We don’t like cricket…we love it!

The football World Cup isn’t the only sporting game in town over the coming weeks and months. As well as the excitement of Le Grand Départ, we will see those familiar staples of the British summer – Wimbledon and Test Match cricket. The latter is especially notable, as this year marks a full double century since the first match (on this day, the 22nd Jun 1814, to be precise) was played at the present location of the legendary ‘home of cricket’, Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood. Even more than that, though – 2014 is also the 150th anniversary of the legalisation of overarm bowling in the game. So, the summer of 2014 seems a fitting time to re-visit the history of this gentlemanly sport – and the Leeds Library and Information Service has a variety of informative and entertaining texts to help you along the way.

The standard modern work of cricket history is And God Created Cricket (Simon Hughes), which is available from several of our branch libraries. Those wanting to dig a little deeper, however, will do well to visit our Information and Research library. As well as a full run of the Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack back to 1879, the department holds a number of fascinating books regaling tales from the game’s past – and the best news is that many of these books are available to borrow and take home. A few highlights are described below.

Several books cover the development of the game through the ages – among them Rowland Bowen’s Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development Throughout the World. Books looking at specific periods of cricket’s history include The Golden Age of Cricket: 1890 – 1914 (David Frith) and Cricket: A Social History, 1700 – 1835 (John Ford), while volumes such as The illustrated History of County Cricket (Eric Midwinter) and Village Cricket (Gerald Howat) cover the pastoral grassroots of the game. The fascinating The Game of Cricket is a history richly-illustrated with reproductions of pictures from the museum of the legendary Marleybone Cricket Club.

As well as being the framers of the Laws of Cricket still in use today (see Colonel R.S. Rait Kerr’s The Laws of Cricket: Their History and Growth), the Marleybone Cricket Club is also the owner of Lord’s itself. Several books cover the history of that venerable ground, such as Sir Pelham Warner’s Lord’s: 1787 – 1945 and its successor Lord’s: 1946 – 1970 by Diana Rait Kerr & Ian Peebles. The history of the M.C.C. is described in volumes such as the attractively illustrated Double Century: 200 Years of the M.C.C. (Tony Lewis). Other famous cricket grounds are looked at in Grounds of Appeal: The Homes of First-Class Cricket (Aylwin Sampson) and The Story of The Oval by Louis Palgrave.

Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2014Cricket is played all around the world and books such as A History of West Indies Cricket (Gordon Ross), A History of Indian Cricket (Mihir Bose) and Australian Cricket: The Game and The Players (Jack Pollard) trace the development of the sport in some of those nations most associated with cricket’s famous teams and players. Several of those legendary names are covered by biographies and studies – among them W.G. Grace (A Life by Simon Rae), Jack Hobbs (Profile of ‘The Master’ by John Arlott), Fred Trueman (Fred: Portrait of a Fast Bowler, also by John Arlott) and S.F. Barnes (Master Bowler by Leslie Duckworth). The life of Donald Bradman, perhaps the greatest Test batsman of them all, is illuminated with reproductions of his private possessions in Bradman: The Illustrated Biography (Michael Page).

Bradman was such a danger to his opponents that the England team touring Australia in 1932-33 devised a controversial tactic to restrict his run scoring. This Ashes series, infamous now as the ‘Bodyline Tour’, is described in Ashes In The Mouth by Ronald Mason. Other overseas tours played by England cricketers are covered in books such as The Ashes Thrown Away: The M.C.C. Tour of Australia, 1958-1959 (E.M. Wellings) and a reproduction of Fred Lillywhite’s eyewitness account of The English Cricketers’ Trip to Canada and the United States in 1859.

Finally, cricket is a sport uniquely suited to the collection of records and statistics. As well as thematic selections from the aforementioned Wisden, including A Century of Wisden: An Extract from Every Edition – 1900-1999, titles such as England Test Cricketers: The Complete Record from 1877 (Bill Frindall) and the gargantuan Who’s Who of Cricketers (Phillip Bailey, et al) contain enough information to keep even the most knowledgeable cricket lover poring through their pages well into the darkening onset of winter.

Remember, as well as visiting the Information and Research library to borrow any of these books, these titles can also be reserved through the library catalogue, for collection at your local library.

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