Saturday, 31 March 2012

600*

Unless the scorers have missed some signals from the umpires, this is Fantasy Bob's 600th posting.

There are no special prizes, for 600 has no special properties as a number.  Mathematicians say that it is an apologetic number.  Teams that score 600 tend not to lose matches.  No batsman has scored 600 in an innings in First Class cricket.  Only 3 bowlers have more than 600 wickets in Tests - Murali (800), Warne (708) and Kumble (619).  There doesn't seem too much there to apologise about.

Would give
anything for an empire biscuit
600 is also said to be the number of calories that Angelina Jolie eats in a day.  She says she is often so busy she forgets to eat.  FB is the same - he eats to forget that he should be busy.  But Angelina doesn't have to write trivial blog postings and may never have encountered an empire biscuit.  An empire biscuit could change her life forever.

FB has of course left the country temporarily, just in case his angry readership beat a path to his door in a concerted effort to get him to stop these postings.   From a distance he can indulge himself by offering a selection of his favourite postings in each of his previous centuries.

1-100 - how FB came to cricket
101-200 - Raymond Chandler's undiscovered cricket thriller
201-300 - On the moral philosophy of walking or not walking
301-400 - weather can play havoc with cricket fixtures, FB has some weather advice
401-500 - all about the Scottish cricketer's Halloween
501-600 - something new from Lewis Carroll

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Carlton Tango

Toby Bailey 
Fantasy Bob leads the welcome for Toby Bailey who takes up position as Head Coach to Edinburgh's go ahead cricket club Carlton for the new season.

Toby has come from Northamptonshire via his more recent assignment coaching the Argentina national squad in their quest to rise up the World Cricket hierarchy.  FB does not know whether it was made clear to Toby that one of the challenges of the Head Coach position at Grange Loan is having to address the tragedy that is Fantasy Bob's batting.  This will be a stern test.

Carlton net practice 2012 style
Argentina is of course the home of the tango and FB is confident that Toby will have absorbed all there is to know about the form. Might the tango be the secret key to meeting FB's batting limitations?  Will the nifty footwork of the sensual dance cure his tendency to play around his front pad? For the tango might be in his blood.  FB recalls attending a superb concert a number of years ago in which the Scottish Ensemble played Vivaldi's Four Seasons alongside Piazzolla's Four Seasons.  Astor Piazzolla is the great tango composer - and fine though Vivaldi's effort is, to FB's ears it was blown away by the tangos.   Try this version of Spring.

FB looks forward to working with Toby and awaits instructions as to whether he should bring a rose to hold between his teeth while at the crease.  The new season is full of hope.

Astor Piazzolla


Thursday, 29 March 2012

Spain

Madrid at night
Fantasy Bob and Mrs FB are off to Madrid for a week and a bit, supporting son and heir in his efforts with the Scotland Under 18 Rugby team.  Tapas for tea.

FB will therefore miss the end of the Galle Test and the second test in the series - although FB doesn't really think that 2 Tests should count as a series - 2 is a pair.  He is sorry that his worldwide readership will be without his inexpert guidance through these matches.

But will there be an opportunity to catch up with any local cricket in Madrid?  Cricket was played for the first time in Spain in 1809 - the Duke of Wellington's touring team played a few matches when not doing that thin red line thing against Napoleon's troops.  But then there was a bit of a lull.  The first Madrid CC was formed in 1975 and seems to have struggled but it was reformed in 2002.  Barcelona CC was formed in 1982.

Spain became an affiliate member of the ICC in 1992 and made their international debut in the ECC trophy in 2001.  In 2011 they finished 5th in the Europe Division 2 tournament played in Belgium.

There are active national and local leagues and clubs from the UK fix up tours to various venues notably Mallorca and the Costa del Sol.  The La Manga resort has cricket facilities and England bowler James Anderson took up the role of ambassador for them last year.

There is a splendidly named club - Intellectuals CC based in Alicante.  FB thought he might offer his services as overseas player.  But its website says that its name does not reflect anything about the players or the quality of their after match banter, but derives from the fact that the club was formed, in 1997, by employees of the European Agency handling Intellectual Property Rights which is based in the City.  But it's still a great name.

While FB is away he has loaded some balls into the bowling machine - many reflecting the spring theme.  Hasta la vista.





Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Temptation

Odysseus and the Sirens
 - contemporary photo
Every cricketer knows that it was Oscar Wilde who said 'I can resist anything but temptation', as he airily wafted at another half volley wide of off stump and dollied it straight to extra cover.

Every cricketer also knows of how Homer tells of Odysseus passing the rocky islands where the Sirens sang their beautiful songs enticing sailors to their doom. Odysseus was curious to hear the beautiful music in live concert - he couldn't find it to download onto his i-Pod. So he had all his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and lash him to the mast. He ordered his men to leave him tied tightly to the mast, no matter how much he begged. When he heard their beautiful song, he ordered the sailors to untie him but they bound him tighter.  Good lads.

Fantasy Bob was in the sports shop the other day purchasing a couple of minor items.  As any cricketer would he strolled into the section where the cricket gear is displayed.  Not that he needed anything......in particular...................

There hung the new bats gleaming white and clean.  And from within their ranks, FB heard that siren voice - the most beautiful song ever sung.  For there was the new GN100, the Gray Nicolls Scoop Long Handle singing its seductive song.

Hear the music
This looked much like the GN100 that served FB so well for many years.  It looked good with none of those flashy go faster stripes that deface bats these days.  He picked it up.  It seemed significantly thicker, as is the way with bats these days.  But in other respects it was perfect, and it felt good in FB's hands, reminding him of runs scored in distant sunshine when the world was a simpler place - until after many years faithful service it split in mid cover drive.  FB's life has never quite been the same.  The singing became more intense and more beautiful...............

And then FB's sailors came and tied him firmly to the mast - or rather the beguiling vision of Mrs FB came to him and reminded him that he had already acquired a new bat for this season at enormous expense and if thinks he needs anymore cricket stuff cluttering the place up.................

But it was a close thing.






Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Cash for Access

Senior figures at go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have moved quickly to respond to newspaper stories over the weekend that potential backers of the club were being offered privileged access to senior club personnel on payment of large sums of money.

Secretly filmed footage
of privileged access to
FB being offered
Reporters masquerading as overseas investors recorded a discussion in which they were offered 'premier league' access to Fantasy Bob for £250,000.  Opponents have called for a full public inquiry.

A spokesperson for the club said,

'We are fully investigating these serious allegations.  If they are proved correct, Fantasy Bob would seem to have upped his fee - usually you can offer him an empire biscuit and you can't get rid of him all night.'

The club also responded to requests that a full list of those who had been granted access should be published.  When challenged that they had simply issued a blank sheet of paper, the club confirmed that this was an accurate record.

 'There's no one on the list.  In fact it's more likely that we'd have to pay people to spend an evening with FB.'

A statement on whether a cash donation could secure an opportunity to share the sandwiches of Carlton's Doughty, but unnamed, Groundsman is also under investigation.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Heat Is On - Sri Lanka v England

England set off in their quest rediscover the Test form that brought them to the top spot in the rankings last year.  It may only be the New Zealand weather that has ensured that they have held on to that ranking - the rain frustrated South Africa's attempts to whitewash New Zealand, a feat they looked well capable of in the spaces between the rain storms.

Feeling the heat
England, meanwhile, come out of a disappointing Test series against Pakistan, where they were undone by spin and more spin, into an environment that will give them a lot more of that nasty medicine.  After the last Test at Galle, Sri Lanka against Australia at the start of September, the pitch was reported to the ICC.  The report criticised the amount of turn, especially early in the match, which it said was excessive.  So, England watch out.

What are England's chances? England's batting may have recovered a bit from their UAE ordeal - Strauss and Cook were strong in the warm up games,  KP was majestic in the one dayers and Trott is still Trott.  But Ian Bell remains a big worry and still seemed below par in the warm ups.  There is still a doubt about Bopara and the selectors may fancy giving Patel a run.  The heat should allow him to shed a few more pounds.  There is no worry about the bowling - and with Patel they would go in with a 3 spin option as both Swann and Panesar will play.  Monty has grabbed back the top spinner spot and may well be the dominant force in the Sri Lankan conditions.

Sri Lanka continue to rely on senior batsmen and face challenges in replacing Murali and Malinga.  Mathews is also now out.  They were shaky in England last summer and unconvincing in South Africa recently.  But their senior players can make things tough for any opposition.  If England can master the turn they have a good chance of winning - something that has eluded them in Sri Lanka since 2000-01.

Outside the cricket the main issue seems to be the heat.  It was reported that over 400 bottles of water a day were being consumed by the team during the practice matches.

Sweltering home and a song in the air...
Heat is one thing - but humidity is another beast altogether.  The East of Scotland cannot be described as an overly humid environment - for which FB is hugely thankful.  FB's greatest exposure to humidity was a few years ago when he had to visit Washington DC in July. Temperature was in the 90s; so was the humidity.  The slightest muscular effort, such as blinking am eye, was enough to drown FB in sweat. But mad dogs and Scottish people go out in the midday sun, and the effort has to be made...........but the nature of FB's business there meant he had to wear the kilt all day.   These were conditions not taken into account by the originators of the kilt more accustomed to rain and wind topped off with wind and rain.  The gentle stir of air off the Potomac was a relief to FB's bare knees but his lower torso was tightly wrapped for 12 hours in several layers of heavy woollen cloth.  Furnace conditions.  As for his feet held in thick woollen socks..................England's fielders get off lightly.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

World T20 - reflections

Fancy stuff to get to 5th place v Canada
If Fantasy Bob were a betting man, he might have put 50p on Ireland and Afghanistan as the most likely victors from the T20 qualifying competition.  FB doesn't wish to be disloyal to Scotland.  He would have put £1on them.

He was hopeful for Scotland - they had their moments but had to contend with some typical Scottish misfortune in injuries to key players. For Scotland to progress everything had to be right all the time and everyone had to fire on all cylinders.  That's a big ask.  Once Scotland had been beaten by Namibia - rather surprisingly in FB's view - they struggled to regain momentum.  Namibia had a purple patch, playing above themselves to beat Scotland and Ireland on successive days.  But that run came well and truly to an end  in their second meeting with Ireland.

All in all, going into the competition, the two victorious sides seemed the strongest sides and FB hopes they cause some havoc among the big boys later this year in Sri Lanka.

Scotland scored well - they were the second top run getters in the competition but found it more difficult to keep their opponents from scoring.  They were also the second most expensive bowling attack.  By contrast Afghanistan and Ireland's bowling pegged teams back - there is no more effective way of slowing the scoring than taking wickets and this is what these attacks managed to do.  Can Scotland find the next level? Was it the challenge of dry flat wickets which bear no resemblance to the surfaces that Scottish bowlers grew up on?

Scotland is a side in development - particularly compared to the Irish who depend on senior players.  There was strong progress by some players - none more so than Calum MacLeod.  So the future looks bright.

What FB is looking forward to now is a convincing set of results against county opposition in the CB40 and giving England a real fright in the match in August.

Eyes down for a full on season.  Come on Scotland.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Looking for Clues

Fantasy Bob stimulates his few remaining brain cells through a mild addiction to crossword puzzles. This is a sadly abused activity – already he senses his worldwide audience conjuring up a mental picture of a cardigan with leather patches, slippers and a well sucked pencil. But FB assures his readers that crosswords are a young person’s sport. Indeed the sport will become the epitome of chic once following the imminent launch of a new range of crossword performance gear specially designed by Stella McCartney.

FB mentions this because earlier this week the Guardian crossword intersected with FB’s other preoccupation. Here are the clues. FB hopes is sure the intellectually powerful cohort that is his worldwide readership will work them out easily – even though he accepts it is more difficult without the grid and the other clues which give some letters.  The answers link to the first answer - get that and you're laughing.   Enjoy.

10;24 Athletics camp set out in sports programme (4,5;7)

He’s spoken on 10 24 in vehicle, stifling an expression of disgust (7)

One on 10 24 sends lad to bed before time (7)

England’s former 10 participant reportedly in a tangle (4)

Character that may show the score in 10 (4)

Leaders may be called ahead of the 10 (5) 

Man on 10 24 given Kent inn’s jar, I’m drunk (6,7)

Revolutionary said to be stalwart of 10 24 (5)

Party with old 10 participant tucking into what they eat on 10 24? (8)

After embrace the man’s someone speaking on 10 24 (6)

Name given to fellow who’s heard on 10 24 (4)

Composer not right first to last as contributor to 10 24 (5)

One of four in 10 to provide surety (4)

(FB will post the answers as a comment in a day or two). 

Friday, 23 March 2012

A consolation

Scottish cricket fans seeking consolation for the disappointing exit of the Scottish team from the business end of the T20 qualifying competition need look no further than BBC's Radio 3.

For starting today the channel is committing itself to playing every note of music composed by Franz Schubert.  If ever there was a composer whose music speaks consolation to the most depressed, it is Schubert.  Fantasy Bob has no idea why the BBC are embarking on this mission at this time - this year is no particular anniversary of Schubert's, and this week marks neither his birthday nor his death.  Perhaps those BBC planners foresaw Scotland's demise and thought they should have the balm ready.

Schubert's grave in Vienna -
permanently in flower and much visited
Schubert died in 1828 at the tragically young age of 31, either from typhus or from syphilis or from mercury poisoning associated with syphilis.  Poor chap. He knew he was on the way out for his final 2 years - but in this period he produced a range of music that is truly prodigious and astounding. Melodic, charming, soulful, life-affirming in every way, although containing that certain knowledge of his own mortality in every note.

Much of this great work was not played or discovered until many years after his death. While his work does not deal with cricket directly, it is clear from his music that Schubert would have had cricket in his soul - but for the fact that no English touring team had taken the game to early 19th Century Vienna.

Schubert left so much great music that FB finds it difficult to select the First XI but here are his suggestions.  Not in batting order.
Piano Sonata B flat D960
Impromptu G flat D933 no 3
Song Cycle -Winterreise D911
Octet D803
String Quintet D956
Symphony 9 D944
Song - An die Musik D547
Part song for male voices - Der Gondelfahrer D809
Piano Trio 2 E flat D929
String Quartet 14 (Death and the Maiden) D810
Symphony 8 (Unfinished) D759
Test match quality each and every one - and consolation and balm for sad Scottish supporters.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Hot Streaks

Falkirk man
leaves pants
in dangerous place
The years rolled by for Fantasy Bob earlier this week as he read of the Ross County v Falkirk football match last weekend.  When Ross County opened the scoring, a streaker came on to the pitch chased by the usual assortment of unfit roly-poly stewards in da-glo jackets.  In many sporting events the catching of the streaker can be more entertaining and exciting than the interrupted match itself.  This incident was certainly one of the more entertaining, for the streaker had not fully disrobed and his underpants were still round his knees.  After a short sprint, they slipped and brought him crashing to the ground.  More coaching required on streaking technique.

At one time streakers were an essential part of a Test Match. None is more famous than the dash of Michael Angelow at Lords in 1975 during the Ashes Test.  Angelow with due modesty kept his socks and shoes on for his adventure and was properly respectful of cricket - he said later that he waited until the end of Lillee's over because he loved the game and didn't want to disrupt it. The magistrate looked upon the incident lightly and fined him only £10 - the exact amount bet against him by his mates. His friends stood in the courtroom and applauded before cheerfully paying his fine.  The Falkirk streaker copped a fine of £500.  No one applauded.

The most celebrated streak in cricket
Angelow gets on
the honours board at Lords
In those halcyon days the cameras would stay on the event and the commentators would enjoy a few innuendos as well as tut-tutting at the interruption to play.  It all seemed quite benign. But this innocence quickly was lost.  Some streaks were done for a bet among the lads - or lasses - after drink had been taken.  Some were charitable ventures.  But there was a trend where some of the more comely streakers were commercial ventures with advertising slogans in indiscreet places.  And the worm turned. Old Trafford was threatened with losing its Test status because of repeated interruptions by streakers during the Test against the W Indies in 2000. Then some po faced high heedjin at the BBC decreed that streakers were not to be given the oxygen of publicity.  They are no longer shown on screen. But any viewer knows that when the pictures on screen become totally random and the commentators speak even more gibberish than usual, there is bare flesh on the ground.

Victory to Symonds
by a short arm
Streaking may therefore be dying out at cricket, and Fantasy Bob can confirm that his All Stars Carlton Fourth XI's efforts have ever been interrupted by such an event.  A match was interrupted by a platoon of naked cyclists protesting against something or other.  But that is another thing.

In Australia of course they have a different attitude.  Greg Chappell had a few run ins with streakers using his bat to good effect against bare buttocks.  But the prize for the direct approach goes to Andrew Symonds who felled a streaker at an ODI against India in 2008, and was immediately recruited by the Australian rugby team.  So Australian streakers know the risks.  With such as Chappell and Symonds to dodge it is unlikely that they would leave their underpants in such a position as to trip them up.  As in other areas, Scottish sport has so much to learn.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Skin of Scottish Teeth

Scotland maintain their interest in the ICC T20 qualifying competition by the narrowest of margins and the grateful nation breathes again.  They proceed to the knock out stages and a match against Netherlands on Thursday.

Scottish training session
Fantasy Bob understands that the Scotland squad will spend the rest day visiting the dentist for some restorative work on the skin of their collective teeth.  For that skin was put under some strain yesterday.  Scotland lost to the USA by the skin of their teeth with one ball remaining.  But because their overall run rate was above that of nearest rivals Kenya, they go through.  The margin was 0.007 - which can now be considered the measure of the skin of teeth.

Satan smiting Job with sore boils
William Blake
The skin of teeth are first found in the Geneva Bible of 1560 -  in the book of Job at Chapter 19 verse 20 to be precise. God's praise of Job prompts Satan to challenge Job's integrity by suggesting that Job serves God simply because He protects him. God removes Job's protection, allowing Satan to tempt Job to curse God by taking his wealth, his children, his physical health and subjecting him to a series of LBW decisions when he got inside edges on them all.  Despite all this Job does not curse God. And although he protests his plight and pleads for an explanation, he stops short of accusing God of injustice. It is part of a conversation with his friends in which he tries to understand why he is so set upon that he utters, 'My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.' This seems to be a direct translation from the Hebrew - although other translations use 'by' instead of 'with'.  Hebrews may well have had skinny teeth, no one knows and although no one really knew what this phrase meant, it entered the English language as a powerful idiom.  

Scotland often seems a nation of Jobs unjustly tormented, but so far it is not a nation admired for any aspect of its dental health - the national fondness for biscuits and sweets have seen to that.  No more.  Proud Scots now have skinny teeth.  The skin of Scottish teeth served us proud yesterday, and there is every possibility that it will be needed again as Scotland continue in this competition.  That dentist has vital work to do.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Equinox

Today is the Spring Equinox, or the Vernal Equinox - or to avoid any suggestion of Northern Hemisphere bias on the part of Fantasy Bob, the March Equinox. It is one of 2 times a year when day and night are just about of equal length. It is when the sun crosses the equator and the sun will rise exactly in the east and set exactly in the west. At sunrise on the vernal equinox, the sphinx points directly to the rising sun and many ancient monuments, not including FB, are aligned.

For many people the equinox traditionally marks the first day of spring. This year is the earliest that the March equinox has been since 1896 and Doughty Groundsmen the world over are remarking on the earliness of the season. But it gets better for Doughty Groundsmen. This year the official astronomical lengths of the seasons are
Winter: 88.994 days
Spring: 92.758 days
Summer: 93.651 days
Autumn: 89.842
The equinox at Stonehenge
Summer is the longest season. The path of the earth's orbit means that spring is currently being reduced by approximately one minute per year and winter by about half a minute per year. Summer is gaining the minute lost from spring, and autumn is gaining the half-minute lost from winter. FB is still trying to establish whether any of this applies in Scotland where the very concept of summer sometimes takes considerable imagination on the part of cricketers, to whom it seems that Scotland may well be in an astronomically separate part of the universe.

