One Long and Beautiful Summer, By Duncan Hamilton
Release date: 11th July, 2020
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Towards the end of last year, I was fortunate enough to visit the venerable WACA cricket ground in Perth, Australia.
It was mid-afternoon and the stadium was closed, but after explaining to a friendly security man how far we had travelled, he admitted my wife and I on condition that we didn‚Äôt venture onto the square.
We wandered down as far as the boundary rope and, as we looked across a surprisingly compact arena, it was possible to imagine cricket‚Äôs idiosyncratic sounds rising from the now empty stands. Apart from willow on leather, you could hear the partisan home crowd giving English fielders dog‚Äôs abuse and was that Ritchie Benaud‚Äôs objective commentary wafting across the airwaves?
It was wonderfully still, a characteristic amplified by Perth‚Äôs lazy heat and reading Duncan Hamilton‚Äôs outstanding One Long and Beautiful Summer, a short elegy for red ball cricket, I was reminded how enjoyable he finds cricket‚Äôs pre-match silence. Hamilton relishes preparing for a game, packing his radio, notebook, binoculars and newspaper, insisting on arriving ‚Äúso early that a stillness is in the air‚ÄĚ. It‚Äôs one of many evocative lines the reader will stumble across in this hugely enjoyable companion to Hamilton‚Äôs A Last English Summer published more than a decade ago.
Hamilton, whose books have won the sports book of the year accolade on three occasions (he could have a fourth with his latest effort) bears comparison with Neville Cardus, the writer who asserted that ‚Äúthere can be no summer in this land without cricket,‚ÄĚ a line which effectively inspired Hamilton to plan the matches he would see throughout 2019.
Though not anticipating a worldwide pandemic, Hamilton‚Äôs tome is prescient ‚Äď he believed that cricket could change beyond recognition once The Hundred was foisted upon us.
A cricketing traditionalist (he saw his first Championship match in 1970), Hamilton loves cricket so much he joins 73 others to watch a ridiculously fast Jofra Archer playing for Sussex second XI against Gloucestershire. He admires Ben Stokes‚Äôs performance at Headingley and visits the county ground at Hove in addition to Welbeck Colliery CC to see Nottinghamshire play Hampshire at the wonderfully named Sookholme,
Drawing inspiration from JB Priestly, Hamilton writes: ‚Äúyou know a man best by the sort of Utopia in which he desires to live. My Utopia ‚Äď on the cricket field at least ‚Äď is watching a leg spinner.‚ÄĚ
Clearly not a man to be hurried, he scorns ‚Äėmodernity‚Äô which, he assets, ‚Äúcomes at you at such a fast lick. You‚Äôre in the day after tomorrow almost before you realise yesterday has gone.‚ÄĚ
If One Long and Beautiful Summer doesn‚Äôt win sports book of the year, it‚Äôll be an absolute joy reading the one that does.
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