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Nottinghamshire in Print

Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club were formed as long ago as 1841, and have been the subject of a number of histories over the years. The first, Fifty Years of Nottinghamshire Cricket, is a bulky volume and appeared as long ago as 1890, put together by a well known local writer of the time, CH Richards. Next, in 1923, came another substantial book, this time from one of the greatest cricket historians, Frederick Ashley-Cooper, Nottinghamshire Cricket and Cricketers. There have been other books on the county, some of which I will mention later, but the next and to date last full history was the one published in the Christopher Helm series in 1992. The author of that one was Peter Wynne-Thomas, the doyen of recent historians who, sadly, departed this mortal coil earlier this month.

As far as biographies of Notts cricketers are concerned we can begin with a couple of men who played the game long before county cricket became fully organised. The first is William Clarke, who first played for the county as long ago as 1835, and was an early cricketing entrepreneur when he founded the famous wandering All England Eleven. The second, who played on occasion for Clarke’s side, was John Jackson, a more than useful batsman but primarily remembered as a right arm fast bowler of the round arm variety.

Both Clarke and Jackson have featured in the ACS Lives in Cricket series. William Clarke: The Old General was written by Peter Wynne-Thomas and appeared in 2014, and John Jackson: The Nottinghamshire Foghorn by Gerald Hudd was published two years later.

Richard Daft was another Nottinghamshire businessman who led the county through the 1870s despite being a professional. Daft published a famous book of reminiscences, Kings of Cricket, that appeared in 1893 and later on, under the editorship of his son, a further selection of Daft’s writing, A Cricketer’s Yarns, was published in 1926. In addition Daft was one of the early subjects in the ACS Lives in Cricket series, Richard Daft: On a Pedestal by Neil Jenkinson appearing in 2008.

Another pair of Notts cricketer/businessmen were Alfred Shaw and Arthur Shrewsbury, who first appeared for the county in 1868 and 1875 respectively. Both were the subject of books during their lifetimes. In 1890 SW Hitchen published A Biographical Sketch of Arthur Shrewsbury, and in 1901 Alfred Shaw: Cricketer was published, written by AW Pullin (‘Old Ebor’). There have been no more books on Shaw, but in 1985 a new biography of Shrewsbury appeared, Give me Arthur, written by Peter Wynne-Thomas.

Perhaps the most famous family in the history of the Nottinghamshire club are the Gunns, grandfather William, sons George and John and George’s son, George Vernon. All are the subject of The Trent Bridge Battery by Basil Haynes and John Lucas that was published in 1985. Many years previously a booklet, The Famous Cricketer William Gunn, had appeared from local publishers CH Richards in 1921.

In 1911 Ted Alletson played one of the more remarkable innings in cricket history, scoring 189 in 90 minutes against Sussex. It was a performance that was never repeated by Alletson who failed to build on what he had achieved. In 1957 John Arlott published a monograph, Alletson’s Innings, and in 1991 book dealer John McKenzie published a much enlarged second edition. It was Arlott’s last book.

Rather more successful was Arthur Carr, a hard hitting amateur batsman who as well as leading the county from 1919-1934 was also England skipper for the first four Tests of the 1926 series. Carr’s involvement in the development of Jardinian leg theory eventually led to his losing the Notts captaincy in 1934. He wrote a hard hitting autobiography, Cricket With The Lid Off , which appeared the following year. Eventually, in 2017, a full and considered biography appeared, from the pen of Notts historian Peter Wynne-Thomas.

Harold Larwood, the principal instrument of what became known as ‘Bodyline’, is a cricketer whose reputation has grown as the years have passed. Larwood lent his name to a book on the famous tour, Bodyline?, but his autobiography was a considered memoir, The Larwood Story, superbly written by Kevin Perkins, and published in 1965. Others have written about Larwood most notably a fine biography from Duncan Hamilton, Harold Larwood, in 2009. Other books that simply bear Larwood’s name came from Gerry Wolstenholme in 2003 (concentrating on his years in Blackpool) and by Ray Smith, an essentially statistical look at his career.

Carr and Larwood apart only two more Notts cricketers who played for the county between the wars have been the subject of a biography. Roger Moulton’s Joe Hardstaff: Supreme Stylist appeared in the ACS Lives in Cricket series in 2010 and Yorkshire born pace bowler Arthur Jepson, whose twenty year career began in 1938, featured in Robert Owen’s Two Huddersfield Cricketers that appeared in 2012.

