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Ten Great Innings

By Ralph Barker

The truly great innings is more than a display of consummate skill and artistry: it is an expression of character.

Unlike the merely good innings, which taken from its context often lose meaning, the great innings can transcend a dull game.

Such an innings was played by Bill Edrich in the final Test in South Africa in 1939, when England were set the fantastic score of 696 to win.

Then there is the dramatic story of the 22-year-old Len Hutton making the world’s record Test score, against all the wiles of Bradman and his bowlers.

There is a wonderful innings by Bradman himself at Lord’s in 1934.

We read of the youthful McCabe, coming in to face Larwood and Voce at their most terrifying, standing his ground and hitting the dreaded ‘bodyline’ all over the field.

Of Russell Endean defying Lindwall, Miller, Johnston and Benaud for seven and a half hours to lay the foundations of South Africa’s first win against Australia for 42 years.

Of Washbrook, recalled to Test cricket at the age of 41 and then required to join Peter May when England were 17 for 3. Of Harold Gimblett’s first innings in county cricket.

Of Learie Constantine having his leg pulled by his compatriots after dropping a catch, boasting that he would ‘show them something’, and going on to win the match almost single-handed.

Of Jack Hobbs holding Australia at bay on a drying wicket to win back the Ashes.

The ten innings selected will be talked of as long as cricket is played. The author succeeds brilliantly in describing them just as they were, with the full flavour of the excitement on and off the field, but without any flourishes and inventions of his own. As Neville Cardus says in his Foreword, ‘Mr. Barker has the knack of letting a cricket book seem to write itself.’

Ralph Barker (1917-2011) started work as a sporting journalist in 1934. He joined the RAF in 1940 as an air-gunner, and subsequently worked in the RAF Historical Branch and in Intelligence, before retiring in 1961 to write full time. Cricket was his life-long passion and his other works include: Down in the Drink, The Ship-Busters, Strike Hard, Strike Sure, The Thousand Plan, Great Mysteries of the Air, One Man’s Jungle, Not Here, But in Another Place and The Cricketing Family Edrich.

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