We were never going to get ‘come to the party’ or ‘a hundred and ten per cent’ from The Authors XI by The Authors Cricket Club, with a foreword by Sebastian Faulks (Bloomsbury, £16.99). Instead there’s ‘Passchendaeleian’ and ‘Ballardian’ (of pitches), ‘burst-sofa torsos’ (of themselves) and the observation that the French revolutionaries’ cry of ‘Aux armes!’ sounds uncannily like ‘howzat?!’
The team of cricketing writers tackle a chapter each, combining match reports from their 2012 season with reflections on different aspects of the game (class, broadcasting, kit, youth and so on). If you play you’ll sympathise with their need for relay fielders to get a throw from the boundary to the wicket.
If you don’t you’ll still learn a lot. That ‘doosra’ is Urdu for ‘the other one’, that Sachin Tendulkar drives his Porsche on empty Mumbai freeways at 4 a.m. just to feel alone, that the MP Matthew Hancock’s casual wear gives him the appearance of Britney Spears in the video for ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’.
We hear John Arlott on Geoff Boycott — ‘a lonely career’ — and Simon Gray’s verdict on Harold Pinter’s two-line poem about Len Hutton: ‘I haven’t finished it yet.’ One opposition captain sledges his own batsmen while umpiring, the team’s sole female player uses glove liners (‘boys are sweaty’) and the job of scorer goes to someone called Laura simply, you suspect, because the writers liked the rhyme.
All in all: good areas.