Articles from ‘The Wisdener’ – The Club Newsletter

March 2020: The Coronavirus is impacting on everyone. There is no hiding the fact that it is an unbelievable threat to us all. The following is just a very very small attempt to give you something to read and maybe enjoy, take your mind off things for half an hour or so. I know that there are many many amazing websites, offering articles/clips/highlights etc and as you scroll down I am just trying to publish as much as I can from the pages of The Wisdener, gathered over nearly a decade. Please accept my apologies for not being able to make these articles easier to access, with separate headings etc, but the website was not designed to allow this. So, keep scrolling down and down and down to read more and more…

An Introduction:
The Wisdener is the official newsletter of the Wisden Collectors’ Club, each quarterly edition is aimed at informing and hopefully entertaining those of us who collect Wisden. With such an interest in cricket it also looks at other aspects of the game we love. The Wisdener is posted to members, unless a member specifically requests their copy to be sent by email as a PDF and the dates and copy deadlines for the next issue is listed below. Non-members are welcome to contribute.

The Wisdener also looks at other aspects of the game we love.   Non-members are welcome to contribute

It is the aim of the WCC to continue to post each newsletter, whether that be to Australia, Singapore, Dubai, New Zealand or Dudley in the West Midlands. One of the many reasons that we all love Wisden is the actual physical book and the WCC feels that sending newsletters out as email attachments or PDFs is just not the same.

Below are a number of articles featured over the ten-year history of The Wisdener and some very new ones I have discovered or been recommended.





How the edge of a bat made history….by Lindsay Hassett, Captain of the 1953 Australian team in England. (The Cricketer, 1979)

THESE days I lead a relaxed and, I suppose, menially lazy life and it is always with the utmost reluctance that I lake up a pen. I would rather face the dentist than write a letter. But Reg Hayter, the Editor, his requested that I tell you something of Bill Johnston and, as the request comes from one with whom I have spent many happy hours and because the subject is one of my most esteemed friends, I have felt honour-bound to stir myself.

I have been asked to recall the general events which led to the remarkable fact that Bill Johnston, in 1953, completed a tour of England with a batting average of over 100.

To put this in its right perspective a description of the man’s batting technique is essential. Johnston had most of the natural ingredients that made Frank Woolley such a delight to behold in that he was tall, slim and left-handed. 

The major difference between the two was that, with Woolley, the bowler experienced great difficulty in finding the edge of his devastating blade whereas Johnston relied very heavily on the edge of his bat to collect the runs that made history during that 1953 tour. Perhaps Johnston’s final batting analysis should be quoted:

Innings N.O.    H.S.    Runs    Average

17           16           28       102        102

He made a disastrous start to the season, injuring a knee in the first match — a charily game at East Molesey — a misfortune which I have always considered cost Australia the Ashes because, although he bowled a lot of overs later in the tour, he never regained complete confidence. His injury kept him off the field until towards the end of May and, in his second first-class appearance, he made his highest score, 28 not out against Sussex. Ten appearances later at the crease and towards the end of August he had taken his total to 97 with the help of 27 not out against the Gentlemen of England.

It was after this game that the plot was hatched to attempt to raise ho average over the century. He had been dismissed once, against Hampshire early in the season, and the difficulty was that lust one more dismissal would cut his average in half. He had three more games to play and every ball that he faced was watched from the dressing-room with no less intensity than the first over of a Test match.

In the first of the three matches — against Kent — I declared the innings closed at 465 for eight so that danger was averted, although he required three runs to reach the century aggregate. The next game was against South of England. By now Johnston was in that rare and happy position where both friend and foe had one common aim. It was, 1 believe, a very slow full toss from Denis Compton, directed well wide of the leg stump, that produced a boundary that took his total to 102.1 immediately closed the innings which left but one hurdle to negotiate to get Bill safely through, the last game against Tom Pearce’s XI at Scarborough.

The Englishmen batted first and made 320. Our ninth wicket fell at 317 and I ignored Bill’s glances, almost imploring a declaration, and sent him in to bat. He did not know that both teams and the two umpires were well briefed in their parts. He faced two balls which, even with his long arms, I doubt whether he could have reached. Then over was called and Alec Bedser took up the attack from the other end, bowling to Gil Langley.

Before the ball had left Bedser’s hand, Gil advanced towards the wicket swinging his bat with an arc as wide as his grin and happily watched his off stump knocked from the turf. He was, in the modern vernacular (although I’ve never quite known what it meant), “comprehensively” bowled. In fact. I’ll venture a statement without risk that no batsman managed the 320 runs necessary to win for the loss of eight wickets, so that no further connivance was necessary. I cannot let this opportunity pass without noting that in the Englishmen’s second innings the scorecard show’s L. Hutton stumped Langley bowled Hassett 102. Who said that Len never threw his hand away?

Incidentally, I must give full praise to Tom Pearce who, in that year, brought this festival game back to its proper meaning, whereas previously it had developed very much into an extra Test match.

Australia may have produced a few finer bowlers than Bill Johnston but it could never boast of a better cricketer in the true sense of the word. His sportsmanship was flawless. He had a tremendous sense of loyalty to his team-mates but, above all, his humour and spirit of sheer fun were limitless. If he had not played a single game on those long, tough tours, he would have been almost worth taking along for the effect his infectious geniality had on the team.

Tall and loose-limbed. he could high kick well above his own height and, when egged on, could not resist the temptation to have a go at a hanging light-fitting that might have been seven feet plus from the floor. These attempts had somewhat of a shattering effect on the nerves of his various hosts but I cannot recall any tinkling of glass through many successful performances.

He must have been double-jointed because he could sit on the floor and interlock his two feet behind his head. In fact. I have seen him in this position on the marble mantlepiece of one of England’s stately homes. The ornamental effect was far more startling than anything brought home from Africa or India in the good old huntin’, shootin’ days.

But there was and is a lot more to his character than this happy-go-lucky fun-producing and fun-loving side. Throughout his commercial career he has been energetic, conscientious and happily successful.

So when I look at 1954 Wisden and see W. A. Johnston heading the Australian batting with that mighty average of 102 I can only conclude — “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bolder.”


Price Information:
1954 Wisden Hardback. The 1954 is straight-forward to find. Most collectors will want strong gilt on the front and spine, but a thing to look for in the 1954 (indeed with any Wisden Hardback pre-1965) is the strength of the internal front and rear hinges and the centre between the Preface and Contents. If any of these pages are cracked or the webbing is showing then this may lead to cracking and breakage over time. A super 9/10 or better edition should be between £55 and £75.

1954 Wisden Soft back. Wisdens from this decade and back to 1938 tend to develop minor issues. Spine bowing/curving which is completely understandable as, hopefully, the almanacks have been opened and read a lot, is common. As is, lightness to the spine and fraying at the edges. One without any of these issues would be around the £35-£42 mark. But there is something quite lovely about a 1950’s Wisden with fraying, or a slight spine curve, it shows it has been read and enjoyed, with a little of each pick up a bargain at between £25 and £32




The article below was written in 1982 by Doug Wright, who took part in the ‘Timeless Test.’
Personally I think it is a lovely piece.

My most memorable match was the last Test of the 1938-39 tour of South Africa and Rhodesia. This Durban Test was to be played to a finish, and became known as the ‘Timeless Test.”  We had had a very pleasant and successful tour, being unbeaten, and winning the third Test. This final Test had created a tremendous amount of interest, and large crowds of all nationalities were expected to see it. It started on Friday March 3, 1939. Our skipper, Wally Hammond, had won the toss eight consecutive times, so it was hardly surprising that he lost this one. Alan Melville elected to bat.

The over-riding factor was the first-class condition of the pitch, which gave the bowlers no help. Further, the light rain which fell most evenings, plus the light roller and the effects of the sun, repaired any slight damage done during the previous day’s play. I remember bowling on this ‘shirt-front’ of a pitch towards evening, and perhaps I just imagined that the ball did turn a little. However, on the following day my hopes of even a slight deviation were dashed. Maybe the wicket on the first day had just a little moisture on the surface, as our two fast bowlers, Perks and Farnes, managed to get some lift with he new ball, Perks bowling extremely well and taking 5 for 100 in 41 eight-ball overs.
The South African innings was opened by Alan Melville and Pieter van Der Byl, both of whom had played county cricket. Van Der Byl was an Oxford Blue and Melville played for Sussex. With no time restrictions the batsmen took no un-necessary chances, and it was 45 minutes before Van Der Byl scored his first single, over three hours before he reached the boundary. Melville, restrained, played a faultless innings of 78 until he stepped on his wicket. The day ended with Bruce Mitchell and van Der Byl together at 229 for 2, van Der Byl 105 not out after batting for well over four hours.

