Stephen Bates

Out for a Hundred

One Long and Beautiful Summer: A Short Elegy for Red-Ball Cricket


Riverrun 247pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

That Will Be England Gone: The Last Summer of Cricket


Constable 296pp £20 order from our bookshop

Last year, two English cricket writers, Duncan Hamilton and Michael Henderson, decided to write elegiac books about the sport’s final decline into a whizz-bang travesty that the marketing men who dreamed it up portentously called The Hundred. The innovation – matches reduced to a hundred balls an innings in a doubtless vain attempt to spark the enthusiasm of those who have no interest in the game – will elbow aside more traditional formats. It has won the enthusiasm of no one who appreciates the subtle skill and complex tactics hitherto required to win games. To add insult to injury, the teams in the new competition will be amalgams of players drawn from the counties that have competed with each other for the best part of 130 years.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time for Hamilton and Henderson to traverse the country to record what they thought would be the last season before the barbarians arrived. I imagine the two of them passing each other, on steam trains of course, one en route to Old Trafford and the other to Hove, fountain pens at the ready to hone their adjectives and polish up their anecdotes in order to memorialise the old game.

Instead, it is the coronavirus pandemic that has brought an end to cricket (though it may have just limped back to life by the time you read this). The Hundred, like everything else, has been postponed, or at best truncated, devoid of spectators.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter