Tuesday, 27 August 2013

For this relief much thanks

Cricketers have been shocked by the news that players of the Carlton All Stars 4th XI had resisted the temptation to relieve themselves on the Grange Loan square during the twilight celebrations of their triumphant capturing of the prestigious 5th place in ESCA Division 8.

Observers say they distinctly saw the players standing around doing nothing.  Some of them even seemed to be going home.

A source close to the go ahead Edinburgh club said, 'What kind of behaviour is that?  If our youngsters aspire to be English Test players, they need a different approach to bladder control.'

There were suggestions that the shameful behaviour witnessed at the weekend is the result of a serious failure of leadership of the side. Fantasy Bob, the so called skipper of this triumphant team was not to be seen during these disgraceful events.  Rumours are that he was to went to the toilet at the Festival Theatre during the interval of yet another Festival event he was attending.

Fantasy Bob was unavailable for comment - even from behind the locked lavatory door.

England's Test team setting an example

Monday, 19 August 2013

Commonwealth Games

Cricketers have long swallowed their disappointment that the game will not feature in the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow next year.  It is not as if cricket is a game associated with Commonwealth countries and former British colonies after all.

But their disappointment has turned to mystification with the launch last week of the Commonwealth Games bat cone.  Specially designed and created by Scottish craftsmen the bat cone will be used to change cricket bat grips as it is carried by cricketers through the Commonwealth on its way to Glasgow.  But once it gets to Glasgow it will have no use, for cricket is not among the sports being contested.

FB is at a loss to explain this but he welcomes the fancy bat cone.  For the bat cone is one of the more perplexing pieces of equipment a cricketer can encounter.  Over the course of his career FB has spent many long and frustrating hours wrestling with it to get his new grip the right way up and the right side out.  A task which requires the patience of Job, the strength of Superman and the spatial reasoning of Einstein.  FB is sadly lacking by comparison with all these icons.  He therefore trusts this new design will make things easier for the grip-less cricketer.

However the truth is that the Commonwealth Games people may have gone to unnecessary expense.  For bat cones are redundant.  Too late in his career has FB discovered that here is a simpler method to get a grip onto a bat, as seen on this link.  It can be accomplished by using nothing more complicated than an everyday plastic bag.

Surely it is not too late for the Commonwealth Games people to commission a special plastic bag in honour of their event and which could be made use of by cricketers across the Commonwealth.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Should have gone to specsavers....

Modern eye test LOL
On the face of it, it was not the most comforting remark for the driver of the car to make as it hurtled down the M90 ferrying Fantasy Bob and a fellow member of the Carlton All Star 4th XI home from a recent away game.

'I think I need to get an eye test.'  said the driver peering into the gathering gloom of the evening.

His comment was met with silence.  Not a silence of the easy, relaxed, just chilling kind.  But the silence that precedes the bad stuff in a horror film.  FB's gripped the Jesus handle above the car door a little tighter.  Any harder and he risked pulling it from its mounting.

The driver went on.  'I'm standing at square leg.  I hear the bat hit the ball.  It's like the ball has disappeared. Maybe I need specs.'

FB conceded the point.  He has worn fashion eyewear, as spectacles seem to be called these days, on the field of play for many years.  He cannot whether they have contributed to improvement in his performance for there has been no improvement but it may be that they have arrested the rate of decline in his performance.  Whatever their impact on the cricket field they have been essential when driving.  Particularly when ferrying colleagues home from away matches.

While the lower leagues are stuffed with players donning fashion eyewear - and some donning distinctly unfashionable eyewear - in the upper reaches of the game bespectacled players are a rarity.  It may be that with the development of contact lenses there are many more players who are visually assisted but that is not evident to the spectator.  And FB has never seen in a cricket match the scramble in the mud to find a missing contact lens which occasionally happens on the rugby field.

