Super Sunday at #WWC17

All 8 teams were in action today at the Women’s World Cup of Cricket, and I got to see my first live game. The main TV commentary team was in Derby along with a sell-out crowd to watch India play Pakistan. Nearby in Leicester South Africa faced off against West Indies. England were in Taunton taking on Sri Lanka, but I opted to go for Australia v New Zealand in Bristol because I thought it would be the best game of the four. I was right.

The SA-WI game was a disaster. South Africa won the toss and asked West Indies to bat. They then proceeded to rip through the fragile WI batting order, dismissing them for a mere 48. Only Chedean Nation of the WI bats got into double figures. When it was their turn, SA knocked off the runs required in under 7 overs.

Are West Indies really that bad? Certainly they are 0-3 for the tournament thus far, and much be looking forward to playing fellow basement-dwellers, Pakistan. But the smart folks at CricketHer point out that South Africa have a great pace attack and conditions at Leicester this morning suited them perfectly. We’ll see how well those bowlers do when they front up against England in Bristol on Wednesday.

Batting appeared to be difficult in Derby as well, with India struggling to 169/9. The in-form Mandhana and Raj both failed, and it was down to Punam Raut (47) and Sushma Verma (33) with two aggressive knocks to enable them to post a decent total. It was a different matter when Pakistan batted. They could muster only 74 runs between them, with Ekta Bisht taking 5/18. Pakistan must be terrified of her. She took 5/8 against them at a match in Colombo earlier this year.

In Taunton Chamari Atapattu was unable to repeat her heroics from Bristol, but Sri Lanka managed an almost-respectable 204/8 batting first. It wasn’t going to be a stroll for England, and when they lost both openers leaving them 50/2 it looked like it might be a contest. However, Heather Knight (82) and Sarah Taylor (74*) gradually took control and brought home an impressive 7-wicket victory. They looked like they could have chased down 300 without any difficulty.

And so to Bristol. New Zealand won the toss and opted to bat. This was, after all, the pitch on which Atapattu and Lanning had both passed 150 just a few days ago. However, the NZ batters never seemed to be able to get going. Suzie Bates was the most impressive, but a lapse of concentration after passing 50 saw her back in the pavilion. Thankfully Katie Perkins (62) and Erin Bermingham (35) put on a fine rearguard action allowing NZ to post a final score of 219. Interestingly it was the spinners who did most of the damage, with Ellyse Perry looking very ineffective despite getting the ball up around the NZ women’s chins a lot.

In an interview at the interval Meg Lanning said that the pitch looked older and slower, suggesting that there were not a lot of runs in it. Certainly Australia started slowly. Lanning and Perry then built up a partnership, with Lanning looking her imperious self. She hit the only 6 of the match which flew over my head and smacked into one of the flats that line the Ashley Down Road end of the ground. However, she was caught behind off Amelia Kerr on 48, and when Ellyse Villani was bowled the very next ball it looked like we had a match on our hands. Australia were not scoring quickly enough, and if NZ could just keep things tight they were in with a real chance.

The slow scoring continued as Perry and Alex Blackwell rebuilt the Australian innings. With 8 overs left they needed almost a run a ball. However, they had plenty of wickets in hand. Perry picked this moment to accelerate, passing 50 and, shortly thereafter, 2000 career runs in one-day internationals. She holed out on the boundary for 71 trying to end the game with a six, but Blackwell calmly finished the match off with 8 balls to spare.

With everyone having played three games, India and Australia are both 3-0. South Africa look like dark horses with two wins and that wash-out against NZ. England and NZ both look in the hunt, while Sri Lanka have played better than their 0-3 record suggests. The action resumes on Wednesday with Australia-Pakistan, England-South Africa and India-Sri Lanka. I’ll be in the radio studio that day so there will doubtless be some live updates.

My next live game will be England-Australia next Sunday.