The second day brought more pretty dour cricket. I soon bowled Mitchell (11) and the next batsman, Dudley Nourse, normally a fine stroke-maker, managed with van Der Byl to add only 17 in the next hour. After a stay of over seven hours, van Der Byl was bowled by Perks for 125, his first Test century. Course continued to be tied down and after batting for 3 1/2 hours still had only 50 at the end of the day.

It rained quite heavily on Sunday, but the pitch played as well as ever on Monday. Course and Grievson continued to play very slowly ‘till beyond lunchtime. Course was first to go, after batting for six hours, worked by Perks for 103, and Grievson, who played very soundly for 75, was also a victim of perks, and the innings closed for 530, made in 13 hours.

Hedly Verity, who bowled 55.6 overs, was only hit for his first boundary after the total had reached 500.
England opened very cautiously, scoring only 10 in three-quarters of an hour, and play ended shortly after Gibb was caught off Newson for 4, the scoreboard reading 35 for 1. On Tuesday, the overcast conditions seemed to affect the wicket. It may have been the excellent South African bowling and fielding, but apart from Leslie Ames (84) and Eddie Paynter (62), no-one made many runs, and we totalled 316, leaving us 214 runs behind. South Africa did not consider asking England to follow on.

The pitch received the usual attention between innings, and the umpires went out again on the fifth day of a rather farcical match. Van Der Byl opened again, this time with Mitchell, and again runs came quietly and steadily. After nearly four hours, 191 had beens cored and the openers were still together. Van Der Byl was within three runs of his second hundred in the match. Most people were probably dozing in the evening sun – perhaps thinking of returning home, when suddenly it all happened – Mitchell managed to step on his wicket and was out for 89, Rowan, next over, was magnificently caught by Edrich for 0, and van Der Byl, in the last over, pushed a catch off me to Painter at short leg and was out for 97. Three wickets had gone at the same total, and with the score 193 for 3, stumps were drawn for the day with South Africa 407 ahead.

The next day, an outstanding innings of 103 by Melville took the score to 481, leaving England the tremendous task of scoring 696 to win. Ames, the Kent wicket-keeper, kept superbly, letting only seven byes through in 1011 runs.

It was about this time that the Athlone Castle was getting ready to steam off down the east coast to Cape Town, on the way home to England. The team had expected to be on board, but as the match Was still in progress, arrangements were made to travel by train to Cape Town. The captain of the Athlone Castle, just to let us know he was sailing, sounded three long farewell blasts on the ship’s siren as if saying I’ll see you in Cape Town.

We usually walked to the ground from the Hotel Royal. By now, we not only knew the way, but many of the shop-keepers and people living on the route. After all, it was the seventh day. A fair amount of good-humoured banter passed between us regarding the 696 runs we needed. No-one gave us the slightest chance.
It could not be said that Paul Gibb was the ‘life and soul’ of the party, yet he had a great sense of humour, if perhaps at times a little eccentric. He certainly had an enormous appetite and a great fondness for oranges and peaches. His breakfasts during the ‘epic’ struggle were quite unbelievable, his excuse being that he had to fortify himself for a long innings.
The final innings was opened by Hutton and Gibb, both Yorkshireman and capable of laying a sound foundation for this massive task. Hutton was a little unlucky in dragging a ball onto his wicket: 78 for 1.
I must admit that we were slightly surprised to know that Bill Edrich had been promoted to No. 3, particularly after his rather meagre scoring in the last four Tests. This confidence shown by Wally was more than repaid. Bill and Paul stayed together until the end of the day, when the total was 253-1, Bill 107 and Paul 78. It rained on Saturday – not a ball bowled.

Monday, the ninth day, and once again the wicket rolled out well after rain and sun. At lunch we were 331 for 1. During the afternoon Paul was at last out, after nine hours of patient and controlled batting. He hit only two fours in his 120. We then saw Hammond at his best. What a player he was! Not only did he keep the score moving rapidly , but each shot, so superbly played, gave much aesthetic pleasure. Bill Edrich, who no doubt fortified himself with a slightly different menu from Paul, was out after seven hours 40 minutes, having scored 219, and then Paynter, the little Lancashire left-hander, joined the skipper until the end of the day’s play, when the total was 496 for 3.

Tuesday, the tenth day, was the last it was possible to play, as we just HAD to get the ship in Cape Town. The weather was rather cloudy and rain was forecast. Hammond and Paynter, realising they had to force the pace, played some of the best cricket of the game. Hammond was out, slumped for 120, and Paynter, bowled by Gordon, for 75.
With Ames and valentine together, the weather worsened and with the score at 654 for 5, the threatened downpour burst on the ground and the ‘play-to-the-finish Test’ was left unfinished. I have no doubt that we would have managed the 42 runs needed to win, but that really didn’t matter.
Since then, not surprisingly, there have been no more Timeless tests!!
1940: Print Run
Hardback –  3500
Soft Back  – 9000
Willows –     1250 (across three different formats)

Finding an original hardback in exceptional condition is unusual. The gilt to the front is in most cases strong, but the spine gilt tends to fade. The internal hinges owing to stronger binding are generally in super condition. You should expect to find a 9/10 (or better) 1940 for between £900 and £1,200.
Original soft backs tend to develop two main issues. The spine becomes lighter and it is nearly always bowed. Rather than strive for the very very few that do not have these issues, it is probably wise to get one that is maybe a little light or only slightly bowed. A 9/10 (or better) would be around the £200 mark. Spending between £150 and £200 should get you a lovely edition, with just minor lightness or bowing.



‘First Love – and Cricket’

First love – always a powerful experience, something that is remembered with affection. It can be a coup de foudre, a lightning strike that opens one’s eyes so that one can never see the object of one’s desires in the same way again, or something that grows more over time, slowly building to a climax of surrender. For me it happened at dusk on a Sunday in June 1971 and I was 14 years old.

The day had started well – my family were going to visit my Grandmother in Southend, and had agreed to drop me and a friend off so we could watch Kent vs. Gloucestershire, a John Player League match at the Garrison Ground, Gillingham, a venue barely used even by our peripatetic county. So, with Pete, I was dropped off near the ground, arriving in plenty of time to eat our sandwiches and rebuff the offers of free samples from the ‘JPL’ cigarette girls.

The game was a good one, for fanatical Kentish Men like Pete and I (not, of course, ‘Men of Kent’ – a distinction of crucial importance). Kent won easily, with fifties from Colin Cowdrey, skipper and the batsmen we all wanted to be, and David Nicholls who doubled his previous best Sunday score whilst deputising for Kent’s two current and absent Test players, opener Brian Luckhurst and keeper Alan Knott; Nicholls, we learned, had score a double century for Kent eight years before as a teenager, but had scarcely played since. His rotund figure gave us less sporty boys the hope that we too could one day represent our beloved county. Setting just over 200 we were confident, especially as the Test selectors had bizarrely left out ‘Deadly’ Derek Underwood – his four cheap wickets ensured victory and as ‘MCC’ was awarded the winners’ cheque (was it £100?) live on TV, we took the train home before going our separate ways.

Dusk was falling as I walked past the front window of our house and I saw that the dining room table was covered with yellow books. I stood transfixed – I counted them, 28 in all, recognisable but subtly different from the one I‘d purchased new a few months earlier. Why were they there? Were they for me? It was sometime before I dared knock on the door. The explanation was that an elderly friend of my Grandmother had heard that I was at a cricket match, and having no family interested in the game, had offered me his collection of Wisdens 1919-39 and 1945-51. This was just the start of my love affair – for the next few years I quarried every second-hand bookshop I could find, searching out copies from other years and, incredibly, finding many within my limited budget. My love for my collection carried on as I amassed more than 100 until, inevitably, other targets became more attractive and I simply added the new edition each year. But always, throughout some six different homes, a bookcase of these yellow books took pride of place. First love had been replaced by a cosy familiarity, but the memories remain.
Giles Falconer.



