Monday, 30 November 2009

Look no further for your Ashes-based Christmas present

Atherton's Ashes is as difficult to put down as a box of Cadbury's chocolate fingers. Just one more page, and one more, and just one more, and before you know it you've sprinted through an entire summer. It's well-written, insightful, fair-minded, and a fitting record of another compulsive Ashes series.

It is made clear right from the start that this book is not a reflection on the summer as a whole. Instead, it is a collection of Atherton's articles from The Times, rushed into almost-daily print soon after the action had finished. The resulting compilation is therefore flawed, but in a good way.

A charge of hindsight is impossible to level. After the last day (the third) of the Fourth Test, Atherton writes "Bopara's place is under the biggest threat...the lack of batting alternatives is truly frightening...if an alternative number three is needed, better to go with Rob Key or Owais Shah [than Jonathan Trott]." We all know what happened next.

Of course, Atherton's Ashes isn't perfect. The most disappointing thing is its title, for this wasn't Atherton's series at all. As Atherton himself points out in the book's final passage, Graeme Swann was the real star of the summer - "the off-spinner from Nottinghamshire was not found wanting and nor, we hope when the time comes, will we." Swann's Ashes would have been a far more apt title.

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