Chequered Flag Publishing - £14.99 (paperback)
Any student of our game knows how much cricket has changed, not only during our lifetimes, but during the hundred years and more before we were born. This book, the result of a great deal of exhaustive research by the joint authors, Keith and Jennifer Booth, covers the early stages of competitive cricket as it developed during the lives of a family of cricketers.
This family, of whom the most famous was Tom, that prolific Surrey and England run-scorer whose life and career spanned the end of the eighteenth and the start of the nineteenth centuries, was the Hayward family. We learn about the lives and cricketing achievements of three generations of the Haywards, the first of them being Daniel the Elder, so called because his eldest son was named after his father.
Daniel played his first major matches for Cambridge Town in the early thirties, with the term “first-class” not coming into general use for many years yet. Scores in those days of round-arm bowling, five-ball overs, no boundaries and longer grass in the outfield tended to be quite low by modern-day standards, so it is difficult to judge the skills of the players in those far-off days. Even so we can tell from the contemporary press reports that cricket and cricketers were becoming more worthy of recognition. Reports then tended towards repeating the scores and results in prose which tended towards long-wordedness, but which added little to the general picture of the game. Not surprisingly the Booths have had to turn to these reports from local newspapers and, later, cricket publications for any information about the matches that were played, and it is clear that they must have spent many days conducting this research which is always wisely used.
Daniel’s two sons, Daniel the Younger and Thomas, both played major matches, and both started their careers in the early fifties. Thomas is credited with having played 118 of these matches during which he scored six centuries and twenty-one fifties as well as taking 267 wickets. Thomas went on one of the very first overseas tours, to Australia and New Zealand in 1863-64, where the touring cricketers were made to feel much more welcome and appreciated than those who fly there a century and a half later. I found the writing of the oft-quoted William Caffyn, one of the twelve-strong touring party, much more interesting and readable than many of the sporting journalists of the time.
It is surprising how large a part Cambridge and the county of Cambridgeshire played in the development of the game in this country. This was where the Haywards hailed from and some of the strongest or “crack” cricketers played for the same county team. Eventually Jack Hobbs joined the most famous of this family, Tom, having admired him as he developed his game on Parker’s Piece, as a regular first-class opening partner.
We learn much of the social scene in these Victorian days, in which there was a very clear distinction between the amateurs, or Gentlemen, and professionals, or Players, a situation which continued in English cricket until the early nineteen-sixties. In addition we read of several minor court cases which provide some insight into the way of life at that time.
By the time Tom came onto the scene the game had moved forward and was conducted in much the same way as it was after the Second World War. Test cricket had started, and the first-class county championship was established. Tom soon became recognised as one of the best batsmen in the country and also, in his early seasons, a more than effective bowler. He played thirty-five Tests and toured South Africa once and Australia three times. He is perhaps best remembered for having scored 3518 runs in the 1906 season, a record until it was beaten by Compton and Edrich in 1947.
I would recommend this book to all who are interested in the history of the game: it is a fascinating read and I would be very surprised if any reader did not learn something new about the game and its development.