Tom Reddick was an interesting cricketer. He as a teenager he played a couple of times for Middlesex, and 15 years later reappeared for Notts for two summers before emigrating to South Africa where, in 1979, he published an autobiography, Never A Crossed Bat.

When the old John Player League started in 1969, and county cricketers started to get some exposure on the television, an immensely popular character was the Notts batsman Basharat Hassan. Kenyan by birth ‘Basher’ turned out for the county for twenty summers, and in 2004 he privately published Basher.

Even more popular than Hassan was batsman Derek Randall, one of the finest fielders to have played the game and certainly the best there was in the 1970s. Randall produced two autobiographies, The Sun Has Got His Hat On and Rags, in 1984 and 1992 respectively.

Only one more Notts player who appeared in the 1970s has been the subject of books, the great New Zealand fast bowler Richard Hadlee, who was part of the furniture at Trent Bridge for a decade between 1978 and 1987 and brought the county great success. Hadlee has given his name to a number of books. At The Double in 1985 was written during his time with Notts, and a fuller autobiography, Rhythm and Swing, was published in 1989 before, his final book to date, Changing Pace was published in 2009.

Four 21st century Notts players have been the subject of books although, a sign of the times, all also played for other counties. The first is Kevin Pietersen, who played longer for Notts than he did for Hampshire and Surrey. There are two KP autobiographies, Crossing the Boundary in 2006 and KP: The Autobiography in 2014. In addition Simon Wilde, Wayne Veysey and Marcus Stead have all written biographies, Wilde in 2014 and Veysey and Stead in 2009.

After eight years at Northants Graeme Swann moved to Notts in 2005 and over the next nine summers emerged as the best English off spinner since Jim Laker. Swann’s story, The Breaks Are Off, was published in 2011, three years before injury brought an end to his career over the Ashes winter of 2013/14.

Stuart Broad is another man who moved across the East Midlands, starting with Leicestershire and, once more, with the start of his England career coinciding with his move to Notts. My World in Cricket, an autobiography, appeared in 2012 bookended by accounts of the successful 2009 and 2015 home Ashes campaigns.

In 2011 diminutive batsman James Taylor made the same trip as Broad had made and again found himself a Test match player with Notts. Sadly health problems were to severely curtail the career of a man who is still only 31. His story is told very well by Cut Short, his 2018 autobiography. The most recent book from a Nottinghamshire player, and one which will be reviewed shortly, is last year’s autobiography from Luke Fletcher, Tales From the Front Line.

In terms of works of collected biography there is a book, by Jim Ledbetter, in the Tempus 100 Greats series from 2003. For the most comprehensive looks at Nottinghamshire cricketers we have two books from Peter Wynne-Thomas to be grateful for. Nottinghamshire Cricketers 1821-1914, and a slimmer companion to that, Nottinghamshire Cricketers 1919-1939. As far as specific seasons are concerned there is a book by Peter Wynne-Thomas, Nottinghamshire: Cricket’s Double Champions, looking at the 1987 summer, and Mark Wagh’s diary of the 2008 season, Pavilion to Crease …. and Back. Two years later, in 2010, the Championship pennant did flutter over Trent Bridge and local writer Dave Bracegirdle wrote a record of that journey, What Do Points Make?

Another book by Dave Bracegirdle, Clarke’s Meadow and The Calypso Kings from 2012 look at the various contests that have taken place over the years between the county and the West Indians as well as taking a look at the not inconsiderable number of West Indians who have played for the county over the years, a list that is rather longer than just Garry Sobers and Franklyn Stephenson.

Lastly, but for the bibliophile by no means least, is Duncan Anderson’s splendid Early Books on Nottinghamshire Cricket which was published in 2020 and which added a substantial gloss to an earlier booklet he had issued in 2005, A Bibliography of Nottinghamshire Cricket.

And my two choices? I fear one will never see the light of day, but the other I have higher hopes of. The first is a biography of Harold Larwood’s bodyline partner Bill Voce, and the book I am more optimistic about one day reading is a biography of the great South African all-rounder Clive Rice who played for the county between 1975 and 1987, and led them to two Championship titles in his nine summers as captain from 1979.

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