Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 - the retiring year

Fantasy Bob had a thoroughly enjoyable cricketing year in 2013.  The sun shone brightly for what seemed endless months, surprising all Scottish cricketers and leading to world records for the amount of sunscreen applied to Carlton juniors. 

FB bowled straight – well mostly.  He found the middle of the bat – at least twice.  He took a wonder catch (any catch is a wonder catch for FB).  

And all through this year he benefited from the sterling encouragement and support of Mrs FB.  Still, as FB looks back on the year he begins to have the uneasy feeling that he may not have fully understood some of the conversations.

Towards the start of the year Mrs FB looked up from behind the sporting pages of the newspaper where she had been perusing the outcomes of her each way bets.  She said, ‘I see Mike Hussey has retired………younger than you.’

FB thanked his companion in life for this news and observed the game would be less exciting without Mr Cricket who left the game after 79 Tests with an average of 51.5.  Mrs FB made no further comment.
A few weeks later Mrs FB mentioned softly as she scanned her I-Pad for her favourite tipster’s forecasts, ‘I see Chris Martin has retired…..…younger than you’

FB expressed his gratitude for this valuable news, noting that Martin played 71 Tests for New Zealand taking 233 wickets.  Mrs FB did not appear particularly grateful for this information.
The dust was hardly still on this conversation when Mrs FB firmly held FB’s gaze and said, ‘I see Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard have both retired..................younger than you.’

There seemed to be a pattern emerging, but FB did not dwell on in instead recalling the pomp of the 2 bowlers with 130 Tests and 474 wickets between them and who had done so much to bring the Ashes home in 2005.
No time seemed to have passed when Mrs FB returned from one of her regular equestrian afternoons and remarked to FB, ‘I see Ricky Ponting has retired.......younger than you.’

FB nodded for even he had noticed that the great Australian, the second top Test run scorer of all time, had signed off with a combative century in his final first class appearance for Surrey.

It only seemed the next moment when Mrs FB seemed to be immersed in the recently arrived Hermes catalogue but mentioned to FB, 'I see your Jamie Kerr has retired.......younger than you.'

FB understood from the judicious addition of 'your' to her sentence that Mrs FB was noting the closing of the career of one of Carlton's greats - the club's legendary wicketkeeper for the last 19 years.
Shortly afterwards Mrs FB looked up from an essential act of maintenance on one of the more prestigious items in her world famous handbag collection to advise FB, ‘I see Sachin Tendulkar has retired.......younger than you.'

FB had understood that the Little Master’s 200th and final Test appearance at Mumbai had brought the whole of India to a standstill to celebrate his record 15921 Test runs including 51 centuries and an average of 53.
It seemed only weeks later that Mrs FB welcomed FB’s tardy arrival at the breakfast table with the statement, ‘I see Graeme Swann has retired…………younger than you.’

FB shared the surprise of cricketers throughout the world that England’s premier spinner should so suddenly throw in the towel in the middle of an Ashes tour, after 60 Tests and 255 wickets. FB assumed that Mrs FB shared that surprise but was unable to verify it for the form guide had engaged her full attention.
Not long after, FB was agonising over whether Mrs FB might happily fund something from near the top of Gray Nicolls’ range by way of Christmas present, when she punctured his reverie and said, ‘I see Jacques Kallis has retired…………younger than you.'

FB recalled the details of Kallis' glittering career that would justify the tag of the greatest cricketer ever had not Sobers bagged it already.  Mrs FB seemed only to sigh as she absorbed this information.
‘Lots of retirements in 2013.'  She looked pointedly at FB.  'And all younger than you too.’ 

Was she trying to tell him something? 

'Don't you dare think you'll be doing the same - I don't want you cluttering the house up next summer.' 

Class of 2013.

Monday, 30 December 2013


Lothianburn Golf Club is no more. The Club which went out of business a few months ago and the course will no longer be open for play at the end of this year. Fantasy Bob mourns its passing.

For FB was a member of Lothianburn for 20 years or so until he and golf fell out of love. For many of those years FB would be seen trudging the course at the crack of dawn, typically zig-zagging from one side of the fairway to the other. The views across the City and the country side beyond in all directions were a treat. The putting surfaces were as good and in many cases better than those FB encountered in many more prestigious courses.  If nothing else the course was an invigorating walk with a few steep climbs.  FB therefore recalls the course with great affection.

One early morning as the sun warmed the yellow of the flowering broom that covered many areas of the course, FB came to the 15th tee. The 15th ran round the side of a hill with the out of bounds fence at the bottom on the right. The green was hidden and a marker post high on the hill indicated the line. A good drive on that line would generally see the ball tumble its way down the hill onto the green and offer an eagle chance against the par 4. Miss the line and the ball was in the broom at the top of the hill or would finish will short by the fence or in a well placed bunker to the right of the green. The morning in question FB managed a rare solid connection and his drive flew over the marker post. He walked over the hill confident that he would see his ball within eagle range of the hole. He was therefore disheartened to see the green empty, except for the Doughty Greenkeeper sweeping the dew from the grass. As FB strolled down the hill the Doughty Greenkeeper finished his tasks and mounted his buggy and came in FB's direction. FB bid him a bright good morning. The Doughty Greenkeeper looked at him askance and muttered, clearly less than impressed, 'There's a ba' in the hole.'

The only time FB has ever shot a hole in one - for ever a secret between him and the DG.

Lothianburn Golf Club - RIP.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Home Thoughts from Abroad

Fantasy Bob has recovered the following extract from the Tour Diary of the Magi Cricket Club:

…………is it only 6 weeks ago that we left home with our hopes so high?  We always knew this was going to be a tough trip over field and fountain etc etc but the great prophet Botham told us that it was written.  We would triumph.  After all, we had all angles covered – we had meal plans for every stop and start on the journey.  All we had to do was follow yonder star of wonder, but the skipper hasn't delivered.  And things have gone from bad to worse. First it was Gaspar heading his camel homewards saying he had been suffering a stress related condition for some time and needed a break. The management said they knew all about it, but it was news to me. So Muggins here has to carry the gold as well as the myrrh. As if I knew what myrrh was. Now it’s Melchior complaining that his elbow can no longer stand long spells steering his camel and carrying his frankincense. If you ask me he’s probably got RSI too from all the tweeting home that he’s been doing. So now it’s just me and it doesn’t feel great being just one wise man in amongst so many camels. Frankly I don’t see how I can carry the frankincense too. To be honest I’m beginning to wonder if we are in the right place – there is a distinct lack of stables around. There just doesn’t seem much likelihood of finding a saviour…………………..

