Book review: The Valiant Cricketer, The Biography of Trevor Bailey by Alan Hill

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Valiant. It’s a word rarely aired in sporting circles nowadays. In place of indomitable sportsmen, we must contend with those who feign injury, hoodwink match officials or deliberately deceive their paying audience.

Thankfully, the majority of professional sportsmen and women are not like this, but words such as ‘pugnacious’ and ‘undaunted’ appear to be disappearing from the sporting lexicon.

Trevor Bailey, who played 61 Tests for England and became only the second Englishman after Wilfred Rhodes to score 2,000 runs and take 100 wickets, was a plucky, doughty and courageous cricketer who delighted in his nickname of ‘The Barnacle’.

He attracted the sobriquet because when he was at the crease, it was nigh on impossible to get him out. How England could have done with him against South Africa last Sunday.

In the first Test against Australia at Brisbane in the 1958/59 Ashes series, Bailey scored 68 runs which took seven hours and 38 minutes to accumulate. Incredibly, he faced 426 balls, but scored from only 40.

He reached 50 in three minutes short of six hours; this remains the slowest half-century ever scored in first class cricket. If you needed a cricketer to wear down the opposition, the Barnacle was your man.

While some of this engaging book’s comprehensive statistics highlight the extent to which he could ‘drop anchor’ when required, Trevor Bailey was more than a stone-waller. His 7-34 against the West Indies at Sabina Park, Jamaica, remained the Test ground’s best bowling figures for fifty years.

Many will remember Bailey as one of the voices of Test Match Cricket where his post-match summaries were invariably succinct one-liners, a skill which prompted Christopher Martin-Jenkins to call him “the greatest distiller since Johnny Walker”, but away from cricket, he was one of life’s all-rounders.

He trained and worked as a teacher and was part of Walthamstow’s winning team that won the 1952 FA Amateur Cup, though it was in cricketing whites that he made his mark.

“The best before Botham” is how many have described Bailey, a man who revelled in difficult, rearguard situations.

His obduracy against the Australians at Lord’s in 1953, when he helped save the match, enabled England to go on and regain the Ashes.

Trevor Bailey, who died last year in tragic circumstances, was a very special sportsman and gentleman for whom the word valiant was, as this fine biography shows, tailor-made.

Quiz question:

We’ve teamed up with Sports Book of the Month & have a copy of The Valiant Cricketer to give away.

To win this week’s sports book, go to their website (www.sportsbookofthemonth.com) and answer the following question:

For which county did Trevor Bailey play 438 county championship matches?

Sportsbookofthemonth.com price: £14.44, saving 15% on rrp