Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Batting For World Peace

Fantasy Bob has learned that the World Air Guitar Championships finished last week in Finland. 

The Devil's Niece in championship form
 The overall winner was Aline "The Devil's Niece" Westphal.  FB's readers might think that air guitar would be a male preserve mostly for young men who have difficulty coming to terms with the fact that young ladies require to be engaged in something approaching conversation.  How wrong would FB's readers be - all 3 of them are seriously out of touch, for in this equal opportunities world, the new Air Guitar World Champion is female, as indeed were a number of the finalists.  But this is the first female world champion. 

The leading British entry was eighth -  Kate "Zero Prospects" Gray - obviously named in honour of British tennis players.

The stated objective of the Air Guitar Championships is to promote world peace – according to Air Guitar ideology, wars will end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear if all the people in the world play the Air Guitar.  Yes, says FB, let's do it.  Rock on.

FB considers that it is time for cricketers to absorb this message.  He is therefore inviting entries for the World Air Batting Championships.  Contestants will have to demonstrate how they would play an innings of Test Match Quality - without a bat and with no bowling.  Contestants will be allowed to make clucking noises to demonstrate the sound of the ball flying of the middle of the non-existent bat.   The judges will expect a range of front foot, back foot and freestyle shots to be demonstrated.  Additional points will be awarded for dress, make up and for the contestant's commitment to world peace.

The World Air Batting Championships - you heard about it first from Fantasy Bob.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

More on the champions


Somewhere over the rainbow
News of Carlton's triumphant capturing of the Scottish National Cricket League Championship at the weekend continues to rock the civilised world.  Messages of congratulation have been flooding in form Heads of State and A-list celebrities.

Usain Bolt was so excited at hearing the news that, forgetting where he was, he jumped up and was judged to have false started in the World Championship 100m final.  He told Fantasy Bob that he had no regrets, he just couldn't waste any time in getting to his phone to text his congratulations to the boys.

Hurricane Irene was scheduled to flatten New York City, but the high pressure over Carlton's Grange Loan HQ on Saturday night changed the Northern Hemisphere's atmospheric conditions to the extent that the City was spared the worst of the damage and FB understands that grateful citizens have been texting their gratitude to the club. 

Carlton supporters
giving it something
 in Notting Hill
Meanwhile a spontaneous demonstration of support in Notting Hill drew thousands of Carlton supporters onto the streets in a dizzying array of costumes depicting the club's colours and dancing to the team's song.  Prime Minister David Cameron was not on holiday but told FB that had he been, he would have returned home specifically to oversee the scenes of incredible joy on the streets of English cities at the news. 

Edinburgh Fringe Festival Director, Kath Mainland, told Fantasy Bob that Carlton's triumph was a fitting end to the most successful Fringe Festival ever seen.  She said that in all almost 1.9 million tickets had been issued for matches at Grange Loan.

Security agencies worldwide are being put on full alert against the possibility of Carlton successfully defending their National T20 title this weekend.


Monday, 29 August 2011

Help Ma Fantasy Boab

The Sunday Post's comic strip character Oor Wullie is the most popular figure in all of Scottish literature, according to painstaking research by a group of painstaking researchers.  Researchers painstakingly spent three years exploring the reading habits of Scots and found that almost all their interviewees said Oor Wullie and The Broons was a key part of their reading experience. Oor Wullie's weekly adventures have knocked the spots off Scotland's world famous literary output showing such as Long John Silver, Harry Potter and Dr Jekyll their place. Commentators are still trembling from learning of the world shattering result the researchers found that no interviewee mentioned having read Fantasy Bob's blog.  FB can therefore proudly claim that  as far as the literary icon stakes go he is at least on a par with Sir Walter Scott.

The 2 comic strips Oor Wullie and the Broons have featured weekly in the Sunday Post newspaper since the later Middle Ages first appearing in 1936.  The original creation of master cartoonist Dudley D Watkins they have continued in the hands of a number of successor artists.  There have been slight remodellings as the modern world caught up with them and some concessions to political correctness have been made, for example Oor Willie no longer is seen getting a good skelping on the behind after some of his pranks.  But their essential character remains.  Above all, these cartoons are wholly responsible for creating a key part of Scottish vocabulary in originating phrases such as Jings, Crivvens and Help Ma Boab.  Other painstaking researchers have been unable to find anyone in the whole of Scotland who has ever used these phrases before they appeared from the mouth of Oor Wullie.

In the later Stone Age when FB was growing up, the Sunday Post had a circulation of over 1 million and it was reckoned to have the nearest any newspaper ever got to saturation coverage of a population.  Its couthy, narrow-minded parochial approach defined a typically Scottish mentality that can still be felt from time to time today.  In common with most other newspapers its circulation has plummetted to just over 300,000.

But FB remembers that amidst all is homespun folkiness the Post recognised cricket's existence - which is more than some organs of the modern media.  In particular FB recalls a feature which reported outstanding schoolboy achievements on the cricket field and awarded a bat for the best performance of the week.  This is evidence that at one point in history cricket was played in Scottish schools other than the independent sector.  Sadly FB never won one of the coveted bats, all too reflective of his continuing career.  Or is this feature just a sad figment of FB's increasingly addled imagination? Crivvens - he hopes not.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Champions!!!

Fantasy Bob joins the rest of the civilised world in celebrating the triumph of go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton in winning the Scottish Championship yesterday.  A momentous achievement.  A triumph.

Regretably, a long standing prior commitment prevented FB from attending the modest celebration spontaneously organised at the club's HQ yesterday evening.  However, there is no silver lining without a cloud, for FB's worldwide communications network has been hot with calls as various world leaders have expressed concern about world supplies of champagne following scenes like this.
 

With Christmas only 4 months away and the possibility of Royal Weddings at any moment, special action by the UN will be necessary to restore world fizz reserves to acceptable levels.

Issuing a statement to FB on behalf of the club, a spokesman was incoherent.

Motown CC

50 years ago Motown CC gained its first US number 1, Please Mr Postman by the Marvelettes, subsequently covered to good effect by the Beatles and many others.  This began of a period of supremacy at the top of the averages.   Fantasy Bob acknowledges that cricket songs are few and far between in Motown's back catalogue.  In fact not only that, they are non-existent. As usual he fails to understand why this should be.  He assumes it is not deliberate just an accidental collective oversight by many fine artists.

