Saturday, 31 December 2011

Seven Swans

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.

It is unclear how true love got hold of one swan, let alone seven.  For in the UK swans are protected and it is illegal to kill them (or wrap them in gift paper for the purposes of making presents of them). The Queen  owns all the swans in Great Britain, except for those in the Orkney Islands where the swans belong to the people. So unless this is an Orcadian romance, there may be some explaining to do.

But swans crop up everywhere as symbols of just about everything.  Richard Wagner is swan rich territory - Parsifal shoots a swan leading to 5 hours of full volume Wagnerian singing and Lohengrin sails up river on a swan to present himself to his true love.  Swan Lake is awash with dancing cygnets, and even glam rockers like Marc Bolan Rode a white swan like the people of the Beltane, Wear your hair long, babe, you can`t go wrong. Da, da, dee, dee, da...............

But what relevance is all that to the cricketer?  At this point, Fantasy Bob's world wide audience will be thinking, 'For Goodness sake, when is he going to mention Graeme Swann, England's deeply symbolic off spinner?'

There once was an ugly duckling
FB remembers Danny Kaye's song about Graeme Swann.  For he once was an ugly duckling with feathers so stubby and brown, and all the selectors in 2000 in so many words said Quack, you get up our noses, get out of the England set up......................all through the years of 2000 to 2008 he bowled away for Notts, until he got to Chennai and KP said 'Next over, Swanny,' and he bowled, and he took 2 wickets in his first over, and they said 'See you are a Test bowler - and a very fine one indeed.'  Who's an ugly duckling?  Not Graeme Swann - 36 Tests, 153 wickets at 28.82.

But here are six other first rank players who looked like ugly ducklings on their introduction to international cricket but went on to become very fine swans indeed.

Graeme Gooch - On his Test debut against Australia at Edgbaston in 1975, Gooch got a pair, caught behind in both innings. 3 years later he returned, not such an ugly duckling, and he remains England's leading run scorer in Tests with 8900 runs in 118 Tests at 42.58.

Shane Warne - in the second innings of his 3rd Test, against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 1992, Warne had a Test career bowling average of 335. Sri Lanka closed in on a probable victory but Warne then chose his moment to be come a very fine swan indeed as he took three wickets for no run in 11 deliveries. He finished with 708 Test wickets at 25.41.


Len Hutton's first Test was at Lords in 1937 against New Zealand at the age of 20. He made made 0 and 1. An ugly duckling - but only temporarily.  In the next Test at Old Trafford, now a mature 21, he scored his first century and and the following year made 364 against Australia - 79 Tests, 6971 runs at 56.67.

Michael Holding took 0 for 127 in his debut Test, in Australia in 1975-76. He finished that series on the losing side against a dominant Australian side with just 10 wickets at 61.40. A few months later, with his feathers grown in, he took 14 wickets on a slow pitch at The Oval to demolish England.  In 60 Tests he took 249 wickets at 23.68. A very fine swan indeed.

Marvin Atapattu looked the ugliest of ducklings - his first 6 Test scores were 0 and 0, 0 and 1, and 0 and 0 (and even that one run was probably a leg-bye). In 1997 he got another chance and finally made it into double figures. No longer an ugly duckling, he finished a 90 Test career with 5502 runs at 39.02 and 16 centuries, 6 of them doubles.

Saeed Anwar got a pair on his Test debut against West Indies in Faisalabad in November 1990. He didn't win another Test cap for more than three years - but he was no longer an ugly duckling and made 169 against New Zealand in his third match. Anwar ended up with 4052 runs in 55 Tests at 45.52. 











Friday, 30 December 2011

Geese

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a-laying......


Six geese a-laying are said to represent the six days of the Creation, in which the Doughty Groundsman separated the dark from the light, the firmament from the earth and the ground from the water; in which he brought forth vegetation and animals and ( in what, with the benefit of hindsight, may have been a bit of a strategic error) created man (as in men and women) in his own image and set him with dominion over all other creatures.  On the seventh day the match report suggests that the Doughty Groundsman rested.  


Or did he? The match report goes on from that point to tell a likely story of the Garden of Eden (now known to have been located very near Aberdeen) and a serpent and a woman and an apple.  After that things appear to have taken a turn for the worse, other than the invention of  Eve's Pudding.


What was the Doughty Groundsman doing while that tawdry little drama was going on?  There is surely a missing chapter in the scorebook.  Fantasy Bob has been searching deep in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient match reports and believes he has found the missing text.


And on the seventh day the Doughty Groundsman thought he deserved a rest and had just put his feet up unto himself when the club skipper called unto him on his mobile and saith.  'We have arranged a friendly against a touring side.  Can you create a wicket.'


And the doughty groundsman muttereth under his breath and saith unto anyone who would listen which is noone 'Now you tell me - after I had set you up with that Eve bird I thought you might have something else to do today.'


And he hast heaved himself into the seat of the heavy roller and hast pressed the starter button unto himself.   


For forty days and forty nights he rolleth the square and he saw that it was good.  He separateth the thatch and moweth the grass to leave a short covering on the perfect surface.  It addeth pace and bounce.  He hast repaired the footholds.   He hast marked the creases and sayeth unto the juniors 'Keep thy b***** feet off the square'.  And they were sore afraid.


For the Doughty Groundsman laboureth through the morning as the light separateth from the darkness and his tea flask emptieth unto his chipped enamel mug.  Even unto the last.
  
And lo his work is accomplished. And he texteth unto the club skipper that it is good.  And the club skipper raiseth up a great cry of praise unto the Doughty Groundsman.


And lo the cricketers of the earth assembleth before the Pavilion and make unto themselves a joyful noise on their i-Pods.  


And the stumps are setteth in the ground.  But the clouds darken the sky and unto them the rain doth fall.  It scuddeth down from the firmament and the Doughty Groundsman thinketh unto himself 'Sod this for game of soldiers.'  


Thus spake the Doughty Groundsman for he doth scarify in the name of the Lord.


And so beginneth the book of Lamentations.







Thursday, 29 December 2011

Five Gold Rings

On the fifth day of Christmas...............well everyone knows this one.

Five gold rings.

In 2012 all thoughts of rings will stray to the Olympic rings as the hour of the London Olympiad approaches.  Except for Mrs FB whose jewellery based understanding of the term will remain firm.