Farewell – but not to memories –  Many of the game’s giants, from Grace to Boycott, have played in the beautiful setting of Queen’s Park, Chesterfield. Now, sadly, county cricket has ended there. Writing in The Cricketer in 1981, JOHN SHAWCROFT explained why.

DERBYSHIRE’S decision to play all their home matches at the County Ground, Derby, marks the end of a long tradition. The club plan extensive developments at their headquarters and staging all the matches there appears economically sound. But it means the finish of county cricket at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield, where it was first played in 1898, and at occasionally-used grounds such as Burton-on-Trent (1914), Buxton (1923) and Ilkeston (1925).

The grounds present a study in contrasts. The beauty of Queen’s Park, with its flower beds, trees and a lake overlooked by the crooked spire of the church, is familiar to many cricket lovers. The All-England XI played in the town and Derbyshire’s first match there was at the Saltergate Recreation Ground in 1874, four years after the county club’s formation. Queen’s Park was opened in 1887 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Derbyshire meeting Surrey in the first county match on the ground 11 years later.

Yorkshire out for 44

A predominantly mining community often subjected the players to ribald comments of varying knowledge and humour. The advice handed out to Derbyshire’s bowlers was plentiful when Brown and Tunnicliffe began the Yorkshire innings with a partnership of 554 in 1898. Little has changed and when Yorkshire and England wicket-keeper, Bair- stow, failed to stump Bob Taylor off Carrick in the corresponding fixture last season the lapse was greeted with predictable jeers.

In 1904 Essex, after scoring 597 in their first innings – Perrin hitting 68 boundaries in his 343 not out- were beaten by nine wickets, a remarkable achievement by Derbyshire for whom C. A. Ollivierre made 229. W. G. Grace and Bradman played at Queen’s Park; Hayward, Hobbs, Woolley, Graveney, Barry Richards, Procter and Boycott are among the century makers there. Somerset were beaten in a day, Sussex in a memorable Gillette Cup semi-final. Peter Smith and Vigar added 218 for the last wicket for Essex in 1947 against an attack which included Copson, George Pope and Gladwin.

This trio formed part of Derbyshire’s famous line of pace bowlers who fought out the annual battle with the traditional enemy from north of the county’s border, sometimes on Chesterfield ‘green tops’. They still talk of a day more than 30 years ago when Pope and Gladwin shot out Yorkshire for 44 before lunch and of Bill Copson’s dismissals of Hutton for two in 1946 and for a duck, second ball, when the great man next appeared at the ground three years later.  Mike Hendrick continued the tradition by taking six for 36 against Yorkshire in 1975, four of his victims being among Bob Taylor’s haul of seven in the innings.

At Ilkeston’s pleasant Rutland Ground, Nottinghamshire have been the main enemy. The town is close to the county borders and there have been many titanic struggles, none more so than in 1936, Derbyshire’s championship year, when the sides were first and second in the table at the time of their meeting at Ilkeston. Sobers played some memorable innings on the Rutland Ground where spin bowlers have so often dominated. Bearing this in mind, one of the greatest innings played for Derbyshire was Eddie Barlow’s 217 off the bowling of Arnold, Jackman, Intikhab and Pocock of Surrey in 1976.

Matches at Buxton, a spa town more than 1,000 feet above sea level, have often been dogged by rain and on one peculiar June day by snow. The first Australian touring side played there in 1878 in an against-odds game, and Derbyshire met Cheshire seven years later. The first championship match at Buxton was in 1930 but the county met the West Indies in 1923. Lancashire have been frequent visitors and Brian Statham produced some remarkable bowling figures. Cliff Gladwin took all nine Lancashire wickets in 1947 before Cranston declared the first innings at the overnight total and it was on this ground that Colin Milburn scored his maiden hundred for Northamptonshire.

At Burton-on-Trent, which is in Staffordshire, Derbyshire have used three grounds. Originally they played on a club ground, later using the Ind Coope and Allsop’s ground which now comes under the aegis of Allied Breweries Ltd. Two matches against the Universities have been played on the Bass Worthington Ground.

Two Hammond hundreds

There was a rare duel at the Allied Breweries Ground last summer when Hendrick took six Leicestershire wickets and David Gower scored his first championship hundred for three years. In 1958 Hampshire were routed by Les Jackson and Harold Rhodes for 23 and 55, and Hammond scored two separate hundreds for Gloucestershire in a match at Burton in 1938. Recent activities at some of these grounds have been marred by adverse pitch reports. Derbyshire stopped using the Bass Worthington venue after only two games. Ilkeston and Buxton were temporarily in disgrace before their reinstatement last season.

Now they seem doomed to join Long Eaton, Wirksworth, Glossop and Blackwell among the defunct venues of first-class cricket in the county. Derbyshire followers have always cast envious glances at the magnificent facilities available at nearby Trent Bridge and the plan for the County Ground is an exciting and welcome venture. But memories of the days when the club took cricket to the people in the county’s distant outposts will linger on. . . .



“A little argument soon put the matter right”

Nowadays the events of July 25 1921 would have probably sparked a TV phone-in, a question in Parliament or the severing of diplomatic relations but back in 1921 Wisden referred to it as “a little argument”

Batting first after the first day (of three) had been lost to rain, England reached 341-4 when following the conclusion of the over by Armstrong, the England captain Tennyson came onto the field to declare the innings closed.
“Being quite forgetful that…” according to the Wisden report “…under Law 55, as amended by the MCC in 1914, he had no right to do so,” as the first day had been lost to rain and no declaration was allowed later than an hour and forty minutes before the close, he was an hour too late.
The Australian Captain, Armstrong, told his players to stay on the field before they eventually followed the umpires into the pavilion.
“A little argument soon put the matter right, play resumed after an interval of around twenty minutes, when Armstrong resumed bowling. Not only had the Test Match been interrupted by a failure to grasp the Laws but it was also the last occasion in Test Cricket when a bowler (Armstrong) bowled two consecutive overs.

England v Australia: Fourth Test, Manchester, July 23, 25, 26 1921
England 362-4 & 44-1
Australia 175
Match Drawn



Wisden collectors,
have a look at page 315 of your 1978 edition. Take a close look at the Glamorgan scorecard, is any part of it missing? Does your almanack have an errata slip with the complete scorecard? During printing it was found that almost a quarter of the copies were missing part of the score card, something had fallen onto the press and obscured part of the page. When it was discovered, the press was stopped, the offending blip removed and the rest were printed normally. In times of declining sales and high costs a full reprint was out of the question, hence the inclusion of the errata slip.




A View on The Printing of Wisden, by Nigel Heath

Publishers don’t in general have their own printing and binding facilities. Publishers buy printing/binding services as they need them at the right price. Printers supply services to a spec and price. However during production things might have changed. For example, they run out of the paper they intended to use and substitute another, resulting in a visible change in the colour of the paper viewed from the edge, often more obvious in books that have aged (The 1947 is an example of this, two different sized editions were produced – see below).



This would not result in say 10% of the books being different in colour, but ALL the books would have a section or two that were different in colour, as the last section/s to be printed would be on the substituted stock. Many printers had big binderies, others relied on one, or even more than one, sub-contracted trade bookbinder. Jobs that were on tight turnarounds like Wisden might have been produced in this way. This might result in a slightly different spec of binding cloth, even a different batch might vary slightly in texture and colour. If a big job was not all required for a specific date, the binding and finishing of volumes might be delayed. So for example 2000, copies ready for the primary publication date of 1st April then 1000 more on 1st May, 1st June etc. This would help the publisher with their cash flow, as each batch of the job would be invoiced on delivery, it would help the bindery with their scheduling it might also increase the chances of slightly different materials being used from batch to batch particularly with the binding materials.

The publisher would order his required number of copies from his suppliers. His requirement of say, 5000 case bound and 5000 paper wrapped books. 10000 copies would be printed with sufficient “overs” to allow for losses on press, during folding, gathering and sewing, all to ensure that they finished up with exact final quantity. Normally the binder would sew all the sections that were provided until he ran out of the section which had the least printed sheets. Then the remaining “overs” of the other sections would probably be destroyed or returned to the publisher [unlikely]. The paper/linen editions would be finished in one batch because this process is more mechanised and therefore more economic.

