Welcome to today’s ‘all time XI‘ cricket themed post. I have a Sunday spectacular for you, with a team of players who share names with characters from history or mythology taking on a team of players who share names with scientists or science writers.
THE MYTH & HISTORY XI
- *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types, captain. The three Graces in a cricketing contest refers to this man and his brothers EM and GF who all played for England, all featuring in the Oval test match of 1880. The Three Graces were three sisters in Greek mythology, daughters of Zeus and the nymph Eurynome. Their names were Aglaia, Thalia and Euphrosyne. You can fet full details here.
- Septimus Kinneir – left handed opening batter. In a first class career that began in 1898 and ended in 1914 he amassed 15,641 runs at 32.72, with a best score of 268 not out. Septimus is a Latin name meaning ‘seventh son’, and if you add an ‘i’ you get Septimius, which gives Lucius Septimius Severus, one of the better Roman emperors.
- Krishnamachari Srikkanth – right handed batter. His 38 was the highest individual score of the 1983 World Cup final (India 183 all out beat West Indies 140 all out by 43 runs, in one of the greatest of all sporting upsets). The first seven letters of his forename spell out Krishna, an important Indian deity.
- Julius Caesar – right handed batter, occasional right arm fast bowler. I have not made him up – he played for Surrey in the 1850s. The Julii Caesares were a famous Roman family, the most famous of all being the original ‘Caesar’, murdered on the ides of March in 44BCE. Appropriately enough given his name the cricketing Julius Caesar took a very aggressive approach to his batting.
- Nicholas Felix – left handed batter. Another legendary player of the mid 19th century. His real surname was Wanostrocht (‘pronounced one-horse-trot’), but he played under the nom de guerre ‘Felix’ because he was also a schoolmaster and did not wish the parents of his charges to know about his cricketing sideline. He was an early player turned writer, author of ‘Felix On The Bat’. His name sake for this purpose was Felix, governor of Judaea in the reign of the emperor Claudius.
- Octavius Radcliffe – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He played for Gloucestershire, and got selected for the 1891-2 Ashes tour. The Octavii were a Roman family which had two known branches, one of which was senatorial for most of its existence but died out in the mid 80s BCE, and the other of which did not number any senators until the very time that the senior branch died out, when Gaius Octavius whose father had made a fortune as banker was accepted into the senate. He reached the rank of Praetor, second highest in the ranking of magistrates in the Roman republic but died before he could become consul. His son, also Gaius Octavius was adopted in the will of his great uncle Julius Caesar and became Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and eventually the emperor Augustus.
- +Arthur Frederick Augustus ‘Dick’ Lilley – wicket keeper, right handed batter. We have already met the emperor Augustus, but his first given name, Arthur gives him a link to the mythical King Arthur.
- Xenophon Constantine Balaskas – leg spinner, right handed batter. We have already met him in ‘The CLR James Trophy‘. As well as the historical Xenophon who I mentioned in that post his middle name connects to the first christian emperor of Rome, Constantine.
- Alfred Shaw – right arm slow to medium bowler. One of the most economical bowlers ever to play the game, he paid just 12 per wicket through a long career in which he bowled more overs than he conceded runs. His historical namesake isof course the only English monarch ever to have been dubbed ‘the Great’, Alfred of Wessex, king from 871 to 899CE.
- Freya Davies– right arm fast medium bowler. She is only just starting her career, but she has seven T20I wickets at 21 each, and an economy rate in that format of 5.88, which is highly impressive. If you add a j to her first name you get Freyja, a nordic/ teutonic goddess.
- Gideon Elliott – right arm fast bowler. I covered his brief but spectacular first class career in ‘Days In The Sun‘. His analogue is the biblical Gideon, who fought against the Midianites. His story appears in The Book of Judges, and I am both unrepentant and unapologetic in describing both that and indeed the bible of which it is part as mythology.
This team has a respectable top six, a fine keeper and four skilled and well varied bowlers. It is a fairly impressive looking side, especially given the selection criteria.
THE SCIENCE XI
- Marcus Trescothick – left handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer, slip fielder. I covered him in my Somerset post. He serves here as an introduction to two authors. Marcus Chown writes about cosmology, and among the books of his to be found on my shelves are “The Never Ending Days of Being Dead”, “We Need To Talk About Kelvin” and “Afterglow Of Creation”. He currently has a short article of the 1665 plague here. Marcus Du Sautoy writes about mathematics, and became the second holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science after Richard Dawkins. His books, all highly readable, include “The Music of Primes” and “Number Mysteries”.
- Jimmy Burke – right handed opening batter. An adhesive opening batter who once scored 28 not out in four and a quarter hours (he was playing unselfishly, feeding his partners the strike, and in company with Norman O’Neill who played plenty of strokes, he saw Australia to victory). His full name was James Wallace Burke, which means he shares two names with his analogue, James Burke, author of “The Day The Universe Changed.”
