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The Great Romantic Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus By Duncan Hamilton

Release date: 30th July, 2019
Publisher: Hodder & Staughton

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £13.46
You Save: £6.54 (32%)
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Unwavering admiration for consummate cricket writer and broadcaster John Arlott first drew Duncan Hamilton to Sir Neville Cardus.

In 1973, Arlott interviewed the rake-thin Cardus for three, 25-minute programmes for the BBC. Hamilton watched each one and concluded that if Arlott considered Cardus’s prose incomparable, “then no other reference to support the claim was required. I had to read Cardus,” he writes.

Almost half a century on, the author’s reverence for Sir Neville has been taken to its ultimate conclusion: an engaging, warm and hugely enjoyable biography of a man who left school at 13 without any qualifications, but became one of English literature’s greatest cricket writers.

Cardus’s early work experience was less than propitious (he endured poorly-paid spells as a pavement artist and carpenter’s mate, amongst other things), but he had a voracious appetite for reading and would later exclaim that he was “an extremely well-educated uneducated man”.

Self-taught, but lacking in confidence, Cardus eventually mustered enough courage to write to CP Scott, then editor of the Manchester Guardian, seeking a job. Scott hired him as his assistant, fired him after a month, but relented and invited him back, this time as a reporter.

Cardus’s first assignment was to report on a county championship match involving Lancashire. He understood instantly that writing about sport was much more than assembling a game’s cold statistical facts; they were little more than a perimeter fence within which characters interacted and the human condition could be explored.

Such other dimensional awareness, coupled with his beautiful prose sounded the death knell for formulaic sports reportage.

Cardus flourished and was often at his best when describing players. Of Emmott Robinson, he wrote: “I imagine that he was created one day by God scooping up the nearest acre of Yorkshire soil at hand, then breathing into it, saying: ‘Now, lad, tha’s called Emmott Robinson and tha can go on with the new ball at t’pavillion end.’”

Hamilton recalls the time he first read Cardus in a book borrowed (and never returned) from his local library. “Trent Bridge, a ‘Lotus-land’ for batsmen, a place where it was always afternoon and 360 for two wickets,” wrote the great man. Hamilton was transfixed: “Just 18 words; but what Cardus manages to evoke in them is all that we imagine – and hope – a cricket match will look like in the dry heat of high summer.”

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