Bristol Makes Women’s Cricket History

Because I have three businesses to run, I’m not able to go to every local match in the Women’s World Cup. Looking at the Bristol games in advance of the tournament, I decided not to bother with the Australia v Sri Lanka game. I expected the Aussies to win easily. I was so wrong. Yesterday Bristol produced a game that will go down in legend, and be talked about for decades to come.

Mostly I was right. 10 of the Sri Lanka team, plus extras, managed a measly total of 79 runs. But I had reckoned without Chamari Atapattu (full name, Atapattumudiyanselage Chamari Jayangani, but that’s way too much for white people to cope with). Her 178* lifted the Sri Lankan total to a very defensible 257. Along the way she hit 22 fours and 6 sixes.

Australia had to be at their best to get out of that. Fortunately in Meg Lanning they have probably the best batter in women’s cricket. Ably supported by Nicole Bolton (60) and Ellyse Perry (39*), her 152* powered the favorites to victory with six overs to spare.

In the past, women’s cricket has been notorious for relatively low scores. This tournament is putting an end to that. As far as I can see, there have only been two men’s one-day internationals where players on both sides have scored over 150. One was a match between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in Bulawayo in 2009 when Charles Coventry made 194* for the hosts only to see Tamin Iqbal (154) lead Bangladesh to victory. The other was the legendary 2006 match in Johannesburg when Ricky Ponting’s 164 helped Australia to a massive 434, only for it to be overhauled by South Africa for whom Herschelle Gibbs (175) was the top scorer.

Meanwhile in Taunton India thrashed an increasingly sad-looking West Indies. Only Haley Matthews (43) of the top order fired for the Caribbean side. Smitri Mandhana (106*) continued her fine form in guiding India to victory.

The tournament is taking a short break at the moment, but action will be resumed on Sunday when I, weather permitting, will get to see Australia take on New Zealand. Expect tweetage.

Cricket Update

The Women’s World Cup continues apace. Tournament favorites, Australia, got their campaign underway on Monday with an 8-wicket thrashing of West Indies. Hayley Matthews (46), Chedean Nation (39) and Stafanie Taylor (45) all made decent scores for the Caribbean side, and Deandra Dottin made a rapid-fire 29 off just 20 balls, but the rest of the side was not at the party and a total of 204 was never going to stretch the Aussies. Nicole Bolton (107*) was the star of the Australian innings.

On Tuesday England got back on track with a demolition of Pakistan. Batting first, they racked up a massive 377/7. That total has only been surpassed once in a Women’s World Cup match, by Australia against Denmark who are not exactly top class opposition. Heather Knight (106) and Natalie Sciver (137) scored the bulk of the runs. The match was ended prematurely by rain, but Pakistan were nowhere near the required run rate so no one is going to complain about a calculated result.

New Zealand had an easy time of it against Sri Lanka in their first game, but today they came up against a much tougher opponent: the English weather. Their match against South Africa was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Here’s hoping the weather improves for the rest of the month.

Women’s World Cup – Matches Underway

July sees the Women’s Cricket World Cup being staged in England. It is being contested by the 8 top test countries, and played at a variety of venues around the country. Australia are, as usual, the favorites, but England as the home side should do well too.

Matches began yesterday in Derby with the hosts taking on India. Things did not go as planned. England won the toss and hoped to take advantage of their superior pace bowling by putting India in to bat. The Indians powered to an opening stand of 144 and ended on 281/3. Smriti Mandhana (80), Punam Raut (86) and captain Mithali Raj (71) all contributed. England got off to a terrible start losing their first three wickets for 67, but a strong stand between captain Heather Knight (46) and Frances Wilson (81) steadied the ship. Sadly it was not enough, and three run-outs during the latter part of the innings show that panic had started to set in. India won by 35 runs.

Meanwhile in Bristol Sri Lanka took on New Zealand. The Kiwis won the toss and, like England, put their opponents in to bat. They restricted Sri Lanka to 188/9 in their 50 overs, and then proceeded to knock off the required runs with ease. Suzie Bates (106*) and Amy Satterthwaite (78*) provided the bulk of the runs in a 9-wicket victory.

