Tuesday, 31 July 2012


What's good for
Manchester United
 is good for General Motors.
Fantasy Bob has learned that Manchester United have just signed a deal whereby Chevrolet will be the club's shirt sponsor for next season and beyond.

FB is by no means a connoisseur of motor cars and the truth is that he would recognise a Chevy if it were to knock him over in the street.  However he does acknowledge that the brand (or at least the word Chevy) is deeply resonant.  The Chevy conjures up images of 1960s teenage freedom that was part of the American Dream that FB's generation shared in - willingly or unwillingly.  It therefore came as no surprise to FB that in celebration of the marque's 100th anniversary last year a special radio channel was established which played only pop songs which made reference to the Chevy or Chevrolet.  600 such songs were on the playlist.  It may have been no surprise to FB, but when he tried to list them, he could get no further than 2 - American Pie by Don Maclean and  Elton John's Crocodile Rock.  FB is sure that his world wide readership can do better than he - and they will find the list of the Top 100 such songs on this link.

The Chevy is not the only US car marque to celebrated in pop music.  T'birds, Mustangs, Cadillacs the list is long. No British brand of car has been so celebrated - the names just don't cut it - would the Beach Boys have hit the top of the charts if they had sung 'and she'll have fun, fun, fun till her Daddy takes her Ford Anglia away'.  don Maclean would have struggled if he'd had to sing,  'Drove my Hillman Imp to the levee but the levee was dry'  More's the pity.

While there may be a surge in Chevy drivers in Manchester next year, it is just as likely that the market that General Motors are aiming for is world wide.  United are a world brand as are Chevrolet.

Chevrolet are big sponsors of cricket in S Africa where they sponsor 2 sides in S Africa: the Warriors who play in Port Elizabeth and whose playing roster has included such Test stars as Makhayana Ntini, Ashwell Prince and Lonwabo Tstotsobe; and the Knighrts who play in Bloemfontein and are skippered by Morne van Wyck.  But football is on the ascendant there following the Word Cup 2 years ago.

Man U are hugely popular in Asia, another target market.  Chevrolet tried cricket as a marketing base a number of years ago when they supported on Indian Channel Ten TV a programme called the Chevrolet Cricket Show.   It was made in Dubai and was a magazine format with pieces and interviews with all the big players in front of a live audience.  FB thinks it ran for a few years but may no longer be produced.

FB also read recently that soccer is on a growth spurt in India and significant investment is being made in the game there. There may be a long way to go before it supplants cricket's popularity, and it would be a tragedy if that ever came about, but Chevrolet's new deal may just play a small part in that process.  And in future years how many Bhangra songs will mention Chevy in the lyrics?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Bob's XI

Fantasy Bob discovers that he is a dying breed, liable to extinction.  For in 2000 Robert was the 41st most popular name for boys in the UK.  In 2011 it had declined to 85th.  At this rate of decline there will be no Fantasy Bobs in future.  Perhaps the world can survive that, but could the cricketing world survive?

Robert, is by origin a Norman name, but comes from Germanic roots hrod, meaning 'fame' and berhtl, meaning 'famous' or 'bright'. It is a fitting description for many cricketers.

Here is a select Bobs XI. Fantasy Bob was not considered for selection due to his limited, ie zero, Test experience. But the others were all at one time or another important international players. Apparently Oliver was the most popular boy's name in 2011. FB reckons this Bobs XI would overcome any eleven Olivers with ease.
*Bobby Simpson (Aus) - 62 Tests, 4869 runs @ 46.81, HS 311 Simpson was of Scottish descent,  His first Test century did not come until his 30th test - but it was a big one - 311 at Manchester.  He was subsequently coach of Australia and highly significant in their rise to world dominance.
Bob Barber (Eng) - 28 Tests, 1495 runs @ 35.59, HS 185 -  Barber's 185 is his only Test century - it was made in Sydney in 1966 when he put on and opening partnership of 234 with Geoff Boycott.  it remains teh highest score by an English batsman on the opening day of an Ashes Test.
Bob Woolmer (Eng) - 14 Tests, 1059 runs@ 33.09, HS 149 - Woolmer's Test career was shorter than it might otherwise have been had he not joined the Packer World Series.  After his playing career he was a highly successful coach with s Africa Warwickshire and Pakistan until he died during the 2007 World Cup.
Robert Graeme Pollock (SA) - 23 Tests, 2256 runs @ 60.97, HS 274 - generally regarded as S Africa's greatest cricketer and another of Scottish descent.  an imperious left handed bat whose international career.   was cut short by the boycott of S Africa.
Bob Cowper (Aus) - 27 Tests, 2061 runs @ 46.84, HS 307 -  he made the first Test triple century in Australia in the Fifth test against England At Melbourne in 1966. He averaged an impressive 75.78 in home Tests but only 33.33 overseas - the highest difference of any Test player.
Robert Key (Eng) - 15 Tests, 775 runs @ 31.00, HS 221- seen by many as deserving more than his 15 Tests but never consistent enough for a long run in the side but his 221 agaisnt W Indies in 2004 showed what he could do.  Captain of Kent since 2006.
+Bob Taylor (Eng) -  57 Tests, 174 dismissals - with 2069 victims across his entire career he holds the record for a wicket keeper.  Kept out of the Test side for much of his career by Alan Knott who was a better bat, but Taylor is seen as the keeper's keeper.
Robert Croft (Eng) - 21Tests, 49 wickets @ 37.24 -  the first Welsh cricketer to take the double of 10,000 runs and 1,000 wickets in First Class cricket in 2007.
Bob Holland (Aus) - 11 Tests, 34 wickets @ 39.76 -  the leggie's Test debut in 1984 aged 38 made him the oldest Australian debutant for 50 years. His greatest moment was when he got 6 for 54 amd 4 for 90 in Australia's unexpected victory over W Indies at Sydney. Also distinguisned for jointly holding the record for 5 Test ducks in a row.
Bob Massie (Aus) - 6 Tests, 31 wickets @ 20.37 - a star which shone brightly and then was gone -  his Test debut at Lords in 1972 was at the time the best debut figures in Test history as he took 8 wickets in each innings. But he played only 5 more Tests and never rediscovered the magic that gave him such prodigious swing.
Bob Willis (Eng) - 90 Tests, 325 wickets @ 25.20 - 325 wickets is a big achievement but he will always be remembered for his 8 for 43 at Headingley against the Australians in 1981.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Empty Seats

Grange Loan at the high point of Saturday's match
Organisers are investigating why there have been empty seats at sold out events at the Grange Loan HQ of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton.

Observers have been critical that while cheaper seats are full with spectators, those seats with the best views of the action have been empty.  A spokesman for the go ahead club told the world's media that they believe the empty seats are in accredited areas reserved for corporate sponsors and the media.  They they are in the process of finding out who should have been in the seats and why they weren't there.