Despite this perplexing lacuna Motown churned out great pop songs one after another guaranteed to get any dance floor jumping.  Here is FB's selection as the all time First XI of Motown CC

Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Reach Out - The Four Tops
Heard it Through the Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
Baby Love - The Supremes
You Can't Hurry Love - The Supremes
The Happening - The Supremes
Midnight Train to Georgia - Gladys Night and the Pips
Get Ready - The Temptations
Same Old Song - The Four Tops
I Can't Help Myself - The Four Tops
Dancin' in the Streets - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Fin de siècle

Fantasy Bob's last cricket match of the season today, weather permitting, brings to him that familiar feeling.  Another season barely started and it is over.  Gone the glorious expectancy of May, the high thrills of June, the langours of July and the soggy stirrings of a since-records-began August which the weathermen will be reporting for years to come.  All gone and only the scratched scorebooks, limp-rain-soaked pages to record those triumphs and disasters and everything in between. 

The Kiss by Klimt
For some reason best known to himself FB has always associated the end of the season with the fin de siècle.  A French term literally meaning the end of the century, but used more generally to mean the end of an era or period.  Sometimes synonymous with inertia, ennui, degeneration -  all the things FB displays on the cricket field at this time of year - or any time to be truthful.

But in many parts of European fin de siècle is also associated with particularly dynamic periods in culture.  Vienna particularly.  (Or AhVienna as Midge Ure might have it.)  Fin de siècle Vienna - the period of the last hurrah of the Habsburgs and after had a flowering of culture which really prepared the way for the 20th Century.  Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gustave Klimt, Oscar Kokoschka and many others all at some point made their mark in these years.  These are Test Match Quality players.  Vienna was described as the research laboratory for world destruction.  Art, music, philosophy, architecture all took distinctive modern turns.  If it moved there was a Viennese school.  It it didn't move there was a Viennese school.  All except in cricket where there was a major failing of nerve.   This is beyond comprehension.

For there is evidence that cricket was known in fin de siècle Vienna.  It was played by British workers who happened to be there - gardeners and such like it would seem for the most part.   The second oldest football club in Austria is actually the Vienna Cricket and Football Club - it was founded in 1894 and was the first winner of the Habsburg Challenge Cup in 1897, the precursor of the Austrian National Cup competition.  It was locally known as the Cricketers and enjoyed some success before it merged with AC Victoria Wien in 1911.
This was a slow start for cricket in Austria and it wasn't until after the second world war that it emerged again when it was played  by members of the allied forces - this was of course the time of the aptly named Third Man.  The fin de siècle had been and gone.
The Austrian Cricket Association was established in 1981 following the re-introduction of cricket to Austria in 1975, with the founding of Vienna Cricket Club. Since 1992 it has been an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council, and it is one of the founding members of the European Cricket Council.  The Austrian national team now plays in Division 4 of the European Championship and there is a thriving club scene heavily concentrated on Vienna. And strudel and sachertorte will be served at tea - that would be worth anyone getting a fixture.  Good luck all Austrian cricketers.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Michelangelo


For many years distinguished historians in the prestigious fine art department at go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton believed that this work depicted a physiotherapist ministering to an exhausted pace bowler who had just finished a spell bowling up the hill against the wind.  They faced scepticism that its creator, Michelangelo, had never visited the club's Grange Loan ground and so could not have seen the suffering experienced by bowlers forced by unyielding skippers to sacrifice themselves.  Carlton's experts rather lamely countered this scepticism by saying that he might have seen photographs.  Recently, further painstaking research in the nets has led Carlton's experts to revise their interpretation.  This work, the Pieta, has no cricketing reference and is correctly understood to depict Mary receiving Christ’s body from the Cross.  And very moving this great work is - it can be seen in St Peter's Church in the Vatican. 

Having changed their interpretation, Carlton’s experts have abandoned their plan for a prestigious exhibition next summer exploring various aspects of Michelangelo and the Cover Drive which would have seen the sculpture make a rare journey outside Italy to be on display at the Grange Loan pavilion.  A club spokesperson told Fantasy Bob ‘We will use the drawings of the nursery kids as the centrepiece instead.’ 

But why on earth, you wonder, is Fantasy Bob boring on about this today?  For no good reason really - he just came across a picture of it in a book and was reminded that it was commissioned on this very day in 1498.  And that is exactly 270 years to the day before Captain James Cook set sail in the Endeavour eventually to discover Australia and make the Ashes possible.  26 August - sometimes you get days like that.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Twilight of the Gods

Sometimes the symbolism is just too much.

Wotan facing up to Seigfried
In Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, Wotan's spear is the source of his power as King of the Gods.  Once Seigfried breaks the spear resisting Wotan's attempt to bar his path to Brunnhilde, Wotan's power ebbs and his eventual demise in Gotterdammerung is inevitable.  The next generation has prevailed.

Wagner gives the spear its own musical figure (leitmotive), a descending scale that is used throughout the cycle to symbolise Wotan himself, his authority and his anger. (Hear the motive here - the prelude to Act 3 of Seigfried).

Wotan's spear shattered.
This leitmotive, and the issue of the spear, came to Fantasy Bob during net practice last night.   FB is nothing if not Wotanesque.  For all FB's power and authority derives from his trusty Gray Nicolls Nitro, a weapon about which he has eulogised previously.  It is therefore more than a tragedy that his spear shattered as he attempted to dig out a yorker.  He felt his authority begin to ebb away, his power crumbling in time to the leitmotive's rhythm.  Symbolically, it was FB's last net of the season.  The fact that the yorker was bowled by one of the club's better junior members only makes the symbolism greater.  And then, to ram home the symbolism even further, came an e-mail asking FB to return the 4th XI batting trophy so it can be inscribed with this year's winner at the end of the season.  Ouch.

Truly Gotterdammerung, TheTwilight of FB, cannot be too far away. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Discipline

Cricketers who have despaired at recent events in Southern Britain, where undisciplined hordes have invaded the outfields, ignored the fielding restrictions and helped themselves to whatever they fancy in the way of material goods, need worry no more.  Help is at hand.

Joan - thrash the kids
For Joan Collins has pronounced.  Society is falling apart because of too much wishy-washy liberal parenting that has allowed kids to grow up in a sexualised culture doing exactly what they want.  Although she does not appear to mention it specifically she may well have in mind such evils as swinging across the line, bowling beamers, not walking when they snick it, hi-fiving when they take a wicket.  They are set on the road to perdition. And Ms Collins opines that if only parents were prepared to stand up to their children and thrash them if they stepped out of line, then none of these ills would have taken place.  She voices these helpful opinions in her latest book 'The World According to Joan.'

Some discipline would do them good....
Fantasy Bob does not know if Ms Collins practiced what she preaches in her own family life, although it is known that her father was a strict disciplinarian.  But discipline of another sort seemed to be on offer in her 2 soft core films The Bitch and The Stud which rescued her languishing movie career in the 1970s and put her on her way to the part of uber-bitch Alexis Carrington in the US soap opera Dynasty and lasting status as a gay icon. FB thinks it is therefore strange that she should criticise sexualised culture.  Ms Collins continues to be highly successful and is to be admired, if not for her opinions, then certainly for her hard work - and her charitable commitments.