Net practice earlier in the tour.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A Christmas Story

Fantasy Bob has intercepted an emergency communication from the Doughty Groundsman of the Bethlehem Cricket Club to its Governing Council.  He has managed to translated it from the Hebrew.


The Council has requested a full explanation of the recent damage to the square, recognised as the finest batting surface in the province of Judea.

In the bleak midwinter I am mainly engaged in minor maintenance tasks of the sort the club members think simply do themselves. One afternoon last week I was beginning to lock up when there appeared at the gate this man and his young lady.  'More bloody foreigners trying to flog me yet another Christmas tree', I thought. I was preparing a witty rejoinder invoking the spirit of Nigel Farage when the man spoke,

'We need somewhere to sleep,' he said.

Well, this was a new one on me. I was about to suggest he try the Travelodge at the end of the road.

'Please we have tried every hotel and B&B on the TripAdvisor list but they are all full on account of Hogmanay High Jinks organised by your highly imaginative Town Council. We are desperate: we need shelter - any shelter.  I can do a bit of carpenting work in return.'

I could hear the desperation in the man's voice. His lady friend looked demurely at me with a pleading look in her eye.  She was immaculate. I felt myself weakening.

'Well,' I said, 'the tractor shed is full, but you might find room in the scorehut.' I was aware that, against my better judgement, the Council had allowed the overseas amateur to kip down there a couple of times last season after one Koppaberg too many.  Besides, some joinery work on its dodgy floorboards wouldn't go amiss.

The man was effusive in his thanks. As his lady friend followed him through the gate, my reservations grew. They were accompanied by a donkey.

'He'll be no trouble,' the carpenter assured me.

'He'd better not be,' I said, 'just make sure he stays off the square.'

I watched them tether the beast to the door of the scorehut. As I left the ground I noticed a bright light in the sky to the east.  It was a silent night but all was bright.

Next morning I arrived at the ground intending to cut back the holly and the ivy from the boundary fence, only to find sheep everywhere, several of them nibbling on the square. I shooed them off as best I could, but not before I was knocked over by the donkey who seemed unduly excited by the sheep and had worked his way free from his tether.  It took me twenty minutes to catch him and re-tether him.

I quickly made my way to the scorehut where I was surprised to find not only the homeless couple from last night but a baby and a group of what I took from their rustic attire to be shepherds.

'What the **** are you doing here,' I asked.

'We were abiding in the fields, washing our socks, when an angel came unto to us and we were sore, and shit scared. But the angel said unto us that he brought good news. I thought it was about time I won the lottery, but the messenger of the Lord went on and said that a saviour has been born and we would find him in a scorehut. And so we hied ourselves hither for a dekko.'

'Get these sheep off the square.'

A piercing whistle left the shepherd's lips and a black and white collie bounded out of the score hut.

'Come by, lad, come by lad.'

Ten minutes later, the square was clear and the sheep were penned in the practice nets. But all the whistling and shouting got the donkey going again and he worked himself loose and galloped across the outfield. One bark from the dog and he skidded to a halt in the middle of the square. The dog was now torn between keeping the sheep in the nets and dealing with the donkey.

Just as the dog was getting things under control there came a jangling sound of bells from the gate and a trio of unlikely suspects in fancy dress came into the ground each wearing an outsize turban and carrying a shopping bag.

'Who do you think you are?' I asked.

'We have travelled far,over moor and mountain, following yonder SatNav and come to worship the Messiah. We bear him gifts of gold, frankspencer, and something else which I always forget.'

'That's as maybe, but get those **** camels off the square.'

For three ships of the desert were now waddling up and down on a length at the pavilion end. This new livestock was too much for the donkey who now started braying excitedly; which set off the sheep bleating and every neighbourhood dog starting howling in sympathy.   A shout came from the hut, 'Please, you'll wake the baby.'  But no crying he made.

The sheepdog made a bolt for it to try to get the camels under control. Five minutes later the camels were in the nets. But the sheep were on the square and the donkey had worked himself free again and was ready for anything. He made a brave but forlorn effort to mate with one of the camels. The dog knew something was wrong. Five minutes later the sheep were back in the nets making things difficult for the trio of junior members who had just arrived for some winter practice. But the camels were parading up and down the square like they owned it. The donkey was eyeing the sheep wondering if he had a better chance with one of them.

Suddenly, a troop of mounted soldiers stormed through the gate and galloped across the ground. They thudded to a halt in the middle of the square and their commander challenged me,

'Where are your firstborn?'

'Why ask me?' I said, my patience was wearing thin. 'I’m not the Convenor of the Junior section. Now get your ******* horses off the square.'

'When your Junior Convenor comes tell him to send all the firstborn of the club to Herod, Chief Exec of CricketJudea, ‘cos he wants to give them extra coaching.' So saying they galloped twice around the square and disappeared.

Little by little things settled down.  The couple emerged from the scorehut and pronounced that they had to move on.  I thought I heard them mention something about catching a flight to Egypt, but I could be wrong.  They mounted onto the donkey and off they went.  The shepherds and the camel riders followed soon after.  No thought of clearing up after themselves.  

The light in the sky to the east of the ground seemed to dim and I was able to inspect the condition of the square.

I regret to report that it is not a pretty sight.  There are hoof and foot prints everywhere, many patches nibbled bare and a significant amount animal droppings of various sizes scattered all over.

As he left, one of the camel riders said to me that a miraculous event had taken place.

In my opinion it will take another bloody miracle for the square to be anywhere near ready for the coming season.

Joy to the World.

חצרן אמיץ

Hon Doughty Groundsman
Bethlehem Cricket Club

The club's recent guests leaving the ground

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Mitchell Johnson's Guide to Christmas Shopping

A recent domestic experience has caused Fantasy Bob to have greater understanding of the agonies of English batsmen in their unfolding Ashes nightmare.  Not that he has yet come close to feeling sorry for Stuart Broad, that would be over the top, but he has a little more understanding.

For this is the time of year that - Ashes aside - Mrs FB's well ordered mind goes into overdrive.  This morning she came in off her long run, in every step as purposeful as Mitchell Johnson's.

'Dearest heart,' she said, using a short pitched term of endearment which always raises alarm in FB’s mind.  He is on the back foot before her arm comes over.  ‘have you thought about Christmas presents?’

‘Well.......,’ FB played with as dead a bat as he could muster, narrowly avoiding trampling on his wicket.

 Mrs FB’s next delivery might have been fired by Mitchell Johnson himself.

‘So you don’t have any ideas about what you would like to give me?’

FB swayed back but felt the air move as the ball missed his chin by a nanometre.  The safety of the pavilion seemed many miles away.

Some imagination – if not courage - was clearly required.