In recent times only Daniel Vettori comes to mind as a be-spectacled player and it did him no harm.  Whether he was any good at driving his team mates home is another matter.  Furtherr back in time, FB can remember Clive Lloyd wearing huge specs under his drooping sun hat as he clattered bowlers to every part of the ground.  And a step further back there was South African all rounder Eddie Barlow.  English opticians were not out of business either for Geoff Boycott wore specs at the start of his career and MJK Smith and David Steele also sported snazzy eyewear.  FB is sure that there are many other players of earlier eras for whom a visit to the optician was as necessary as net practice.

Croakies in their natural habitat
What FB did not notice on any of those fine bespectacled players was the essential accessory to sporting spectacles.  The full technical description is the eyewear retainer.  FB knows it better as the Croakie - basically a bit of string to stop your specs flying off as FB hurtles after the ball to save a boundary.  (And this shows the mixed benefits of wearing specs.  Without specs FB would not have seen the ball until it was gently returned from beyond the boundary by an old lady quietly walking her dog.  That she appears to have a better arm than he has is an issue to discuss on another day.  But with fashion eyewear FB cannot pretend not to see the ball and has to give chase ruining the afternoon's relaxation in the outfield).

To return to the point, FB sports snazzy Croakies which he acquired many years ago in teh home of the Croakie, Jackson Hole Wyoming.  Readers may think that is far from home for one so young as FB to stray.  But as FB played Jackson Hole's golf course he found himself in the rough. There is no surprise in this. He did not find his ball. Again there is no surprise in this.  But he did find a ball bearing the logo of the Bank of Scotland.  Just like home.

Jackson Hole Wyoming

Thursday, 15 August 2013


Fantasy Bob’s mind was on other things on Monday night.  He checked the Ashes score.  Australia were 170 for 3.  Well on their way to the target.  

He immersed himself in other things prior to leaving the house for the Usher Hall and Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony played by Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.  Mahler’s Second Symphony is named the Resurrection, but is not under any circumstances to be confused with Ashton Gardner and Dyke's 1971 hit Resurrection Shuffle.  His sense of anticipation was high.  A top orchestra playing a huge piece, an emotional journey from dark to light and an orchestral showpiece.  What could be better?

'What could be more appropriate?' thought FB to himself as he waited for the bus, 'For surely the Durham test has seen the resurrection of Australian fortunes.' A doughty innings by Rogers and fine bowling by Harris had put them in a strong position.

The symphony ends with a huge choral finale, which builds through a series of episodic fragments to a final climax which raises the roof.  Mahler himself wrote to a friend as he finished the work, 'The increasing tension, working up to the final climax, is so tremendous that I don’t know myself, now that it is over, how I ever came to write it.'  (A feeling with which FB is familiar in writing his world famous match reports of Carlton All Star 4th XI's exploits).

Jansons’ performance was a triumph and the audience, FB among them, exploded with enthusiastic and lengthy applause.

As FB learned on his return home, Australia's resurrection had been deferred - if not abandoned as shortly before Jansons raised his baton their final wicket fell.  

And if there was a resurrection it was in the reputation of Stuart Broad whose 6 wickets won the match for England.   Broad, never the most popular cricketer but whose failure to walk in the First Test excited intense levels of loathing, is now on a pedestal.  The same Broad whose place might have been in doubt at the start of the summer.  

Now that is the kind of resurrection Mahler must have had in mind.

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Fantasy Bob supposes it is relatively well known among his handful of faithful readers that one of the great disappointments faced during his life by Ludwig van Beethoven was his limited opportunity to play cricket.

For the discerning listener to his music, this frustration is self evident.

The Pathetique sonata is clearly a reflection on his failure to deal with a straight full toss while still on zero. The Moonlight Sonata is a quieter reflection on an evening match, possibly on Vienna's equivalent to Edinburgh's Meadows.  Maybe, the music suggests, given the fading light, the skippers would have been better opting for 18 overs a side rather than 20.

Beethoven's aspirations on the cricket field are confirmed by teh words recorded on his deathbed Ich werde im Himmel schlagen! - I will bat in Heaven. FB should note that there an alternative version of these words is also in circulation Ich werde im Himmel hören! (I will hear in Heaven!), but that makes less sense and FB is confident they are a misreporting.