So let us say for instance that there were 200 sewn book blocks over the 10000 required. These would be stored as sewn book blocks ready to be trimmed and bound. They store well in this form as they can be kept flat in piles under their own weight, for years if necessary. These could be “finished” with either paper of case binding at a future date if demand arose without the prohibitive cost of reprinting. Binders and printers would make a small storage charge to the publishers for holding book blocks in storage. If the Wisden “factory” was a warehouse rather than a factory it is quite probable their whole stock of original unsold editions and unbound book blocks perished in the fire in 1944. Returning to the original job, the binder would make 5000 cases, whether by hand or by machine there would never be need for more than just a hand full of “overs” the process did not need them.

The case is constructed from two thick boards, front and back and a slightly lighter weight one that sits inside the spine these are glued to the linen or buckram. As soon as these are moistened with glue to fix the paper/linen outer cover they begin to curl, this is offset by the glue applied on the inside to the end paper, and when the book is then pressed in piles to dry, the result is flat books.

Binders never made more cases than they needed for this practical reason. If you were to make a large stock of boards to store and use over a period they would curl and would have to be kept pressed flat. So normal binding practice was to make exactly what was required. It was also common practice on books that turned over very slowly to bind them up in very small quantities. There was little economy of scale to apply on hand binding. So that pile of 200 spare book blocks could be case bound in very small quantities to make up small orders to save the cost of a reprint and to make the publisher a little more money. [In fact these are very profitable as the costs have already been covered by the main print run].

The contract agreed between the publisher and the printer would often include an agreed allowance for the supply of “overs” something between 2%-5% and the printer would be able to deliver plus or minus this percentage from the agreed print run. Printers would try to finish on the slightly “high” side if they could as they would have a slightly larger quantity to invoice. The above serves to demonstrate that the correct number of bound copies would be manufactured in one or a number of smaller batches and that there would be a remainder of sewn book blocks left over.

Producing “Wisden Boards for stock”, even if it were possible to avoid the problem described above, would give rise to another problem, the boards, or more precisely the spine, has to be EXACTLY the right size for the contents that are to be bound within. It would not be accurate enough to assume that the same number of pages will bind to the same thickness on the next edition. Quality, bulk and moisture of paper and the tightness of the sewing and the pressures on the rounding and backing process would leave too much to guess. So cases are made to measure once the book blocks are ready.

To then have this stock of cases ready gold/foil blocked would then make it impossible to centre either the text on the front cover and/or the text on the spine. There is another reason why, the year, edition number and the editor’s name would be applied separately, this is not because of the large quantities that were produced but because of the small quantities involved. The reason was simple. The high cost of having blocking brasses produced. So for example, let me send my three prized old paper bound Wisdens to somebody to have them case bound. Three cases would be made by hand, each one prepared to the correct thickness of spine. Each edition requires a brass to be made for the spine and the front cover.

Two brasses for each Brasses have traditionally been made by specialist sub-contractors, and are expensive based on their size calculated in square inches. Let’s say, for example that each brass costs £1. To reduce the cost it would be normal practice to make a brass for the parts that are common on each of the 3 volumes, and have a small one made for the little bits that change i.e. editor’s name and year. The labour involved in blocking each volume with four blocks not two would not figure into the equation,but it would explain variation in the quality and font of these components compared with the main part of the blocking work.

Once used these brasses were stored, wrapped in paper with a “pull” of the image contained on the brass within, they would languish on a shelf in a box labelled “Wisden brasses” for years. Inevitably the “year” brasses would be borrowed” for other jobs, mixed up or lost, then have to be hastily “found” or “borrowed” when the next Wisden job arrived. The process described above would have been likely to have been employed by Wisden themselves [At their premises in Mortlake?]. But it is also quite plausible that a bookseller might have provided this service, making up cases one at a time and fiddling about with the brasses as I’ve described above.

In fact given the state of the printing trade in the 1970s it would be easy to imagine how those skills were found and employed. I agree that the publisher would not have bothered with rebinding anything when they had stock on their shelves. Indeed I don’t think a publisher would care a hoot about the books that they sold last year. They are only ever worried about sales of books on the shelf, and the cost and schedule of next year’s edition.

Nigel Heath




My Love Affair with Wisden and How It Started,  by John Swain (Wisden Collector)

The year is 1950. India is proclaimed a republic, Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnam regime is recognised by Moscow and Peking, Communist North Korea invades the South and British troops join the conflict. At home, petrol rationing ends and fuel prices rise to three shillings a gallon, the Eagle comic is launched and Sainsbury’s first self-service store opens in Croydon. On the sporting front, US footballers beat England 1-0 in the World Cup and the popular West Indian cricket tourists defeat the home side 3-1.

Above everything else, a six-year-old schoolboy is introduced to his first-ever copy of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the 1950 Edition. I suppose I must have been a precocious talent in those far-off days, as I remember being taken to watch various games in the locality of north Hertfordshire, and being allowed to knock up with some of the players, which included my father. Dad had also built up a small collection of the almanack during the Thirties, but he was misguided enough to donate them all to the wartime paper recycling scheme at the opening of hostilities in ’39. I never let him forget this error of judgment, although he did take on the responsibility of supplying the household with subsequent editions until I took over in the mid- Sixties. In more recent times, the growing collection has been considerably extended to include the Willows reprints

My Wisden collection in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, includes 1920-24, 1926-31 hardback reprints, a rebound paper 1925 original, two linen original 1938-39 copies and a reprint run from 1940-45 on the top left shelf. The top right shelf contains original linen covers for the post-war period 1946-64. The remaining Wisden shelves carry hardback copies, in laminated dust jackets, from 1965 until 2009. Inevitably, my favourite edition has to be that very first one in 1950. Even to a very small boy, the book had an attractive cover and the limp version was unusually tactile, quite apart from its distinctive smell! I was well and truly hooked, and the copy was read from cover to cover on numerous occasions.

Perhaps I was fortunate to possess a reading age in excess of my years, but provided every incentive to study further and, in common with other youthful enthusiasts, it also taught me geography, history and arithmetic.. The 87th Edition carried a ‘Tribute to Hutton” my favourite cricketer of the time, and I followed his career with interest until his retirement a few years later.  Already, I knew of his monumental 364 at The Oval in August 1938, against the formidable Aussies! The County Championship reports were studied in depth after a scrutiny of the individual player portraits, cricket ground plans and the season’s averages.

My favourite counties were Somerset and Yorkshire, but all sections of the publication were eagerly devoured on most days! A wonderful, life-long hobby had been successfully launched! Through time, this much-loved book fell to bits, despite numerous attempts at repairing the contents. However, it is still extant and is, at the time of writing, in the safe custody of my son in Oxfordshire, along with other early rejects which have been replaced by linen versions in much better condition.

If I have one small regret, it’s that I failed to achieve a mention in despite a useful playing career spanning 30 seasons, which included four full years with Watford Boys’ (1958- 61). If only the Master-in-Charge had sent in those annual reports, as his successors did in later years. No matter, as I continue to enjoy following the Great Game, both live and on and I shall look forward to engaging with other likeminded folk through the in the future through the Wisden Collectors’ Club.



Bill Voce – Obituary

Bill Voce, who died at Nottingham on June 6, 1984, aged 74, is largely thought of in these days as the junior in one of the great bowling partnerships, Larwood and Voce, and for the contribution that he made to the bodyline attack in Australia in 1932-33. Although he was somewhat slower than Larwood, his line, from left-arm over the wicket, and the steeper bounce that he obtained from his height, made him formidable enough and the batsmen got no relief when facing him. His job in that 1932-33 series was to maintain the pressure and he did it nobly, taking, besides, fifteen wickets in four matches: he missed the fourth Test owing to injury.

The controversy which this tour excited and the amount that has been written since has diverted attention from his performances in the first two Tests in 1936-37. No English side in this century had had such a bad press before the tour started: it was popularly regarded as having no chance whatever. Its captain, G. O. Allen, the third fast bowler on the previous trip, had been irredeemably opposed to bodyline and had refused to bowl it: it is worth recording that he himself had by orthodox methods taken eight for 131 in the third Test. So before the selection of the team was completed the Chairman arranged a meeting between Allen and Voce at which Allen insisted on an undertaking being given that bodyline tactics would not be employed. Voce demurred at first, but finally agreed to fall in with his captain’s wishes and throughout the tour bowled over the wicket to an off-side field.

