All Time XIs – The Letter S

Continuing my exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at cricketers whose surnames begin with the letter S. This piece spans two and a half centuries, five continents and even mentions one of the great fictional cricketers.

The exploration of the all-time XI theme continues with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter S. This one was very tough, not because of any difficulty finding players of sufficient standard but because there was a lot overlap in terms of the expertise of the very best players, and balancing the side was a challenge that required compromise, of which more later.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Andrew Strauss (Middlesex, England). A fine opening bat, and twice an Ashes winning skipper, though I have not given him that role in this side.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe (Yorkshire, England). 4,555 test runs at 60.73, 2,741 Ashes runs at 66.85.
  3. *Graeme Smith (South Africa). One of the best captains of the modern era, and a top class left handed batter. He was a regular opener, but I believe he would handle first drop superbly as well.
  4. Steven Smith (Australia). First called up on account of his leg spin bowling, he established himself as Australia’s best test batter since Bradman. After serving a ban for cheating (an incident that ruled him out of any leadership responsibilities) he returned to action with twin tons at Edgbaston in 2019.
  5. +Kumar Sangakkara (Surrey, Sri Lanka). One of two serious candidates for the title of best batter his country has ever produced (Jayawardene being the other), and a good keeper as well. Usually I prefer to select a specialist keeper, rather than use a batter to perform this role, but circumstances dictate this selection.
  6. Garry Sobers (Nottinghamshire, West Indies). The most complete cricketer ever to play the game. Devastating batter, left arm bowler of pace, swing, seam and both finger and wrist spin, gun fielder.
  7. Ben Stokes (Durham, England). Attacking left handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler.
  8. Greville Stevens (Middlesex, England). A leg spinning all rounder whose FC averages were the right way round (29 with the bat, 26 with the ball). This slot caused me more grief than any other – with three gun fast bowlers rounding out the order I wanted a spinner, and with Sobers present, neither a left armer of any description, nor a regular off spinner (similar line of attack to Sobers in his wrist spin guise) would be ideal. There were two candidates within these constraints – this chap, and Paul Strang of Zimbabwe, and the latter paid 36 per wicket at test level and over 30 at FC level.
  9. Mitchell Starc (Australia). One of the fastest bowlers in the world at present, and while his highs are not quite up at Mitchell Johnson 2013-14 levels, his lows are nowhere near the depths of 2010-11 Johnson.
  10. Brian Statham (Lancashire, England). One of Lancashire’s greatest ever fast bowlers, and one of the select few to have an end of his home ground named in his honour (James Anderson, also at Old Trafford, is in this club, as are Barbadians Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall).
  11. Dale Steyn (South Africa). The greatest fast bowler of the immediate post McGrath period, and surely a shoo-in for an all time South Africa XI even given their strength in the pace bowling department.

This XI features a super powerful top six, Stokes with full licence to attack and a powerful quartet of bowlers. The pace attack, with the quick version of Sobers arguably fifth choice in that department (behind Steyn, Starc, Statham and Stokes) is awesome, and Stevens plus Sobers in his slower guises should offer sufficient spin to augment that attack. Sangakkara as keeper violates my usual principal of going for the best keeper, but he was good enough to do the job for Sri Lanka on a regular basis.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

A multi-faceted section starting with…

THE NUMBER EIGHT SLOT

There were two off spinners who would have their advocates for these position but missed out for reasons of balance: Harbhajan Singh of India and Graeme Swann of England, who each paid a little over 30 a piece for their test wickets and who were both useful lower order batters.

However, had I been willing to ignore considerations of balance I had a raft of top options to pack out the pace battery: Frederick Spofforth, a legend from the early days of test cricket was probably the pick of those I overlooked, but two present day Indians, Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj would have their advocates as well, Peter Siddle of Australia is a quality practitioner if perhaps a notch below the very top bracket, Amar Singh, part of India;s first ever test side, was also indisputably a great fast bowler. John Snow of England was another great pacer who could have had this slot. Olly Stone, the Norfolk born Warwickshire and England pacer who has been plagued by injuries has the ability, but not the proven track record. Barbadian all rounder Franklyn Stephenson, one of only two cricketers to do the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches in an English season since the reduction of the programme in 1969 (the other, Richard Hadlee, also played for Nottinghamshire) would appeal to some as a number eight.

