Friday, 31 December 2010

A Hogmanay Treat

As Fantasy Bob's diatribe against Hogmanay TV in Scotland warned, tonight is the night when you may find it hard to avoid inferior quality Scottish music.

But here is a true great - a real treat.  It has no cricketing references, but it is definitely the best thing that ever happened to Andrew Lloyd Webber.............heuch!

Dancers dancing the Short Fine Leg

Too many runs, Mozart

Mozart at net practice
Fantasy Bob's radio station of choice is BBC Radio 3.  In the old days it was the carrier of Test Match Special when Arlott and Johnston ruled the airwaves and the cricket would be uninterrupted by the shipping forecast.  (As a sailor FB totally approves of the shipping forecast but it always seems to come just when a wicket falls or a century is about to be scored.)

FB notes with approval Radio 3's decision to programme every run that the great batsman Wolfgang Mozart scored in his brilliant but short career at the crease.   This will go on the air between 1 and 12 January 2011 and will give all cricket fans the opportunity to hear Mozart's greatest Test innings, including the Marriage of Figaro and the Jupiter Symphony, alongside lesser known one day innings.

At one time cricket historians were rather dismissive of Mozart's abilities, suggesting that many of his innings were little more than pretty exercises in formulaic technique - he was not a converter of nice 50s into big centuries.  He was alleged to be a flat track bully and compared unfavourably with the great all rounder Beethoven who followed him into the Test side.  Nor was it said he had the game changing qualities of the great pace bowlers of later years Wagner and Mahler.  But more recently Mozart's true quality in all aspects of batsmanship has been appreciated and, like Jack Hobbs, he properly takes his place in the All-time Greats XI.

FB invites his readers to consider 2 other aspects relating to Mozart that are of interest.  The first is the discussion as to whether he was born with some special talent ie that he was a born Test match batter.  Supporters of this point of view have claimed that he bats with the voice of God.  Other researchers have suggested that his great ability was the product of long hours in the nets in a cricket rich environment.  It is reckoned that by the time he was 12 years old he had had 10,000 hours of net practice.  These researchers make the heroic suggestion is that even FB were he to practice his on drive for that long could get the bat on the ball more times than not.

The second point of interest is the so-called Mozart effect.  The suggestion is that if you play Mozart's innings to sleeping children they will turn into geniuses, or if you play it to cows they will produce more milk.  FB is sceptical of this claim, but suggests to be on the safe side Mozart should be played throughout all Carlton junior coaching sessions from now on.

In the meantime, here is FB's Mozart All time greatest First XI

Marriage of Figaro
Don Giovanni
The Magic Flute
Symphony No 41 in C,  K 551, the Jupiter
Piano Concerto in Dmin, K466 
Piano Concerto in D K537, the Coronation
Clarinet Concerto in A, K622
Quintet for Clarinet and strings in A, K581
Serenade for wind in Bb, K361, the Gran Partita
Quintet  for piano and wind in Eb, K452
And if you can't wait for the Radio 3 festival to start, try this  - as one of the greatest shots in cricket  history.  (The aria starts 2 minutes into the extract if you can't take the recitative).  Truly miraculous - and an outstanding performance.  Test Match Quality.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Fantasy Bob's Cricketer of the Year

At a glittering ceremony last night, the inaugural award of the Fantasy Bob Cricketer of the Year was made. 

The international panel of experts had narrowed down the choice to the following shortlist:

Fantasy Bob
Shaun (Mr Barnacle) Barrett
Sachin Tendulkar

As celebrities of the sporting, entertainment and business worlds flocked to the prestigious secret venue, the world wide audience held their breath while the jury deliberated.  Earlier in the evening a complaint that the shortlist showed an unjustified bias towards senior veteran members of the Carlton 4th XI squad had not been upheld by the international jury of Fantasy Bob and Fantasy Bob who found that the nominations were made solely on merit.

As the hush spread throughout the glittering audience, the Chair spoke:

Tendulkar hears news of the award
'It has been a very tight contest.  All 3 shortlisted candidates would have been worthy winners.  But after careful discussion the panel has decided that for being the first player to score 14,000 Test runs and for completing his 50th Test Century earlier this month, the Fantasy Bob Cricketer of 2010 is the Little Master - Sachin Tendulkar.  There'll be dancing in the streets of Mumbai when they hear this news.'

Tendulkar could not be present at the ceremony - being involved in India's Test series against S Africa, so Fantasy Bob received the award on his behalf.  Tendulkar sent this message

'Fantasy who?..................'

In a radical move the jury also decided not to give a lifetime achievement award to David Beckham.

Sachin Tendulkar is granted immediate entry to the Fantasy Bob Hall of Fame.  David Beckham is not.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Except for viewers in Scotland.......

Reason to leave the country
During the long course of history have any 5 words ever struck more terror into the hearts of a cricket loving population? 

Fantasy Bob thinks not.  For following this awful phrase comes the responsum - 'who have their own programme.'  There truly can be nothing worse.   Even watching a batting partnership by Chris Tavare and Glen Turner would be preferable.

Hogmanay is the time of maximum risk.  Medical and other emergency services are on standby until the crisis is over.

It is this danger which has lead Fantasy Bob to leave these shores and, once again, pass Hogmanay on the ski slopes in Austria. 

A glance at BBC Scotland's programming confirms the wisdom of his decision. 
Denness - 28 Tests
19 as captain
Batting average 39.69.
There is yet another edition of that exhausted format Only an Excuse - Only an Insult to the Intelligence is a better title - in which more sectarian jokes masquerade as humour. 

Then, demonstrating that truly astonishing originality which has made BBC Scotland legendary, there is Hogmany Live with newsreader Jacki Bird (again) and (according to the blurb) 'pipers, fiddlers and some fantastic singers'.   Not a fast bowler among them.

