All Time XIs – Graeme v John

Today’s voyage through ‘all time XI’ cricket territory features a team of players with forename Graham or Graeme take on a feature of players with forename John for the ‘Bretton Trophy’.


Today’s exploration of ‘all time XI‘ cricket territory focusses on forenames. An XI all of whom have the forename Graeme or Graham take on an XI who all have the forename John.


  1. Graeme Fowler – left handed opening batter, occasional medium pace bowler, occasional wicket keeper. His highest first class score came in a test match, 201 vs India in India. His most remarkable first class batting performance came against Lancashire at Southport in1982. He made 128 in the first innings and 126 not out in the second, as Lancashire, after seeing their opponents make 523-4 declared on the first day won by ten wickets. Fowler was injured early in his first innings, and batted for the rest of that innings with David Lloyd as his runner. In the second innings Ian Folley took over as runner, while Lloyd reverted to his main role as opening partner to Fowler. At the end of this match Fowler had eight first class hundreds to his credit and four of them had come at the expense of Warwickshire. He was dropped by England at the start of the 1985 season to make way for Gooch, returning from his three year international ban for going on the first rebel tour of apartheid South Africa. Then, with England winning the Ashes in 1985 the incumbents Gooch and Tim Robinson who had made a remarkable start to his test career were selected for the trip to the West Indies, with Wilf Slack of Middlesex chosen as reserve opener and Fowler ignored. Robinson failed badly on that tour, but there was to be no international return for Fowler.
  2. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer. He was a little fortunate to be brought straight back into the team after his ban for going to South Africa, and he then missed the 1986-7 Ashes, when Chris Broad and Bill Athey opened for England. He had a good series against the West Indies in 1988, but then some crass comments of his played their own role in the cancellation of the planned 1988-9 tour to India, and in 1989 against Australia he fared poorly, at one point in the series actually asking to be dropped. The 1989-90 tour of the Caribbean saw England fare respectably, winning one test and being denied victory in another only by scandalous time wasting tactics. However, it was the 1990 home season against New Zealand and India that saw Gooch, then 37 years of age, really come to the fore as an international batter. At Headingley in 1991 he played one of the finest of all test innings, and as late as 1994 at the age of 41 he hit a double century against New Zealand, but the Ashes tour of that winter was as he would subsequently admit a tour too far, and his test career ended with 8.900 runs at 42.38.
  3. Graeme Smith – left handed batter. An unattractive player to watch but his record speaks for itself.
  4. Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. He averaged 60.97 in test cricket before his country’s isolation for political reasons ended his career. He was due to play in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, but fears of that being used as a stalking horse for the readmission of apartheid South Africa led to a ruling that only South Africans who played county cricket could participate. Besides Pollock a leg spinner named Denys Hobson missed out because he too was not a county cricketer.
  5. Graham Thorpe – left handed batter, occasional medium pace bowler. He made his debut in the Trent Brisge test of 1993, scoring 114 in the second innings, but not getting to savour a victory first time out as skipper Gooch delayed the declaration too long and Australia had no great difficulty securing a draw. His England career ended in 2005, when the selectors decided to go with Pietersen and Ian Bell for that year’s Ashes (for my money they made two mistakes in the early part of that season – Pietersen should have played in the tests against Bangladesh at the start of it, and Bell should have been left out – he fared well against Bangladesh but was unconvincing against Australia.
  6. Graham Dowling – right handed batter. He averaged 31 in test cricket for New Zealand, similar to the average recorded by Graeme Hick for England. The highlight of his test career was an innings of 239.
  7. +Graham Kersey – wicket keeper, right handed batter. His death following a  car accident at the age of 25 ended a career that had shown huge promise – in 59 matches at first class level he made 193 dismissals (181 catches and 12 stumpings) and had produced a few significant batting performances as well.
  8. *Graeme Swann – off spinner, useful lower order bat. England’s best off spinner of my life time.
  9. Graham McKenzie – right arm fast medium bowler. At the end of his career he had the most wickets ever by an Australian pace bowler (246), though he was overhauled by Dennis Lillee not many years later. On an Old Trafford pitch in 1964 which yielded 1,271 runs for 18 wickets over five days he had bowling figures of 7-153 in England’s 611.
  10. Graham Dilley – right arm fast medium bowler. His career was ravaged by injuries, and he also suffered from the sometimes bizarre approach of England selectors in those days. His test career ended when he signed up for what turned out to be the last of the rebel tours of apartheid South Africa in 1989, and he took his wickets at the highest level at only just under 30, while at first class level he paid 26 a time. It was him joining Botham, with the score reading 135-7 in the England second innings and 92 still needed to avoid the innings defeat that started the incredible turnaround at Headingley in 1981 – he contributed 56 to a stand of 117 in 80 minutes, which inspired Old to contribute a further 29 to a stand of 67, and finally Willis resisted gamely will Botham continued to lash out. In the final innings Dilley showed a cool head and excellent judgement to remain within the fine leg boundary while catching Rod Marsh’s skied hook, a moment that left Australia 74-7. Had Dilley misjudged and slipped over the rope it would have been 80-6 instead.
  11. Graham Onions – he was first noted because of his combination with his county wicket keeper, Phil Mustard, which led to a significant number of C Mustard B Onions entries on scoresheetts. While never a star at the very highest level he did not ever let England down either. He himself would not quarrel with his position at no11, but would justly point out that he did help to save two successive test matches withe bat.

This team is strong in batting, has an excellent wicket keeper, but the bowling attack is neither absolutely top line nor fully balanced. Still they would not be pushovers for anyone.


  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. ‘The Master’ is a fine start to any batting order.
  2. Jack Robertson – right handed opening batter. His 11 test appearances between 1946 and 1951 saw him average 46 at that level. Bizarrely he was not chosen for either the 1946-7 or the 1950-1 Ashes tours, even though one of England’s chief weaknesses on both tours concerned the top of the order.
  3. Johnny Tyldesley – right handed batter. His test highlight was 138 at Edgbaston in 1902. He was a regular part of the Lancashire line up from 1895 until the outbreak of World War I and made further sporadic appearances over the course of four years after that war ended. He was once involved in a famous exchange with Lancashire opener and captain Archie MacLaren. The pair of them were batting against Frank Laver who discovered a way to bowl a really vicious late swinger, and they initially played him with great caution. After a few overs MacLaren summoned Tyldesley for a mdiwicket conference. MacLaren said “Johnny, I’m going to drive this chap Laver” to which Tyldesley responded “You’ll of course do as you think best, Mr MacLaren, but I am going to cut him.”
  4. John Small – Right handed batter. He was one of the greats of Hambledon. He once batted through an innings lasting three whole days of play. He was also indirectly responsible for a major change to the game – on one occasion Edward ‘Lumpy’ Stevcns, rated no2 to David Harris among bowlers of that era beat him three times in an innings with balls the passed between the wicket, which at that time comprised two stumps and a single crosspiece linking them. Stevens’ misfortune was noted, and the arrangement of three stumps set sufficiently close together that a ball could not pass through with two bails on top was introduced. Since then top level matches have not seen any repeats of Stevens’ misfortune, but one HS Dawe of Thistleton took all of his opponents wickets but had his analysis slightly spoiled by two deliveries passing between the stumps. What happened? The umpires had used an old (and as it transpired) swollen ball to measure the distance between the stumps!
  5. John Richard Reid – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. One of New Zealand’s greatest ever.
  6. *Johnny Douglas – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. His initials, JWHT (for John William Henry Tyler), and his approach to batting saw Aussie spectators dub him “Johnny Won’t Hit Today”, with a few even suggesting that “Johnny Won’t Even Hit Tomorrow”. He was an effective user of the new ball, although giving it to himself in preference to SF Barnes in the first test of the 1911-2 Ashes was misconceived – a fact which Douglas eventually acknowledged, and he restored the new ball to Barnes for the rest of the series, which England won 4-1. He was sometimes temperamental in the field. On one occasion the Essex slips were being more than usually generous towards opposition batters, and eventually second slip muffed one sitter too many, and turning to chase the ball he found himself being overtaken by his skipper, who was shouting “don’t worry, I’ll fetch the bl***y thing myself.”
  7. +John Murray – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Eratosthenes, Librarian of Akexandria at a time when that was THE plum academic posting was once dubbed ‘Beta’ by a rival, after the second letter of the Greek alphabet on the grounds the he was “second best in the world at everything.” In a sense, Murray was the ‘Beta’ of wicket keepers  – second to Bob Taylor in career dismissals, and the second of only two (the other being Les Ames who achieved the feat three times) to manage the wicket keeper’s season double of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals.
  8. John Emburey – off spinner, useful unorthodox lower order batter.  He was in his prime in an era that was not friendly to any kind of spin bowling, and was often required by his captains to bowl in a purely defensive capacity, keeping things tight while the quicker bowlers got thier breath back. This means that his record looks very ordinary by comparison with many of his forebears among conventional off spinners, but until the 1992-3 tour of India when he encountered batters who regularly dealt with quality spinners even in club cricket and was simply not allowed to bowl in his preferred style he was rarely collared. He visited Australia twice, in 1978-9 and 1986-7, and England won both series quite comfortably (the 1986-7 scoreline looks close, but England;s loss was in the final match of the series, when they took on a run chase that they would have eschewed had the series been live.
  9. Jack Walsh – left arm wrist spinner. An excellent counter part to the very orthodox off spin fo Emburey, the Leicestershire based Aussie was a huge spinner of the ball, regular taking huge bags of wickets in the county championship.
  10. John Wisden – right arm fast bowler. I opted for him in preference to that other Sussex speedster John Snow. His most famous bowling performance was all ten wickets in an innings, all clean bowled. On a tour of North America he once took six wickets with successive balls in a two day match.
  11. Jack Ferris – left arm medium fast bowler. One of the finest of Australia’s early bowlers.