The spring equinox is associated with many pagan festivities.  In times gone by there would have been blood sacrifices which nowadays are only associated with Old Firm football matches in Glasgow.  But the equinox  is still marked as the New Year Festival - Nowruz - in a number of countries including Iran.

Some people enjoy egg balancing
There are other more quaint traditions based on the supposition that the particular alignment of the planets on the equinox affects balance. So it is reckoned that a raw egg will balance on its end or brooms will stand upright for themselves. This is important stuff.  It could be vital to the cricketer.  Balance and FB at the crease are ships that have passed in the night without acknowledging each other.  What if FB could go to the wicket when the equinoctial forces are around?  Would he not be transformed into a Dravid, an Amla, a Clarke?  How much would he resemble a raw egg on its end?  Why has the fixture secretary not arranged a fixture to test this phenomenon?  Like so much else FB must explore the concept only in his dreams.

Will the earliest equinox since 1896 herald a good cricketing summer?  In 1896 Australia toured England playing an astonishing 34 First Class matches including 3 Tests.  And modern players complain of too much cricket..............  England won the Ashes despite going into the decider at the Oval without their best bowlers following their strike action - for the full story see FB's previous post here.  Ranjitsinhji was the leading batsman of the season and made 154 on his Test debut.  He was a real egg balancer.

FB wishes his world wide readership successful egg balancing.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Paddington

Fantasy Bob reads with some interest that the winner of a poll of some sort to identify the best loved animated animal is Paddington Bear.

Paddington the cricketer
Fantasy Bob assumes that this is because of Paddington's renown as a cricketer of some skill. In Paddington Marches On, a chapter tells how Paddington visits his friend Jonathan's school, and is invited to take part in a cricket match. Paddington confuses the other players by using his bat the wrong way round. He gets away with it and ends up saving the match. As far as FB is aware this was his only outing on the cricket pitch.

But Paddington's cricketing influence extended far beyond this solitary appearance on the field. It was during the 1970s and 1980s that the sunhat modelled directly on Paddington's headgear became essential wear for cricketers.

Jack Russell
and his Paddington Bear hat
Perhaps the most famous Paddington Bear style hat in cricket was that of England wicket keeper Jack Russell. He wore it throughout his First Class career from 1981 to 2004. Its  age and state of disrepair caused more than one argument with the authorities. On one tour Russell refused to wear the official coloured one day sun hat in South Africa. This caused the sponsor to have a hissy fit and a compromise was only reached when Russell agreed to wear his old hat inside the official hat. On a second occasion in the West Indies, he agreed to wash it, and placed it to dry in an oven. He forgot about it, the hat caught fire and was only just rescued from total incineration The fire damage could still be seen on the hat years later.

But, eccentric as he was in many respects, Jack Russell did not have other similarities with Paddington and never went out to keep wearing a duffel coat and wellington boots.  He may well have been partial to marmalade sandwiches - CricInfo is not clear on the matter.

While FB has a lot of respect for Paddington, his own favourite animated animals are different.  Gromit of course scores very high but FB thinks he may be human so he can't be elected.

Dougal finding the burden of captaincy a trial
His own favourites come from another era - Dougal from the Magic Roundabout.  Dougal is the epitome of many a lower XI skipper.  He is endlessly sarcastic and talks a great game.  Occasionally he performs out of his skin and lets the world know it.  Fantasy Bob to a T readers will think.  But while Dougal and many of the other characters may sound very like cricketers and act very like cricketers, however there is no episode of the Magic Roundabout that is remotely about cricket.  This is probably because the original animation was French.

Regretably the Magic Roundabout has been updated.  A feature length film was released in 2005 and a follow-up is due this year.  Since American money is behind it, it is a T20 kind of presentation and FB is sure there will be no cricket in it.   The up-to-date computer animation has lost most of the charm of the original stop frame animation and the characters have changed significantly losing the first writer Eric Thomson's whimsical wit.  And Zebedee said 'Time for bed.'  Test Match Quality.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Spiritual News

Set to replace
Andy Robinson?
Brought up as he was in the more open structures of the Church of Scotland, Fantasy Bob has never really been sure about what Bishops are for.  He understands that they can move diagonally in either direction, but that is about it.  He assumes that Archbishops can move in the same manner, only more archly.  He has noted that the decision by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to resign from moving diagonally has had major repercussions.

Indeed FB is astounded at the impact of the Archbishop's resignation on the Scottish Rugby Team.  They duly won the coveted wooden spoon in Rome yesterday afternoon.  Just a few short weeks ago FB and several other Scottish rugby supporters looked forward to this year's 6 Nations' Tournament quietly confident that Scotland might do something this year.  Even after the first 2 defeats he thought there was some progress.  If not moving forward, they were at least moving diagonally, Archbishop-like. This hope collapsed last week and was shredded in Rome.  There was no movement diagonal or otherwise.

A very poor Scotland showing made them worthy winners of the spoon.  At least this trophy is useful for stirring the soup and porridge.  Unlike a pretty useless oversized silver cup which is only useful for putting on the shelf and attracting dust.

Has the Archbishop's resignation taken the wind out of Scotland's sails?  Perhaps he has resigned to take over from Andy Robinson?

The resignation also knocked the spirit out of the Irish who also put on a poor display as they were thrashed at Twickenham.

Does this spiritual turbulence have any bearing on the highly important clash between Scotland and Ireland in the T20 World Cup qualifier today?  Who knows?  Certainly not Fantasy Bob.  But it is a vital match for both sides, both having unexpectedly lost to Namibia.  A slip up here could be expensive. The match will be  a close call.  If Scotland play to their potential they will win. So come on Scotland.  The Archbishop is with you.


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Fraggle

Fraggle in full flow - v Namibia October 2011
Fantasy Bob joined in the world wide celebration yesterday as ever popular skipper of go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton Fraser Watts played his 195th match for Scotland, so becoming the most capped Scottish player of all time.  Many congratulations.  He can be justifiably proud of his achievement and FB hopes that he makes many more appearances.

No challenge is too great for Fraggle.  He has even attempted to improve Fantasy Bob's batting.  This is a task that has defeated  all who have attempted it, but Fraggle was undaunted.  Having lobbed a few deliveries in the nets for FB to swish at, he stepped down the track to proffer a bit of advice.

'Hey FB, try to watch the ball all the way down the wicket - you stop watching it half way down.'

This was news to FB.  He was surprised to learn that he only watched it only half way down.  He thought he closed his eyes at the bowler's release.  He had practised this for many years, it took him several years to get both eyes closing together.  For a couple of years bowlers used to wonder why FB kept winking at them on their follow through.  But evidently what FB does and what he thinks he does are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Now he has a wholly different discipline to master.  Coaching fads just come and go.

