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Playfair cricket annual 2007 Edited by Bill Frindall

Release date: 05th April, 2007
Publisher: Headline Publishing

List Price: £6.99
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Book review

Playfair cricket annual 2007
Edited by Bill Frindall

Fatty Batter
By Michael Simkins

Both books available at discounted prices at

Although many cricket fans will by now be fed up of listening to the sound of leather on willow following a disappointing World Cup and a miserable winter Ashes series, solace is on the horizon in the form of the new domestic cricket season, scheduled to start next week.

How many of us long for a quiet afternoon of comparative solitude, preferably one uninterrupted by rain, where the almost forgotten art of batting for more than an hour is performed by an accomplished opener?

If such a scene is unlikely to be played out at a county ground near you this summer, it's worth remembering that two of cricket's greatest alternative joys are its literature and burgeoning collection of facts and figures, beloved by young boys of all ages.

Should play slow to a snail's pace or the covers appear unexpectedly, you may idly wonder whether it really is more than 30 years since Greg Chappell took seven catches in the Perth Test against England, or indeed whether W R Hammond's record of 78 catches in a domestic season will ever be surpassed.

Instead of wading through Wisden's exalted pages (hardly the ideal accompaniment for a match), where can the cricket enthusiast happen upon such a mix of sporting history and potentially useful quiz questions? In the 2007 edition of Playfair's cricket annual, now the world's best selling publication of its kind.

Once again, the incomparable Bill Frindall and his team have assembled a mind-boggling array of statistics, which includes most essential facts: from details of every first class player registered in the UK, to charts naming those to have scored more than 35,000 runs. Happening upon such information is akin to unearthing a marvellous country pub you never knew existed and the great news is, it occurs with heartening frequency.

Michael Simkins' Fatty Batter has been described as "an instant classic" and if you didn't read the hardback version, the paperback is published to coincide with the start of the new cricket season.

Simkins, a well-established actor, has been obsessed with the game since he was a young boy after seeing the great Colin Milburn score 94 for England one balmy June afternoon back in 1966.

His love of cricket is evident on virtually every page. Despite being a rather rotund schoolboy who harboured all of the usual dreams of one day replicating Milburn - another 'big-boned' individual - his belief that the call to England colours would invariably come has remained unswerving, even in middle age.

But this book is not written by a man who is little more than a dreamer. In fact, judging by the way in which he arranges fixtures for his Harry Baldwin Occasionals side, he would be more appropriately described as a schemer. His description of arranging a match with Old Wokingham, where he persuades his opposite fixture secretary that the Occasionals are not a particularly good side (this after reading Mike Brearley's The Art of Captaincy is a mixture of mirth and cunning. His side win by more than 100 runs, Simkins' ideal outcome before he organised the game.

Fatty Batter is also littered with wonderful and occasionally hilarious anecdotes, from Tolstoy's Waugh and Peas (read the book) to adding Oscar-winning film director Sam Mendes to the Occasionals side for a fixture against Nuthurst, a friendly team that has played on the same village green since the nineteenth century. That game's denouement sums cricket up perfectly; let's hope for something similar this season.

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