A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

The 51allout Bargain Basement Book Bonanza: Godfrey Evans: Behind The Stumps

Posted on December 31, 2015 by in Opinion

Thanks to the ineffectual habits of Jonny Bairstow, plus AB de Villiers’ dropped chances and the shaky start to Jos Buttler’s Test career, keeping wicket is currently a cricketing hot topic. Therefore it was serendipitous that among a pile of old cricketing books that we found in a damp, dark and dismal corner of an unremarkable second-hand shop was a book by one of the more successful guardians of that particular bailiwick. Although there was a temptation to purchase a Playfair Annual from the mid-1990s instead, we decided that that was an era that we reckon we actually know a bit about, whereas our knowledge of Godfrey Evans extended to a) he played for Kent, b) his first name wasn’t actually Godfrey but began with a T and c) in old age the man possessed the finest pair of mutton chops you’re ever likely to see.

Fuck you, hipsters. Thomas Godfrey Evans knows how a gentleman really grooms.

Fuck you, hipsters. Thomas Godfrey Evans knows how a gentleman really grooms.

Four pounds later (yes, we are made of money) and we owned a book first published in 1951 – and one which smelled a bit like we imagine 1951 did as well.

Let’s start with the review: this took us ages to read. Like really ages. It is a struggle to plough through archaic descriptions of what happened in a Test match in 1947, though it did briefly distract us from Nick Compton’s latest run of dot balls. However we do reckon that Richard Keys may have also read this book, judging by some of the chapter titles:




Everything comes back in fashion eventually. Apart from this.

Everything comes back in fashion eventually. Apart from this.

Considering Evans’s career started before World War Two, we expected the book to reveal much about cricket in that period. However – and actually understandable, given the short period between 1945 and the book’s publication – this is dealt with briefly. But it does give us the wonderfully Partridgeific sentence: “Personally, I felt that the declaration of war had completely ruined my cricket career.”

So if this book is a tad boring, why bother reviewing it? Well, because there are parts of the book where the tone shifts from mild-mannered autobiography to quasi-coaching manual, and it’s these ” chapters ” where the book becomes more interesting. Maybe it’s because the current crop of wicket-keepers seem so shit, but it’s nice to familiarise oneself with his basic advice:

  • bash new gloves around so that they are supple, not stiff;
  • wear inners, tape your fingers, and pad out your gloves with cotton wool;
  • in general, position yourself with your inner foot behind off stump;
  • stand either right up to the stumps, or well back – but never halfway – this way the ball should reach you somewhere between waist and knee;
  • take the ball with the hands and fingers pointing towards the ground, at a slight angle from the perpendicular, which helps prevent painful knocks on the finger tips;
  • don’t snatch at the ball;
  • never retreat when taking a ball as you will be too far away from the wicket;
  • always run your gloves through the wicket, never try to flick the bail;
  • never hesitate to appeal – loudly.

Apparently, if you heed this advice, you too can be a top class ‘keeper behind the stumps. So there you have it: 51allout, reading old books so that Jonny Bairstow doesn’t have to.

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