The spokesman said, 'We will find out what happened quickly.  It may of course be due to the fact that Fantasy Bob was not competing in today's events.'

A frustrated spectator trying to peer over the wall at the world famous iconic ground to get a glimpse of the action said, 'It's very frustrating - I was told all events at Grange Loan were sold out and now all I see is row upon row of empty seats.   It's just as well Fantasy Bob wasn't playing otherwise things would have turned ugly.  But having something to moan about like this, it makes you proud to be British.'

2012 Chairman, Lord Coe had previously stated that he would name and shame those who had seats at Grange Loan but did not attend.  Among those not present at Grange Loan today were Her Majesty the Queen and Lord Coe.

In another embarrassment for the Carlton Organising Committee there were also complaints about lengthy queues to get into the ground. An angry fan said, 'Apparently they left the gate on the snib. We had to wait ages for a junior member to come and climb over the wall to let us in. We want out money back.'

Saturday, 28 July 2012


Fantasy Bob has noted that making his debut for New Zealand in the First Test against West Indies which started this week in Antigua is left arm seamer Neil Wagner.

As far as FB knows this Wagner is no relation to the Wagner, that is Richard Wagner, composer of the Ring Cycle. He may well be, but chooses not to draw attention to it, for even at the distance of 150 years Richard Wagner remains controversial in some respects. Wagner’s, that is Richard Wagner, not Neil, views on cricket are not known. His biography suggests that he was not a man likely to walk after gloving it behind. But at another level, he might well have viewed the game as an expression of his concept of the gesamtkunstwerk – the total art work – had he thought about it. FB still awaits the imaginative producer who will use an Ashes Series as the background to a presentation of the Ring Cycle. In fact FB offers his services to any opera house willing to put on such a show. He is sure it would be a sure fire hit.

However Neil Wagner is a South African recruit to the New Zealand cause which has been stuttering of late.  His first day as a Test bowler was not as successful as he might have hoped. He started the day at the crease for he had been sent in the previous evening as night watchman; he did not survive for long before being caught at slip off Sunil Narine for 4.  Then as the West Indies innings gained momentum, his first 5 overs in Test cricket went for 35 as Chris Gayle, on his return to Test cricket, took a liking to him.  The next day was not all that great either as the West Indies openers piled on the runs.  On the third day, Wagner got his first Test wicket getting Kieran Powell to chase a wide won - the previous 3 balls in the over had each gone for 4.

His treatment in Antigua was so different from his astonishing bowling spell for Otago against Wellington in 2010 when he took 5 wickets in a single over.   While other bowlers in First Class Cricket have taken 5 wickets in 6 balls, Wagner appears to be the only bowler to have done this in one over.  Now that was truly a Wagnerian achievement.

Perhaps Neil Wagner should not worry too much about his debut.  For the debut of his namesake the Wagner, Richard, was not a triumph either. His first staged work was Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Performed at Magdeburg in 1836, it closed after one performance, leaving the composer in serious financial difficulties – a recurring theme in Wagner’s life. 

 It was not until 1843 that he met with some success in the theatre when The Flying Dutchman was presented for the first time in Dresden.  It is said that he took the inspiration for this work from a stormy sea passage to London in 1839 to where he was fleeing from creditors.

The Flying Dutchman tells the tale of a skipper who is cursed to bowl up the hill against the wind forever without rest. An angel brought to him the terms of his redemption: every seven years the waves will cast him upon the shore; if he can find a wife who will be true to him he will be released from his curse, and get a LBW decision in his favour.  This is obviously based on FB’s career - except for the part about redemption. Test Match Quality.

Scottish Opera will be presenting this great work in the autumn.  Be there.

In the meantime - try the overture to Neil Wagner's next bowling spell played on this link by the Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera in NY conducted by James Levine.

Friday, 27 July 2012


Fantasy Bob welcomes the Olympic Games – not the commercial overkill, the security hysteria, the self importance and venality of the apparatchiks and hangers on. To be honest he doesn’t really welcome the synchronised diving or the rhythmic gymnastics but if others take an interest in these peculiar pastimes, that is fine. He could do without Gary Lineker popping up every ten minutes on the TV set with his inane grin, but is mildly relieved that it won't be Adrian Chiles.

He is frankly fed up of the moaning and cynicism from the metropolitan media elite who seem to be in a tizz that London will be full of …well foreigners, and people in track suits, on the Tube.  They are panicking that it will be difficult to get to Starbucks.  Have they no gratitude for the totality of the nation’s resources being siphoned into the city?  Money that could have provided facilities and coaching for kids who still do not get 2 hours PE a week in schools across the country.  Too late - so let's get on with it.

Let the Games begin.  FB hopes they are a sporting triumph – he doesn’t really care about who tops the medal table.  He hopes that there are astounding performances that confirm that, even in these dark and anxious days, the human spirit can triumph. 

FB is unlikely to pay much attention outside the athletics events. An accidental look at the beach volleyball may be unavoidable (for research purposes) and he will try to see what Lords look like, desecrated to form an archery stadium.  But athletics is the pinnacle and the cynosure. 

Although GB is the reigning Olympic cricket champion having beaten France in 1900 in the only time cricket graced the Games, this title will not be defended this year.  While Cricinfo published recently this interesting article aboutcricketers who have participated in the Olympics, it is impossible to select an Olympic Cricket XI. 

The nearest FB can get is his Golden XI drawn from British medallists at the last 11 Olympiads. FB has tried to identify a hero from the athletics events.  Victories in the high tech events are less inspiring.  But in some years Britain did not get gold on the track or the field, so an alternative had to be found. In some years there was only one contender.  Nevertheless, he is sure all of his selections are capable cricketers, some would seem to be fast between the wickets and have good throwing arms at least.  FB recalls being inspired by each of these exceptional performances.

1968 – Mexico – David Hemery – 400m hurdles

1972 – Munich – Mary Peters – Pentathlon

1976 – Montreal - there was no GB athletics gold medallist - so FB selects swimmer David Wilkie – 200m breaststroke

1980 – Moscow - Alan Wells – 100m

1984 – LA – Daley Thompson – decathlon

1988 – Seoul – there was no GB athletics gold medallist – but Steve Redgrave won the second of his 5 golds in the coxless pairs with Andy Holmes

1992 – Barcelona – Sally Gunnell – 400m hurdles

1996 – Atlanta - there was no GB athletics gold medallist -  Britain’s only gold in the whole event was Steve Redgrave and Mathew Pinsent

2000 – Sydney – Denise Lewis – Heptathlon

2004 – Athens – Kelly Holmes, 800m and 1500m

2008 – Beijing – Christine Ohoruogu – 400m 

Bread and circuses? Bring them on.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Ink Blots

Fantasy Bob has wittered before about his fledgling career in psychology. As part of his studies he took a number of personality tests. He failed them all, for he has no personality.

