This is the fifth in a series of sensational releases covering the best applications The Prof, The Freak and I received from Cricket Australia. They had placed adds in the cricketing media, after the debacle in India in March, for batsmen and spinners to join the Ashes Tour of England in July. CA engaged the 3 of us to sift through the surge of applications they received and select the cream of cricketing talent from around the world. CA was “pleased” with our selections, but when push came to shove chose a less enterprising approach to select the real Ashes Squad to Tour England. [Ed. We know what happened!] And it seems they may continue this more traditional selection policy into the Ashes summer in Australia.
We grouped the applications from James Bond and Sir Harry Flashman. Both are free-wheeling debonair adventurers naturally given to pranks and misbehaviour on Her Majesty’s service. Ian Fleming’s 007 needs no introduction. Sir Harry Flashman is the great grandson of George MacDonald Fraser’s Colonel Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC KCB KCIE. Flashman was an honourable 19th century type of high reputation and was never one to suffer disreputable play even if it placed him in mortal danger. His great grandson shows the same lamentable traits. [Ed. He will go well close to the bat]
007 and Sir Harry are old associates. Both hate losing and have a history of winning. They belong in our Alternative Ashes Squad. [Ed. Both on loan, of course]
British Secret Service Letterhead
I have a real hands down, bottoms up, world beater. He is one of my best, but is rather old school and refined for the contemporary intellectual world in which my people need to operate. Action men of his vintage are being retired by the other side and occasionally by our own people when they are deemed to know too much. I am not concerned for him. He is extraordinarily astute. Saying he has more than 9 lives would not do justice to his unique capabilities, fortitude, or loyalty to Queen and country. He is very, very good. And he deserves a short break in Tasmania where I can keep an eye on him. Our spy satellites are really very, very good.
I know he likes a decent game of cricket. He is not given to spin so I assume he bats. He mentioned playing in a local County match recently at the insistence of an old university associate – Sir Harry Flashman (grandson of the late Sir Harry Flashman VC KCB KCIE) I recall. When I inquired after his form he smiled. I expect he played true to label belting a few towards the ladies when he had the opportunity.
I am sure he will be keen to play. He has some particular peccadilloes but he is very discreet. I know he will behave himself and contribute handsomely (his file says his average is 45) if you allow a few of his old flames to tour with him.
I have made a list. They are all British citizens.
A word of condolence and vigilance. He has expensive tastes. I have found his profligate habits easier to approve sight unseen as the price to secure the services of a man like him. He will draw a strong gate and upmarket sponsorship so you may break even.
He will be off my books long enough for the MoD to refit the Home Fleet.
His name is Bond, James Bond. Moneypenny and Q speak highly of him.
PS. I think he bats at 5
Sir Harry Flashman
“And you Flashy, are you gainfully employed these days?” Beaufort inquired. Morton nodded to the waiter for a refill and cigars. “Are you quite recovered from the Punjab? Pray tell man. Out with it! I know no other more inescapably linked to the great affairs of nations, and intelligent consorts, yet so reluctant to regale his closest companions with the benefits of his travels. Come man, don’t parlay us.”
The League of Empire Gentlemen is no place to extol the virtues of the Official Secrets Act, after a rubber of badminton with the ladies, a hearty meal, and a rare bottle of Louis XV Cognac Grande Champagne, Maison J Balluteaud, 1920 to whet your whistle in front of a warming fire (Fortunately, the evening was on Morton’s account.). I motioned for three fingers and silence. I began in a hushed tone to ease their impatience, extemporising the tale of close shaves and grandiloquent endeavour my friend’s expected, taking the ball very much on the up.
We parted merrily well after 2am. I cannot recall what I said or who I mentioned. In the melee of events, truth is always stranger than fiction and so entwined that it is hard to separate. No matter. I have always relied on my apparent simple-mindedness, especially in the presence of intelligent influential women, and damn good luck to save me from embarrassment or mortal danger.
I received a note from Morton at my lodgings in Marlborough the next evening reminding me to front for the County at 10am. Their first line spinner was delayed in Dubrovnik and the team needed a quality ring in. Morton had spoken highly of my prowess as a spinner in the Punjab to the Captain overnight.
On these occasions one damns the distracting charms of the League’s female associate policy and my tendency to embellish my credentials in their company, in fact in any audience. I pinned Clara’s Kent address to the noticeboard, scrawling “the League, badminton, lovely serve” with the date underneath, and spent an evening calling friends of friends x5 to find an expert on off-spin. An inconvenience, but I had nothing planned for Sunday.
Sunday morning was cool and a touch windy. The Captain introduced me to his fellows as the ‘spin ring-in’. Naturally, I started at deep backward point. It wasn’t long before I dived over a ball that bounced the boundary to the disappointment of Simmons, the local Labor MP, and the Captain, who stared at me hands on hips with a hard expression. As he backed out to mid-off he glanced towards the sheds to mouth some obscene witticism to Morton, himself a more than passable cricketer, who had turned up at drinks and was sending me an old ‘heave ho’ from the safety of the lemonade stand.
I grassed a rocketing ‘sitter’ a little later, after drinks I recall, again off Simmons that left me sprawling on the ground like a newborn. The whole side, even the opposition bats, looked at me laughing and shaking their heads.
Simmons reluctantly threw me the ball 20 minutes before lunch. I fumbled it, showing a level of utter incompetence that summed up my general attitude, whereupon he spread the field as far as he could and retreated discreetly to long off as I measured out my circuitous canter to the crease.
Their no 5 had time to loft a few into the embankment beyond the car park when an unexpectedly heavy sun shower sent us scurrying to the sheds mid-over. As the rain pounded the tin roof, Simmons had the audacity to inquire in an unusually loud voice whether I had ever watched cricket for it did not appear to him that I had ever fronted for anyone. All heads, especially those of the ladies, looked to me to silence this effrontery with a straight bat. Morton, who had crept closer to hear my response, brightened up considerably when I replied “yes, often, always in the first grade” – in New Zealand (cricket was a compulsory secondary school summer sport), at an expatriate Embassy game in Zagreb, and more recently in the Punjab. I was about to elaborate with significantly greater confidence when the rain vanished and the Umpires called us back onto the field to complete my over.
Somehow Simmons ire pricked my vanity enough for my looping stock ball to find a line and length into Simmons own flat footed boot marks. The second ball took the edge of the bat that minutes earlier had dispatched me to the outer. OUT. Morton’s reputation rescued.
I served up the same slow tidy stuff the rest of the day closing the innings with a very creditable 5/34, my good friend Simmons with 2/72, Flashy’s reputation redeemed and enhanced the way it should be….”
I saw this entry in Flash’s diary in his rooms next to his anthology of Romantic poets. I took the liberty of copying it, after reading your call for spinners thinking there could be no better way to share Flash’s spinning arts with someone so obviously in need. I know he won’t mind. He is an Empire man but has played for the colonies before.
I would apply myself as a no 6, but I am taking a break in Austria during the summer.
The Prof concluded “Enough said. In”, throwing 007’s and Flashman’s applications onto the pile of successful applications to his right.
“Oh, are either of them lefties?”
“No,” I replied