FB has therefore been assiduously trying to watch the ball all the way down.  So transfixed by the ball, and his scrutiny of it, has he become that he regularly forgets that he should attempt to hit it until it is too late.   He watches it all the way onto the stumps. Can FB master the coordination of these skills by the start of the season and become Fraggle's star pupil?  It could be a close run thing.

Well done Fraggle. There is no end to the man's talents for he has been presenting an excellent blog reports from Scotland's winter tour featured on the Carlton website.

FB would like publicly to apologise for the following scurrilous pieces on this blog which show a distinct lack of respect for Scotland's most capped player.

The Mystery of Fraggle's Trousers

Medical Bulletin

The Surreal

Come on Scotland.




Friday, 16 March 2012

Skink

As Scotland's cricketers continue their T20 campaign in the UAE, it is time to reflect on one of the glories of Scotland. Time for all Scottish supporters to remind themselves what it is our boys are fighting for. 

Fantasy Bob's worldwide readership are probably of the view that he exists on nothing but biscuits. For biscuits are the only foodstuffs that are ever featured in these postings. Scotland has gifted may important biscuits to the world, none more so than FB's favourite Empire Biscuit. But for once FB looks beyond biscuits for Scotland has also generously gifted to the world its greatest soup.  Cullen Skink.

Home of the Skink?
This soup is a speciality of the North East of Scotland and consists in Finnan haddie, potatoes, onions (or leeks) and milk (or cream). A bay leaf can also be used to help things along. It cannot be bettered.

Historians have long disagreed who precisely this Cullen Skink, the inventor of this dish, was.  Wisden has expunged all record of his contribution to the development of cricket but FB's researches reveal a tragic story.  There was a time when the All England XI could not take the field without its demon bowler Skink.  Many an early batsman would ruefully return to the pavilion having been Skinked by Cullen's pacy underarm thunderbolts.  He invented his soup on an early tour to Scotland when, returning late to his digs from celebrating his success on the field, he randomly mixed together what spare ingredients could be found in the larder. The soup was just reaching its boiling point when the landlady interrupted him.  Initially hostile, on tasting the soup she fell passionately for Cullen.  He reciprocated and they were married shortly thereafter.  The rest is history; he'd skinked his last batsman and Wisden is quiet.  Regretably there was no issue to the marriage for he choked on a fish bone during the wedding reception and died and with it the name Skink.

Other historians are more prosaic and point out that Cullen is a small town on the North East coast at one time a busy fishing port.  Skink is a Scots word for a shin or knuckle of beef which is also used to mean soup. Although no one has ever used it in that sense for anything other than Cullen skink. There is no other skink.

The romantic or the prosaic?  FB leaves his worldwide readership to decide which is more likely.


Finnan Haddie, the essential ingredient of Cullen Skink, is not named in honour of a cricketer.  It is another North East delicacy - a smoked haddock originating either from Findon in Aberdeenshire or Findhorn in Moray. Wars have been only narrowly averted by competing believers in one origin or another.

The Finnan haddie is world renowned, just like Cullen Skink.  It is another thing that our boys are fighting for.  Finnan haddie even features in a celebrated lyric by Cole Porter, My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Here is a link to the most famous version of this fine song by none other than Marylin Monroe from the 1960 film Let's Make Love.

Cole Porter failed to write any songs about Cullen Skink, and FB is aware of only one lyric that concerns cricket.


 


Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Ides of March

When Fantasy Bob was a keen and earnest student of Latin, one the things that he had trouble with was dates.  That is to say, how to express dates in Latin.  He had problems with other kinds of dates too, at least until the future Mrs FB came on the scene, by which time he had long forgotten anything he knew about Latin dates.

But one thing he does remember is that 15 March is not XV March but the Ides of March.  Other months have Ides too, but for some of them it is the XIII.  Readers will begin to share FB's confusion, if not sympathise with it.  The Ides simply means middle or half way - so it is the day which is in the middle of the month.

For reasons which still escape FB, the Romans didn't number the days of the month in the present simple fashion.  As well as the Ides, there were also the Kalendae - which was the first day of the month and the Nonae which were 8 days before the Ides and so either the 5th or the 7th depending on which month.  So dates were referred to by reference to these 3 days - the Xth for example would be the 3rd  day before the Ides, or the 5th day depending on the month. Readers now fully sympathise with FB's confusion. It was a wonder anyone in Ancient Rome ever managed to meet on the right day.  But they did.  Particularly on the Ides of March.

The Ides of March are the most famous and celebrated Ides, because that is when Julius Caesar got it in the back.  In fact he got in the back 23 times, stabbed on the steps of the Senate by Brutus, Cassius and the rest of the squad.  It is a bit of an extreme reaction by team members to a man who wants to be skipper.  Normally there is relief that someone wants to do all the phoning around on a Friday night.  Certainly FB would think twice about allowing himself to be nominated for skipper of the All Star Carlton 4th XI if all the thanks he would get for it was a prolonged stabbing event.

Soothsaying at Test Level
Shakespeare's play follows the legend  that Caesar was warned by a soothsayer that the Ides of March would be bad news for him, but he ignored the warning.  'Beware the Ides of March.'  FB always has and takes careful account of any soothsayer who approaches him on his way to the Senate.

More recent research has suggested that Shakespeare got it wrong.  The soothsayer was not referring to the imminent assassination of Caesar, but to an event that would take place in exactly 1,921 years.  He was forecasting the start of Test cricket.  For it was on the Ides of March 1877 that the Combined New South Wales and Victoria XI played the All England XI at Melbourne in what was subsequently designated the first Test Match.  Australia won.  Hence the soothsayer's warning.  Now that is some soothsaying.  Test Match Quality.
All England XI - 1877



Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Come on Scotland (2)

Man of the Match -
 Calum MacLeod -
55 from  35 balls
A fine start to the ICC T20 qualification competition for Scotland, beating Kenya by 14 runs in a hard fought contest.  Some good innings and tight bowling at the end.  And some good fielding too, with Richie Berrington getting three run outs.

Having a job of work to go to during the day, where the computer system is festooned with firewalls, suppressors and all manner of techno stuff to prevent the wage slaves watch YouTube all day, Fantasy Bob was unable to watch the live feed on the CricketScotland website.

While he is disappointed, perhaps this is just as well - for he is sure that there would have been an electro-magnetic transfer from his desk to Dubai of the hex he usually puts on Scotland's efforts at any sporting endeavour.

The FB Hex -
 recently mistaken for solar activity
The FB Hex has long been recognised as one of the strongest electro-magnetic forces known to scientists.  It seems to peak annually during the 6 Nations Rugby Tournament.