Today Pakistan took the field against South Africa in Leicester. This provided the closest match of the tournament thus far. South Africa won the toss and once again chose to field. Pakistan managed 206, thanks mainly to 79 from Nahida Khan. It should have been a fairly easy chase, and SA were looking good on 143/2. However, a sudden collapse reduced them to 177/7. There were some nervous moments at the end with SA needing 14 off the last two overs. However, their star bowler, Shabnim Ismail, having had a frustrating day with the ball, took charge in the 19th over clubbing 14 off the last 4 balls to finish the game.

Australia play their first game against West Indies at Taunton tomorrow. Sadly I have to be on my way to Plymouth for work, but I’ll be cheering the WIndies on.

England play Pakistan in Leicester on Tuesday and will be hoping to get their campaign back on track.The next game in Bristol is Australia v Sri Lanka on Thursday, and the first one I’ll be able to get to is Australia v New Zealand in Bristol next Sunday.

All of the matches are being shown live, though often on Sky which many people don’t have access to. Hopefully some of you will be able to watch or get to games. If not follow @CricketHer on Twitter for reports.

Yesterday on Ujima – Cricket, Music, Blood & Activism

I was in the Ujima studio again yesterday to do another Women’s Outlook show. Here’s what went down.

My first guest was Lisa Pagett who is Head of Women’s Cricket for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club and also General Manager of the Western Storm, out local women’s T20 franchise. Lisa was there mainly to preview the Women’s World Cup, which will see 15 matches in the South West, split between Bristol and Taunton. Bristol has the England-Australia and England-West Indies games, both of which I intend to be at. (Tickets are only £10, available here.) We also looked forward to the Storm’s campaign in this year’s Kia Super League, and talked more generally about getting women and girls involved in cricket.

Next up I had some live music in the studio. I was joined by saxophonist Sabrina De Mitri and guitarist Paul John Bailey who have a gig coming up supporting Jon Gomme at the Hall soon to be Formerly Known as Colston. They played live for me in the studio. Huge thanks to Ben, my engineer, for keeping on top of the tech for that.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The second hour began with Shai from No More Taboo, the menstrual health charity. We talked a bit about some of the issues surrounding period poverty in Bristol, and what No More Taboo is doing to tackle them. We also discussed what we would like to see prospective MPs commit to so we can get some action on this in Parliament. When I first talked to Chloe Tingle when she set up No More Taboo girls unable to go to school because they can’t afford sanitary products was problem in poor countries elsewhere in the world. That it has become an issue in the UK is evidence of just how badly the austerity policies of the current government have impacted British women.

My final guests were Deborah from Co-Resist and Joe from Solar Nest. Co-Resist is an organisation that does activism through art and public engagement, while Solar Nest is a start-up business based at the University of the West of England that aims to build more sustainable and affordable housing. Deborah is managing a public engagement event for the students so that they can get feedback from the people of Bristol as to what they want from such an initiative. She also has some other projects we talk about.

Obviously I’m interested in Solar Nest from an energy and environment standpoint, but the most significant part of this interview was when Joe commented that students today have no hope of ever being able to afford their own home, especially in somewhere like Bristol.

Oh, and Deborah assures us all that clowns are not scary, not one little bit, promise.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The playlist for the show (excluding the songs that Sabrina and Paul played live) was as follows:

  • Boney M – Dreadlock Holiday
  • David Rudder – Rally Round the West Indies
  • Lianne la Havas – Tokyo
  • Parliament – Children of Productions
  • Pretenders – Sense of Purpose
  • Parliament – Mothership Connection

If you are wondering about the predominance of Parliament, it is because George Clinton & co. are playing Bristol on Monday and I can’t go because I have a previous engagement to host BristolCon Fringe starring the fabulous Clarke Award finalist, Emma Newman.