Why oh why?  What have the cricketers of Scotland done to deserve this shameful treatment?  Fantasy Bob is seeking support for a petition to the Scottish Parliament that this must stop.  It is time that Scotland's highest cricketing achiever is given the responsibility for next Hogmanay's programming.  A full length documentary on the life and times of Mike Denness would surely inspire the population in these difficult times. 

Join this petition now.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

When the 1960's began

As the final days of 2010 tick away, Fantasy Bob wishes to remind all 3 of his readers that it was the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of one of the most celebrated trials in British legal history - that of Penguin Books who were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act for the publication of DH Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover.   Penguin were acquitted and, according to many commentators, the 1960s began, leading directly to the world of gangsta-rap, Babestation and T20.   Such is progress.

DH Lawrence - body line
wasn't enough 
But Fantasy Bob's researches tell him that it was never DH Lawrence's intention to produce the present text.  It was far from his mind to write the story of the passion between the aristocratic wife and her earthy gamekeeper replete with graphic descriptions of the sex act, rendered in Anglo-Saxon rather than appropriately medical terminology.  FB reminds us that the book was written in 1928, the year of the Test debuts of both Wally Hammond and Don Bradman.   FB invites us also to take account of the fact that Lawrence came from a similar Nottingham background to Harold Larwood who was making his first impact at that time. This context means that Lawrence's original intention was more ambitious than conventionally understood.  Cricket was central, as this previously unpublished letter to his wife Frieda Weekley suggests.

Dearest Freida,

I am working on a new novel that I fear will shock all our enemies, although that is not my purpose.  You know how deep burns my belief that the close relations between man and woman have been capriciously misunderstood and misrepresented by writers.  At last after years of painful and wasted labour I believe I have found the way to correct this and shine the light of truth into that conspiracy of darkness.  I can have no truck with the nonsense that is conventionally spouted that a woman can have no conception of fast bowling.  No - fast bowling can be the making of her womanhood.  I will therefore show, with all the loving tenderness at my disposal, how, with appropriate introduction and encouragement, with careful coaching in the hands of one experienced and direct in his demands, a woman, even one with that carefully cultivated aristocratic langour that normally signifies a top order batter, can get the ball up round the batter's ears.  Her first over will be strange but she will soon find herself possessed by an unmistakable physical thrill as her lower limbs spread naturally into the delivery stride.   She will work on her seam position as she hits the track hard.  She will master length. 

My dearest, in rendering this truth I fear I will have to use a large number of cricketing terms - I cannot see that I have choice on this matter.  I know that the prudes who stand in judgement over us will attempt to suppress my work.  Let them - eternity will be my only judge.  If they cannot stand to see in print words like off cutter, leg cutter, seam up, reverse swing - terms that they hear on every street corner, then I pity them.  These words may seem crude to the beau monde but to my characters they are life itself. 

I haven't decided on a title.  What do you think of Lady Chatterley's Yorker?


Out of office

Fantasy Bob will see all his readers in 2011. 

As Australia slide to one of the largest defeats in their history, he has left for the ski slopes.  However, there is no escape for his faithful readers.  All 3 of them will find that before he left, he put a few deliveries in the bowling machine so they can keep up their net practice.

He will return during the Sydney Test.  Will Ricky Ponting?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Second star on the right and straight on till morning..........

These are the satnav directions to NeverLand, of course. 

It was on this day in 1904 that Peter Pan was first performed.

But here's something else.  The Allahakbarries Cricket Club.  Never heard of them?  Nor had Fantasy Bob until a couple of weeks ago.  But a book recently published by Kevin Telfer tells the story of this team which was organised by one of Scotland's greatest literary figures JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan.

Barrie in action
 Barrie described cricket as 'an idea from God', a perfectly accurate description.  But he himself was not a great cricketer by any stretch of the imagination. He claimed to be the slowest bowler ever, and during the flight of each delivery he said he had time to sit at mid off and wait for its arrival at the batter's end.   (See photograph - perhaps if he removed his scarf he might have generated a bit more pace).  But his team regularly featured a wide range of literary greats including Conan Doyle, GK Chesterton, PG Wodehouse and AA Milne as well as other eminent late Victorians and Edwardians.
The games gave them an opportunity to escape the city and indulge themselves in a rural idyll of play banter and ale for the afternoon.  And who can begrudge them that? The team continued into the 1930s.  Barrie died in 1937.  Apparently, the scorebook of the Allahakbarries is in the MCC archive at Lords.  

Peter Pan and the Lost Boys are commonly thought to have been inspired by Barrie’s love for four young Llewelyn Davies brothers.   But Telfer’s argument is that it is the Allahakbarries who are the Lost Boys, and as much a part of the background to the story as anything else.  Exactly which demon fast bowler that makes Captain Hook is a question fit for serious literary examination, as is which ever youthful top order batsman is represented by Peter Pan.

And Tinkerbell?  Now FB remembers seeing many enchanting productions of Peter Pan at Christmas time during his childhood.  At one point Tinkerbell is dying, and Peter pleads to the audience to help her recover by shouting that they believe in fairies.  In the time honoured theatrical tradition, the first 2 times he asks the audience whether they believe in fairies does not generate a loud enough response, so he has to ask a third time.  Tinkerbell's light is nearly out; it is desperate.  'Do you believe in fairies?'  he asks again.  An ear-splitting scream from all the boys and girls comes back, 'Yes' and Tinkerbell's light twinkles bright again. 