In the first Test he took six for 41 and four for 16: Australia lost by 322 runs and the critics were confounded. The second was even more sensational. Allen declared (a step almost unprecedented in a timeless Test) at 426 for six in order to get Australia in on a wet wicket, and with the seventh ball of the first over Voce had O’Brien, a left-hander, caught at slip: from the next ball Bradman was caught at short-leg. A maiden followed and off the second ball of his next over McCabe was caught. Australia were three wickets down for 1 run and Voce had taken them all in four balls. The side was out for 80 and, though they got 324 in their second innings, they lost by an innings, Voce’s figures being four for 10 and three for 66. In addition Chipperfield had been missed off his bowling in the first innings. In this match the weather had helped England, in the next it helped Australia, who won by 365 runs. Voce was in no way to blame: though his six wickets cost him 169 runs, he maintained, according to Wisden, his concentration and deadliness right throughout both innings. 

William Voce was born at Annesley Woodhouse on August 8th, 1909 and whilst playing for Annesley Colliery 2nd XI, he was recommend to Nottinghamshire by Fred Barratt. Following a trial at the nets, Voce was engaged on the ground staff for the 1926 season, when his medium-pace left-arm deliveries immediately proved successful in the County 2nd XI. Playing in 8 matches he took 35 wickets – more than double the number achieved by any other bowler.  With Larwood selected for the 1927 Test Trial, Voce made his debut for Nottinghamshire v Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge on June 25th, 27th and 28th, 1927. His opening game was something of a triumph. The headlines read: ‘Nottinghamshire’s Long Search Rewarded. Good Left Arm Bowler Found. Voce’s Notable Debut.’.
His figures were 24-12-36-5. 

Although both The Cricketer and Wisden had some critical comments to make on Voce’s bowling in their reviews of 1927, there is no doubt that he made a great impact. The fact that he was picked for every Nottinghamshire match in 1927 after his debut is significant in itself, considering the bowling strength of the county at the time.  Despite his success and the forecast that he would become one of the greatest left-arm spinners, Voce more or less abandoned his slower style of bowling in 1928 and concentrated on swinging the ball. His pace was now nearer fast-medium and by the end of 1928 he had ironed out the problems connected with his change of style and in the final game took 11 wickets for 132.  His attacking batsmanship was also beginning to develop – there was a little innings of 32* versus Somerset in May that was a foretaste of some future belligerence. 

1929 was Nottingham’s Championship year. Voce played no small part in the success. He not only took 100 wickets for the first time, but also finished at the head of Nottinghamshire bowling tables. Indeed R.Tyldesly, J.C. White and T.W. Goddard in the whole country could point to better records. Voce took three wickets in four balls twice for Nottinghamshire in 1929 versus Warwickshire at Coventry and versus Somerset at Trent Bridge.  His success had been noticed by the Test selectors and in mid-June he appeared in the England v Rest Test Trial Though he was not with MCC to the West Indies in the winter of 1929/30.  It was on this tour – at Bridgetown on January 11th, 1930 – that he made his Test debut. His best performance of the tour came in the Second Test at Port of Spain when he took 7 for 70 in the second innings and 11 for 149 in the match. He was England’s best bowler in terms of most wickets taken, both on the tour as a whole and in the Tests. 

Back in England in 1930, he did not quite find his touch He failed to get a place in any of the Tests against Australia and for Nottinghamshire, with Barratt falling off, he was rather overbowled. The selectors had not forgotten him and he was chosen to tour South Africa with the MCC in the 1930/31 winter. As in the West Indies twelve months previously, he proved a great success. A. P. F. Chapman, the England captain commented: ‘Voce bowled magnificently and I think he was the best bowler on either side. He has definitely arrived as an England bowler. Not only did he bowl well, but his fielding was brilliant and his innings at Johannesburg was one that will never be forgotten by those who saw it.’ Voce took 23 Test wickets – the most on either side – and his best match was at Durban when he had figures of 5 for 58. The innings referred to by Chapman was one of 41* made in 27 minutes including 4 sixes. Voce was batting at No. 11 and added 57 for the final wicket 

His batting caused a sensation in the second Nottinghamshire match of 1931 versus Glamorgan at Trent Bridge. In the first innings he batted as usual at number 11, but in the second innings he was put in at No. 4 and hit 50 out of 64 balls in 20 minutes going on to 129 out of 188 in 75 minutes with 3 sixes and 19 fours. He reached 100 in 45 minutes – at that time the fourth fastest hundred-ever recorded in first-class cricket. During the whole of 1936 Voce hit no less than 26 sixes.  Having already represented England in nine Tests overseas, Voce at last made his debut in England in 1931. He appeared in the First Test at Lord’s, but with no single wicket and having 100 runs hit off his bowling, he was decidedly unsuccessful and was not chosen for the other Tests that year.  According to the critics his bowling still suffered from an attempt to bowl in two styles. Most of his wickets came when he bowled round the wicket, making the ball go with his arm. This mode of attack was often accompanied by four short-legs and was akin to the leg theory, which was soon to cause so much heated argument. 

In 1932, Voce again played in the Lord’s Test match and took 5 for 51 – a vast improvement on his figures of the year before. The tourists – the Indians – regarded Voce as the best bowler they met during their stay in England.  In terms of wickets and average, 1932 was the best summer he ever had with Nottinghamshire and he was an automatic choice to go with Larwood to Australia in the winter of 1932/33.  In the early games Voce’s best figure were 5 for 85 against New South Wales, just prior to the First Test. The important feature of the match from his viewpoint was that he captured the wickets of Bradman, Kippax and McCabe. 

It was at Adelaide in the third Test that the Body-line issue really flared up, but Voce, who was off the field with a damaged ankle for some of Australia’s first innings and bowled only four overs in the second, was not a major participant in the game. Owing to injury, Voce missed the Fourth Test, but resumed his place in the Final test.  After the toil of the winter, the English summer was one of recuperation, his wickets for Nottinghamshire cost 12 runs apiece more than in 1932, but his batting blossomed, he hit no less than nine fifties and he was so consistent that he actually achieved the goal of 1,000 runs in a season – not bad for a player, who had consistently been a regular number 11

The leg-theory continued to dominate Nottinghamshire cricket through 1933 and 1934. In so far as Voce was concerned matters culminated when the Australians played Nottinghamshire in August. The Sunday Times reported: ‘Voce bowled the Australians out at Trent Bridge for a score which they themselves would describe as beggardly and his figures, 23-6-66-8 render any adjective of mine superfluous. He got no help from the turn and had to fling the ball down very short to make it get up, yet it is not too much to say that he rattled the Australian XI.’  On the second day – Monday, Nottinghamshire made 183 and when rain stopped play early, the Australians were 3 for 0, less than three hours play had been possible. On the third day, Nottinghamshire went out to field without Voce and this led to much speculation and rumour in the crowd and press box, to the effect that ‘someone’ had told the Nottinghamshire Committee not to allow Voce to field. After play had been in progress sometime H. A. Brown, the Nottinghamshire secretary, issued a statement: ‘Voce is suffering from a recurrence of his shin trouble and on medical advice will not play today.’

Dr. G. O. Gauld, the Hon. Secretary to the Club stated that he examined Voce and strongly advised him not to play. On the other hand A W. Carr, the Nottinghamshire captain, who was a spectator during the match, owing to illness said, ‘If I were captain Voce would have played and bowled. There is nothing wrong with him.’ The inference was that the Australian team had objected to the way in which Voce bowled in the first innings. Whether they did in fact object seems a point of debate. The general assumption of the press was that Dr. Gauld was worried in case, in the second innings, one of the Australian was accidently injured by Voce and Gauld used the sore shins (which were a genuine injury) as the official excuse. To compound the problem, the newspapers carried numerous articles demanding that Voce, who had not been picked for England since the 1932/33 tour, was in the team for the First Test. The side was on the point of being chosen when the Nottinghamshire v Australia game took place 

Voce’s absence on the third day of the Australian game was perhaps the spark which set alight the civil war in the Nottinghamshire team during the winter of 1934/35. Led by A. W. Carr and others, the Nottinghamshire club were forced to hold a special general meeting of the club at which the members forced the entire committee to resign. How the affair was resolved is another story which belongs to the history of the club, rather than an essay on Voce, so it is not continued here. 