But while Ms Collins' views on the breakdown of society may strike a chord, she seems to have little to say on important issues such as whether Test Cricket can survive in the world of the IPL.   This is a shame.  It is also a shame that she has never observed upon the iron discipline showed over 100 years ago by one of her namesakes.

AEJ Collins
For Collins is a name of significance to the history of cricket.  It is one of that clan (although not known to be related to Joan) who holds the absolute record for the highest innings ever recorded.  In 1899 batting in a house match at Clifton College near Bristol, Arthur EJ Collins scored 628 not out.  He was 13 and his innings lasted four afternoons although he was dropped on several occasions.  In its later stages it drew crowds from miles around and was national news.  The match was a bit one sided - Collins' team won by an innings and 688 runs, a margin England got close to this summer.  The poor ink bespattered schoolboy who had to score the innings suggested the scorebook was accurate to plus or minus 20 - FB suspects that he woke up screaming in the night for many years after and was never seen near a cricket scorebook again. 

That innings was the high point of Collins' cricket career.  Although he played at Lords for the Army and scored a half century he never played First Class cricket.  He entered the Royal Artillery in 1902 and died at Ypres in November 1914.  As was only too tragically common, his brother was also killed in the war to end all wars.

 Joan might have admired Arthur - what Arthur would have thought of The Bitch and The Stud can only be speculated about. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

England v Dravid - a final word

A smiley Broady getting Dhoni
Fantasy Bob would like to apologise to Stuart Broad for any impression he may have given him earlier in the summer that he was useless, a plonker and a general sulk bucket.  FB may inadvertently have suggested that Broad would be lucky to make it into FB's own All Stars Carlton 4th XI. 

As the modest man he is FB would disclaim any credit for Broad's rehabilitation, but he notes that his stinging criticism in earlier posts had their desired effect.  Clearly Broad was concerned that a place in the All Stars that had been his for the asking might be grasped from him.  FB's warning did the trick and Broad showed all round excellence of a sort not seen since the high points of FB's own career. 

25 wickets at 13.84 and a SR of 36.6 (compare his lamentable 8 wickets at 48.75 against Sri Lanka);  182 runs at 60.66 (57 at 19).  Even among all the fine performances from every England player including double centurions, this was a major contribution.  He even stopped the sulking and pouting - almost.  Well done, son.

That aside, there doesn't seem very much more to be said about the England v Dravid series.  The buckets of pre-prepared whitewash were duly sprayed around as England confirmed their superiority in every department.  Over the series they scored 2809 for 47 wickets against their opponents' 2044 for 80 wickets.  Dravid scored 461 of those at 76.83.  He faced 965 balls and ends the series as the batsman who has faced most balls in Test cricket.  He seems good enough to play for Scotland.

Strauss with £30,000 of mace
 and a connection to FB and Mrs FB
 England now hold the Reliance ICC Test Championship Mace which was commissioned from British jewellers Asprey and Garrard in May 2001.  Its design is described as based on a cricket stump as its shank, topped by an orb that represents the cricket world – both geographically and through the inclusion of the emblems of all 10 ICC Members to have played Test cricket.  It is plated silver and gold and valued at £30,000.  One dictionary definition of mace is a weapon that is used to bludgeon opponents.  England look ready to bludgeon all comers.

Asprey and Garrard are now Garrard and Co following some corporate rejigging in 2006.  The company has an interesting history and connects FB, Mrs FB and Kate Middleton - as well as Andrew Strauss - in one seamless link.  Hard to imagine?

Stephen Webster sparklies
Garrard was appointed Royal Jewellers by Queen Victoria in 1843 a position it held until 2007.   If you must know it designed the sapphire and diamond ring that now adorns the Duchess of Cambridge. Jade Jagger was Garrard's chief designer from 2002 until she was replaced by Stephen Webster in 2008.  Webster is the favourite jeweller of Mrs FB and legions of lesser celebrities.  Garrard was also known for precision engineering, designing range finders for the British Artillery during the First World War.  More recently they produced a celebrated range of turntables/record decks finally ceasing production in 1992.  FB had the Garrard SP25IV for many years and excellent it was too.   So you see - everything connects.

Garrard SP25IV

Monday, 22 August 2011

Honeycomb Mould

Fantasy Bob feels his age on occasion.  And these occasions seem to have fewer other occasions in between them.  Many of these occasions are when an unkind batsman chooses to blast the ball adjacent to FB's stationary position in the field.  His team mates indicate with some energy, not to say impatience, that they expect FB to hurl himself at the missile to stop it, or, if that is not possible, chase after it (even up the hill at Carlton) and whing it in.  The cries of 'Good chase FB' from his younger colleagues, increasingly sound rather patronising as, after a floundering shamble after the ball his pathetic imitation of a throw lands about 20 yards away and the batsmen turn with some comfort to take a fourth run.  Where once a prudent batsmen seeing FB with the ball in hand would advise his reckless partner 'Not on his arm' the call has now become 'Yes, 2 on the throw.'

As the shadows lengthen across the outfield, FB therefore ruminates more frequently about the passing of time.  There are many random things that come across his mind at such times.  This afternoon the available brain cell was fixated on food, in particular foods that no longer seem to be around.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that diets have changed significantly even over the last 20 years, over FB's life time the changes are immense.

It was in this frame of mind that a vision of Honeycomb Mould came to FB - so strong that he could almost smell and taste it.  'What on earth is Honeycomb Mould?' all 3 of FB's readers ask simultaneously.

this is an ad from the 1920s
 - the web provides no images
 from the 60s or 70s of this
miraculous product
FB remembers this dessert with more than affection.  It caused war with his siblings whenever it was served.  Micro measurement of helpings by parents was required if life long injustices were not going to be risked.  Perhaps it was for this reason that it no longer appears on the shelf or table - modern families will not risk it.

The Honeycomb Mould FB remembers was a packet product - a powder to be mixed with milk.  After a bit of stirring and whipping and a bit more waiting and chilling, what emerged was an airy creamy mix with a gelatine top - if you turned it out or a  gelatine base with an airy creamy base if you didn't.  Food of the Gods.  Although this was a packeted product and no doubt stuffed with all manner of chemicals that subsequent research ahs demonstrated will shorten FB's life, heritage cook books now contain recipes for it.  The saintly Delia even does one, so it may be on the come back.  Those who have not had it don't know what they missed.