As he marked his guard again, FB recalled that last Christmas he and Mrs FB had purchased a painting together and agreed that half of it would be their Christmas present from one to the other.  A satisfactory outcome for all concerned.  The household has this week taken delivery of a planet sized TV set which had cost a sum approximating the GDP of a small African republic.

‘………..why don't we give each other half of the new TV set,’  he said, by some miracle his bat found the line of the ball’s trajectory.

Mrs FB followed through right down the wicket, her forceful gaze not moving from FB's blinking eyes.

Mitchell Johnson’s pace increased.

‘You must be joking.’  Pause.  ‘You know I need a new coat.’

‘But you’ve got 4 coats.’

‘5 actually.  My winter coat is 4 years old.’

‘Er…..and so?’  FB was retreating towards the square leg umpire.  He lamely tried to avoid the delivery; the ball thudded into his glove and looped up to the arc of close fielders.  His fate was sealed.

No batting order could have resisted such a devastating piece of pace bowling.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Thoughts of Adelaide take FB not to England's selection problems, as if they weren't enough - Bell or Root at number 3 - is Panesar an option - how much will they get for Finn when they sell him on e-Bay?

Nor is he fixated like Doughty Groundsmen the world over on how the famous old ground's new drop in wicket will perform.  FB had the wrong idea about drop in wickets - he imagined it something like ordering a take away to be delivered shortly before play.  FB sees that that would be risky - the Doughty Groundsman might just pop out for some milk and miss the delivery boy. It would take several phone calls to correct things and when the wicket finally arrived it would be stone cold.

But no: FB discovers things are more organised than that - at Adelaide a set of wickets are put in place in September (at the end of the Australian Rules Football season).   As FB's handful of readers will note from the photo, it is quite an engineering operation.
The first wicket is dropped in...

Despite their extensive experience of take aways, lower league cricketers such as FB are unlikely to experience drop in wickets in the playing fields of the East of Scotland leagues since crane driving is not within the skill set of most Edinburgh Doughty Groundsmen.

The publicity majors on how care has been taken to make them as like the original surfaces as possible - a stockpile of soil has been created over many years and so on.  FB remains sceptical on this point.

Be that as it may, in FB's mind Adelaide always reminds him of the great musical show Guys and Dolls. This show is Test Match Quality from start to finish, with an endless run of great songs. 

One of those hits is sung by the character of Adelaide. Adelaide is a night club singer and long suffering fiancee of Nathan Detroit whose constant purpose is to manoeuvre him into a proposal of marriage. In the song Adelaide's lament she alternates between reading sentences aloud from a do it yourself medical book and commenting on what she is reading. She works out that her constant common cold may actually be a manifestation of her resentment over her Nathan's constant assurances of imminent marriage, which he never fulfills. This is as good as a comic number can be. Here it is sung by its originator Vivienne Blaine. 

Fans of Scottish artists will know that Lulu sang the role of Adelaide in a London revival of the show in the 1980s and that in its most recent London revival in 2005 Ewan MacGregor played Sky Masterson (the role taken by Marlon Brando in the 1955 film).

So, who will be lamenting at the end of this Test Match?  Things are looking sticky for England following their thumping at Brisbane - but they have been slow starters in most of their recent series.   It would be no surprise if they come back strongly.  On the other hand, it would be no surprise if they get beaten again.  

Monday, 2 December 2013


Fantasy Bob notes with interest that shortly, at an auction in Edinburgh, a rare portrait of Flora MacDonald by Thomas Hudson will come under the hammer.  The auctioneers estimate it will go for £7,000-10,000 which, regrettably, takes it out of FB's price bracket.

Flora MacDonald was the Katherine Grainger of her day - rowing across the Minch to help Bonnie Prince Charlie escape the pursuing Government forces following the innings defeat at Culloden.

Flora MacDonald has always intrigued FB.  He has long wondered what with all that rowing and rescuing to be done how she found time to invent low cholesterol margarine.
Lego reconstruction of historic event

For margarine is a subject of interest to cricketers.  Cricketers may first have noticed margarine replacing butter in their sandwiches and cakes on their tea table in 1869, when it was first invented.  It is likely that they found it hard to take since at that time it was based on beef fat - not a great complement to strawberry jam.  It was not until the 1920s that vegetable oils began to be used and not until the 1950s that margarine became wholly vegetable based.  That led to a supreme advertising assault on the nation's cricketers who found their evening's enjoyment of the new fangled ITV dominated by branding wars between Stork and Blue Band.

Stork's most celebrated campaign invited cricketers to tell the difference between Stork and butter - a campaign made successful by their careful pre-selection of the audience on the basis that none of them had any sense of taste whatsoever.  For Stork tasted nothing like butter.

Cricketers became engaged in extended arguments as to whether margarine or butter was preferable when baking empire biscuits.  Many friendships were ruined over disagreement on this issue which still rages.

Life became even more complicated as in the late 1960s butter oil or cream was introduced into products such as Krona and Clover - and philosophers agonised whether they could properly be called margarine. Some clever clogs found the way out of this life threatening problem by inventing the term spread.   Then margarine became the healthy option as cricketers became concerned about cholesterol and animal fats and began to give butter the body swerve.  Trans fats, omega oils, hydrogenated oils - the cricket tea table increasingly became a chemistry lesson.

Little did Flora MacDonald realise as she bent her back over the oars what confusion she would spread in lending her name to a margarine.

The Jacobite cause was well and truly lost by the time Flora MacDonald's moment came.  But its legacy is considered by some historians to be the the introduction of cricket into Scotland by the occupying Government forces.

Speed bonny bat, like a bird on the wing..................................

Saturday, 30 November 2013


Fantasy Bob has just completed a questionnaire type thing, organised by the estimable Scottish Book Trust as part of  Book Week Scotland, which identifies which fictional character he most resembles.

There are of course many in his dwindling handful of worldwide readers who will contend that FB is already a fictional character, so the whole exercise is pointless. (As indeed is the case with most of FB's endeavours, they may add under their breath.)

The questionnaire was obviously defective since none of the questions related to cricket.  Nevertheless FB dutifully soldiered on and presented his answers.  He sat back in quiet expectation that he would be identified as that dashing romantic hero at whose feet women swooned.

The computer whirred and gurgled and eventually spat out its determination. The result took FB by surprise.

For FB's fictional alter ego may not be wholly human, having elven blood in his veins. He is also described as being 88 years old (but still capable of stirring deeds such as bowling a full spell up the hill against the wind).

FB's literary alter ego is Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. FB has to confess to some disappointment for he is not a Tolkein fan - although he read The Lord of The Rings from cover to cover at the time in life when that was the required thing to do, he found the experience not unlike facing leg spin bowling - unreadable and a trial of hope over experience.   Nor has he seen the overlong movie trilogy, in which Aragorn was played by Mrs FB's heart-throb Viggo Mortensen.   So he doesn't really know too much about Aragorn.