Voce bowled well for Nottinghamshire in 1935. He topped the county’s bowling averages and took 19 wickets. Poor slip fielding let him down. It was the most unfortunate that he was the only decent slip fielder in the Nottinghamshire side. Midway through the 1936 season the MCC announced that Voce had ‘placed himself unreservedly at the disposal of the Board of Control and MCC Selection Committees whenever his services may be required.’ He was duly chosen for the Third Test versus India. For Nottinghamshire in 1936 he did yeoman service, bowling no less than 1,100.1 overs – 400 more than anyone else and in the whole country only four others bowled more, three of whom where slow bowlers. As in the previous season he suffered from the poor slip catching of his colleagues. 

His success on the 1936/37 tour to Australia has already been noted, he took the most wickets at the best average discounting the occasional bowlers  26 wickets at 21.53 each. Returning to England for the 1937 season, Voce performed well with both bat and ball. As a bowler he now reverted to spin on a number of occasions. He played in the First Test versus New Zealand but then damaged a knee during the Nottinghamshire v Northamptonshire game on July 21st and the injury ended his cricket for the season. In the autumn he had a cartilage removed.  For both Nottinghamshire and Voce, 1938 proved a moderate summer. He took most wickets for the county, but both Butler and Woodhead claimed better averages. he could point to just one outstanding match with the ball – versus Kent, when his medium-pacers took 13 for 92 and one outstanding match with the bat against Derbyshire at Ilkeston, when he hit 111.

The final pre-war summer followed a similar pattern for Nottinghamshire and Voce, though his bowling improved as the year progressed. Poor slip fielding again let him down badly but he continued to be the county’s stock bowler and was very overbowled. The Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire match on June 17th – 20th at Trent Bridge was set aside for Voce’s benefit and in all he received £980. Back in 1933 he had been presented with a silver salver and £385 in recognition of his bowling on the 1932/33 tour.  Being in the armed services during the war, his cricket was very limited, though he appeared for Saltaire in 1943. In 1945 he played in several important matches and bowled brilliantly for Nottinghamshire v Australian Services at the end of August. He took 11 for 113 in the match and scored 45 and 35 – easily the most runs for Nottinghamshire. 

He was still in the services in 1946 when championship cricket resumed, but representing the Combined Services v Northamptonshire at the end of June he took 8 for 123 and gained a place in the Second Test Trial at Canterbury where he took 4 wickets in 26 deliveries for 7 runs. This obtained him a place in the Second Test versus India and also selection for the MCC team to visit Australia in the winter. His appearances for Nottinghamshire in the first post-war summer were very restricted and amounted to just 9 matches, his most noteworthy game being at Ilkeston where he hit a century. 

His third visit to Australia was not as success. Bradman and his colleagues slaughtered all the England bowlers and Voce was no exception. He played in two Tests, but these proved to be the last of his international career – his final appearance for England being on January 1st 1947 at Melbourne.  Owing to continued problems with his knee, which never really was sound after his cartilage operation, Voce asked the Nottinghamshire Committee to omit him from further county matches on June 4th, 1947 – he had appeared in five county games that summer.  Nottinghamshire appointed Voce assistant to T. B. Reddick the county coach and when Reddick resigned, Voce assumed the post of chief coach. He did however continue to play occasional first-class cricket for Nottinghamshire, when injury caused gaps in the county attack and his final first-class match was not until July 23rd – 25th, 1952 versus Middlesex at Trent Bridge. 

At the close of the 1952 season, Voce finished his contract as coach to the County Club and took a post with the National Coal Board. After he retired he lived in Hucknall and was a regular visitor to Trent Bridge.

Some thoughts on the ‘Bodyline Series’ – 1932- 1933 

While acknowledging that quite enough has already been written on the stormy 1932-33 ‘Bodyline’ series between Australia and England, The Wisdener is pleased to be able to resurrect some obscure press items which appeared during that unique, summer. These quotes were discovered in a scrapbook in a Sydney attic by the parents of Sky Television’s sports director David Hill and were originally made available to Wisden Cricket Monthly (first incarnation, not the present one) courtesy of Philip Barker. 

“The discovery by Judge Sheridan, of Sydney, that the leg trap is criminal presents a new idea of making cricket thrilling if police equipped with handcuffs were waiting to seize the bowler of the leg ball.”  – News Chronicle

“Had Australia won this fourth Test honours would have been even, and Jardine would have launched his shock attack with more severity than ever in the fifth of the series in Sydney.” – Journalist Claude Corbett

“Bodyline bowling, consisting of a bumping fast ball which rose head high, is new to Australia, and will cramp and spoil the game. I don’t deny that Gregory and I bowled short occasionally, but we never aimed at the body. This also applies to my county bowling. If players were hit, it was mostly by balls rising just over the top of the stumps or outside the off stump – never on the leg side.” – Former Australian fast bowler Ted McDonald.

“Among the latest exhibits as Madame Tussaud’s is a model of Jardine, but we are unable to confirm the overseas rumour that the absence of Larwood from the Chamber of Horrors is due to ‘boot’ trouble.” – Punch

“I think it is great, in these hard times, to forget our cares. As a person remarked, the only wages that have not been reduced are the wages of sin.” – England captain Douglas Jardine at a luncheon given by the millions club

“If you are going to tell the bowler to stop bowling the leg-theory because the batsmen do not like it, you may as well use a soft ball and convert cricket into a girl’s game. Half the joy of playing cricket is the element of personal danger involved.”- K. S. Duleepsinhji

“A cable from jack Hobbs, who is travelling with the English XI, that he had not discouraged Sutcliffe, failed to impress Lord Hawke, who claimed that Hobbs’s criticism of a fine batsman was unkind. Lord Hawke: ‘I object strongly to player-writers. I don’t think that are to be judges. Hobbs is wanting in tact.’ Hobbs: ‘it is really ridiculous to suggest that I was disparaging my old friend and colleague, Herbert, for everyone knows his value as a batsman. It appears that Lord Hawke must have forgotten that I was running short ones with Wilfred Rhodes 13 years before Herbert appeared in the Tests.” – Sydney Herald

“ ‘Are you using resin on the ball?’ Leyland asked ironmonger, after the latter had bowled over to Wyatt. Ironmonger denied that he was doing so, and Leyland further demanded to know whether he had any on his handkerchief, which he asked to be permitted to inspect. At first Ironmonger was reluctant to do so, and explained that all there was on the handkerchief was eucalyptus, which he used to keep the flies away. It was then that Woodfull came into the picture. The Australian captain scoffed at the idea, and the incident passed off.” – Claude Corbett

“Few people will be sorry when the Adelaide match is over. It has contained much that is nasty and regrettable and foreign to the spirit of the game.” – Former England captain Percy Chapman

“There are a great many English batsmen who would not stand up to such a battering as that faced by the Australian with a field packed for leg bowling.” – Former Australian Captain Jack Ryder

“The feature of our success was the loyal co-operation of the whole team on and off the field. In orders of Lord Roberts, ‘The men have been splendid.’” – MCC manager P. F. Warner.



Double Century

200 Years of Cricket in THE TIMES.

Wisden’s Century

17th April 1963, Leading Article, the little top-hatted figure of John Wisden, a Brighton builders’ son, is familiar to all lovers of old cricket prints, and in his day was a terror to batsmen. Although he stood 5’4” and weighed seven stone his prowess as a fast bowler, who, among other feats, once took six wickets in six balls, has become legendary. But his lasting claim to fame rests on his almanac – that Hardy annual which this season reaches its century.

John Wisden, like Thomas Lord, was a man of many interests outside cricket. He kept the tobacconists and sports shop in Leicester Square and had a shrewd I advertisement. What would this business like a sportsman make of the current issue of the almanac and of the state of play of the game it is so faithfully records?As one who had played overseas – though in Canada and United States – he would be pleased to find an article, rich in good stories that, by Sir Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia. Inevitably he would be out at it when he came across Mr. Neville Cardus choosing as the six giant of the Wisden century, Grace Hobbs, Redman, Richardson, Barnes, and Trumper. But remembering the rivalries and arguments of his own day he might sympathise with Mr. Cardus for nervously and promptly following that list with: “I can already here in my imagination a thousand protesting voices (including my own). “ 

What might well give him most satisfaction would be to learn that the sale of the almanac is now steady averaging 21,000.How far does this reflect the healthiness in cricket? Certainly it is proof of keenness in a large minority of followers. Loyalty shown to the cricket society points the same way. But the quick eye of WISDEN would, we may be sure, light on Mr. John Solan’s “Through the Crystal Ball”, in which it is noted that the attendance paying at the entrance at county matches last year was 933,000, compared with nearly 2,000,000 just after the Second World War. Six-day cricket, Mr. Solan reminds us, has no future. “It is one of County Cricket most melancholy anomalies that the dullest day’s play is almost invariably reserved the Saturdays.” The future pattern, he argues, must have at its Centre a “virile and satisfying spectacle on that important day.” It is a measure of Wisden’s contemporary vitality that such plain truths appear in its centenary number. If this interest in the personalities and statistics of Cricket is to be kept up at past level, imaginative reform cannot much longer be delayed.