County Cricket – Down to the Wire

somersetlogo
County cricket and nail-biting excitement are not terms that are generally used together. The County Championship is old-fashioned cricket played the way God intended before she realized that T20 games could be a whole lot of fun. Matches are played over four days and often end in draws. It is enough to send your average American sports fan into a coma.

This year, however, is different. As we entered the final week of matches, three teams were in with a shot at the title. Excitingly the top two teams, Middlesex and Yorkshire, were due to play each other at the “Home of Cricket”, Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. Lord’s is the home ground of Middlesex, and Yorkshire are the defending champions. It was a perfect set up.

Except that there was a joker in the pack. Way out in Taunton, tiny Somerset had a game against a hapless and already relegated Nottinghamshire side. It looked like an easy win for the cider boys, and if the two titans of the game slugging it out in London fought each other to a draw, then the cheeky West Country lads could sneak off with the title.

Today was day 3 of the matches. There was much excitement during the day regarding matters of bonus points, but I will spare you the neepery and cut to the chase.

As expected, Somerset wrapped up a victory easily — with a day to spare, in fact. They missed out on only a single bonus point and so racked up a lot of points. They now sit happily on top of the table.

Meanwhile in London fortunes swung back and fore. Yorkshire currently have the upper hand, but there’s a whole day to play and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Middlesex could get a win. Sides have come back from worse positions before. A win for either side will net enough points for the title.

Or it could rain all day. Who knows?

We’ll find out tomorrow. The bookmakers have Yorkshire as firm favorites. They are they reigning champions. They know how to win. And there is enough playing time for them to get there. But Somerset have points in the bag. If Yorkshire slip up tomorrow, something momentous might happen.

In thinking of how to explain this to Americans, my first thought was to talk about the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs were founder members of Major League Baseball and have a history dating back to 1876. They haven’t won the World Series since 1908 (though this year they look to be hot favorites). But they have won, twice.

Somerset’s cricket club was founded in 1875. County cricket was started by Yorkshire and Gloucestershire in 1890, and Somerset was the third team to join the tournament in 1891. In all of that time they have never won the championship.

Tomorrow we could see a little bit of cricketing history being made.

Summer Has Arrived

The baseball season is already underway. The San Francisco Giants opened their season in the snows of Milwaukee last week, where they did OK. Now they are safely back home at Emperor Norton Field and have registered two spectacular come-back wins against the Hated Dodgers. It is a bit early to be confident, but we do only win the World Series in even-numbered years.

Meanwhile the opening match of this year’s IPL is underway. No Rajasthan Royals again — they’ll be back from suspension next year, hopefully with some wiser owners — so I’m kind of relaxed about who wins. Disastrous start for Mumbai though. I suspect that the pundits are right and Bangalore will win, so I shall cheer for someone else.

Now all I need is some decent weather, but of course it is raining here. Why is that? Because the English cricket season starts tomorrow.

This Week on Ujima: Cavan Scott, Suffragettes & Art

My first guest on this week’s Women’s Outlook was Cavan Scott. Cav is a very busy boy. We first talked about his Star Wars tie-in novels, one of which was chosen for World Book Day and went on to become the best selling book in the UK for a while. We talked about his forthcoming Sherlock Holmes novel, The Patchwork Devil. We talked about his comics and radio play work on Doctor Who. And of course we talked about The Beano, for which he writes Mini the Minx and several other strips.

For Bristol people, Cav’s book launch for The Patchwork Devil is on April 30th at Forbidden Planet. It is a lunchtime event.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

Next up on the show was our expert on suffragettes, Lucienne Boyce. She was in to tell us all about a local screening of Make More Noise, a compilation of silent film coverage of actual suffragettes from the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Finally I welcomed Ruth Kapadia from the local office of The Arts Council. We talked about the sort of work that The Arts Council does, and how people can apply for grants.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

Of course I also talked quite a bit about the cricket. West Indies are currently world champions for the Twenty20 format at under 19 level, in the women’s game, and in the men’s game. The entire Caribbean is celebrating, and we celebrated with them. All of the music was related to the cricket in some way. Here’s the playlist:

  • We are the Champions – Queen
  • Dreadlock Holiday – Boney M
  • Champion – DJ Bravo
  • Da Cricket Loba Gatama – Latif Nangarhari
  • Cloth – Bullets
  • Come Rise with Me – Machal Montano & Claudette Peters
  • Gavaskar – Andy Narell & Lord Relator
  • David Rudder – Rally Round the West Indies

Champions!