I was conscious of the merits of all these players when making the call to select Greville Stevens, and my contention is not that he is a better cricketer than them, but that he is a better fit for the team, given the players who already had irrefutable claims for selection.

OPENING BATTERS

Bert Sutcliffe, the legendary New Zealand left hander, still holder of the record first class score by a native of that country (385 for Otago vs Canterbury, in a team score of 500 all out, with Canterbury contributing 382 off the bat in their two innings combined), and with a fine test record was a serious candidate for Strauss’ slot as left handed opener.

Among the right handed openers I could find no space for were Andrew Sandham, a member of the 100 first class hundreds club, Virender Sehwag, devastating unless the ball was swinging, when he could look very ordinary, Bobby Simpson of Australia, Michael Slater also of Australia and Alec Stewart of England all had impressive records as right handed opening batters. Arthur Shrewsbury of Nottinghamshire and England, second best 19th century batter behind WG Grace, was another who could have done a fine job in this role. Reg Simpson of Nottinghamshire and England had moments at the top level, including a 156* against Australia which set up a test victory for England, but he was not in the same bracket as the others.

MIDDLE ORDER BATTERS

I start this section by drawing your attention to my all time XI of Smiths, so that I do not have to repeat myself regarding players with that surname. Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan of the West Indies can both count themselves unlucky to have surnames beginning with S – under most other letters they would merit serious consideration. Mahadevan Sathasivam of Sri Lanka has legendary status in his own land, but for a series like this I have to deal in hard facts, so he misses out.

WICKET KEEPERS

Roy Swetman was a fine keeper in the 1950s, and Herbert Strudwick of Surrey and England made more dismissals in first class cricket than any keepers bar JT Murray of Middlesex and Bob Taylor of Derbyshire, though he often batted number 11, which with Statham and Steyn having ironclad claims for places was problematic.

ALL ROUNDERS

Darren Stevens’ performances since moving south from Leicestershire to Kent have been outstanding, but he has never played anything other than county cricket.

SPINNERS

Maninder Singh of India was a fine bowler, but as a left arm orthodox spinner he overlaps with Sobers, and he was a genuine bunny with the bat. Reggie Schwarz of Middlesex and South Africa missed out, because for all his importance as the guy who learned the googly from its creator Bosanquet and taught it to a number of his South African colleagues he actually used the googly not as part of his bowling armoury but as his stock ball, therefore becoming effectively an off spinner, a less good fit for the XI than a more standard leg spinner. Molly Strano, a consistently successful performer in Australian domestic cricket, and therefore by definition a superb bowler also misses out because she is also an off spinner.

BLASTS FROM THE PAST

Lack of sufficiently concrete records for two players prevented me from considering them: Edward ‘Lumpy’ Stevens, a great bowler of the late 18th century and Heathfield Harman Stephenson, whose performance for the All England XI at the Hyde Park Ground in Sheffield led to the coining of the phrase ‘hat trick’. He dismissed three of his opponents with successive deliveries, and the Sheffield crowd were so impressed by this display of bowling virtuosity that they used a hat to collect money for Stephenson and made him a presentation of both hat and money.

A FICTIONAL TALENT

Tom Spedegue, hero of a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, in which he pioneers a new type of delivery which descends on the batter from the clouds “Spedegue’s Dropper” and shatters that season’s visiting Australians by taking 15 wickets in what turns out to be his first and only test would certainly have added variety to the attack had he been real.

WHITE BALL TALENTS

Had been selecting with limited overs cricket in mind Navjot Singh Sidhu and Sanju Samson would both have been close to inclusion.

FUTURE TALENTS

Will Smeed, scorer of the first individual century in The Hundred, is an obvious talent for the future. Glenton Stuurman (pronounced like ‘Steerman’), a young South African quick bowler is very promising, though he has a huge amount to do to come close to dislodging his compatriot Steyn. Sophia Smale, a 17 year old left arm orthodox spinner has announced herself with a couple of fine performances in the Hundred.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing journey through the letter S, spanning two and a half centuries and many continents, is at an end, and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter R

My exploration of the all time XIs theme continues with a team of players whose surnames begin with R, including a hugely detailed honourable mentions section, and a bumper photo gallery.

