7 SEPTEMBER 1951, Page 28

Taking the Air. By Rex Alston. (Stanley

Paul. i cs.)

AT a time when books about sport and, in particular, about cricket, are being published in large numbers, it is refreshing to be able to look at past events from the comparatively unusual vantage point of the B.B.C. com- mentary box. Listeners know Mr. Rex Alston as the tidiest and most methodical of commentators who, with a few deft phrases, will restore a sense of proportion after a particularly violent verbal gale from one of his colleagues. His experience of the art of the running commentary has covered a wide field snort since the war. He has been at the microphone during nearly all the Test Matthes, Rugby Internationals, Wimbledon Tennis Championships and big athletic meetings, and in describing these, his own impressive background as a games-player and athlete must have helped him con- siderably. After schoolmastering at Bedford School, and early days with the B.B.C. as a wartime billeting officer, more exciting opportunities presented themselves ; we are given salutary examples of the pitfalls which await an inexperienced commentator, before being taken in detail through the various Test Matches and Rugby Internationals of the post-war era. Later chapters deal with the Olympics of 1948 (and incidentally with the difficulties of describing a race run in under ten seconds) and with commentaries from_Wimbledon and the mental gymnastics required of the commentator during a fast doubles match. Mr. Alston enlivens his accounts of cricket and rugby matches with an occasional entertaining glimpse behind the scenes: many to whom the commen- tator's voice sounds inevitable and assured will be surprised to learn of the frequent physical, not to mention the mental, dis- comforts which he has to endure. Altogether this is-a book of considerable interest for the sportsman and the listener, written with the balanced judgement which we have come to expect from the author when he is " on the