Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Favourable Review Of ‘pears 150’ By Cricket Author David Frith

Favourable Review Of ‘pears 150’ By Cricket Author David Frith

The following review of 'Pears 150' is from the Quarterly Journal of the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians and written by David Frith, author of over 30 cricket books and founding editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly.

The book can be purchased from the Worcestershire Supporters' Association Shop – situated at the rear of the Basil D'Oliveira Stand – during the final home game of the season versus Middlesex starting on Tuesday, priced £28.

Frith's review reads: Few cricket books have been genuinely classed as heavyweights. Nor have many ‘monumental’ volumes been produced. But this is one of them.

Andrew Thomas (not the author of the paperback Great Moments in Cricket, writing under a false name almost 40 years ago) is a Worcestershire man, and an industrious one too. He has assembled thousands of facts chronologically to construct a history of Worcestershire CCC, a saga interspersed with notes on events and landmarks in the world beyond New Road.

Casualty lists from the 1914-18 war are heart-rending. Alongside runs the narrative of the county cricket club's struggles not only to stay solvent but to withstand the relentless flooding of the Severn. This annual problem leaves a reader wondering why such a vulnerable site was chosen as cricket headquarters in the first place.

To add to the club's perennial financial worries, in 1913 the influential Lord Hawke schemed (unsuccessfully) for fragile Worcestershire to be expelled from the Championship.

Club secretary Paul Foley is an early hero, a backbone figure whose extraordinary influence and tireless efforts saw the club through perilous times. And the extraordinary Foster brotherhood was so successful – and good to watch, especially R.E. (‘Tip’) – that the county club was often smilingly referred to as ‘Fostershire’.

There is an unintentionally macabre reference to the brilliant young Frank Chester, who lost an arm in Great War combat, as having had his career ‘cut short’. His terrible injury did not prevent him from becoming as good an umpire as the game has ever known.

There are reminders of the phenomenal Graeme Hick, prolific Glenn Turner, the almost as prolific and much-admired Don Kenyon (whose death in 1996 is dramatically recounted), and Tom Graveney; wicket-takers Reg Perks and Norman Gifford; the popular D'Oliveira and his offspring; and some top wicketkeepers.

And throughout there is the brooding, threatening background of the floods, calmed by the finest backdrop of any county ground, the noble Worcester Cathedral.

Among the unexpected items is John Arlott's 1938 poem Cricket at Worcester, written when the greatest commentator of them all was still a policeman whose spare time was spent following his beloved Hampshire.

The Pears’ joyous first County Championship (1964) is celebrated in detail, and the wonderful achievement by Jim Standen is not overlooked: he became the first man to win an FA Cup winner's medal as well as a County Championship winner's medal in the same year, never to be emulated.

Averages and analyses, abbreviated scores of every single match, hundreds of pictures, many in colour, and plenty of thoughtful and sometimes amusing asides make it not only a Worcestershire fan's dream but something out of the ordinary for any cricket-lover.

The narrative proceeds with unusual bounce, with notes on what was happening in the wider world outside the New Road gates, lest any reader should begin to think that there is nothing worthwhile in this life apart from cricket.

Over 100 years ago R.E.Foster played a switch hit. Not many people knew that. Norman Gifford was spotted doing likewise in 1979.

Is there anything new in the game? And it's stated that John Snow's underhand delivery in the 1974 Test trial at New Road cost him a place on the winter tour of Australia, a further example of how English cricket has so often been its own worst enemy.

David Frith