Most such tests these days grandly title themselves psychometrics and are made up of multiple choice questions and are assessed by computers. However at one time they had a bit more style and one of the first and most famous tests is the Rorschach ink blot test, where conclusions are drawn about a person’s mental state from his or her descriptions of what they see in a series of ink blot shapes. The technique is celebrated in the following story where a subject consults his doctor about his sleep problems. The doctor shows the patient an inkblot and asks what he sees in it ‘People having sex’. He shows him another with the same question. ‘People having sex’. A third blot draws the same answer. The doctor says, ‘Well it’s obvious what your problem is, you’re obsessed with sex.’ ‘What do you mean,’ responds the patient, ‘it’s you who’s showing me all these dirty pictures.’

And that more or less summarises the problem with the inkblot test. How objective is any analysis of what any person reports as seeing in the pictures? Investigations into this issue have been inconclusive but some therapists continue to use inkblots and similar techniques. It is perhaps a stronger diagnostic for thought disorder rather than typing personality.

Fantasy Bob has trawled and hacked various archives and has found the notes taken many years ago when he undertook the test as part of his studies.  Do his interpretations of the blots still offer a valuable insight into his mental processes?

There are no empire biscuits in this picture. It looks like the last ball of the first ever tied test when Ian Meckiff was run out by Joe Solomon off the second last ball of the match. Australia had started the 8 ball over with 3 wickets in hand needing 6 to win. The over was bowled by Wes Hall.

There are no empire biscuits in this picture either.  But it looks like the 6th ball of the last over of the first ever tied test. Meckiff heaved the ball to mid-wicket. The batsmen attempted a third run which would have secured victory but Hunte's return from the fence was too good and Wally Grout was run out to leave the teams tied with 2 balls left.

There are no empire biscuits in this picture either.  But it is the 5th ball of the last over of the first ever tied test when Grout fended a bouncer Wes Hall in his follow through attempted the catch but got in Khanhai's way so the catch was missed and a single taken leaving three runs to win from three balls.

Inkblot 1

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wha's Like Us?

As a Scottish person, Fantasy Bob is unused to celebrating sporting success.  It is all very well for natives of Kilburn to be celebrating Bradley Wiggins' triumphant bicycle ride round French beauty spots.  S Africans must be tired cheering Els and Steyn, quite apart from exhaustedly raising a glass to Amla.  Scottish supporters are not lachrymose by nature, but they will no doubt turn crying along with Andy Murray into a national pastime.  But not today.

There is only one thing for Fantasy Bob to say today and that is very well done to Scotland who beat Bangladesh in a T20I played in the Netherlands yesterday.

The victory was based on Richie Berrington's century which came in 56 balls - making it the fifth fastest in T20I history.  When Berrington hits it, it stays hit. And what distinguished company he now keeps - above him are Richard Levy (45 balls), Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum (both 50 balls) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (55 balls).


A disciplined bowling performance with some excellent fielding kept the pressure on Bangladesh's batting line-up.

This is Scotland's first victory against a Test playing nation in any format of the game. Bangladesh were ranked four before the match, following their 3-0 victory over Ireland last week. a false position perhaps, but not so as to take away from Scotland's achievement. An historic moment. Both Ireland and Bangladesh themselves have previously used such victories as the foundation for improvement and development. Let's hope that Scotland can do the same.

The sad fact is however that this is the only T20I that Scotland will play this year. They failed to qualify for the T20WC to be held in Sri Lanka in September.

Once again, it raises questions as to what are the best opportunities to give Scottish players to develop. Is the CB40 competition in which they play a number of counties home and away really proving a platform of any sort? There is some thinking to do. But that is for tomorrow. For the moment - well done Drummo and the boys.

Wha's like us?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012


There seems nothing much more for Fantasy Bob to say about South Africa's demolition of England in the First Test.  His prediction of a close encounter proved, as is usual with his predictions, hopelessly inaccurate.

An innings defeat in which only 3 opposition batsmen score runs and you take only 2 wickets in the whole match to your opponents' 20 is history making in itself. No other team has accomplished this. As a margin of victory this is astonishing. But everybody knows that. What will be the psychological damage to the team thinking itself the best on the planet. Unusually in modern schedules England have a week to regroup and to pray for conditions more likely to favour them when they play in front of FB at Headingley. Then everyone will see the true character of the side. Resilience was not on offer at the Oval - it is vital that some is generated for the next encounter.

Alviro making history

All the media attention will rightly be on Amla and on Steyn, on Kallis and on Smith. There were stellar performances from each. But FB would like to give praise to another S African whose contribution was significant. FB is sure that his performance will in time ensure he becomes a legendary figure. Quizzes across the civilised world will soon resound to the question to name the fourth batsman when S Africa scored their record 637 for 2 against England. In future corners of clubs and pubs, pencils will be sucked and brows will be furrowed as the name stubbornly refuses to come to mind.

Alviro Petersen's 26th Test innings ended on Friday when he missed Jimmy Anderson's inswinger and left without seeking a review so plum was he.  This brought Amla to the crease and England's long vigil started.

This was Petersen's first Test duck, although not his shortest innings.  He is bound to remember it.

That's the thing about trivia.  It just keeps accumulating, and FB falls over it all the time.  So well done Alviro Petersen, your hard graft is over and you are a racing certainty for your fourth Test century at Leeds.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Primacy of Amla

On a day when Fantasy Bob scored a memorable 0* (Coming to the crease with both the winning total and his team mate's 50 one stroke away), Hashim Amla scored 311*. Even a dullard at arithmetic can work out the difference. FB understands that Amla was so meticulous in his praise of FB, it is only right that FB is fulsome in his praise of Amla. Facing the best bowling attack in the world, FB's innings is beyond description. By contrast, Amla only had to cope with England's blunted attack and was serene in everything he did. Amla is FB's newest batting hero.

A new hero for FB

FB's worldwide audience will know that prime numbers get FB excited.  He notes that Graeme Smith declared when Amla was on a prime. Supreme captaincy - worthy of FB himself. Smith himself also was dismissed on a prime - 131.  But Kallis' score of 182* is not prime, demonstrating Kallis' continued failure in England.

And Smith must feel frustrated that he couldn't declare with himself, Amla, Kallis and the overall total on a prime number.  The total was 637.  The nearest next prime is 641.  The nearest next prime to Kallis' 182 is 191.  You can see his problem.  No doubt this is what got Steyn and Morkel so fired up in England's second innings.

Only two batsmen have scored higher primes than Amla - Hanif Mohammad's 337 at Bridgetown  in 1958 and Younis Khan's 313 at Karachi in 2009.

Scores of 300 are not frequent - in 2049 Tests they have only happened 26 times.  Six of those have been in England of which Amla's is the second at the Oval.  The previous one was 364 beat by Len Hutton in 1938 when England beat Australia by what is still the record margin of an innings and 579 runs.  England are not going to be on the receiving end of such a thumping in this match, but after all the build up and the pleasure they took in their number one ranking, a defeat will seem even heavier.  Of course they may bat all Monday and save the game.

