As English minds are concentrating on this winter’s Ashes battle in Australia, bound to contain its share of ‘mind games’ and sledging, a book is published which recalls a different England v Australia series, when camaraderie and sportsmanship were taken for granted, when the world was still reeling from the Second World War.
It was 65 years ago, in 1945, with the war in Europe over that crowds flocked to grounds to watch England take on the Australian Services. In his book, ‘The Victory Tests’, author Mark Rowe writes about a time when the spectators and the players were desperate for an alternative to the war, when the result really didn’t matter as much as the taking part and having fun.
Rowe spoke to four of the players who took part in the series – Donald Carr and John Dewes of England, teenagers thrust into the second of the Tests, and Ross Stanford and Reg Ellis of Australia.
Rowe also uncovered that Keith Miller’s war record was not quite what it is generally thought to be. Miller, who developed during the series into the world’s finest all-rounder, flew only two missions towards the end of the war. But as Rowe points out anyone who joined the air force as a pilot deserved praise for bravery.
The book also outlines the less than generous way the Australian services were treated as they made their way back home via India where they were caught up in nationalist riots.
The Victory Tests were not officially for the Ashes and they offer a refreshing change from the commercial and cynical cricket of the 21st century. The 1945 series brought sporting competition with goodwill – something more than the Ashes.
Price £17.99 (published by SportsBooks September 21 2010) - www.sportsbooks.ltd.uk
ISBN 971899807 97 9