Friday, 5 December 2008

The spirit of '76

Marcus Trescothick's Opening Up is heading the newspapers' choices as the cricket book of the year. The fact that people are amazed when a sportsman offers something candid shows how deep the divide between us and them has become. For me, the standout book by some distance is not Tresco's but Bob Woolmer's The Art And Science of Cricket

It took the Batsman back to my first day at a Test match in the endless summer of '76; that blighted summer of Tony Greig's 'grovel' remarks, that blazing summer of King Viv's ascendency. Day Two at the Oval, Friday 13th, West Indies grovelling to Greigy once more at 373-3, IVA Richards 200 not out overnight. 

Just another blue-planet day in Vauxhall. In the first over, Viv flicked lazily off his legs and strolled a couple. Bob Woolmer ran after it and threw it in. I'd never seen anyone throw anything that far before. The ball arced back from the deep and disappeared into Knott's gloves. No-one else seemed surprised at it.

The rest of the day was played out to the sound of beer cans being beaten together for hour on end as Richards looked like he might tilt at Sobers' 365. Greig bowled him - a rare lapse - for 291. West Indies made 687.

With half an hour or so to go, Woolmer and Amiss opened for England. There was a great demand for binoculars from the people around us - it was expected that either the off stump or the head of Dennis Amiss would soon be cartwheeling towards the wicketkeeper, but they hung on. Bob made eight. Dennis Amiss got 203. England lost.

The Art and Science of Cricket was never meant to be a legacy but it is, and it's tremendously sad to open it to find first an obituary and then a book filled with life and love and knowledge. Bob couldn't bat like King Viv (who can?), but then Viv could not have written this book. The game itself is what holds them together.


2 comments:

Damith S. said...

A sound memory old batsmen !

I have been looking for this book. Not much in the choice of cricket books in Singapore though.

Will need to Amazon this one in.

Any idea on how good Gillys true colors is? Ive been meaning to dig into that too.

The Old Batsman said...

Haven't read Gilly's but it seemed like he had to cook up a bit of controversy... A bit of shame, that.

The Woolmer book's well worth a few clicks on amazon, but watch the postage - it's huge!