For some Rust contributors and readers of my acquaintance, the 21st Century endless merry-go-round of the various forms of international, regional and city-based cricket has become a surfeit that leaves them hankering for the old days when men were men and prep school boys played soccer, hockey or rugby in the winter and cricket exclusively in the summer term, i.e. when the sun was shining, the smell of freshly-mown grass was all-pervading (at least when outside in the fresh air), lessons finished before lunch on weekdays and, on Sundays, the BBC Light Programme’s request show for British Forces’ families – Two Way Family Favourites presented by Cliff Michelmore and Jean Metcalfe – was a must-listen.
Whilst it is an indisputable fact that the world constantly evolves and develops and I generally try to steer clear (at least for the most part) of this sort of rose-tinted nostalgia for an era that probably only ever existed in the mind of sometime Tory prime minister John Major, I also occasionally enjoy reminding myself of my early misspent youth when an dog-eared three or four year old second hand copy of Wisden and the Playfair Cricket Annual were my preferred summer bibles.
I could be kidding myself, but in those days it was possible to belief with apparent justification that ‘modern’ Test cricketers of the 1950s and 1960s (even early 1970s) were actually playing, in an unbroken line, exactly the same game that their counterparts of the 1930s, 1920s … and even at a stretch the 1890s … had played before them.
That if, for example, Len Hutton, Frank Wooley, Jack Hobbs and Patsy Hendren – even Archie MacLaren, for Pete’s sake – had been transplanted to 1963, they would naturally have taken their rightful place, wearing cricket whites (not multi-coloured pyjamas and baseball caps), in the Test match team to face Frank Worrell’s West Indies at Lord’s.
In which context, I have no hesitation at all in recommending to Rust readers the following article by Andy Bell on the famous ‘Timeless Test’ of 1939 between South Africa and England. The names and careers of Bill Edrich and Eddie Paynter were almost as familiar to me at the age of twelve as were those who were playing for England in the 1960s such as Brian Statham and Fred Trueman, Colin Cowdrey and Ted Dexter.
Bell’s piece appears today on the website of – THE GUARDIAN