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From Len to Ray – A brief guide to the Flagstaff Cricket Annual

Posted: 16th February 2016

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From Len to Ray.

Len Hutton and Ray Illingworth.

The England captaincies of  these two Yorkshiremen, one from the 1950’s and one from the 1960’s topped and tailed the life of an interesting cricket annual.

When Flagstaff Press published it’s booklet, The Fight for the Ashes in 1953, Hutton was England captain (he’d been appointed in 1952). When the last Flagstaff Cricket Annual was published in 1969 (the 17th edition), Ray Illingworth had taken charge of the England team.

However, the annual initially was not actually an annual. The first booklet was as a celebration of the 1953 Ashes victory in which Hutton lead his team to a 3-1 victory over Lindsey Hassett‘s Australians.

From year 2, in 1954 (see image above), the slim, softback booklet became an annual in the more usual sense of the word, looking back at the domestic season just completed and forward to the one coming up.

Strictly speaking, therefore, the first year of the annual was the 1954 edition but looking at later issues, where the front cover stated the number of years published, if we work back from say 1959, which stated that the annual was the ‘7th year of publication’, 1954 becomes issue #2.

This suggests that Flagstaff Press were effectively positioning the 1953 Ashes edition as the first issue. So that’s how I am going to apply the numbers to the editions when we get to the details of the annuals below.

Another way of summarising the series would be to say that there were 17 editions; 16 of them annuals.

By the time the 17th and last edition of the annual was published in 1969, the cricket world had changed quite a bit in a number of areas since Hutton’s days and the 1953 Ashes victory;

  • Distinction between amateurs / professionals had been abolished (there were ‘Players’ from 1962)
  • One-day cricket had been introduced to the English schedule (Gillette Cup, Players County League)
  • County Championship organisation had been adjusted (number of matches played, points systems used, 1st innings restrictions)
  • Overseas players had been introduced to the county game (one per county from 1968)
  • Wicket covering / preparation policies had been changed (from no covering to a variety of policies)

From 1946, post war interest and attendances at cricket were very healthy as everyone tried to get life back to normal.

Publishers and newspapers seized on this wave of enthusiasm and publishing annuals was one way of tapping into this demand.

This trend was also seen with football but that sport saw many more of what would become called boys’ annuals published targeting a young / junior audience.

In cricket, there were very few boys’ annuals published but the smaller sized more traditional pocket annuals continued to be popular.

So the post-war years saw such well known and established titles like the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the Athletic News Cricket Annual (which changed to the Sunday Chronicle Cricket Annual) and the News Chronicle Cricket Annual published annually as they had been before the war.

Now, others joined the list, including the Findon’s Cricket Annual, the Daily Worker Cricket Handbook, the Playfair Cricket Annual, the Cyril Washbrook Cricket Annual, the Day and Mason Cricket Annual and the self appointed annual from the Midlands, the Sports Argus Cricket Annual.

From 1953, Flagstaff Press joined in with their publication, The Fight for the Ashes, a slim, card covered 48 page booklet focusing on England’s Test series victory at home over the Australians;

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The following year, in 1954, the booklet became the Flagstaff Cricket Annual and continued for 16 more years up to and including 1969.

The editor for all the editions was Roy Lester who welcomed readers each year, with his comments at the start of the annual.

Whilst the first booklet was all about the Ashes, the annuals had a strong emphasis on domestic cricket which for most of its duration was dominated by the County Championship until the one-day competitions were introduced to the domestic schedule one by one in the 1960’s with the Gillette Cup in 1963 and the Players County League, better known since as the Sunday Leaguein 1969.

The front cover of the 1954 edition, the first one in the form of an traditional annual, summarised the content inside.

Readers could expect information on prospects, players, pictures, features, records and fixtures.  This was the offering in 1954 and it would remain that way until the last edition of the annual in 1969.

After Roy Lester’s editorial remarks, there was a feature on the upcoming season’s tourists.

Then came a page for each county looking at the team’s prospects for the new season based on performance in the previous one, a feature which would remain in the annual throughout its life.

Here is the opening page of the section, featuring Derbyshire;

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Other staple features in the annuals were the First-Class averages for the previous season, a feature on Women’s cricket, one on Cricket and Cash and at the end of the annual, the First-Class fixture list for the upcoming season.

These core features were supplemented by a variety of articles on other aspects of the game, including England’s Winter tour and other overseas Test match series which might have occurred through the Winter months.

From 1955, a one page feature of facts, figures and short features called Between the Overs was introduced.

