Cricket defines Englishness like no other national pastime. From its earliest origins in the sixteenth century (or an early version played by shepherds called creag in the 1300s), through the formation of the MCC and the opening of Lord's cricket ground in 1787, to the spread of county cricket in the next century, when the Wisden Cricketers' "Almanack" was first published and the Ashes series was born, this simple sport of bat and ball has captured the imagination of the masses. Throughout its 500-year history, cricket has been a mirror for society as a whole, reflecting the changes that have brought us from the quintessential village green to Freddie Flintoff's pedalo, from W G Grace to Monty Panesar, via a fair number of eccentrics, heroes and downright villains. William Hill Award-winning writer Simon Hughes, no mean player himself, has lived and breathed cricket his whole life and now takes his analytical skills and typically irreverent eye to charting the history of English cricket. But this is no dry, dusty tome. It is the story of the mad characters who inhabit the game, the extraordinary lengths people will go to watch and play it, the tale of a national obsession.
It debunks the myth of cricket sportsmanship, showing the origins of sledging and match-fixing in centuries of subterfuge, corruption and violence. And it takes us beyond sport, to the heart of what it really means to be English.