Here are another 10 players in the Old Foods XI.  All these verged on being staples during FB's younger years.  Some of them may still be playing, but they rarely make the Test side.

  • YoYo biscuits- circular chocolate biscuits with coloured foil wrappers - each colour a different flavour - mint was green, red was toffee.
  • Hienz Salad Cream - the emulsion they tried to kill but saved by popular demand.  Prawn Marie Rose is not right without it.
  • Plumrose Chopped Ham and Pork - one step up from Spam
  • Heinz Russian Salad - tinned carrots potatoes and peas in salad cream - one of your 5 a day - FB doubts it - whoever ate it?
  • Oat Krunchies - parcels of cornflakey type stuff
  • Arctic Roll - plastic sponge cake round inferior ice cream - truly wonderful - at its peak 25 miles of it were sold a month - rumoured to have made a comeback a couple of years ago
  • Eat Me Dates - sticky as anything and with a funny stick thing to pick out of the box
  • Frey Bentos - steak pie - a whole pie in a tin - with the soggiest pastry in the world
  • Curry with Raisins - a bit of a cheat by FB here - not a purchased product but all domestic goddesses in the UK in the 60s cooked curry with raisins in it - and then the Indian restaurants arrived
  • Ambrosia Creamed Rice - justly named for ambrosia it is - food of the Gods - companions were semolina and sago and macaroni.
With all that stuff, you may be forgiven for wondering how on earth FB grew up big and strong, although he accepts you have no evidence he was ever big and strong - for like everyone else, you will take 2 on his throw.


Don't let the modern packaging fool you - this is real classic


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Chamber Music

Edinburgh's Queen's Hall
For Fantasy Bob, Chamber Music is like Test Cricket - the highest form of art and definitely for grown ups.  The chamber music programme at the Queens Hall is one of the pleasures of the Edinburgh Festival and FB dips into it from time to time.  It is very grown up, indeed this is one of the increasingly few audiences that FB can join and lower the average age.

This week he has been fortunate enough to hear 2 of his firmest favourite chamber works.  Schubert's Octet and Beethoven's String Quartet Op130.  These two cricketers are very high in the all time averages - Beethoven is of course at the very top surpassing even Bradman - his last innings was a triumph not an anti-climactic duck.  It is hard to imagine Beethoven being bowled by Eric Hollies.

Schubert died at the age of 31 but composed over 1000 works - a strike rate to compare with any and he could have named his price in the IPL.

Beethoven - tops the averages
But maybe these chamber music composers weren't cricketers, for FB is not aware of any works for 11 players.  Perhaps this reflects the struggle they had raising teams in those days or perhaps the dominance of the quartet form suggests that the four man attack which has been such a success for England recently is not such an innovation after all.  There are quintets, septets, octets even a few nonets but that is about it.  Mozart wrote a wind serenade for 13 instruments once on a rare occasion when he had selection problems, but FB is not aware of any work for 11 players. 

FB will argue to anyone who will listen (ie no one at all) that Beethoven's Op130 is pretty near perfection.  It is mature and reflective music, of compelling charm grace and depth.  Not unlike some of FB's better innings. The fifth movement, Cavatina, was chosen as the last piece on the golden record - a record containing a broad sample of Earth's common sounds, languages, and music sent into outerspace with the twoVoyager probes (Chuck Berry was also on the disc). 
The alternative final movement of the quartet was the last piece that Beethoven completed before he died and he never heard the final version of the work which was first performed only one month after his death.  The original final movement - the great fugue - is still considered the most radically modern piece of music ever written - it is full of reverse sweeps and scoops.  It transcends any period.  Test Match Quality and more.

 FB can think of nothing better in the whole of chamber music than Op 130's fourth movement.  The only version on You Tube is not as overewhelming as some of the great quartets - but it captures the essence of this truly great piece.  Enjoy.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Philadelphia Freedom

Dressing Glasgow
Fnntasy Bob had reason to travel yesterday to that tranquil Scottish backwater of Glasgow.  However for the moment central Glasgow is transformed into a pastiche of Philadelphia, Pa.  FB understands that this is at the behest of Prad Bitt, who is an American actor of some reknown. 

Mr Bitt has searched the wide world for a city environment that looks like Philadelphia Pa.  Apparently the real Philadelphia Pa doesn't look enough like itself to qualify and several planeloads of street signs and American vehicles have therefore made their way across the Atlantic to dress Glasgow up.  There are unkind voices who are saying that Mr Bitt's film is about zombies and the money men found that they could save a small fortune on the make-up bill for the extras simply by recruiting in the Glasgow streets.  But that is unkind.

FB can't quite get his limited imagination round why it is better and more convenient to recreate a domestic environment several thousand miles away from the original.  But that is the whacky logic of the movie world. 

Although it is not likely to be reflected in Mr Bitt's film, Philadelphia has a proud contribution to the history of cricket.  Between 1878 and 1913, the Philadelphian Cricket Team played 88 First Class Matches either against touring English teams or itself touring England.   It also played the Australians and MCC.  Its players were well represented in the first ever international sports fixture in 1844 when the USA played Canada in New York.  So it was a force to be reckoned with.

The Philadephians was a select being drawn from players of active clubs in the Philadelphia area where cricket thrived later than in the rest of the USA whose fickle populations succumbed to the inexplicable seductions of baseball.  One of these clubs was the The Philadelphia Cricket Club itself which was founded in 1854 and is the oldest country club in the United States.  The Club has tennis and squash courts swimming pool and 3 golf courses.  It is an important institution in the history of the US Open Golf and Tennis championships. Venerable you might say.  The cricket team was disbanded in 1924 as the club's other sports became more prevalent, but cricket was revived in 1998 and enjoys a full fixture list to this day - Hooray!

Mr Bitt's film will ignore this proud heritage.  Shame.  FB is led to understand that Mrs Bitt (known to many as Angelina Jolie) is widely celebrated among those who know for her cricket teas.

Philadelphian cricketers - now





Philadelphian cricketers - then

Friday, 19 August 2011

Songs of Cricket

Fantasy Bob posted some time ago about found poetry within the laws of cricket.  One better can be found on this album released by close harmony ensemble Cantabile and guests earlier in the summer.  One of the tracks is a plainsong version of the Spirit of Cricket.  A micro sample of it can be heard on this link.  More detail about the whole album in on this link.  FB is awaiting delivery of the CD so is unable to provide a full review but it all looks very jolly in that English-Flanders-and-Swan-Madrigal-singing-riots-don't-happen-here-is-there-honey-still-for-tea-cathedral-choir kind of way.

