A Giant-Killing at Lakenham

Published: 2023
Pages: 48
Author: Musk, Stephen
Publisher: Red Rose Books
Rating: 3.5 stars

Over the last ten years Stephen Musk has been, if not quite a prolific author, then certainly a regular one. I don’t suppose he will ever surpass the quality of his biography of the Philadelphian Bart King, released last year and co-authored with the greatly missed Roger Mann, but his numerous other books and booklets, almost exclusively on Norfolcian subjects, have all been worth reading. We have reviewed some of them here, here, here, here, and here.

Against that background those who do not know already will not be surprised to learn that Lakenham is a cricket ground in Norfolk, and whilst the giant slayers of the booklet’s title were not a side styled as Norfolk, and were in fact a Minor Counties XI, they nonetheless comprised seven Norfolcians with four guests. The side they inflicted defeat on were that summer’s (1924) South African tourists, so Test players all. Of the scratch eleven only future England captain Percy Chapman would play Test cricket, although few doubt that their 36 year old skipper, Michael Falcon*, would have had a successful career at that level had he been of a mind to do so.

The story A Giant-Killing at Lakenham tells is straightforward enough. The match was played after the fifth Test and provided three days of excellent cricket for spectators in a county that rarely saw the First Class game. Falcon’s men made a good start and gained a first innings lead which they were able to extend and set the South Africans a victory target of 320. In the event a much better showing from the tourists in their second innings saw them get to 283-7, before slow left arm bowler Walter Beardsmoore took the last three wickets whilst just eleven more runs were added.

The heart of the book is, not unexpectedly, pen portraits of all 22 players and the two umpires, followed by an account of the match itself, rounded off by the scorecard and a selection of photographs. All of this material is worth reading, and Musk is not a man without a sense of humour. I was still chuckling some time after reading his pen portrait of the South African’s pace bowler, ‘Buster’ Nupen, which describes him as possibly the only one-eyed Norwegian to play Test cricket.

There is however a little more to the narrative than simply a look at a single cricket match and those who appeared in it. Musk also takes a look at the fortunes of the South Africans over the course of that far off summer, and the reasons why, overall, they had a disappointing visit. Also looked at is the question of matches between tourists and Minor Counties generally between the wars and reaction, local and national, to the decision to play a representative side against the South Africans rather than simply Norfolk.

A Giant-Killing at Lakenham is a thoroughly enjoyable read and is available directly from publisher Red Rose Books. There is a soft back edition at £12 including UK postage and packing, and a limited edition of 15 signed hardbacks at £40. The book will also be available soon in Australia from Roger Page.

*The subject of a biography by Musk in the ACS Lives in Cricket series, a book I am currently reading so will review in the coming weeks.

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