Now, how does that relate to cricket?  Well Fantasy Bob suggests it is a reasonable description of what happens when an umpire is on the receiving end of an over enthusiastic and optimistic appeal. 
Bowler (as ball hits batsman on thigh 2 ft outside leg stump) - Howzat!
Umpire - Do you believe in fairies?
Bowler (aware of rest of team watching with interest) - Certainly not.
Umpire - Well, it's NOT OUT!
Kevin Telfer's book is called PETER PAN’S FIRST XI: The extraordinary story of J. M. Barrie’s cricket team and is published by Sceptre.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Thunderbirds are go

Fantasy Bob's 24 hour electronic monitoirng station intercepted the following conversation earlier today.  This music seemed to be playing in the background.
...........................Hello, Hello - calling International Rescue.

F A B - International Rescue read you.

(the voice is indistinct, out of breath, coughing and choking)..........You gotta send may be too gotta send help..............

This is Jeff Tracey International Rescue, please describe to me the situation.

........The Poms have us 98 all out...........  Hussey failed for once........ Mitch Johnson is spraying it all over the place........I let the boys go out with only emergency spinner cover.........  Strauss and Cook are looking solid for 157. .............. You gotta help us. ........... Marketing wanted a 5 day game.... looks like it'll be done in under 3............Please..........

Mr Hilditch I need you to be calm.  Help is on its way...................
At this point the signal went dead.  But it came back shortly afterwards.
Well Brains have you come up with anything?

Um, er, well, er, Mr Tracey.  It's kinda difficult.  I don't think there's um much we can er do.  Even, um, even if Thunderbird 1 were to get Strauss and Cook quickly tomorrow um there is still KP and Bell to deal with.  I don't er think Thunderbird 3 has um the firepower to counter them. We could send them International Rescue's top order batting package, but that is risky against Anderson and big first innnings lead. The sprinkler dance may be the only option.

FAB Brains.  Virgil,  Scott - get the cloudmaker into Thunderbird 5 and get moving.  Get Lady Penelope over there to show them the dance moves.

FAB Father.....................
Will it work?  Desperate times require desperate measures.....don't miss the next episode.  Thunderbirds Are Go.

Top order batting on its way

The thirteenth day of Christmas

On the 13th Day of Christmas, Fantasy Bob's true love had had enough of all that partridge and calling bird stuff and sent to him a tribute tee-shirt.

Don't pretend that the smallest smidgeon of jealousy hasn't crossed your mind.  See the original here.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Collingwood's sock - Christmas in Melbourne

Paul Collingwood's sock (a little battered after Perth as you can see) has been speaking to Fantasy Bob again under his exclusive agreement to bring you all the insights from the England camp.

The squad made the four-hour flight from Perth to Melbourne on Tuesday.  After a family day and then a day of Cricket Australia functions and charity visits England began their preparations for the fourth Test only on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day will be full-on practice day.  The sock said 'Colly has asked Santa for a new bat - just what he needs to get among the runs again.'

The sock commented on the intense speculation among the pundits about whether Collingwood and Bell should swap places in the batting order,  'This ain't gonna happen, but Belly has been told to ensure that when they're out there together Colly doesn't get any of the strike.'  Fantasy Bob asked the sock whether Finn will play - the suggestion is that he is too tired and that although the leading wicket taker in the series so far has been a bit expensive going for a run a ball in Perth.  'There's no doubt in the selectors' mind - Finny will play unless he doesn't.'

Most of the chat has been about the wicket and the possibility that the Aussies will try to recreate the WACA surface in Melbourne.  The doughty curator of the MCG apparently has several pitches in preparation following a seasonal buy 2 get 1 free offer at the local Lidl. 

Here is a fact worth knowing - MCG has the highest light towers of any sporting stadium in the whole world.

After the defeat in Perth there have been lots of experts offering 5 point plans to England about how to recover momentum.  Here is FB's 5 point plan:  1 Get Hussey out; 2 Get Hussey out; 3 Get Hussey out; 4 Get Hussey out; 5 Get Hussey out.  Simple?

The Australian camp is still agonising over the bowling attack.  There is a chance that for the first time ever at Melbourne they will take the field without a spinner.  The crueler commentators have suggested that this will be the case even if Beer makes the starting XI. 

While all that is going on, there was proof of early series views that the Australian team is pants.  Mitchell Johnson is modelling Jockey shorts and Michael Clark does the same for Bonds underwear.  FB would like to advise all pants manufacturers that he too is available for such endorsements.

But it's a real man's world in the Aussie dressing room.  After his 6 for 47 at Perth Ryan Harris was rewarded by skipper Ricky Ponting. 'I love you mate, I love what you do,' said his captain.

Finally  the BBC have announced, exclusively to Fantasy Bob, that after the success of his Christmas Eve appearance on Thought fur der Thought for the Day, eminent cricket lover and Pope Terry Ratzinger will join the Test Match Special commentary team as expert summariser for the match.

FB's regular readers will need no reminding of how Ratzinger had planned to visit Carlton's Grange Loan HQ during his visit to Britain earlier this year and the later speculation about him being signed as Carlton's overseas amateur for the coming season.  Cricket is in the pontiffical blood.  Terry told FB 'Man, it's always been my dream to sit with Aggers and Sir Geoffrey.  The Gospels of Johnners, Bloers and Arlott are my inspiration.  But I'll have to move my arse to get there in time - cos I have to get all these muppets off the square at St Peters - they insist on walking on it - millions of them.   It's got so bad that only a blessing gets them moving. It's ruined the batting surface - we're seriously thinking about putting an artificial down.  So I'll be very interested in the drop in wickets that they have at the MCG - it could sort our problem once and for all.'


Merry Christmas

..........and Happy Birthday to Marcus Trescothick and Alistair Cook successive left hand  England openers, amazingly born on the same day.

They share a birthday with Isaac Newton.  Newton never played in an Ashes series but he did spend his time establishing the basis of modern physics.  In Principia Mathematica he first presented the evidence for reverse swing.  It took another 300 years for it to be physically demonstrated.  As Newton said 'I shall not mingle conjectures with certainties.'  Very much in line with FB's approach to umpiring.