Long suffering members of Fantasy Bob's world wide readership may bring to mind that he has previously expressed disappointment at aspects of the Olympiad and in particular the absence of cricket from the so-called Festival of so-called Sport.  Nevertheless FB is proud beyond words to live in a country where, notwithstanding that the economy is is dire straits and libraries and sports centres are closing daily, the Government can find an extra £40m to spend on the opening and closing ceremonies.

Impression of archery at Lords -
KEEP OFF THE SQUARE
So the Olympic rings are of little interest to cricketers and the insult is compounded by the fact that the temple of Lords will be given over to the Olympic archery competition during July and August.  Apart from the 1900 Olympics in Paris, the subject of the link to FB's previous Wittering above, cricket has featured in only 2 multi-sport events - the Commonwealth Games in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur (in which S Africa beat Adam Gilchrist's Australia in the final) and the Asian Games in 2010 (won by Bangladesh).

A bid to get a T20 competition in the 2012 Olympics failed - and a similar attempt to get the sport into the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was also unsuccessful.  Lamentable.  But some progress has been made in that the IOC now recognise cricket as a sport (FB doesn't understand what they previously considered it to be) and further attempts are being made to get a competition a T20 competition in the 2020 Olympics.  If that doesn't appeal even to the dumbest marketing man then FB may have to give up biscuits.

However cricket authorities have an ambivalent attitude towards the prospect - the international calendar is already choc-a-bloc and it would be hard to fit another event into the schedules. England did not send a team to the Commonwealth Games in 1998, and India did not send a team to the 2010 Asian Games. Both are unlikely to support any Olympic bid now.   But, says FB, surely an Olympic competition would be more important and valuable than another tawdry Champion's League.

Guanggong Cricket Stadium
The wider development of the game would surely benefit from the exposure - just as other sports have - and the development of new facilities would take place. 

As a result of the Asian Games there is now a high quality facility in China, the Guanggong International Cricket Stadium in Guangzhou, which may stage Pakistan fixtures in the near future.  The stadium should also assist the Hong Kong Cricket Association in its development to ODI status.  The cities bidding for the 2020 Olympics are Doha, Baku, Istanbul, Madrid, Rome and Tokyo, and the winner will be announced in September 2013. Doha already can offer cricket facilities, but it would be a fine thing to see serious cricket played in any of the other locations. 

Perhaps an Olympic competition should feature age grade teams, as in soccer, and major nations could plug this into their development pathways - but FB fears that cricketers can expect little by way of leadership can be expected from the ICC.

Then cricketers could look to the Five Gold Rings with interest - and their cricketing true love could offer the alternative of a cricketing gold medal. 


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Fourth Day

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four calling birds.


Except nobody really knows what a calling bird is. Cleverclogs suggest that originally the reference was to the colley bird, which is what blackbirds were called in the middle ages. Maybe, maybe, thinks Fantasy Bob. But more likely, in his view, is it a complete mishearing by a cloth-eared minstrel with no knowledge of cricket. 

For the cricketer would hear correctly the tribute to the type of player every team needs, a contributor with bat, ball in the field and to team spirit and moral. 

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Four Collingwoods. 

Well worth having.  England's top ODI scorer and the skipper who took them to victory in the 2010 T20 World Championships. Paul Collingwood announced his retirement from Test cricket almost a year ago.



206
v Australia
December 2006
Adelaide


6 for 31
v Bangladesh
June 2005
Trent Bridge

120* v Australia
Feb 2007
Melbourne
The catch of the century -
 Perth
December 2010
Ponting c Collingwood b Anderson 12













Tuesday, 27 December 2011

French Hens

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me 3 French Hens.


And what use would a cricketer make of 3 French Hens?  They can neither bat nor bowl and are pretty scratchy in the field.  At least they are not 3 French ducks.  In Fantasy Bob's experience there are too many ducks in cricket already.

One interpretation says the hens symbolise the three virtues - Faith Hope and Charity.  This does not really explain to the cricketer why hens of a non cricket playing nation are chosen as symbols.  It would have been far better to have nominated a cricket playing nation - although it would be absurd to choose Australia to represent virtue and that would narrow the choice down.  After reflection, FB thinks the best bet might be Sri Lankan hens, except it doesn't fit the tune.   Tricky stuff this, isn't it.

Nevertheless, all these virtues are essential features of FB's approach to cricket and are always at the front of his mind during selection meetings.
  • Faith - blind faith that his bowling action looks anything but ridiculously arthritic and about as athletic as a Greggs Steakbake; 
  • Hope - verging on desperation - that he might get off the mark; 
  • Charity - FB's presence on the field can generally be considered a very generous donation to the opposition.
3 Sri Lankan Hens.


Monday, 26 December 2011

Turtle Doves



On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves.

The European Turtle Dove rarely appears in Northern Europe before the end of April, returning south again in September so it is present for the cricket season. Sadly, according to the State of Europe's Common Birds 2007 report, the European Turtle Dove population in Europe has fallen by 62% in recent times.

Turtle Doves are emblems of devoted love. There are a number of cultural references - two turtle doves are mentioned as having been sacrificed for the Birth of Jesus. In Renaissance Europe, the Turtle Dove was envisaged as the devoted partner of the Phoenix and inspired a number of works including Shakespeare's poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle". The Turtle Dove is featured in a number of folk songs about love and loss. But, come on FB, enough of this rich cultural reference. What significance is the turtle dove to the cricketer?

Turtle Doves is Cockney Rhyming slang for gloves.  For many years FB thought that cricket gloves only came in singles - such was the number of random gloves to be found in the team cricket bag.  They had obviously been bought one at a time. One left one, one right one and one with a ............. He has more recently come to realise that they are made and sold in pairs.  Much more sensible.

WG models early gloves
In the modern cricket match there are 6 gloves legally in view at any one time - worn by each batsman and the wicket keeper.  (Since many of these will also be wearing inners, there may be 12 gloves on the field).  Gloves on other players are illegal and a begloved fielder touching the ball would incur a penalty of 5 runs against his side.  But batsmen and wicketkeepers have not always worn gloves.  The protection would have been made necessary when bowling become over arm and the prospect of bounce at pace threatened the batsman's finger bones.  Even now occasionally in lower league cricket there is the lower order batsman  who will eschew the gloves offered implying that merely to touch them would be an insult to his manhood.  Such is the damage testosterone can do to fragile brain cells.