Just to revert to numbers again - Hutton's record score of 364 was overtaken by Sobers in 1958, the same year as Hanif's score.  It is one of only 3 years in the whole history of the world in which more than one triple century has been scored.  The others are 2004 and 2012.  In addition to Amla's innings, Michael Clarke scored 329* in Sydney against India in January.

By contrast, there are many years in the history of the world when FB has scored 0*.  There are even more years when he has scored just 0.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

We Happy Few

Captaincy is tough.  With this mind, Fantasy Bob watched the BBC's latest version of Shakespeare's Henry V last night. This play tells of Henry's campaign in France during the Hundred Year's War and climaxes with the Battle of Agincourt where England scored an innings victory.

There are many readings and critiques of this play and in particular its stance on war, and the futility of it or otherwise. It is also examined for what it says about leadership in war, the nearest thing to skippering a cricket side in the lower leagues.  FB therefore looks to it for guidance.

We few, we happy few
The two celebrated film versions reflect the different concerns of their time to war - Laurence Olivier's 1944 version celebrates Henry and his cause and was commissioned as part of the propaganda effort during the second world war.  The more recent version by Kenneth Branagh (1989) reflects a wiser more critical attitude on the suffering of those participating in the war.  The latest version inclined more to the latter.  

We band of brothers
Perhaps the greatest verses in the play are those of the great motivational speech spoken by Henry just before Agincourt.  This is his captaincy at its most raw and exposed. Olivier declaims this speech widening his audience, raising his voice and quickening the beat the further he gets into to so that eventually he seems to be talking to his whole army.   Branagh takes a similar approach.  But in last night's version Tom Hiddleston spoke the famous words more quietly, more intimately, passive in some ways but choked with the emotion of comradeship at the end.  Was this a reflection on the leadership approach to the Iraqi invasion?  It is for FB's world wide audience to reach their own view.  Whatever view they take, they remain great words.

When Fantasy Bob gathers his team in the dressing room before vital league matches, the fresh faces of the juniors in the side; the rheumy eyes of those who are counting the remaining matches they have left in their career; all look to him for motivation and inspiration. All hang on his every word. But all they get is a series of cliches about giving 110%, getting in the zone, working hard for each other and such like nonsense. How they must wish that just once, FB could trot out something with a bit more class in it, something on the following lines, (which are the climax of this great speech).
This story shall the good man teach his son,
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; 

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, 
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed 
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, 
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks 
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Then might the ball speed to the boundary from their bat, and the wickets fall to their bowling. Ah if only.  If only FB were a poet and an orator.  If only he were a cricketer.

Hear Olivier declaiming this speech on this clip but stay with it until around 8.00 minutes in when the French cavalry charge is shown with the music of William Walton matching it perfectly.  Test Match Quality.

Saturday, 21 July 2012


Madonna is at Edinburgh's Murrayfield tonight in the latest leg of her MDNA tour.  Reviews of the shows so far are mixed although they have attracted headlines for nipple showing, stripteases and misplaced swastikas. The concert is not a sell out - perhaps the Scottish audience confuses it with the Olympic football contest another set of performances that has unsold tickets.  It takes more than the prospect of a bare breast to get a crowd in Edinburgh these days.

It may not appear so at first sight, but despite the fact that Madonna's extensive back catalogue makes precious little reference to cricket as a subject, Fantasy Bob and Madonna have a lot in common.  They are both veteran artists with a world of experience and a hatful of hits behind them.  Observers at Grange Loan have often remarked on the similarity between Madonna's raunchier stage routines and FB's bowling action.  While Madonna's rhythmic pelvic thrusts leave nothing to the imagination, as FB's pelvis thrusts up the hill against the wind, everything is left to the imagination.  Indeed most spectators find it hard to imagine that he will ever manage to get to the crease let alone make any kind of delivery.

Yet despite all the years of experience between the two veterans, there are times when they really should know better. Times when they don't realise that too much water has passed under their bridge and that, despite all their efforts in the gym and with magical herbal potions, spring chickens is definitely what neither of them is.  Consequently, there are some things that they just should not contemplate.   FB cannot resist a quick single - but frequently lives to regret it.  Just as Madonna, it would seem, cannot resist baring her nipples to her audience.  She most certainly should live to regret it.

But although FB does not really regard himself as a fan of Madonna, he recognises that he has lots to learn from her.  Not in the breast bearing department or in the obsession with showing her underwear off on every possible occasion but in the the requirements she makes for her dressing room. Whereas FB makes very modest demand of the event promoters at the Grange Loan HQ of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton, requiring only that the door is open, Madge is considerably more demanding.

In emulation of her therefore FB has written to the authorities at Grange Loan asking them to ensure that for the remaining home games this season they ensure that his dressing room is festooned with  flowers cut to exactly six inches in height; that twenty international phone lines are at his disposal; that all fabrics should be perfumed with pink roses and lilies.  In addition, all furniture must be removed from the rooms and replaced with FB’s own pieces.  He expects accommodation for his 30 bodyguards and 200 person entourage including yoga instructor and vegan chef  He is still preparing his specifications in relation to empire biscuits.  It is the least he can expect given his superstar status.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Truth about Sports Products

Fantasy Bob’s dutiful attendance at net practice last night meant that he missed Panorama’s examination of the claims made by the manufacturers of sports products. Apparently scientific research suggests that the advertising claims that sports drinks or protein shakes enhance performance are questionable. Similarly, little credible evidence has been established in support of claims that certain training shoes can make their wearer run faster with less risk of injury.

These revelations come as little surprise to FB. His long experience tells him that sports products are not all they are claimed to be. He has several sets of golf clubs, none of which seem to work properly. His new cricket bat, purchased at eye watering expense and with the assistance of a 25 year mortgage, seems to have a hole where a bat might be expected to have a middle and seems incapable of scoring the prodigious amounts of runs that might have been expected from the modest claims on the manufacturer’s website. FB's new pads, have denied his expectations that once and for all that crippling fear of LBW would be banished. Indeed FB has succumbed to LBW more times this season than last – although he accepts that this may not  be attributable only to a failure on the part of his pads. The hole in his obviously defective bat may well have something to do with it. As had a failure in the understanding of geometry in his umpiring colleagues, but the decline in educational standards is at is another issue to be addressed by Panorama.

The central conclusion is clear; in most cases a glass of water, or a pint of milk will do as much for performance as any kind of fancy branded potion endorsed by Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis. However FB understands that the programme was not comprehensive. There was one sport enhancing food that it did not examine. With good reason, for the impacts of the empire biscuit are fully substantiated by decades of extensive and meticulous research conducted by FB. That he is the only subject of this research should not undermine the results that the empire biscuit enhances performance in any discipline.