There have been recent reports in the press about the impact of solar weather on the earth's electro-magnetic environment.  Some air line flights were routed away from polar regions last week just in case.  FB suspects that scientists have got this badly wrong - the sun is behaving itself as per normal.  It is the seasonal high of FB Hex that the monitoring equipment is picking up.  FB hopes that CricketScotland have taken this into account and have ensured that future streamings are sufficiently protected by a firewall with sufficient strength to overcome this phenomenon so that Drummo and his players can go bout their business un-hexed.

Now for Namibia - surprise conquerors of Ireland in the first round.  Come on Scotland!


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Come On Scotland

Good luck to Scotland who play in the qualifying competition for the ICC World T20  which gets underway in the UAE today.  
Skippers of the 16 nations

16 teams are slugging it out over 12 days for 2 spots in the competition proper in Sri Lanka later this year.  It is one of the exercises the ICC have instituted to make the associate nations scramble for crumbs from the Test Playing nations' table.  There is real competition.

It would be a great fillip to Scottish cricket if Gordon Drummond and the boys could make it to Sri Lanka.  They face a series of 7 matches which will decide whether they go into the second phase which will determine the top 2.  Among those Scotland face are old rivals Ireland and Kenya but also new faces Italy and Papua New Guinea.  Both the latter 2 teams have the benefit of experienced Test players to help them through - ex Australian batsman Michael de Venuto rediscovers his roots as part of the Italian team and PNG field 2005 Ashes wicket keeper Geriant Jones who although he lacks a suitably Polynesian namewas born in Papua New Guinea .  Scotland face tough qualifying task, but the competition is no less fierce in the other group where Afghanistan and Netherlands are among the favourites to progress.

Can Scotland do it?  There is no reason why not if they fire on all cylinders.  But T20 is a risky business and there is more potential for surprises along the way than in other formats.  So FB is quietly optimistic and hopeful.  He will refrain from forecasting.  Longstanding visitors to these pages will know just how inaccurate Fantasy Bob's match forecasting can be.  Here are some of his previous predictions:
  • Napoleon to win by 5 wickets at Waterloo
  • Custer to get the runs at Little Big Horn
  • Germany to win the World Cup in 1966 (FB forgets who went on to win)
  • Kenneth McKellar to win Eurovision in 1966
  • Fantasy Bob to win Nobel Prize for Literature

Monday, 12 March 2012

Fusion Bondage

Fantasy Bob has discovered that Scotland’s first Festival of the Erotic Arts is set to take place at venues across Edinburgh in June.

FB understands that a range of activities is planned including a sado- masochists’ dungeon, a workshop on bondage for beginners and sessions on Japanese Fusion bondage. Newspaper reports say that the three-day festival is expected to attract hundreds of fetish fans to the Capital. The organisers of the Festival have responded to criticism that this will bring a seedy element to the city by saying that they intend that the event should be a sleaze-free celebration of a thriving artform.  They say that fetishism should not be confined behind closed doors.

Fantasy Bob was therefore was quick to raise with the executive authorities at go-ahead cricket club Carlton that the club might support this new event. He proposes that an additional venue should immediately be offered to the organisers of the Festival. A venue that will not be confined behind closed doors. He is sure fetish fans would flock to Grange Loan and might welcome an afternoon in the open air rather than languishing in some dark airless dungeon.  There could be much to interest them.

FB acknowledges that that before these reports he had not been aware of the concept of Japanese Fusion Bondage.  But he lives to learn and his researches tell him that it involves elaborate and ritual concern for knots. FB suggests that watching himself being tied in knots by any spin bowler worth his salt would be more than stimulating to the fetish fan. Similarly, any spectator lucky enough to watch Fantasy Bob complete a bowling spell up the hill against the wind will be a true connoisseur of the sado-masochistic art.

Fantasy Bob has yet to identify a role in this Offering for Carlton's doughty but nameless groundsman, but he is confident that such a role can be found.

FB eagerly awaits a response from the club's executive authorities.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Haircut

Mr Pastry
When Mrs FB says to Fantasy Bob, 'You've got that Mr Pastry look,' it means only one thing.  It is not a compliment far less a come-on.  Mr Pastry was a slap stick comedian and children's TV star of some years ago, who had whispy white hair with a mind of its own.  So when Mrs FB spots the Mr Pastry look, like the Greek bond holders, it's time for FB to seek a haircut.

And he is spoiled for choice.  For the part of Edinburgh in which FB resides would appear to be the world epicentre of Men's Barbers.  Within 100 yards of Morningside Station - obviously not an actual station but a road junction - are 6.  The only thing there are more of are coffee shops.  Coffee shops and barbers.  From far flung seas they swim up stream to this breeding ground and define the sustainable economy for the 21st Century.

Given the ravages of time on FB's follicles, the tonsorial correction does not take very long.  Fantasy Bob played it safe.  Just a tidy up all round he commands the hairdresser.  She is disappointed.  She had spotted in FB a candidate for the Mario Balotelli look - one of the Manchester City footballer's more eccentric styles might have given FB a new lease of life.

The haircut FB could have had
But by comparison with football cricket is conservative in its approach to coiffure.  Balotelli joins a long and ridiculous tradition - who can forget the permanent wave craze of the 1970s?.  Cricket however has had few haircuts to shock.  Perhaps Ian Botham's highlighted mullets of the 1980s did enough to put the whole game off the fancy haircut.  For this, amongst many other things, cricketers should be eternally grateful.  Occasionally however the message does not get through and the collective common sense is punctured. The pink and orange hair the Irish team wore through last year's World Cup is a case in point.  Malinga's bleached Harpo Marx look is another.

Colin Miller
Cricket's most celebrated bonkers barnet belonged to the Australian Colin Miller who played 18 Tests in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  He was a late starter making his Test debut at the age of 34 having converted to off spin from medium pace after an ankle injury.  He was Australian Test Player of the year in 2001, no mean feat when you consider the quality of the team at that time.  He was renowned for the ever changing colour of his hair.  It was suggested that his effectiveness as a bowler owed much to the distracting effect of his coloured hair.  

And while on the subject, here is 1980's band Haircut 100 (presumably one of Balotelli's) and their uplifting Fantastic Day.  Maybe next time.



Saturday, 10 March 2012

Desert Boots

Harry leaves Bolt standing
Prince Harry has been doing the Royal thing in Jamaica in honour of his GrandMa's Jubilee.  Meanwhile his GrandMa has visited Leicester.

FB has been to both Jamaica and Leicester.  He knows which one he would choose.

This has left observers wondering who wields the power in the Windsor household - but given that the Jamaica visit seems to have been built around a race with the world's fastest man Usain Bolt, perhaps GrandMa thought it better to let a youngster take him on.  After all she's probably done that ganja and reggae thing before.