In 1956, a Review of books was added.

From the 1959 edition, the presentation of the contents look as if they were refreshed and a more modern look appeared with stronger headlines and a more varied layout of the inside pages.

Also, in contrast to these design changes, the paper used for the annual would appear to have been downgraded slightly. Years later, the pages of these later annuals have age faded (as can be seen in some of the scans below).

A nice feature of the annuals in the last few years, starting in 1964, was a centre pages spread showing a grid of all County Championship match results from the previous season;

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From the 1966 edition, the annual made an award of the Flagstaff Cricketer of the Year and Surrey and England’s John Edrich was the first recipient;

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By the end of the annual’s run, the booklet had the feel of a magazine as much as an annual.

The annuals, including the Ashes celebration booklet at the start of things, were all 52 pages in length, including card covers.

After the 17th edition, the annual disappeared as quickly as it arrived. The little booklet had not evolve out of any other publication prior to the 1953 Ashes celebration edition and it didn’t morph into a new publication afterwards as was often the way with many annuals whose titles reflected the ownership of their newspaper, for example.

Let’s have a look at the annuals one by one, beginning with the celebration of England’s 1953 Ashes victory.

 

1. 1953

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As pointed out above, although Flagstaff Press’ own numbering of these publications includes 17 editions, there were 16 annuals of the traditional type which followed on from this first booklet, a celebration of England’s win in the 1953 Ashes.

On the front cover, the design focused on the actual Ashes themselves flanked either side by the 2 captains, England’s Len Hutton (left) and Australia’s Lindsay Hassett (right).

The front cover summarised the content in the booklet. Readers could expect a ‘Complete Permanent Record in Story, Pictures and Statistics’.

Inside, there was an introduction by Roy Lester and features looking at the post war experiences of both teams and their status as they began the series.

The Australian’s feature had some good head shot photographs of their top players;

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Then followed a chapter on each of the 5 Tests with full scorecards.

The content continued with statistics on the series and also reports and score summaries for the Australians’ matches against all the counties.

A list of ‘Monarchs of the Tests’, looking at top performers from both countries in Ashes series of the past and 2 pages of Records of England-Australia Tests completed the booklet.

 

2. 1954

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For 1954, the Ashes booklet of the previous year had been transformed into an annual format looking back at the 1953 season and forward to 1954.

The front cover showed Yorkshire’s Headingley ground, not quite the County headquarters as it is now (Yorkshire played on numerous grounds back then) but a Test match venue, nontheless.

Interestingly, the ground has changed now quite dramatically but the stands shown in the front cover photograph still exist. Only recently, plans have been developed which may well change that main stand (on the right), as the rugby ground behind it gets redeveloped.

As with the 1953 Ashes booklet, the front cover also summarised the content in the annual. Readers could expect information on Prospects, Players, Pictures, Features, Records, Fixtures.

Roy Lester’s editorial comments looked ahead at cricket’s prospects at home and overseas, the Pakistan tourists were welcomed, the counties reviewed with a page for each one, Women’s cricket covered, the 1953 Ashes win celebrated and Surrey‘s County Championship and Berkshire‘s Minor Counties Championship success were also featured. The Commonwealth XI’s tour of India, South Africa’s defeat of New Zealand, England’s controversial tour of the West Indies, the First-Class averages for 1953, a page of all time cricket records, a Flagstaff Cricket Quiz and the 1954 English domestic fixtures completed the annual.

The 48 pages were mainly text supplemented with a few photographs, including this one of 1953 County Champions, Surrey lead by Stuart Surridge (front row, centre);

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3. 1955

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The front cover of the next edition for 1955 showed 5 cricketers who had received a silver cup and a cheque for 100 guineas each for outstanding performances in 1954 (left to right);

  • Arthur Milton (Gloucestershire)
  • Harold Stephenson (Somerset)
  • George Emmett (Gloucesterhire)
  • Fazal Mahmoud (Pakistan)
  • Johnny Wardle (Yorkshire)

Inside, the content was similar to the 1954 edition with South Africa, the 1954 tourists to England and Surrey again winning the County Championship (their 3rd title in a row).

After beating England at the Oval in 1954, Pakistan went on to beat India and the series between these two countries was covered.

Also held at the Oval for the first time was a Women’s Test match between England and New Zealand and the feature on Women’s Cricket was 2 pages with photos of England stars Mary Duggan and Barbara Murray.