This team has a fine top four, two genuine all rounders, a splendid keeper and four excellent and varied bowlers, three of whom could make useful contributions with the bat.


The contest for what I shall dub the ‘Bretton Trophy’ (from Charlotte Bronte’sVillette“, honouring the character John Graham Bretton, who we meet first as ‘Graham’ and then as ‘Dr John’) should be a good one. The Graene/Graham team are stronger in batting, but as against that the John/Jack (and all my chosen Jacks were actually registered as John at birth, but later referred to as Jack) team have greater strength, depth and variety in bowling, and therefore I would expect them to emerge victorious in the end.


My thanks to the pinch hitter for putting me on to video footage of Murali’s destruction of England at The Oval in 1998:


The Cummings/ Johnson scandal continues to rumble on, with the number of Tory MPs now being openly critical of Cummings into the 60s. Durham Police have confirmed what most of us already knew, namely that Cummings’ activities did constitute a breach of lockdown. My second message to my own MP, former Johnson advisor James Wild, remains, as does the first, unresponded to. If this is still the case come tomorrow morning then a third message from me will be hitting his inbox. This has gone beyond the political scandal it has been since Cummings’ activities were revealed and is now a public health scandal, as in spite of such being necessary to anyone with eyes to see, no government with Cummings still involved can claim the moral authority to enforce a lockdown. I recognize that I am fortunate in two regards, in that my home small as it is is all mine – it is not shared with anyone, and it does have a small garden, which means that although it is still two weeks before my shielding period expires I am at least able to get out in the open air, but it is still thoroughly annoying to see senior Tories effectively declaring that normal rules do not apply to them and their mates, while I have not been further afield than my little bit of garden since mid March.


Yesterday’s post included the following from

The blue area is three quarters of a square, which thus has area (48 x 4)/3 = 64. The orange area has area 64 less the overlapping portion of the green square. The green square has dimensions precisely half that of the blue and orange squares, i.e 4X4, making its area 16, and the overlap is one quarter of that = 4, so the orange region has a total area of 64 -4 = 60.


Having introduced today’s teams and explained the contest, produced a quick update on the political situation and solved yesterday’s teaser it is time for my usual sign off:

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Graeme v John
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Cultural XI v Player-Authors XI

Today’s variation upon an ‘all time XI’ cricket theme is built around cultural connections.


Welcome to the latest in my series of variations on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. This one pits a team of cricketers who share names with people who have made cultural contributions against a team of cricketers who wrote books after retirement.


  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. See yesterday’s post among others for more about him. I have sneaked him in by adding an e to his surname for the cultural reference – to Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan, and also author of one of the pieces included in “The Portable Atheist” edited by Christopher Hitchens.
  2. Roy Marshall – right handed opening batter. A massively successful batter for Hampshire for many years. My cultural reference is to another Marshall with middle initial e, HE Marshall, author of “Our Island Story”.
  3. Michael Vaughan – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. A bit of reaching here, as the reference is to Pip Vaughan-Hughes, a historical novelist whose books I have enjoyed reading.
  4. ‘Tup’ Scott – right handed batter. An early Aussie middle order batter, he claims his place in this team as analogue to Manda Scott, a historical novelist whose books include the Pantera series of Roman novels and the Dreaming series of novels about Boudicca.
  5. Clyde Walcott – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He averaged 56.68 in test cricket, so I was particularly please to be able to include him by reference to Charles Doolittle Walcott, the USian palaeontologist who discovered the Burgess Shale, one of the most important of all fossil beds. The best known writer to have covered the Burgess Shale is Stephen Jay Gould.
  6. Adrian Kuiper – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. He gets in as analogue to Gerard Peter Kuiper, a USian astronomer after whom the Kuiper Belt, considered a frontier in our solar system, is named.
    Illustration of Kuiper Belt and Spacecraft locations
  7. George Rubens Cox – right handed batter, left arm medium pace bowler, left arm orthodox spinner. I give him his full name to distinguish from another George Cox who also played for Sussex. Although he shares his middle name with Peter Paul Rubens, the Belgian artist, I am actually including him as a hat tip to professor Brian Cox.
  8. *Tony Lock – left arm orthodox spinner. For those wondering about my naming him as captain he was the first ever to captain Western Australia to a Sheffield Shield title, and his years in that role also saw him usher Dennis Lillee on to the cricketing stage. He also had a telling effect on the fortunes of Leicestershire when he became their captain. His analogue is crime writer Joan Lock, two of whose novels “Dean Born” and “Dead Image” I can recommend. Also, addition of an e to his surname brings in philosopher John Locke and engineer Joseph Locke, the latter of whom is commemorated in the name of Locke Park in Barnsley.
  9. +Eric Petrie – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He was by reputation a brilliant wicket keeper, but a very limited batter, who I mentioned in passing in my New Zealand post. His inclusion here links to Egyptologist sir Flinders Petrie. Readers of the late Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series will recognize Petrie as one of the few among his fellow Egyptologists about whom Radcliffe Emerson is other than utterly scathing.
  10. Tich Freeman – leg spinner. The second leading wicket taker in first class history, with 3,776, of which all bar 29 were taken after the age of 30. The 5’2″ legspinner is here as analogue to Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s leading scientists and author of “From Eros to Gaia”.
  11. Jeff Thomson – right arm fast bowler. One of the quickest and nastiest ever. His analogue is June Thomson, author of six books of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and the overview/dual biography “Holmes and Watson”. I rate her very high among those  who have chronicled adventures of the Baker Street pair since Conan Doyle finsihed.

This team has a strong top five, two all rounders, a splendid keeper and three ifne bowlers. It is somewhat short in the pace bowling department, with one of Cox or Kuiper likely to open the bowling with Thomson. However, they do have a very shrewd captain in Lock.


