Australian book dealer, writer and collector Ken Piesse has been collecting cricket memorabilia for the best part of half a century. Not content simply to hoard, however, he has chosen to share his collection of cricket pictures with the wider world in this beautifully-produced hardback. While weighing in at well over a kilo and produced on high quality glossy paper, the book does not feel heavy and is a pleasure to handle.
A distinctive feature of the book is how many of the pictures are unfamiliar. Some of course are iconic and had to be included – the Trumper image, for example, or Ikin’s ‘catch’ at Brisbane. But there are many that I had not seen before. Among my favourites is one of Tom Hayward taking strike to Ernie Jones (whose arm looks suspiciously bent, rather more so than that of Meckiff sixty years later) at Sydney in 1901-02. I was also struck by an image of Lindsay Kline battling against West Indies at Adelaide in 1960-61, surrounded by nine close catchers – enough to make any batsman shiver, and a powerful illustration of the concluding drama of that Test, which has been somewhat overshadowed by the tied Test. As well as action photos there are many portraits, photographic and otherwise, of the leading players, and other images of cricket memorabilia – books, magazines, newspaper cuttings, cigarette cards, even letters – including one from Ernie Bean shortly after the brawl between Clem Hill and Peter McAlister, and another from Bob Menzies inviting the 1938-39 Victorian side to dinner.
While the main attraction of the book is of course the pictures, some narrative is essential to provide context, and Ken Piesse contributes a thoughtful and concise overview of Australian international cricket decade by decade. Of necessity, these surveys are relatively brief, although the author allows himself a little more latitude in the description of the tied Test of 1961. However, this does not mean that he confines himself to the well-trodden paths – in fact there are many interesting snippets included here such as the question asked of Neil Harvey by his optometrist or Bill Bowes and Jack Fingleton on Bradman’s first-ball duck at Melbourne in 1932-33. There is a series of magnificent pictures of this match that I had not seen before – coincidentally or not, Melbourne was the only Test in the series that Australia won.
From a painting of Charles Bannerman and an image of a scorebook of the 1882 Oval Test to shots of the Trent Bridge Test of 2013 and the Australian eleven at Wellington in 2016, this is a delightful survey of 140 years of cricket in its highest form.