West Indies Women - World Champions (photo from ESPN CricInfo.com)
Photo credit: ESPNCricInfo.com
So yeah, I spent most of yesterday watching sport. It was glorious. I am so happy for all of my Caribbean friends right now. And I’m especially proud of the West Indies Women. They don’t quite have to play cricket backwards in high heels, but they get so much less support than their male counterparts, and so much less than the women’s teams from richer nations such as England and Australia. I may have more to say about this on the radio on Wednesday.

South African Sunshine

One of the things I do to keep positive through the winter is watch the cricket from the southern hemisphere, particularly South Africa as they are almost in the same time zone as I am. They are currently playing a test series against West Indies, and new match started today. The game is being played at St. Georges Park in Port Elizabeth, and a group of local fans have a really good brass band that often strikes up tune during a match. This morning I was surprised and delighted to hear them playing this:

I see from the Twitter feed of South African sports writer, Firdose Moonda, that they’ve had that number in their repertoire for some time, so it is not a sign of anything new in South Africa, but it is very welcome to hear all the same.

And you know, we could do with some more songs like that right now. #BlackLivesMatter

A Cricket Story for Americans

There is a one-day cricket match being played between England and Sri Lanka today in which an event took place that nicely illustrates some of the commonalities and differences between baseball and cricket.

What happened was that the English catcher, Jos Buttler, was out caught stealing. This is a very rare event in cricket. There are, after all, only two bases on a cricket pitch. The man in bat stands on one, and the pitcher runs past the other one on his way to delivery the ball. The non-striking batter has to be pretty daft to be caught off base when all that the pitcher has to do is stop and touch the stumps with the ball.

But this is cricket. It is a polite game. The assumption is that anyone who could be out caught stealing has left the base by accident, rather than because he’s trying to gain an advantage. It is therefore normal practice for the pitcher to give a warning first. This is what the Sri Lankan pitcher, Sachithra Senanayake, did. He stopped and said, “I say, old chap, you seem to have absent-mindedly wandered down the pitch. I could have put you out just then, you know. Please don’t do that again.” Or whatever the equivalent is in Sinhala.

As I said, you have to be pretty dim to get out like that, especially after you have been warned. However, Buttler was born in Darkest Somerset, not far from where I grew up. He did make the same mistake again, and this time was put out. The crowd didn’t like it, but the ex-players in the commentary team were adamant that is was his own stupid fault.

Karen & Karen on Napier’s Bones

The promised episode of SF Crossing the Gulf focusing on Derryl Murphy’s novel, Napier’s Bones is now available for download. It is deeply spoilerific, but as usual Karen Lord and Karen Burnham have a fascinating conversation and I’m delighted to hear that the book is as cool as I thought it would be. Go have a listen, or maybe buy the book. People who like Tim Powers’ more modern-day novels should love this too.

Towards the end of the podcast, for reasons that will be obvious once you know a bit about the story, our hosts get into a discussion of the relative merits of cricket and baseball from the point of view of a stats geek. They cast the Summon Cheryl spell, but Karen Lord did a good job of channeling me so I didn’t really need to respond. My basic point is that baseball, because of its limited field space and fairly fixed fielding positions, has a more simple set of statistics to work with, which probably makes those stats more powerful.

In Which I Invent A Game

Yesterday was pretty miserable for sport. Wales threw away a very good half time lead to lose the Junior Rugby World Cup Final to England, and after a great deal of faffing around with the weather England contrived to lose the Champions’ Trophy Final to India. Thanks to the rain, however, and a bit of prompting from Dru Marland, I managed to invent a new game. It is called Edgbaston, and it goes like this.