Field of Shadows: the Remarkable True Story of the English Cricket Tour of Nazi Germany 1937, By Dan Waddell, Bantam Press

While on the face of it this seems an unlikely subject, in the 1930s it was not uncommon for teams of English amateurs to visit the Continent for matches against local opposition – and they were genuinely local, not teams of Commonwealth expats. German tours were less common than Dutch or Danish, as one would expect, but they were not unprecedented.  As early as 1911 a team from Leicester had played in Berlin, and in 1930, while Bradman was breaking records across England, a team of German cricketers was also touring the country, creating headlines when the team was refused entry to the pavilion at The Oval, traditionally a courtesy that was extended to all overseas sides.  

So the tour by the Gentlemen of Worcestershire in 1937 is more than just a curiosity, but forms part of an irregular series of such exchanges in Europe before the War.  In fact, while the 1937 tour has until recently been largely forgotten, at the time it received a fair amount of coverage, with a full report in The Cricketer and more than passing attention in the German sporting press.  There were even hopes that the tour would generate a growth in interest in the game in Germany, hopes that were of course soon to be dashed, and the English team itself was by no means negligible.

The Gentlemen of Worcestershire, an established amateur side, were captained by Maurice Jewell, a former captain of the full county side, now aged 52, whom the author likens to Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army (a theme which recurs during the book), and included a handful of players with first-class experience, although none particularly distinguished.  For the rest, they represented some of the leading families of the county, along with a number of younger players.  The standard was probably good club, for all that the German press gushed over their first-class credentials.  

In the end, despite the vagaries of the pitches, the English won comfortably, but in many ways the result is less important than the social context of the tour.  The author captures the sense of tension and unreality in 1937 Berlin, an abnormal society if ever there was one, where attempts at normal sport only partially succeeded.  The image of English cricketers giving the Nazi salute is a rather disturbing one.  One of Germany’s finest players, Arthur Schmidt, while much the same age as some of those that played against the Gentlemen of Worcestershire, stood as umpire for these matches.  Waddell suggests that he was not allowed to play because he was Jewish.  Uncertainty surrounds his fate thereafter, but there is a horrible feeling that he died in Auschwitz.  The German captain, Gerhard Thamer, by contrast, was a paid-up party member, and legends of his on-field discipline would raise a few eyebrows today.  Perhaps the finest player on the German side, however, was Felix Menzel, a member of the 1930 touring side, a cricket fanatic, one of the architects of the tour, and a good enough bowler to take 17 wickets in the two matches in which he played. But he was not a party member, and it seems likely that this was the occasion for his last-minute replacement as German captain by Thamer.  

Little more than two years later, the two nations were at war, and many of the players perished in the conflict (the fate of some on the German side is unknown).  The accounts of the deaths of wicket-keeper Robin Whetherly in Yugoslavia and Peter Huntingdon-Whitely in Normandy are rather moving.  Equally moving, a scene reminiscent of the end of the film The Pianist in war-ravaged Warsaw, is the image of Menzel emerging from the ruins of Berlin to ask a group of British soldiers for a game of cricket.  However improbable it may seem, Waddell has succeeded in verifying the incident, one of the most powerful of all demonstrations of the potential for cricket (and by extension other sports) to unify even in the most harrowing of circumstances.




From Generation Unto Generation, by Jonathan Rice

Article taken from Wisden Cricket Monthly – October 1982

August contains Canterbury Cricket Week – the perfect opportunity to take my son along to see a first-class game for the first time. He knows all about Test cricket (‘Botham’s the best cricketer there’s ever been, isn’t he, Dad?’) but how will he take to the county variety, with no instant replays and no authoritative Australian or Yorkshire accents, just his dad, to tell him what’s happening? Well, we’ve got to start some time, so I resolve to give Kent and Glamorgan the responsibility of introducing the next generation to the joys, the mysteries and the hard wooden benches of county cricket. 

The morning is overcast. Glamorgan are batting. The scene is set for learning about the county game the hard way. I scan the field for players I recognize and can talk about. ‘Tavare’ plays for Kent, doesn’t he Dad? Says my son. 

‘Yes, but he’s playing for England, so he’s not here.’ 

‘The Test match doesn’t start till tomorrow, dad.’

‘No, but you see, If Tavare played for Kent today, he’d have to go off to Lord’s tonight, and leave Kent in the middle of the game. You can’t do that. You have to use the same eleven players all through the match. 

‘What about David Brown, Dad? When Gladstone Small was called up for the last Test, David Brown took his place halfway through the game. Why can’t Kent do the same?’

Very good question. I must make a mental note to ask the England selectors not to cause confusion in future to fathers explaining the facts of Cricket to too-clever-by-half off spring. 

‘Because they just can’t,’ I reply, an answer understood by all nine-year-olds.  Silence reigns for a while. 

‘Who’s batting? Asks my son.

‘Glamorgan. That’s Alan jones at one end, and somebody called D. A. Francis at the other. Alan Jones has been playing for years. He’s even older than me.’

‘Older than you, Daddy?’ My son’s eyes open wide in amazement. ‘And he can still play cricket?’ 

Somehow this conversation is not going the way I planned. Nor is the cricket. Kevin Jarvis, who, I have explained, is almost an England player, bowls with the grunt of which Jimmy Connors would be proud, and a stutter in the delivery stride which would make Keith Andrew weep. The Kent team is without Woolmer, Ealham, Asif Iqbal and Dilley as well as Tavare, although a collection for Alan Ealham’s benefit yields over £200. That involves a great deal more explanation about the development of the structure of the financial rewards for professional cricketers over the past ten years or so. Oh for the days of one benefit match for each man, and Cyril Washbrook’s £14,000 as a yardstick by which all others were judged. 

Chris Cowdrey, captaining Kent in the absence of almost everybody else, decides to change his bowlers every third or fourth over. Before the morning is out, he has used up all possible combinations of fast and medium-fast available to him, and three Glamorgan wickets have fallen. Old man Alan Jones clipped a short one from captain Cowdrey into the hands of cover point Mark Benson, the pick of the Kent fielders in the morning session, and the other two went ‘c Knott b Jarvis’. 

Knott’s second catch, to dismiss Ontong, prompted me to embark on a potted history of the Kent wicketkeeper’s career, a history studded with bests and mosts. 

‘Why does he wear such tatty pads, then? Asked my son.

Lunch came after Cowdrey got bored with pace and had given Derek Underwood his first over. Father and son strolled around the beautiful Canterbury ground. We noticed a few familiar faces – E. W. Swanton, D.V.P. Wright and the Mayor of Canterbury – and we saw Graham Dilley driving Graham Johnson’s car. After lunch, Kent tried hard to dislodge Hopkins, who looked very secure, and somebody called Francis, who didn’t look to me to be very safe but who soon reached his fifty. 

‘What Cowdrey needs is a leg-spinner,’ I said to my son. ‘I bet he wishes he had Doug Wright playing for him today.’

‘But he looked even older than Alan Jones,’ came the pained reply. 

A minute later, Cowdrey brought Aslett into the attack, and as soon as he got one pitch we were able to note that he was bowling leg-spin. ‘There, I told you,’ I said, desperately anxious to score at least once over my son. But it was not Aslett who made the breakthrough and it was not somebody called D. A. Francis who was out. The secure Hopkins was bowled by Graham Johnson. 

Enter C. J. C. Rowe, ex-Kent and now Glamorgan, amid much raucous shouting from the crowd and a long explanation by me on how the transfer system works in cricket, and how it was nothing like the way Brian Clough worked at Nottingham Forest. My son was just about to point out the case of Chris Maynard of Warwickshire and Lancashire, when mercifully Rowe was run out failing to complete a sharp single off a loose ball from Aslett. Shortly afterwards tea intervened. 