  1. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer. 8,900 test runs, more runs in first class and list A combined than anyone else in the game’s history. He is the author of “Captaincy”.
  2. David Lloyd – left handed opening batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner. As well as having a test double century to his credit, ‘Bumble’ as he is nicknamed is the author of “The World According to Bumble” and “The Ashes According to Bumble”.
  3. Tom Graveney – right handed batter. The second leading scorer of first class runs in the post World War Two era with over 47,000 of them.  He is the author of “The Ten Greatest Test Teams”, a book which analyses ten famous combinations and rates which is the very best.
  4. *Greg Chappell – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium (earlier bowled leg spin), brilliant slip fielder. The first Aussie to record 7,000 test runs, he book ended his test career with centuries, 108 v England at Perth to start and 182 v Pakistan to finish. He is the author of “The 100th Summer”, which details the test matches of the 1976-7 season, when he was captain of Australia.
  5. Doug Walters – right handed abtter, occasional right arm medium pace. A stroke maker who succeeded everywhere except England, where never managed a century. His highest test score of 250 came against New Zealand and featured a 217 run partnership with Gary Gilmour who racked up his one and only test ton. He twice scored over 100 runs in a test match session. He was also noted as a partnership breaker. He is the author of “One For The Road”.
  6. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Author of “The Botham Report” and “Botham’s Century” among other books.
  7. +Tiger Smith – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He actually first played for Warwickshire as a batter, while Dick Lilley retained the gloves. He gave a series of interviews to Pat Murphy, which ultimately became “Tiger Smith”.
  8. Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Author of “Warne’s Century”.
  9. Jim Laker – off spinner. An excellent ‘spin twin’ for Warne, who holds the record for wickets in an Ashes series – 46 at less than 10 each in 1956. He earns his place in this role by dint of being the author of “Cricket Contrasts”.
  10. Fred Trueman – right arm fast bowler. The first to record 300 test wickets, an unquestioned great of the game. He is the author of “As It Was” and co-author with John Arlott of “The Thoughts of Trueman Now”.
  11. Matthew Hoggard – right arm fast medium. An ideal type of bowler to share the new ball with Trueman, a position for which he qualifies b y being author of “Welcome To My World”.

This team has a fine top five, a top class all rounder at six, a keeper who can bat and a splendid foursome of bowlers. There is no front line left arm option but I feel that lack can be coped with – overall it looks a fine side.


The second of my two teams would clearly start as favourites, but both have some fine players and I would expect the contest to be a splendid one.


I have introduced the two teams, but just before I sign off in my usual fashion I have a link to share. Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has produced an excellent post about funding government spending, available here. Below is a ‘mind-map’ included in the post:

Finally it is time for my usual sign off…

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The first 13 pictures here come from Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True”, a book that has subsequently spawned a website which you visit by clicking here.

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May be a shieldbug (three pictures)

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Literary Clash
The two teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Scientists v Novelists

My latest variation on the all time XI cricket theme pits a team of cricketers who share names with famous scientists against a team who share names with famous writers of fiction.


Another day sees another variation on the all time XI cricket theme. Today we pit a team of cricketers who share names with famous scientists against a team of cricketers who share names with famous novelists. In all bar two cases the shared name is a surname. As per usual I have not selected anyone purely because their name fits. I am well aware that some very eminent scientists also wrote novels – Carl Sagan’s “Contact” is on my shelves to name but one.


  1. John Rutherford – right handed opening batter. He was the first Western Australian to be selected for his country, being picked for the 1956 tour of England. Although he failed, in common with most of his team mates, on that tour he had a very respectable first class record, and probably should have been given the opportunity to perform on home soil. His scientific namesake is Ernest Rutherford, born on the other side of the Tasman, and justly famous for his work on the atomic nucleus, and having the element Rutherfordium named in his honour.
  2. Navjot Singh Sidhu – right handed opening batter. At a time when his country found it hard to find anyone to go in against the new ball Sidhu did so and recorded a very respectable average. Although he was better against the quicks he could give mediocre spin and absolute walloping, as John Emburey and Ian Salisbury discovered to their cost on the 1992-3 tour of India. The scientist with whom he shares a name is Simon Singh, author of books that include “Fermat’s Last Theorem”  and “Big Bang”.
  3. Geoff Marsh – right handed batter. A first class triple centurion, and a fine test record as well. Among the many humiliations the 1989 Aussies inflicted on the disorganized and inadequate rabble masquerading as “England” that year Marsh and his left handed partner Taylor became only the second opening pair in Ashes history (after Hobbs and Sutcliffe who did so at Melbourne in 1924 in response to a total of 600) to bat through a whole day’s play – by tea on day 2 England had captured precisely two wickets in five uninterrupted sessions of bowling, before Australia did lose some wickets after that interval as they hustled to a declaration at 602-6, enough to win by an innings and plenty. Two sons, Shaun and Mitchell Marsh have also represented Australia with some success, although neither have a record to place them in the very top bracket. The scientist to whom Geoff owes his selection in this XI is palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, who identified and catalogued a vast number of fossil species in the course of his long and distinguished career.
  4. Derek Randall – right handed batter, brilliant fielder. The heavy scoring Nottinghamshire batter was often made to bat right up at the top of the order for England, a role to which he was not best suited, though he did deliver one Ashes winning innings at no3, a nine and a half hour 150 in scorching heat at Sydney in the 1978-9 series. His speed around the field earned him the nickname ‘Arkle’ in honour of one the most famous racehorses of the time. His scientific namesake is cosmologist Lisa Randall, who I first came across in a wonderful little book by another cosmologist, Janna Levin, titled “How The Universe Got Its Spots”.
  5. Ian Bell – right handed batter. A superb timer of the ball, it often did not look like he had really hit the ball until one saw it speeding to the boundary. He overcame an early reputation for being somewhat soft to become for a period one of the most respected middle order batters in world cricket. His matching scientist is Jocelyn Bell, later Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first pulsar. She was scandalously deprived of the Nobel Prize this warranted as the committee decided to give sole credit to her supervisor Anthony Hewish, when at best he deserved a share of the award, though I personally would have limited him to an honourable mention in the citation.
  6. +John Hubble – wicket keeper, right handed batter. One of a succession of top drawer keepers that Kent have had down the years, he initially got into the side as a batter, while Fred Huish retained the gloves, but after World War 1 and before the rise of Ames who continued the sequence (which runs on through Evans and Alan Knott to Oliver Graham Robinson of today) he was keeper as of right. His scientific alter ego is of course Edwin Powell Hubble, discoverer of the red shift phenomenon and prover that ours is not the only galaxy in the universe, after whom the Hubble constant and the Hubble space telescope are named. Hubble was able to achieve what he did in no small part due to the hard and largely unheralded work of human ‘computer’ Henrietta Swan Leavitt.
  7. James Franklin – left handed batter, left arm medium fast bowler. The Kiwi who played for Middlesex for a number of years, fully merits his place as all rounder – at his best he was a very fine cricketer indeed. As befits the all rounder of the side he has two eminent scientific namesakes – Rosalind Franklin whose x-ray diffraction photographs helped to reveal the structure of DNA, though she got none of the credit, as her work was shown to Francis Crick and James Watson without her even being consulted and neither of those two saw fit to even mention her in connection with their claimed discovery and Benjamin Franklin, late 18th century polymath.
  8. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. The Northamptonshire and England man destroyed Australia in their own backyard in the 1954-5 Ashes. A shooting star in cricket’s skies, his brief spell at the top left him with a test bowling average of 18.56. His scientific alter ego is Neil De Grasse Tyson, astrophysicist, cosmologist and planetary scientist.
  9. Srinivas Venkataraghavan – off spinner. The Indian, one of four specialist spinners who flourished for that country in the 1970s, was an off spinner more noted for accuracy than big turn. After his playing days were finished he went on to a very distinguished career as an umpire. His scientific namesake, slightly sneakily, is Srinivasa Ramanujan, the great Indian mathematician. Ramanujan was brought to England by the eminent Cambridge mathematician Godfrey Harold Hardy, and made serious waves in the few years he had before health problems overcame him. Hardy, in “A Mathematician’s Apology” tells a story of Ramanujan in his final illness: Hardy attempting to make conversation mentioned the number of the cab that had brought him there, 1729, and expressed the opinion that it was a rather dull number, to which Ramanujan said: “No Hardy, it is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.”
  10. Jeff Thomson – right arm fast bowler. Terrifyingly fast in his prime, when he teamed up with Dennis Lillee to lay waste to opposition batting orders. One of the things that gave Clive Lloyd the idea for the ‘four fast bowlers’ strategy he used to such devastating effect for the West Indies was the experience the men from the Caribbean suffered when beaten 5-1 in Australia in 1975, and they struggled badly against Lillee and Thomson, backed up by left arm pace bowler Gary Gilmour and right arm fast medium swing specialist Max Walker. His scientist alter ego is William Thomson, first Baron Kelvin, after whom the absolute temperature scale, and Marcus Chown’s book “We Need To Talk About Kelvin” are both named. There used to be a pub called the Lord Kelvin near King’s Lynn bus station, but it closed a while back, and the building has been slowly but visibly decaying ever since.
  11. *Bhagwath Chandrasakehar – leg spinner. One of the most individual bowlers in cricket’s long history, his right arm was withered from polio suffered as a child, and that was the arm he bowled with. He managed with the aid of the whippy, withered limb to be quick through the air and achieve sharp turn. He is second in the list of first class wicket takers who did not ever bowl in the County Championship behind another very different leg spinner, Clarrie Grimmett. I have gambled by naming him as captain, a role actually performed IRL by his fellow specialist spinner Bishan Bedi.  His scientific namesake is Subrahmanyan Chandrasakehar, a physicist and cosmologist who shared a Nobel Prize with Willy Fowler for work that explained the later evolutionary stages of massive stars. The Chandrasakehar limit, which relates to the collapse of stars after they have gone supernova (it is the greatest mass that a white dwarf can reach before it in it’s own turn collapses further to become a neutron star) is named in his honour.