There are various assessments as to the calorific value of the empire biscuit – ranging from 230 to 370 calories per item. They are therefore essential for any bowler to complete an extended bowling spell up the hill and against the wind of the kind that skippers have required of FB since around the time that overarm actions were first accepted as legitimate.

FB’s world wide readership will be following assiduously the progress of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France. They will therefore know that in Wednesday’s stage of the race, which covered 197km through the Pyrenees and contained a number of hill climbs the highest of which is just below 3,000m, the cyclists are reckoned to burn about 6,000 calories. On a central estimate that is at least 20 empire biscuits. The prospect of 20 empire biscuits might well make FB consider entering the race.

The way forward for all sportsmen is clear. They must be made aware of the power of the empire biscuit.  The campaign starts now. FB is confident that Britain's Golden Girl Jessica Ennis will accept the role of principal ambassador for FB's Isotonic Protein Enhanced Empire Sports Biscuit.

Supreme Sports Food

Thursday, 19 July 2012

England v South Africa

Fantasy Bob's worldwide readership should know better than to look to him for any insights on important sporting events. But they still do, no doubt enjoying that feeling of superiority that comes from seeing any thoughts he might offer on the outcomes soundly proved wrong. 'I told you,' they will say knowingly to each other, 'when FB says one team is likely to win that is a cast iron certainty that the opposite will happen.'

So it is with some trepidation that FB comes to consider the England v South Africa Test series which gets underway at the Oval today, weather permitting. FB shares the general disappointment among cricket lovers that this series is curtailed to 3 matches. Instead of a 5 act drama with twists and turns and the unexpected, things risk being over in a flash. It is more than likely that the weather will have an important bearing on the outcome - possibly saving one team or denying the other the chance of a victory. Early advantage will be important.

England in tribute to FB

FB notes that England have been training with blindfolds. He assumes this is a tribute to FB and his eyes shut approach to batting. This will undoubtedly give them the edge.

Pundits are making much of the battle of the bowlers with each side having an impressive bowling line-up firing at the top of their game. FB has had a look at them all and concluded that there is no one he fancies facing. There will be 6 of the top 10 bowlers in the current Test Rankings on display. Of the bowlers who are likely to feature in the series only Kallis and Imran Tahir is outside the top 20.

Steyn at practice (as if he needs it)
Leading by some distance is Dale Steyn, one who FB would DEFINITELY not like to face, whose 272 Test wickets have come at 23.18 and a frightening strike rate of 40.9 - that is one wicket every 6 and a half overs. Jimmy Anderson maybe supreme in English conditions and is currently third in the rankings but by comparison with Steyn his average and strike rate are modest. Anderson's average looks high to FB for a bowler of his quality and reflects the variable form of his early career. By contrast the early career of Vernon Philander has jet boosters attached - he reached 50 wickets in record time and carries a reputation not for brute pace but very tight control of line and length in the McGrath mould. Swan is a greater threat but may need to the conditions to be in his favour to make an impact.

When it comes to batting, S Africa look to have the stronger batting line up with de Villiers, Kallis and
Amla all above England's highest ranked player Alistair Cook who is in 9th overall place. However overall there is not much in it as both teams have 4 batsmen in the top 20.

So against this background, here are FB's key questions:

Can Kallis deliver in England - he has never achieved in England and this will be his last chance to get his name on the honours board at Lords. Kallis has a poor record in England where he averages a mere 29.30 - little more than half his overall 56.78.  He has been dismissed for less than 15 on 11 of the 20 occasions he has batted in England and has scored only three half-centuries.  There are some resonances with Sangakkara here who had never done himself justice in England but was able to salve some pride with a century at the Rosebowl.

How will de Villiers cope with having to keep in the first test following the career ending injury to Mark Boucher? His previous Test outings with the gloves didn't dampen his run getting but it will disappointing not to see one of the great fielders in the modern game not prowling the outfield.  De Villiers has the chance to show himself to be the finest batsman of his generation.

What will be the mental state of KP? It is good that everything is clarified in that he has been omitted from the T20 squad announced this week. That should be an end of it. but it gives the Saffies sledging material if nothing else. Can he withstand the chat and Steyn at the same time? And will any of it rub off on the rest of the team - Flower has a hard management task ahead.

Will Bopara come good?  If all goes to plan he may not get too many opportunities if England's big guns score heavily. But if they don't he has the challenge of saving the innings. He has been so near so often. It would be good to see him deliver.

What impact will the conditions have?  England have been supreme in recent years at home and this summer conditions couldn't be more English.  Above all this is the reason that FB goes with England to win - but he hopes for a tightly contested series with every match going into the final session of the fifth day with everything to play for.

Who will win the Open?  AB de Villiers plays off scratch - so he might be a candidate but that he is at the Oval.  But too many Saffies have been taking golf's majors recently - time for a home grown player.  FB  would love Paul Lawrie to do well and confirm his recent resurgence.  But most likely it will be an unknown American.  Since FB at this point has never heard of him, he cannot give a forecast.  His world wide readership will have to make up their own minds.

Lawrie - Not facing Steyn

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


After the flood, the world washed clean. After the long darkness, light.  So it is that recent days have seen a reemergence of Revivalist fervour in Scotland.

Revivalist meeting in Largo Sunday 15 July

Congregations of the faithful have been seen assembling garbed in saintly white. These outdoor meetings resound with the ululations of the devotees as they implore their spiritual leaders and divine powers to impose justice on an otherwise imperfect world. ‘Howzat’ they cry in unison as their ecstasy overcomes them. ‘Howishe,’ the refrain comes again followed by a long sigh as there is no divine intervention forthcoming. These were habits of worship which seemed at risk of being lost, so long had the flood prevented the worshippers from assembling. Fantasy Bob is relieved to note that the spiritual commitment of the Scottish cricketer has not faded in this latter day dark age. During the flood, the powers of darkness walked the land and spreading all manner of temptation, punishments too for there were weekend trips to IKEA. But cricketers retained their faith.
Thomas Chalmers

Scotland has an honourable tradition of revivalism, so the cricketing congregation’s resolution is not wholly unexpected. The most celebrated revivalist was the 19th century the Scottish evangelist minister Thomas Chalmers, at first a professor of mathematics who became increasingly fervent as an evangelist and ultimately led the Disruption of 1843 that resulted in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland. The split ended years of dispute over the critical issue of who had the right to appoint umpires.

The establishment of the Free Kirk put an end to Sunday cricket fixtures in many areas. But cricket, along with other sports was seen by many active Church people as a good thing in line with the Victorian concepts of muscular Christianity and many cricket clubs had origins and links with Church organisations. Chalmers lived for the last years of his life in Morningside in Edinburgh, where he may well have seen the fledgling cricketers who not very many years later would found the Carlton Cricket Club.