Like all sports equipment cricket gloves have gone through evolution or intelligent design if that is you are reading in certain US States.  The first photographs of gloved cricketers show various arrays of padding attached to fingers and hands.  But the first gloves FB was aware of were poor cotton things with strips of rubber spikes attached to each finger.  FB scarcely believes that even the top players wore such gloves.  So minimal was the protection these offered against even schoolboy pace was minimal, it is hard to believe facing Larwood and the likes with only flimsy rubber spikes against him and broken fingers.
Right hand batting glove believed to have been worn by Jack Hobbs whilst making his 197th century (and last first class century) for Surrey v Lancashire at Old Trafford in May 1934. The green spiked and cloth glove is marked '197th Century 28/5/34' and is signed by Jack Hobbs. The glove also made by Jack Hobbs Ltd. The glove is sold with a letter from R.H. Hobbs stating that Hobbs on completing his innings (and 197th century) threw the glove to A.C. Hobbs, a member of Lancashire County Cricket Club.   Recently auctioned.




The spiked glove fell out of fashion in the 1950s although it still dominated the school equipment when FB started the game.  Nowadays all manner of foam padding is used and no glove can respectably be sold without an array of features including:
Nylon gusset for ventilation
Ergonomic finger and thumb splits
Sponge-padded polyurethane back for better fit and comfort
Extra finger protection reinforced with a thermoplastic polyurethane insert in the first two fingers of the bottom hand
Lightweight and rounded high-density foam finger rolls
Split thumb and three-piece sidebars on lead hand
Leather tabs on fingertips
Extra PITTARDS® leather patch on hard-wearing areas of the palm
Mesh thumb for better ventilation
Polyurethane embossed knuckles
Toweled wristband with embossed Velcro® fastener
FB is tempted to present this to a poetry magazine as found poetry - it describes the SG Hilite as worn by Rahul Dravid - so they must be some use.

Even with all these features there is nothing sorer than the thumb being squeezed against the bat handle, and broken fingers seem no less common than previously.  Some players seem to have a greater propensity for this than others - Nasser Hussain seemed to FB always to have a broken finger.  And notable breaks of 2011 included Ricky Ponting (although broken in 2010 and while fielding gloveless), Eoin Morgan and Dilshan.

Grieg -
 special helmet
not so special gloves
But technology frequently takes two steps forward and one step back.  Mercifully, some glove developments did not last.  There are many things that can be said for and against Tony Grieg. He was in many ways a courageous pioneer.  But he had no concept of propriety when it came to batting gloves.  Crowds would recoil when he stepped to the crease in the 1970s wearing mitt like things with no individual features.  This attempt to revolutionise gloves thankfully ended in failure - not even Kerry Packer could tolerate them.  Why would any player wear anything that made them look like a puppet from Camberwick Green? 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The first day of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas – every cricketer can remember the words to up to 5 GOLD RINGS, and then it all becomes a bit uncertain – twelve, somethings or others, eleven what you call thems, ten – now I know this one, nine what’s it’s, eight eh I wrote this one down somewhere, seven thingumyjigs, six you know whats...... FIVE GOLD RINGS…….

What does it all mean?  There is a suggestion that the words were created to help Catholic worshippers in the 17th century remember and express essential parts of their faith during a period in Britain when the Catholic faith was severely repressed .  So the partridge in the pear tree is Jesus, the two turtle doves the Old and New Testaments and so on all the way up to the 12 points of faith of the apostles.  This interpretation, while charming does, not reveal exactly why those points of faith are depicted as drummers drumming.  So FB pays more attention to the argument that this is all made up.

But the song cannot mean nothing – that would imply it had been written for the X-Factor and FB is pretty sure that it predates Simon Cowell.  So FB plunged into research and has identified that the song is in fact a celebration of cricket in its finest glory.  FB will present the results of his researches over the next 12 days when FB returns from the ski slopes.  Those of his world wide trio of readers who expect to be severely bored by the whole business can look away now.

Percy Chapman -
 perhaps he was the Partridge
THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS IS CHRISTMAS DAY ITSELF.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Partridge in a Pear Tree.............

This honours Norman Ernest Partridge who was born in Birmingham, in 1900 and died at Aberystwyth in1982.  He played for Cambridge University and Warwickshire. But he features in this lyric because he was identified by Wisden as as one its five Cricketers of the Year while still a schoolboy.  He was selected in 1919 while still at Malvern College.

While the First Class game had been suspended during the First World War, Wisden named no Cricketers of the Year in 1916 or 1917.  In 1918 it named 5 school bowlers of the year, and in 1919 it honoured 5 Public School Players of the Year including Partridge.  Ah that old English class system...................

Partridge played one season with Worcestershire but was with Warwickshire from 1921 to 1937.  In his first class career he scored over 2700 runs and took 393 wickets at medium pace with, by all accounts, a highly suspect action.

The most successful of the cricketers honoured with Partridge was Percy Chapman who went on to play 26 Tests for England, skippering one.  Chapman had played 6 Tests before he played county cricket.

So FB what about the Pear Tree?  FB reckons that the Pear Tree is a reference to Wisden itself - the pale yellow colour of the book being similar to certain varieties of pear.  But that is only conjecture.  One of the other cricketers of 1919 was Lionel Hedges who had a limited cricket career after Oxford and died at the age of 33.  So the original version of the lyric would have gone

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Chapman in a Hedge 

which just doesn't do the trick.  Compromises had to be made and the result is the well known form. obviously nonsense......and little use to oppressed Catholics.  So Partridge in a pear tree it has been and always will be. 

Recycling

Recycling is for Fantasy Bob.  As his world wide readership will have noticed, all the jokes he uses are recycled - frequently many times.

In Fantasy Bob's office where allegations are made that he works, the custom at Christmas is for a Freecycling Santa.  This is a variant on the Secret Santa where presents are bought for colleagues but the giver's identity is withheld.  There is usually much hilarity as these are opened and flimsy underwear and risque dvds are received by the strait-laced and decrepit.

But Freecycle Santa involves the donation of something no longer wanted but which may none the less still be useful to someone.  It too is wholly anonymous but on a lucky dip basis.  This year FB managed to grasp out of the bran tub the greatest hits of Eric Clapton which is good because a starter guitarist like Clapton has much to learn from FB's mastery of the instrument.

But recycling is all the thing - we have made free with the earth's resources for too long.  There are all manner of targets which have led to all manner of rubbish bins in FB's house and an endless agonising over which coloured bin has to be put out on a particular day.  Is it the red bin tomorrow?  He will ask innocently. 'Yes................no............er maybe.......'   It reminds FB of batting with an imaginative partner who sees singles where no other player would.  Generally the call should be, 'Wait until we see what the neighbours all do'.  Sound advice when considering any quick single.

