The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The Glory Days Of Cricket By Ashley Mote, Robson, £ 22.95

Cricket attracts academics as few other sport does. This is the reason for the enviable volume of literature and statistics on the sport. Generations of writers have taken upon themselves the onerous task of recounting the early days of cricket, of uncovering the mist which has shrouded it, almost to the point of invisibility.

These researchers have toiled painstakingly, not for pecuniary gain but with hope and love. And they have unearthed material at which other sports historians cast envious glances. Over the years, historians like Eric Parker, H.S. Altham, E.W. Swanton, Christopher Brookes and Benny Green, among others, have published books on the origins of the game. These learned treatises are a heritage of cricket. Ashley Mote too contributes to the growing literature on this subject.

Mote is a journalist of note and the compilation, The Glory Days Of Cricket, which is sub-titled “The Extraordinary Story Of Broadhalfpenny Down”, is the product of extensive research. As the sub-title proclaims, the book primarily relates the story of Broadhalfpenny Down, where, in the early 18th century, the Hambledon cricketers played and lorded over the rest of England for more than four decades.

Biographies and statistics of those early cricketers, including the score-cards of more than 200 years ago, highlight the singular contribution of these Hambledon players to cricket’s progress.

The book seeks to emphasize that although Broadhalfpenny Down was the nursery of cricket’s development and growth, it was by no means the birthplace of the game. This belief, fanned by some early historians, is common although its authenticity was never conclusively proved.

Not that the early historians can be accused of mischief or of partisanship on this count. Their observation was based on the sketchy information available at the time and they had little evidence to the contrary.

Thankfully, mo-dern researchers have been able to clear away most of these misconceptions through their meticulous analyses. The contribution of Silver Billy Beldham and his mates in strengthening the foundation of this great game is justly deserving of every applause. Broadhalfpenny Down, in the heart of Hampshire in the south of England, is indeed a pilgrimage for all devotees of cricket.

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