Thomas Chalmers
Thomas Chalmers died in 1847, 2 years before the first Scotland England cricket match. He is therefore not to be confused with the Thomas Chalmers who is regarded as the first great fullback in Scottish rugby. He played in the first six international matches between 1871 and 1876, which were all against England. He also represented Scotland at cricket, being a decent bat and seam bowler. Playing for West of Scotland against Australia in 1878 he scored 38 against the bowling of Spofforth, which is more than many an English batsman was to score against the demon bowler. Chalmers also played in a trial for the first soccer international against England. A contemporary report says he was "a capital goalkeeper, albeit the rules were new to him." He did not make the team, but he evidently set a standard for Scottish goalkeepers.

Just as biographies are silent on the preacher Chalmers' bowling action so they do not tell of the later Chalmers’ religious convictions. But names with religious connotations seem to run in the family for the later Chalmers' nephew, who also played international rugby for Scotland, was named John Knox. Now there was a revivalist.

FB understands that by the time his worldwide readership look at this posting the powers of darkness may well be testing the faithful again with further deluges putting at risk revival meetings later this week.  He is confident that cricketers will remain strong in the face of such torment.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Bastille Day

Pastille Day
Fantasy Bob noted that the French celebrated Bastille Day at the weekend.  In his younger days, not knowing what or who a Bastille might be, FB misheard the description of this celebration on the BBC News as Pastille Day.

He did not know why the French should deem Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles worthy of national rejoicing, but he saw no reason to decry their enthusiasm.  They are French after all.  They do not play cricket.  That seemed explanation enough.  If they wish to celebrate Fruit Pastilles, let them.

Another assist for Murray Mints
FB has nothing against Fruit Pastilles, they are perfectly fine if you like gelatine and hard sugar around them.  But he is not sure whether they should be the cricketer's sweet of choice.  That place seems to be reserved for Murray Mints.  For in Marcus Trescothick's autobiography he revealed how sucking these sweets gave his spit that added extra which shone the ball to perfection. According to Banger Murray Mints did more to win the 2005 Ashes than any of the players.  There should be a national Murray Mint day to rival Pastille Day.

There was of course then a bit of a tizz about whether Murray Mints should be banned as a result but the ICC thought better of it.  If they banned Murray Mints they would have to ban every other sweet and gum - indeed they might have to ban spit altogether.  FB is unsure why they didn't do that - the spit ball is illegal in baseball.  

FB has never tested the impacts of Murray Mints on his own bowling.  It would be a waste of a good sweet, for his bowling is beyond help.

But this brings to FB's mind another sweet from the distant past which directly celebrated cricket. Sports Mixtures, small chewy things in the shape of various pieces of sporting equipment, were a feature of his childhood and serious addiction was a significant risk among his classmates.  There were two cricketing pieces - the bat and a set of stumps beside which was a ball. FB is of course referring to the original Lion Sports Mixtures, not the more recent versions by Maynard which has kept the bat but not the stumps. Cricketers should hold out for Lion.
Lion's Sports Mixture - showing the bat (yellow) and stumps (green)
Although the sweet market these days seems to be wholly dominated by Haribo, there is a market for retro or even heritage sweets which can make available all the treats that FB remembers. All the treats that explain why he is the dentists' friend and why he risks metal fatigue when eating a large meal. Here is FB's Sweetie First XI (not in batting order).
Sherbet Fountain
Liquorice Catherine Wheels
Love Hearts
Fruit Salad
Rhubarb Rock
Milk Chews
Flying Saucers
Tooty Frootys
Rainbow Buttons

Let the French celebrate Pastilles - FB will continue to campaign for a national day in honour of these delights.  Vive le Rhubarb Rock!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Security Matters

Fantasy Bob has issued the following statement:

FB is totally committed to delivering safe, secure and successful Fourth XI fixtures at Grange Loan.

He is entering the final stages of an extremely complex workforce supply contract which is on an unprecedented scale. Getting eleven players in recent weeks has been a challenge. Finding an additional 3500 to conduct security searches and mount perimeter patrols has been a nightmare.
At the point he felt that he could no longer assure the scale of the security workforce he had committed to, he buried his head in the sand and produced meaningless match reports for Fourth XI  matches that had been cancelled. He accepts this is far from the standard of leadership that is expected of him and did nothing to reduce the threat to players of terrorist attack.  Doughty Groundsmen were also put unnecessarily at risk. 
The government has therefore decided to increase the number of military personnel who will work at Grange Loan during forthcoming Fourth XI matches.
FB is grateful for the additional military support. He does not underestimate the impact on the military personnel and their families and expresses his appreciation to them. FB will ensure that they gain preferential access to the tea table before the juniors have scoffed all the chocolate cake.
FB accepts his responsibility for the additional cost of the increased military deployment. It is estimated that he will incur a loss on the contract in the range of £35m-£50m, all of which will fall in the current financial year. That could buy a whole lot of empire biscuits.
FB would also like to reassure those residents of the flats opposite the ground that the surface to air missiles now positioned on their roof will not be fired during the hours of darkness.
FB deeply regrets everything to do with the Olympic Games.

New security facilities at Grange Loan

Sunday, 15 July 2012


KP - not retiring after all?
Retirement is one of those interesting concepts.  Most people assume Fantasy Bob has retired - particularly his colleagues who welcome him into his office every morning.  They know he needs somewhere warm and dry to sit and do not grudge him that.  They will occasionally wake him should there be a fire alarm, but otherwise are content to leave him harmlessly snoozing.  Retirement might be considerably more stressful.

Even on the cricket field, long lost adversaries assume that FB has come out of retirement for the very special occasion of combating them one last time.  Indeed some of them assume that he has returned to the land of the living from beyond the Styx.  FB is too polite to correct them.

Being a game precisely based on life, cricket makes explicit provision for retirement. Indeed FB believes that cricket is the only game to describe retirement in its laws.
Retirement in cricket is governed by Law 2.9.  Like all cricket's laws it is a thing of beauty and poetry.  A batsman can retire due to illness or injury or some other unavoidable reason.  He must inform the umpire.  If he is ill or injured he can resume at the fall of a wicket, the opposition have no say.  If he retires for some other reason - there is no specification as to how valid or credible these have to be - only unavoidable he may return only at the fall of a wicket, but on this occasion the opposition have to agree.  The law also makes all manner of provision for these events being written down by umpire, by scorer and by anyone else with a pen or notebook handy.

FB thinks that it will not be long before the concept of partial retirement is introduced.  Indeed it is a surprise that there is not a Euro Directive requiring the administrators of the game to do so already.  In partial retirement a batsman would face only half the balls in an over and take his - or her - ease for the rest of the over.  They would supplement the runs they make by drawing on the runs in the pension pot that they have accumulated over their batting life.  Regrettably in the current economic circumstances younger batsmen are going to have to bat lots more overs before they can retire.  It is an ill divided world.

