Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Christmas XI

Fantasy Bob wishes his world wide readership, all three of them, a very Merry Christmas.
Bogart, Newton and Rubinstein -
poor against short pitched bowling

But that is the limit of his goodwill.

Here is a Christmas quiz question:

What do Isaac Newton, Humphrey Bogart and Helena Rubinstein have in common?

A complete inability to play short pitched bowling is not the answer FB is looking for - correct though it may be.

The answer is that this illustrious three are all Christmas babies.  (Although the Hollywood studios tried to change Bogart's because they couldn't have it that a specialist villain could be a Christmas baby). So it is Happy Birthday to them.

Of course there is no proof that 25 December was the actual birth date of Jesus Christ. The first recorded instance of Christmas being celebrated on that date was in 336AD during the reign of Emperor Constantine. There are suggestions that the date was chosen as part of a strategy to Christianise pagan Roman religions - it was the date of the Roman festival Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (no less) celebrated at the midwinter solstice.

But there are many other birthday boys and girls today - many of whom will spend the day lamenting the unfairness of their parents causing them to be born on a day which means that they must suffer the injustice combined Christmas and birthday presents.

There are also cricketing Christmas babies.  Here is Fantasy Bob's Christmas XI - although he has cheated a bit by including players born on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day.  (Not in batting order)

Alistair Cook (25-12-1984) - 109 Tests, 8423 runs @ 46.02.  England's record run scorer and century maker. This year's Christmas and birthday present has been to be relieved of any responsibility for England's failure to win the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

Marcus Trescothick (25-12-1975) - 76 Tests, 5825 runs @ 43.79.  FB's favourite England opener of recent years - a tragic victim of mental illness which cut short his great Test career.

Simon Jones (25-12-1978) - only 18 Tests, 59 wickets @ 28.23, as a series of injuries prevented him becoming one of the greats.  Made an unforgettable contribution to the 2005 Ashes triumph with his mastery of reverse swing

Hedley Howarth (25-12-1943) - 30 Tests, 86 wickets @ 36.95, New Zealand's leading slow bowler of the time was often used in long spells to stem the flow of runs. At Lord's in 1973, he sent down 70 overs in the second innings, finishing with 4 for 144.

Colin Cowdrey (24-12-1932) - 114 Tests, 7624 runs @ 44.06, everyone knows how he came out to face the W Indies quickies with his arm in plaster. The first player to appear in 100 Tests, which he marked with a century against Australia in Edgbaston in 1968.

Geoff Allott (24-12-1971) - 10 Tests, 19 wickets @ 58.47, New Zealand seamer who once batted for 101 minutes without scoring. This was the longest duck in Test history and helped New Zealand to a draw against South Africa in Auckland in 1998-99.

Clarie Grimmet (25-12-1891) - 37 Tests, 216 wickets @ 24.21, didn't play Test cricket till he was 33, but went on to become the first bowler to take 200 Test wickets.  His leg spin partnership with Bill O'Reilly is reckoned among the greatest bowling partnerships of all time.

Rohan Khanai (26-12-1935) - 79 Tests, 6227 runs @ 47.53, honorary Aberdonian the West Indian great made 55 in his first one-day international and the same score in his last, at the age of 39, when his support to Clive Lloyd helped to win the first ever World Cup final, at Lord's in 1975.

Barry Wood (26-12-1942) 12 Tests, 454 runs @ 21.61.  He played his 12 Tests spread over seven seasons, making 90 on debut against Australia in 1972, but he never played more than three in a row. A gutsy opener he delivered consistently for Lancashire for whom he scored over 17,000 runs.

Matthew Wade (26-12-1987) 12 Tests, 623 runs @ 34.61, 36 dismissals.  At 16, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 16 he required two cycles of chemotherapy to defeat the illness. His big break arrived when Brad Haddin was forced to miss the 2012 Test series in the West Indies due to personal reasons and Wade grabbed the chance with a 106 in the third Test. An ankle injury cost him his Test spot in India a year later and a run of poor form meant he was axed from the one-day side too.

Mark Lathwell (26-12-1971) - 2 Tests, 78 runs.  Potential unfulfilled - at the end of 1993 he was named the Cricket Writers' Young Player Of The Year.  Hyped as England's great batting hope he played 2 Tests against Australia in 1993 and failed through nerves.  His form collapsed and he drifted out of teh game before he was 30.  