After yesterday’s struggles to produce an XI of players who could all be filed under the letter Q, today’s task of selecting an XI of players with surnames beginning with the letter R presents an altogether different challenge.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Chris Rogers (Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Middlesex, Australia). The immense strength of Australia’s batting when he was in his prime meant that he got the test call up very late in his career. Nevertheless, 25 matches at that level yielded him over 2,000 runs at 42.87, respectable by any standards. In FC cricket he scored over 25,000 runs at almost 50.
  2. Barry Richards (Hampshire, South Africa). His test career was nipped in the bud by the expulsion of apartheid South Africa. Four matches at the highest level yielded him 508 runs at 72.57. He was also the leading run scorer in the first year of Packer’s World Series Cricket, when the bowling was seriously good. Don Bradman, certainly qualified to assess the merits of batters, rated him the best right handed opener he ever saw in action.
  3. Viv Richards (Somerset, Glamorgan, West Indies). The ‘Master Blaster’ was the only cricketer from the Caribbean to achieve the career milestone of 100 first class hundreds. In England in 1976 he was untouchable, tallying 829 for the series even though he missed a match due to injury. He was also the first authentically great ODI batter. West Indies in his playing days were frequently accused of intimidatory bowling, but it was also noted that he was capable of intimidatory batting.
  4. Joe Root (Yorkshire, England). Certainly the greatest batter England have produced in my lifetime, and a strong case could be made that he is England’s greatest ever (Grace, Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hammond, Hutton and at a pinch May and Barrington would merit consideration in this discussion).
  5. KS Ranjitsinhji (Sussex, England). He averaged 56.48 in first class cricket, though his appearances at test level were limited, he scored 989 runs at 45 at that level, including twice topping 150 against Australia. He was the first known to deliberately score behind the wicket on the leg side, pioneering the leg glance. He was born in a princedom in northern India, and India;s oremier domestic FC competition is still named in his honour.
  6. *Walter Robins (Middlesex, England). A leg spinning all rounder, and a great captain who conjured a county championship in 1947 for a Middlesex side that was strong in batting but did not have a great bowling attack. Denis Compton, one of Middlesex’s all time greats, and a star of the team in Robins’ day rated him the best captain he ever played under.
  7. +Jack Russell (Gloucestershire, England). One of the greatest keepers ever to play the game and a hugely underrated left handed batter. He scored a test century against the 1989 Australians when they were running rampant against a frankly shambolic England. He scored a defiant half century when Ambrose was ripping his way through England in Barbados in 1990. Another example of his unyielding determination came against South Africa at Centurion. He joined Atherton with England pretty much buried, and the pair proceeded to bat through two complete sessions to salvage a draw for their side.
  8. Andy Roberts (Hampshire, Leicestershire, West Indies). The spearhead of the original West Indies pace quartet in 1976, he took 202 test wickets at 25 a piece, morphing as he matured from a fire and brimstone type bowler into an unhittably accurate one. He was also a useful lower order batter.
  9. Kagiso Rabada (South Africa). At the age of 27 he is just about in the age range usually regarded as a cricketer’s prime years, and he already has 243 test wickets at 22 a piece, sufficient whatever happens in the rest of his career to underwrite his claim to the status of a great fast bowler.
  10. Wilfred Rhodes (Yorkshire, England). One of the most extraordinary of all cricketers, he had a five-phase career: specialist left arm fast bowler, all rounder, specialist batter (in the 1911-12 Ashes he was England’s number two batter both in terms of his position in the order and in terms of his position in that series’ averages and didn’t bowl), all rounder (having hardly bowled in the years leading up to WWI, he picked up his bowling in 1919, and as though he had never abandoned it, he proceeded to top the national averages for that season), and finally, as his eyesight began to go, a few final years as a specialist bowler, before retiring to make way for the emerging Hedley Verity, who he summed up in typically laconic fashion “he’ll do”, which from Rhodes was a positively euphoric assessment. Given the cricketers available for the letter R I choose to use him in this XI as the specialist bowler he was both at the start and the end of his amazing career, one of the greatest ever. He was the only bowler ever to take over 4,000 first class wickets, and only three others even tallied 3,000, and none of those were ever of any great value with the bat. Of the top ten all time FC wicket takers only the mighty WG Grace outranks Rhodes as a batter. A final comment to end this section, from the legendary Victor Trumper, when Australia were piling up a massive total on a flat one, 185 of them from Trumper himself, and amidst the carnage Rhodes took 5-94 from 48 overs, at one point leading to Trumper saying “for goodness sake Wilfred, won’t you give me a moment’s peace?”.
  11. Tom Richardson (Surrey, Somerset, England). Only 14 tests for the lion hearted fast bowler, but he took 88 wickets at 25 a piece in those matches. He took more FC wickets for Surrey than any other bowler, and reached the career landmarks of 1,000 FC wickets (134 matches) and 2,000 (327 matches) quicker than any other bowler.

