Howzat! A Brief Perusal of Leather on Willow, on Paper.

Let me start by nailing my colours to the mast. I’m passionate about football, but I know as much as Jon Snow does about cricket – nothing. Recently though, my curiosity has been piqued by the musings of the very lovely Danny Gough. He is the retired England and Yorkshire cricketer, who presents the ‘Drivetime’ show on Talksport with Adrian Durham, which I listen to pretty much daily as I make the dinner. I listen in for the football talk, but over time I’ve begun to pick up bits and bobs about the cricket, and I feel the time is right to consolidate.

Maybe it’s unfortunate timing to have a post about cricket when England are being bruised by the Australians in the Ashes, but I’ve suddenly got the urge to dig out the highly acclaimed, but as yet unread (by me) cricketing novel ‘Netherland’ by Joseph O’Neill (2008). My brother loved it so much, he bought it for me twice. The novel is about a Dutchman living in New York who takes up cricket in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Until now, a lack of knowledge and interest in cricket have left it languishing on the bookshelf, but I think its time has finally come.

Netherland Joseph O'neill

After a bit of a nose around the net, I’ve unearthed some more cricket-tinged fiction that might tempt me. Dickens’ ‘Pickwick Papers’  (1836) features a cricket match between the All-Muggleton team and the Dingley Dell Cricket Club, and with a running commentary provided by Mr Jingle. Well, who wouldn’t be persuaded by that?

Dickens Pickwick papers

What even is the Duckworth-Lewis method?

It’s hardly surprising to find oodles of cricket in ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’, (1857) Thomas Hughes’ novel about life at Rugby. However, it didn’t stop there. A century later, the school bully, Flashman, who happened to be a talented cricketer, was brought back to the printed word by George Macdonald Fraser, in his 1977 novel ‘Flashman’s Lady’. 

Tom Brown's Schooldays

Flashman's Lady

Cricket frequently features in the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, but it actually proves critical to the solving of the murder in ‘Murder Must Advertise’ (1933). The great P.G. Wodehouse was an avid fan of the sport as both spectator and cricketer, and his passion extended to the page. The plots of his novels, ‘Mike’  (1909) and the sequel ‘Psmith in the City’ (1910) both centre around cricket, but quite frankly, I don’t need any excuse to read Wodehouse.

Mike PG Wodehouse

Who can forget in ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ when Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect travel through space and time to Lord’s Cricket Ground where a gang of robber robots from the planet Krikkit have stolen the Ashes Trophy. It’s worth bearing in mind that if Douglas Adams is to be believed, cricket is actually an “interspecies collective unconscious memory”, and not a sport at all!

Life, the Universe and everything

‘Arriving at Lord’s Cricket Ground’ . Illustration by Jonathan Burton

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