Viggo Mortensen in the role of Fantasy Bob
Again the computer came to his aid telling him why it made its decision:

With your decisive and fast-paced approach, you are an asset to any team or rabble of hobbits. Your personality is quite unique with your rare blend of self-drive, assertiveness, confidence and competitiveness.

Like Aragorn, your ability to see the big picture and strategise while directing and motivating others make you a natural leader even if you don’t feel ready for it. At your worst you may judge others harshly and not consider the emotional impact of your decisions, but your slighted followers will soon feel inspired again by your actions.

Just the qualities needed to skipper the Carlton All Stars 4th XI.........except for the fast paced bit, obviously.

In one or other of the parts of the trilogy Aragorn says as his forces storm the Black Gates of something or other:

My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship. An hour of wolves, and shattered shields, when the Age of men comes crashing down. But it is not this day, this day, we fight!

It is well known that these words were stolen from a bootleg recording of FB's pre-match exhortations to his All Stars team.

Find the questionnaire on Scottish Book Trust's Website.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Michael Carberry en route to Ashes selection
If Fantasy Bob is reading the runes correctly – and this is a big if, since Rune Reading is not among his higher level skill set – the start of the Ashes series this week will see Michael Carberry open the England innings alongside Alistair Cook. Carberry, in some eyes a surprise selection for the tour, has justified his place by showing exceptional form in the warm up matches. FB wishes him well and hopes that his golden run of form continues.

In the whole history of the world, Michael Carberry is the only Carberry to strut the stage of first class cricket, since it is not a common name. But Scottish cricketers should take interest - in particular those from East Lothian.

For reference books suggest the name is derived from the place name in East Lothian, itself derived from the Gaelic craobh, tree and barran, hedge. Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. There is no suggestion that Michael is an East Lothian lad made good – otherwise Scotland’s fortunes in the World T20 qualifiers might be in a more favourable position.

Carberry Tower
FB could have been a Carberry. Many years ago, when Mrs FB was trenchant in her wish to embrace rural living, she prevailed upon FB to inspect a property close by the grounds of Carberry Tower in East Lothian.  True to its etymology, there were quite a lot of trees and hedges about.  But for some reason or other, which is lost in the mists of FB’s waning memory, the property did not meet her meticulous standards and her interest was taken no further.

However had FB taken up residence there, and had he subsequently moved he might have adopted the late mediaeval habit and named himself after the place. In that event, Michael Carberry might still be the only Carberry to grace the first class game but he would surely have taken strength (if not inspiration) from such a namesake in the lower levels of the game.  

Carberry Tower is now an hotel. When FB and Mrs FB were prospective neighbours it was still in the hands of the Church of Scotland who ran the place as a spiritual retreat, a sort of deep fine leg for those exhausted by fielding close to the wicket in everyday life.

While there is no evidence that the excitements of cricket ever came to the Carberry location, it was not always so tranquil as in its Church of Scotland days. For in June 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots, faced an army assembled by a confederation of her Lords. The Lords were displeased with their Queen over her marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, whom they suspected of complicity in the murder of his immediate predecessor in the Queen’s favour. She surrendered herself on promise of Bothwell’s safe conduct into exile and after a night in Carberry Tower was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle and then Loch Leven. A monument commemorating the incident, the Queen's Mount, still stands nearby.

East Lothian’s cricketers may also find of interest that while the Carberry lands were first mentioned in the 11th Century when they were granted to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey by King David 1, the first owner of the tower itself was the Johnstone family. Changes in spelling aside, Mitchell Johnson may be a descendant of this family and Michael Carberry may care to bring this ancestral memory to mind this when he takes his guard against the left arm paceman.

It may be however that it is cricketer Carberry’s name which has suffered from a spelling change. In which case the intensity of interest of cricketers of East Lothian in his progress may diminish.

For the name Carbery - spelt with one r rather than 2 - is held to be an Anglicized form of the Irish O'Cairbre or MacCairbre, meaning son of Cairbre. Some big brained authority on these matters suggests that Cairbre means a charioteer.  Son of a charioteer is a fine name for anyone.  Carbery was also an Irish Earldom, although the title is now extinct.  The 3rd Earl of Carbery was Governor of Jamaica between 1675-78 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.  He may well have come from a long line of charioteers but he appears not to have been a cricketer of any note, cricket not being played in Jamaica at that time.

The only Carbery (and he did use that spelling not being of East Lothian extraction) who FB has known was not a cricketer either.  He is however a raconteur of some distinction and has recently collected many of his stories in a couple of published volumes.  Regrettably cricket does not feature among these many fine tales.

Should his misspelt namesake prosper he may have to revisit this oversight.
Not a cricket book

Friday, 15 November 2013

Come on Scotland

Cricketers may be forgiven for thinking that there is only one issue of cricketing interest happening in the world this week - the final Test match of Sachin Tendulkar.  Or they might think that the issue of whether England's bowling attack is really as toothless as it has seemed in the warm up matches before the Ashes get underway next week. Surely these are is enough for the average cricket fan to ponder over as the nights draw in.
Scotland's skipper Kyle Coetzer
with skippers from the other teams
in Scotland's qualifying group

But for cricketers in 16 countries across the world Tendulkar's swansong and Stuart Broad's search for form are of no consequence.  For there is important business getting underway today in the UAE as these 16 nations go in search of a place in next year's World T20.  Six places are available and will be decided over 72 matches in the next 16 days.

Among the 16 hopefuls is Scotland who on rankings should be among the 6 left standing at the end of the competition.  They kick off their campaign today against Bermuda - a battle royal between kilts and highly coloured shorts. On paper Scotland should come out on top - but being favourites on paper is, as every Scottish supporter of knows, usually Scotland's weakest position.   Form has been patchy and the team will have to put a disappointing summer behind them and deliver their best.  They will have the benefit of Paul Collingwood's experience as part of the coaching staff.  A very welcome addition in Fantasy Bob's view - he has long been an admirer of the Durham player who was formerly England's T20 skipper.

Seeing Collingwood in the Scotland set up confirms FB's long held view that the Scottish border should properly be drawn just south of Newcastle. FB is sure that the erroneous position of the present border is attributable to Hadrian who was just a bit careless in marking the map where he fancied his wall..........
A wall in the wrong place?

But this is all a bit of a distraction from the task at hand.  FB wishes Scotland's cricketers the best of luck over the next 16 days and looks forward to them securing a top 6 spot.

Come on Scotland!