But recycling is the thing.  So FB is going to approach the new cricket season with a new greener vision.  His cricket must be sustainable and  recycling has a central role to play.  Rather than reduce the earth's limited resources further by fashioning new runs in every innings (as if), he therefore intends to make use of the runs he scored last season.

He makes a start with this blog posting.  He presents for recycling a Christmas Wittering he posted last year.  It quite amused him last year - he hopes it does the same for any readers this year.

And with that splendid gesture Fantasy Bob wishes comfort and joy to his world wide readership.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Levis

Fantasy Bob now joins Brian Lara in the 500 club.  Lara scored the world record 501* for Warwickshire against Durham in June 1994.  Lara is the only member of the 500 club since this is the only First Class innings of 500.  This is Fantasy Bob's 500th Wittering.  This is not a world record.

Among its many enduring qualities Lara's world record stands as a continuing subliminal endorsement of Levi Strauss's 501 jeans, the definitive blue jean and a product FB would also willingly have endorsed had he been asked.  He has worn 501s for many years.

Levi work pants (as the Americans would describe them originally) were first made in 1870 when the rivetting of the pockets and other stress points was patented. The original design also had a rivet at the bottom of the fly but this was abandoned, so the story goes, when a company director stood too near a fire and the rivet's heat conducting properties made his eyes water.   The 501s first came on the market in the 1890s and in the 70's and 80's went on to become the world's best selling item of clothing.

An original feature of the jeans is that they are shrink to fit - you are meant to buy them big and they reduce to your slim hip dimensions when they wash.  Early advertisements suggested that you should go into the bath with them on to make sure that they shrunk to your shape.  FB was devoted but he never went that far.  Since the 1980s Levis have been noted for a series of iconic advertisements featuring significant songs eg I heard it Thru the Grapevine, Stand By Me and so on.  But their promotion wasn't always so slick.  FB recalls a radio ad from Radio Luxemburg many years ago in which a vocal challenge is made to the sheriff - 'Come on Earp, will ya go for yer guns'.  'Nope'.  After several repetitions, Earp is asked why he won't go for his guns 'Cos I ain't got my Levis on,'  came the answer and sales rocketed.

Levis have never made cricket equipment of clothing, more's the pity.  But FB remembers turning out for his Oxford College in a pair of white levi jeans when funds were too limited to invest in replacement cricket trousers.  FB in white jeans - now there's an image that you don't want to think too hard about.




Thursday, 22 December 2011

FB's Cricket Year

The media is awash with reviews of the year. Why should Fantasy Bob be any different?  Every year is a vintage year for FB so here are his highlights from the 2011 cricketing year.

January 2011 - starts with FB on the ski slopes but the message coming through from Melbourne that the Ashes have been retained.  FB's Australian ski instructor is well pleased with the news and assures FB that there was no connection between this and his decision to lead FB on a suicidal charge down the blackest of black runs.

February 2011 - the start of the Cricket World cup - England almost blow it against the Netherlands and then tie with India in a pulsating encounter. More importantly indoor nets resume for FB who discovers stiffness in body areas that he was not previously aware of having.

March 2011 - as the World Cup continues, the last flourishes of Murali and Shoab Ahktar are seen.  England are destroyed by Sri Lanka.  Speculation continues about whether this is the end of Ponting's career as his box breaks a TV in the dressing room.  Following Australia's semi final defeat he retires from the captaincy.  FB joins club colleagues in the ritual rolling of the wicket delivering blisters to body areas that he was not previously aware of having.

April 2011 - the World Cup climaxes with India worthy champions and Poonam Pandey's name - if nothing else - is imprinted on cricket fans' minds world wide after her promise to strip off for the Indian team if they win.  FB pursues a lonely vigil in pursuit of Ms Pandey - despite repeated references in his Witterings to her charm and accomplishments, she fails to turn up for any Carlton net practices.  FB finds that his offer to strip off for her does not bring a change in her stay-away attitude.  There is controversy as the ICC exclude associates from the next world cup a decision they are to change later in the year.

May 2011 - a severe lack of rain in Scotland means that the start of the season is unimpeded.  Fantasy Bob proves that miracles can happen - after Wittering in praise of a team mate's success in carrying his bat through the innings, he does the same in the subsequent match. Both matches end in glorious defeat.

June 2011 - England and Sri Lanka play 3 test matches - the highlight of which for FB is Sangakkara's first hundred in England - followed closely by his excellent Cowdrey lecture in which he gives insights into the power of cricket in bringing a civil war torn land together.  FB injures himself and withdraws from action whereupon his team celebrate with an unexpected but handsome win.

July 2011 - FB in his first appearance returns from injury takes a hat trick.  No one notices at the time since it happens across 2 overs.  This feat inspires Scotland to a fine ODI win against Ireland - unfortunately the next day Sri Lanka bring them back down to earth with a reminder of the gap in standards between associate and test playing members of cricket's family.

August 2011 - the continuous rain makes life frustrating for Scotland's cricketers, doughty groundsmen begin to fashion arks out of redundant equipment but after a tight series of end of season encounters, Carlton are crowned Scottish champions. There is disaster for FB as his treasured bat splits during a late season net practice.  How can it ever be replaced?  England wallop India in 4 Tests as India seem not to bother with such concepts as practice and application.  Only Dravid seems committed.  England show excelence in all departments and therefore deservedly top the Test rankings.  In one match that did happen in Scotland FB had to be taken to a place of quiet safety following his team mates' dropping 8 catches off his bowling in one match.  Statisticians have yet to confirm if this is a record.

September 2011- Carlton win the Scottish T20 trophy to prove themselves the dominant force in Scottish cricket.  With the season over it is award time.  To the surprise of absolutely noone, FB misses out on any award although he may have run Jonathan Trott close in the ICC's cricketer of the year award.

October 2011- the nights draw in and the spot fixers go to the Old Bailey.  Meaningless cricket matches abound and the crowds stay away even in India as FB's attention turns to the Rugby World Cup.  Typically Scotland get so near, yet end up as far from the trophy as they ever are. However Scotland's cricketers have a successful tour of Namibia.

November 2011 - the spot fixers are sent to jail.  There are shamefully short test series between S Africa and Australia and Australia in NZ in which a new rule that any fast bowler playing his first test must take a 5-fer is tested.  The ICC pronounce it so successful that they will consider abolishing it.  There are 2 of the closest and most dramatic tests in recent years as Australia's batting weakness begins to worry all observers.

