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Fred Titmus: My Life In Cricket by Fred Titmus

Release date: 01st August, 2005
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
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Fred Titmus: My Life In Cricket
By Fred Titmus with Stafford Hildred
John Blake Publishing price: £11.69 (saving £6.30 on rrp)

It would be fair to say that, as a result of two incredibly exciting Ashes Test matches, cricket's profile couldn't be higher, the gap between the summer's two protagonists wafer thin. Accordingly, a new audience has 'found' cricket and a plethora of books about the game look set to appear on a bookshelf near you, probably before the end of the season.

Fred Titmus has had the good fortune to have his biography published at precisely the right time, as his tale, spread over five decades in cricket, is bound to appeal to the game's new and more established followers alike.

There is much to select from this enjoyable read and given the public's penchant for cricketing excitement, many may wish to relive the duel between England and the West Indies in 1963 in which the author played. Titmus describes it as one of the greatest Test matches of all time. It ended with both sides still having a chance of winning off the final ball when England's Colin Cowdrey, who broke his arm at the start of his side's second innings, returned to the crease to the tumultuous roar of the Lords crowd. England required six to win, the West Indies one final wicketÖ

Titmus, ably assisted by ghost writer Stafford Hildred, has constructed a story which started when he made his debut as a 16 year-old for Middlesex in 1949 and ended (as a player) in 1982. In between, there have been many characters and, inevitably, hundreds of amusing anecdotes.

Some of the best involve the Duke of Norfolk, who managed England's 1962/63 tour to Australia, when Titmus's haul of 21 wickets made him the tour's most successful bowler. The Duke joined the tour in Colombo with his three daughters and immediately laid down several no-nonsense ground rules regarding contact with his girls, but the most appealing incident followed an 'up country' match in Australia.

England's players and the Duke attended a post-match dinner where one speaker went beyond acceptable banter and insulted the Brits throughout his speech. The Duke of Norfolk was scheduled to respond, whereupon he stood up and said, "Thank you very much for inviting us. We really have enjoyed ourselves. Good night." With that, he led the whole team out of the room as "jaws dropped all over the place." Imagine the diplomatic incident that would ensue today were some of Britain's overseas representatives as forthright as the old Duke!

But 'My Life In Cricket' is not merely a gentle wander down memory lane; Titmus pulls no punches and is occasionally critical of some of the game's biggest names, from Boycott to Botham, Gower to Atherton in particular, who he feels was not good enough to captain England. If you want biographical honesty, Titmus provides it in spades.

Nor has a life of cricket always been kind; on tour with England in Barbados, Titmus had four toes severed in a freak motorboat incident and was carried from the water awash with blood by Denis Compton and Brian Johnston. As he was 35 at the time, he feared his career may be over, yet within eight weeks, he was playing again.

Fred Titmus is one of a tiny band of men to have taken more than 2,000 wickets and scored more than 20,000 first class runs; for this reason alone, the story of his life in cricket is a worthy addition to those new titles we're bound to see sprout on the shelves within the next few months.

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