Plainsong is only one of the many musical styles that could render the laws of cricket even more memorable than they are.  FB suggests that the MCC might launch a competition to secure different musical interpretations which might be played as batsmen enter and exit during T20 matches giving Tina Turner's 'Simply the Best' a rest.   




Thursday, 18 August 2011

Whitewash

'Cook bats in the manner of a farmer collecting eggs in a barn.' 

Cook acknowledges
applause for yet another 100
So writes Peter Roebuck in an otherwise excellently lucid article assessing England's rise to world domination.  Fantasy Bob has reviewed that sentence several times and still cannot fathom what the writer means.  He is pretty sure that farmers collecting eggs do not club anything the hens drop short in the barn backward of point as Cook does, or wait a couple of hours for their first boundary of the day, as Cook did in Birmingham.  The thrust of Roebuck's preceding sentences is that Cook is imperturbable.   FB has no evidence for the inference that farmers collecting eggs in a barn exemplify imperturbability.  FB has never watched a farmer collecting eggs in a barn, although he imagines it will only be a matter of time before synchronised egg collecting will feature in the Olympic programme which, there being a British medal prospect, will dominate the BBC coverage to the exclusion of everything else.  Maybe then FB will be able to understand Roebuck's comment.

England have been world dominators for 1 week.  It is only natural therefore to compare them to the great W Indies and Australian teams of the last 30-40 years each of whom resisted all challengers for 15 years.  (If this was Scotland we'd be saying wha's like us.........but it's not so we're not).  There is a little more work to do before any valid comparison can be made. 

First up is the Fourth Test at the Oval - will they show a ruthless streak and go all out for the whitewash or will the dead rubber feeling permeate allowing India to recover some pride?  The latter has been a more frequent occurrence for past England sides and it would be a mark of progress for them to administer another thumping - tedious though this might be from the spectator's point of view.  A highly competitive contest which goes to the wire is what the crowd would surely like.

Of the English team only Bopara has anything to prove as he plays for a continuing place in future plans. Onions would be a solid replacement for Anderson if the latter's muscle problem doesn't clear.  Everything else is in place - Swann might hope to make more of a contribution than he has had to all summer but the seam bowling conditions have mitigated against that.


The mystery of the noisy lace
 What of India?  Recriminations at home.  The BCCI heavily criticised.  It feels like England of not so long ago.  At least they haven't lost any more front line players through injury and Sehwag will have had a couple of nets so the prospect of another pair should be remote.  Those dismissals really took the stuffing out of India and other key incidents unhinged them.  Dravid's dismissal in the second innings after hitting his shoe lace was typical.  Speaking afterwards he said both he and Tendulkar heard a big noise so didn't make the DRS challenge even though he says he was unsure what caused the noise.  You can bet he'll be tucking his shoe laces in from now on.  Then there was Tendulkar's run out backing up off a deflection by Swann.  FB has never suffered that misfortune (it is perhaps the only cricketing misfortune he has yet to endure) but it seems more likely to happen to the struggling team than the one on top.  No matter what the influence of the BCCI over the scheduling and preparations, former Scottish batsman Raul Dravid summed the situation pretty well when he said, 'We expected England to be good in this series, but we expected ourselves to be better.'  Too right - so did everyone else.

The Oval is India's favourite English ground, they have not lost their on their last 6 visits and it has huge historic significance for them as the site of their first victory in England in 1971.   The youngest player in their side on that occasion was none other than Sunil Gavaskar but the victory was set by their spin trio of Chandrasekhar, Venkat and Bedi.   One team - 3 top spinners - will that ever happen again?

While sentiment is a fine thing and 40th anniversaries are all very well, FB cannot see other than England continuing the slaughter.  Call for the whitewash.

This would be only England's 3rd whitewash - they dumped India in 1959 and W Indies in 2004 so it is a rare achievement for them.  Also worth thinking about is that Strauss has won 20 Tests as skipper - that is as many victories as England managed in the whole of the 1980s.  Impressive?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Time

Salvador Dali - time melting
while at the crease
Time - it's one of those slippery concepts is it not?

Fantasy Bob's remaining brain cell began to speculate on this after he was approached while standing empty minded at the bus stop today by a stranger who asked him 'Do you have the time?'  The conventional smart ass answer to this innocent question is 'Yes, if you have the money.'  But FB restrained himself, whether because of his interrogator's stern aspect or some other defence mechanism and passed the relevant information on - accurate to within 10 minutes.  You can be exact or you can be approximate - people are equally happy with either.

Cricketers through the ages have dwelt on time - some have argued that it is has a substantive existence, others that it is no more than a convention for ordering reality - and their theorising has got more and more elaborate as time passes....or doesn't, depending on your theoretical point of view. 

But one thing that they all recognise is that batsmen such as David Gower and Brian Lara were blessed with more time than other mortals.  These special players were never rushed and seemed to even the casual observer to make the ball slow down as it approached them so they could consider a full range of possible shots to dispatch it to the boundary.  No doubt when approached by a stranger and asked 'Do you have the time?' they would answer 'More than you think.'

Some bowlers had the inverse skill of being faster than they look - stealing time from the batsman.  FB of course is the inverse of both of these special cases - his bowling is slower than it looks and he has no time to play even the slowest bowlers who to him are always considerably faster than they look.  So asking FB if he has the time can get him very mixed up.

Time has always been special in cricket - games used to be played on a timed basis - none of this set number of overs but 20 overs after 6 was a common format or 40 after tea.  This added to the skill of knowing when to declare for draws were allowed in those dim dark days.  But in first class cricket time has been stolen as over rates have plummeted despite the attempts by the administrators to enforce more action.  40 years ago or so Brian Close was soundly booed for slowing things down to prevent the opposition from winning.  His mentality still runs deep in the game.

There is talk about recreating a time-less test to decide the proposed Test World Championship restoring a splendid part of cricket heritage. The thought of having a final drawn is too much for the administrators so the thought of play till you drop is being considered.  Imagine asking a fellow spectator during that match 'Do you have the time?'  The answer could only be 'None of us here has any time at all - this is timeless.'

The Goons - timeless
The last timeless Test was in 1939 between England and S Africa when England settled for a draw after 10 days play at 654 for 5 in the fourth innings in order to catch the boat home.  Thank goodness for that thought the bowlers who had been making ship siren noises from fine leg for the best part of 2 days.

