Almanac (Writing) Memoir: My First Cricket Book






Forty years ago I was putting the finishing touches on my first cricket book, a commissioned history of 100 years of Adelaide Test matches.

I was living in a second-floor photographic studio in the east end of Adelaide’s Rundle Street when it had a bohemian air. I tapped out the text to the hum of city traffic during the day. I was sometimes awakened in the middle of the night by the lions roaring at the Zoo. I thought I was becoming a writer.

Adelaide Oval Test Cricket 1884-1984 was the first of three main cricket collaborations with my friend Nigel Hart before his tragic early death in 1997. It was a marvellous partnership cut short.

The question most often asked of us was who wrote what bits, which chapters and so on. The answer was we both did. Our approach was something like baking a cake. In short, we added one layer after another.

Nigel prepared the first draft from summaries of cricket literature and statistical sources to provide a skeleton. I then wrote the second draft from contemporary newspapers to get a day-by-day feel for the games as well as the rumour, comment and the flavour of issues of the day. I then incorporated Nigel’s material into my draft.

To the second draft we then added a considerable amount of material from our wide reading on the history of the game and our impressions gained from watching, thinking and talking about cricket.

The second most frequently asked question was how long did the book take to write and to that we had two answers: six months and twenty-five years. We worked out the framework and chapter titles in a two-hour brainstorming session and wrote the entire book between January and June 1984. On the other hand, cricket is a game which cannot be learned and understood quickly so our finer observations were nurtured over a considerably longer time span.

Finding a style was an important consideration as joint authors and after Nigel wrote the first chapter early in the project and I entirely rewrote it we thought our ‘marriage’ might end in a quick divorce. Happily, we evolved together.

As we worked through the book how we wrote was determined by what we wrote. For instance, describing Victor Trumper in 1911 we composed in a poetic vein:

“At twenty minutes before lunch, the spectators watched Victor Trumper stride to the wicket. Then aged 33 years, this slender and slightly built man whom one admirer described as ‘delicately spiritual’ in appearance was already a legendary figure in Australian cricket …”

It was recognised that once Trumper gained a sight of the ball he was able to cut loose no matter what the condition of the pitch or the state of the game – and to bat with supreme style and grace. On any type of pitch the liberties he took with even the best bowling were predicated upon an absolute harmony of hand and eye.

A century by Viv Richards in 1976 also elevated our thoughts:

“Cricket is a game of poetic rhythms and subtle nuances, of inside knowledge and quiet appreciation pervaded by a sense of timelessness. Much of the pleasure of cricket is reflection in tranquility. Often it is not merely the recollection of great deeds but the making of minute and acute observations that thrills the watcher, especially if later events fulfil earlier prophecies. All too often the hero of the hour has his day but does not dominate the future whereas a single passage of play can illuminate the mind during the darkest defeats.”

The book made interesting progress. In June, Sir Donald Bradman invited us to his Kensington home. We had suspected he might have been a publisher’s reading on behalf of the South Australian Cricket Association and were relieved when he stated that there were a couple of matters of interpretation he might disagree with in our 135,000 word text but was prepared to let authors stand by their views.


When the book was released in time for the Test match at the end of the year, it came with a foreword by Prime Minister Bob Hawke and was issued in three editions: a limited-edition of 299 with a ball autographed by The Don for $299 – they sold out in no time; a faux leather edition for $75; and an attractive hardback in a production run of 5000 for $29.99.

Over the years I meet many people in Adelaide who say, “I’ve got your book.”

I know which one they mean.


(In part, extracted from Bernard’s book Sports Writing: A Personal Journey 2013, 2021)

About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) who has just written his 40th book. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Among his most recent books are George Giffen: A Biography, The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man (with Graeme Ryan) and The MCC Official Ashes Treasures (5th edition).


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’ve got your books.

  2. Barry Nicholls says

    Lovely work Bernard.
    I recently found your tribute to Nigel in an ASSH journal – I think.

  3. Dr Rocket says

    Thanks for sharing an insight into the dual-author approach to writing that book.

    Love that description of Victor Trumper going out to bat at the Adelaide Oval in 1911.

  4. Bernard Whimpress says

    Thanks for the support.
    Yes, there is tribute to Nigel in an ASSH journal but more importantly an obituary in The Australian back when quality newspapers did such things.
    Dr Rocket
    Pleasure to share and thanks for your comment.

Leave a Comment