Harry of course beat Bolt hands down - largely because he started long before the gun.  When it was pointed out to him that this was against the rules, he responded to the effect that his family were the rules.  So there.

Where are you
Harry man?
Regrettably,  Harry in Jamaica does not seem to have respected its great cricket tradition.  He could have offered himself to bowl at Chris Gayle, or face any past or present Jamaican quickie - Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh were both Jamaican.  The list of great Jamaican cricketers is more than impressive - Alf Valentine, Jeffrey Dujon, Lawrence Rowe, Jackie Hendricks, Jimmy Adams.  The top all rounder in the women's game is Stephanie Taylor, a Jamaican.  But Jamaica's greatest cricketer was probably the great batsman, George Headley, who was honoured by GrandMa with a MBE in 1956.

Cricket is the great Jamaican heritage and hugely important to its relationship with Britain, and the rest of the world, during his GrandMa's years on the throne.  His GrandMa has seen the West Indies in action many times during her annual visit to the Lords Test and has knighted quite a few of them.  But has she ever bought a Bob Marley record?  Why did the Royal planners ignore this?

Fantasy Bob is rabitting on about Harry because the Prince revealed to the world in the course of his tour some rather nifty footwear.  Harry has obviously done some research in the archives and has discovered that desert boots were FB's footwear of choice throughout his extended student years and for some time after, until they disappeared from the shelves.  FB would get through 2-3 pairs in a year wearing them till they fell apart, so he has perhaps been in possession of approaching 30 pairs.  This may well be a record, but Wisden is silent on the matter.

FB adopted desert boots because they were the epitome of cool at the time (he presumes - and not just because they were cheap), even though they were purchased from Marks and Spencer. FB is flattered by Harry's emulation of his style choices, he takes his responsibility as a style icon seriously as any junior member of the go-ahead Carlton club can attest.

FB remembers desert boots being pretty cheap.  Even so he could only afford one pair at a time.  Harry, being a Royal, flaunts his privileged position by showing off that he has 2 pairs.

2 pairs of royal boots





Friday, 9 March 2012

As Slow As Possible

Fantasy Bob is sure we need to slow down.  He quite like things slow.  Slow cooking.  Mahler's slow movements.  As a fan of Test cricket, he likes slow cricket.  He is therefore attracted by the Arts Festival taking place in Newcastle this month - As Slow As Possible.

But there are different kinds of slow.  Can something that is purposefully slow be too slow?  As cricketers who grace the lower leagues in the company of Fantasy Bob know, the most penetrating bowling is often the slowest.  Things - ie wickets - can go fast when the slowness is on.

So is cricket really a slow game?  The cliché is of the American who asks with a haunted wide eyed look ‘You mean it goes on for 5 days and it’s still a draw?’  The modern world is not sympathetic to such languor, however purposeful.  Every nano-second has to be filled with action and clamour.  Shorter and shorter forms of the game have been developed to give us  action, action and action; movement, movement and movement.  Even the presentation of Test Matches fills the space in between balls is filled with replays from every angle.  We forget that the spaces in between action are as important as the actions themselves, it in those spaces that possibilities exist, that dreams happen. We do not reflect.  Our lives pass in a blur.  Stillness is not allowed - until the final stillness. 

But there are different kinds of slow.  Fantasy Bob has got all metaphysical because he wonders whether there be place for cricket at the Festival of Art Video and Technology taking place this week in Newcastle? The As Slow As Possible Festival has lots of slow motion video installation, lots of long held shots of time passing in places and then passing some more and then some. In one performance, members of the public are invited to read aloud from the book One Million Years which is a listing of dates going a million years forward and a million years back. Gripping stuff.

The Festival takes its name from a musical work by John Cage, Organ ASLSP which bears the instruction to be played as slowly as possible. On one occasion it was performed over 14 hours and 56 minutes. But even this is too quick for the purist, and a more leisurely performance is now underway on an automated organ in Halberstadt Germany. This performance commenced in the St Burchardi church on 5 September 2001- with a pause lasting until 5 February 2003. The first chord was played from then until 5 July 2005 and changes occur in accordance with a strict (if very slow) tempo. The most recent sound change was on 5 August last year and the next is scheduled for 5 July this year. A big audience is expected. The piece will reach its triumphant conclusion in 2640.

Bailey 
Cricket, if it is considered a slow sport could take its place in this Festival.  While there are lots of competing claims for the fastest bowler in the world, there are none for the slowest bowler.  The obsession with speed corrupts even here.

By contrast, many innings have been celebrated for their slowness – and it is Trevor Bailey who takes the biscuit - in the first Test in Brisbane in 1958 his 50 took 357 minutes he eventually crawled to 68 off 425 balls. This makes the slowest Test century seem a sprint - Mudassar Nazar’s ton against England in Lahore in December 1997 took a mere 557 minutes.  He then sprinted in 34 minutes to 114 when he was caught and bowled by Geoff Miller after 591 minutes and 449 balls. Another snail's paced innings was Sunjil Gavaskar’s 36* off 60 overs in the first world cup match in 1975. Another slow record is the 60 matches it required Chris Martin to score his 100th run in Test Cricket.

But perhaps even these exhibits may all be too fast for this Festival. On the other hand, film of Fantasy Bob chasing the ball to the boundary may well be too slow. There are, after all, different kinds of slowness.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Pie Week

This, Fantasy Bob has discovered, is British Pie Week. This is an annual celebration of loose misdirected bowling that can be carted to whichever boundary the batter wishes. Pies can come in many forms - savoury or sweet - the main factor about them is that you can smash them to whichever boundary you wish. There are some health gurus who have been trying to warn people off pies, but bowlers seem committed to keeping up the supply. For example, only a month or so ago Zimbabwe's Brian Vitori set a pie record by bowling 9 overs for 105 runs in an ODI against New Zealand.
Vitori



This is a long and respectable tradition, the first pies were bowled around 9500 BC, in the Egyptian Neolithic period. Evidence of pies can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses II  in the Valley of the Kings.  Sometime before 2000 BC, a recipe for chicken pie was written on a tablet in Sumer. And things have just developed from there, so that nowadays no T20 match is complete without a ration of pies. What FB doesn't understand is why when he is at the crease pies are never bowled at him.

American sport has another approach. Pies are not deliveries of a loose kind in baseball. Instead the Americans are a bit more literal and there is a minor tradition of pieing in major league baseball.  The arch proponent seems to be New York Yankees pitcher A. J. Burnett who pies a teammate who scores the winning run by throwing a foam or cream pie in their face during the post match interviews. However the Florida Marlins manager banned the antic after his players injured themselves in pieing incidents.