Not so happy on Christmas Day 1972, was Tony Lewis whose first Test innings as MCC captain could have been better - out for a big fat 0 against India in Delhi.

Fantasy Bob's favourite Christmas music is Messiah.

Here is version of the great chorus Unto a Son is Born.  Enjoy.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Bah! Humbug!

'Bah! Humbug!', the retort of the miserly seam bowler Ebeneezer Scrooge when told by his nephew of the excitements of Christmas in Charles Dickens classic tale, A Christmas Carol, comes to Fantasy' Bob's mind with the season.

Dickens - what about the cricket?
Fantasy Bob has long been an admirer of the works of Charles Dickens, a master of line and length.  He has however been frustrated in his search for cricketing material within the works of this great writer. Dickens started well - there is a celebrated match in the Pickwick Papers but after that he gave up. What happened to his bowling arm?  Did he lose his bat?  

The average Dickens novel is not short, in fact many would say extreme length is their chief characteristic, but despite all this opportunity Dickens fails to depict any cricketing incidents or even use cricketing terms or metaphors.  It is as if cricket did not exist in the world he describes.  Indeed there is very little sport of any sort – the simple minded kite flying of Mr Dick in David Copperfield being an isolated example.  The words of Scrooge may therefore be well chosen, ‘Bah! Humbug!’

What is particularly perplexing is that Dickens created so many opportunities where the reasonable reader would expect cricket to appear.  For example, it would have taken only a little imagination for Nicholas Nickelby to have schooled the unfortunate boys at Dotheboys hall in seam bowling thereby improving their lot considerably.  Instead Nicholas sticks one on Wackford Squeers and leaves with the wretched Smike, a batter of limited potential.  Or, not much effort would have been required in Great Expectations to have Pip, Herbert Pocket and Jo Gargery rig up a net next to the forge to allow Pip to perfect his forward defensive shot which could have served him well when facing Miss Havisham’s deceptive spin bowling.  But Dickens bottled it.  

FB suspects that Dickens had intended his tale about the French Revolution to be entitled A Tale of Two Wickets.  His opening lines promises a strong cricket theme 'It was the best of overs, it was the worst of overs.'  But tragically he was dissuaded by his publisher that A Tale of Two Cities was more historically accurate, Test cricket having been curtailed during the French Revolution. 
So it was with considerable expectation that Fantasy Bob came recently to Dickens’ small work The Cricket on the Hearth.  This is one of his Christmas books, which also included A Christmas Carol referred to above, and which in many ways have contributed much to our modern conception of Christmas.   Here at last, thought FB, is the opportunity for Dickens to redeem his reputation.  There seemed to FB many possibilities in the title.  Perhaps it would represent an account of how the Ashes were originally taken from a down at heel family who would end up triumphant through their recognition by a long lost uncle returned from the colonies.  Or perhaps it would describe in Dickens’ best comic fashion the attempts by a series of exaggerated characters to play cricket indoors by the fireside so exposing the injustices of the day such as putting children up the chimney to field at long on.

But instead FB discovers it is a charming if sentimental tale of the Peerybingle family where a cricket, ie a grasshopper, chirps on the hearth and acts as their guardian angel.  Various adventures take place which are fairly converntional as far as Victorian fiction goes, before the miser Tackleton’s heart is eventually melted by the Christmas season.  Despite not having played or been exposed to any cricket, the Peerybingles and their friends all live happily ever after. 

So FB says be warned – Charles Dickens is one of cricket’s great lost opportunities.  Bah! Humbug! indeed.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Travel advice

Preparing the wicket
The extreme winter weather continues to cause travel chaos throughout the UK.

Transport chiefs have advised that all batsman should ensure that their run is absolutely necessary before leaving the crease.

Before responding to a call from the other end, batters should check local conditions by contacting appropriate advice lines.

Batters deciding to attempt a run should carry blankets, a thermos flask with hot drinks, a torch and a spade in case conditions deteriorate.

Be safe not sorry.  Blizzard conditions are responsible for too many run outs at this time of year.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas quiz

Go on, go on, go on, go on
Fantasy Bob poses you this question for your jolly Christmas quiz. 

What is the connection between Mrs Doyle, housekeeper to Father Ted, and Scotland vs Leicestershire on 22 August 2010?

Some relevant clues:
Scotland beat Leicestershire in Aberdeen in a rain affected match.  Scotland scored 166 for 9 off 40 overs.  Leicestershire's D/L target from 21 overs was 114.  They scored 101, so Scotland won by 12 runs.  Hooray!

Neil Hannon wrote the theme tune to Father Ted (as well as Father Ted and Father Dougal's unforgettable Euro hit My Lovely Horse).  Neil was also a founding member of the Duckworth Lewis Method who in 2009 released a concept album of cricket based songs.  A previous post has made reference to this ensemble.

So, you probably think the answer to the question is the Duckworth Lewis method.

Very near - but wrong.
The answer is cake.

Cake was undoubtedly served during the match in Aberdeen probably during the rain intervals.

Mrs Doyle and cake are inseperable as shown in the following extract from an episode of Father Ted:
Mrs Doyle: There's always time for a nice cup of tea. Sure, didn't the Lord himself pause for a nice cup of tea before giving himself up for the world.
Ted: No, he didn't, Mrs Doyle!
Mrs Doyle: Well, whatever the equivalent they had for tea in those days, cake or something. And speaking of cake, I have cake!
[Holds up a cupcake]
Ted: No thanks, Mrs Doyle.
Mrs Doyle: Are you sure, Father? There's cocaine in it!
Ted: WHAT?
Mrs Doyle: Oh, no, not cocaine. God, what am I on about. No, what d'you call them. Raisins.
Mrs Doyle is a true Ashes Hero.

FB suggests the answer to all other questions in any Christmas quiz, and in life itself, is also cake.