The ‘scientists XI’ has a respectable top five, a good wicket keeper who can bat at six, an all rounder and four varied specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Tyson, Thomson, Franklin as third seamer, Chandrasakehar and Venkataraghavan should not struggle to take 20 wickets in a match either.


  1. Charlie Harris – right handed opening batter. Like his great Nottinghamshire predecessor George Gunn, Harris was an eccentric. Once when chided for slow scoring by a spectator he pointed his bat handle first towards the culprit and mimed shooting! His fiction writing alter ego for my purposes is Robert Harris, a writer of historical novels, including a trilogy about the life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, “Imperium”, “Lustrum” and “Dictator” and a novel about the selection of a new Pope, “Conclave”.
  2. MJK Smith – right handed opening batter. The Warwickshire and England man was a big scorer who never quite established himself at test level, partly because when he was in his prime Boycott and Edrich were normally first choice openers. He has two namesakes I choose to mention: Denis O Smith, a writer of new Sherlock Holmes stories, and Dodie Smith, author of “101 Dalmatians” and “Starlight Barking”, both of which I read and enjoyed as a child.
  3. *WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of various types. Cricket’s first superstar, used in my “CLR James Trophy” post to introduce the man he was named after, royal physician to Elizabeth I William Gilbert. This time he gets in to highlight action/ adventure novelist Tom Grace.
  4. Adrian Rollins – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. The Derbyshire man who could not have been far short of an England call up at his best gets in on account of the novels of James Rollins. The first Rollins novel that I read was “The Judas Strain”, which was set largely in the Angkor temple complex in Cambodia, and featured a bacteria that turned all the bacteria in the human body against their host. It is an excellent read, and I have found that to apply to many other Rollins books.
  5. Stanley Jackson – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. A Yorkshire stalwart whose England appearances were limited to home matches against Australia (he scored five test centuries nevertheless). His fiction writing analogue is Douglas Jackson, a writer of historical fiction whose first book was “Caligula”, and who then moved forwards in time through the reigns of Claudius and Nero. This is a popular period with novelists, with Robert Graves’ classics “I, Claudius” and “Claudius The God” overlapping it, along with Roberto Fabbri’s “Vespasian” series and Simon Scarrow’s “Eagles” series.
  6. Dai Davies – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer, right arm off spin. Glamorgan’s first great home grown talent of their first class period (they became a first class county in 1921, he made his debut in 1923, retiring in 1939). He was umpiring in the game at Bournemouth in which Glamorgan sealed their first County Championship in 1948, and is alleged to have responded to the final appeal with “that’s out and we’ve won.”. His fiction writing analogue is David Stuart Davies, a highly skilled Holmesian writer whose credits include “Sherlock Holmes and The Ripper Legacy”, “The Veiled Detective” and many others.
  7. Ellyse Perry – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Her colossal list of cricketing credits include a test double century and a seven-for in an ODI. Her fiction writing namesake is Anne Perry, author of historical detective novels. Her two main series feature lead characters named Thomas Pitt and William Monk respectively.
  8. +Kycia Knight – wicket keeper, left handed batter. An excellent keeper with a very respectable batting record. Her sister Kyshona also plays for the West Indies. Her fiction writing alter ego is Bernard Knight, creator of the “Crowner John” series of historical detective novels.
  9. Bill O’Reilly – leg spinner. Rated by many as the best bowler of any type to play in the inter-war years, his achievements include topping 25 wickets in each of four successive series. His fiction writing counterpart is Matthew Reilly, a bit of a stretch, but worth it for his extraordinary action adventure novels. Whether it be his Jack West series, the Scarecrow series (these two were effectively amalgamated by “The Four Legendary Kingdoms”, which has been followed by “The Three Secret Cities”, leaving two volumes, the last of which I suspect will be titled “The Omega Event”, to complete that series, or his various stand alone efforts, such as “Temple”, “Tournament” and “The Great Zoo of China” the books are universally excellent. I put up a post about his novels a while back, and recommend you visit it by clicking here.
  10. Craig McDermott – right arm fast bowler. The red headed Queenslander was an excellent fast bowler in his day, though a trifle injury prone. His literary alter ego is Andy McDermott, author of a series of adventure novels featuring archaeologist Nina Wilde and her ex-SAS husband Eddie Chase. The most recent novel in the series is “The Spear of Atlantis”, but you will not be disappointed whichever of these novels you happen to pick up.
  11. Matthew Dunn – right arm fast bowler. At one stage, before injuries started to take their toll he seemed destined for an England call up. As it is he only gets in because he has two literary alter egos: Carola Dunn, author of two excellent series of detective novels, the “Daisy Dalrymple” series and the “Cornish Mysteries”, which feature DS Megan Pencarrow, and Suzannah Dunn, author of historical novels including “Confessions of Katherine Howard” and “Sixth Wife”.

This team has great batting depth, with everyone down to Knight at no8 recognized in that department, and the bowling is well stocked, with Dunn, McDermott and O’Reilly the specialists, and Perry, Grace, Davies and Jackson as more than handy back up options. The spin department is a little light, but even so it looks a good bowling unit.


The contest for what I have decided to call the ‘CP Snow Trophy’ looks an absolute cracker. The ‘scientists’ have a somewhat less strong batting line up, but a quite awesome bowling attack, while the ‘novelists’ have a better batting line up, but are less formidable as a bowling unit. It will probably come down to the contributions of WG Grace and Ellyse Perry, and it is hard not to see those two each producing a match winning performance somewhere, so in a five match series the ‘novelists’ are not faring any worse than a 3-2 defeat. Equally it is hard to see Tyson and Thomson not being match winners, so we arrive at 2-2 for four of the five matches – it will go down to the wire.


Here, linking both of today’s XIs, is a mathematical problem involving a bit of detective work, courtesy of

Angle Detective

The original question was officially a multiple choice one, but I solved it in seconds and without reference to the available choices, so I am not making it multiple choice here.


The two sides contending for the ‘CP Snow Trophy’ have been introduced, and I have offered up a mathematical teaser for your attention. I offer one solitary link before my usual sign off: to a piece at gazetteseries calling for an ambitious approach to the reintroduction of beavers to the UK.

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The nest five pictures are all the same shot edited in different ways.

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Scientists v Novelists
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – The CLR James Trophy

A variation on the ‘all time XI’ cricket theme inspired by CLR James’ great question “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” – contrives to touch on a huge variety of topics.


