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.
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:
VIII. A CENTURY-AND A ” PAIR “
XI. OFF ” DOWN UNDER “-WONDERFUL ” FERGIE “-TWELFTH MAN, I DROP A CATCH
XXVI. BACK IN ENGLAND’S TEAM-BRIAN CLOSE AND I RUN A ” SIX “
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:
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.