- Colin McDonald – right handed batter. He usually opened, but I have dropped him one place in order to preserve the left-right opening combo. He was the batting star of the 1958-9 Ashes, well chronicled by Jack Fingleton in “Four Chukkas to Australia”. His counterpart is David McDonald, author of “The Velvet Claw”.
- Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. I have rolled his full name rather than simply calling him Viv Richards because it is that first given name, Isaac, that gets him in here. His scientific counterpart is of course Isaac Newton, to date the only person from the Grantham area to have done anything that warrants being remembered. Newton was one of the greatest of all scientists. Patricia Fara is the author of an excellent book about him, “Newton: The Making of Genius.”
- Brian Close – left handed batter, off spinner and occasional medium pacer, fearless close fielder. His England career spanned 27 years, his debut coming in 1949 at the age 18, and his final appearances at that level being against the West Indies in 1976. Ten years after even that he turned out for a match in the Scarborough festival, and with his side due to field noted that protective gear had been set out in the dressing room. He asked about this and was told that it was the short leg fielder. The then 55 year old Close responded to that with “Well, ahm at short leg today and ah doan’t need it.” His scientific counterpart is Brian Clegg, author of “Inflight Science” and “First Scientist”, a biography of Roger Bacon, among others.
- Oliver Pope – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He averages just over 60 in first class cricket, 47 in his fledgling test career, but I have kept him down at no 6 in this team because there have been suggestions regarding England moving him up, and I believe that at this stage of his career that would be a mistake. His analogue is Oliver Sacks, author of “Uncle Tungsten” and “An Anthropologist on Mars”. I especially recommend the former volume, which is indeed about a relative who worked with and was obsessed by tungsten.
- +Rachel Priest – right handed batter, wicket keeper. The Kiwi stumper gets in as counterpart to Rachel Carson, whose ‘Silent Spring’ made waves when it was first published. I have a copy of “The Sea Around Us” on my shelves and have read a couple of other books of hers. Anything with her name on the cover will be worth reading.
- Bart King – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. The greatest cricketer ever produced by the USA. The science link is to Brian King, co-author with Martin Plimmer of “Beyond Coincidence.”
- Jack Walsh – left arm wrist spin bowler. The Australian who played most of his first class cricket for Leicestershire took 1190 first class wickets at 24.55. His full name was John Edward Walsh, as compared to John Evangelist Walsh, author of “Unravelling Piltdown”, an account of one of the most famous of all scientific hoaxes, which identifies the culprit beyond any real doubt.
- Bob Newson – right arm fast bowler. His test bowling average was a horrible 66.25, partly because of his involvement in the infamous timeless test at Durban in 1939. Near the end of that match before the weather made its final intervention he took what was the 12th new ball to be used in its absurd duration. His first class record was 60 wickets at 26.03 each, or outside the test arena 56-1297 for an average of 23.16 each. His scientific counterpart is Lesley Newson, author of “The Atlas of the World’s Worst Natural Disasters”.
- Charlie Parker – left arm orthodox spinner. The third most prolific wicket taker in first class history with 3,278 scalps. Joint second in the list of first class hat trick takers, having performed the feat on six occasions. His counterpart is Andrew Parker, author of “In The Blink Of An Eye”, a natural history of the eye, and the role that the development of that organ played in the ‘Cambrian Explosion‘. Simon Ings is also the author of a book about eyes, “The Eye”, will Richard Dawkins’ “Mount Improbable” contains a chapter called ‘The Fortyfold Path to Enlightenment’, a title referring the minimum number of times on which eyes have evolved in the history of life on our planet.
This team has a fine top six, a keeper who can bat, and four well varied bowlers, with Close as a back up option in that department.
This should be a fine contest. My money would just about be on the team with scientific links.
A LINK AND SOME PHOTOGRAPHS
I have introduced the teams, but there is one thing to do before signing off. As some of my readers will be aware Dominic Cummings, the Rasputin of 21st century Britain, is in deep trouble. Yesterday it was revealed that he had travelled to Durham at the height of the lockdown, and then after some hours of various senior Tories sacrificing their credibility in desperate efforts to defend him, perpetrated at the behest of puppet prime minister Johnson, a second revelation came out yesterday evening regarding a trip to Barnard’s Castle during the lockdown period. The story had moved even further on, with a further sighting of Cummings in Durham on May 10th attested to by multiple witnesses. The lockdown policy, which was sensible but introduced far too late by the Johnson misgovernment, is unenforceable so long as Cummings remains in office, and those calling for his removal now include at least eight Tory MPs, with others doubtless to follow. I fully agree that his position is entirely untenable, and there is a petition running on change.org calling for his removal, which I have already signed, and now I urge all of you to sign and share it by clicking the screenshot below.
Finally, it is time for my usual sign off…