Jayawardene congratulates
Atapattu's 200 - you're hooked buddy
To return to the laws, where the fielding side decline to consent to the batsman's return from his unavoidable interruption, he is deemed retired out. In many bounce games and junior games players are retired to ensure as many as possible get a bat. But there have only been two instances in the history of Test cricket where batsmen have been retired out - and both were in the same match. Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene were both hooked in Sri Lnaka's crushing victory over Bangladesh in September 2001. Atapattu had made 201 and Jayawardene 150. Sri Lanka declared on 555 for 5.

So in the light of all this, what kind of retirement had Kevin Pietersen in mind when he announced his retirement from one day cricket earlier this summer?  Was it for some unavoidable reason? Whatever was behind it, he clearly has got the part of the law about being allowed to return to the field to resume his innings if recent interviews are anything to go by.

Indeed it is with some excitement that Fantasy Bob reads that Pietersen says that he 'would love to play another three or four years in all forms of cricket.'  All forms of cricket.  FB has taken him at his word and has texted KP to invite him to join the ranks of the All Star Carlton Fourth XI.  A form of cricket that KP may yet have to experience.  Such a widening of KP's experience could be a way out of a dilemma for the ECB who did not specify whether KP was retiring hurt or was retired out.  How will they react?  FB expects to see KP in the World T20 side - but only after he has scored a few for FB.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Chicken Wings

Fantasy Bob was woken from his slumbers when he noticed that Carlton was trending on Twitter yesterday.  This was the big time - only Brett Lee's retirement and Harrison Ford's 70th birthday seemed to be of equal importance.

FB understands that the majority of his worldwide readership of 3 will be surprised to learn that he has ever heard of Twitter let alone knows its jargon well enough to refer to something trending.  After all Ludwig Van Beethoven never tweeted, even the bird calls in the second movement of the Pastoral Symphony can no longer be described as tweets.


FB wondered what had stimulated the world wide interest. Presumably there was devastation that his All Star Fourth XI's tussle with the venerables of Holy Cross at the weekend was yet another hostage to fortune and this summer's weather had excited the twitteratti. Or was it a more mundane matter such as the umpteenth cancellation of the first team's T20 semi final against Edinburgh rivals Grange was attracting attention.

Something was in the air. He clicked to discover a series of tweets reporting that a Carlton skipper was in trouble. His heart sank. What crime might Fraggle Watts Carlton's ever popular skipper, irreverent tweeter and Scotland stalwart have committed? Had he donned his famous highly coloured trousers again in broad daylight in one of Edinburgh's more conservative locales? This would indeed be an outrage. Defense counsel could be hard to find.

FB looked further into the downpour of tweets and was relieved to find that Fraggle seemed to be in the clear. There was no mention of trousers of any colour. Instead the focus of attention seemed to be not on Carlton as in the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton, but on Carlton as in the Australian Rules Football Team of the same name. Now FB doesn't know much about Australian Rules, except that its name seems to be a misleading. It is transparently a game for those who find any concept of rules a bit challenging. Or who find rugby not quite rough enough. And who have no use for sleeves.

Judd discussing with an opponent
whether chicken wings are better with BBQ or peri-peri sauce 
Carlton, to whom FB must attach his loyalty, were well and truly stuffed by local rivals Melbourne North (also known as the Kangaroos) in the day's match. Carlton's skipper Chris Judd apparently faces a disciplinary review for an alleged chicken wing tackle on an opponent. This meant nothing to FB.  But ever eager to learn he has discovered that a chicken wing tackle pins the tackled player's arm behind his back to prevent him playing the ball.  In addition it seems to dislocate his shoulder.  Remarkably it is not banned in the game, for, as FB observed above Australian Rules Football is not for those who enjoy rules.  Or wear sleeves - not that they are any protection against dislocation.

FB is relieved that this tactic has been extirpated from cricket.  FB is fairly sure that pinning a batsman to the ground would be seen by even the most indulgent umpire as obstructing the batsman and the severe penalty of 5 runs would follow.  That's how to deal with it and the Aussie Football people must do the same. Chicken wings should never be seen in the cricket field - only in Nandos.  And sleeves should be worn.  Keep tweeting @realfantasybob.

Friday, 13 July 2012

One Lonely Guy

Fantasy Bob has just read an uplifting account of the experience of New Yorker Jeff Ragsdale.

Last year Jeff went through a difficult time and found himself isolated and alone in New York City. Jeff began to feel desperate. So, in attempt to connect with his fellow citizens, he put his phone number on a flier along with a simple message: "If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me."

He posted copies in windows and on lamp posts across the city. The response was encouraging, and then it went viral with with thousands of calls coming from around the world and from people in every walk of life. Many were of British origin.

FB is not surprised. He is sure that the sudden viral phase of the contacts obviously coincided with the start of the cricket season. Jeff was therefore on the end of thousands of calls from equally desperate men frantically searching for a 11th man, a 10th man or even a 9th man so desperate are some, for the weekend's 3rd or 4th XI fixture.

Jeff has now produced a book transcribing some of the conversations, text messages and voice mails. The book is called Jeff, One Lonely Guy and in it he acknowledges the inspiration he took from all these contacts. FB is sure it will reveal many messages asking him to be at the club at 12 for a 1pm start, saying not to worry if he doesn't have his own pads but reminding him to bring tea in appropriate amounts. Given his Americanness there will no doubt be several messages suggesting that cricket is just like baseball only different and not to worry he'll soon get the hang of it..............FB fears these might have put him off.

FB is ashamed to say that he never saw Jeff's message and so did not contact him in this way. He recognises that this must be hugely disappointing to Jeff - who may well remain depressed as a result. For it is the one call that every lonely person yearns for - the call to turn out for the Carlton All Star Fourth XI. But for Jeff it never came. FB would like publicly to apologise to Jeff now. But if he gets in touch he will see whether there is a chance of a game before the end of the season. However if Jeff just wants to chat about how baseball and cricket are different and here why cricket is superior, FB is waiting for his call. After all, cricket is the best cure for loneliness

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Eng v Aus - The Jet Stream Trophy

England won the inaugural Jet Stream series on Tuesday when they easily beat Australia at Old Trafford. The organisers consider that the new trophy and competition has been a resounding success. It was specially designed to be played when the jet stream is parked over Great Britain and rainfall is at record levels. 'We hoped for something special,' a spokesman told Fantasy Bob, 'but what we got was beyond our wildest dreams. It could become an annual event.'

FB is less certain what the competition showed and what conclusions to draw either for England's immediate contest with South Africa or for the Ashes next year. England were superior in every department and may even have brought better sandwiches and cakes for the tea table. Australia were lack lustre and submissive - Mickey Arthur suggested very publicly that they had been bullied. This didn't seem to do much for their morale and they found it tough going in the final match.

In the 4 matches, Australia took only 13 wickets. Conditions can't have been great for batting in any of the matches - FB cannot recall seeing the ball take a divot in the outfield on a televised match before.  Although they maybe didn't suit Australia's bowlers this looks a cause for concern. It also reflects the strength that England have at the top of the order. Only 6 batters were used and Eoin Morgan scored 141 in 3 innings without getting out. He had the astonishing strike rate of 130.55. With Bell cementing the opener's spot, who needs KP?  England continue also to confirm their depth in bowling.

