"BEAUTIFULLY PRESENTED . . . THE MEMORIES ARE INDEED LAVISH"

Here's a review by Richard Lawrence of The Association of Cricket Statisticians & Historians, published in July, 2018

THE conception of this beautifully presented book is a simple one: a questionnaire completed by more than a hundred Essex supporters, covering subjects such as ‘favourite batsman’ (Graham Gooch the overwhelming favourite), ‘memorable matches and moments’ (Dickie Dodds appears more than once for his carefree hitting) and ‘favourite overseas players’ (from Ken McEwan and Keith Boyce to Allan Border and Mark Waugh, there have been many to have graced the county side). Ten chapters covering the answers to these questions form the foundation to the book, beginning with the simple question, ‘Why Essex?’, where the memories go back as far as 1938 (Essex v Australians at Southchurch Park) and are occasionally flawed (I doubt that F.S.Trueman ever played for Lancashire).

Nostalgia is of course the essence of a book of this nature, so perhaps I can be forgiven for saying that my personal favourite is the chapter covering ‘Festival Grounds’, 14 of them from the original home ground at Brentwood to the last of the outgrounds at Colchester. Contributors’ personal memories of these grounds (the umpires’ caravan collapsing during tea at Ilford) are combined with a glorious array of photographs, including some taken by the contributors and vividly capturing the atmosphere of festival cricket. There is also a current photo of the pavilion at Leyton, which according to the local media is to be transformed in the next few years into a ‘food hub’ (whatever that means), but with cricket still remaining part of the site's use, which is a little reassuring.

Interspersed with the contributors’ memories are interviews with past and current Essex players. David Acfield contributes a piece recalling an innings against Hampshire during which he steadfastly (and wisely) refused to take the end at which a fired-up Malcolm Marshall was bowling; he also recounts the trials of experienced spinners supporting a successful seam attack. Mark Ilott reveals that all was not always harmonious within the Essex dressing room, and how the best players overcame their differences to ensure success. Graham Napier remembers an ordeal carrying the drinks when twelfth man at Lord's early in his career, and getting the balance right between having fun and being focused. Alongside the players there are reminiscences from some of the characters behind the scenes: the groundsman at Southchurch Park who caught a visiting captain attempting to tamper with the wicket; the match-day steward on why the Zimbabwean flag was at half-mast when Essex played Zimbabwe, or a former England captain attempting to queue-jump.

The memories are indeed lavish, and the authors have done a fine job in collating them. The co-author and publisher of this unusual book, Tony McDonald, has also written two similar books on his footballing passions, but this is his - and his firm's - first foray into cricket writing. The infectious enthusiasm for the game, and the care that has been taken in the production of this book, make me hope that it will not be the last.

* if you want to find out more about ACS, visit their website at http://www.acscricket.com/ or follow them on Twitter at @ACScricket



DATE ADDED: Sunday 01 July, 2018

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