Fidelio - from Beethoven's work book
If cricket was one of Beethoven's great frustrations, then opera was a similar torment. His only venture into the genre, Fidelio, went through 4 versions and there continues to be dispute among scholars, musicologists and cricketers as to the most authentic version.  Much is attributed to this great work - it is the first political opera, it is an affirmation of the idea of liberty, it encapsulates the beauty of the late cut behind square. Whatever view you take of its significance, it is stuffed with music of the highest quality.

Beethoven has always been FB's special hero, even beyond his admiration for Denis Law and Ted Dexter. And Fidelio was the first ever opera he saw; in a fine production by Scottish Opera in 1970.  Leonore was sung by Helga Dernesch and the production had a theatrical tour de force in its presentation of the great Prisoners' Chorus as the inmates crawled out of their cells into the bright light of the centre stage. It still lives in FB's memory. Test Match Quality.

FB was forced to dig deep into his memories of the greatness of this work as they sat through the production of Fidelio presented as part of this year's Edinburgh International Festival.  Mrs FB had forcibly to restrain him from loud objection through the show.  He is confident that if Beethoven could spare the time from his Heavenly net practice, he would be spinning in his grave at a rate faster than the spin Graeme Swann puts on the ball.

Opera has long been the victim of ego maniacal producers and directors who put their own conception before anything else.  But for FB, this production took the empire biscuit.

The piece was set on a space craft - to which any sensible person would ask 'Why?'  FB suspects life is too short to hear the answer.

All the action took place behind a gauze - always an alienating experience for actors and audience alike -
onto which were projected an endless series of meaningless computer generated graphics.  Occasional text in the form of science fiction gibberish was also projected.  The singers moved about behind this gauze on segways in costumes that made them look like something out of Thunderbirds.  Oh dear. Anything to get in the way of the emotional and the drive of the narrative.  But there was an opportunity to boo when the director took a curtain call, of which FB and Mrs FB took full advantage.  They did it for Beethoven.

Here is a link to a more conventional presentation of the Prisoner's Chorus.  One of the great attestations of the desire for liberty.

O welche Lust in freier Luft
Den Athem einzuheben!
Nur hier, nur hier ist Leben.
Die Hoffnung flustert sanft mir zu
Wir werden frei, werd finden Ruh?

Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Up here alone is life!
Hope whispers softly in my ears!
We shall be free, we shall find peace.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


After a series of controversial decisions in the continuing Ashes series, HotSpot, and the whole DRS system, remain under critical examination. 

Further controversy erupted today when Fantasy Bob vehemently denied that he has doctored the edges of his bat to escape detection by HotSpot technology.

In a carefully worded statement on his behalf, a spokesperson from the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club said,

Has this bat been treated with empire biscuits?
‘Frankly the edges of FB’s bat are the most used parts of it – indeed they are probably the only used parts of it.  They need all the help they can get to survive.  Long before the advent of HotSpot, FB began to treat the edges with empire biscuits. He forgets why, but any contact with empire biscuits gets him going. It is not his fault if HotSpot cannot detect empire biscuits.’

Fantasy Bob also denied that any red marks seen near the middle of his bat had painted on by hand in an attempt to fool opposition fielders as to his ability.  The spokeperson said,
‘This would be pointless. As soon as he faces just one ball any observer could see that any marks on the middle of his bat had nothing to do with FB.’


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Food Science Reaches New Heights

There was intense interest in the demonstration earlier this week of a burger made from meat grown in a laboratory from stem cells extracted from cow muscle tissue. Scientists claim could be the answer to meeting the world's growing demand for meat protein.

The demonstration did not go unnoticed in the world famous nutritional research laboratories of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton. For scientists at these laboratories are about to unveil an even more radical approach to meeting the world's food needs.

They reckon that the laboratory grown empire biscuit could put an end to hunger at cricket teas forever. 

The Post-Imperial Biscuit, dubbed by some clever dick the Frankenpiece, has been made by cultivating stem cells from an original empire biscuit in a specially derived mixture of nutrients. Since none of those nutrients are wasted on bones or tails or other inedible unbiscuity bits, this is a more efficient way to grow empire biscuits. It produces 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires 99% less land than the conventional product.

