Sunday, 10 October 2010


Today's date, 10.10.10, as Fantasy Bob understands it, is 42 expressed in base 2.

42 was of course the answer to life the universe and everything given by the supercomputer Deep Thought in Douglas Adams' master work The Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy.  It is also FB's highest innings this season - in fact he scored it twice, both times not out.  Scary or what?  42 is therefore a pretty important number.

Fantasy Bob is not generally a devotee of science fiction but thinks the Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy is a great work full of great quotes and magical concepts.

It will no doubt come as a surprise to all his 3 readers, that cricket features centrally in the Hitch Hikers' Guide.  The final volume in the series - Life, the Universe and Everything - is in fact a telling of the origins of cricket.  Those who lazily think that the game originated on the downs of Hampshire between squires and consenting peasants, think again.  Adams carefully reconstructs an alternative history - a bit more complicated than that idyllic image.  It is hard to do it justice but here's a potted version.

The story starts with the heroes Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent stranded in Earth’s pre-history, however they jump on a passing time travelling Chesterton Sofa and reappear at Lords cricket ground just as England retain the Ashes (very prophetic for a work written in the 1980s when an English win was high on the improbability drive).  A spaceship then appears from which deadly robots come, killing and maiming all and sundry with cricket bats, before stealing the Ashes and disappearing as suddenly as they appeared. It is explained that the Robots are from the lost planet of Krikkit, whose peace loving inhabitants thought they were alone in the universe until a spaceship crashed on their planet. Suddenly roused they decided they had to wipe out all other forms of life and swiftly invented space travel, built a star fleet and proceeded to fulfil their aims. However the rest of the galaxy eventually won the war and locked them in a slo-time envelope on their own planet with a 3 pillared wicket as the key. 

The wicket consisted of the steel pillar of strength, the Perspex pillar of science, the wooden pillar of spirituality,  the golden bail of prosperity and the silver bail of peace.

But the pieces were scattered across the universe  - the wooden pillar getting burnt in 1882 to become the Ashes.  When the envelope was put into place, a missing Krikkit warship, presumed destroyed but actually only missing, remained outside the envelope. The Krikkiters aboard this ship zoomed around the galaxy retrieving the five pieces of the key.  After reconstituting the key and unlocking the slo-time envelope, the Krikketers proceeded with their plan to destroy the universe.  But this plot is undone through some tricks with bombs turning into cricket balls and the story finishes back at Lords with the semblance of recognisable cricket being played.

It all makes perfect sense.  It is not clear if there is any historical evidence for this version, and the Hampshire Downs may have a claim over it on the improbability drive.  But it is a sight more entertaining. Try it to get the full wonder of it. It's wild. The full text is on this link

There is also an entry in the Guide which explains Brockian Ultra-Cricket.  Law 6 of this game states that 'The winning team shall be the first team that wins.'

What Fantasy Bob can't work out from all this is whether Adams was a cricket lover or not.   But he certainly got this right:

'Space is big.  You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's but that's just peanuts to space.'

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