This XI has one great (B Richards) and one very good opener, a power packed engine room of Viv Richards, Root and Ranjitsinhji, an all rounder who happens also to be great skipper, one of the greatest of all keepers, who was also a useful batter, and four great specialist bowlers. A fast attack of Roberts, Rabada and Richardson, backed by the spin of Rhodes and Robins, plus possible part time off spin support from Root and the Richardses is an any reckoning a stellar bowling unit. This is one of the strongest XIs to feature in this mini-series.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

This is a multi-part section. The first subsection deals with probably the finest of the eligible cricketers not to make the XI…

CLIVE RICE

26,000 FC runs at 41, 900 FC wickets at 21, and no place for him? The problem is that this letter has immense strength available, and he never played test cricket due to circumstances. There is no way to know how he would have fared at test level – some (e.g Herbert Sutcliffe) do better against tougher opposition, some like Graeme Hick and someone we will be meeting later in this piece do very much worse. Also, fitting him in to the XI would be a major challenge – I would either have to drop one of my top five, all of whom have ironclad claims to their places, or change the balance of the side by dropping Robins and naming someone else as captain, or drop one of my three unarguably great fast bowlers to accommodate a batting all rounder, again changing the balance of the side.

OPENING BATTERS

CAG ‘Jack’ Russell averaged 59 in his brief test career, including becoming the first English batter to record twin tons in a test match, but the brevity of his career at the top tells against him. Jack Robertson, who contributed 12 tons to Middlesex’s 1947 championship winning season, played 11 test matches, averaging 46, and had he been left handed would have been a challenger to Rogers, but given that he played less than half as many tests as the Aussie and his average was not that much greater I felt that he had to be left out. Tim Robinson had an impressive start against India away in 1984-5 and Australia at home in 1985 but was unceremoniously found out by the West Indies mean machine in the Caribbean in 1986. Pankaj Roy shared an opening stand of 413 with Mulvantrai ‘Vinoo’ Mankad, but that was a rare major success at the top level for him – he averaged 32.56 at test level overall.

THE MIDDLE ORDER

Mark Ramprakash has the best FC batting record of anyone I omitted for this letter, but he failed miserably to transfer that form to the test arena, managing just two centuries in 52 test matches. Richie Richardson had a similar test average to Ranjitsinhji and played more matches at that level, but I felt that I could not overlook Ranji. Vic Richardson was one of the greatest all round athletes ever produced by the state of South Australia, but his record in the test arena was modest – he was comfortably outdone at that level by two of his three famous grandsons. Two J Ryders, Jack who played for Australia in the mid 1920s, and Jesse who played for New Zealand much more recently had good test records, but not quite good enough. Ajinkya Rahane has done some good things at test level for India, but for me he is just a fraction short of being genuinely top class and therefore misses out. Clive Radley did all that could be asked of him when called up for England in his mid-thirties. Also, a name check for one of the greatest batters the women’s game has seen, Mithali Raj.

ALL ROUNDERS

Other than Rice who I have already mentioned, and Robins who I selected there are two other all rounders who merit a mention: Wasim Raja, a batter and leg spin bowler for Pakistan, and Ravi Ratnayeke of Sri Lanka.