I’m sure you are all familiar with the famous game of Mornington Crescent, based on the London Underground system. Well Edgbaston works a bit like that. The players take it in turns to name an English cricket ground. The first one to name a ground where it is not raining wins. As I am sure you can see, this can be very difficult.

Radio: Legal Aid, Black History & Thatcher

As I noted on Tuesday, this week’s Women’s Outlook show was light on books and heavy on politics. In the first half hour Paulette and I quiz two Bristol experts on legal aid. What the government is doing in this area is quite despicable, and makes no economic sense whatsoever. It is depressing listening, but a valuable insight into just how ideology-driven the current “austerity” drive is.

The second half hour is a lot more upbeat. Paulette and I talk to a lovely lady called Rose Young who is running an oral history project aimed at collecting the stories of black immigrants living in Wiltshire. Alongside the more serious discussion of racism, we manage to touch on important things like cricket and Caribbean food. Paulette mentions Turtle Bay, which is a new restaurant chain being launched in the UK. They have branches in Nottingham, Southampton and Milton Keynes, and open in Bristol later this month. I can’t wait.

Both of those segments are available in the first hour on our Listen Again site.

The second hour kicks off with some light-hearted discussion of parties, and includes a shout out to Kevin. After that Paulette interviews the amazing Cleo Lake who runs the Caribbean carnival in Bristol. And we wrap up to hour with our memories of the Margaret Thatcher era. The Guardian article by Russell Brand that I quote from is available here.

Adrian, our techie, who now has his own Polish/English music show on before ours, played us out with one of my all time favorite pop sings. It’s a bit clichéd for a women’s interest show but it is awesome, and on Listen Again it cuts off half way through. If you are as disappointed by that as I was, here’s Saint Cyndi doing what she does best: having fun.

West Indies – World Champions!

The finals of the World T20 Cricket Cups were played today. I wasn’t able to watch live as I was at a conference, but I did follow along as best I could on my phone. The ladies game was a cracker. It came right down to the final ball with England needing 6 to beat Australia (US pals, that’s equivalent to needing 4 runs to win with the bases loaded but being down to your last out and on a full count). Sadly we didn’t get it, so well played Australia and we’ll look forward to a rematch next year.

As for the men, there was less immediate interest as the finalists were Sri Lanka and West Indies. However, the lads from the Caribbean are everyone’s second favorite side because of the joy, enthusiasm and flair that they bring to the game (rather like Brazil is everyone’s second favorite soccer team, except in Argentina). West Indies won the toss and elected to bat. They got off to a dreadful start. Their star batsman, Chris Gayle, was out for 3. Halfway through their innings they were 32-2 and in desperate trouble. But a sparking 78 off 56 balls by Marlon Samuels dragged them back from the brink and helped reach a final total of 137. In contrast Sri Lanka were 51/2 at their half way point, but collapsed against the spin of Sunil Narine and were all out for 101.

The full scorecard is here, and for those of you who don’t understand the stats, here’s the start of what I expect will be a very long party.

Winter Is Coming

It has snowed in parts of England today. Speculation on Twitter has been that this has something to do with the arrival of George R.R. Martin on these shores — he’s a Guest of Honour at Eastercon. However, I’ll be seeing George at a signing in Bath this evening, and there’s barely been a drop of rain, let alone snow, here.

A much more likely explanation for the bad weather is the Easter vacation. Public holidays rarely fail to bring out the worst in the British weather. There’s also the small matter of the start of the cricket season tomorrow. Should the pitch at Headingly be covered in snow, that will save Yorkshire from a drubbing at the hands of Kent. I expect the weather in Taunton to be fine, though not quite as warm as the welcome that Marcus and the boys will give Middlesex.

