Here’s one that I wrote for a touring cricket team in 1981. I hope that Bearsie, Soutie and a couple of others might enjoy it. I also hope, of course, that the scales will fall from Ferret’s eyes and he might start to appreciate the joy that is cricket. Not holding my breath for that eventuality, in all honesty.
Most of you will be familiar with SASS (the Society for Asserting Scottish Superiority). You are bound to have come across its famous coat of arms – a rampant Scotsman surmounted by crossed whisky bottles and flanked by two inferior Englishmen couchant, the whole emblazoned with the motto ‘Sumus Populus’ . It is a familiar sight on blazers in many a pub and club throughout the civilized world and England.
The blazer signifies, of course, that the wearer is a qualified Asserter and that they will recite the litany of great Scots, Watt, Watson-Watt, Hume, Macadam, Dunlop, the Krankies, John Higgins and all the rest of them as soon as they have the misfortune to meet an English person.
Less well known, however, are the whereabouts of one of the shadowy offshoots of SASS – the English National Activities Countermeasures Headquarters. SASSENACH is well concealed from prying English eyes as its sole aim is to find out what the Southrons do and then make sure that we beat them at it.
SASSENACH agents scour the country subverting and sabotaging every game and event wherever and whenever they can. Their motive is revenge for defeats of the Scottish nation at the hands of the English, albeit as a result of some very dubious decisions. Any Scottish history book will tell you that the referee should have sent off half the English team at Flodden and that their last charge at Culloden was a mile offside.
Cricket has not been accorded a high priority by SASSENACH in the past. This was because our early research established that a match could last up to five days and that each side had two innings. No self-respecting Scot would want to take five days to beat an Englishman and no Jock worth the salt that he prides himself on pouring on his porridge would give an Englishman two attempts at anything (except perhaps Russian Roulette).
Eventually, however, SASSENACH realised that cricket was believed by the English to exemplify their country. It became a priority to train a Scottish cricket team that could wipe the floor with our Southern cousins. Spies were despatched to gather information. An extract from the report of one of our agents makes interesting reading:-
‘I succeeded in gaining entry to the Long Room disguised as an MCC member. My only awkward moment came when I walked into a room marked ‘Selectors’. Luckily the occupants were blindfolded and absorbed in sticking pins into a long list of names, so I was able to escape detection. I managed to purloin a copy of the rules of the game and these have have now been subjected to intensive scrutiny.
I must admit that we are having some teething problems. We have established that the basic point of the game is that a bowler gets six bowls to hit two bales (misspelt in the rules) balanced on a wicket which is defended by a man holding a bat.
Scotland is full of bowlers. We are, after all, the most successful nation in the history of Lawn Bowls and this cricket is a lot easier than our game. Cricketers get six bowls instead of only four and the wicket is a lot bigger and easier to hit than a jack .
One of our problems is that we do not know if the bales are made from straw or hay. We are also finding it difficult to balance them on the wicket (references to being ‘on a sticky wicket’ suggest that the English may use glue for this purpose).
We are also struggling with the bat. The rules say that it should be 3.5 to 4 lbs. Despite an exhaustive search of every belfry and cave in Scotland, we have yet not been able to find one that size.’
SASSENACH has moved on a long way since those early days. Constant research continues as we work towards that glorious day when Scotland bowls England out for a duck at Lords. We have managed to infiltrate their team at the highest level (vide Jardine and Denness) and reports from our plants have been invaluable. Our most ambitious project to date has, of course, been the creation of Australia which was set up as a training ground to produce cricketers who could wipe the floor with the English. Australia was chosen for its good weather but the distance from Scotland has caused problems. Many ‘Australians’ seem to have lost sight of the fact that they are just a cricketing stud farm and not an independent nation. The only link with SASSENACH that they retain is their deep-rooted contempt for all things English.
Never mind. Our day will come. The average Scottish touring team may well appear to be a bunch of hard-drinking wastrels. This is skilful camouflage. They are, in reality, fanatical zealots whose one aim in life is to be present at Lords on the day that the last English batsman is felled by a Scottish bouncer as the massed tartan hordes in the stands sing ‘Flower of Scotland’.