Tuesday, 26 June 2012


'Ashley, tell me you love me.......'
'Oh, Ashley', said Scarlett O'hara with a passionate sigh several times during the epic movie Gone With the Wind. For she pined for her Ashley with all her heart.  But it was not to be.

'Oh Ashley,' sighed millions of English football fans on Sunday.  Not once but twice.  With passion.  They pined for success with all their heart.  But it was not to be.  Scarlett O'hara did not know Ashley Cole, far less Ashley Young, but she too might well have sighed even more forlornly as these two Ashleys missed their penalties to leave England the losers in their Euro quarter final on Sunday night.  Gone With the Wind.  Now Fantasy Bob is not one of those small minded Scottish people who don an Anyone But England tee-shirt for major tournaments, so he feels the disappointment of his neighbours.  In consolation, he reminds them that in the years when Scotland used to qualify for these events, they developed a tradition of going home early despite never having been beaten.  FB is pleased to see that this exemplary mode of behaviour is now being imitated by his southern neighbours.

Two Ashleys too many?
But FB is left with the question as to whether it was it not unduly risky to select a team with two Ashleys in it.  For Ashley is far from a common name. Fantasy Bob is fairly sure that he has never met anyone called Ashley, boy or girl. And that is one of the things about the name. Ashley may well have started out as a boy’s name, hence the object of Scarlett Ohara's passion, but it is now significantly more popular as a girl’s name.   It reached its height of popularity in the 1990s. It is less popular now and probably no male child will ever be called Ashley again following the failures of Messrs Cole and Young.

So if Ashley's is not a good name for a footballer, what of cricket's Ashleys.  FB can think of two Ashleys who have played Test cricket in relatively recent years.

Mallett - still a high action
Ashley Mallett was an off spinner who played 38 tests for Australia between 1968 and 1980.  He was regarded for a time as the top spinner in world cricket.  His high action gave him lots of bounce and got him 132 wickets at 29.84.  His best figures were 8 for 59 against Pakistan at Adelaide in December 1972 to give Australia an innings victory.  This match was reported to have been bad tempered with the Pakistan management complaining afterwards about the home umpires  It is also in the record books for the first century scored by an Australian wicket keeper - Rod Marsh scored 118 including 4 sixes - shades of things to come for Australian keepers.  Mallett continues to write about cricket and has been spin bowling consultant to various teams, most recently Sri Lanka.

The other Ashley is also a spinner - England's left armer Ashley Giles.  Giles was always a committed performer but had to fight the critics throughout his 54 Test career many of whom were far from convinced that he was a Test quality spinner.

the King of Spain
But Giles had the last laugh being an essential component of the 2005 Ashes winning side to which me made a significant contribution both with the ball and with the bat contributing valuable lower order runs on more than one occasion, and he achieved folk hero status when he hit the winning runs off Shane Warne for England to win the Nottingham Test.  His 5 wickets at Edgebaston were also critically important to the overall team effort.  Giles could rip it as both Inzaman and Lara in particular found out to their cost, but his overall figures do not confirm the consistency that wuld give a place in the spinners hall of fame.  In his 54 tests he took 143 wickets at 40.60.  Giles  also nicknamed the King of Spain following a misprint on a souvenir mug he commissioned a mistake which added to his popularity with England supporters.

But what of Scarlett O'hara? How she pined for Ashley, but he was destined for another. How Scarlett comes to recognise his loyalty and honesty is one of the main devised to show how she grows through the course of the story. Ashley Wilkes was played by the fine English actor Leslie Howard. A cricketer? The character in the movie has all the characteristics of loyalty and firmness that would make you think that he must be a cricketer, and a set of cigarette cards of Hollywood greats issued in 1935 describe him as 'a tall Adonis a strong swimmer a keen cricketer and a polo player'. Perhaps this is PR puff for although he was a member of the celebrated Hollywood Cricket Club, he says he joined it for social reasons due to 'his dislikin' of cricket.' What a disappointment. Perhaps Scarlett got off lightly. Oh Ashley indeed.

Lesley Howard - title from Gone with the Wind


  1. FB did not mention that Ashley Mallett was one of the many overseas players who played in Scotland, at least for a short time. He was professional at Ayr for a season or two in the sixties or early seventies.

  2. Perhaps FB was keeping that gem for later - after all, tomorrow is another day......