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Great Cricketing Brains

Great Cricketing Brains
By Dan Liebke • Issue #42 • View online
After centuries of unsightly bickering, the greatest mathematical geniuses of all time and their literary counterparts have agreed to settle their fundamental differences in the most appropriate manner possible - a fifty overs per side limited overs cricket match.

Writers v Mathematicians Limited Over Captains
Writers v Mathematicians Limited Over Captains
Team selection has been riddled with controversy, with selectors of both sides mustering some surprising omissions and shock inclusions. The main point of contention was the eligibility of Werner Heisenberg for the Mathematicians team. There was a great deal of uncertainty around this point, but ultimately, the ICC (Intellectual Cricket Council) decided he was both a) more of a Physicist and b) too liable to confuse fans of Breaking Bad and he was ruled out.
The selectors settled upon the following teams:
Pythagoras, Euclid, Newton ©, Gauss, Fibonacci, Pascal, Fermat (wk), Khayyam, Cantor, Euler, Godel
Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare ©, Wordsworth, Wilde, Milton (wk), Joyce, Hemingway, Kafka, Christie, Bronte
Players To Watch
The Mathematicians will hope Euclid can lay a robust foundation for their innings before their middle order is forced to face the bewildering James Joyce and mystery spinner Agatha Christie.
For the Writers, they will be once again building their innings around the bat of William Wordsworth, who has found superb rhythm and timing. Leading the Mathematician attack will be Georg Cantor, who has in recent times gone to a new level.
The Toss
The Writers won the toss, much to the delight of Writers captain William Shakespeare. “To bat or not to bat,” he mused to Mark Nicholas. “That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the contest to suffer the slings and arrows of setting a target, Or to take guard against a first innings total, And, by opposing, chase it down?”
While Shakespeare contemplated his options, Mathematicians captain Isaac Newton approached match referee David Boon to raise questions over the coin used in the toss and, in particular, what natural forces caused it to fall to the ground at all. 
But any concerns over the validity of the toss were resolved by the cobbled together probability theory of Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat and after Shakespeare ended his soliloquy with a determination to bat first, the game continued as scheduled.
Writers’ Innings
Cantor bowled a magnificent opening spell, with the six balls in each of his opening overs containing an infinite variety of skill. It was Leonhard Euler who took the early wickets, however. Moving the ball infinitesimally off the pitch, Euler persuaded Jane Austen to play a shot lacking in sense and she was caught behind for eight.
Euler followed with the prize scalp of William Shakespeare, who had a fatally flawed moment of indecision. He uttered a brief ‘Zounds!’ as the ball flew off the edge to Pythagoras in the slips, who took the chance at just the right angle. Shakespeare’s duck triggered much ado, as the Mathematicians wildly celebrated his wicket. Writers 20/2 in the sixth over.
Despite clearly wanting more, Charles Dickens then had to settle for a score of just 24 when Cantor removed him with a delivery that moved diagonally to take the off stump. It looked to be the worst of times for the Writers at 51/3, as Shakespeare’s hopes of a power play that would reverberate throughout history was instead replaced by a comedy of errors.
But Oscar Wilde arrived at the crease, and the controversy of his selection in the team was quickly forgotten. The man known as ‘Wilde Thing’ played some flamboyant strokes as he proved yet again that while he may be inconsistent, he cannot be accused of being unimaginative. 
However, when Omar Khayyam dropped in the short ball, Wilde could not resist the temptation to hook. He was caught at deep fine leg, only to be reprieved by a front foot no ball call.
A disappointed Khayyam retraced each step of his approach to the crease and repeated his process. Again, he dropped it short. Again, Wilde hooked. Again, Wilde was caught. This time to a legitimate delivery. Wilde fell into the trap once. But one might have expected him to take extra care the second time around. Writers 130/4 in the 24th over.
The wicket of new batter John Milton was then immediately lost, as the leg-spinner Godel turned a delivery back in on itself. Milton was trapped, and his fall from the heavenly heights he attained at the start of his career now seems unlikely to ever end.
At 135/5, William Wordsworth must have wondered whether he was playing a lone hand. But any cloudiness to his mood cleared with James Joyce’s arrival to the crease. Joyce batted in typically unorthodox fashion, innovating his way to a freewheeling half-century. Joyce is no longer a young man, but he left Wordsworth in his wake, as the innings surged past 200 in the 35th over.
The Mathematicians seemed in real trouble, but Newton knew he could count on Cantor. And so it proved, as the veteran seamer found a way through Joyce, bringing Ernest Hemingway to the crease. Hemingway shouldered arms at his first delivery and had to farewell the crease as the ball jagged back and took his off stump. 212/7 in the 38th over.
