Australia in England / Features

Cricinfo's pick of the bunch

Ashes books and DVDs

This summer's Ashes series has brought in its wake the inevitable flurry of books and DVDs. Cricinfo brings you the best of the bunch

Cricinfo staff

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The end of a season can be hard to take, particularly for those who have just witnessed The Greatest Test Series Ever TM. But yours can be a winter of content, courtesy of a host of rush-released books and DVDs ... and all in good time for Christmas. The only problem now is deciding whose memories to choose: Will it be Flintoff's? Vaughan's? Duncan Fletcher's? David Frith's? Gideon Haigh's? The wife of the kitbag man's cousin twice-removed? Cricinfo helps you decide

Books



Ashes 2005 - Gideon Haigh
Aurum Press
First, I must come clean. Gideon Haigh wrote for Cricinfo, among others, during the Ashes and some of his daily diaries for us are reproduced here, along with many of his contributions to the Guardian. That said, this book is like a breath of fresh air after the avalanche of blow-by-blow accounts of the summer's action that have been churned out. The joy is that it is the only book that really gives a flavour of what it was like to live through the summer. Haigh has not changed any of his articles, and each daily report of the match is prefaced by a preview and review which puts things into context. Because he is not restricted by the needs of conventional reporting, he has the freedom to ponder, observe and comment on incidents both major and minor. It's the vignettes themselves that stand out. Haigh's asides and one-liners are quite superb, and refreshingly he does not limit himself to the games or even just the tour. His thoughts on a number of issues, not least Australia's problems as the summer unfolded, make interesting reading, all the more so when remembering that they are not made with the benefit of hindsight. Of all the post-series books available this autumn, this is the only one that will make you laugh aloud as well as sit back and think. A must-have, even for those who thought that they had reached Ashes saturation. Martin Williamson



Calling the Shots - Michael Vaughan
Hodder & Stoughton
There's a conundrum with Michael Vaughan: brilliant, inspired and sharp in the field, but strangely sedate, uninspired and unsharpened in press conferences. Who can blame him? It's wise to be weary of the media, to give non-committal answers. But this attitude makes Calling the Shots a frustrating, page-skipping read. It's all surface, nothing new. Where we want to know fresh details about how Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher's relationship works, all we get is that they occasionally disagree but get on very well. Although we get a decent impression of a committed, bullish, likeable man, we don't find out what makes him tick: why did he think Thorpe should make way for Kevin Pietersen at the start of the Ashes; what was his motivation for not wanting to tour Zimbabwe other than being tired; how did he and Fletcher mastermind Australia's downfall? As for the bit everyone will buy the book for - the Ashes - it's nothing more than a standard recall of each game, with the usual "we were determined to show the Australians we weren't pushovers after Lord's". Chances are, as with most autobiographies, we're going to have to wait until the subject retires to get in print the brilliant, inspired and sharp Vaughan we see on the field. Daniel Brigham

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Ashes Regained: The Coach's Story - Duncan Fletcher
Simon & Schuster - Published on October 24
Beware the quiet man. Duncan Fletcher's public image is dour and inscrutable, almost hostile to the outsider, and yet his players, to a man, swear by him. This book gives us an insight in precisely why. Expertly ghost-written by Steve James, his faithful captain from his days in charge of Glamorgan, Fletcher's facade is peeled away by a man who knows him inside and out, to create the definite behind-the-scenes tale of the 2005 Ashes. Having lived every delivery of a nerve-jangling series, Fletcher can keep his council no longer and plays his shots in precisely the manner that few contemporary players can get away with. Wry, humorous and astute, and forthright on all issues - from the Ponting run-out saga to his over-use of the phrase "coming to the party". Press conferences will never be the same again. Andrew Miller



Being Freddie - Andrew Flintoff
Hodder & Stoughton
The rise, fall and resurrection of Andrew Flintoff is a tale that will forever be synonymous with the 2005 Ashes, and as such this timely trawl through the formative years of his life is sure to sell like Woodworm bats. All your favourite Freddie fables are there - the unfulfilled early years, the dressing-down from his management team, the SOS from the England Academy, the bleary-eyed fulfilment on that open-top bus parade and so on - but unfortunately, as with so many books of this genre, there is little insight to be gleaned from a man who doesn't exactly go out of his way to court the limelight. The book is like the man - honest, plodding and suitably heart-warming - only less inclined to go for its shots. However, the narrative of Flintoff's career is extraordinary and varied enough to overcome the occasionally lumpen prose, and no Christmas stocking will be complete without his musings. Andrew Miller

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Ashes Fever - How England won the Ashes Ian Stafford and Philip Brown
Mainstream
The strength of this book is the excellent photography of Philip Brown - he has contributed to at least three of this autumn's Ashes publications - and the layout and lavish use of colour shows these off in their full glory. However, what lets it down is the writing - not so much the quality as the volume. Text is crammed into every available space, and there is so much of it that the publishers have had to use a small font size. Ian Stafford is handicapped by telling a story we all know well and of having to do so without the ability to draw on new insights. The quotes are almost all gleaned from press conferences - the contrast with the insights in Ashes Victory are stark - and it is an instance where less would have been more. And there is a feeling that the publishers did not get Brown and Stafford to work together, merely combined their individual efforts. How else could the author wax lyrical about the image of Andrew Flintoff kneeling with his arm around Brett Lee at the end of the Edgbaston Test being "the snapshot of the summer ... [one which has] found its place up there alongside that of a shirtless Pele embracing Bobby Moore in 1970" when there is no photo of the moment to accompany it? A small gripe but one which highlights the imbalance between the two elements of the book. Martin Williamson