Welcome to another variation on the all-time XI theme. This one requires a little preliminary explanation to set the scene, but first before getting into the main body of the post it is time for a…


Some observant readers will have observed, as did one James Carroll on twitter that in yesterday’s post about New Zealand I somehow contrived to leave out Kane Williamson. So, following my usual ‘reverse tabloid’ policy in such matters I take this opportunity to redress the wrong: Williamson replaces Rutherford in the NZ My Time team and if absolutely mandated to do so I could accommodate him in the NZ All Time by dropping Martin Crowe. My thanks to Mr Carroll for being civil about making the correction and my apology to Mr Williamson for an inexcusable oversight.


The CLR James Trophy gets its name from the question at the heart of that classic cricket book “Beyond a Boundary”, “what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” I pit two teams against each other of top level cricketers whose names give me non-cricketing links, with brief explanations of those links. I did consider honouring a former cricketer with a famously broad range of interests, Ed Smith and a polymath in Peter Medawar, but decided to stick with the CLR option. It is time to meet the first of our two XIs…


  1. *William Gilbert Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types. The scorer of 54,896 first class runs and taker of 2,876 first class wickets, his parents’ eighth child and fourth son was named in honour of William Gilbert, Royal Physician to Queen Elizabeth I. He was among other things a pioneer in the field of magnetism, author of “De Magnete”, and subject of “Latitude” by Stephen Pumfrey. Another Gloucestershire physician, Dr Jessop, named his 11th child Gilbert, because it was WG’s middle name, while ‘The Champion’ had several cricketing cousins surnamed Gilbert as well.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. His average when picked for England in this specific role was 45 per innings. Here he gets in in order to publicize Professor Ian Stewart, author of a stack of books about mathematics, including a series of books of curios “Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities”, “Professor Stewart’s Hoard of Mathematical Treasurers” and “Professor Stewart’s Casebook of Mathematical Mysteries”, and many others such as “Does God Play Dice?”, “Nature’s Numbers” and “Taming the Infinite”.
  3. Kepler Wessels – left handed batter. The only man to score over 1,000 test runs for each of two different countries. In his case the connection is by way of his given name, to ground breaking astronomer Johannes Kepler.
  4. Bill Bruce – right handed batter. A successful Aussie of the 1890s. His analogue is Colin Bruce, author of “The Strange Case of Mrs Hudson’s Cat” and “Conned Again Watson”. These two books use stories featuring Baker Street’s most famous duo to explore mysteries of science, mathematics and logic.
  5. Merv Wallace – right handed batter. The Kiwi averaged 44 in first class cricket, but his few appearances at test level were not so successful. The non-cricketing link is Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection. The Wallace line, which runs (among other places) between Lombok and Bali marks the geological and zoological divide between Asia and Australia.
  6. David Hookes – right handed batter. The scorer of the fastest first class hundred by any Australian batter, in just 43 minutes. He is the only one whose name needs altering to create the non-cricketing links – deleting the final s gives Hooke, as in Robert Hooke, the great 17th century scientist, author of Micrographia, and well covered in John Gribbin’s “Science: A History 1543-2001”, while deleting the e from that surname provides a connection to philosopher Bell Hooks, who I learned a little bit about while studying philosophy as one of the modules of my degree.
  7. Franklyn Stephenson – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Our all rounder, one of only two since the reduction of first class fixtures in 1969 to have done the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in an English season, and appropriately he is doing double duty. George and Robert Stephenson were both eminent engineers, among the pioneers of railway development. The most famous Stephenson design with a railway connection was of course ‘The Rocket’. Robert Louis Stephenson, a relative of the engineers, is famous as a novelist. I have read most of his books, the first one I read being “Kidnapped”, while I studied “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” at degree level.
  8. +Jack Russell – wicket keeper, left handed lower middle order batter. His ‘alter ego’ is philosopher Bertrand Russell, author of many books, and one of the writers featured in “Portable Atheist”, edited by Christopher Hitchens.
  9. Xenophon Balaskas – leg spinner, capable right handed batter. His brief test match career does not look that impressive, but in 75 first class matches he scored 2,696 runs at 28.68 with a best of 206 and took 276 wickets at 24.11 with a best of 8-60. The original Xenophon was an Athenian who went to Sparta when his situation in his home city became untenable, signed up as a mercenary solider there and travelled to Persia as part of an army attempting to overthrow King Artaxerxes and place his brother Cyrus on the throne. After a battle in which Cyrus was killed, Xenophon and his men found themselves in deepest Persia under sentence of death, but managed to escape, and Xenophon eventually returned to Greece, writing up his adventures in a book he called Anabasis. This has been novelized by Conn Iggulden as “Falcon of Sparta”. Much later one Xenophon of Cos served as physician to the Roman Emperor Claudius, being mentioned in Suetonius’ “The Twelve Caesars” and also in the fictional setting of Robert Graves’ “I Claudius” and “Claudius The God”. Finally, to complete Balaskas’ ancient historical links his middle name was Constantine, linking him the first christian Roman Emperor.
  10. George Dennett – left arm orthodox spinner. Over 2,100 first class wickets and no England cap. He claims his place as second spinner by virtue of his surname, shared by philosopher Daniel C Dennett, among whose books are numbered “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” and “Breaking The Spell”, both of which adorn my shelves.
  11. Danny Morrison – right arm fast medium bowler. He was one of the Kiwis best bowlers of the 1990s and his presence creates two splendid links. Toni Morrison won the Nobel prize for Literature for “Beloved”, and is also the author of a number of other hard hitting books – anything with her name on the cover will be worth reading. Boyd Morrison writes novels that combine action, adventure and elements of science and history – I have a copy of “The Noah’s Ark Quest” and can also recommend “The Tsunami Countdown”.

This team features a good top six, a genuine all rounder in Stephenson, a keeper who can bat, and three varied specialist bowlers. With Grace also worth his place as a bowler the bowling has depth and variety, with Stephenson and Morrison to take the new ball and Dennett, Balaskas and Grace to provide alternatives.


