Duncan Hamilton has won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for his authorised biography of former Nottinghamshire and England fast bowler Harold Larwood.

Hamilton, who spent 20 years as a journalist at the Nottingham Evening Post, becomes only the second author to win the award twice having already been honoured for Provided You Don’t Kiss Me, a memoir of his working relationship with the legendary Nottingham Forest manager.

Mr Hamilton received a £21,000 cheque, a £2,000 William Hill bet, a hand-bound copy of his book and a day at the races for winning the award.

Harold Larwood by Duncan Hamilton is on sale now from the Trent Bridge Club Shop.

Review by Peter Wynne-Thomas;

An organization requires the most talented person available to carry out a specific task. That man is found and employed. His line manager instructs him on his duties. He carries those duties out, not only to the best of his ability, but to the total satisfaction of the line manager and to the general approval of the whole organization. Within no time at all, the organization has an about face and asks the operative to apologise for the work he has performed so diligently. That in a nutshell is the embarrassing story which this book tells.

There have been two previous books which outline Harold Larwood’s involvement in what became known as the ‘Bodyline’ series. The first was a ghosted production that went out under Larwood’s name not long after the event and the second was by an Australian journalist, Kevin Perkins, that was written in 1965 and revised in 1995. Duncan Hamilton’s new book is altogether a fresh approach. Writing in a lively and entertaining style, Hamilton captures the mood of cricket in the Nottinghamshire dressing room of the 1920s and early 1930s, as governed by the rather erratic enthusiasms of the county captain, Arthur Carr. Later in total contrast there is the mood which pervades the second half of the book after Larwood is more or less disowned by the cricket establishment and, rather curiously, helped by one of the Australian batsmen, Jack Fingleton, who had had to bat against the bowling of Larwood and his colleagues in 1932-33.

Fingleton came to England in 1948 as a journalist reporting on the Australian tour of that summer. He was interested to find out what had happened to Larwood and discovered him running a sweet shop in Blackpool. Fingleton suggested Larwood and his family emigrate to Australia. The suggestion was taken up and from 1950 until his death in 1995, Larwood lived quietly in a house near Sydney.It slowly dawned on the Establishment that they had been quite unfair in their treatment of Larwood and, he was, shortly before his death, belatedly awarded the M.B.E.

The author describes vividly how different the life of a county and a Test cricketer was in the inter-war period in comparison with today’s players. At the present time both for England and indeed for most counties the army of ‘support’ staff is as large as the number of actual cricketers. In the 1920s and 1930s the county, or England, captain took much greater responsibility and in Carr and Jardine, Larwood had two leaders with unusually forceful opinions. When Larwood joined the Nottinghamshire playing staff in 1923, the county had an excellent coach, Jim Iremonger. He recognized Larwood’s exceptional potential, as did Arthur Carr, when in the closing stages of the 1924 season, Larwood moved up into the Notts First Eleven. In 1926, with Carr as England captain, Larwood won his first Test cap. He was selected to go with MCC to Australia in 1928-29.

Perhaps the one flaw in Hamilton’s book is the scant treatment he gives to that tour. Some exceptional bowling by Larwood won the First Test for England. He took 8-62, Australia being dismissed for 122 and 66. England triumphed in such a startling manner as to cause real consternation in Australian cricket circles’ notes a contemporary report. He continued to be successful in the second and third matches, all won by England, so with five matches in the series, England retained the Ashes. What may not be realized is that all the matches that season were played to a definite finish and a six day match was common – in fact one of the Tests lasted eight days. With such a grueling programme, it was little wonder that a bowler of Larwood’s speed would be worn out before the tour ended. His performances in the last two Tests demonstrated this, so his final Test figures, with a bowling average of 40 (the same as England’s other great bowler of that tour, Maurice Tate) did not reflect his early effectiveness. Monty Noble, in his book on the 1928-29 tour devotes an 800 word essay to Larwood’s skill and his bowling tactics on that tour – Noble’s words make interesting reading in light of what came later.