memoir, but nonetheless is worthy of mention. The subject matter of RP Nelson: A Memoir, written by Helen Strickland and published in 1955 is a useful batsman who led the county in 1938 and 1939 and who lost his life in 1940 whilst serving with the Royal Marines.

1938 saw the start of the career of all-rounder Gordon Garlick, who played in those days for Lancashire where he still was in 1947. After that Garlick moved to Northants for three summers and for them he made the majority of his First Class appearances. A 48 page monograph telling the story of Gordon Garlick and written by Gerry Wolstenholme was published by Red Rose Books in 2004.

Freddie Brown was a Surrey player between 1931 and 1948, and so in terms of length of service should fall to be considered under that county rather than Northants where he spent just five summers. In truth however Brown made almost as many appearances for his second county as his first and his years in Northampton were much more significant in his own playing career and in the county’s history than his time at Surrey. It is perhaps surprising that no biography of Brown has been written, but there is an autobiography, Cricket Musketeer, that appeared in 1954, the year after he retired.

One reason for Brown’s success as county captain was the fact that he had the services of an excellent spearhead to call on, Frank Tyson. The Typhoon’s career was short and spectacular and well told by the man himself in A Typhoon Called Tyson, published in 1961 after his retirement.

A man who might have been as good as Tyson, and whose career just overlapped with his, was the 6’7” Dave Larter. After a most promising start for his county and for England injury brought Larter’s career to an end after only five years but he left a great impression on many and, more than half a century on, Richard Sayer has just published his biography, David Larter

A contemporary of Tyson and Larter was long serving wicketkeeper and Godfrey Evans’ long time understudy Keith Andrew. Andrew had a long career and in 2003 Guess My Story appeared, a splendid account of Andrew’s life and times drawn out of him by the incomparable Stephen Chalke.

Orthodox slow left arm bowler Malcolm Scott wheeled away for Northants through the 1960s with some success but not, one would have expected, with such as to justify a book many years after retirement. There is one however, Scott being the subject of A Geordie All-Rounder, published in 2009 and a joint effort between the man himself and writer Robert Owen.

Brian Reynolds was a mainstay of Northants batting through the 1950s and 1960s although, like Scott, not an obvious subject for a biography. Once again however there is one, Brian Reynolds, a collaboration between three writers, Ian Addis, Mick Dean and Brian Slough.

After a couple of seasons with Surrey opening batsman Raman Subba Row joined Northants in 1955 and played for them until 1961, during which time he became an England player. Douglas Miller wrote Raman Subba Row in 2017.

Pakistan Test player Mushtaq Mohammad was qualified to play for Northants in 1966 and he spent the next eleven summers at the club. His story is told in the 2006 published Inside Out, written with Richard Sydenham.

Another Test player who starred for Northants in the 1960s, and whose career was tragically cut short by a sickening injury sustained in a road accident that cost him an eye, was Colin Milburn. An autobiography, Largely Cricket, appeared in 1968 when Milburn was still at the top of his game. A reflective and very readable biography, Cricketing Falstaff appeared from the pen of Mark Peel in 1998, eight years after Milburn’s untimely passing.

One of the most famous Northants players of the 1970s was David Steele, famously plucked from nowhere to, successfully, do battle with Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in 1975. Come In Number Three appeared in 1977 and, much more recently, Ian Addis and Andrew Radd assisted him with the 2018 The Bank Clerk Who Went To War.

A long time teammate of Steele and Mushtaq was the aggressive opening batsman Wayne ‘Ned’ Larkins. After an interesting cricket career and a somewhat chequered life outside the game Larkins was the subject of A False Stroke of Genius, written by John Wallace and published in 2001.

Allan Lamb enjoyed long careers with both England and Northants and was a stylish middle order batsman remembered fondly by all who saw him. Lamb was the subject of Lamb’s Tales by Peter Smith in 1985, and eleven years later, post retirement, there was the hard hitting My Autobiography, written with the assistance of Jack Bannister.

Cricket careers do not always run smoothly, and Monty Panesar’s is one example of that. Things went welding his decade with Northants, but rather went awry after he left. All was going well when, in 2007, Monty’s Turn appeared. By the time, more than a decade later in 2019, that The Full Monty came to be written its author had a rather more dramatic tale to tell.

As far as other books are concerned Andrew Radd wrote the Northamptonshire volume in the Tempus 100 Greats series in 2001 and, a year later, contributed the Northants volume in the same publisher’s unfinished series chronicling the counties’ fifty finest matches.

There are two more general books that are worthy of mention. The first is Brian Barron’s Fanny, Phil & Others, which is the story of the County Ground which, until 1995 when the book was published, was also home to Northampton Town Football Club. The second, which carries the Fairfield Books guarantee of quality, is From Typhoon Tyson To Twenty20 by Tony Ward which, published in 2011, contains Ward’s memories of a lifetime watching the county.

The two Northants books that appear on my wish list are not, although they might have been, biographies of Brown and Tyson. I shall be just a little more imaginative than that, although both choices are biographies. In the case of one of them, the story of George Thompson, I am pretty confident that that will see the light of day in a year or so’s time. Thompson was a fine all-rounder who was good enough to be selected once for a home Ashes Test. There have of course been many such over the years, but as he bowled just four overs and was run out for six in the first match of the 1909 series he surely deserved a longer run in the side, particularly in light of the successful tour of South Africa that he enjoyed the following winter.

The other man whose story should be told is the man who carried Northamptonshire cricket during the inter war years, other than the summers of 1934 and 1935 which were missed as a consequence of Jupp spending some time at his majesty’s pleasure, sentenced to a term of imprisonment for manslaughter following a road traffic accident. On the field Jupp was a fine all-rounder, and only the remarkable Wilfred Rhodes achieved the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets on more occasions than Jupp.

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