  1. Harold Dennis ‘Dickie’ Bird – right handed opening batter. Best known as an umpire, but he was a successful opening bat for Barnsley, and ultimately amassed two first class hundreds, with a best of 181 not out. David Bird is a prolific writer of books about Contract Bridge. He is particularly noted for his humorous stories featuring the monks of St Titus, the nuns of St Hilda’s and latterly staff and pupils alike at Cholmeley and Channing schools, located at opposite ends of the same village.
  2. Alan Melville – right handed opening batter. The South African had a splendid test record, including four successive centuries straddling World War II. His ‘alter ego’ is Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick”.
  3. Hugh Massie – right handed attacking top order batter. He scored 55 in the original ‘Ashes’ test at The Oval in 1882, made out of 66 in under an hour – and had kicked off that tour with an innings of 206, a record first innings in England for an Aussie until 1930 when Bradman opened his English account with a score of 236. His non-cricketing counterpart is historical novelist Allan Massie, author of a series of Roman history themed books including “Augustus”, “Tiberius”, “Caesar” and “Nero’s Heirs”. “Augustus” features a wonderful spoof foreword taking on the persona of master of Michaelhouse College, Cambridge, one Aeneas Fraser-Graham, and declaring that ‘even a glimpse of a photostat is sufficient to assure one of the authenticity of these memoirs’.
  4. HJH ‘Tup’ Scott – right handed bat. Scott was one of three Aussie centurions at The Oval in 1884. He is not in fact here as an analogue for Captain Scott, although I commend to your attention the books about the ‘Captain Scott Invitational XI’ by Marcus Berkmann (“Rain Men” and tangentially “Zimmer Men”) and Harry Thompson (“Penguins Stopped Play”). No he has two ‘alter egos’ for my purposes, Walter Scott, prolific 19th century novelist and someone from whom Emily Bronte of “Wuthering Heights” fame drew inspiration, and Eugenie Scott of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who was one of the contributors to “Scientists Confront Creationism”, edited by Andrew Petto and Laurie Godfrey and highly recommended by me.
  5. Colin Munro – left handed big hitting batter. The Kiwi averages over 50 in first class cricket, though he has only played a couple of tests and those unsuccessfully. He owes his place in this XI to Hector Munro, aka ‘Saki’, a master writer of short stories.
  6. *Greville Stevens – right handed batter, leg spinner. 10,376 first class runs at 29.56, 684 wickets at 26.84. At the close of the 1920 season it was he who ensured that the curtain would descend on Plum Warner’s career with an appropriately grand finish, by clean bowling Herbert Strudwick to settle the destiny of that year’s County Championship. He is here as a tribute the detective work of Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, and the writing of their amanuensis Robin Stevens, who has created the ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ series to chronicle their exploits.
  7. Alonzo Drake – middle order batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The first Yorkshire bowler ever to take all ten wickets in an innings – 10-35 v Somerset in 1914, the outbreak of World War 1 finished his career. Although he is a namesake of Sir Francis Drake who famously played bowls on Plymouth Hoe it is actually another Drake, Frank Drake of SETI fame who gets him into this team. Frank Drake co-authored with Dava Sobel a book titled “Is Anyone Out There?” about the search for extra-terrestrial life. Sobel has a stack of other credits, including “Longitude”, “A More Perfect Heaven”, “The Planets” and “Galileo’s Daughter” all of which I recommend.
  8. +Ian Gould – wicket keeper and right handed lower order batter, later a successful umpire. ‘Gunner’ Gould just about merits his place as a keeper/batter, which makes it possible for me to bring in Stephen Jay Gould, USian scientist, science writer and master essayist. I own a number of his books, including “Questioning The Millennium”, “The Richness of Life”, “Life’s Grandeur”, “Bully for Brontosaurus”, “Ever Since Darwin”, “Dinosaur in a Haystack” and “Urchin in a Storm”. Given the amount of baseball that features in Gould’s oeuvre it seems quite appropriate to find a way a slipping him into a cricket themed post.
  9. Mitchell Johnson – left arm fast bowler, left handed attacking lower order bat. The Aussie’s claims for a place need no further elaboration, and he allows me two connections. Samuel Johnson, author of the first recognized dictionary is one. There was a road not massively far from where I lived as a child in south west London called Dr Johnson Avenue, and it had that name because he used to cycle that way when going to visit his friend Mrs Thrale, who also has a road named in her honour that is even closer to my old family home. I used to walk along Thrale Road very frequently because if one was using either Streatham or Streatham Common stations it was the natural way to go. The second connection is Charles Johnson, an African American writer whose books include “Oxherding Tale” and “Dreamer”, the latter based on the life of Martin Luther King.
  10. Max ‘Tangles’ Walker – right arm fast medium. He was a magnificent third string to Lillee and Thomson in the mid 1970s, gaining big movement in the air and off the pitch on occasions. At Edgbaston in 1975 when Mike Denness put Australia in and they scored 359 Walker matched Lillee’s five wickets in the first England innings with five of his own, before ‘Thommo’ turned chief executioner in the second dig. His ‘alter ego’ for my purposes is Alice Walker, well known as author of “The Color Purple”, and also the author of a collection of what she calls “Womanist Prose”, both of which come highly recommended. She became radicalized by her experiences as a student at Spelman College (although she left that institution and moved north the New York where she studied at Sarah Lawrence College), where she met the historian Howard Zinn, someone any of whose books will be worth reading. There is a quote from her which appears on the back cover of “The Zinn Reader”: “What can I say that will in any way convey the love, respect and admiration that I feel for this unassuming hero who was my teacher and mentor, this radical historian and people-loving ‘troublemaker’, this man who stood with us and suffered with us? Howard Zinn was the best teacher I ever had and the funniest.”
  11. Harry Boyle – right arm medium pacer. FR Spofforth’s regular bowling partner. He earns his place as one half of the first great Australian bowling duo. His ‘alter ego’ is Robert Boyle whose contribution to science is covered on pages 126-42 of John Gribbin’s “Science: A History 1543-2001”.

This team has a decent top five, a couple of genuine all rounders, a keeper who can bat, and three fine and varied bowlers. Johnson, Walker, Boyle, Drake and Stevens is a bowling attack that should not struggle overmuch to take 20 wickets.


WG Grace’s XI are the stronger in batting of the two, although no side who can send Johnson in at no9 can be considered deficient in that department. But I suspect that the bowling resources of Greville Stevens’ XI are stronger overall. However countering that is the undeniable fact that WG Grace’s XI have the better keeper. I believe this would be a very close and highly compelling contest, and I cannot pick a winner. Note that the presence of Mr Bird notwithstanding I have not selected players solely on the basis of their names – it is always what they offer as cricketers that comes first.


The correction has been made and due apologies issued, the CLR James Trophy has been introduced and the contending XIs have been put through their paces, so all that now remains is my usual sign off:

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The best picture I have seen of ‘The Champion’ – this is the first page of the section on Batting in the Badminton Book of Cricket.

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At about 11:30AM this muntjac put in a fleeting appearance.

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Part 1 of publicity sheet
Part 2
And the whole bolted together ready for public consumption.

All Time XIs: No Surname v All Surname

My latest variation on an ‘all time XI’ cricket theme. Also features photographs. Read and enjoy!


Welcome to today;s variation on the ‘All Time XI‘ theme. In this post a team who appear deficient in the surname department pit their wits against a team who seem to be all surname.


  1. Bobby Abel – right handed opening bat. We have met the Surrey man before in this series, playing for Davids v Goliaths among others. Abel as a given name of course goes all the way back to the beginning of the Bible. In my more recent times two fictional Abels are Abel Whittle who has a bit part in Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge” and Abel Fearon, villain in “Steps To The Gallows”, the second book in a series by Edward Marston that currently runs to four books.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. We met him in the very first post in this series, dedicated to Surrey. Stewart spelt that way does sometimes feature as a given name, even of Stuart is the more common version. A cricketing Stewart is the illustrious Stewart ‘Stewie’ Dempster, who we will be making the acquaintance of in tomorrow’s post.
  3. Ian Craig – right handed batter. The Aussie was a mere 17 years of age when selected for the 1953 Ashes tour. He never quite delivered at the very highest level, though at Old Trafford in 1956 he battled over four hours for 38 in the second Aussie innings.
  4. Harry Graham – right handed batter. He made his test debut at Lord’s in 1890 and marked the occasion with a ton. The next person to make their debut at Lords with a ton was John Hampshire v West Indies in 1969.
  5. Syd Gregory – right handed batter, excellent fielder. Between his debut in 1890 and has retirement in 1912 Gregory made a record eight tours of England. His finest batting hour came at Sydney in 1894 when he scored 201, helping Australia to a score of 586. Australia ended up losing that one by 10 runs however. In the 1902 match at Old Trafford, which his side won by three runs he took a crucial catch in the England second innings to account for Stanley Jackson.
  6. *Johnny Douglas – right handed batter, right arm medium fast. Douglas took over from Pelham Warner, rendered hors de combat by illness as captain of the 1911-2 Ashes side and guided them, with some important assistance from the sick Warner, to a 4-1 series triumph. 21 years later under the captaincy of a man with the given name Douglas, Mr Jardine, England would duplicate that 4-1 winning margin in Australia.
  7. +Dennis Lindsay – wicket keeper, middle order batter. The stumper once scored over 600 runs in a series versus Australia, in which he also effected over 20 dismissals.
  8. Ashley Giles – left arm orthodox spinner, useful right handed lower order batter. Before the 2005 Ashes series began Terry Alderman stated that “if any Aussie batter gets out to Giles they should go hang themselves.” By the end of that series Giles had accounted for each of the top eight in the Aussie order at least once and intervened twice crucially with the bat. At Trent Bridge he kept his nerve in a very tense finish to put England one up with one to play, and then at The Oval he played a crucial support role while Pietersen was destroying the Aussie bowlers, holding up his end for over two hours and amassing 59 runs of his own. This meant the Australia needed 342 from 18 overs when the England innings ended, an impossible chase even had the weather not intervened one last time (of course given the difference between losing and drawing the series Australia would but for the weather have been obliged to throw everything at attempting this crazy run chase, the draw being valueless to them, and 1-3 very little worse than 1-2).
  9. Shannon Gabriel – right arm fast bowler. The West Indian, part of a cricketing revival in that part of the world after a dreadful period in the early 2000s, is the heir to a great fast bowling tradition. For those who feel that he properly belongs in the other XI, most of the names that come up when I search cricinfo using the name Shannon are of players with forename Shannon, and I also give you current US politician Shannon Bearman. Gabriel is well documented as a given name, going back to the archangel, but I offer you as further examples composer Gabriel Faure and one of the principal characters in Thomas Hardy’s “Far From The Madding Crowd”, Gabriel Oak.
  10. Matt Henry – right arm fast medium bowler. The Kiwis have produced a lot of purveyors of pace/ seam and/or swing over the years (contrary to what some may think, New Zealand is actually an even cloudier country than England, so there is even more natural encouragement for that kind of bowling), and Henry is part of the current crop along with such luminaries as Lockie Ferguson, Trent ‘the conductor’ Boult and Tim Southee (Neil ‘the composer’ Wagner does not wholly count, since although a Kiwi he is actually a product of South Africa).
  11. Devon Malcolm – right arm fast, genuine no11. In the immortal words of then England chairman of selectors Ted Dexter “Who could forget Malcolm Devon?”.