Some comedy is simply timeless too.  For the greatest routine on asking the time - click to this link and thank the Lord for Spike Milligan.  Test Match Quality

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A cricketers' guide to the Edinburgh Festival

The Edinburgh International Festival is now in full swing.  But Fantasy Bob warns that this year's programme has pretty thin pickings for cricketers.  There is not one major cricket based work in the whole thing.  This is more than regrettable but sadly continues a trend of recent years.  The theming of this year's programme to work from the Far East compounds this lacuna, for whatever merits Korea has, it is not a major cricket playing nation.  China neither - although the ICC is reported to be hard at work fostering the game there. 
FB took himself to the Kings Theatre to view Korea's celebrated Mokwha Reportory Company presenting an interpretation of The Tempest, a work FB has often thought would sit well in a cricket setting - apart from the shipwreck bit, and the Ariel circling the earth bit, and the Caliban bit, and the full fathom five bit, and the Miranda bit and the Trinculo and Stephano bit, and the now my charms are all o'erthrown bit, it is basically all about cricket.  A pity then that the Koreans didn't quite bring this aspect of the drama out.

FB attended yesterday evening a concert by the Sixteen - he must report that they cheated because there were twenty of them as they sneaked a few extra fielders on to the pitch.  They sang an all Handel concert.  That's George Frederick Handel, not Long or Short Handel.  His popular oratorio Dixit Umpire was the main work on the programme.

Perhaps other performances in the programme have a bit more to offer the cricketer?

Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring - a seminal work of 20th century music which depicts the ritual of the first outdoor nets of the season.  It caused a riot on its first performance, causing lots of politicians to cut short their holidays to appear on Newsnight.

Cricketers entering the field
 from the Peony Pavilion
The Peony Pavilion - FB is unsure why the Peony CC's pavilion deserves a special performance by the National Ballet of China.  It may be that it compares favourably with the new luxurious facilities at Edgbaston that have been the talk of the town during the recent Test Match.  Or it may be a more nostalgic setting with rotting wooden floorboards and rusty showers.  FB applauds this piece of programming because it not often that pavilions get their due attention.

A Vietnamese ensemble bring a dance piece Drought and Rain - FB's hopes that this would show doughty Vietnamese groundsmen facing up to the difficulty of preparing good cricket wickets in unpredicatble weather his hopes were disappointed as the programme suggests rather lamely that this meditates on the human cost of war and imperialism.

So thin pickings for the cricketer but there is lots of other good stuff which will keep FB entertained.  Just as well that there's a Mahler symphony next weekend.  That will be Test Match Quality.



.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Question Time

Voltaire -
putting the finishing touches
to his coaching manual
To the great top order batsman Voltaire is attributed the following observation, 'I disagree with your approach to the short ball but I will defend with my life your right to play it.'

Voltaire's words came to Fantasy Bob as he watched the BBC's Newsnight last Friday.  In a discussion on the week's riots, self styled eminent historian David Starkey played a number of inelegant hoicks to cow corner including a very ugly slash across the line in which he used the words 'white kids have become black.'  FB's eyes popped - this might well be the worst bit of batting he has seen for a very long time.  Fielders were so aghast that they struggled to return the ball to the keeper.

Starkey gets dressed
to visit Tottenham
FB questions the selection policy which brought Starkey to the crease - a specialist in the history of the Royal Family is not the first batsman he himself would chose to opine on the behaviour of inner city youth.   But FB has long wondered what the selection policy of the BBC is, for the Question Time XI features with monotonous regularity the same tired players leaning on their bats - not only Starkey, but Kelvin McKenzie, Melanie Philips, Douglas Murray, and Nigel Farage get more caps than their averages justify.  Presumably they are chosen to quicken the scoring in the middle overs, but they have the effect of sending FB to bed, so unimpressive is their shot selection.  Even Voltaire might question whether he should be required to bowl at them.

Ruined by limited overs players
The Question Time XI is well past its sell-by-date, once it inspired cricketers the world over, now it rarely compels.  Where it was once a Test Match, it is now trying to be the IPL.

Let's change the skipper and refresh the middle order.  FB's plea to the selectors is to leave these tired hacks behind.  Elegant stroke play and clever accurate bowling is what is required - be it right or left handed over or round the wicket.  Swishing across the line and bowling beamers by the Starkeys, McKenzies or Philips is just not cricket.  Even Voltaire would agree with that.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Would that it were, would that it were.......

Time for Fantasy Bob to mark the sad news of the death of Robert Robinson.  As presenter of a range of TV and radio programmes he was one of the definitive presences of FB's formative and indeed deformative years. Call My Bluff, Ask the Family, Today, Stop the Week all benefitted from his distinctive fussing and tutting.   Alongside Johnners and Arlott, Dimbleby and Michelmore Robinson's is one of the distinctive braodcasting presences that seem to define another age, another world, another time zone.  It is hard to imagine this style surviving for a moment in today's multi- channelled dumbed-down media world.

Robinson's longest service was as Chair of the general knowledge quiz Brain of Britain.  And it was in this capacity that he had the privilege of meeting FB many long years ago.  While  Robinson was condemned to many long years in the Brain of Britain studio, FB's career on Brain of Britain was cruelly limited to a single appearance.

He was outrageously inched out of the top spot in the final round by being unable to answer a question which required him to identify streets in a Lancashire town of which he had only vaguely heard.  A yorker of a delivery if ever there was one.  His wrong answer met with the inevitable, 'Would that it were, would that it were...' and some Lancastrian rival contestant hoovered up the point.  Meanwhile FB's rival contestants were bowled pies of the 'Who wrote Charles Dickens' Great Expectations?' variety. 

Most outrageous of all FB was given no cricket questions or questions about the career average of Beethoven - subjects which would have secured his passage to the next round and possilby world domination.  FB's lacuna on knowledge on Lancashire street directories mean that he failed to gain not only the accolade of the bonus point but the endearing Robinson commendation 'An extra point for being so clever.....' The shame has hung heavy on FB ever since affecting his batting and bowling.

Robinson could go through a whole series of Brain of Britain riding on the same five or six phrases.  So much so that, as with many distinctive broadcasting styles, Robinson's verged towards a self parody.   Cruelly caught by Fry and Laurie in this little gem.

............and an extra point for being so clever........... may well be an appropriate epitaph.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Disappointment

Fantasy Bob is reconciled to disappointment.  Unkind cultural commentators say that Scottish people imbibe disappointment with their mother's milk.  They know it length-wise and breadth-wise.  Inside out and upside down. There is no form of disappointment that they are not familiar with.  When it comes to disappointment they are beyond being disappointed.

For reasons that are lost in the mists of time Fantasy Bob has compounded this rich natural inheritance by attempting to play cricket - a game so rich in opportunities for disappointment that it makes the serious thinker wonder that it must surely be the product of the Scottish reformation.  Sitting mortified in the dressing room with your head between your hands, and your tail between your legs it is unconvincing to think that the cause of your disappointment could have been devised in the idyllic pastoral setting of the Hampshire Downs.  Surely a windswept moor in Lanarkshire is more consistent with the mental and spiritual torture that you are enduring.

