The Final Over : The Cricketers of Summer 1914
Shortlisted for the 2015 Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year Award. Shortlisted for the Cross British Sports Book of the Year 2015 (Cricket category). August 1914 brought an end to the 'Golden Age' of English cricket.
At least 210 professional cricketers (out of a total of 278 registered) signed up to fight, of whom 34 were killed. Cricket stands as both a statistical and very human representation of the price paid in British blood as a whole. The sunbaked atmosphere of English society's last carefree weeks is graced by some of the Corinthian greats of their day, like Lord Lionel Tennyson and the polymath C.B.
Fry, brought alive through the words of their own letters and diaries, both on the sports fields of England and in the bloody trenches of France. This is the very personal story of how some of the greatest characters ever known in English sport performed some of their greatest feats against the ticking clock of events in Europe, and the moving, sometimes tragic, story of how they met the 'great adventure'.
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The author compares the stark contrast of the appalling waste of individual lives and the senseless slaughter of the Great War with the post Edwardian 'Golden Age' of English cricket. At least 210 professional cricketers (out of a total of 278 registered) signed up to fight, of whom thirty-four were killed.
Sandford, known by some as a biographer of the Rolling Stones, recounts in fine detail both the sporting achievements and extracts from war diaries portraying the lives of many of these cricketers. The political agenda in the summer of 1914 was conflated with the suffragettes, strikes and the Irish question. Meanwhile our 'national game' was watched by several million people, yet the Varsity Match at Lord's was one of the highlights of the social season, along with Henley Regatta.
Amusingly, he relates how cricket was used as a particular theme in cartoons depicting the 'Hun's unsportsmanlike attitude to war' He cites The Sportsman which published the famous letter from W.G. Grace insisting that 'the time has arrived when the county cricket season should be closed, for it is not fitting at a time like the present that able-bodied men should play day after day and pleasure-seekers look on'.
He recounts how Jack Hobbs, who would go on to score more centuries than any other cricketer, was berated for failing to volunteer at the start of the war before being conscripted to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. Many other references are of public school or undergraduates who never had the opportunity to reach either their sporting prime or their prime of life. As Sandford says 'The war would change everything from the balance of world power down to the gradual but steady erosion of the age-old deference of one class of Englishman to another'.
This book can be recommended to both cricket lovers and those who know little of the subject. Without doubt The Final Over is both an evocative and moving account of this most poignant summer of the twentieth century, both on and off the field of play.
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