A wonderful book for the cricket enthusiast… and so very English like the game! | DDLSBulletin




Tales of Cricket and the Law

By James Wilson

ISBN: 9780854902255 (paperback)




An appreciation by Elizabeth Robson Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers and Phillip Taylor MBE, Head of Chambers and Reviews Editor, “The Barrister”


Lord Denning once famously said 'in summertime village cricket is the delight of everyone'. It was in a case which author James Wilson suggests was brought by someone who clearly disagreed with him!  

For lawyers, we have some big leading case law authorities, Bolton v Stone being the highlight for many coming from the law of tort. Many cases exemplify how the game of cricket sometimes fails to avoid the law. Wilson covers many situations common to lawyers and cricket-watchers including neighbours or passers-by who get hit by stray cricket balls, protesters who interrupt matches, players who get into fights or take drugs, and not a few involved with the game who sue each other for defamation. 

“Court and Bowled” first appeared as a hardback 2014 with the subtitle “Tales of Cricket and the Law”.  The subtitle gives readers a flavour of its contents as they are great tales. He covers stories where cricket or cricketers have given “rise to a legal dispute”, and there are more than one would think!

Do read the introduction entitled “cricket, justice and non-cricket” setting out a splendid short history of cricket as it appears in early law reports, including a curious case dating from 1598 which, apparently, contains the very first known use of the word “cricket”.  These gems appear regularly throughout this impressive text, as Lord Judge testifies. Wilson then turns to specific cases from Victorian times onwards and the heat is on. 

We, as lawyers, know that some of these disputes have been of fundamental importance to the game itself. The famous decision in Bolton v Stone “affected village and indeed impromptu cricketers everywhere” says Wilson. He continues in this vein writing that if the Australian “Kerry Packer had lost his High Court action in 1978, his cricket revolution would have been over before a ball had been bowled”.  Some traditionalists would be quite happy with this, but modernization has marched on! 

Other cases he cites raise issues which “go well beyond the boundary ropes” such as D’Oliveira’s omission by England from a tour of South Africa which Wilson declares, “ended up being considered in the highest echelons of power in both countries” (governments) so the boundaries can be set very high and long sometimes. 

All these stories and sagas illustrate matters common to both cricket matches and court cases, the author commenting that “behind the intrigue, entertainment and amusement of both there are real people and real human stories, with all the usual human emotions and fallibility”.

Wilson updated the paperback in 2017, writing in his clear, accessible style, free of legal technicalities, and he includes the tragic death of Phillip Hughes, the perjury trial of Chris Cairns and the ball-tampering incident involving Faf du Plessis.

It is a lovely book for any cricket follower to own and read.  We think it will be of interest not only to cricket fans or lawyers (as a present) yet indeed all who are interested “in tales of high (and low) human drama and great ethical, moral and legal dilemmas”. And, of course, that is what cricket is all about… otherwise it just wouldn’t be cricket, would it!

The book was re-published in July 2017.