Close of Play by Nigel Hastilow
Cricketers take on developers in raging turf war.
Close of Play is the outstanding and original novel by the talented author, Nigel Hastilow. It centres on a sleepy cricket club’s battle against the might of a housing developer and a cash-rich match that could settle the dispute.
The village of Howard Michael is divided when a property developer tries to buy out their cricket pitch to build a housing estate. The cricketers will gain personally from the sale and the area needs more affordable housing – but what about tradition, the environment and the future of their great game? As argument rages and the cricketers are evenly divided, Club President Acton Trussell decrees there’s only one honourable way to settle the question. When the thrilling £1 million cricket match ensues, who will win the rights to the hallowed ground?
This is a superbly written book with a modern context. The story starts in 2020 against a backdrop of Covid-19 and its devastating impact on grassroots cricket, as play is all but abandoned forever. By 2022, the Government is determined to concrete over the countryside when a wily property developer gets his hands on the freehold of the Howard Michael Cricket Club. Despite the club’s dwindling numbers, the players square up to their opponents with cricket bats at the ready.
“There was uproar: shouting, argument, accusation, recrimination, insult, threat and confusion until eventually it was put to a show of hands and Trussell’s proposition was carried by a clear majority. Both sides thought they would win.”
Chapter by chapter, the author’s knowledge of cricket is clear from the numerous references to well-known terms and jargon. Likewise, his passion for the etiquette of this traditional British sport spins off the pages: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a cricket club. A place for friendly rivalry and good fellowship.”
In Close of Play, readers will recognise a familiar range of personalities and sporting behaviour (both fair and otherwise) that is commonplace in sports clubs everywhere. The dogged determination and competitive spirit of the opposing teams is a clever and continuous thread. Meanwhile, the book has a wealth of relatable and down-to-earth characters, from smug politicians, arrogant developers to aspiring young amateur players.
Close of Play is a joy to read with amusing twists and turns both on and off the playing field. Leading up to the dramatic winner-takes-all match, the narrative builds in tension with readers rooting for the underdogs, eager to find out just how this imaginative cricket contest will be resolved.
Price: £7.99 (Paperback)
Publisher: Halesowen Press
About the Author
Nigel is a journalist by trade. He was editor of The Birmingham Post in the 1990s and a columnist for the Wolverhampton Express & Star. He has worked for the Institute of Directors, the Institute of Chartered Accountants and ran his own publishing company. He has published several previous books, the most recent being The Trials of Eldred Pottinger, an historical romance set during the First Afghan War. In his cricket-playing days, he was a right-arm, medium-pace bowler, genuine Number 11 bat and fully-qualified member of the Primary Club.