Monday, 11 November 2013


Cricket rarely calls for sacrifice.  There is the occasional run out offered in the interests of a higher cause - such as getting the in form batsman on strike.  From time to time Fantasy Bob has also been seen to resist the last empire biscuit on the tea table to allow a hungry eyed junior member to avert malnutrition.  But that's about it.

So Fantasy Bob is always deeply affected when he encounters real acts of sacrifice.

His mind turned to this theme during a recent event he attended at Douneside House in Aberdeenshire.   He has been to Douneside House for similar events several times - and on each visit the company learns the story of the family that at one time owned and occupied this charming residence.  Each time he hears it, FB's humility increases.  At this time of remembrance he thinks it is appropriate to share the story with his world wide readership.

Douneside House was bought by Alexander MacRobert in 1888.  Sir Alexander was the founder of the British India corporation and was knighted in 1910, later becoming the first Baronet of Cawnpore and Cromar.  He died in 1922 leaving his widow, Lady Rachael MacRobert and three sons.

The eldest son was killed in an air crash in 1938.  In 1941 the second son was killed leading a Hurricane attack on an enemy base in the Middle East.  Just over a month later the third son was killed in action when his aircraft was reported lost after a search of the North Sea for a downed bomber crew.  Such is the cruelty and pity of war.

Lady MacRobert immediately wrote to the Air Ministry:

"It is my wish, as a mother, to reply in a way my sons would applaud - attack with great fire power, head on and hard. The amount of £25,000 is to buy a bomber aircraft to continue my son's work in the most effective way. This expresses my feelings on receiving notice about my sons …
They would be happy that their mother would avenge them and help to attack the enemy. I, therefore, feel that an appropriate name for the bomber would be the MacRobert's Reply. The aircraft should also bear the MacRobert's coat of arms the family crest, a crossed fern leaf and an Indian rose. Let the bomber serve where there is the most need of her and may luck be with those who fly her. If I had 10 sons, I know they all would have done service for their country".

The plane commissioned was named MacRobert's Reply and was followed by a similar donation later in the year allowing the commissioning of further aircraft.

FB can find no record of the MacRoberts playing cricket.  Had they done so they seem like the kind of batsmen who would walk without waiting to be given out.

FB finds the final sentence of Lady MacRobert's letter very moving:

.......................If I had 10 sons, I know they would all have done service for their country.

No Saving Private Ryan sentimentalism here.  Just duty and scarifice.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Dietary Requirements

In the world of elite sport nothing must be left to chance.  Meticulous preparation and painstaking attention to detail is essential.  Success depends on it.

Fantasy Bob's support team has therefore issued guidance to all prospective opponents in the East of Scotland cricket leagues which define in detail his culinary requirements.

Regretably, the contents have been leaked to the media.  The Australian press in particular is having a field day.  FB does not fully understand why and in order to clarify the position reprints the guidance here:

Fantasy Bob would like empire biscuits before, during and after each match.

Sunday, 3 November 2013


As happens from time to time, Fantasy Bob was called upon last week to participate in an earnest discussion about the future of public policy in Scotland.  FB should record at this point that there was little of interest to the cricketer in the discussion, so if FB's dwindling worldwide band of  readers felt their pulses beating at the prospect of his reporting that cricket would be at the epicentre of all future government initiatives, they should prepare for disappointment.
After the meeting - Post-Its showing their autumn colours

FB listened intently to the presentations and made his contribution to teh recording of discussion points in his break out group on Post-Its.  For it is de rigeur in meetings these days for points to be recorded on Post-Its which are the stuck on every available service. So dominant is the Post-It culture that it is hard to realise that they only were developed in the early 1980s by the joyously named Art Fry.   How did the human race achieve anything without post its is a subject of continual mystery to FB.

Readers who may be familiar with FB and meetings may wish to pause at this point.  They will say to themselves, 'This implies that FB stayed awake for most, if not all, of the proceedings.  This is not consistent with our experience of FB.  For even if he looks awake he is invariably asleep.  The mere sight of a packet of Post-Its on a table can send him into a coma.'

FB demurs from this defamation.  His critics rebound, 'You say you have stayed awake through many meetings, but only if cricket finds it way into the discussion, otherwise its the Big ZZZs for FB.  You've told us that there was no mention of cricket in this meeting - so we infer you were asleep.'

But this meeting was different to the 3 million other meetings FB has attended in his career. He is accustomed at finding at these meetings supply of mints on the table.  He has never been too sure why.  Presumably the organisers are worried about their invitees being riddled with halitosis.

However on this occasion mints were like cricket - absent; not on the agenda.  Instead, in the centre of the table, where the mints would customarily be, carefully positioned by the Post-Its was a jar containing an enticing mixture of Refresher Chews and Fizzers, nostalgic products of the esteemed confectioners Swizzle Matlow. The crack cocaine of the 1960s primary school playground.

By staying awake FB was able to ensure he could guzzle these treats at will.  As the sherbet tickled his tongue he was back in the playgound again and the 2 hours of Post-It fever passed for him in a happy haze of recollection of centuries scored before the bell went for classes.

And so the meeting and the earnest discussion proceeded.  Conclusions were drawn and legions of post-its were sacrificed to the cause.  It reached its happy conclusion - and the conclusion of such meetings is always happy for it is invariably that more such meetings are required just as soon as further supplies of Post-It notes can be secured.

As FB left for the cold night air, a colleague remarked that such discussions gave him a sore head.  FB nodded sagely.  He shared his colleague's concern.  But on this occasion he was spared the sore head.  But he did have sore teeth.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Fantasy Bob reads with as near as he can muster to interest that zips are to be banned from cricket trousers by the ICC. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.

Banned by the ICC
This has been confirmed after the fine levied on South African Faf du Plessis in the recently completed Test against Pakistan.  Du Plessis' offence, for which he was docked 50% of his match fee and his side given a 5 run penalty, was to shine the ball in the area of the zip on the pocket of his trousers.  This was deemed ball tampering so the fate of the zip was sealed, as it were.  Zip-a-dee-ay.

Old Faf might have been inconvenienced by the fine, but the 5 run penalty didn't hurt as S Africa won by an innings and 92 tuns.  My oh my.

FB was surprised to learn of cricket trousers with zips - even if they are on the pockets.  He has not encountered a zip anywhere on cricket trousers, least of all in the place you might expect a zip to be. For many years now all his cricket trousers have had a closed front. What a wonderful day.

du Plessis
It is arguable whether this is progress.  It has the unfortunate consequence that cricketers must now bare their all in a very undignified fashion when they nervously seek to relieve themselves prior to their innings. Rugby players moon with enthusiasm on every possible occasion.  But cricketers are more modest. And the requirement to present a bare rear at such a private time can only add to the fraughtness of these highly charged moments.  It is hard to believe that had such as Bradman or Hammond been faced with such indignity it would not have dampened their performance.  Indeed FB suspects that their consistency can be explained by there being an opening in their trousers where an opening should be.