This then is the ‘no surnames’ XI, with a solid top five, an all rounder, a keeper who can certainly bat, and four specialist bowlers. It is short in the spin department, with only Giles as a front line option there, but it still looks a decent side, especially given the actual selection criteria!


  1. Bransby Beauchamp Cooper – right handed opening bat, born in what is now Bangladesh but was then part of India, raised in England and played his two test matches, the first two ever contested, for Australia. He and WG Grace playing for the Gentlemen against the Players shared a then first class record opening stand of 283, Cooper 101, Grace 180.
  2. Easton McMorris – right handed opening bat. He churned out runs in domestic cricket in the Caribbean, but his test returns were disappointing.
  3. Everton Weekes – right handed batter, lends some much needed class to this side. Everton is not a hugely common surname, but some of my readers may remember snooker commentator Clive Everton, and additionally Weekes’ middle name of De Courcy is the surname of a former Australian batter James De Courcy, who toured England in the 1950s.
  4. Seymour Nurse – right handed batter with a fine record.
  5. *Warwick Armstrong – right handed batter, leg spinner. Although George Giffen, whose playing days overlapped with those of the Gloucestershire legend, was dubbed ‘The WG Grace of Australia’, this man was in many ways a better fit for that moniker. He once tallied 2,000 first class runs and took 100 first class wickets on a tour of England. He captained Australia to a 5-0 triumph in the 1920-1 Ashes, a scoreline not duplicated in Ashes series until 86 years later, when Ponting and company exacted a devastating revenge on England for 2005, and secured retention of the urn by guiding his team the victories in the first three matches of the 1921 series, before the final two games were both drawn. His eventful life can be read about in full in Gideon Haigh’s “The Big Ship”, a title derived from one of Armstrong’s nicknames. At the end of his career he weighed in at 22 stone. I am aware that Warwick is a recognized forename, but I also give you singer Dionne Warwick as an example of it as a surname.
  6. Digby Jephson – right handed bat, right arm fast (under arm). Digby Loder Armroid Jephson to give him his extraordinary full name started the brief revival of under arm bowling in first class cricket that was taken into the test arena by George Simpson-Hayward. Again, Digby is not entirely unknown as a given name, but I can also point to Fraser Digby, former goalkeeper for Swindon Town FC and Andrew Wingfield-Digby, former captain of Dorset in mim. nor counties cricket and briefly chaplain to the England cricket team. Also of course there was the 17th century courtier Kenelm Digby who had a later cricketing namesake who played eight first class matches between 1855 and 1859.
  7. +Ridley Jacobs – wicket keeper, left handed middle order batter. Many years ago there was a government minister named Nicholas Ridley, while in a cricket context Arthur Ridley played in the 1870 Varsity Match (‘Cobden’s Match’) and also played for the MCC in the 1878 match against the Australians that was done and dusted in a day.
  8. Mitchell Johnson – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower order bat. We met him when I turned the spotlight on Australia. This is a player who can form an intermediary in cricket linkages – Yorkshire player and later coach Arthur Mitchell, or commentator Alison Mitchell being obvious starts and West Indian opening batter Johnson Charles being the next link.
  9. Anderson Montgomery Everton Roberts – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. The first Antiguan to play test cricket, being selected just before Viv Richards gained the honour, and the original leader of the four pronged pace assault that propelled the West Indies to the top of the cricket world.
  10. Nixon MccLeanright arm fast bowler, left handed lower order batter.
  11. Beaumont Cranfield – left arm orthodox spinner for Somerset. 137 matches yielded him 621 wickets at 23.98. Of course Beaumont is very well documented surname, the most obvious cricketing example belonging at the other end of the batting order – Tammy of that ilk.

The all surname team has a solid top six, two of whom are genuine all rounders, a keepr who can bat and four bowlers. Johnson, Roberts, MacLean, Cranfield, Armstrong and Jephson is an attack should not struggle to take 20 wickets.


Notwithstanding the question marks over both openers for the ‘All Surname’ XI I still reckon they have a clear edge – their bowling attack looks much the stronger and has greater variety. On a turning pitch Giles on his own would not be a match for Cranfield and Armstrong, while if the pitch offers pace bowlers assistance Johnson, Roberts, MacLean and Jephson clearly offer more than Malcolm, Gabriel, Henry and Douglas. I am not going to take my prediction from the ‘Pidge’ McGrath handbook, but I would confidently predict that the ‘All Surname XI’ would win a five match series 4-1.


I compose these XIs mentally, jotting them down in a notebook preparatory to then creating the tables with abbreviated comments that I use to advertise the contents of the teams and ultimately typing up the blog posts. I use cricinfo to find out details about players, but not in general as a selection tool – sometimes if I am a player or maximum two players short of a full XI I will do a bit of hunting, but most of the players I select are players I have across in my thirty-odd years of being a cricket fan and reading about the game – no game has a greater wealth of literature than cricket. I am already prepped in terms of selections for further posts up to and including Wednesday, plus a post which for reasons I will reveal on that day has to appear a week today.


The pinchhitter has reached 300 not out – yes, today’s offering in which I get yet another mention, is the 300th post that blog has produced. A little etymological note: the term pinch hitter originated in baseball, where it referred to sending in a batter who adept at getting on base in preference to a regular batter who may be less reliable, it was pressed into cricket service in the 1990s to refer to batters who did not regularly open in long form cricket but were asked to do so in one day cricket in an effort to get their teams off to a fast start. The first successes with this method were Ian Botham and Mark Greatbatch, deployed in this manner by their countries in the 1992 World Cup, but it was four years later, when Kaluwitherana of Sri Lanka, Mark Waugh of Australia, Sachin Tendulkar of India and various others were used in the same fashion that the term became popular. Certain teams overdid it by using lower order batters rather than actual recognized batters (Zimbabwe tried it with Paul Strang, England with Neil Smith as opposed to Robin ‘Judge’ Smith who they should have used and there were probably others. And now it is time for my usual sign off…

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This muntjace put in an appearance last night – more pics in tomorrows post, as I had a surplus.

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The Novels of Matthew Reilly

An introduction the novels of Matthew Reilly.


This is a new departure for me on this blog – I have done book reviews before, but this time I am looking at many books by one writer. These books form three natural categories as far as I see things, and I shall start with…


I have read most of Matthew Reilly’s considerable output and there are four books in that list that are currently what I would consider to be stand alone. I consider them in increasing order of possibility of a sequel, starting with…


There is no possibility of a direct sequel to this book, which recounts the story of a badly tainted chess tournament that took place in 1546, and also features a series of grisly murders. The story is narrated by Elizabeth I, and before we get to her narration we are told of her death. It is unique among Reilly’s output in being set solely in medieval times, although the action is every bit as thick and as fast as in his other books.


This was Matthew Reilly’s first novel, and the original edition was self-published. The story, built around an intergalactic contest that takes place every thousand years and is this time happening on Earth for the first time features a great range of creatures. Although the possibility of a sequel is not so completely ruled out as in the first named book, there are obvious limitations, and certainly a sequel involving the contest that gives the novel its title could feature none of the same characters (possibly an Earth representative descended from the daughter of the guy who was Earth’s representative in this book).


