Book review: Leafing through England’s cricket history

History-makers: ''At the reception for the eve of Leeds Test dinner at the Queen's Hotel in 1956, from left, the reverend David Sheppard, Douglas Jardine, Lady Hutton and Sir Leonard Hutton.
History-makers: ''At the reception for the eve of Leeds Test dinner at the Queen's Hotel in 1956, from left, the reverend David Sheppard, Douglas Jardine, Lady Hutton and Sir Leonard Hutton.
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‘England: The Biography’ charts the story of English cricket from 1877 to the present day.

Written by Sunday Times correspondent Simon Wilde, it is the first definitive history of a great national sporting institution.

Wilde expertly traces the historic tensions between amateurs and professionals, and the team’s modern battles for independence from the counties and control of players tempted to put cash-rich Twenty20 leagues before country.

This fine book also provides a detailed exploration of the tactics and strategies that have shaped the side, from Douglas Jardine’s controversial Bodyline bowling and the time-wasting of Len Hutton and Peter May to Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower’s love of data analysis, as well as the recent white-ball revolution.

Famous episodes such as the Basil D’Oliveira and Kevin Pietersen affairs are put into context in a volume that is effectively the story of English cricket.

‘Ambassadors of Goodwill: MCC Tours 1946-47-1970-71’ looks at the death of the amateur ideal in English cricket.

Written by Mark Peel, it employs a rich vein of material recently mined from MCC archives, providing a fresh appraisal of post-war tours and the players involved.

It is a fascinating book that will interest students of the game.

Ditto ‘Playing The Game: Cricket’s Tarnished Ideals from Bodyline to Present’, penned by the same author, which looks at the changing ethics of cricket, from its gentlemanly roots right up to the present day.

After decades of sledging, intimidatory bowling, gamesmanship and dissent, the MCC adopted “The Spirit of Cricket” in 2000 in an attempt to reclaim the sport’s original ethos.

But, as Peel argues, its impact has so far been disappointingly limited.

England: The Biography by Simon Wilde is published by Simon & Schuster, priced £25.

Ambassadors of Goodwill: MCC Tours 1946-47-1970-71 by Mark Peel is published by Pitch Publishing Ltd, priced £18.99.

Playing The Game: Cricket’s Tarnished Ideals from Bodyline to Present by Mark Peel is published by Pitch Publishing Ltd, priced £18.99.