(FB acknowledges that this fabricated cricket type question is no more than a very transparent device to post a favourite piece of comedy dialogue.  He apologises but is unable to guarantee that it won't happen again.)

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The 12 days of cricket

Like any other keen cricketer, every Christmas Fantasy Bob is beside himself with excitement wondering what gifts his true love will generously bestow on him. The latest from the Gray Nichols catalogue, a coaching manual on the art of in-swing bowling, DVDs of great Test players?  There are so many possibilities.

A few years ago however FB's true love may not have been in full sympathy with his love of cricket.  As ever FB politely and faithfully thanked his true love for her generosity. 

Here are his thankyou letters.

A partridge in a pear tree

Dearest True Love,

How lovely and what a wonderful gift.  I will plant the pear tree by the cricket club pavilion and in years to come while waiting to bat, I will sit in its cool shade and be reminded of  you.  I am talking to our doughty groundsman about the possible uses of the partridge as part of our environmentally sustainable approach to ground management.  Nothing has come up yet, but it’s early days.

Love you always


2 Turtle Doves

Dearest True Love,

Thankyou so much for the lovely birds.  Maybe you misheard my voicemail – I’m sure I said 2 batting gloves.  But these little birds are very sweet and last season’s gloves will do another year.  I am talking with our doughty groundsman to see if there is room for the doves in the tractor shed alongside the partridge.

Love you always


3 French Hens

Dearest True Love,

This is a very special present and as always I am touched by your thoughtfulness.  The French are not noted for their interest in cricket but I am sure that these birds will prove the exception.  I am having to buy large drinks for our doughty groundsman but am confident that he will eventually find a place for the hens in the tractor shed.  But we are getting tight for space in there, so if you could take this into account I would love you all the more.

Thinking of you tonight

4 Calling Birds

Dearest True Love

Please don’t think that I don’t appreciate these little charmers, but I wonder if you could have a rethink on the birds theme.  Our doughty groundsman has told me that the French hens have eaten all his grass seed, and the turtle doves have crapped in his kettle and the partridge tries to mate with the scarifier.  Our doughty groundsman is developing an allergy to feathers.  He is greatly concerned that another four birds in the tractor shed could make things unmanageable.



5 Gold Rings

Dearest True Love

Now that’s more like it.  Thanks so much for not being offended by yesterday’s not so subtle hint. 

Love and more


6 Geese A Laying

Now listen,

Back on the birds! I know I told you that egg mayonnaise was the team’s favourite sandwich at tea but this number of eggs might just be a bit too many.  We need to talk.  I will ring you tonight.

7 Maids a milking
You are joking aren’t you?

I am very grateful that you seem to have given up the birds, and I know I kept saying last year how the skipper never remembered to bring the milk for the tea, but don’t you think this is a bit of an over correction?  Our doughty groundsman is finding things increasingly difficult and one of the geese has already perished under the heavy roller.

Please answer the phone when I ring


8 Swans A Swimming
For Goodness Sake!

What the **** is it with you  and birds?  Our doughty groundsman is now well in the huff since he thinks this is some kind of comment on his inability to drain the area down at fine leg following the rain last June.  Please be a little more considerate.


9 Ladies Dancing

You can’t be serious

Alright, it was very clever of you to remember the cheerleaders from when we watched the T20 together, but East League games don’t quite run to gyrating popsies yet. We are getting a bit cramped but our doughty groundsman has a smile on his face and has suddenly found room for them in his tractor shed.  But I don’t know where all the birds are going to go.  He says that’s my ******* problem.


10 Lords a Leaping

Listen cloth ears,

I said Tickets for Lords would get me jumping.  I see no use for these old bufties in the club.  Our doughty groundsman tried to get them to pull the light roller but they just kept hopping about in their ermine gowns.  Completely useless.


11 Pipers piping.

Dear Ms True Love,

I am instructed by our client Mr Fantasy Bob to advise you that his cricket club has now received notice from the Council listing at length the neighbours’ complaints about the incessant bagpiping coming from the ground.  Our client says that 11 pipers piping goes beyond his initial request to you for a nice bit of quiet Scottish music to put on his iPod.  The neighbours say that the piping might not be so bad but when it is combined with the noise of what appears to be a menagerie located somewhere near the tractor shed they lose the will to live.  The neighbours are also objecting to the application for the 9 Ladies lap dancing licence.   Closure of the club is a distinct possibility.  Our client is at present visiting the doughty groundsman in his place of temporary refuge in the City’s mental hospital. I must ask you to refrain from additional gifts until further notice.

Yours faithfully

I L Suem, WS


12 Drummos Drummo-ing

Drummo drummo-ing

 Drummo drummo-ing

My dearest dearest True Love

The best present the cricket club could ever have.  How did you guess – it is just what we always wanted.

Love you more than ever, please come back to me


FB is happy to acknowledge that this is a variation on an idea originating elsewhere - he hopes its interpretation in a cricketing context causes some enjoyment.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Hollywood Cricket Club

Fantasy Bob would like to pay tribute today to C Aubrey Smith -  known to his friends as Sir C Aubrey Smith - who died on 20 December 1948.

Sir Aubrey Smith KBE CBE
He is the only English Test Captain to have his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  Smith had been an effective seam bowler for Cambridge University and Sussex – his curved run up giving him the nickname Round the Corner Smith.  In his first class career he took 346 wickets at 22.34.

He played only one Test, against South Africa in 1888-89, which he captained, taking five wickets for 19 runs in the first innings. He was actually living in S Africa at that time (an interesting selection policy) having gone there to prospect for gold.  A year earlier he had caught pneumonia and had been pronounced dead.  His short Test career was a bit of a come-back in many ways.