WICKET KEEPERS

Mushfiqur Rahim of Bangladesh was closest to challenging Russell for this slot. Jack Richards of Surrey and England had one great Ashes series in 1986-7, but left the game early after a dispute over terms with Surrey. Oliver George Robinson (Kent) is a fine keeper, and has recently scored 206* in a 50 overs a side game. Some Worcestershire fans would doubtless make a case on behalf of Steve ‘Bumpy’ Rhodes, but he was in truth not Russell’s equal in either department. Denesh Ramdin of the West Indies probably believes he should be in this XI but I don’t reckon anyone else does.

BOWLERS

Oliver Edward Robinson has done very well for England when he has been fit to bowl – and it is that caveat that prevents him from meriting serious consideration as yet. Wahab Riaz of Pakistan was a fine pacer in his day, but I cannot place him ahead of any of Roberts, Rabada or Richardson. Rumesh Ratnayake was often the only member of the Sri Lankan sides he was part of who could bowl at anything above medium pace, and I acknowledge his efforts with an honourable mention. One solitary spinner might have displaced Rhodes: Sonny Ramadhin. As good as the first half of ‘those two little pals of mine, Ramadhin and Valentine’ was he does not get in ahead of Rhodes.

WHITE BALL

I always select with long form cricket in mind unless I have specifically stated otherwise. The following names who could not be accommodated in a long form side would merit consideration in white ball: Rilee Rossouw (South Africa), KL Rahul (India), Luke Ronchi (Australia/ New Zealand), Jason Roy (England) and Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh, a left arm pacer with a great record in limited overs matches and a very moderate one in long form cricket).

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN?

Rayford Robinson was an Australian batter and near contemporary of Don Bradman. The Don himself reckoned that in pure talent Robinson outranked him, but he managed one test appearance, in which he scored 2 and 3. He appears to have had an attitude problem.

Harold Rhodes was a fast bowler whose career was ruined by suspicions about his bowling action (he was actually perfectly legitimate, doing what is today described as ‘hyperextending’ his bowling arm).

ONES FOR THE FUTURE

Two last names to conjure with. Mohammad Rizwan of Pakistan has not yet done enough to claim a place for himself, and would probably have to force his way in as a specialist batter, given the keeping standards set by Russell. James Rew of Somerset is going places in a big way – at the age of 18 he already has centuries in both first class and list A cricket. I would be very surprised if a version of this XI in ten years from now did not feature him.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing journey through the letter R is complete, and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter Q

Continuing my exploration of the ‘all time XIs’ theme with a look at the letter Q.

Welcome to the latest installment of my exploration of the theme of ‘all time XIs’. Today we look at players whose surnames begin with the letter Q. A certain amount of latitude has been exercised with the brief, though not quite as much as required by the letter X. Some of the players are comparatively obscure, hence both more quoting of exact career records and explanation than in some of these posts.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Billy Quaife (Warwickshire, England). The oldest ever scorer of a first class hundred at the grand old age of 56 years and four months. Only one player has scored more FC career runs for Warwickshire – Dennis Amiss. In addition to his batting he bowled serviceable leg spin, though given the make up of the side is unlikely to be required in that role.
  2. Quinton de Kock (South Africa). Using his forename to sneak him in. Although he is better known for his deeds in limited overs cricket the South African averages over 40 at FC level as well, and plays fast bowling well, hence, given the players available to me, using him as an ersatz opener and not as a wicket keeper.
  3. Qasim Omar (Pakistan). Not one of Pakistan’s better known top order players, but he played against England when they were there in 1984 and scored some valuable runs. Overall he averaged 39 at test level.
  4. Walter Quaife (Sussex, Warwickshire). Not the batter that Billy was, but by the standards of the 1880s and 1890s an average of 22.88 was modestly respectable, with pitches often difficult.
  5. Francis Quinton (Hampshire). 51 FC matches spread over 15 years in the late 19th century yielded him an average of 27.82, with two centuries and a top score of 178. He was also an occasional slow bowler, though not likely be needed in that capacity for this side.
  6. Patrick Quinlan (Ireland, Western Australia). 13 widely spaced FC matches yielded him 530 runs at 26.50, with four FC fifties. He was also an occasional right arm medium pacer, the relevance of which will be obvious by the end of the XI.
  7. +Bernard Quaife (Warwickshire). Although his father Billy liked the pair to open the batting together (they once did so against Derbyshire, whose new ball pair comprised Billy and Robert Bestwick, likewise related, to create a unique happening in FC cricket), he was never actually good enough as a batter to open, but he was a decent keeper, taking 186 catches and executing 54 stumpings at FC level in that role, and his 9,594 FC runs at 20.02 assume greater significance with batting being made his secondary role.
  8. Iqbal Qasim (Pakistan). Not one of the world’s best known left arm orthodox spinners, but 171 test wickets at 28.11 in 50 appearances at that level (999 FC wickets at 20.48 in 246 appearances) are a testament to his effectiveness in the role.
  9. Matt Quinn (New Zealand). A right arm medium fast bowler whose FC wickets cost 30.61 a piece, he is the only seamer for this letter who comes anywhere near making the grade.
  10. *Abdul Qadir (Pakistan). The 1980s was a difficult decade for spinners – and leg spin in particular almost fell into complete disuse at that time. With all due respect to Laxman Sivaramakrishnan (India) and Bob Holland (Australia) credit for this art form surviving long enough to be picked up by Shane Warne belongs chiefly to Abdul Qadir, whose 67 test appearances yielded 236 wickets at 32.80. That included a seismic performance at Faisalabad against the West Indies, then the dominant force in world cricket. WI needed 240 to win in the fourth innings, and Faisalabad is not exactly known for being bowler friendly. Pakistan won that match by 186 runs, and the chief architect of the West Indian collapse to 53 all out was Qadir, whose sorcery yielded 6-16. In recognition of his historical significance, and believing that he would have done the job well given the chance I have chosen him as captain of this XI.
  11. Qais Ahmad (Afghanistan). One of the best leg spinners currently playing the game, though rivalled in that department by his compatriot Rashid Khan. He will never have the historical significance of Qadir, but it would not surprise me if he finishes with a better overall record than the Lahori.

