RAJESH KUMAR - Cricket Statisticians
The Official MCC Story of the Ashes
The Official MCC Story of the Ashes - Bernard Whimpress

Published by:
Hardie Grant Books

An imprint of Hardie Grant Publishing

First published in 2017 by Carlton Books

ISBN: 9781743793725
Format: Hardback Dimensions: 28cm x 24cm
Pages: 176

Price: Australian dollars 34.99

Website: www.hardiegrantbooks.com

The Official MCC Story of the Ashes relates the unfolding saga of one of the greatest rivalries in sport. It comprises an authoritative narrative account of Anglo-Australian cricket from its beginnings in 1877 to England's 2015 Ashes series victory.

The reportage is complemented by features on the cricketing heroes and memorable moments of the epic Test match encounters between the two nations. The excellent history of the Ashes has thrown up many individual battles but it is tydhe great matches that endure in the mind's eyes.

Great men and moments are remembered in affectionate detail in the book, which is a delightfully interesting and compelling read from start to finish. There are many enjoyable pictures both of famous cricketers who took part, of grounds and of match incidents.

Former Middlesex and England fast bowler Angus Fraser, who represented his country in 46 Test matches and 42 One Day Internationals, in his foreword has remarked: "The Ashes is one of sport's greatest rivalries. It has a history that is rich, powerful and not short of controversy. Events in matches between England and Australila have caused major political issues between the two countries. Neither country enjoys losing these contests. Victory is a necessity. The nature of the battles moulds the sporting conscience of two great sporting nations.

For these reasons the Ashes has always been the series to play in for English and Australian cricketers. The games continue to provide a stage on which reputations and legends are created. Performances in these matches will always be remembered and when a cricketer's playing days are over the statistics from these contests that sit beside a player's name often define his career."

The book has seven fascinating chapters apart from the well-compiled Ashes Records in brief and Index.

Charles Bannerman, according to Bernard Whimpress, was the first hero in Anglo-Australian Test Cricket. "He faced the first ball from Alfred Shaw in the first match in March 1877 and seized the day by reaching 126 at stumps and going on to 165 before retiring hurt when a fast ball split the index finger on his right hand. Surprisingly this was Bannerman's only first-class century from 84 innings in an 18-year career and his average was a modest 21.62. He later turned to umpiring and officiated in 12 Test matches between 1886 and 1902. When Don Bradman made his then world-record score of 452 not out at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1930, Bannerman was there and the heroes new and old were photographed there."

We have been informed by Bernard Whimpress that the last years of the nineteenth century brought a change of fortunes for Australian cricket as new batting stars in Victor Trumper and Clem Hill combined with Joe Darling and Monty Noble's powerful leadership gave their country the ascendancy.

Joe Darling (1870-1946) has been profiled in the book. "One of Australia's finest captains, Darling was the first left-hand batsman to score a Test century, the first to score three centuries in a series in 1897-98, and the first batsman to make more than 500 runs in a series. Australia regained the Ashes in 1897-98, and then retained them under Darling's leadership in 1899, in 1901-02 when he shared the captaincy with Hugh Trumble, and on the 1902 tour of England."

The early superstars according to the author were W.G.Grace, Fred Spofforth, Victor Trumper and Sydney Barnes and England's domination of Australia in 1928-29 was built largely on the classical batting of Wally Hammond, whose phenomenal 905 runs at 113.12 in the series motivated Don Bradman to do better. Hammond was the best English batsman of his generation, a superb slip fielder, and more than useful medium-fast bowler. A majestic off-side player, he made four double-centuries in Ashes matches an 2,852 runs at 51.85 runs from 33 Tests. Perfectly good figures which would have been outstanding ones if Bradman had not existed.

In a special chapter, namely, Shane Warne 1993, Bernard has remarked: "Australia's batting stocks were rich, but the man who transformed world cricket was a young attacking leg-spinner with superb control, who could maintain pressure at all times and seize the end game as pitches started to wear."

Bobby Simpson, in his article, namely, The Reasons Why (1996) has paid rich tribute to Warne: In the 40-odd years I have been involved in first-class cricket I have never seen a bowler with as much natural talent as Shane Warne..."Shane's ability to put fierce spin on the ball may have been matched over the years...However, I doubt if anybody ever spun it harder. I'm sure nobody spun the ball as much and achieved Shane's accuracy...I have worked with spinners in my time..but I've never heard the ball hum out of the hand as it does when Shane gets it right. It is intimidating from the bowler's end; goodness knows what the batsmen think."

Bernard Whimpress has commented that after its 5-0 win over England in 2013-14, Michael Clarke's Australian side embarked on its 2015 Ashes tour with the aim of not only retaining the urn but winning away for the first time since the heady days of the Steve Waugh era. For Clarke victory would crown a glorious career and tick a box that needed ticking.

Very thoroughly researched and immensely readable,The Official MCC Story of the Ashes is recommended to cricket enthusiasts without the slightest hesitation.

This is a fascinating book, having excellent photographs and pleasantly produced.