He then embarked on an acting career on stage at first but then in films and eventually went to Hollywood where in 1932 he founded the Hollywood Cricket Club.  During the golden years of Hollywood, many stars of the silver screen were to turn out for the team including David Niven, Ronald Colman, Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Laurence Olivier. 

July 1936 - Errol Flynn is bottom left
There are many anecdotes of Smith's aristocratic approach to managing the club.  Laurence Olivier came to town and checking in to his hotel found a note from Smith: ‘There will be net practice tomorrow at 4 pm. I trust I shall see you there.’
Olivier showed up wearing cricket boots borrowed from Boris Karloff.

Smith’s own movie career was dominated by character roles in which he played stereotypical English crusties.  Colonels and Generals abound.  He was unmistakable with his large handlebar moustache.  In his filmography are such titles as The Scarlet Empress (1934),  Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), The Four Feathers (1939) and Rebecca (1940).  He died at the age of 85 - by one of those strange ironies, his final illness was pneumonia.
From its illustrious beginnings, the Hollywood Cricket Club continues to take a leading in the development of California cricket.    Look at its website to see how active it is, although it no longer plays at the Aubrey Smith Cricket Field.  Also, look in vain for names of George Clooney or Tom Cruise in its team lists since the club no longer seem to attract the present stars of Hollywood.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Collingwood's sock - the third test

Paul Collingwood’s sock was more than subdued as it reported under its exclusive agreement to bring Fantasy Bob all the crucial insights from the England camp. ‘It’s tragic,’ he said, ‘It looks like the end of Jack the mystic monkey’s career.  He said we would win - how did he get it so wrong – there is a massive inquest into monkey predictions here.  He must be doubtful for the next Test - the lads think the octopus did a better job.’ The sock went on to focus on his wearer, ‘Obviously Colly is a bit down, he hasn’t delivered with the bat in this series and getting out on the last ball of the third day was muppetlike and more.  But he did pull off the wonder catch to get rid of Ponting on Day 1.  I hope I don’t have to find a new pair of feet for the rest of the series’

Perth remains easily England's worst Test venue - their win-loss ratio and batting average is the lowest among grounds where they've played at least ten Tests.

Day 1 – England win the toss and insert Australia.  It looks a good option as they are all out for 268 and Cook and Strauss survive the last hour.  But crucially Australia recovered from 69 for 5.  The Great Escape will be showing again on all TV channels this Christmas.

Collingwood’s wonder catch is the high spot of a high octane, high quality fielding performance.  Pundits are agreed that this is England's best fielding side since late 1970s when the talents of Gower, Randall, Botham were at their height.  Indeed pundits well and truly tempted fate by suggesting 'Colly, you've just caught the Ashes'.  Jack the monkey was more circumspect opting instead for a banana.

Mitchell Johnson became the first No 8 batsman to score a run in this series as showing good local knowledge of how to play the WACA he clubbed his way to a valuable 62.

Day 2 - comeback day for Mitchell Johnson – 6 for 38 including a burst of 4 for 7 to remove the pride of England’s batting and give Australia a crucial first innings lead.  Johnson was aggressive and controlled - behind the stumps Haddin for once had a sprawl free day. 

Coming into the match former Australian pace man Rodney Hogg called on the side to sledge at every opportunity.  Johnson took him to heart and had interesting discussions with Pietersen and Anderson in particular.  These discussions are unlikely to have been about the finer points of English romantic poetry.

Day 3 – Hussey gets another ton, and becomes the first batsman to hit six consecutive fifties in Ashes Tests. He also became the leading run-scorer in the series, overtaking Cook, and made this the most prolific series of his career. Not bad for a player who nearly lost his place before it all started in Brisbane.  Cook was labouring under the curse of the 200+ average which FB warned about after Adelaide.

Siddle edged to third to slip to hand Anderson his 200th Test wicket, the second fastest Englishman after Ian Botham to reach the landmark.

But Day 3 finished with England staring down the barrel - 300 behind with only 5 wickets standing.  Pietersen gave Hilfenhaus his first wicket since ball 3 in Brisbane. This match marks Pietersen’s lowest contribution in any test he has played where he has batted twice.  No more Lamborghinis to drive as the nets beckon.

Day 4 – Australia finish England off with ruthless efficiency on Ponting’s birthday and the series is alight. 

All the momentum clichés are now Australian.  All Australians have been carefully schooled in the nets to respond to every question with ‘Aw, now, look………..’ and alternate use the following phrases until the interviewer gets bored – ‘Great bunch of guys’, ‘Gotta hand it to Mitch, Huss etc etc etc………..’  Cliches about regrouping and looking carefully at what went wrong are now the property of Strauss and Flower.

Elsewhere former Australia wicketkeeper Rod Marsh blasted the body art of Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke ‘How can we have a bloke captain Australia with tattoos?’ said Marsh. "It's just not on.’  This may have to be put to the test since Ponting is now doubtful after breaking the little finger on his left hand in the field.  Jack the monkey’s views are unlikely to be sought.

Man of the Match - from zero to hero

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Merry Christmas Carltons everywhere

There is a quiet thrill in many Edinburgh households today.  Tonight is the legendary Carlton Christmas party.

But before being overcome with excitement, Fantasy Bob would like to pause and send the season's greetings to the other Carlton clubs around the world. 

'How can there be more than one?', you say.  'Are the denizens of Grange Loan not unique?  Didn't they copyright the name for goodness sake?'  Sadly, or joyfully, they did not. 

Here is FB's brief guide to Carltons around the world.

Carlton Cricket Club, Wakefield Yorkshire play in the West Yorkshire League.  They take their name from the village of Carlton on the outskirts of Wakefield.  According to their website Carlton means town of the churls, churls being 'common agricultural people'.  FB doesn't think this applies to his Edinburgh Carlton club which he believes was named after the posh London gentleman's club - home to earls rather than churls.  Why the founders chose that name is a mystery.