But Australia's batting was fragile. Reports suggested that players were being tried with a view to succession planning for the Test team. Australia may no be much further forward in that objective. Might they have made a better competition had they played the strongest ODI side? There was excitement in the prospect of seeing David Warner - he looked good at Lords in the first match, but like the rest of the team fell away. Only George Bailey enhanced his reputation, and ended the series as Australia's top bat with 149 runs. there was criticism that he was not aggressive enough but his strike rate of 85.14 compares favourably with the England players. Maybe his experience of playing in Scotland and on soft wickets stood him in good stead.

so England gain confidence for the next challenge and Australia are no further forward in the transition process following the end of the golden age. But at least they got to play some cricket - unlike FB and his All Star Fourth XI. FB is thinking of entering the Jet Stream Trophy next year just to get a game.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Fantasy Bob supposes that there are many points in history at which the future can be considered as beginning. One of those was fifty years ago today when the first relays of TV signals were made by the satellite Telstar which had been launched the previous day on 10 July 1962.

Not that it was a particularly gripping transmission being a picture of a flag outside Andover Earth Station in Maine. However 2 weeks later there was a bit more action when the first publicly available live transatlantic signal was transmitted. It featured Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley in New York, and the BBC's Richard Dimbleby in Brussels. The first pictures were the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. The first broadcast was to have been remarks by John F. Kennedy, but the signal was acquired before the president was ready, so the lead-in time was filled with a short segment of a televised major league baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Peter Parfitt

FB is quite shocked by this piece of cultural imperialism, but notes that the attempt forcibly to interest the European audience in baseball largely failed. There was a perfectly good cricket match which could have been transmitted at this time and it is a great failure that the British authorities did not insist on it being used. On the day of the broadcast, Middlesex were playing Pakistan at Lords. the match was drawn but featured two centuries by Peter Parfitt and an innings of 191 by Hanif Mohammad. Three days later the pair crossed swords again in the fourth test at Trent Bridge. Parfitt kept the momentum scoring another century, unbeaten, in England's first innings. Hanif was not successful with scores of 0 and 3, falling to Fred Trueman in both innings. The match was drawn. This was the high point of Parfitt's 37 match test career - he averaged 113.33 in the series with 3 centuries.

It was not until 1990 that the first live TV broadcast of a Text match was made. The match was W Indies v England in Jamaica when the visitors won their first match against the W Indies for over 16 years. Later that year, British Satellite Broadcasting provided the first non-terrestrial coverage of a major county match, the Benson & Hedges Cup final, before their merger with Sky later that year. In 1994 Sky bought the rights for home one-day internationals and county cricket, with the BBC retaining Test matches and the premier knockout trophy. In 1998, the BBC lost their uninterrupted television rights to Sky and Channel 4. And now there is only Sky. All this could have been foreseen from Telstar's fist shaky transmission.

But at the time FB was not thinking of these tragedies yet to come. He was more interested in the instrumental record of that year Telstar by The Tornados. This remains the biggest selling instrumental in the history of pop music in the UK and it was also the first UK record to hit the number 1 spot in the US charts. More than a year before The Beatles. Test Match Quality.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Archaeological News

Fantasy Bob has long admired the work of the archaeological profession.  At a moment's notice they will jump enthusiastically into muddy holes with a trowel or a paintbrush and, based on the evidence of small fragments of bone, advise the world of the number of runs scored in a day on that site.  They have a prodigious ability to grow beards and argue incessantly about the true meaning of the smallest shard of pottery.   But FB would always welcome an archaeologist into any side he was skippering; the ability to read runes has frequently been a match saver when the rest of the side had no idea what the marks in the scorebook made by the juniors might actually mean.  So it is with interest that FB has noticed progress in three possibly related archaeological enterprises.

Mt Ararat
 Noah's ark may have landed once
A team of Tibetan and Chinese archaeologists searching Mount Ararat in Turkey have reported finding wooden fragments which they consider to confirm the Book of Genesis' account of the landing place of Noah's Ark on that mountain when the floodwaters receded.  The fragments date to about 2800 years Before Cricket.

A team of underwater archaeologists from St Andrews, Dundee and Aberdeen Universities have discovered further evidence of Doggerland, once a fertile land bridge between modern mainland Europe and Britain which disappeared under water as the last ice age melted. Ancient tree stumps, flint used by humans and the fossilised remains of a mammoth have helped form a picture of how the landscape may have looked before the waters came around 8000 years Before Cricket.
mammoths may have roamed once

A crack team from the underwater investigations unit at the world famous go ahead Carlton Research Institute have been investigating a site at Grange Loan and have discovered artefacts and markings on the floor of what was recently a lake.  Most experts agree that this is evidence of a hunter gatherer community of some sophistication.  Some contend that this is definitive confirmation that cricket was played on this site before it was inundated.  Others disagree, saying that the artefacts are no different from primitive sites of ritual sacrifice and that cricket would have been impossible in such an inhospitable environment.
Grange Loan
cricket may have been played once

FB will keep his readers informed of further progress at these exciting investigations.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bob's Your Uncle

It was Fantasy Bob's pleasure to organise a quiz night at the world HQ of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton at the weekend.  Since all cricket activities have been suspended at the instigation of the jet stream, contestants have had much time to memorise encyclopedia, Wisden and other relevant reference books, so a keenly fought contest ensued.

Ever a man for the obvious, one of the picture rounds FB devised presented 20 faces all sharing a common Christian name.  He presents it to his world wide readership here so that they can test their powers of recall.  (Those reading on smart phones will have their eyesight tested as well as their memories).

Since this round was called Bob's Your Uncle - another painful statement of the obvious by FB - there was some discussion as to the origin of the phrase.  Subsequent research has revealed that there are alternative theories, including that vouchsafed by Carlton's Doughty Groundsman, that it was coined in 1887 when the Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, surprisingly appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive job of Chief Secretary for Ireland.  Another suggested origin relates to a military commander at the height of the British Empire. Lord Frederick Roberts was held in high regard by his troops who referred to him affectionately as Uncle Bob and used the phrase to increase confidence among the ranks and imply that all would be well.

FB leaves his readers to decide for themselves.  However he is certain that the phrase has no cricketing origins, even though four of FB's portraits are cricketers.  There are several uncle nephew combinations in cricket but, for some reason, not as many as father and son.  They include Pakistani Test pair Javed Miandad and Faisal Iqbal, and New Zealanders Colin and Martin Snedden.  But have a thought for West Indian Mahendra Nagamootoo who played 5 Tests between 2000-2002.  He has two eminent cricketing uncles who number among the greats of West Indies cricket - Alvin Kallicharran and Rohan Kanhai.

Nagamootoo - Bob's not his uncle