A spokesman for the club said, 'The basic process is now well understood, but perfecting the genetically complex jelly tot on the top has taken many years of careful experimentation. Scientists were making slow progress because Fantasy Bob kept eating the samples before they had grown big enough. They lost count of the number of times they had to change the locks to protect their ground breaking work.'

The development was welcomed by pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of Biscuits who said: 'This will spell the end of the inhumane factory farming practices and lorries full of terrified biscuits being taken to abattoirs. All cricketers should welcome this important development.'

Fantasy Bob was unable to comment since his mouth was stuffed with biscuit.

Empire biscuits growing under laboratory conditions

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Third Test

This is one of those rare posts on this blog in which Fantasy Bob discusses cricket without recourse to puerile jokes or obscure references to forgotten cultural figures.  He apologises to his handful of worldwide readers for any offence caused by this lapse in form.
The moment of victory at Lords

While Fantasy Bob would prefer that England won the Ashes, he would like the contest to be close with the result in the balance until the final session of the final match.  Supporters could then collapse exhausted but satisfied and there would be cause for just celebration, even if it involved receptions at Number 10.

But he fears that after Australia's lamentable showing at Lords that the contest is to all intents and purposes over. A third victory for England at Old Trafford will kill the series and much of the interest in the event - the so-called blue ribband event of the sport.  The chances of knocking the obsessive interest in the minutiae of the return of the football season from the sports pages will be lost.  We shall all be poorer.

Warner at practice
So FB hopes that Australia can pull something out of the bag.  Even if it depends on last wicket partnerships of the sort which got them so close at Trent Bridge.  David Warner is thought likely to return, although FB doubts whether he is the answer to Australia's batting brittleness.  While an injury to Steve Smith may make the selection decision easier there has been speculation that he would keep Phil Hughes out of the side - notwithstanding that Hughes' 81 in the first innings at Trent Bridge is by some margin the highest score by a top order Oz bat in the series so far.  Or Warner might replace Watson. Either way Australia don't really need quick runs they need batters who can stay at the crease and grind it out.

Watson's failings have been all too evident.  He has been first out in each innings, 3 times LBW.  In each innings he has had the highest strike rate - bar the second innings at Lords where Agar's short innings was at a slightly higher rate.  If that is not an indication of a mind seriously gone wrong through too much limited overs stuff, then FB doesn't know what is.  FB is not convinced Watson is an asset to the team any longer but suspects he will be retained because of his value as an occasional bowler.

There is speculation that spinners will dominate the Test.  Panesar is in the squad and while many, including FB, would like to see him and Swann work in partnership, he thinks it highly unlikely.  This is a squad selection solely for the purpose of messing with the opposition's collective head.

But it is worth noting that Panesar is by far the most successful English bowler at Old Trafford in recent years.  In 3 Tests there he has taken 25 wickets at 16.72.  By comparison Jimmy Anderson has only 10 wickets in the same number of Tests.

Notwithstanding this, FB expects England to be unchanged as Pietersen seems likely to pass a fitness test n his sore leg. And the time is ripe for another KP master class such as he demonstrated at Headingley last August.  (A master class in batting that is rather than the use of social media).
Pietersen - Headingley 2012

As a Scottish person, FB has long experience of sympathising with the underdog. And Australia are surely the underdog at the moment.  He also has another reason for sympathy, for Australia's woes in the Test series have coincided with a sad loss of form in FB's own Carlton All Stars 4th XI.  From a position at the top of the league a series of 3 defeats they have seen their world ranking plummet.  Like Michael Clarke, FB's batting average has gone into a tail spin.  He has had to resort to miracle catches to deserve a place in the team.

The fates of the 2 teams are obviously linked.  Both sides have struggled with the bat.  The only difference between the sides is in the lamentable use of DRS - FB has yet to lose a DRS appeal - the fact that he is unable to make them in lower league cricket is not necessarily a relevant consideration.

There is in all this much cause for worry for both skippers.