FB was interested to learn that the village of Carlton is smack bang in the Rhubarb Triangle a 9-square-mile area famous for producing early forced rhubarb.  It once produced 90% of the world's winter forced rhubarb - so there.  FB would like to know whether the area supplied Geoffrey Boycott's mum with the sticks of rhubarb with which she would demonstrate her formidable batsmanship against inferior bowling all around the world?

The first recordings of cricketing activities amongst the rhubarb seem to be in the 1860s, but the club came come together in 1922 with the purchase and development of the current ground.  The club appears to be competitive in its divisions and have a thriving junior section which makes it a fine soul mate to FB's Carlton.

Carlton Cricket Club, Melbourne Australia were founded in 1864 and take their name from the Carlton area of the City.  Like Carlton the Aussie Rules Football team they are known as the Blues and are big fish in the highly competitive Australian club scene.  This area is also famous for its Little Italy and for the World Heritage site, the Royal Exhibition  Building, the site of the first Australian Parliament. 

Carlton CC play in the Victoria Premier Division and have an illustrious list of players who have learned their cricket there and gone on to greater things - running from Bill Woodfull to Keith Stackpole and Dean Jones.  They have also gone for quality on their hired guns who have included Abdul Qadir (a member of FB's St Andrew's XI by virtue of his time in Scotland) and Carl Hooper.  Again there is a lot of focus on junior cricket - a feature of Carltons the world over.

Carlton Cricket Club Barbados, founded 1940, is part of a larger sporting club and play at Black Rock in St Michael Barbados.  Amongst their illustrious alumni are Tony Cozier, veteran TMS star and Desmond Haynes.  The Black Rock ground is also host to the occasional first class or one day inter-island games.  Given the great galaxy of West Indian stars to have come from Barbados - from Sobers to Garner and back again - many of the greats have no doubt trod that turf. 

So these are the Carltons around the world and FB sends his Christmas greetings to them all.  He idly speculates how a four way tournament could be organised to find who is the strongest Carlton.  Ah well, maybe when he wins the lottery..........................

For those who are interested, Edinburgh's Carlton Cricket Club was founded in 1863, making it the senior Carlton club.  The story has it that four members of Edinburgh's Young Men's Christian Association were expelled for putting on a dramatic performance. Searching for summer activities, they went on to found the Carlton Cricket Club where dramatic performances (in all senses of the term) have continued ever since.

Full of the Christmas spirit, FB is sending a link of this posting to the other Carltons mentioned.  He is happy to be corrected on any inaccuracy.  Merry Christmas.

(FB is indebted to Carlton's John Boyd for the original research which he has shamelessly plagiarised.  John's excellent article featured in Carlton's match programme during the 2009 season.  John has also suggested that there might be a Carlton CC in Sri Lanka - taking an inference from a  report of a match played by St Anthony's College.  FB has been unable to confirm this - perhaps someone knows?)

Friday, 17 December 2010


There is only one possible subject for Fantasy Bob's 111th posting. 

Nelson at the crease
111.  The dreaded Nelson.  For the averagely superstitious cricketer, such as FB, the score standing at Nelson is a cause for anxiety.  A wicket is bound to fall.  Actually, statistical tests by world famous anoraks have found that wickets are no more likely to fall on Nelson than on any other score.   But it doesn't feel like that.

No one is really sure why the Royal Navy's greatest hero, the Rt Honourable Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson KB, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, should be identified as putting the hex on a cricket team.  The commonly given explanation that it is because Nelson had only one eye, one arm and one leg rather loses its force when history shows that Nelson had the regulation number of legs (as can be seen from his stance at the crease on top of his column).  Of course it might be that 111 was the score that Nelson was on when he unluckily got out during his last great innings at Trafalgar, but most historians are sceptical as to whether cricket could actually have been played on a British man'o'war of the period, particularly during a frantic engagement with the enemy.  The force from a broadside would have made maintaining line and length a considerable challenge to any bowler.  Nor does 'Kiss me, Hardy,' seem  the best way of calling for a quick single.  So the use of Nelson remains a mystery.

It's not much clearer why 111 itself should be considered such a dangerous figure.  There is the suggestion that it looks like bail-less stumps and so is a sign of misfortune.  But that's not much to go on.  111 is of course the emergency number in the USA, but that can't have any relevance.  In FB's experience, dialing the emergency services is not a reliable approach to maintaining your wicket.  The equivalent superstitious number in Australian cricket is 87,  the Devil's Number, 13 shy of 100.  That seems more convincing a reason.  But those same anoraks have shown that more Australian batsmen are dismissed on the surrounding numbers rather than 87 itself.

Nelson can put the hex on an individual score as well as the team's.  But as far as individual scores go the commonest wicket inducing number is 0 - apparently 12.4 of dismissals in Test cricket are ducks (that's more than one every innings).  The next commonest scores are 1 then 4. 

David Shepherd averting Nelson
But we should not despair.  Nelson can be countered.  It is umpire David Shepherd who made the Nelson jig popular demonstrating how Nelson can be subverted by all members of the team ensuring that they do not have both feet on the ground.  Quite why the bowling side did not challenge Shepherd giving such covert assistance to the batting side is a mystery to FB. 

Fantasy Bob is fully aware of the power of Nelson.   Twice last season teammates ignored FB's pleas to ensure they had a foot off the ground until the next run was scored and the inevitable happened.   Vigilance combined with effective coaching is needed at all times.

111 is also the opus number of Beethoven's final piano sonata, one of the most intense and challenging works in the piano repertoire.  FB is convinced that he composed it with one foot held carefully off the ground at all times. The second movement is a huge fugue, theme and variations.  Played at the almost impossible speed of Beethoven's metronome marking some of the variations have a syncopated quality that is as close as you can get to ragtime or jazz rhythms without being in the 1930s.  Wow.  Over a hundred years ahead of his time.  Beethoven really did push every boundary - he may well have invented the reverse sweep. Test match quality in everything he did.