Spot Betting Scandal Hits British SF

The British Science Fiction Community was thrown into disarray this week after two undercover Guardian journalists, Alison Flood and Damien Walter, claimed to have obtained footage of a juror for the Arthur C. Clarke Award agreeing to fix the results of the short list in return for a substantial bribe. The affair is believe to be connected to a betting scam based on the popular Guess the Clarke Short List game run by the online gambling company, Vector. Flood and Walter say they have sent a copy of their evidence to the Metropolitan Police.

Mr. Tom Hunter, the Chief Executive of the Clarke Award, dismissed the allegations as nonsense. “This is just two desperate journalists making up a story for the muck-raking media”, he commented. “Flood and Walter have been camped outside my flat for weeks hoping to get a scoop on the short list before it was announced. Once I even caught Walter going through my waste bin, but I think that’s because journalists are so badly paid these days. I had just thrown away half a hot Cornish pasty. There will be more detailed allegations of misconduct in my forthcoming submission to the Leveson Inquiry.”

Political and religious figures have been quick to weigh in on the controversy. In Pakistan Imran Khan said he was not surprised about the allegations. “What can you expect from a country that gives literary awards to Salman Rushdie?”, he asked. Britain’s Prime Minister, Call-Me-Dave Cameron, hit back angrily. “It’s clearly not enough for Mr. Khan for his cricket team to have thrashed us 3-0 in the recent test series, now he has to rub it in by being rude about our science fiction awards too. I was so upset by his comments that I had to whip Clegg for almost half an hour before I could calm down. There is a word for this, and that word is ‘bullying’. I will be asking the United Nations to consider an emergency motion on the subject of cyber-bullying by politicians from foreign countries. And if Mr. Khan doesn’t apologize immediately I shall tell Mr. Obama on him and we’ll carpet-bomb a small Muslim nation into oblivion. So there!”

ArchbishopNewly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Paul Cornell, placed emphasis on the morality of gambling. “It seems that someone may have been very naughty here”, he said, “and in the Anglican Church, as of policy adopted at our last synod, we frown on naughtiness. People shouldn’t do it. I don’t have the eyebrows to frown as well as my illustrious predecessor, but frowning I am.”

Other religious leaders were less restrained. One such was Rev. Christopher Islander, the High Priest of the Wessex Baptist Church, a small fundamentalist sect whose tenets include the belief that the Israeli philosopher, Lavie Tidhar, is the new messiah. Islander’s church is quite popular amongst the London arts community where members are often known as “lavies” in recognition of their faith. Islander fulminated at length on the evils of the Clarke Award in his sermon this morning, calling for the jury to be burned at the stake and their remains thrown into a pit of boiling lava. He described the authors of the short-listed books as “demon-spawn”, “sons and daughters of Satan”, “avatars of Evil”, “a stinking pile of foetid LOLcat feces” and, more unusually, as “Internet puppies”. Members of the Wessex Church are now picketing the Clarke Award offices in St. Johns Wood waving placards that read “God Hates Dogs”.

God hates DogsNot everyone is impressed with Islander’s statements. Damien Walter claims to have a fresh scoop. “I paid a cat burglar to raid the offices of Rev. Islander’s psychiatrist”, he said. “I can now exclusively reveal that Islander is a frustrated science fiction writer. He’s been worried about declining membership of his church and thinks he will do better if he could emulate his idol, L. Ron Hubbard, and write blockbuster SF as well as found a religion.”

The Clarke Award jury has been largely silent on the matter, though Juliet McKenna did generously offer to meet Rev. Islander as discuss the matter with him privately over an Aikido mat.

The authors attacked by Islander have been more forthcoming. Sheri Tepper released a statement that was read to journalists for her by her secretary, a horse named Ed. The text was as follows:

“As I have often written, patriarchal religions of the sort led by Rev. Islander are a scourge upon the planet. For the good of all the species of Earth we should cull all male religious leaders like the pestilence they are. There can be no leniency, no exceptions.”

Charles Stross made no comment, but did let his tongue hang out and panted enthusiastically. His partner, Feòrag, commented happily, “this has done wonders for Charlie’s training. I lined his litter tray with photographs of Rev. Islander, and now his poop is on target every time.”

