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Book Review: Guildford’s Cricket Story by David Frith

Published on: 14 Aug, 2013
Updated on: 15 Aug, 2013

G's Cricket Story 470by John Schluter

Guildford not Hambledon should be regarded as the cradle of cricket according to a new book by David Frith, a Guildford resident and former editor of the Wisden magazine.

The sub-title of the book is ‘Celebrating 75 Years of the Woodbridge Road County Cricket Festival – and much besides’. It turns out that ‘much besides’, including  Guildford’s birth place claim, starts a lot longer ago than 75 years.

There is a reference to the first written mention of the game of cricket in the English (or any other) language with a quote from a certain John Derrick, a Surrey coroner, ‘aged 59 or thereabouts’ who in an entry dated January 15, 1598 testified, in a dispute over a plot of land, that he and his young friends about fifty years earlier ‘did runne and play there at Creckett and other Plaies’

There are further numerous accounts of early Guildford cricket and cricketers including the wonderfully named ‘Lumpy Stevens’ who used to bowl underarm or as David Frith calls it ‘underhand’ (a feat celebrated several hundred years later by the Australian bowler Trevor Chappell in a match against New Zealand)

Several firsts are recorded in and around the Guildford area including the first ever Ladies’ match played at Gosden Common, Bramley in 1745, where ‘Eleven Maids of Bramley, dressed in white and with blue ribbons in their hair, scored ‘119 notches’, which was insufficient against Eleven Maids of Hambleton (red ribbons) who scored ‘127 notches’’.

The Women’s Cricket Association celebrated this landmark event 250 years later with a game at Bramley’s famous venue. I sincerely hope the ribbons were replicated.

The book carries a lot of references to other works on the subject of early Guildford cricket which has been well documented over the years and as the ages roll on so the information swells.

There are references to Guildford’s famous cricketing sons from Bob Willis (former RGS pupil), through the Bicknell brothers Darren and Martin, to the present day Ashley Giles and Rikki Clarke.

The first historical section of the book thus concludes and David Frith puts his whites on, picks up his bat and devotes a few pages to his own personal memories of Guildford Cricket Club and Woodbridge Road dating from 1968 with some interesting tales and amusing anecdotes.

There then follows a year by year account, from 1938 to 2012, of all the Surrey CC matches played, both County Championship and Sunday League (in its various guises).

The section starts with a roll call of some of the ‘stars’ who have graced the Woodbridge Road ground from Hashim Amla and Ian Botham through to Bob Willis and Waqar Younis.

Both bowling and batting records are detailed and the section is well supported with plenty of photographs and a paragraph or two’s description of proceedings.

There is a final, brief section on Guildford Cricket Club written by The Surrey Advertiser’s sports editor Richard Spiller.

Any Guildford cricket supporter, or indeed cricket fan would enjoy this book, there are some interesting historical facts and good statistical references and at a mere £5.00 the enjoyment is suitably enhanced.

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