The Last Flannelled Fool, by Michael Simkins
Sunday 17 July 2011
Two hardy sub-genres of cricket literature are the adventures (usually disastrous) of a bunch of mixed-ability misfits who form a team to play friendly – and not so friendly – matches, and one-man odysseys around the country to take the temperature of the game in its myriad forms and locations.
Michael Simkins, a cricket nut who in his other life is an actor whose career he describes as "Not so much Who's Who as Who's He?", added to the likes of Marcus Berkmann's Rain Men and Harry Thompson's Penguins Stopped Play in the first category with his memoir Fatty Batter, and now he has attempted the second.
In contrast to Duncan Hamilton's elegiac A Last English Summer in 2010, Simkins is looking more for laughs than for lamentation, though he is scathing about the fate of Hastings' Priory Meadow ground, bulldozed away after nearly 140 years in favour of a shopping centre. He visits the Bat and Ball Inn in Hambledon, the fabled birthplace of cricket, to be told as he views the wealth of memorabilia on display that if he wants to watch that day's Twenty20 game on TV he'll have to go elsewhere as "This is a pub, not a sports bar".
He goes to Lord's for Eton v Harrow, to discover the Eton supporters' idea of vicious barracking is to sing 'The Prisoners' Chorus' from Fidelio, and celebrates the earthier atmosphere of The Oval alongside a Surrey fan from Uttar Pradesh.
Simkins doesn't have anything new or startling to say about the state of the game but he's an amiable, sharp-eyed companion. He quotes the Yorkshireman Wilf Rhodes as saying: "We don't play this game for fun", but there's plenty of fun to be had reading this.
Published in trade paperback by Ebury, £11.99
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