The XI is definitely short of batting, although deploying QDK as a specialist opener at least creates a chance of the top three delivering serious runs. There is only one recognized pace option, Matt Quinn. I see three ways round this: give Quinlan a few overs to get the shine of the new ball for the spinners, adopt a policy used with success by many English counties in the past, opening with right arm pace (Quinn) at one end and the left arm spin of Iqbal Qasim at the other (Kent won four titles between 1906 and 1913 with Fielder and Blythe, jusr such a combination, opening their bowling), or one or other of the leggies, Abdul Qadir or Qais Ahmad shares the new ball with Quinn.

ON THE FRINGES

I usually call this section ‘Honourable Mentions’ but there is nothing honourable about failing to claim a place in this XI, so I am using a title more reflective of the nature of this section of this post. I did locate one fast bowler other than Quinn to have a surname beginning with Q – James Quinton. However, even faced with a desperate shortage of options in his department I could not include someone who claimed one wicket in six FC matches. Hamidullah Qadri had a good time in the U19 World Cup, but at the moment his first class wickets cost 43 runs a piece and come at less than two per game, so although I had two leggies, a left armer and no specialist offie I could not include him. Imran Qayyum, a young left arm spinner, has a very similar FC bowling average to Qadri, and doesn’t seem likely to challenge Iqbal Qasim. Ian Quick, an Australian left arm spinner, paid just over 30 a piece for his FC wickets, not close to being as effective as Qasim, though he might be worth a place in an XI of players who don’t live up to their names! There was also one other challenger for the keeper’s slot, Trevor Quirk, a South African. His batting record was similar to that Bernard Quaife but over fewer matches, and he managed only 122 catches and eight stumpings (given the predominance of spin in the XI this last figure was a cause for concern as well).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing exploration of the letter Q is at an end, and it remains only to provide the usual sign off…

All Time XIs – the Letter P and Left Handers

An all time XI of players whose surnames begin with P, and because it is International Left Handers Day an all time XI of left handers.

Today is International Left Handers day, so this post includes a bonus feature – I lead off with an all time XI of left handers. A list of honourable mentions for such an XI would be incredibly long, so I shall not include it. After parading my chosen left handers the focus of the bulk of the blog post is on cricketers whose surnames begin with the letter B.