It goes without saying that FB has faced most of the forms of disappointment that this cruel game can devise.  His ineptitude, his misfortune, his lack of preparedness, his clumsiness, in short his general hopelessness is exposed at some point in most matches.  So inured is he by this long experience that he no longer regards these humiliations as cause for disappointment. Indeed he is disappointed if nothing disappoints him.  This is the Scottish way of looking at things. 

But even FB has not experienced the 2 contrasting forms of disappointment on display at Edgbaston yesterday.

A disappointed Cook
Alastair Cook is sick to the back teeth that he got out for 294.  294.  Two hundred and ninety four - just 6 short of 300 (and for that matter, and to assist the arithmetically challenged, 106 short of 400).  Not an innings of dash, flair or excitement but a relentless accumulation.  A credit to concentration and control - but what went wrong with the ungainly slash which was his undoing.  Such misadventure gives him just cause to be disappointed - he shows that he has some Scottish blood in those veins.

Virander Sehwag is disappointed even beyond his back teeth.  He achieved the monumental feat of a King Pair.  2 balls faced - 2 times out.  So much for the man who was going to be the saviour of the Indian batting line up - he looked as unprepared as the rest of his team mates.   There was some disappointment all around the ground, for the crowd would truly love to have seen Sehwag at his best - a contrast in batting styles to Cook which could have brightened a grey day.  It was not to be.  Disappointing.

A disappointed Sehwag.
A King Pair is a real achievement - Sehwag's is only the 13th in Test history.  By some quirk, England also inflicted the most recent  - getting Ryan Harris twice at Adelaide in December.  This is the only achievement that Sehwag and Harris are ever likely to have in common.

But the most fantastic King Pair was many years ago. Playing for South Africa against Australia at Old Trafford in 1912 (there was a triangular tournament that year), Tommy Ward was dismissed first ball in each innings by leggie Jimmy Matthews. He gave Matthews a hat-trick in each innings.  This was Ward's debut Test.  Just as well he was South African (although born in Rawalpindi) for that's more disappointment than even a Scottish person could stand.

But as Martin Luther King said, 'We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.'

After all, there's always the next innings.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Invisible Gorillas

Many years ago, when the world was a very young place, Fantasy Bob studied more psychology than was good for anyone.  Even though this misguided youth may may or may not explain a lot about FB's dispositions, he has totally forgotten every last detail of it.  Knowledge of the ability of rats to run through various mazes have not really helped him fashion the perfect cover drive.

But every now and then the world of psychology creeps into FB's field of view as it did today.  Fantasy Bob was perusing the pages of the Guardian and found in a small space of its electronic edition far away from its high minded sentiments about riots and looting, the iniquities of the consumer society and the complete collapse of Indian resolve at Edgbaston, a newly minted blog on things psychological by a neuroscientist called Mo Costandi.  He read it with interest.

Mr Costandi reviews the phenomenon grandly named as inattentional blindness - demonstrated in a series of experiments in which people were asked to watch a video screen on which teams of people were passing a basketball to each other.  They were asked to count the number of passes the white team makes.  So focused were the majority on this task that they failed to notice that half way through a person dressed in a party gorilla outfit ambled across the screen and the basketballs were for a time passed round him. These are called the Invisible Gorilla experiments - and apparently there is a whole book and website about them and similar stuff.  Elegant though this demonstration is, FB finds this yet another statement of the obvious - you tend to screen out things in order to focus attention or concentration. 

Inattentional blindness is more than evident on the cricket field.  In particular FB finds himself so focused on the ball being bowled he does not notice the gorilla walking across the field to take up position at extra cover where he promptly pouches FB's well struck drive.  Why is it, he wonders, that opposing skippers seem to have an infinite supply of invisible gorillas at their disposal?



Thursday, 11 August 2011

Invisible

Fantasy Bob has read with interest a story in the popular press about a student from St Andrew's University, reputedly an institution of higher education on the east coast of Scotland, who has developed an optical sphere that is is invisible.  Mr Janos Perczel explained that his device slows down light so it bends round his sphere effectively concealing it. 

Fantasy Bob is sorry to disappoint Mr Perczel but he is sure that a number of bowlers operating in the lower divisions of the East of Scotland Cricket Association are ahead of them.  FB is sure that on several occasions he has confidently taken his guard at the crease, seen the ball leave the bowler's hand only to disappear effectively invisible.  Whether this is because the light has been slowed down and bent around the ball FB is unable to say but the ball regains its visibility after a short period, generally lying adjacent to a pair of bails that it has dislodged from the stumps behind FB's confident stance.

FB does not want to undermine Mr Perczel's endeavours so suggests that he applies his techniques to a device which would render invisible extensions to the width of his bat.  FB might be persuaded to part with a small financial incentive in exchange for an effective demonstration of this device and its exclusive use for a couple of seasons.

FB regrets that he is unable to bring his readers a photo of the invisible ball - that's the problem with being invisible.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Third Test

And what, the breathless audience is wondering, does Fantasy Bob have to say about the Third Test, which, riots permitting, will get underway today.  As if he would have anything remotely sensible to say on anything.  But the clamour of the mass audience must be responded to.

FB missed the special excitements of the second Test, most notably the reversed run out of Ian Bell and the Laxman vaseline slur when Michael Vaughan seemed to suggest in a Tweet that the Indian batsman had tricked Hot Spot by having vaseline on the edge of his bat so a snick would not register.  Indian media and fans took exception and Vaughan was forced to say that when he said vaseline he didn't mean vaseline in the vaseline sense of the word.  Vaughan should have known better.

FB has no idea whether there was ever any evidence that Laxman used the substance, or the reason that he might have or whether it is effective in tricking the technology.  But in true tabloid fahsion he is not going to let the facts get in the way of a good story.  FB is intrigued by the not-vaseline scandal.  Vaseline was invented in the Pennsylvania oil fields in 1872 by one Robert Chesebrough who made up the name and his company manufactured it until it was bought by Unilever in 1987.   Chesebrough was born in London and was knighted in 1883. Upon knighting him, Queen Victoria praised his product, proudly claiming that she 'used Vaseline every day.'  FB was not previously aware that Queen Victoria was much of a batsman and would seek so to evade Hot Spot.  There appear to be many hidden scandals in thos high days of the British Empire which are only slowly coming to light.