This one features two story-lines separated by just over four centuries. Common to both stories is an idol made of an extra-terrestrial substance (i.e. carved out of a meteorite) and also some super-giant cats called rapas. In the modern-era of the story the idol is wanted by various people of varying degrees of unpleasantness to serve as power-source for what would be the ultimate in WMDs. While a direct sequel is again unlikely, I can see one of the main characters from this book reappearing (see later in this post).


This is the last of the stand-alone books, and I have written about it elsewhere on
this blog. I can envisage a sequel to this one – if there are dragon nests concealed beneath nickel deposits, then China is not the only place they could be found, so another story featuring dragons could easily be on the cards. Also, having created a character such as C J Cameron it would be a shame to use her in only book! This brings an end to the stand alone books, and signals the start of the second category of Matthew Reilly books…


These novels are linked by their central character, Shane M Schofield, a US Marine, call sign Scarecrow. There are currently four scarecrow novels and I can foresee at least one more…


The action in this book is triggered by the discovery of a metal object deep beneath the surface, initially believed to be an alien spacecraft (the truth proves rather more mundane). In addition to Scarecrow’s squad of marines there is a French group trying to seize control, a more dangerous British SAS group and most dangerous to Scarecrow, a rogue US grouping, the Intelligence Convergence Group, who have two men in Schofield’s own unit. A casualty whose importance becomes more obvious in a later scarecrow book is the french scientist Luc Champion.


This story is set in the US, and features an attempted coup by the commander of a top-secret base ultimately foiled by Scarecrow. It also features apartheid supporting South Africans with an agenda of their own who further complicate matters.


Scarecrow is one of the targets of the biggest bounty hunt in history and ifr the bounty hunt is successful the world will be plunged into complete chaos (even more chaos than the people behind the hunt intend since one of their number has gone rogue and added elements to the plan). Although he has a personal guardian angel (courtesy of someone who is determined to thwart the bounty hunt and has paid huge money to secure the services of Aloysius Knight who would otherwise be one Scarecrow’s most dangerous foes), Scarecrow sees his girlfriend (another marine, Elizabeth Gant, call sign Fox) brutally murdered, which nearly has the intended effect of destroying his spirit.


Scarecrow’s task in his fourth and to date last adventure is to prevent the deployment of a weapon that will ignite the earth’s atmosphere, reducing most of the northern hemisphere to ashes. In his way is the mysterious army of thieves, commanded by the man who intends to unleash the weapon. It turns out that the uber-villain is a CIA man named Marius Calderon who has worked out that using the weapon will annhiliate China while doing comparatively minor damage to the USA. In the course of this story Scarecrow meets Veronique Champion, sister of Luc Champion who featured in Ice Station, call sign Renard. She is initially intent on killing him as she believes that he killed her brother, but gradually comes to realise the truth. The reasons why I see a fifth Scarecrow book in the future are that Calderon is still alive at the end of this one, and also that the Scarecrow/ Renard relationship has much developing to do.

I have saved the best of Matthew Reilly till last…


Whereas the Scarecrow books are separate entities, the Jack West novels are part of a greater whole, which will eventually comprise seven volumes (hence that word heptology). So far three of the seven volumes have been published, and the fourth, Four Legendary Kingdoms, is due in October. We start this series with the first book of it, which also happens to be the first Matthew Reilly book I read…


Jack West Jr, hero of these novels, is part of coalition of small nations who are responding to a serious threat. A race is on to find and assemble the pieces of the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Khufu in time for the appearance of the Tartarus sunspot. However, two rituals can be performed at the reassembly of the capstone, the ritual of peace and the ritual of power. The Catholic church and the United States of America are each seeking to perform the ritual of power, while the small nations seek either to perform the ritual of piece, or to prevent either ritual from being performed and endure the ensuing disasters. Although on this occasion disaster is prevented, this is just the beginning…


Both this book and the next in the series are concerned with the effort to save the Earth from exposure to the dark sun by placing cleansed ‘pillars’ at the temple shrines that mark the corners of a device known only as The Machine, which can nullify the power of the dark star.  Each of the six pillars has its own reward, and desire for these rewards and for power brings many besides the small nations into play. Although the USA are not officially involved, an American group are in the thick of things, Europe are also involved, and determined to do all in their power to ensure that the world is not saved are the Japanese. The book ends with West himself falling down an abyss in battle with the guy who had tried to prevent the second pillar from being placed…


This continues the story from the Six Sacred Stones, ending up with the placing of the final pillar at its vertex beneath Easter Island. In the course of these two books Jack West Sr has emerged as his son’s greatest adversary, and at the end West Sr dies, trying to secure the power of the sixth pillar, which his son has deliberately kicked into the abyss beneath the vertex, convinced that humanity cannot be trusted with this power. It would be foolhardy to attempt to guess in any detail how this series will pan out, but I will venture one prediction – the final clash at the end of the volume whose title begisn with One will be between West, seeking to the very end to keep the world turning, and the Japanese aiming for the reverse.


The Railway Detective, Part 2: Books 5-8


Welcome the second of three posts I shall be producing about The Railway Detective. The previous post covered four of the books and can be viewed here. As I warned in the introduction to that post, this is laden with spoilers. I hope you will all enjoy this post and be encouraged to share it.



The Iron Horse refers to locomotives, but this story is also deeply concerned with flesh and blood horses, since it involves a crime that occurred during the Derby. Colbeck, operating with his usual flair and persistence, and with the assistance of the inevitable Leeming is able to bring a series of horrible crimes home to Lord Hendry.


A derailment near Balcombe is the initial incident that opens this story. The railway police in the person of Captain Harvey Ridgeon reckon that the accident was caused by driver error. However, unlike Ridgeon was has formed an opinion and bends every new fact to fit that opinion, Colbeck notes that the driver of that particular train was known for caution, that he managed to instruct his fireman to jump off before the disaster struck, and that a section of track had been deliberately loosened. Colbeck also identifies two passengers on that train who had enemies, although it turns out that there was a third passenger on that train whose behaviour had caused one particular individual to want revenge on both him and the train that he regularly used. The book ends with Ridgeon, his errors cruelly exposed, apologising to Colbeck.



A silver coffee pot in the shape of a locomotive, commissioned by a wealthy family in Cardiff goes missing, and the man entrusted with delivering it from London to Cardiff is found murdered. The young man identified as the murder victim is Hugh Kellow, apprentice to the silversmith Leonard Voke, and the original suspect is Voke’s disinherited son Stephen. Colbeck traces Voke junior and soon establishes that he is not the murderer. Having to rethink the entire case, Colbeck arrives at the notion the murder victim was not Kellow, but someone who looked similar and could be used to send the police down a blind alley. A trip to Birmingham’s jewellery quarter ensues, for which Colbeck enlists both the official assistance of Leeming and the unofficial assistance of Madeleine Andrews. The trip to Birmingham yields Kellow and his accomplice Bridget Haggs, a.k.a Effie, a.k.a Mrs Vernon. Additionally, Madeleine Andrews and Robert Colbeck become engaged. This book also introduces us to actor-manager Nigel Buckmaster, subsequently to provide Colbeck with valuable assistance in at least two further cases.



Unlike almost every other book and story in the series there is no element of ‘who done it?’ about this story – it is a case of ‘will they get away with it?’. The action opens with Jeremy Exley being conveyed from Wolverhampton to Birmingham to be imprisoned. A young lady named Irene Adnam, his lover and accomplice, kills one of the two policemen guarding him, assists in the killing of the other and the disposal of the two bodies. The crimes having been committed on the railway, Colbeck is involved from the start. Colbeck has an extra reason to bring this case to a successful conclusion, since it was Exley who was responsible for him becoming a policeman in the first place. Colbeck had been a barrister, and in that role persuaded a young women who witnessed a robbery carried out by Exley to give evidence in court. Exley responded by murdering the young woman in a particularly horrible way.

Eventually, after a chase that leads all the way to America, the villains are run to earth, and Colbeck succeeds in dividing them by telling Irene the story of the earlier murder in full detail.