December 2011 - Virender Sehwag scores 219 to set a new ODI record.  Ed Cowan is picked for Australia to boost their batting - this means that when the teams line up for the boxing day test, there will be a former Scotland player on each side since Rahul Dravid also played a season for Scotland.  FB is pretty sure that this is the first time this has ever happened.  Fantasy Bob discovers that following the restructuring of Scottish cricket leagues, his all star Carlton 4th XI is administratively relegated to a lower division.  FB suspects this is a plot to ensure that certain players in certain sides have the chance to feature in FB's world famous match reports.  The East of Scotland Cricket Association have had to decline applications from all corners from sides seeking similar opportunities.  FB finds a replacement bat which will be in his stocking at Christmas.  FB decides not to send Poonam Pandey a Christmas Card.
Pandey - last appearance in FB's blog

The year ends with England preparing to face a resurgent Pakistan in a 3 Test Series in the UAE in January.  Perhaps next year will see the return of international cricket to Pakistan.  And Australia face India as distinct second favourites.

Cricketers who are no longer available for selection include - Graham Dilley, Fred Titmus, Nawab of Pataudi, Trevor Bailey, Terry Jenner and Basil D'Oliviera.  They leave memories and a fine legacy.  Some are illustrated above.

FB's cricketer of the year is Rahul Dravid for his exceptional display of technique and application during the Indian disaster against England - 8 innings, 3 centuries - 461 runs at 76.83.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hacking Inquiry

Satan in Christmas appearance
The Leveson Inquiry into the ethical practices of Britain's journalists has been underway for sometime.  Although the Fake Sheikh, who played a key part in identifying the spot fixers, has had his day in the sun. otherwise cricketers have not featured among the long list of celebrities and others who have told tales of intrusion and harassment.

Fantasy Bob has long been the subject of extreme press harassment, in that the press have totally ignored him.  FB is waiting to be called to appear before the inquiry to describe his mental anguish at such grossly unethical conduct by the tabloid newspapers. 'Mine is bigger than Hugh Grant's,' said FB.

Fantasy Bob therefore joined the world wide celebrations at the evident discomfort shown by former tabloid editor Piers Morgan in front of the inquiry.  Morgan was evasive and uncomfortable when confronted with evidence which might have suggested his earlier denial of ever having listened to hacked telephone conversations was a bit of a lie.

After claiming that he had introduced FB and Mrs FB, and that all their happiness was attributable to him, Morgan refused to discuss whether he had heard a taped conversation between Fantasy Bob and Mrs FB, in which FB agonisingly and movingly pleads with Mrs FB not to ridicule him for getting out for yet another duck.

'I can't discuss where I heard that tape or who made it.' Morgan said repeatedly.  He declined to say whether listening to this tape was unethical.  'Every other tabloid was at it, ignoring Fantasy Bob was standard practice - no one saw anything unethical about it.  Even now, when I hear the name Fantasy Bob, my immediate response is - 'Who?'.'

Morgan also conceded that he had purchased Fantasy Bob's bank statements from a source known as Benji the Binman who had searched FB's rubbish bins for juicy information.  Morgan did not accept that this was unethical.  FB's rubbish was in the public domain. 'FB, whoever he is, had the most boring dustbins in the world and it is a matter of public interest that this is widely known.'

Morgan was sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror in 2004 when he published fake photos of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi.  Under his editorship the cricket coverage was pretty poor too.

FB wishes to make clear that Piers Morgan is no relation to Eion Morgan, England's middle order batsman who has never listened to hacked voicemails while at the crease.

Fantasy Bob is resigned to the press continuing to ignore him - even if he were to score a hundred.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Great Leader

The Great Batsman
advising the umpire
 that his forward defensive push
was worth 5 runs
North Korean cricketers woke to the news that the innings of the Great Batsman Kim Jong-il had come to a close. Fans had come to believe that Kim Jong Il, Korea's dominant batsman, and by decree their only batsman, would stay at the crease forever. His innings started in 1994 and had seen remarkably few scoring shots. There seemed no prospect of any umpire giving an LBW decision or a catch behind to dismiss him.  The secret police ensured that fielders were unlikely to appeal for such dismissals.  However Jong-il's middle stump was finally uprooted on Sunday with no chance of a no ball being called.  Korean cricketers went into ritual mourning in memory of the Great Batsman's stroke play, despite reports that his obsessive occupation of the crease had led to a severe decline in the standard of teas in the country.

Little is known about the next batsman to come to the crease, Kim Jong-un. He has yet to play any First Class match and his bowling action has yet to be confirmed.  There is therefore now great uncertainty in the cricketing world as to whether N Korea will continue with its highly restrictive approach to the game, which has been based a bowling attack relying on nuclear missiles for away fixtures and repressive policing for home games, or whether it will seek new fixtures and improve the quality of wickets and the standard of teas.

Fantasy Bob will watch developments with interest.




Monday, 19 December 2011

The Surreal

With Carlton, the go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club expected to announce the results of its world-wide hunt for a new coach shortly, Fantasy Bob can reveal that one candidate at the top of the short-list dramatically withdrew his application at the weekend.

Salvador Dali -
favourite for Carlton job
Salvador Dali, better known as a surrealist painter than a cricket coach, might seem an unlikely candidate for a coaching position at the club, but the selection committee was determined to investigate as broad a range of possibilities as it could.  Just to plump for the usual bat or bowler with a Level 3 or 4 qualification would have been too easy.  The box needed to be thought outside of.   Something special and something different to allow the club to build on its championship season was what was required.  And the most famous exponent of surrealism might just have been the ticket.

There are cricketers who claim that as an artistic and philosophical movement surrealism has seen better days. The movement that was begun in Paris by Andre Breton in the 1920s and which proved hugely influential, particularly in the visual arts of the mid 20th century, has done nothing for cricket.  These critics also point out that Dali himself died in 1989, a factor which could get in the way of him being able to take a full schedule of net practice sessions at Grange Loan.  He might also have difficulty communicating with the junior members whose command of artistic idiom is not yet advanced.  However, the selection committee, justifiably, considered that such a view was overly conventional.  The surreal has the power to liberate the cricketer from the literal and quotidian, surprising batters and bowlers alike with its dream-like depictions of the raw power of the unconscious.  The committee was confident that the possibility of melting stumps and lobsters masquerading as cricket bats could take the club to to new levels.