Franz Kafka’s arrival at the crease seemed to invoke a metamorphosis in Wordsworth’s batting and he hit out to bring up an impressive century. He lost his wicket shortly after, however, to leave the Writers 252/8 in the 46th over.
And then - with regard to specialists at the crease - there were none. Instead, the mystery of how best to resolve the death overs fell to Agatha Christie, who, despite her vast experience, had no answers. 257/9
Some late hitting from Kafka and Emily Bronte, however, saw the Writers finish on 286/9 from their fifty overs. The Mathematicians conferred and between them soon had an irrefutable proof that they needed 287 runs for victory.
Mathematicians’ Innings
The old firm of Pythagoras and Euclid opened the batting for the Mathematicians, facing the pace attack of Bronte and Dickens. Both struck early boundaries, with their angled bats bisecting the field with ease.
But Dickens rapidly lived up to expectations, catching the edge of Pythagoras’s bat. 23/1 in the third over.
Isaac Newton came to the crease and misjudged a slower ball from Bronte. Newton’s bat, already in motion, stayed in motion, and he skied the delivery from Bronte to great heights before it dropped inevitably back into the bowler’s hands. 25/2 after four overs.
Dickens continued to weave a tale of misery for the Mathematicians. He showed he was Euclid-proof, as he prevented the experienced opener from scoring, before eventually dismissing him. 31/3 off seven overs.
Fibonacci joined Gauss at the crease and made scoring shots of 1, 1, 2 and 3. But the introduction of spin in the form of the cocky Kafka saw him dismissed. 48/4 in the twelfth over.
Any hope that Pascal had of adding to the previous batters’ scores were soon dashed. He was instead out for four, also falling to Kafka, who was proving a trial for the Mathematician batters. 55/5. The Mathematicians now needed something truly remarkable from Fermat, who was theoretically their last chance to salvage something from the run chase. Instead, his innings barely deserved a note in a margin as he became Joyce’s first victim, caught behind for just nine to leave the Mathematicians 67/6 in the nineteenth over.
This brought Khayyam came to the crease, and his methodical process for dealing with the Writers’ bowlers led to reliable outcomes.
He and Gauss added 80 to the total, both surviving a long, difficult to read spell from Joyce. Gauss, in particular, imposed order on the apparent randomness of Joyce, bringing up his fifty off a mere 46 deliveries, despite batting normally. 
Shakespeare introduced Christie into the attack and she struck Khayyam on the pads first ball. The entire Writers team went up for the appeal. “Out, out!” wailed Shakespeare. “Damned spot!” he went on to exclaim, as his review was turned down thanks to a clear mark on the inside edge.
Khayyam’s reprieve didn’t last long, however, and he fell not long after to Hemingway. It had been Wilde, fielding at cover, who suggested to his captain the importance of bowling Ernest. Hemingway also rose to the challenge, the man and the old seam combining to dismiss Khayyam for 26 (47). The wicket reduced the Mathematicians to 151/7, still requiring 136 runs from 93 balls, with just three wickets in hand.
The identity of the next batter turned out to be Euler, promoted in the order. He joined Gauss, and the pair added a further 64 off the next six overs before Wilde, fielding at point, ran out the tail-ender as he scrambled for a non-existent single. “There is only one thing worse than being run out for 36,” offered Wilde in consolation. “And that’s not being run out for 36.”
Cantor came to the crease, and he began a search for a realistic path to victory, carefully counting down both the runs remaining and balls required. 
But with the dismissal of Gauss, caught in the deep by Hemingway for a magnificent 121 (95), the bell had finally seemed to toll for the Mathematicians.
At 270/9, with two overs remaining, it was clear to almost everybody that the last wicket partnership would need seventeen runs for victory off twelve balls. But the new batter Godel showed this wasn’t guaranteed to be the case. Indeed, Godel came up with a proof that the fundamental axioms of arithmetic were not necessarily consistent. As a result, nobody could be certain that either side could attain victory in a traditional additive sense. 
Godel’s proof proved too difficult to follow for most, however, and in the end, it was Cantor who ended up stumped.
By Milton, off the bowling of Joyce.
Shakespeare’s Writers had won. All’s well that ends well.
As always you can get my behind-the-scenes thoughts on the writing of this piece over on my Patreon (, along with approximately one squillion other benefits. All for just $2/month
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Dan Liebke

Every Friday, I go through my big list of cricket ideas, and churn out a first draft of something I've got in there. It won't be polished. It may not be interesting. I make no promises. But I'm going to throw something up and see what works and what (infinitely more likely) does not.

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