FB understands that there are uses for vaseline among certain groups in the community, but he has found little use for it himself since the distant days of the sad demise of his rugby career when it was smeared everywhere to ease things at scrum time.  Without its lubrication, FB's rugged features might have been even more rugged to the point of scaring all the juniors in the club to the point of nightmares.  A half empty - or should that be half full, to look on the bright side - jar of the petroleum jelly has sat in the bathroom cabinet for many a long year.  Now FB has a use for it.  Notwithstanding that Hot Spot technology has yet to be approved in the lower divisions of the East of Scotland League there is nothing like being prepared for the inevitable march of technology.  It will come and FB will be prepared.  Some experiment will be necessary to see if other substances are as effective - chip fat can be used to power a motor car - but does it do Hot Spot too?  Time for the scientists to get boffinning.

But to return to the matter at hand.  England win and they rule the world.  And who would bet against them?  Not FB, but since he doesn't bet that doesn't really count.  England seem to have done most things right in the 2 previous games (like do some proper preparation),  India precious little - Dravid aside (and it is always heartening to see a former Scottish player do well on the big stage).  Injuries have not helped their cause but they are no excuse for their poor show.

Sehwag - will he make a difference?
Will the return of Sehwag restore their morale and their resilience?  He has had next to no cricket for several months so it is a big ask for him to come out guns blazing and dominate in his usual style.  Even England fans would like a glimpse of him at his best but it may be that English conditions are not for him.  The pitch intelligence suggests that England's seamers will find things to their liking again.  And it is here that England have an embarrassment of riches - Bresnan took 5 and scored 90 but is not sure of his place as Tremlett is fit again.

FB goes with Tremlett because of his bounce which gives something extra.  England's batting is strong enough without Bresnan's contribution although it is a worry that the opening partnership has yet to deliver.  The batting might seem to be weakened by Trott's absence.  But even there there is a silver lining - it is surely a good thing for Ian Bell to bat at 3 - just so long as he waits till he hears the umpire say 'Over' before he wanders aimlessly off to the tea room.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Thanks, Johnners

Fantasy Bob has no shame.  He is therefore celebrating again that joyous collapse in the Test Match Special commentary box by Johnners and Aggers which followed the latter's comment that Botham couldn't get his leg over when trying to hook a bouncer from Curtley Ambrose.  That life enhancing incident occurred exactly 20 years ago today - 9 August 1991. 

An excellent blow by blow account of it can be found in Jonathan Agnew's book 'Thanks, Johnners' which has recently been issued in paperback.  This is an extended tribute to Johnners which is essential reading for all cricketers of a certain age.

The collapse took place on the second day of the final test of the series which England went into 2-1 down.  Botham was recalled as one of a number of changes following 2 heavy defeats by the W Indies side led by Viv Richards.  This was Richards' final test and he needed to score 20 in his final innings to ensure a batting average of 50.  Carl Hooper had been the dominant W Indies batsman during the series and the side still had a dusting of greatness.  Alongside the MasterBlaster, Malcolm Marshall also said goodbye to the Test arena in this game - 376 wickets at 20.94 is as good as it gets.

DV Lawrence -
 known as Syd
The game was notable for the performance of Phil Tuffnell, also brought into the side.  In the West Indies' first innings - he took 6 for 25 - his second best Test return.  It forced a follow on - the first time W Indies had had to do so against England for 20 years. He did not find things so rewarding in the second innings though - taking 1 for 150 as Carl Hooper put him into the crowd 3 times in a sparkling half century.  Instead it was Syd Lawrence who led the attack returning his best bowling figures of 5 for 106.  Within 6 months Lawrence's career would be over after he shattered his kneecap while bowling in the final test at Wellington.  He played 5 Tests taking 18 wickets.

Meanwhile the other Syd Lawrence had no connection with this match but was a leading figure in British big band music.  Although he died in 1998 at the age of 74 his band, now led by Chris Dean, remains popular and is consistently voted the best big band in Britain.

England won the match by 5 wickets to square the series.  This was Botham's first victory against the W Indies in 20 Tests.  He hit the winning runs off the only ball he faced in the second innings.

Adn Aggers' broadcasting career took off on that day - he never looked back.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Singin' in the rain

What a glorious feeling - not!

 It has rained continuously since Fantasy Bob returned to the UK.  FB can only take it personally - it is a cruel joke.  Cricket is a distant possibility. 

However FB has heard from the Secretary of Rain Songs CC whose First XI FB mentioned in a posting earlier this season.  He writes that the club has recently recruited several new members and has now established a second XI and is looking for fixtures.  He says that the second XI has some veteran players who may look past their best but are still capable of scoring good runs.  Here is the team list from its most recent successful outing (not in batting order):

Rainy Night in Georgia - Tony Joe White
Coloured Rain - Traffic
Come Rain or Come Shine - BB King
Don't Rain on my Parade - Barbara Streisand
Famous Blue Raincoat - Leonard Cohen
Have You Seen The Rain - Creedance Clearwater Revival
Here's That Rainy Day - Frank Sinatra
I Wish it Would Rain - Nanci Griffith
Flowers in the Rain - The Move
It Never Rains in Southern California - Albert Hammond
It's Raining Men - The Weather Girls
Enjoy.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Back to earth

This holiday stuff is all very well but Fantasy Bob returns to find the world a much changed place:
  • the credit rating agencies have downgraded the Indian Test Team following their poor showing against England in the first 2 tests - Finance Ministers around the globe are keeping the situation under close scrutiny 
  • Ravi Bopara has been added to the England squad for the 3rd Test - rioting broke out in North London among supporters
  • Stuart Broad has been fantastic in the first 2 Tests - FB apologises for his previous scepticism
  • the Edinburgh Tattoo has started bringing with it the usual celebratory torrential rain which has put the kybosh on FB's return to active service in today's friendly against Woodcutters
  • the rain is also getting in the way of Carlton's march to successive national T20 titles.  Today's finals are postponed - probably to a day in January given the shambolic fixture schedule.  FB is writing to the Tattoo authorities suggesting that they should move their event and its accompanying rainstorms to a time in the year when they would not be so disruptive.
  • the England rugby team dress up as the All Blacks to beat Wales in a RWC warm up - they even take a leaf out of the All Blacks play book in having a Samoan playing for them
  • Samoan-less Scotland beat Ireland in another RWC warm up by scoring a try - victories for Scotland are rare events, tries for Scotland are rare events - could they be related by any chance?
FB is struggling to take it all in, the peaceful backwaters of the Stockholm Archipelago seem far away now - in fact they are about 800 miles away which is a bit further than FB can throw these days.  Also far away is the perfect weather which blessed his voyage.  But while the price of a Koppaberg in a Swedish bar means that FB's wallet is on the treatment table and will struggle to be fit again this year, his brain cell remains active.  Readers can expect postings down to the usual standard to re-emerge on these pages all too soon.

Evening sun on Sandhamm