Saturday 8 July 2023

Guest Review: Fifty Years in Cricket By Len Hutton


Review: Len Hutton (1916-1990) was a professional cricketer for Yorkshire and England. This is his autobiographical account, written with the assistance of the journalist Alex Bannister. Len Hutton made his first class debut in cricket for Yorkshire in 1934. This book, published in 1984, marked 50 years since that debut, hence the title.

A prolific batsman for Yorkshire, Len Hutton made his debut for England in 1937. His career was interrupted by the Second World War, and could have been curtailed altogether as a result of a bad accident during training with the Army, resulting in a broken left arm and wrist. After enduring bone grafts and periods in hospital, his left arm was healed but was found to be 2 inches (5 centimetres) shorter than his right. Nevertheless, when first class cricket resumed after the War he continued making big scores for Yorkshire and England. At the time, there was a distinction between amateur and professional cricketers, and it was the custom for the captain of England to be an amateur. However, he achieved the distinction of being the first professional to captain England in 1952. He had a successful time as captain, winning 11 matches and losing 4, including a famous Ashes series win in the 1954-1955 tour of Australia, the first win in Australia since the “Bodyline” tour of 1932-1933. However, ill health and the the constant strain on his body were taking their toll and he was forced to retire from playing later in 1955. He was knighted for services to cricket in 1956 and was later appointed an England cricket selector.

The book covers his childhood and his formative years playing club cricket for Pudsey St Lawrence before being invited for trials with Yorkshire. He also describes meeting various legends of Yorkshire cricket such as Wilfred Rhodes and George Hirst. Other chapters go on to describe the various highs and lows of his career and the characters he played with and against. The final chapters describe who, at the time of publication, were the outstanding players of the day, and conclude with reflections on the state of the game, particularly the turbulent events that had been happening to his home county of Yorkshire.

Although I thought the narrative of the book jumped around quite a lot, I found it to be a fascinating and nostalgic account of cricket either side of the Second World War. There are accounts of many of the cricketers of the era, accompanied by several photographs. I occasionally found the author’s views a little outdated, but they were the common views held at that time, and ones with which I was familiar from my own parents. Overall, this book was an interesting window into cricket during the pre and post-war years and will appeal to anyone wanting to know more about that era.

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