LEFT HANDERS XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. *Graeme Smith (South Africa). A steely left handed opening batter, and the obvious choice to captain this XI – a role he performed superbly for South Africa.
  2. Alastair Cook (Essex, England). The opener is England’s all time leading scorer of test runs (though likely to be overhauled by Joe Root in the not too distant future).
  3. Brian Lara (Warwickshire, West Indies). The holder of world record individual scores at both test and first class level, a joint feat achieved only once before in cricket history, by Don Bradman for the two and a half years that his 334 was the world test record score. Also the only player to have twice held the world test record score, and one of only two along with Bill Ponsford to have two first class quadruple centuries.
  4. Graeme Pollock (South Africa). Possibly the greatest batter ever produced by his country. When the curtain came down on the first period of SA being a test nation he was left with an average of 60.97.
  5. Frank Woolley (Kent, England). The only player to achieve the first class career treble of 10,000+ runs (58,969 in his case), 1,000+ FC wickets (2,066) and 1,000+ FC catches (1,018). Capable of match winning performances with both bat and ball (as a left arm orthodox spinner), and one the finest fielders ever to play the game.
  6. Garry Sobers (Nottinghamshire, West Indies). The most complete player to have played the game. One of the greatest batters of all time, a bowler of fast, medium or slow pace (both orthodox and wrist spin) and a brilliant fielder.
  7. +Adam Gilchrist (Australia). A top quality keeper, and a destructive middle order batter.
  8. Wasim Akram (Lancashire, Pakistan). Fast bowler, attacking batter.
  9. Alan Davidson (Australia). Fast medium bowler, occasional spinner, useful lower order batter and fielder of such brilliance that he earned the nickname ‘the claw’.
  10. Mitchell Johnson (Australia). One of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game and a useful lower order batter. On his day he was simply unplayable.
  11. Hedley Verity (Yorkshire, England). A left arm spinner and a useful lower order batter (indeed he was once pressed into service as an emergency opener in a test match and did well). On surfaces that didn’t help him he was very economical and never allowed batters to feel at ease. On surfaces that did help him he was a destroyer. Yorkshire’s match against Nottinghamshire in 1932 illustrated both sides of Verity the bowler – in Nottinghamshire first innings he took 2-64 from 41 overs, in their second, when he had a rain=affected pitch to exploit he recorded figures of 19.4-16-10-10 – the cheapest all ten in FC history.

This XI has an awesomely strong batting line up, and a bowling attack of Akram, Johnson, Davidson, Verity, Sobers and Woolley is both strong and varied.

SURNAMES BEGINNING WITH P IN BATTING ORDER

We move on to the main meat of the post, an all time XI of players whose surnames begin with P.

  1. Alviro Petersen (Glamorgan, South Africa). A solid right handed opener.
  2. Bill Ponsford (Australia). One of only two players to twice top 400 in FC matches. He scored centuries in his first two test matches and in his last two.
  3. Ricky Ponting (Australia). One of the two best number three batters of the modern era alongside Rahul Dravid. He was also an excellent slip fielder, and a long serving captain, though his record in that department was tarnished by the fact that oversaw three failed Ashes campaigns – the only other three time Ashes losing skipper in 140 years being Archie MacLaren of England (1901-2 in Australia, 1902 in England, 1909 in England), hence my not giving him the role in this side.
  4. Graeme Pollock (South Africa). One of the greatest of all left handed batters (see the left handers XI earlier in this post).
  5. Kevin Pietersen (Nottinghamshire, Hampshire, Surrey, England). A batter of undoubted greatness, though problematic in the dressing room to the extent that his first two counties were both glad to see the back of him. He top scored in both innings of his test debut, ended that series with the second most important innings of 158 to be played by a South African born batter at The Oval. His test best was 227 at the Adelaide Oval in the 2010-11 Ashes.
  6. +Rishabh Pant (India). Attacking left handed batter, quality keeper. Probably his greatest moment came at the Gabba when he played a match and series winning innings for an injury-hit India.
  7. *Mike Procter (Gloucestershire, South Africa). One of the finest all rounders ever – a genuinely fast bowler, an attacking middle order batter and a shrewd captain to boot – I have given him that role in this side.
  8. Shaun Pollock (Warwickshire, South Africa). An exceptionally accurate right arm fast medium bowler and a useful lower order batter. He is also my chosen vice captain for this side in preference to either Ponting or Pietersen.
  9. Peter Pollock (South Africa). A right arm fast bowler, spearhead of the South African attack during the last few years of their first period as a test nation.
  10. Charlie Parker (Gloucestershire, England). The third leading wicket taker in FC history with 3,278 scalps at that level, but only one England cap.
  11. Erapalli Prasanna (India). An off sinner who took 189 test wicketsin the 1970s.

