Alex Massie

Wodehouse vs Wodehouse

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OK, some Sunday fun and games. A wee while back Patrick Kidd had a nice item in which Henry Blofeld listed his all-time cricket XI drawn from PG Wodehouse characters. This is the sort of throoughly entertaining, pointless exercise Wodehouse would have relished himself. And, for that matter, the sort of un-made challenge that cannot be resisted. I have, therefore, selected an XI of my own to battle Blowers' team. A Gold Bat should be awarded to the winning side, methinks.

First, the Blofeld XI, with Henry's annotations:

1. Bertie Wooster. A bit of a flasher with the bat, I think.

2. Roderick Spode. Also known as Lord Sidcup, the only man in the books who never has one single redeeming feature, unless you include making women's underwear. I'm sure these two will run well together, although they are bound to run each other out at some point.

3. Mike Jackson. He will bat very solidly and will be depended on for most of the runs.

4. The Hon Galahad Threepwood (Wkt). A very exciting player, wicketkeeper and definitely the ladies' favourite

5. Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge. You never know what you can expect from old Ukridge: he could cream the ball about marvellously or he could be a bit of a prize idiot

6. Rupert Psmith (Capt). The captain, character and prime candidate to bowl the maidens.

7. Reginald Jeeves. Almost impossible to get out, and bowls just under military medium pace.

8. E Jimpson Murgatroyd. The best left-arm-spinning shrink in the whole of Harley Street

9. The Bishop of Stortford. Off-spinner and If things are going badly for the team, he will down a pint of "Buck-u-uppo" during the drinks interval and that should sort things out.

10. Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps. A tearaway fast bowler who sometimes gets it right,

11. Harold "Stinker" Pinker. A steady fast bowler, curate of Totleigh-in-the-Wold and former Oxford prop forward.

12th Man: Gussie Fink-Nottle. Will make the most awful hash of bringing out the drinks."

Not a bad side. But, even though Mr Blofeld has had the advantage of selecting first, I think my XI can match his.

1. Mr Mulliner. Unflappable opening batsmen whose reminiscences of past innings sometimes seem exaggerated to an almost Boycottian degree.

2. The Reverend Francis Heppenstall. The length of his epic sermon on the virtue of Brotherly Love demonstrates an ability to see off the new ball and frustrate the bowling for hours, nay days, on end. Would struggle in Twenty20 cricket.

3. Agatha Gregson. Since Aunt Agatha "eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin" she has the necessary temperament to cope with the strains of batting first wicket down. Not flashy, but grimly effective.

4. Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, 5th Earl of Ickenham. Uncle Fred is a dasher for sure and capable of salvaging something from even the most unpromising positions. Often a nightmare to bowl to he is also a constant danger to his partner, thanks to his unorthodox running between the wickets.

5. Dahlia Travers. Aunt Dahlia is a good egg and batsman of unusual good sense. She has bottom. Her calling, which can be heard in neighbouring shires, is an example to all.

6.  Claude Cattermole "Catsmeat" Potter-Pirbright. Bertie Wooster suggests that Catsmeat is "brilliant but unsound" and that's a fair verdict upon his flashy Chinamen and streaky batting too.

7. Bingo Little. The team's great enthusiast and wicket-keeper. A charmingly unorthodox batsman but one who, one feels, could be dismissed at any moment.

8. The Oldest Member. Crabby batting and canny off-spin. Like a better-tempered, wiser, superior Ray Illingworth. He captains the side with great sagacity.

9. Freddie Threepwood. After years as a wastrel of no promise whatsoever, Freddie has surprised all observers by becoming a rather effective swing bowler at a brisk fast-medium pace.

10. Claude "Mustard" Pott. The private detective is a dogged, tireless medium-pacer, happy to bowl uphill and into the wind all day long.

11. Vladimir Brusillov. Terrifying Russian fast-bowler. Fond of declaring "No fast-bowlers anywhere any good except me. Harold Larwood and SF Barnes not bad. Not good, but not bad."

12th Man: Anatole. Because we all want to eat well at lunch and tea.

So there you have it. Air your selectorial grievances in the comments...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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