Ashes Victory - PCA and the England team
Orion
The only one of the publications which has the 'official' tag in that it features the story of the summer in the players' own words, which makes it well worth a read as it offers a different perspective from the standard blow-by-blow account. There are plenty of insights and plenty of candid remarks - for example, Marcus Trescothick on Ricky Ponting's decision to bowl at Edgbaston: "I couldn't believe what I was hearing ... everyone was just standing there open mouthed." Quite how much the likes of Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff actually reveal is open to question - they have their own books to sell, and so are unlikely to tell it all here - but even taking that into account, this lavishly-illustrated offering is a must-have. Martin Williamson

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How We Won The Ashes - PA Sport
Methuen
The Press Association's offering is a paperback with few frills, although there are some colour photos to leaven the grainy black-and-white ones, plus some interesting run-charts, which use the PA's straight-from-the-scorers stats. The commentary comes session by session, and so do the scorecards, with no complete end-of-Test card, which traditionalists will probably grumble about (I already have). But the text is straightforward and easy to read: if you don't particularly want to be sidetracked by too much analysis, or backtracked to Botham or Bodyline, then this could be the one for you. Steven Lynch

Battle for the Ashes - David Frith
Ebury Press
"The dust hasn't settled yet," writes Ashley Giles in the foreword - and that's all too apparent in this book, a disappointing effort from the quality writer David Frith. This book has a very print-while-you-think feel: you have to wade through reams of build-up - more than one hundred pages in fact - until you get to the first Test report, which is on page 115 of just 256 pages. And even then key incidents aren't properly set into a proper context. As for the photography, well it looks plain cheap. Jenny Thompson

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England's Ashes - The Daily Telegraph writers
HarperCollins
Britain's last-remaining national broadsheet becomes a coffee-table tome, with this weighty and attractive memento of an extraordinary summer. Comprising a mixture of day-by-day match reports from their chief cricket correspondent, Derek Pringle; off-the-cuff analysis from Simon Hughes and Martin Johnson; authoritative opinions from Michael Parkinson, and tied together by Philip Brown's impressive camerawork, it is equally worthy of being read from cover-to-cover as it is of being dipped into from time to time. Simon Briggs completes the package with a timeline of past Ashes confrontations, plus an exhaustive array of player profiles of the 25 combatants on display, dominated - unsurprisingly - by those two giants of the series, Shane Warne and Andrew Flintoff. Andrew Miller

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Winning the Ashes - Stephen Lamb and Ralph Dellor
If you thought the Ashes finished in September, you're wrong; they're still very much alive. With a myriad of books and DVDs covering every possible angle, we're afforded the luxury of some outstanding reading material to quench our Ashes thirst, and the indignation of some less thirst-quenching ones, including this: Winning The Ashes. In short, it is a near ball-by-ball account of the summer's events which, for the first two Tests (at Lord's and Edgbaston) provide entertaining reading. Accompanied by a medley of astonishingly crisp and evocative photos, it's a pleasing reminder of the summer - but not one I would eagerly return to in a year's time necessarily, not one I could wholeheartedly recommend. The prose is fluent and readable, but there is too much emphasis on each and every wicket which lends the book a formulaic, dull feel; it would prove a good buy for those who don't have a TV - it is that detailed. The photos, however, are worthy of a second mention. Provided by Getty Images, each page has one, sometimes two, full-colour pictures depicting the action, the passion, the cheering and the trudging, in remarkable detail. Somehow, stills evoke more memories than films or DVDs can. It's not for everyone - there are more wholesome books which recount the summer's hysteria. One for the Tube, or the dentist's waiting room - but not one to sober up with in front of the fire on Boxing Day.Will Luke

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The unforgettable Ashes - Jonathan Rice
Methuen
Like some of Geraint Jones's performances during the Ashes, Jonathan Rice's reflection on the summer suffers through dodgy timing. In this case, it is that the book is the last of 13 dealing with the Ashes to be released this autumn. As a result, it has been largely overlooked, which is a shame as it is actually an entertaining read. A few more of the personal reflections - his preview to the second Test, for example, centres on a chat with Chris Old at the chippie he now runs in Cornwall - would have been welcome and would have helped the book carve out its own niche. Rice's pleasant style makes for an easy read, and this would work well were he dealing with something that had not been already documented and dissected to the nth degree. That, however, is not his fault. But his publishers have not done him any favours with such a late entry to the race for the Christmas market.



Is It Cowardly To Pray For Rain? - The Guardian
Abacus The Guardian's over-by-over coverage, where the user engages in banter with the team of journalists following the game, became the web's version of Test Match Special. This has now been transferred to print so it is possible to relive each excruciating moment all over again. The book reproduces every session of the series as it appeared on the site, and there is nothing wrong with this, but given the skill and wit of the writers it is a bit of a shame that they didn't supplement the OBO reports with additional analysis in the same crisp, humorous style. However, such was the cult following that developed throughout the summer that people would end up discussing anything and everything from dating, dinner and Rob Smyth's frequent hangovers. Those who got hooked in the summer can now experience the fun (if that's the right word) all over again. Andrew McGlashan

DVD



The Ashes - England v Australia 2005
DD Entertainment
The bulk of this eight-and-a-half hour three-DVD set is taken up with the highlights of the series, and many will be relieved that means the accompaniment of Channel 4's superb commentary line-up rather than any second-rate alternatives. In reality, the all-too-brief end-of-day packages have been themselves been dissected, but the result is a very watchable and entertaining product. The extras hold their own, and the inclusion of added chunks of Simon Hughes's Analyst, the lunchtime chat at The Oval where all the commentary team picked their highlights, and some remarkable super slow motion sequences are well worth more than a passing glance. Sunset & Vine, who have produced Channel 4's cricket coverage, have signed off in style. A hard act to follow. Martin Williamson

Click to buy

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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