Sporting Life: Botham, Gower and 17 pints on rest days – a look at cricket in the 80s, through the eyes of Derek Pringle

Pushing the Boundaries: Cricket in the Eighties contains the reminiscences of Derek Pringle reflecting on his years in the world of cricket and the delightful characters he met, both on and off the pitch. Richard Hopton reviews.

Derek Pringle played cricket for Cambridge, Essex and England between 1978 and 1993, forming part of the powerful Essex side of the 1980s. He represented England in 30 Test matches and 44 one-day internationals, rubbing shoulders with Ian Botham, David Gower and Graham Gooch, and playing in the side that made the final of the 1992 World Cup, only to lose out. This book is a rumbustious account, in an appropriately conversational, anecdotal style, of his experiences in those years, both on and off the pitch.

Pringle’s was a different era, unrecognisable in many ways from the modern game. It was before cricket clubs – even top-level ones – routinely employed coaches and managers, an era in which individuals were given free rein to express themselves, untrammelled by isotonic drinks, rigorous training schedules and early nights.

Ian Botham England's new star stole the show at Lords today when he finished with 8 wickets to his name. He became the first man to take 9 wickets and score a century in a test match. Ian Botham claims another victim. June 1978 78-3052-014

‘Ian Botham, England’s new star, stole the show at Lords today when he finished with 8 wickets to his name. He became the first man to take 9 wickets and score a century in a test match.’ Botham pictured in June 1978

In the 1980s, English professional cricketers had fun playing the game they loved; by the early 1990s, as Pringle describes it, ‘the maverick player… became an endangered species’.

‘The incredible thing was I felt absolutely fine the following morning’

It was a decade graced by English talents such as Botham and Gower who were often as as fiery as they were phenomenal, and Pringle’s reminiscences do full justice to the gusto and skill with which these and many others played, on and off the field, at home and abroad. The book conveys the camaraderie of the professional circuit, but also the excitement of first class and international cricket.

DEREK PRINGLE ENGLAND & ESSEX CCC 16 June 1992

Derek Pringle in action

Pringle played in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne in 1982. ‘It was raucous and insulting,’ he recalls, ‘and by the end I was the most battered, sonically, I have ever felt on a cricket pitch.’  England won the match by three runs.

Perhaps inevitably, drink courses through the book. Botham was the carouser-in-chief of the England side, but most of the rest of his teammates, Pringle included, were no slouches when it came to the booze.

Pringle relates one occasion on which he drank 17 pints of beer during the rest day of a Test match against India in 1986: ‘The incredible thing was I felt absolutely fine the following morning.’

Pushing the Boundaries: Cricket in the Eighties by Derek Pringle is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced at £20.

England World Cup Team

The England cricket team, with captain Graham Gooch seated, 4th from left, at the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Australia, February 1992.