Saturday, 4 February 2012

Self Destruction

The skippers agree to go for the record
As England's batsmen are continually finding out in the UAE, self-destruction can take many forms.  There is the tentative, the assertive, the regretful, the unjust, the unexpected and even the determinedly suicidal.  England's top six have tried them all.  Yesterday, they managed to get their opposite numbers to imitate them. With a fair wind the Third Test could be over this afternoon.

Fantasy Bob suspects that both teams conspiring to beat the record for the most wickets to fall in a day.  If so, they failed lamentably.  Their 203 for 16 is nowhere near the 157 for 27 that England and Australia achieved in 1888.  But this record has been under pressure recently and it is understandable that England and Pakistan might wish to have a go at it. South African and Australia had a good go at that record at Cape Town in November last year when 23 wickets fell for 294 runs.  And New Zealand and Zimbabwe also had a creditable attempt last month when 22 wickets fell for 297.  But yesterday's score at 12.75 per wicket shades it against the Cape Town score per wicket of 12.78, so yesterday's players can feel proud.

Nor does it look likely that the record for the lowest match aggregate of runs is in danger - that was set by Australia and S Africa at Melbourne in 1932 when a total of 234 runs  in 3 innings gave Australia a 72 run victory.  The match took 109.2 overs to complete - ironically it was advertised as a timeless test.

It would take several exceptional acts of self-destruction for the latter record to be beaten.  However 4 February 2012 sees the centenary of one of the more splendid acts of self-destruction.

Reichelt modelling his parachute suit
Franz Reichelt was an Austrian-born French tailor, inventor and parachuting pioneer, who become fixated on developing a suit that would convert easily into a parachute and allow airmen to survive should they have to leave their aircraft. Initial experiments conducted with dummies dropped from the fifth floor of his apartment building had been successful, but he was unable to replicate those early successes with any of his subsequent designs. He thought he need a higher platform and requested permission to use the Eiffel Tower.   He was eventually granted permission in early 1912 to test from the Eiffel Tower. The authorities may have thought he was going to use dummies but when he, and an army of spectators, arrived at the tower he made it clear that he intended to jump himself. His friends and spectators tried unsuccessfully to dissuade him.  After modelling his suit on the gorund, he climbed to the first platform of the tower, got into position and, with a flourish, danced down the wicket and launched himself into thin air. The parachute failed to deploy and he crashed into the icy ground at the foot of the tower killing him instantly. The event was caught on many cameras and in a newsreel film. 

Despite making his supreme sacrifice, Reichelt is not regarded as an important figure in the development of parachuting.  Only for his untimely end.  Posterity is endlessly cruel.  How will it recall the players in the present match?  How much more self-destruction will there be?

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