THE FASTEST BOWLER IN THE WORLD. By Michael Hardcastle Faber Pounds 9. 99. GLORY GARDENS: WORLD CUP FEVER GLORY GARDENS: THE BIG TEST. By Bob Cattell Red Fox Pounds 2.99 each
Nick Freedland and I have one thing in common. We have both - on the odd occasion - let loose cricket balls which buzzed dangerously close to a batsman's head. His team mates christened him the Destroyer after a rogue delivery on his first appearance for the school XI; mine called me Headhunter. We both got over it.
But that was one of the few bad balls Nick bowled - in fact it's one of the few mistakes he ever seems to make in Hardcastle's story. He's determined to become The Fastest Bowler in the World and by page one-and-a-half you know he's got a fair chance of making it. I couldn't have given a square leg for his astonishing exploits - although his prodigious talent mesmerises his county side's star player.
His determination, you know, will win through. And all this despite an aversion to training with his mother who, refreshingly, is the family's real cricket ace with a place in the England women's team.
Bob Cattell's two tales from his four-part Glory Gardens series are much more fun. They're for kids (adults too) playing or about to play cricket who want to learn more. Sprinkled among the text are diagrams explaining different strokes and bowling styles, scorecards and field settings.
The Glory Gardens team's adventures are told by captain Hooker Knight - and once again there's a girl near the action. Erica is even singled out to demonstrate a googlie ("the ball is going fractionally down the leg side and she waits for it to come on to the bat and then turns the face to help it on its way") in the first chapter of The Big Test.
Best of all, "the rather fat, smelly and asleep most of the time" Gatting is in his rightful place: slumbering under the pavilion steps.