Edging Towards Darkness
by John Lazenby
Cricket matches didn't always top out at five days, regardless of a result or not - they used to be 'timeless', with play continuing until one team won, no matter how many days that took. The last of these - which took place in Durban in 1939, in a series pitched against the backdrop of impending war - is now universally acknowledged as 'the timeless Test'.
Weighing in at a prodigious ten days - the match stretched from 3-14 March 1939, and allowed for two rest days, while one day's play (the eighth) was lost entirely to rain - it is quite simply the longest Test ever played. A litany of records also perished in its wake and 'whole pages of Wisden were ruthlessly made obsolete'. If that was not enough, one player, the fastidious South African batsman Ken Viljoen, felt the need to have his hair cut twice during the game. Only the matches between Australia and England at Melbourne in 1929, which lasted eight playing days, and West Indies and England at Sabina Park, Jamaica, a year later (seven days), come remotely close in terms of their duration.
In Edging Towards Darkness, John Lazenby tells the story of that Test for the first time. Set firmly in its historical and social setting, the story balances this game against the threat of encroaching world war in Europe - unfolding at terrifying speed - before bringing these two disparate strands together in an evocative and vibrant denouement.