County Cricket Matters is the English game’s mantra of the third decade of the twenty first century so, having run out of inspiration for anything else, the blog can certainly take 18 posts on the subject of the literature generated by each of the First Class counties.
I don’t claim that any of the 18 posts will be truly comprehensive, but they will be substantially so. I will look at three categories of books for each county, but not those concerned solely with statistical matters, for which I simply refer readers to the comprehensive back catalogue of the ACS, something which is gradually finding its way online, and which can be found here.
For each post I will begin with books that purport to be histories of the county concerned, followed by what for me is generally the most interesting genre, the biographies and autobiographies of individual players. If players played for more than one county I will reference them for their involvement with the club I consider to be their main county.
Books by or about overseas players are a tricky decision – I will mention a few, those which concern players who became embedded in the fabric of their counties, but on the basis that generally such books are concerned with the international game there will not be many.
Finally I will look at anything else that doesn’t easily fall into the two previous categories, and then round things off in each case with two books that haven’t been published, but which I would like to see appear.
In books as in many things size matters, and I will be the sole arbiter of what is and isn’t too ephemeral to be included, although after much thought I have decided not to include one of my own favourite categories of the game’s bibliography, benefit brochures and related material, although that is a subject I may revisit in the future.
But before I begin there are a handful of books on the subject county cricket generally, the most impressive of which is Stephen Chalke’s Summer’s Crown, a copy of which should be on the shelves of any self-respecting cricket fan.
Prior to Stephen’s masterpiece, which in simple terms amounts to the final word on the subject unless and until he decides to update it again (there was a second edition published a ??????), there have been other books that have tried to look at county cricket in the round. One such appeared in 1957, The County Cricket Championship by Roy Webber, a book which caused something of a stir, which you can read about here.
The one hundredth anniversary of the Championship was marked by a book, so 1990 saw Simon Heffer’s Daily Telegraph Centenary of County Cricket: The Hundred Best Matches appear. Whatever complaints I might have about the Telegraph and its editorial stance, when I was a lad and had no option but to read the newspaper my father bought, its coverage of the Championship was certainly comprehensive.
A couple of years later, in 1992, that fine cricket writer and social historian Eric Midwinter put together The Illustrated History of County Cricket to reinforce the message that Heffer had delivered two years previously. His book falls into two parts, the first giving an overview of the development of the Championship, in the manner you would expect from the social historian in him, and the cricket writer is then given free rein as chapters devoted to each county make up part two.
Also celebrating the county game at this point was David Lemmon, whose Cricket’s Champion Counties appeared in 1991. It looks in detail at the more successful teams in the Championship’s history rather than looking at all the winners, and is much more a descriptive book than a statistical one.
The immediate post war period saw some activity as well. In 1950 John Arlott contributed to and edited Cricket in the Counties, an anthology of writings on the subject, but not in any way a history. That came more than a decade later in 1961 when Trevor Bailey’s Championship Cricket was published, a county by county review of the post war period. Also worth reading in that era is a slim 16 page booklet entitled The Future of County Cricket and representing the transcript of a discussion between writer Denzil Batchelor and former Surrey skipper Stuart Surridge. They were agreed that change was needed, but differed as to what was required. It is an interesting dialogue and a copy of the booklet is well worth tracking down.
If the impression is sometimes created that before the Second World War all was sweetness and light in the county game the fact that it wasn’t is illustrated by the content of a 1926 book, A Searchlight on County Cricket by A County Cricketer. It is known well enough now that the County Cricketer concerned was the writer EHD Sewell, who played for three seasons for Essex as an amateur. As a writer Sewell was a man noted for the strength of his opinions, not all of which stood up to close scrutiny, but many years later Ray Illingworth for one was impressed with his book.
And finally, no look at the literature of the county game would be complete without reiterating the three words with which I began this post, County Cricket Matters, a splendid publication which should be read by all. In the unlikely event that any reader isn’t familiar with it, these are links to our reviews
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