There may be another way of looking at it. For the majority of their careers Bradman and Hammond would have had to negotiate a set of buttons.  Zips only came into widespread use in the flies of trousers in the late 1930s.   This immediately heightened the risks faced by cricketers.   In the USA there are 17,000 zipper accidents per year when that all too delicate part of the anatomy is caught in the zipper in the attempt to close it.  FB suspects that there will a similar frequency of eye watering occasions in cricket playing countries.  But it is not known how many cricketers have been so unfortunate, although the risk must be considerably higher since doing up a zipper with batting gloves on presents an added challenge.  This may explain the speed with which the fly-less modern trouser grew in popularity.

It's the truth
Its's actual
Everything is satisfactual...................

FB's dwindling world wide readership may find it of interest to know that the first modern design for the zip was made and patented in 1913 - by the American Gideon Sundback.  Since this was in the USA it is unlikely that cricketers' interests were significant in the designer's mind.  Well, Sundback should have thought harder and the heirs to his invention would not be facing this ban now.

PS the song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah seems to have nothing to do with trouser fastenings.  It cames from the Walt Disney film Song of the South released in 1947 - which was also Walter Hammond's last year in Test cricket.  He got out when button flies were still available.

Sunday, 27 October 2013


It is rare these days that Fantasy Bob receives a phone call from a world leader.  Indeed it is rare these days that Fantasy Bob receives a phone call from anyone.  Even those breathless callers eager to tell him about his opportunity to claim compensation for his mis-sold PPI have found better things to do.

So he was unprepared for the call when it came.  His thoughts were far away from the wet autumn night.  He was back in the height of the summer, with his bat arcing to its high follow through having dispatched the ball effortlessly to the distant extra cover boundary.  Dream on.

As soon as he picked up the phone he could tell that the caller was displeased.  The voice was female, it was icily calm.  Oh no, he thought, Mrs FB is about to give him what for again for leaving his kit in that place where she is bound to trip over it again?

But the strong Germanic inflection told him it was not Mrs FB.  But his feeling of relief did not last long.

Don't you wrong number me Her Fantasy Bob........
'Schweinhunt!  Herr So called President of so called USA you are spying on your so called closest ally. We have nice dinner at Davos, you tell me you are friend and all the time you are buggering me.  Is this the reward we Germans get for Bayern Munich stuffing Man City?'

Fantasy Bob tried to clear things up.  'Frau Merkel,' he said, 'I fear you have the wrong number.  This is Fantasy Bob not President Obama.'

'Pah,' the ear piece rattled, 'Don't you wrong number me.  Fantasy Bob, Fantasy Obama - is all the same.  I know you are buggering me Fantasy Bob.  Listening to all my conversations.  Trying to see what selection will be turning out in crunch league match against Carlton All Stars Fourth XI at the weekend.  Well I tell you it won't work.  We have mystery leg spinner that will make you like monkey - not that that is difficult.'

The voice took a breath and continued in an even more emphatic tone.  'Don't you try to soft soap me like you soft soap Frau FB. German cricketers will not tolerate it.  It is time for action.  We sat back when you took our wonderful German biscuit and renamed it the Empire biscuit.  No longer.  Unless we have a no buggering agreement, we will stop supplies of German biscuits reaching your cricket club tea tables. Henceforth.'

There was a pause.

'Do I make myself clear?'

FB had to time to respond for the line went dead immediately.

It was the henceforth that did it.  Fantasy Bob sprang into action. Strings had to be pulled.  Favours had to be called. Promises had to be made.  Obama.  Cameron.  Hollande.  Yes they had all heard the conversation.

Yes they wanted to help.  But they needed something in return.  For a moment the prospect of a deal was slipping way.  Then FB came up with the goods - yes he promised the leaders of the free world, they could turn out next year for the All Stars whenever the fancy a game.   Just stop the spying.

It was a near run thing but through his swift action, FB is confident that he can assure all cricketers that supplies of German Biscuits are secured for seasons to come.
Empire Biscuits
German Biscuits

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Fantasy Bob suspects that police investigating the theft of a Henry Moore sculpture from the
Glenkiln Sculpture Park in Dumfries and Galloway may wish to interview senior cricket officials. For try as he might to think otherwise, Fantasy Bob thinks the finger of suspicion will soon fall on the tightknit fraternity of umpires.

Moore's Standing Figure - unfair to umpires?
The stolen sculpture is one of Henry Moore's rare cricket inspired works. It is entitled Standing Figure and as such is generally regarded as a representation of an umpire going about his important business.

However Fantasy Bob understands that many in the umpiring fraternity are not overly happy with this representation. There have been many complaints that it looks nothing like its supposed inspiration, the doyen of Scottish umpires Mr Sandy Scotland.  Mr Scotland could not be contacted today by FB's large research team.

Sandy Scotland - A model for Standing Figure?
Fantasy Bob fears that umpires have taken the law into their own hands and removed the offending statue. Why take this piece and none of the others in the remote location - none of the other pieces is relevant to cricket?  It is an important clue.

Defenders of umpires point out that this is not the first Moore sculpture to have been removed illegally.- In December 2005, the 2.1 tonnes of Moore's Reclining Figure 1969-70 was lifted from its position at the Henry Moore Foundation and removed on a flat bed truck. This work has no cricketing relevance. Last year a smaller work Sundial was also removed from the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation. Valued at £500,000, the thieves sold it for scrap for £46.

However Fantasy Bob understands that umpires are not among the suspects for either of these crimes.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Vandals attack city icon

World famous statue
of world famous
Fantasy Bobby
Executive authorities at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have launched an investigation into a possible act of vandalism to one of the club's most cherished icons.

The world famous Fantasy Bobby underwent restoration work recently to turn his shiny nose back to its original black.  However, less than 48 hours later, his nose was shiny again.

A spokesperson for the club said, 'Fantasy Bobby attracts visitors from all over the world following the legend about him turning up day after day to bowl up the hill against the wind long after his bowling action was well and truly dead.

'We are disappointed that his nose has gone shiny again, but we do not believe there is any relation to the amount of Kopparberg consumed in the club bar this season.'

Saturday, 5 October 2013


On the face of it, one of the more unlikely places to see cricketers is on a bus in Naples.

Fantasy Bob sat with Mrs FB as the vehicle moved slowly up the Via S Teresa delli Scalzi.  The bus dodged the chaos of the traffic outside the suicidal pedestrians regularly stepping out in front of it adding to the entertainment. FB's feet were still sore from the previous day's expedition to the ruins at Pompeii - the aches after 20 overs up the hill against the wind on a hard surface was nothing compared to this.

