The Summer of 1939
A short book review on The Final Innings by Christopher Sanford.
Christopher Sanford’s wonderful book details the foreboding English cricket summer of 1939.The author makes use of unpublished memoirs and diary entries to describe the unfolding cricketing season of this most portentous of summers.
Britain stood on the brink of war. Hitler’s forces marched ominously across Europe. When war was ultimately declared on the 3rd September 1939, the cricket season was brought to an abrupt halt. An age of innocence had come to an end. The horrors of war would arrive at the doorstep of 53 county cricketers, who perished in the fight against fascism.
West Indies Test Matches
That fateful summer England met the West Indies. As part of a two year experiment Test matches were played over three days whilst overs consisted of eight balls. In the course of his book, Christopher Sanford details some fascinating characters in the West Indies tour party:
Wicketkeeper Ivan Barrow is the only Jewish cricketer to score an international century.
Fast bowler Hylton was a late call up to the tour party. In later life he was found guilty of murdering his wife and is the only cricketer to have faced capital punishment.
Finally a young George Headley spearheaded the batting. He scored 1,745 runs on tour at an average of 73. Moreover Headley would later become the first black captain of the West Indies.
The Impending War
The author outlines how the reality of the approaching war became a feature of everyday life for the cricket community. The sound of the air raid siren was as omnipresent as the sound of leather on willow.
County Cricket at War
Throughout the book Christopher Sandford details the war service of various country cricketers. The horror of war is best exemplified by the England batsman Bill Edrich. Edrich served in the RAF. Throughout the summer of 1941 he had vivid dreams about which his friends would live or die. With unearthly accuracy the dreams would be correct.
75 years since the end of World War II, Christopher Sanford’s book is a fitting literary tribute to the brave cricket souls of 1939.
In terms of a book review, The Final Innings is very much a winner.
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