Dali's most famous cricket picture
However, at the last stage, Dali controversially withdrew his application.  Fantasy Bob understands that he was outraged by events during the world famous Carlton Christmas Quiz.  The quizmaster, aka the club's popular skipper  Fraggle Watts, posed the question 'Which artist said,  'The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad'?'

Teams presented their answers, whereupon Fraggle pronounced that the answer was Pablo Picasso.

The response was immediate.    Dali spoke to FB from beyond the grave, 'It is outrageous.  I'm missing Strictly Come Dancing final to listen to Carlton quiz and this happens.  This is my most famous quote of all time.  I actually use it in my application form to Carlton.  I meet Fraggle.  I think he is my kind of guy who see a lobster in every telephone.  But then he compare me to Picasso - this is flash outside the off stump too far, this is one grassing dolly catch at cover point too many.  Picasso, pah! With his blue period, his pink period, his minotaurs, his Guernicas.  What kind of cricket is that - where are the melting clockfaces?  No, I no work with Fraggle.  He and me is finito, big time.  I withdraw my lobsters.  Carlton, so called go-ahead club, can look elsewhere for coach.'

Fraggle Watts in surreal garb
And with that the line went dead before FB could advise the incandescent surrealist that FB's own all-star quiz team had correctly identified Dali as the originator of the quote.  This might have appeased Dali, who would soon realise that when FB's Fourth XI take the field they embody the surreal in all senses of the term. FB's team were were on the point of demanding a UDRS of the answer given by Fraggle. It could have been critical to the result.  However when the innings closed, FB discovered his team had won the match ahead of the team from Carlton's deadly rival Grange CC.  Not wishing to embarrass Fraggle any further, but keen, sportingly, immediately to rub the Grange noses in the vinegar of defeat, his team declined the official challenge in favour of accepting without delay the handsome trophy and the adulation of the handfuls of fans in attendance.

FB spoke on behalf of his team, 'This is the greatest moment of our sporting lives.  All the years of intense training have finally paid off.  We're gutted about Dali, but, to be honest, we weren't sure he was right for the club.'

Why would FB have doubts about Dali?  FB's researches had established that the Spaniard's second most famous quote was  'I am going to my room to masturbate before I have a light lunch if you would like to come and watch.'  which, according to FB's sources, he uttered to a selection committee interviewing him for a previous coaching appointment.  FB would be concerned that Dali might take the same attitude to tea during the cricket season - a risk Carlton might not wish to take.

Meanwhile Fraggle commented, 'We got off lightly.  Having FB associated with this club is surreal enough.'


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Security Blanket

Carlton's highly trained security personnel
search for the President's wallet
Fantasy Bob has learned how security chiefs at Carlton the go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club have reacted to plans by the Olympic authorities to protect next year's London Olympics from terrorist attack.

FB understands that the club's risk assessment has identified that the deployment of the entire British Army, Navy and Air Force in combination with NATO, the FBI, the CIA and Jack Bauer to protect the London sites has heightened the risk elsewhere, particularly at Carlton's Carlton's world HQ at Grange Loan.

'With a galaxy of international stars playing under the iconic freedom fighter FB and our pavilion bursting with silverware following our championship season in 2011, it is clear Carlton will be a prominent target.  We must therefore be prepared for every eventuality. We are now on RED ALERT,' the club's security supremo told FB in his special coloured voice.

Planning is at an advanced stage and among the top secret measures are
  • Instructions have been given to Carlton's doughty (but nameless) groundsman to dig tank traps at strategic locations around the boundary.  He is also armour plating the heavy roller and scarifier against rocket attack;
  • Snipers (disguised as long limbed ladies langorously sunbathing in shorts) will be deployed at secret locations on the hill;
  • Following agreement with the local sea scout platoon, naval vessels will patrol the ground ready to intercept any sea or puddle borne threats.   Airfix kits have been issued and are being assembled;
  • Helicopters will monitor all traffic movements and will alert Carlton's executive team of the whereabouts of traffic wardens at all times;
  • A consignment of surface to air missiles has been ordered from e-Bay and will be deployed at strategic locations.  Extra supplies of matches are being stockpiled in case the blue touchpaper gets damp;
  • All biscuits brought for tea will be individually inspected by Fantasy Bob for signs of tampering. Where safety considerations deem it necessary he will consume them on site.
'Just like FB's Fourth XI, we are taking no chances,' the security supremo concluded. 'To cap all this, we have a highly potent and top secret deterrent.  Junior members will approach anyone in Grange Loan asking for a donation to the nets fund.  That has always kept people away in the past.'


Saturday, 17 December 2011

Present Tense

Fantasy Bob's worldwide readership of 3 is revolting. 'Listen FB,' they say to a man - or woman - or whatever, 'You keep rabbiting on about middle names, or the Antarctic or Australian batting collapses but you're not dealing with the real issues. Actually, keep on about the Australian batting collapses, we like them, but all that other tosh you go on about?  Who gives a whatever?  Haven't you noticed that it's getting too close to Christmas for comfort.'

Fantasy Bob has to confess that more than ever this year his characteristically empty mind is uncharacteristically emptier than usual on the Christmas present front.  An ideas free zone.  A vacuum.  A desert.  Beyond anything previously known to science.  So much so that Mrs FB went foraging for herself last week and came back with the news that she had bought her own Christmas present from him and was marginally grateful.  Not as grateful as FB, who is thus spared hours of anxiety in posh jewellery shops whose CCTV systems focus on his shambling frame as soon as it crosses the threshold.  He is usually approached by a polite assistant who smiles welcomingly and offers to help by saying 'Just keep your hands where we can see them, buddy.'  Now that is service.

So FB is relieved of that trauma.  Mrs FB reports that she has sorted his Christmas present out too.  There is no end to the wonders of this woman.  FB expressed the hope that she had noticed that his treasured Gray Nicolls Nitro had fallen apart at the end of the season and trusted that a replacement had been commissioned. After some contemplation FB decided that the snort that followed would most likely indicate a negative.  Mrs FB later opined that if FB wanted one of these cricket bat things he would have to find it for himself.

FB is not normally compulsively competitive but he recognises a challenge when the gauntlet is thrown down and he tracked down the last Nitro Long Handle in the world, for Gray Nicolls has discontinued the line.  FB has yet to discover whether this is related to the impact of FB's endorsement of the bat on sales, or some other factor.