FB had gone to Pompeii with serious purpose.  He had noted the failure of generations of archaeologists to identify any indication that cricket had been played in Roman times.  He was sure that his eagle eye might spot some evidence to the contrary. Perhaps an antique statue with arm raised might be modeled on a medium pacer's action. 

Statue of Faun in Pompeii showing
 inswinger's action
But he was chastened to find no new evidence. Houses, shops, temples, theatres - all were laid out in the City where time stopped when Vesuvius erupted in 79AD.  But no evidence of cricket.  And FB increasingly felt the true answer to the question 'What did the Romans ever give us?' must be put in the negative 'Not cricket anyway.'

Mrs FB's patience with the drift of FB's conversation was wearing a bit thin. She had resorted to intense study of her bus ticket. 

FB was therefore silently contemplating another cricket-less day at the Museo Nazionale de Capodimonte when he noticed one of a passenger getting on the bus appearing to carry a cricket bat. He put this down to one too many glasses of Prosecco the night before, but he next stop brought onto the bus another cricket bat shaped bag. This time it could be no illusion for this bag was sported by a man in a Sri Lankan shirt. 
Real Palazzo Capodimonte

Things were looking up. There was cricket in the vicinity. He looked in his phrase book to check what the Italian for 'Do you need an 11th man?' (Avete bisogno di un uomo undicesimo?)

As the cricketers made to get off the bus, FB stirred.  But as he cleared his throat to utter the phrase, he felt Mrs FB's hand firmly on his shoulder. 'Don't even think about it,' she said. 'We are here for the Museo.'

It was an opportunity missed. 

But FB put a good face on it and enjoyed the Museo which is in a grand Bourbon palace overlooking Naples.  It is very grand - evidently the family made a lot of money out of chocolate biscuits in the 18th Century.  King Charles VII of Naples and Sicily (later Charles III, king of Spain) didn't do himself any harm by marrying into the Farnese family either.  The Museo houses a fine collection of old masters and Neapolitan art. 

Included in it is one of Caravaggio's greatest works - The Flagellation of Christ.  This fine painting is characteristic of Caravaggio's chiaroscuro style with dramatic contrasts in light and shade appears to show a batsman being assisted into his pads before an innings.  

Caravaggio - Christ getting his pads on
Though not a native of Naples, Caravaggio is taken as one of its own and his eventful life includes murders, stabbings and sexual adventures of all sorts.   It sounds like he could have been a fast bowler.  But the man could paint although none of his cricket paintings survived.

While FB was deprived of cricket during his visit, he is assured that cricket is growing in popularity in Italy and the national team took part in World Cricket League Division 3 this year and competed in the elimination tournament for the World T20 in 2102 where they finished in 10th place - Scotland finished in 5th place.

Despite the cricketers on the bus, FB can find no reference to a top flight team in Naples. Disappointing because the earliest mention of cricket in Italy is of a match played by Admiral Nelson's sailors in Naples in 1793.  It is unlikely that Nelson himself played - he seems to have spent the time propositioning Lady Hamilton when he could have been at net practice. 

Neapolitan Shrine to Maradona
Naples Football Club was founded by an Englishman in 1906 as the Naples Football and Cricket Club. This was similar to a number of other clubs in Italy eg A.C. Milan, which was originally the Milan Cricket and Football Club But these clubs soon forgot about cricket and concentrated on football. What might have been. 

Naples  sought to get in the big time by signing Diego Maradona in 1984 for a world record fee.  Maradona is venerated in Naples still.  

But had they concentrated on cricket they could have had Fantasy Bob for considerably less.

'See Naples and die,' said Goethe.

'See Naples but don't expect any cricket,' said FB.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Grand Theft Auto

Cricketers among the millions, indeed billions, who have rushed to purchase Grand Theft Auto V should prepare themselves for disappointment.

Cricketers might have joined Fantasy Bob in supposing that a computer game based on the careers of characters named Michael, Trevor and Franklyn would have something going for it in terms of cricket interest.  For who else could these characters be but Michael Vaughan, Trevor Bailey and Franklyn Stephenson.  An unlikely trio perhaps, but they could be brought together with a few leaps of the imagination.  The highly developed skills that each would bring - Vaughan's sublime cover drive, Bailey's stonewall defence, and Stephenson's celebrated slower ball could give them an advantage in most tight circumstances.

But FB is sad to relate that the characters bear no resemblance to these real world heroes at all. Michael is a former bank robber in his early forties who lives with his dysfunctional family on the proceeds of his former life. Trevor his former partner lives alone in a trailer in the desert. Franklin makes a living as a repo man for an unscrupulous Armenian car dealership. And cricket is far from their minds as they career around their fictional world in a series of ever more frenetic heists, car chases and shoot outs.

No place for real heroes in Grand Theft Auto V
The game is set within the fictional state of San Andreas and the fictional city of Los Santos. Despite the fact that these are said to be based on California and Los Angeles respectively, a fact which probably explains why the characters encounter no cricket matches in progress as they scream along in their souped up cars, FB understands that there are references to Edinburgh's tram project in the detail of the narrative. The developers of the game are based in Leith an area of Edinburgh which suffered significantly from the protracted construction phase of the project. Despite being dug up several times the original intention of running the trams to Leith was abandoned - leaving only fond memories of snarling taxi drivers in the minds of Leithers. And hidden references in best selling computer games.
Fantasy Bob's faithful, if dwindling, worldwide readership will correctly infer that the chances of FB playing Grand Theft Auto V are less than of his successfully defending his wicket against leg spin bowling. That is considerably less than zero.   Such games join the long list of those manifestations of the modern world that FB finds unnecessary - a list which daily grows in length but more recently has been extended by UKIP MEPs, the paintings of Jack Vettriano and above all the IPL.

But if a story involving Vaughan, Stephenson and Bailey was too much to hope for, the reference in the narrative to Edinburgh's trams suggests that all is not lost and had the creators of the game made a little more effort they could have got FB on board.  Had Michael, Trevor or Franklyn at a crucial point in their adventures, instead of blasting everything in front of them with an automatic weapon or executing a series of hand-brake turns, simply sat down for a nice cup of tea and an empire biscuit, FB would have found something to commend.  It would have been a start. It would have given him a bond with the juniors next season.  A lost opportunity.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

New Member

New Carlton membership drive brings early success...............

The Fantasy Blobfish

Saturday, 14 September 2013

No Foreign Lands

Cricketers may be averse to the National Galleries of Scotland.  Many of them have been dragged round by well-meaning parents or partners.  Some may just have chanced through its portals looking to escape the weather.  Either way they end up disappointed. For while on the walls they can see lots of Madonnas, lots of wooded hillsides, lots of mountain vistas, even a decrepit Spanish crone frying eggs, cricket does not feature in any of this stuff.