Here is a tape of a performance of the first movement of this great work by Svlatoslav Richter.   (Nelson did not play this piece). Enjoy.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Something wonderful

'Stand at attention while the ball
 is bowled, m'boy'
a still from the British Council film
Fantasy Bob wishes to share something truly wonderful with you. 

Here is a link to a film about cricket made in 1948 by the British Council.  It is based on the Test at Lords on Bradman's final tour - a handsome victory by Australia. 

This is one of a series of films made between 1930 and 1950 that are now being made available on line.  The films showed various aspects of British life extolling and explaining quaint British ways to foreigners.  What the audiences made of them is hard to imagine.  To our modern ears the commentary, which includes the wondrous tones of John Arlott, lapses from time to time into Hearts of Oak condescending jingoism.  But this lost world has great charm.

The crafts of bat and ball making also feature in some of the film's best footage which suggests that no one under 50 would seem allowed to exercise these skills.  Maybe this was a prophetic glimpse of the troubles that would beset the post-war British economy.  The leg break and the off break are explained and demonstrated - since it is obviously very important that your foreign person fully understands these concepts.  Quite why nothing else is explained is a mystery.

Britain has changed, cricket has changed.  Beyond recognition in many ways, but these words of the commentary ring across the years: 
"But victory is the least that men play cricket for. They play it for a host of reasons, ill defined and hard to seek. On school ground, on city street, on village green, they play on. For the urge wells deep from quiet places in men and in the land they spring from."
Well that certainly describes FB although the pleasure of victory shouldn't be underestimated.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Collingwood's sock - en route to Perth

Under his exclusive deal with Fantasy Bob Paul Collingwood's sock has reported from the England camp  on the aftermath to England's crushing innings-plus victory at Adelaide.   England are confident going into the third test. 'Our main issue is who is going to replace Broady.  This is a big worry - there's a big tub of hair gel to be used up.'

England's 3 second string seamers had a try out against Victoria but none really seized the chance on a lifeless wicket.  Indeed so unthreatening were they that Andrew Strauss had to come on and show them how it's done. Unlike them he took a wicket.  The sock had the inside track, 'Could be Strauss backs himself as the replacement.'

The less well informed FB goes for Tremlett as the most likely on grounds of bounce.

But if the match at Melbourne lacked any kind of fizz, there was lots happening away from the field of play. Kevin Pietersen got fined for speeding.  First reports that this was for his acceleration from 150 to 200 during his mammoth Adelaide innings were wrong.  The fine came after he drove a Lamborghini at 121 kilometres (75 miles) per hour in a 100kph (62 mph) zone along Melbourne's Great Ocean Road.  Remarkably he was tweeting about the views at the time - slow down, Kevin and you might actually see them.

Ian Chappell denies there was a scuffle between him and Sir Ian Botham in the car-park at the Adelaide Oval.   Apparently the pair have previous going back to 1977 when uncapped Botham, playing club cricket in Australia, ended up in the same bar as Chappell. The fiercely patriotic Botham objected to the Pommie-bashing comments of passionate republican Chappell, who had recently retired. According to Botham's version of events, he landed a punch on Chappell and chased him out of the bar hurdling a car bonnet in the pursuit.  The Chappell version is not much more edifying.  He says that Botham had goaded him, in what could only be described as Australian language, about not wanting to tour England that year before pushing him off his chair. Chappell says he then walked calmly out pursued by the ranting Botham.  Who knows?  Since then the pair, despite working together for Channel 9 during the 1998-99 Ashes tour, have only traded insults.   So no different from many working relationships in offices the length and breadth of the country.

And then Shane Warne, despite  - or maybe because of - the campaign to reinstate him in the Aussie Test team legs it off to London for a secret love tryst with Liz Hurley.   FB feels slightly nauseous having to report this and apologises if his readers similarly feel queasy.  But FB supposes this means that there is no way Warney can play cricket again - the sledging would be too much even for such a thick skinned artist as Warne.  Warne will be collecting fashion diet and hair care tips to pass on to the Australian dressing room.  'Because they're worth it...............'
Australian papers have been struggling to find much to write about on the surprise call up of Michael Beer - known in cricket circles as who? They suggest he should not worry too much if he has a poor debut as he will not be the first Australian to struggle in their first Test match. Sir Don Bradman, scored 18 and one in his first two innings. Shane Warne was smacked all round the Sydney Cricket Ground by India as he recorded figures of 1-150.  Even slower a starter was Steve Waugh, who made his debut in 1985, had one score above 13 in his first 11 Test innings and took 27 Tests to score his first century..........and eR.........he went on to score 32 hundreds and average 51.06.  Tell that to Beer's predecessor X Doherty. 

On the other side of this discussion is the eerie fact that the last slow bowler to be called up to Australian colours after 5 first class matches is now entwining himself with Ms Hurley.

England's 'Barmy Army' are to unveil a new song about Australia's Ricky Ponting at the third Ashes Test in Perth this week. The song is a re-working of the Oasis classic Don't Look Back in Anger. Here's the first line: "Slip inside Ricky Ponting's mind, he's trying to find, some new players to play."  Not even FB could stoop so low.  He does not think that songs should be allowed at cricket grounds, but if they are he would prefer that a song with a tune was chosen.

There is serious speculation among the pundits as to what Ponting will do if he wins the toss.  The last time he inserted the opposition was at Edgbaston in 2005.  Ouch. The Perth groundsman says he is aiming for grass cover on the wicket and observes that 4th innings scores have been high in recent matches at WACA.  But as Adelaide showed, not every game gets to the fourth innings.  Just remember, England have only won once at the WACA in 11 attempts.
Is that a googly in your pocket?