Anyway to return to something like the matter in hand - for those agonising over presents for cricket lovers, here is the top 3 cricket books that FB has read this year.  He recommends them all:


  • Duncan Hamilton - A Last English Summer - an extended essay on how cricket is changing world wide and how this impacts on the game at all levels.
  • Michael Simmers - The Last Flannelled Fool  - similar in intent to Hamilton's essay but, in FB's opinion, not quite so successful.  Simmers is injured for a season and tours various cricket locations and meditates on what it all means.
  • Jonathan Agnew - Thanks Johnners - an account of how Aggers got to where he is and how Johnners inspired him.

FB hopes that helps.



Friday, 16 December 2011

Middle name games

Douglas cricketer
Fantasy Bob was thinking of middle names today. He himself only has one and he has always envied friends who had a whole alphabet of initials to declaim. Two middle names was something, but God Bless the child with 3 middle names. These were people of destiny.

One hundred years ago to the day, MCC, as they then were styled, were led onto the Sydney Cricket Ground by JWHT Douglas in the second day of the first test of the Ashes series. England lost that match by 146 runs but went on to win the series by 4-1. It was probably the efforts of the bowlers, primarily SF Barnes and FR Foster (only one middle name each) who between them took 66 wickets in the series, which was the difference between the sides. England's batting was dominated by Jack Hobbs (one middle name) and Wilfred Rhodes (no middle name) who shared an opening stand of 147 in the third Test at Adelaide. They exceeded this with 323 at Melbourne in the next Test, which remains the record for England's first wicket against Australia. England had depth in their batting - Frank Woolley (only one middle name) came in at 8.

Douglas - boxer
JWHT - Johnny - was actually a stand in skipper - the appointed skipper Plum Warner (one middle name) fell seriously ill at the start of the tour and was not able to play. Johnny was out first ball in the first innings of the first test. Oops.  But he took 4 wickets in the second innings before scoring 32 off 132 balls in the second innings. So obdurate and painstaking was JWHT's batting that the crowd called him Johnny Won't Hit it Today Douglas.  The name stuck. But Douglas was a handy all rounder and he could hit it - his top first class score was 210* for Essex against Derbyshire in 1921 part of a tremendous all round performance - he also took 11-40 in the match.  Johnny Douglas played 23 Tests, 18 of which he skippered, his career was interrupted by the First World War.


He has the unique distinction not only of having skippered England at cricket but also having been Olympic middleweight boxing champion. (Johnny Will Hit You Today).  His family was prominent in the Amateur Boxing establishment and his younger brother became a leading referee in the professional sport in the 1930s.

Johnny Won't Hit it Today puts Fantasy Bob in mind of another sportsman with multiple initials.  For many years in the 1970s the leading amateur golfer in Britain was RDBM Shade - known as Right Down the Bloody Middle Shade, for self evident reasons.
Right Down the Bloody Middle

But these days it is the Sri Lankans who put everyone into the middle name shade.  Several of their current squad have 3 middle names, Herath Herath has 4 (but maybe they don't all count for his christian name and surname are the same) but the all time record is left arm seamer - U W M B C A Welegedara.  Five middle names - a man of destiny.  Fantasy Bob understands there to be no truth in the rumour that the Sri Lankan cricket authorities are offering a prize for the best nick name using his initials. But don't let that stop you trying.

Yes - I've got 5 middle names!







Thursday, 15 December 2011

Power plays

Skipper and vice-skipper
The skipper of Coalition CC has stressed that his side is as strong and united as ever and working hard in the nets. There have been reports of tension between the skipper and his vice captain following the skipper's loss of the toss at the weekend's vital away match.  The vice skipper has suggested this only happened because the skipper is a useless tosser. 'This is a toss we expected to win,' he said, 'and losing it condemns us to long hours in the field when we should be getting runs on the board.  It is not good news for British batsmen or their families.'

The tension is leading to concerns that Coalition CC might not be able to fulfil its fixtures in the European Cricket League.  Some sides have been critical of Coalition CC's approach to the league, citing continual sledging and CCC's unwillingness to support the communal tea fund which has led to critical shortages of chocolate cake at some recent fixtures.

Meanwhile many of the club's more impassioned supporters have been calling for an alternative fixture list to be drawn up.  They have said that recent attempts by the faceless administrators of the European League to develop new rules on power plays and bowling restrictions will ruin British stroke play.  They demand that Coalition CC should ensure that control of power plays and all matters relating to bowling should return to the club in the national interest.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Pole Dancing

Fantasy Bob might have made a fine Heroic Antarctic explorer. After all, he laughs off the risk of frostbite on the cricketing field, which is severe at most points during the Scottish season.  And FB will regularly mount an heroic expedition in even the most extreme conditions to forage for milk at the local shop, an arduous 100 yards from base camp, in the general direction of the North Pole.

But FB was born too late and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration was well and truly over by the time he could tie the laces on his own snow shoes. His destiny was therefore frustrated. Nowadays there is a new age of scientific and high tech exploration and discovery and the Antarctic is on the verge of becoming a tourist destination. The age of exploration is a distant memory.

Amundsen's expedition at the South Pole
FB is reminded of his frustrated destiny by recalling that it was exactly 100 years ago – 14 December 1911 - that Roald Amundsen and his colleagues arrived at the South Pole, the first expedition so to do. About a month after Amundsen, Robert Scott and his expedition arrived to find Amundsen’s campsite, a handwritten message and the Norwegian flag.

Scott's anguish is clear from his diary: 'The worst has happened; All the day dreams must go; Great God! This is an awful place'. The party finally realised that their hopes were shattered. These quotes painfully demonstrate how they were finally forced to conclude that the possibility of cricket facilities being developed in the region were minimal.

Scott's party find no cricket facility at the S Pole
Disappointed beyond imagination, they started to retrace their steps. Amundsen’s expedition made their way safely back to their base – eating a few of their dogs on the journey. Scott’s return was not so happy. Their cricket equipment lay unused in their sledges as their other supplies dwindled. Exceptionally severe weather, injuries and illness hampered their progress. Scott’s fateful journey has been retold and re-imagined many times. Everyone knows how Captain Oates, knowing that his worsening infirmity was holding them back and reducing the chances of survival, left the tent saying ‘I am just going outside and may be some time’. Upper lips were never so stiff. After another 3 days, Scott and his colleagues perished, one by one, in their tent as their supplies ran out. Scott’s letters and diary entries of his final hours remain poignant reading.