Fantasy Bob has established, through long years of meticulous research,  that this is not a specifically Scottish failing.  Even in the National Gallery in London, situated less than 2 miles from Lords or the Oval, cricket based works are absent.

It is nothing short of a national scandal.

Cricketers might not therefore find themselves filled with enthusiasm at the prospect of the National Galleries of Scotland's present exhibition No Foreign Lands.  They should reconsider.

This exhibition features recent work of Peter Doig, born in Scotland but who has spent his life in London Canada and Trinidad.  The paintings on display are drawn from his work since 2000 when he returned to Trinidad.  It is a fine body of work with the heat and steam of the sub tropical environment well depicted in a series of original and arresting compositions.  (FB apologises if he begins to sound like an art critic at this point.  He will put the absinthe aside).

But as they move through the rooms cricketers will suddenly come face to face with 2 mighty canvases depicting a cricket scene.  They may rub their eyes in disbelief.  Cricket in the NGS?  They may pinch themselves.  Are they dreaming?  Have they died an woken in a gallery in Heaven?

But no.  It is so.  There before them are the real thing.  2 huge paintings capturing different moods of the same scene.  A bowler in his follow through; a batter about to step into his stroke; a wicket keeper standing almost transparent in the middle distance.  Astounding work.
Cricket Painting - Paragrand
The cricketer will wish to dwell on these paintings for some time.   The artist captures real bits of action.  The curve of the bowler's hand having released the ball.  The batsman's left foot lifting in sympathy with his back lift. The coaching manual could not present it better.

Cricket Painting - Paragon
Doughty Groundsmen however may linger even longer.  As a breed Doughty Groundsmen are prone to critical observation and they may loudly wonder what kind of preparation went into the presentation of a wicket that appears completely orange.  They should take care not to disturb other cricketers viewing the work.  Instead of muttering audibly, they may consider writing to the artist to enquire as to his visual acuity. They may invite him to inspect their own wicket and monitor their careful presentation of it to see for himself the true place in the colour spectrum that is held by a cricket wicket.

Doig says he made these works after playing beach cricket in Trinidad.  He may therefore have captured some future Test stars in his painting.

For the list of West Indies greats who started playing such games in Trinidad is long and prestigious.  Here is a Trinidad XI (not in batting order)

Brian Lara - 131 Tests - 11953 runs
Larry Gomes - 60 Tests - 3171 runs
Gus Logie - 52 Tests - 2470 runs
Phil Simmons - 26 Test - 1002 runs
Darren Ganga 48 tests 2160 runs
Derryck Murray 62 Tests - 1993 runs - 189 dismissals
Dwayne Bravo - 40 Tests 2200 runs - 86 wkts
Bernard Julien 24 Tests 866 runs - 50 wkts
Sonny Ramadhin - 43 Tests -158 wkts
Ian Bishop - 43 Tests - 161 wickets
Sunil Narine - 5 Tests - 15 wickets

A team fit for any oil painting, orange wicket or not.

Trinidad's greatest

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Birthday Girl

Today is Mrs FB's birthday. A day she shares with Richard the Lionheart, Antonin Dvorak, and Geoff Miller.

Geoff Miller played 34 Tests for England before becoming a selector. Otherwise, Mrs FB is probably the best cricketer among the lot of these birthday boys. And even Geoff Miller might have difficulty dealing with Mrs FB's overspun underarm lob. Particularly when it comes at him from behind the drying washing.
Geoff Miller
struggling to deal with Mrs FB

There is of course a mystery about Mrs FB's age. Mrs FB properly takes her cue from Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell who said, '35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained 35 for years.'

Like those women of Lady Bracknell's acquaintance, Mrs FB, though not in London society, has been 35 for years. The remarkable thing is that Mrs FB's elder sister and many of her girlfriends have also been 35 for years.

FB has on occasion tried this approach with his batting.  To start one's innings on zero is so commonplace. It is positively dull.

FB will therefore face his first ball confident that his score, his freely chosen score, lies on 60.  For 60 is such an attractive score.   It is near enough 100 to be interesting but indicates that some further application is required.  It is the kind of score of which Lady Bracknell might approve.  FB is sure London society is full of batsmen who have been on 60 for years.

FB will take his guard.  He will scan round the field acknowledging the recognition in the fielding side of a batsman on 60. A batsman in his prime. He will take his stance, look up and see the bowler begin his run. 

There is no memory of what happens next.  For when his eyes open he is on his way to the pavilion. 'To lose one stump may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness,' as Lady Bracknell might have remarked.

But when FB closes his eyes again, he is still on 60.  He always will be.

Happy Birthday Mrs FB.  35 again.

Monday, 2 September 2013

End of Season Review

At the end of the season, the statistics obsessive that is inside every cricketer blossoms.  For what other way is there of understanding the success of the season than by close and careful scrutiny of what the score books reveal.

The memory of the warm June sun on his face; the lingering feel of that cover drive in July which whispered off the bat but slammed into the fence; the recall of that booming in swinger that took the top of middle stump are all very well.  But it is the numbers which tell the truth.  So here are the numbers which define Fantasy Bob's season.

Number of runs scored off middle of bat -2

Number of runs scored off edges -196

Number of ducks - 2

Number of scores over 50 - 1

Number of wickets taken - 20

Number of stonewall LBW appeals turned down for incomprehensible reasons - 57

Number of catches taken - 2

Number of catches completely missed due to failure to perceive ball as anywhere in the vicinity - 18

Number of injuries (real) - 0

Number of injuries (imagined) - 117

Number of 3s run - a number seeming to approach infinity

Number of times emergency services called at end of third run - 0

Number of empire biscuits consumed - 259

Number of pieces of kit lost or otherwise requiring replacement - 0

Number of junior members left behind at away fixtures - 0

Number of pieces of kit belonging to junior members picked up after matches - 2418

Number of words used in match reports - 3,986,564

Number of words of 3 or more syllables used in match reports - 3,986,562

Number of references to obscure cultural figures and irrelevant historical characters in match reports - 3,986,564

Amount of useful information in match reports - 0

Number of text messages made on Friday evenings to find 11th player - 3,986,564

Number of times FB thought on the trudge back to the pavilion having missed a straight one 'Sod this for a game of soldiers - this is the last season.' - NONE

All in all a most successful and enjoyable season. Many thanks to all team mates and opponents for putting up with FB.  The bad news for you all is that he is already looking forward to next year.  He thinks that there is another season in him.  Such is the power of empire biscuits.