In a feature on how England retained the Ashes in Australia, there was a good photograph of the Melbourne cricket ground in all its magnificence, with that huge stand running around most of one side of the stadium;

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4. 1956

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1956 was another Ashes year reflected in the front cover design with the English Lion (who looked as if he was about to bowl a leg break) and the Australian Kangaroo (who looks like he was anticipating a front foot shot).

The human leaders would be captains Peter May (England) and Ian Johnson (Australia).

The upcoming Ashes were featured in the early part of the annual and the usual features followed. ‘Surrey as usual’ announced the article on the County Championship to acknowledge the Brown Caps’ 4th Championship victory in succession. There were also features on TV and cricket and one for spectators on how to watch a match.

A review of cricket books was a new feature in the annual.

Peter May and Len Hutton were also featured and in the article on May, we learned that like Gloucestershire’s iconic cricketer, W.G. Grace, the Surrey batsman, the ‘Batting Artist’ as the headline described him, had been taught the rudiments of the game by his mother;

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5. 1957

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What might almost be called the perfect cover drive could be seen on the front cover of the 1957 edition, a stroke which belonged to West Indies’ star batsman Everton Weekes.

As well as his opening remarks, Roy Lester included a report on the proposals made by a group of eminent cricket men on behalf of the MCC.

Various adjustments to aspects of the game had been proposed including a one-day competition involving innings of 54 overs-a-side.

Lester was a bit negative about this proposal and it’s interesting that 6 years later, a 65 overs-a-side Gillette Cup would be launched heralding the beginning of what has ultimately become an evolution of one-day cricket ending up, over 50 years later, with the ODI as a staple part of international cricket and at domestic level across the cricket world, such tournaments as the IPL, the Big Bash and the T20 Blast attracting crowds and money alike, in large quantities.

Surrey‘s record 5 consecutive wins in the County Championship was recognised with another team photograph on their page in the annual.

There was a special feature on Surrey and England’s Jim Laker in recognition of his 19 wickets in the 1956 Old Trafford Test match against Australia;

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6. 1958

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The front cover of the 1958 edition showed the England team for the 5th Test against the West Indies at the Oval in the 1957 series between the two countries.

At the start of the annual was a photograph of Kent and England’s Colin Cowdrey walking off at Edgbaston with Peter May during that 1957 series.

The two batsmen were on their way to putting on 411 against the West Indies, a stand by which the ‘Ramadhin bogey was well and truly laid’ after the spinner had bamboozled the England team in the earlier part of the series.

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As well as the usual topics featured, there was an article title, ‘The Amateur in County Cricket’, reflecting the turning tide against the division between amateurs and professionals in the English game. It would take another 4 years before the distinction would be abolished for good in 1962.

There was a good centre pages feature on Lord’s: The Cricketer’s Mecca;

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7. 1959

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A stunning catch by Australia’s Richie Benaud to dismiss England’s Peter Richardson in the Brisbane Test of the 1958/59 Ashes was the image on the front cover of the 1959 edition of the annual.

From this 1959 edition, the presentation of the contents look as if they were refreshed and a more modern look appeared with stronger headlines and a more varied layout of the inside pages.

Also, in contrast to these design changes, the paper used for the annual would appear to have been downgraded slightly. Years later, the pages of these later annuals have age faded as we shall see in some of the scans of images shown below.

All the usual areas of the game were covered including yet another County Championship win for Surrey.

The centre pages were again used to feature one of the Test match venues; this time Yorkshire’s ground at Headingley, a popular ground with this annual both for a feature on the inside page and as we have already seen and will see again shortly below, a good image to show on the front cover.

The sub headline for this double page spread pointed out how much Australia’s Don Bradman appeared to have likes the ground. It was at Headingley that the Don achieved the highest Test match score up to that time when he hit 334 against England in 1930;

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8. 1960

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The front cover of the 1960 edition showed 1959 County Champions, Yorkshire, who had broken Surrey’s stranglehold on the title after 5 years of success for the Southern county.

This was the time when throwing and dragging by fast bowlers came into prominence and the issues were discussed by Roy Lester in his opening remarks.

The topic of throwing was also mentioned in the book review pages where it was pointed out that bowling actions had been under discussion for many years back through the game’s history, all the way back in fact, to when round arm bowling was the norm in the mid 1800’s, a time when the modern game was in its embryonic form.

The South African would be the tourists in 1960 and their prospects were previewed. Also, England’s Test series against India (at home in 1959) and the West Indies (away through the 1959/60 Winter) were covered.

