Miles Kington: Australian cricket's new secret weapon

The selectors are very excited at the prospect of a player who can bamboozle the English

Tuesday 13 September 2005 00:00
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Yes, it is as simple as that. Four of the following items were concocted in our secret laboratories, where we are conducting lengthy investigations into human credulity, and the fifth was taken from a reliable newspaper and is therefore utterly, authentically true. But which one is it?

1. There has been a great furore in Israel over a decision to ban an exhibition of paintings by Francis Bacon, on the grounds of the artist's name. The eating of bacon is forbidden to strictly orthodox Jews, and anything that bears its name is also subject to the same exclusion.

"This may seem outrageous to outsiders," said rueful gallery owner Benjamin Sloman, "but a state founded on a religion gets into some tight corners that secular states don't even know about. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. I can remember when I was a boy, there was going to be a tour of Israel by the West Ham football team, and there was a great fuss when that became known. Ham! Meat of the pig! Not possible! And that too was cancelled."

2. Earlier this year, an American firm which makes novelty sweets withdrew a new line called Road Kill Candy after protests from animal rights activists. The sweets were all in the shape of animals which had been killed by being run over. Some were damaged chickens and rabbits; others were snakes with tyre marks on them. A spokesman for the firm admitted that they might give an undesirable impression.

3. The White House is secretly looking into the Louisiana Purchase, the deal whereby the United States bought Louisiana from France, to see if, even at this late date, they can make claims against France for selling them faulty produce and get compensation for shoddy goods.

"New Orleans was appallingly planned and badly carried out," says lawyer Jason Sjarkski. "If this was a normal house purchase, we would have an overwhelming case. Even in this case, there is a good chance that an American judge would find against the French. Then we'd be in the money!"

4. A young Australian cricketer has been found who promises to make Shane Warne look orthodox. Paul Wagala, a 21-year-old Aboriginal, has mastered the art of bowling the ball and making it come back in the air towards him! This, mark you, is before the ball has even bounced, so it is not a question of back spin - it is something that he makes happen in the air. Experienced cricketers are baffled by how he can do it, but the selectors are very excited at the prospect of a young Australian player who can do the impossible and bamboozle the English.

"Is it some form of hypnosis involved? Or some form of Aboriginal spell?" says retired Australian batsman Clyde Bennett. "Frankly, I don't give a chestnut, as long as we can get him into action against the Poms."

5. An animal behaviourist has been experimenting with teaching dogs to swim using other strokes beside the dog paddle.

"Dogs swim naturally," says Professor Lionel Wentworth of Oxford. "They are not taught how to do it. They do the dog paddle without thinking. Humans who live near water teach themselves to swim as well, and almost always their natural stroke is the dog paddle as well. But humans go on to use better, faster strokes. So the question I ask is: why can't dogs do the same?"

Professor Wentworth's programme of teaching dogs to do other strokes has encountered several apparently serious problems (dogs have short legs and no fingers), but already he thinks he may have got one labrador called Sparky to do the back stroke. "Admittedly, he may also just be rolling around in the water having fun. It's hard to tell. But these are early days."

Well? Have you made up your mind? Then did you spot that the Road Kill Candy was absolutely genuine? You did? I'll believe you. Thousands wouldn't.

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