The Valiant Cricketer, by Alan Hill

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The Independent Culture

These days Trevor Bailey is remembered primarily for his dry summarising on Test Match Special and dogged batting performances for England in the Fifties.

So it's surprising to learn that the Essex all-rounder was somewhat of a dasher in his younger days: in 1946, aged 24, he was rated the fastest bowler in the country, and the following year he smashed a double-century off Sussex, the second hundred coming in 80 minutes. Slowing to fast-medium, he continued to take hatfuls of wickets – 2,082 at an average of 23.13 in total – but his transfiguration into the Barnacle, setting an unenviable number of slow-scoring records – including what remains the slowest half-century in first-class cricket, a 357-minute effort against the Australians in 1958 – suggests psychological forces at work that Alan Hill does not explore.

This is not a revisionist, analytical biography but a well-researched, straightforward – if at times digressive – account of a fine cricketer and decent man, enhanced by a comprehensive statistical appendix. After his first-class career came to a close Bailey was happy to return to club cricket with his beloved Westcliff, where he was born and lived until his untimely death aged 87 in a fire last year.

"If Ian Botham is England's finest post-war all-round cricketer, Trevor Bailey influenced quite as many games," wrote the former Wisden editor John Woodcock. There are worse sporting epitaphs than that.

Published in hardback by Pitch, £16.99