Managing editor Matt Thacker introduces issue 43 of the Nightwatchman…
As I write this, it seems to be all about the rivalry between England and Australia. 8-8 in the Women’s Ashes; 2-2 in the Men’s Ashes; 2-2 in… (checks notes…) an U16s chess tournament in Eindhoven; a win to the Diamonds against the Roses in the netball World Cup final (with England having beaten the serial world champs in the pool stages); and then that Lionesses semi- final win Down Under in the football World Cup, with England’s star-turn Lauren Hemp apparently having been a more-than-handy cricketer.
For whatever reasons, and there are plenty of course, our relationship with Australian sports teams is complicated. The rivalry has produced great sporting contests ever since the days when cricketers used to get on a boat and travel to the other side of the world – for more than two months back in the 1880s, reduced to a month in the middle of the last century after the discovery of the Suez short-cut. No wonder it meant so much. It is believed that it was on the 1932 boat trip that Douglas Jardine instructed his players to actively “hate” the opposition (echoed by Allan Border in 1989), and that Bodyline Tour is no doubt part of the reason why animosity is never too far from the surface when the two nations meet.
But let’s focus on this autumn’s issue of The Nightwatchman. And we’re straight back on the boat. It’s 1954, and one of the England tourists has first charmed then bedded a newly married passenger, but which of the squad was it? Philip Hook has the answer.
Elsewhere, one of my all-time favourite Nightwatchman pieces, from novelist Richard Beard, (here playing all the shots that elude him as a tough-as-teak opening batsmen), concerns a 266-word book about Harold Pinter and a catch the playwright once took that, in his eyes at least, was right out of the top drawer.
In the wake of the ICEC report, we also revisit a piece about Michael Carberry that The Nightwatchman published exactly ten years ago, when times were thankfully very different. And we travel back to Repton before the First World War, witness the arrival of the first ever West Indian touring squad in 1923, fast forward to 1953 and an England Ashes win, and hear about a chucking scandal in Derbyshire the ’60s.
Then we’re off to a double-wicket competition in South Africa in the ’70s with the colossus Tony Greig, see England’s best amateur cricketers come up against the best of the best, witness depressingly recent examples of dressing-room racism, and come right up to date with an inside view of the recently completed Major League Cricket, which brought T20 to Texas.
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Matt Thacker, September 2023