Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Ancient Scorecards

This might look like a biscuit - and knowing Fantasy Bob's partiality to a biscuit, you could be forgiven for thinking so.

But it is no biscuit.  It is a fragment of a series of clay tablets which contain the world's oldest undeciphered writing system known as proto-Elamite.  It is 5000 years or so old and originates in what is now south west Iran.

Scholars have laboured for many years to decipher the script.  They guess that it forms records of agrarian activity of some sort and  has a mixture of numbers and letters.  A new project is underway from the University of Oxford to crowd source clues to assist the decoding.

Fantasy Bob wonders what the fuss is.  As should any cricketer worth his salt.  A cursory glance at the script above will confirm that it is an early form of cricket scorecard.  From the Ms so prominently visible we can tell that a number of maiden overs have been bowled.  We can also tell by the + that each bowler has bowled at least one wide. There are no-balls and dot balls and a few singles. By comparison with some Carlton 4th XI scorecards it is a model of clarity and the proto-Elamites must be commended.

The fact that cricket has not previously been associated with pre-history in the Fertile Crescent is just another riddle for the scholars to ponder on.

By comparison with this proto-Elamite version, what was previously regarded as the oldest cricket scorecard is a mere youngster.  The oldest surviving scorecard is said in most of the history books to record the match between London and Slindon on 2 June 1744, which Slindon won by 55 runs.   However there is a reference to a scorecard for a match between Ham Albion and Twickenham Cricket Club that took place on Tuesday 13 July 1841 which Ham Albion won by an innings and 87 runs.  So even there historical controversy reigns.  While FB has not seen these cards or facsimiles of them he suspects that by comparison  they contain little detail of the bowler's efforts concentrating only on runs scored and not even recording mode of dismissal.  So 18th century scorers had a lot to learn from the the proto-Elamite scorer community.

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