Warwickshire’s M.J.K. Smith had a prolific season in 1959, scoring 3,245 runs including 3 double centuries. There was a photo feature on him and readers would see him again on the front cover of the 1965 annual (see below).

Sussex’ Jim Parks was mentioned in the feature on county player awards where he had scored runs and taken lots of victims in his first season as the full time wicket-keeper at Hove.

Award winning players received money, cups and / or cuff links;

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9. 1961

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1961 was another Ashes year reflected in the front cover design where our Googly bowling English Lion was again about to release a delivery at our Australian Kangaroo with a front foot batting preference.

Peter May’s England side would face Richie Benaud’s Australians.

In addition to the usual previews on the upcoming series, there were some good photos from previous Ashes matches;

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In the County Championship, Yorkshire won the title for a second successive year, this time under the captaincy of professional, Vic Wilson.

There was also a centre pages feature on the tied 1st Test between Australia and West Indies, including a photograph of the fast bowler who inspired me when I was a boy, Wes Hall;

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10. 1962

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The front cover of the 1962 edition again showed Headingley. In fact, the image was the same one as used on the 1954 front cover (see above).

As well as recording the details of the previous season’s Ashes and Australian tour, Hampshire’s first County Championship win under Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie was celebrated;

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A theme repeated throughout cricket literature during this time was the issue of the quality of English cricket. Usually, such comments focused on what was seen as negative tactics and / or lack of a positive approach. ‘Brighter cricket’ was often sought.

In the double page centre page spread of this year’s annual, courage, it was suggested, was what was needed;

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11. 1963img681

Celebrations were in order on the front cover of the 1963 edition where a quartet of England stars, Yorkshire’s Fred Trueman, Sussex’s Ted Dexter and David Shepperd with Kent’s Colin Cowdrey enjoyed a Test match victory over Australia in Melbourne during the 1962/63 Ashes.

The annual covered all the cricket of the previous year as usual and looked forward to the first season of the Gillette Cup in the domestic season.

For the cricket history enthusiasts, there was a centre pages spread acknowledging 100 years of tours by England to Australia;

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12. 1964

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1964 was another Ashes year reflected in the front cover design.

Bobby Simpson’s Australians would take on Ted Dexter’s England side watched on TV by a certain 8 year-old boy who had recently fallen in love with this activity where everyone wore white clothes and played with a bat and ball, me.

Having previewed the Gillette Cup in the previous annual, a feature in this year’s edition recorded the success of the event amongst supporters and Sussex‘s win in the first final at Lords, where they beat Worcestershire.

A nice feature of the annuals in the last few years, starting in this 1964 edition, was a centre page spread showing a grid of all County Championship match results from the previous season;

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13. 1965

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One of the most prolific batsmen of the 1950’s (as we have seen above) and the 1960’s was Warwickshire’s M.J.K. Smith, seen on the front cover of the 1965 edition, playing a ball away to leg, perhaps his greatest strength.

The annual featured the achievement of Yorkshire’s Fred Trueman who was the first bowler to reach the landmark of 300 Test wickets in the 5th Test at the Oval against the Australia at the end of the 1964 season.

Worcestershire‘s first ever County Championship win was also recorded.

The county had been lead by Don Kenyon (seen below) who had played through the 1950’s in weaker Worcestershire teams but had lead from the front with his batting as the side strengthened  enough to take the title;

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14. 1966

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West Indies captain, Gary Sobers was at it again hooking another seam bowler to leg on the front cover of the 1966 edition.

In 1966, the West Indians would be the tourists and Sobers had taken over from Frank Worrell as skipper of the team.

The team were regarded as the unofficial World Champions, having beaten recently both England and Australia. The annual featured an exclusive interview with star batsman, Rohan Kanhai.

From this 1966 edition, the annual made an award of the Flagstaff Cricketer of the Year and Surrey and England’s John Edrich was the first recipient;

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15. 1967

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Another top player, this time India’s captain, the Nawab of Pataudi (who also played for Sussex in his career) was seen forcing the ball through the covers on the front cover of the 1967 edition.

In 1967, the Indians would share the season with Pakistan, both teams playing a 3 Test series against England.

Roy Lester’s editorial comments voiced the concerns in the game about attendances. Whilst it seemed that cricket below the professional level was flourishing as far as participation was concerned, with spectators also keen to watch the sport on television, attendances at county games were poor.

