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The life of Alfred Mynn, cricket’s first colossus and a master of single-wicket

In this excerpt from his new book, The Meaning of Cricket, Jon Hotten tells the story of an all-rounder and all-time great who came within a prayer of losing a leg

By Jon Hotten for The Old Batsman , part of the Guardian Sport Network

Cricket’s first colossus, the prototype fast-bowling, big-hitting, crowd-pleasing all-rounder, was a man who did not just make a difficult game look easy – he made it look brutal and brilliant and new. They nicknamed Alfred Mynn “the Lion of Kent” and like the giant all-rounders that would follow him – Keith Miller, Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff – there was something about him that chimed with the public. They loved him unconditionally.

Perhaps his size had something to do with that: he stood well over 6ft and was almost as wide, bull-chested and broad. He weighed 21 stone, a big fellow now but in the era in which he lived a giant. And perhaps it was his nature, religious and humble and brave. Certainly it was his cricket and in particular his bowling. Mynn took six steps up to the wicket and then whipped that giant right arm around his body and hurled the ball into the uneven turf. Over the course of a decade more than a thousand men fell to his bowling – and those are just the first-class wickets. Mynn would become the unbeatable king of a type of game that was not new but that would have its brief years in the sun. Just as Twenty20 cricket blazed into the pro game almost two hundred years later, the single wicket format was about to have its zeitgeist moment, filled with star players and built for gambling, a type of cricket that would burn quickly and brightly and enrapture the public as it did so.

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