Speaking from his Seattle home, Greg “Killer B” Bear said, “I am so happy to have another excuse to go to Merrie Olde London. I love that city. It is so great to visit somewhere that hasn’t changed since the days of Dickens, Austen and Shakespeare. I’m really looking forward to seeing those great London landmarks such as Big Ben, Bucking Ham Palace, Stone Hinge and the Eiffel Tower. And if I meet that Islander guy there I’ll happily give him a bloody nose.”

The scandal has come to the attention of worldwide literary bodies. Speaking for the International Awards Association, Mr. Kevin Standlee called for a full and frank inquiry to be carried out by the England & Wales Science Fiction Board. “Corruption in literary awards will not be tolerated”, said Standlee. If the England & Wales Board cannot clear up this matter to our satisfaction then we may be forced to impose sanctions, up to and including denying their request to host the World Science Fiction Contest in London in 2014. If necessary we will relocate the event to Glasgow, a nearby city that has a distinguished record of hosting the event.

British fandom has also been discussing the scandal enthusiastically. Mr. Richard Bheerbhelly, who describes himself as a life-long BSFA member and someone who has attended every Eastercon since it was founded in 1833, was scathing in his condemnation of the Clarke. “I am delighted that this has been exposed at last”, he said. “I have suspected for some time that the Clarke was corrupt. Nothing else could explain the fact that fine science novels such as The Eye of Argon, March of the Robots, Battlefield Earth, Atlanta Nights and the Wheel of Time series have failed to win the Clarke. None of these jurors have any idea what true hard science fiction is.”

Another British fan, Mr. Jonathan Agnew, blamed America. “Our finest writers are being lured abroad to write in the American Premier Literary League for silly money. Everyone knows that the juries for the Hugos, Nebulas and Locus Awards are on the make. You only have to look at the luxurious, jet-setting lifestyle they lead to realize that they must be raking it in. No wonder our British lads and lasses are tempted.”

The UK publishing industry has been quick to cash in on the crisis. Noted science fiction satirist, A.R.R.R.R.R.R. Roberts, has been contracted to write a series of darkly humorous thrillers set in the high finance world of science fiction awards. The Clarke Inheritance is already written and in production, with The Clarke Legacy due to follow next week and several more sequels planned. The dashing young hero of the books, Tim Huntsman, fights an increasingly bizarre series of foreign plots against British science fiction while investigating the possibility that he is the secret son of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. A Hollywood studio has already taken out an option on the first book, though it is understood that the story will be changed for the movie so that it can be set in Los Angeles and feature the Hugo Awards instead of the Clarke.

Author Norman Nobbish, whose self-published novel, Cyber-Wolf Pirates of the Death Galaxy, was overlooked for this year’s Clarke, will be challenging the Award results in the courts. On his blog he said:

“Corruption in the Clarke has cost me million’s in unpayed royalty’s. I demand to be constipated not only for this but for the billon’s I wood have received from the movie that wood have been made from my book had I one as I deserved!!!”

Meanwhile Hunter is becoming increasingly frustrated with the affair. Speaking from in front of his office, and struggling to make himself heard above the constant chanting of “God Hates Dogs”, he said, “all of the work on this award is done by volunteers, and in this climate of fear no one is willing to help out. I have to go to my day job now, so I can’t talk to you any more. I need help. Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?

[My apologies to non-UK readers who might not be 100% up on such urgent matters of British politics as betting scandals in cricket and PastyGate. I have tried to provide informative links where possible so as to establish the veracity of this story.]

Well Done Ireland!

It was the final day of the Twenty20 Qualifier Tournament today. Two matches were played. In the morning Ireland had a re-match with Namibia, and thrashed them by 9 wickets. That guaranteed them a place in the main event in September. In the afternoon they played Afghanistan for the tournament cup, and again they won. That puts them in Group B in the final tournament where they will play Australia and West Indies. Afghanistan, who were already qualified, will be in Group A with India and England.