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Innings of a lifetime by Ralph Barker

‘Stories of skill, patience, grit and swashbuckling verve retold in an urgent, compelling style. You are there on the terraces, in the game.’ - Times Educational Supplement

‘Painstaking research coupled with real insight into the temperaments of his heroes gives a peculiarly graphic quality to his writing’ - Sunday Times


‘His versions have the satisfactory roundness and wholeness of brilliantly written short stories.’ - The Field

Ralph Barker (1917-2011) started work as a sporting journalist in 1934. He joined the RAF in 1940 as an air-gunner, and subsequently worked in the RAF Historical Branch and in Intelligence, before retiring in 1961 to write full time. Cricket was his life-long passion.

Test series have offered a convincing reminder that there is no more exciting game than cricket.

Especially when a close-fought contest reaches a climax at international level.

In the course of a game, nothing is more thrilling than an innings in which a batsman rises above his fellows and his own shortcomings to play a decisive part in achieving victory — or it may be in avoiding defeat, or in salvaging national pride.

The burly Peter Burge turning defeat into victory for Australia at Leeds in 1964, the young Colin Cowdrey saving England at Melbourne in his first Test series, the unorthodox Bob Barber setting such a frenetic tempo at Sydney that England had time to bowl Australia out twice, the two centuries by Glenn Turner that gave New Zealand their first win over Australia — these are among the examples of the first of these extremes.

No fight back from apparently certain defeat could be more memorable than the way Gary Sobers and his younger cousin David Holford saved the West Indies at Lord’s in 1966 — and very nearly turned the tables on England.

And avoiding national humiliation was the achievement of Asif Iqbal at the Oval in 1967 and Derek Randall at Melbourne in the 1977 Centenary Test.

Ten of these momentous innings are reconstructed here, in the context of the match in which they were played, the series, and the careers of the individual players, and they have provided a rich vein for research and analysis.

But more than that, the greater riches, as the author demonstrates, often lie beneath the surface, to be mined only by talks with the players, and in innings after innings he has truly struck oil.

Readers will do more than re-live these innings as if from the terraces. They will walk to the crease with the batsman, and share the unforgettable experience that each innings contains.