Bowled over | Business Rates | Unlucky numbers

This Thursday at Edgbaston, the seventy-second Ashes series will begin. Overall, the Aussies are just ahead with thirty-four series wins compared to England’s thirty-two and with five series drawn. Australia’s first win on English soil was in 1882 when, despite the presence of the illustrious Dr WG Grace, England were found wanting and lost by seven runs within two days. You will probably know that The Sporting Times later published a satirical obituary claiming that this was the day when English cricket died.  Since then, the teams have played for a six-inch high terracotta urn, reputedly containing the ashes of a burnt bail. What you may not know about the 1882 Test, though, is:

  1. Each over only comprised four balls. Five (in 1889) and then six-ball overs were introduced in 1900. In 1939, eight-ball overs were trialled in the UK before returning to the current six in 1946.

  2. In their first innings, the Australians scored a grand total of 63 runs off 80 overs. That is a deathly slow (6-ball equivalent) run rate of 1.2 runs per over and technically slower than it normally takes for paint to dry.

  3. Against that, the 320 balls the Australians faced from the England bowling attack in the same innings were delivered in just over two hours. That’s equivalent to nearly twenty-seven (six-ball) overs an hour and roughly twice the current going rate.

Let’s hope that in the upcoming Ashes series there is a lot less of Number 2 and a lot more of Number 3. But above all, let’s hope that the England team can climb out of their turbulent form so that another prized sporting trophy ‘comes home’.

We are all aware of the current outcry, particularly by retailers, over the harshness of the business rates system.  From the Treasury’s standpoint though, in 2017/18, it yielded (in England alone) £24.5 billion with a highly efficient collection rate of 98.4%. So, clearly, if it were to be scrapped, something else would have to take its place. How can history help us? Well, on this day, 28 July 1851, after 155 years, the loathed Window Tax was finally repealed. The idea was that the more windows your property had, the richer you were deemed to be and the more you should be taxed. The result? People bricked them up! And prior to that, in 1660, an ill-fated hearth tax was introduced. Same idea – but this time the tax was based on the number of fireplaces you had. And then in 1712 there was a tax on printed wallpaper. And, if you want examples of even more bizarre taxes … there was the beard tax (1535), the hat tax (1784) and the wig powder tax (1795). Oh… by the way, if you were caught forging hat tax revenue stamps, you would be liable to face the gallows. So, for any retailers amongst our readership who want to steer clear of the hangman’s noose, The Weekly suggests you are very careful what you wish for!

What we learned last week is that 92,153 Conservative members wished for Boris Johnson to be their next leader and, therefore, our Prime Minister. He is the fourteenth PM to serve under our current Queen and the seventy-seventh since Robert Walpole took office in 1721. However, The Weekly questions whether his party faithful were aware of exactly what they were signing up to. In Angel numerology, it appears that ‘after you see the divine number 77, you will be able to see it even with your eyes closed, in the dark and when the light of heaven awakens the day.’  In other words, there is no escape ever from the man! Aaaaaaah!