FB's Christmas XI - clockwise from top left - Khanhai, Grimmet, Wood,
Lathwell, Howarth, Allott, Cowdrey, Cook, Jones, Wade, Trrescothick

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, the square it lay cold
Not a cricketer played, not a ball could be bowled
There’s ice on the wicket, there’s frost in the deep
And all junior members should be fast asleep

Wrapped up and cosy in warm little beds
With dreams of the morning going round in their heads
And Santa Claus just can't come soon enough
For he's going to bring lots of cricketing stuff

Juniors excited wake long before dawn
But please avoid trouble this Christmas morn
On going to bed they should be told that
4 a.m.'s not the time to knock in a bat

A full day of practice with new gear is planned
Though fast balls in the kitchen have sadly been banned
For last year a speedy full pitched in-swinger
Hit Grandma hard as she cooked Christmas dinner

As Grandma collapsed she was given the news
Grandma you are plum - out leg before goose
The advice to play forward wasn't really a help
Only Christmas good-will prevented a skelp

So this year all cricket must stay in the hall
By edict of Grandpa, there'll be no hard ball
Anyway Grandma's prepared for her lads 
Before she starts cooking she'll put on her pads

But let's leave the juniors all dreaming their dreams
For it's down at the ground where ev'rything gleams
A proud doughty groundsman has given his best
The square's been repaired and the surface top dressed

For Santa will come to kids of all ages,
As long as they've not done something outrageous
And the proud doughty groundsman's been good all year
So he waits for that visit as morning draws near

While darkness descends and the stars light the sky
He leaves out for Santa a special mince pie
And just before turning in for the night
He makes sure his stocking is hanging in sight

Then the doughty groundsman lays down his sweet head
Dreams of shiny new mower in its shiny new shed
There'll be a warm welcome for Santa Claus there
Just as long as he keeps his sleigh OFF THE SQUARE

Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas Cards

As the modern world proceeds in its helter-skelter T-twentified manner, FB finds that previous years are no longer a sound guide to what he can expect during the Christmas season.  Time was when every surface at Chez FB was covered in Christmas cards.  But now e-mails, tweets, and other devices have stemmed the once endless flow through his letter box.  Those sparkly ropes with little pegs which Mrs FB purchased years ago at an eye watering price remain empty.   A sad reminder of Christmas past.

However FB is very happy to report a hopeful sign that this trend is now being reversed.

For less than a week after Fantasy Bob reported in these pages on his and Mrs FB's stressful visit to Hamilton and Inches, the go ahead Edinburgh jewelers honoured Mrs FB and him with not one, not two but 3 identical Christmas cards, separately enveloped and delivered .

FB commends Hamilton and Inches for its full commitment to the Christmas spirit.

Although as Mrs FB observed with a pointed look at FB as he celebrated the opening of the third card , '............not as useful as diamonds or emeralds, but I suppose I've no hope of them................'

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Hamilton and Inches

Fantasy Bob's dwindling readership might think that an invitation to Hamilton and Inches' champagne Christmas reception would be just the kind of sybaritic pleasure their hero would enjoy. A glass or two of fizz, a few canapes in the elegant premises of Edinburgh's premier jewelers - what could be more relaxing?

But if the tremor of excitement in Mrs FB's voice as she opened the envelop containing the invitation had raised his anxiety, her final suggestion sent him into panic.  'I might see my Christmas present there, so you should bring your credit card.'

FB knew better than to remark that his life partner's burgeoning jewelery box already overflowed with baubles, bangles and beads.  He knew that to suggest that perhaps a natural limit had been reached would be unwelcome.  But he also knew from previous forays into this emporium that a serious depletion of the disposable income for investment in empire biscuits was at risk.

Not that he would not grant Mrs FB her heart's desire.  But some emergency measures might be necessary.

As Mrs FB stood by a glass cabinet eager to inspect its contents at close hand, FB attracted the attention of an assistant who made ready with his key,

'I see Hamilton and Inches was established in 1866', he remarked to the first assistant assisting inspection of a glittering cabinet.

'Yes sir.'  The key's journey to the lock slowed perceptibly.

'You know of course that 1866 was the year that WG Grace at the age of 18 scored 224 not out.'

'Really sir...............' The key had stopped; the assistant glanced around.

'Yes, it was for the All England XI against Surrey at the Oval.'

The key returned to the assistant's pocket as he found a reason to hasten to the opposite end of the showroom.

FB dutifully consoled Mrs FB.  'Seems they're a bit busy - I'll try some one else.'

A demure female assistant passed and FB smiled winningly at her.  She narrowly survived this harrowing experience but was unprepared for his opening remark.

'I see Hamilton and Inches gained the Royal Warrant in 1955.'

'Yes sir - we are very proud of it.'

'Of course you are.  And of course, 1955 was the year that Alan Border was born.'

'Sir?' The tremble of querulousness in her voice unwittingly invited FB to elucidate.

'He played 156 Tests for Australia....................'

A frightened look.

'..........with a batting average of 50.56.'

The assistant looked around for help.  But FB had hit his stride.

'Ian Botham and Vic Marks were also born in 1955....'

The assistant was backing away.

'............and Abdul Qadir of course.'

For some reason, there appeared to be an exclusion zone around FB and Mrs FB for the rest of the evening.  Try as she might Mrs FB could not summon an assistant to indulge her.

'They do seem very busy,' said FB sympathetically, but inwardly relieved that his bank balance looked like it would survive intact.

'Oh well,' responded Mrs FB, 'I'm not sure there was anything I really wanted anyway.'

FB nodded philosophically - a calm that lasted only a moment.

'Don't forget I'm going for a girls' trip to Paris this weekend - I'm sure I'll find something there....................'