After tea (a swiss roll and a lollipop, as far as my son was concerned), a quick century partnership between this somebody called Francis and Jones the stump enlivened the day, and gave Glamorgan the upper hand. Francis completed his century, which had been slow and shaky to start with but full of sweetly timed shots in its latter stages, and most importantly he had captured the imagination of my son. 

‘Why isn’t he in the England team, Dad?’

‘Because he’s Welsh.’

The chase for the fourth bonus point (another complicated explanation required) was further confused by Jones snicking a no-ball to slip, where the ‘catch’ was dropped and the ball rebounded onto a helmet, which was lying on the ground behind Knott. Five runs to the batting side, or was it six (one for the no-ball)? Are they extras or awarded to the batsman, who after all hit it? I certainly didn’t know, but nor did the official scorers, who had to have it explained to them by umpire Meyer. For some reason this eventually resulted in the score being reduced by two, from 290 to 288, and I was stuck with a further succession of unanswerable questions. I resolved my dilemma by going off and buying my son a Kent CCC sun-hat. 

The day for me was memorable fro the fielding of Benson and Baptiste, the off-spin of Graham Johnson and the familiar figure of Derek Underwood. He looks so like Leslie Howard that I imagine him looking wistfully at Scarlett O’Hara or designing Spitfire’s from a wheelchair when he’s not bowling left-arm round the wicket. He was fielding at fine leg as Glamorgan passed the 300 mark. ‘We may not look very good,’ he remarked to the crowd, ‘but we’re trying our best.’

Kent and Glamorgan’s best was good enough to bring my son into the fold of cricket addicts, and for that I say ‘Well played.’



In times when the antics and behaviour of some of our leading sportsmen are dubious to say the least The Wisdener is grateful to Edward Walker who recalled a tale from a by-gone era

While working as a newspaper reporter in Sussex during the 1970’s I was lucky to meet up with a local councillor who shared my passion for cricket, he also loved cricket books and was an avid Wisden collector. In fact it was he who started me off by giving me some spare soft backs from the 1960s. He had become an MCC member in 1924 and after buying his yearly almanack direct from Wisden was surprised to learn that from 1949 his membership of the MCC qualified him for a free hardback edition.++

Apparently he had watched the Lords and the Oval Test Matches against Australia in the glorious summer of 1948 and been present when the tourists hit 721 in a day against Essex at Southend.  Like most cricket lovers around the world he was besotted with Bradman and expressed genuine sorrow that he had failed in his last test innings, thereby not achieving the test career average of 100

As a momento of the Australian score against Essex this chap had put together a scrapbook, with newspaper reports and the leaflet scorecard that he had picked up at the game and filled in by taking the information from the newspaper a day or so later. A number of England signatures were gathered during the season and after the Australians left for home his father suggested that he write to Lord’s to find out if they had the contact details of anyone in Australia who might be able to put him in touch with any of the Australian players or officials.

Within a couple of weeks he received a reply from a Colonel Kerr from the MCC who gave him the contact details of the secretary of the Australian Cricket Board and he duly wrote a letter, six months later a sturdy envelope arrived and within was one of the most amazing notes.

His original letter to Australia had found its way to Don Bradman who had personally written to his team-mates in the Oval Test of 48 and asked them to put their signature on the back of a photograph he had of the Oval XI. 

On the back of the photograph my friend counted ten signatures and the accompanying note on headed notepaper read

“Sorry I could not get all eleven, but Johnston now lives as far from me as Moscow is to London and it proved difficult” and signed Don Bradman

To correlate, post and organise a photograph to be signed by a group of players is noteworthy enough, to do it across Australia and at the bequest of a young man from England speaks more than anything I can bring to mind of the generous nature of probably the greatest batsmen to have lived

There was a smaller envelope within that contained my friends’ original letter to the MCC, with a note at the foot

“I believe you will hear from the above gentleman in due course, any assistance you can offer would be appreciated, RK” The chap at the MCC had also tried to help further by forwarding the original letter


++ – It is understood that MCC members of 25 year standing used to receive a “complementary” almanack from Wisden for each subsequent year of their membership. It is not known whether part of the MCC annual subscription paid for this, but this seems likely as in 1914 the MCC subscription rose by 9%, which caused some uproar. These copies were not included in any print run information and it is believed that the first complementary copies were sent out in 1914, primarily to ex-Public school cricketers (officers) serving in the Great War. It was deemed a patriotic gesture.




A first class County Cricket Club (Lancashire) invites applications from persons with first-class cricket experience for the position of Captain of the County XI. The position will carry a salary in accordance with experience and an allowance to cover expenses – Write Box 3.961, The Times EC4” (24/11/64)



Eric Hollies – still missed at Edgbaston, Brian Marshall’s profile of one of English cricket’s most successful leg spin and googly bowlers –
The Cricketer, January 1981.

THESE days the spinning fingers of Eric Hollies, the former Warwickshire and England player, are devoted to his new love – painting in oils and water colour. Eric has always been interested in art and during the past few years it has taken up more of his spare time. But the ready wit and charm, which endeared him to team colleagues and opposition alike during his playing days, remains as sharp as ever – if it is sometimes directed at the shortcomings in the current game.

He did not quit playing Birmingham League cricket until five years ago when he suffered a hand injury. At the time, too, his grandson was involved in a serious accident and Eric and his wife made weekly trips to Cheshire to see him. But it was at Warwickshire where he became such a personality and a fine servant to the club. When he retired in 1957, a tremendous void was left in the county’s attack which has never been filled.

His only disappointment in his first-class career was the limited financial rewards then available. When he retired from county cricket his earnings, as captain of Warwickshire, were well under £ 1,000 a year – a sharp contrast to the fees obtained over the past 12 months by the new elite of the game. Eric made a big contribution to Warwickshire and England cricket but never hid the fact that he was proud to have been born in Staffordshire. One of his wisecracks, when playing for Warwickshire, was: ‘The world’s greatest bowler comes from Staffordshire – and Sydney Barnes as well!’

Eric, like many cricket lovers, does believe that Sydney Barnes was the great bowler of all time. ‘I first saw him playing for Staffordshire at Old Hill, and later I watched him play for Smethwick in the Birmingham League when he was 63,’ recalls Eric. ‘Even at that age he took quite a long run and was nearly medium-pace. ‘I played in his testimonial game at Stafford when he was 80. Sydney went on to bowl the first over to start the game and refused to come off. He bowled 12 overs before we had to ask him to take a rest.’

From personal experience Eric has no doubt that the greatest all-round batsman he played against was the late England and Gloucestershire captain, Wally Hammond, because he was such an outstanding player on all types of pitches. Eric places Hammond above Sir Donald Bradman. ‘Bradman was an outstanding batsman because of the prolific number of runs he scored in his career. But it must have been rare for him to play on a bad pitch and when this did occur he was not the same kind of player because he lacked Wally Hammond’s technique.’

Sir Donald will always remember Eric Hollies and his wily leg-spinners in his last Test appearance. Mention the occasion to Eric and he grins. ‘That game at The Oval in 1948 was unfortunate for him and very, very fortunate for me. I believe he wanted four runs or so for an all-time batting record of a Test average of 100 and I dismissed him with a googly second ball without scoring’. Bradman finished with a career batting average of 95.14 – EDITOR.

‘They said that he had tears in his eyes when he came off the field. Well, I told them that had he scored 200 runs I would have had tears in my eyes.’

Eric has never been at a loss for words with the possible exception on an occasion when he was playing against Cambridge University. Making his first visit to Fenner’s, Eric found the pitch was in perfect condition. He had not claimed a wicket in 40 overs and, in such circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the game was fizzling out into a draw. Only about half an hour was left for play when a young freshman, who was 20 not out, scored a run which took him to Eric’s end. In all seriousness he said: ‘Excuse me. Would you mind taking a new ball. The one you are bowling with is dreadfully dirty and I cannot see too well.’ For once Eric was too taken aback to reply.

As a batsman he rarely ‘troubled the scorers’ as the old time scribes used to write. But he does remember 1936, 1947 and 1954 because in those seasons he scored more runs than he took wickets for Warwickshire. For the record he scored 1,541 runs in 609 innings for Warwickshire, yet he took 2,001 wickets over the 20 years he played for the county.