FB agrees that pieing is dangerous. A long time ago when FB used to do concert parties and similar entertainments, he had a slapstick pie routine. One day he performed it with an enthusiastic colleague who put so much vim into the delivery of the pie that it bled FB's nose. The red blood gushing in the white shaving foam was very artistic and added hugely to the audience's enjoyment of the sketch. If FB were to perform this sketch these days he would insist on a batting helmet.

For many years the record for the most pies ever bowled was probably in Laurel and Hardy's 1927 match The Battle of the Century where over 3000 were delivered.  But this was overtaken in 1965 by a sequence in The Great Race which is reported to have used 4000 pies. So Brian Vitori still has something to aim for.

Another fine mess........



Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Goodwill Messages

Fantasy Bob has 2 messages today.

The first is good luck to Scotland who play UAE in the first of 2 Pepsi World League matches - victory would be a step along the way to 2015 World Cup qualification.  Come on boys!

The second is Happy Birthday to the Master Blaster - Viv Richards is 60 today.

Fantasy Bob has eulogised about Richards before.  FB was only once in the great man's presence.  On Monday 28 July 1980 FB was stationed in Northampton about to move to Edinburgh.  He took himself to London for the day, to the Oval where the Fourth Test was underway.  The match had started on Thursday and England had scored 370.  At close on the second day W Indies were 42 for 2 with Richards on 14*.  Saturday was washed out and in those days Sunday was a rest day.  So on the Monday, as FB sat himself under the gasometer in bright sunshine, it was Richards who swaggered to the crease.  FB and the rest of the crowd purred in anticipation of an exhibition of attacking stroke play and gum chewing from the great man.  The sense of disappointment that went round the ground when his great mate Botham had him caught by Peter Willey in the gully in the first half hour was palpable.  Out for 26.  FB saw him score a mere 12 runs.

The match ended in a draw, but not before England had wobbled on the final day to find themselves 92 for 9 and only 197 ahead.  It took an heroic partnership between Peter Willey, who ended 100*, and Bob Willis, 24, to put England out of harm's way.  FB had a vested interest in Willey who played for Northants, FB's home at the time.

W Indies won that series 1-0, the matches were badly rain interrupted.  But FB regrets that he hadn't the wit or imagination to have made the opportunity to come to London earlier in the summer - at the Lords Test in June, Richards had shown his true class, scoring 145 off 159 balls.  Just one of FB's many regrets.

Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

We got rhythm (after all)

Fantasy Bob is sure that all sport-loving cricketers will share his joy that the GB Rhythmic Gymnastics team will after all compete in the London Olympics.


Earlier this year the team appeared to have missed the qualifying score set for it by the governing body British Gymnastics.  But the team has appealed and an independent arbitrator has pronounced in their favour, agreeing that the qualifying criteria were not clear to them.

Apparently, the team didn't know what length of false eyelash would meet the standard; whether spangles and sequins were required in all disciplines; and how much and which shade of mascara could be applied at key moments during the competition.  The team was thus hopelessly confused and the tears and mascara flowed when things seemed to go wrong.

The arbitrator found that the document setting out the qualifying criteria was confusing, particularly to any person who wished to run round a gym on their tip-toes waving sticks with ribbons on them.   Apparently even those who had drafted the qualification criteria could not agree what they actually meant.

FB thinks that there is a lesson for all cricketers here.  As skipper of Carlton's All Star 4th XI, he regularly has to remind his players of the basic structure of cricket and the process for identifying the winning team.  It is not every player who can grasp easily the concept that victory involves scoring more runs than the opposition.  Some of his players, after all, have never scored a run ever and this would seem to them an unnecessarily limiting criterion. Mercifully so far, FB has managed to avoid tear-stained appeals to independent arbitrators. He hopes that the example of the GB Rhythmic Gymnastic Team does not become a precedent. He is however seeking advice from the East of Scotland Cricket Association about the criteria governing the use of false eyelashes in league matches.  This could be vital in the coming season.



Monday, 5 March 2012

Twins

The Reids
Who are the most famous twins in the world? Google suggests some blonde duo called the Olsen twins. But for Fantasy Bob and Scottish cricketers everywhere there is only one answer to this question - Charlie and Craig Reid also known as The Proclaimers. They are 50 today.

The Proclaimers are Scotland's best.  They  took the charts by something like a storm in 1988 with Letter from America and have never looked back.  Nowadays the rare event of a try for Scotland at Murrayfield is celebrated with the chorus from their classic 500 Miles.

Letter from America's lyric contains the celebrated litany of the collapse of Scottish manufacturing industry - Lochaber no more, Linwood no more. A serious issue. FB is ashamed to say that a few summers ago he wholly disrespected the seriousness of the lyric by adapting it in his match report to describe the Carlton All Stars Fourth XI's latest batting collapse - FB no more, Kennedy no more, Barnacle no more.................and so on. FB justifies this artistic licence by the fact that the match was played in Leith, spiritual home of the Reid twins. While they are fanatical supporters of Hibernian FC, their attitude to cricket is not clear from their songs.

Twins, such as the Reids, are rare at the top of any field. In cricket they are few and far between. But there are some celebrated pairs. In answer to the question who were the first twins to play Test cricket together, 99% of people will say Steve and Mark Waugh who in 1991 played the first of over 100 tests together. But that is the wrong answer. The first twins to play Test cricket together were actually members of the New Zealand women's team in 1984 - Rene and Liz Signal. That was Liz's only Test but Rene played for NZ on 5 other occasions. 

New Zealand also holds another twin related record in that the first identical twins to play Test cricket together were Hamish and James Marshall who first played together against Australia in 2005. In all, Hamish played 13 Tests and James 7 - and 3 of those were together. James Marshall also made history in Scotland when shared a 266 opening stand with Brendon McCullum against Ireland in 2008, which is the highest ODI partnership for any wicket in NZ history and the second highest opening partnership in all ODIs. The match was played at Aberdeen. There is some irony there because brother Hamish was in the process of switching his allegiance to Ireland at that time.

The Marshalls
The Bedsers











There is one other set of famous cricketing twins - Alec and Eric Bedser. Both were outstanding young sportsmen and chose cricket, turning up at Surrey together.  The famous story goes that when they were first selected for Surrey, they agreed they couldn't both be fast bowlers. A flip of the coin saw Alec win the toss, and Eric took up off-spin. Surrey had untold riches in that department with Jim Laker and Tony Lock on the books so Eric concentrated on his batting. Eric never played Test cricket but Alec was was an outstanding right-arm medium-fast bowler for Surrey and England. In 51 Test matches  he took 236 wickets, at the time a record.

But back to The Proclaimers. Here is a splendid video of Laurel and Hardy dancing to their hit I'm On My Way. A suitable birthday tribute.