Amid the welter of cricket publications, the least regarded yet often most informative must be the county yearbooks. And of those, Yorkshire's leather bound, comprehensive volume is leagues ahead of the rest. That is not to say that the rest lack in content; there is generally as much effort and detail across the board, but, somehow, the Yorkshire volume oozes class. It is not just because of its quality binding and paper. There is a certain something else. You feel that this is the way a county's season should be recorded.
Yorkshire's publication is as much a collector's item as the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, and would sit proudly on anyone's bookshelves. The 98th edition, apart from the Hutton article, which takes a look at Yorkshire leg-spinners, contains book reviews, obituaries, pen portraits of the squad, a captain's report by Martyn Moxon, who stepped down last season, and reports and scoreboards of all the First and Second XI matches. The statistical section is possibly the most comprehensive of all the counties, although the Lancashire Yearbook must run it a close second.
Where Lancashire - and everyone else loses out - is in the finish. The advantage of a leather binding is that cock-ups like those of Kent and Surrey (two admirable publications content-wise) are avoided. In Kent's case, the cover shows Dean Headley holding a bottle of lager aloft - but the caption claims the England A bowler is holding the Sunday League Trophy. Surrey contrived to have a photograph of the Prince of Wales posing in front of some Kwik Cricketers - unfortunately the bright red ball has been frozen in the Royal Box, so to speak.
The other counties definitely give value for money, but because of their flimsy covers there is no feeling of permanence and no sense of historical record, unlike Yorkshire. Mind you, there is a price to pay, pounds 9.50. But when you see that Middlesex - to non-members - charge pounds 8.00 for far fewer pages and a more sparing statistical section, there is no contest.
The bargain of the bunch - the Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire yearbooks were not made available for this review - has to be Gloucestershire. At pounds 3.00 it was easily the cheapest, and yet there was still room for career figures for every man who has ever played for the county, an impressive list. Derbyshire's, Essex's, Somerset's and Surrey's are crammed, as are most, with some fine writing on a huge range of topics. Of the 15 studied, Yorkshire's, edited by The Independent's Derek Hodgson, was an outstanding No 1. But the others are to be commended and there has to be a photo for second place between the 14.
COUNTY YEARBOOKS: Derbyshire 248 pages, pounds 4.50; Durham 96, pounds 6; Essex 304, pounds 6; Glamorgan 160, pounds 5; Gloucestershire 144, pounds 3; Hampshire 192, pounds 6; Kent 296, pounds 4.99; Lancashire 400, pounds 6; Leicestershire 130, pounds 4.95; Middlesex 136, pounds 8; Somerset 256, pounds 6.50; Surrey 160, pounds 5; Sussex 294, pounds 6; Warwickshire 184, pounds 4.50; Yorkshire 352, pounds 9.50.
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