As well as all the usual features, there was an article on the issue of sponsorship for the County Championship, something which is automatic today. These were the days when various big companies, especially Rothmans, were seeing sport overall and cricket specifically as good activities with which to align their company name and products.

Of course, Gillette had started things off and John Player would soon become involved with the next one-day competition in 1969 with their sponsorship of the 40 overs-a-side Sunday League.

West Indies‘ captain, Gary Sobers was the Flagstaff Cricketer of the Year for 1967 based on his excellent performances the previous Summer.

There was a good photograph of Yorkshire and England captain, Brian Close in belligerent batting form. Close had lead both country and county to success in 1966;

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The back cover was an advertisement for Triang’s table cricket game.

I wonder how many people can remember playing it?

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16. 1968

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1968 was another Ashes year reflected in the front cover design.

Bill Lawry’s Australians would take on Colin Cowdrey’s England.

Roy Lester wrote enthusiastically about the upcoming season in which the Advisory County Committee of the MCC had allowed the counties to sign one overseas player for 1968.

In a separate article about the overseas players, it was noted that Middlesex had introduced an incentive scheme for their players in an attempt to inspire brighter cricket. This bonus was based on achieving a scoring rate of 48 runs for each 100 balls received (equal to around 300 runs in a days batting).

Tony Lock who had transformed Leicstershire’s performances in 1967 was named as the Flagstaff Cricketer of the Year;

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Another table cricket game was advertised on the back cover of the annual beneath an advertisement for Eyre and Spottiswoode’s cricket books.

Probably better known for it’s football version, Subbuteo also produced a rugby version as well as the cricket version seen in this advertisement;

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17. 1969

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On the front cover of the final edition of the annual was one of the most devastating batsmen of the post war era, Northamptonshire’s Colin Milburn who played a number of Tests for England without really establishing himself but whose career was cut short sadly by damage to his eye caused in a car accident.

As mentioned in Roy Lester’s editorial comments, the Winter months prior to the publication of this last edition of the annual had been dominated by what became known as the D’Oliveira Affair.

England originally did not select the Worcestershire player but then included Basil in the proposed touring party after Tom Cartwright pulled out. The trip was cancelled and South Africa ultimately ended up being banned from international cricket for the next 2 decades.

Yorkshire’s Freddie Trueman retired from full time cricket, although he would make a few appearances for Derbyshire in the Sunday League in the years to come.

A note was also made of a heart attack experienced by Surrey and England’s Ken Barrington. This much respected cricketer recovered, although ironically, it would be another attack which would take his life while on tour with England in a coaching capacity a few years later.

Surrey’s John Edrich became the Flagstaff Cricketer of the Year for the 2nd time and also received a 2nd award, the Horlicks Man of the Year Award for 1968, as acknowledged on this inside back cover advertisement for the this ‘comforting, creamy’ drink;

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Collecting, values and prices

As with so many items of cricket memorabilia from this era, the guidelines that the older the item, the more value it holds, apply.

As ever, the condition of the item will be fundamental to the value: the better condition, the better the value and / or higher the selling price.

The main condition issue with the annuals is that they were printed with card covers and and these can sometimes be the worse for wear with side edge tears and corner creasing. Indeed, quite a few of mine have creases but especially tears to the spine ends. On a couple of the annuals, the covers have detached from the staples and pages completely.

Most of the annuals are reasonable easy to find.

As far as price is concerned, like many old annuals of this time, they can be bought for a few pounds plus postage and packing.

While the value and price of these years may still be just a few pounds, collectors could accept paying a little bit more if the copies they are buying are in very good condition and free of tears and creases to the covers as noted above.

Values and prices for good quality issues in these years might rise up to more than just a few quid per magazine.

As ever, collectors will have to decide for themselves how much they feel these editions are worth when buying.

 

Final word

In summary, the Flagstaff Cricket Annuals were a lovely snapshot of cricket through the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Although the first booklet was all about the Ashes, the annuals had a strong emphasis on domestic cricket which for most of its duration was dominated by the County Championship before one-day cricket began its expansion into the game.

After the 17th edition, the annual disappeared as quickly as it arrived. the little booklet did not evolve out of any other publication prior to the 1953 Ashes celebration booklet and it didn’t morph into a new publication afterwards.

The Flagstaff Cricket Annual was a lovely record of the game spanning the England captaincies of Len and Ray, Hutton and Illingworth and for me, holds a valuable place in the history of cricket memorabilia overall and cricket annuals specifically.

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Category: Cricket Annuals

Tags: Cricket annuals, Flagstaff Cricket Annual

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