Scott was originally celebrated as an iconic British hero, but his reputation suffered after the second world war when more critical assessments of the expedition identified poor planning and uncertain leadership. Revisions of this revisionist view are now less damning of Scott and some challenging external factors such as the weather have been identified. But, all in all, there still lingers something essentially British in the response to the heroic failure; to the apparent dignity of how these men met their fate; and to the fact that their bodies remain where they were found 10 months later. The bodies are now buried under many feet of snow and ice but, in a final irony, are moving steadily along the route that they were travelling as the geology changes – making the journey in death that could not be made in life.

Scott was not a cricketer, nor were any of his final companions. Would they have fared better had they been?  JM Barrie the author of Peter Pan and other works, who had his own celebrity cricket team in the Edwardian period was a close friend of Scott’s and was the god father to his son Peter, later a TV naturalist and wildlife painter. So Scott will have had memories of gentle summer afternoons of cricket and tea to warm him as he lay in his final hours in the unremitting cold.

Some hardy souls are re-enacting the race between Scott and Amundsen. Their progress can be read on this link. So far it looks like Amundsen is in the lead again.  And they are still unlikely to find cricket facilities in the region.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Alas Australia

Warner -
 jumping out of the way of victory
Australian cricket bosses were cock-a-hoop yesterday after the team's triumphant turn around in the second Test Match against New Zealand.  At 159 for 2 chasing 240 to win, things looked pretty ominous and they were in sight of the finish line.  But commentators had nothing but praise for the exceptional lack of character shown by the side to lose the next 8 wickets for 74 runs.  And when they got to 192 for 5 a special effort had to be made.  Skipper Michael Clarke commented exclusively to Fantasy Bob, 'I'm delighted the way the boys dug in not to dig in.  I was proud to show them the way by getting out for 0, one of the better 0s in my career.  This is the kind of morale sapping experience we need to set us up for our next batting collapse against India on Boxing Day.'

One of the mysteries of this match was how opener David Warner carried his bat.   Clarke commented, 'Strewth.  He's there to blast quick runs and he gives us all this sitting-on-the splice stuff.  123 off 170 balls - what's he thinking?  He's playing Test cricket or something?  He needs to look at Phil Hughes for an example of how Aussie openers should play.'  However with Australia's extensive injury list it is likely that Warner will get the chance to get out for single figures in the match against India.

Little Mix - could sharpen the attack
Warner was identified as man of the match for his 123*.  This was awarded following a viewer phone in.  Rumours are that many of those voting were in fact trying to reach the X Factor lines to vote for  Little Mix.   This versatile pace quartet may well get the call up for the next match to stiffen the middle order.

Doug Bracewell - walking in the air
Warner aside, there were few positives for Australia in this match.  As brittle as they ever have been in the batting order, they can only look at the bowling of Pattinson and Siddle for any kind of hope.  And with the batting order of India next up, they are going to need every drop of inspiration as well as the pacemen's perspiration.

But this was a pitch that could have been created for the NZ seamers - and good for them bowling to the conditions.   Doug Bracewell in particular whose 6-40 in the second innings was just what the skipper and coach asked for.  NZ coach John Wright was part of the side that last tasted victory in Australia in 1985 - a series dominated by Richard Hadlee.  If Bracewell can achieve one tenth of what Hadlee did, happy days could be about to return for the Black Caps who have not been  hugely convincing recently.   Good luck to him.

With Australian morale on the floor Jonny Wilkinson felt it was the right time to announce his retirement from watching  international cricket.  2 gripping ends to the 2 controversial 2 match series have been too much for England's leading points scorer. In a statement to Fantasy Bob, Jonny said he expected Little Mix to be a strong contender for the number 10 shirt in the coming 6 Nations.  For the avoidance of doubt, FB wishes a true great well even though he wishes he hadn't scored quite so many points against Scotland.



Monday, 12 December 2011

Matisse

There is little doubt that Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, was one of the greatest painters of the 20th Century. He is particularly known for his use of bright colour and his fluid and his expressive and original draughtsmanship.

Fantasy Bob would like to make clear that Matisse is an artist that  greatly admires. He trusts Matisse returns his respect for FB.  However admirer though he may be, FB has to acknowledge that Matisse's attempts at cricket painting were frankly disappointing - indeed they might be more accurately described as rubbish.

This is Matisse's Bowlers - which dates from 1908 and which, as far as FB can see, does not look like any bowling he has seen, even allowing for some artistic licence.  It may be that the chap on the left has been giving the ball a good polish but that's about all that seems likely.  No wonder then that this work is hidden away in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, where viewers are unlikely to be dominated by cricketers.  Even FB could do better.


Even worse is La Danse, which Matisse painted in 1909. Do not be fooled by the subterfuge of the title.  
FB understands that the artist tried here to depict the fielders in the ring during the bowling powerplay - obviously a very difficult subject since the powerplay was not invented for another 90 years.  This painting is in the National Gallery in London where many cricketers might see it.  To avert public disturbance, the authorities agreed to change the title from the original - Opening Over: Middlesex v Surrey.  Matisse knew he failed because he tried to repaint it a year after. If anything the second version was even less like the real thing, and like his earlier Bowlers has had to be hidden in the Hermitage.

Wisely after these hopeless efforts, Matisse gave up hope of becoming the great cricket painter that he had previously believed to be his destiny in favour of colourful and increasingly abstract work. In doing so he created many of the lasting images of the 20th Century.

Matisse's Snail - 1953

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Moscow Protests

Ponting - out - out - out
Thousands of cricketers have attended the biggest rally in Moscow since the fall of the Soviet United Cricket League.  As many as 50,000 supporters gathered to protest at former skipper Vladimir Ponting for giving up his wicket so weakly in the second Test against New Zealand.

Ponting
Voices in the crowd told of their rage when Ponting shaped to leave a ball from Tim Southee only to find it holding its line.  Despite an inelegant swish the great leader was unable to prevent the ball crashing into his pad in front  of middle stump.  He was on his way to the pavilion before the finger went up.  Older protestors say they had not seen anything so shameful since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Putin
'Ponting out, out, out,' chanted the crowd - leaving observers undecided whether this was a call for the great leader to be dropped or an indisputable statement of fact that he was LBW.

Meanwhile there have been reciprocal protests by voters in Australia at the allegations that Ricky Putin's United Russia party perpetrated widespread fraud during Sunday's polls.  Putin is firm that the UDRS will not come into play in this series.

New Zealand start the 3rd day of the Test in a strong position 153 ahead with 7 wickets standing.  There were no protests in Christchurch.