This side has one good and one great opener, a superb engine room at 3-5, a keeper batter, a genuine all rounder, and four great bowlers. In Procter and Peter Pollock the side has two genuinely fast bowlers, with Shaun Pollock’s fast medium to back them up. Parker and Prasanna are an excellent pair of contrasting spinners.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Eddie Paynter has a higher test average than anyone I have overlooked at 59.23, but his test career was quite brief, and his average is over a run an innings less than that of Graeme Pollock. Cheteshwar Pujara is the next most notable omission, but no way can he be selected ahead of Ponting at number three, and his efforts when India recently used him as an ersatz opener were not very impressive.

The two Nawabs of Pataudi to play test cricket (the last two to have that title) were both fine batters, but not quite good enough to break into this powerful XI.

Roy Park of Australia never got the opportunity to prove himself at test level – his batting career for his country lasted exactly one ball. Ashwell Prince of South Africa might have his advocates as well.

Ellyse Perry is unlucky to have a surname beginning with P – there are many other letters where I would be delighted to be able to choose a player of her class, but she just misses out.

JH Parks of Sussex was a fine county all rounder, but hardly a challenger to Procter. JM Parks was a batter/ keeper for both Sussex and England, but for my money Pant is better in both departments than Parks was, and even if Parks’ batting shades it I would go for the better keeper (a walkover win for Pant).

Dattu Phadkar of India was good middle order batter an enough of a bowler to take the new ball for his country (although this is partly a reflection of India’s shortage of quick bowlers in his playing days), but could hardly displace Procter.

Liam Patterson-White, an all rounder who bowls left arm spin, may be challenging for inclusion in a few years time, as might leg spinner Matt Parkinson, but as yet they are potentials rather than actuals.

Three seriously quick bowlers who missed out were Patrick Patterson (WI) whose time at the top was short, Len Pascoe (Australia), who also didn’t have great depth of achievement and Pushpakumara of Sri Lanka, whose record was very modest for all his pace.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign-off…

All Time XIs – The Letter O

Today I continue my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a team made up of players whose surnames begin with the letter O.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Ali Orr (Sussex). He has a less extensive career than most to feature in an actual XI in this series, having started his FC career quite recently. However, only one of the XI has an FC career average better than Orr’s current figure of 42.
  2. Edgar Oldroyd (Yorkshire). One place up from usual spot for his county. He scored over 15,000 FC runs at an average of 36. His grand daughter Eleanor is a radio commentator and regular presenter of sports programmes.
  3. Charles Ollivierre (Derbyshire). One of the first great batting talents to emerge from the West Indies. He came to England in 1900 as part of non-test tour by the West Indies (they gained test status in 1928), and stayed on, qualifying by residence to play for Derbyshire (who also found him a clerical job which meant he could retain his amateur status). His finest hour came at Chesterfield in 1904 in a match that almost defies belief. Essex batting first scored 597, Perrin 343 not out, Derbyshire responded with 548 (Ollivierre 229), Essex fared precisely 500 runs less well second time round, as Bestwick and Warren extracted revenge for some rough treatment in the first innings, and Derbyshire managed the resultant chase of 147 in 125 minutes with time and nine wickets to spare, Ollivierre finishing 92 not out, Billy Storer 48 not out.
  4. Norman O’Neill (Australia). He averaged 46 with the bat at test level. He illustrated his class on his test debut, when at the end of a match featuring mind-bendingly slow scoring (518 runs in the first four days, Bailey 68 in 458 minutes) he took Australia to a comfortable victory by scoring 73 not out in two and a half hours, proving that it was possible to score at a reasonable rate on that surface.
  5. Maurice Odumbe (Kenya). An all rounder who batted right handed and bowled off spin, and (along with Steven Tikolo) one of the two best cricketers his country has ever produced. He was good enough to have scored an FC double hundred.
  6. Alec O’Riordan (Ireland). He batted right handed and bowled left arm fast medium. Most of his cricket was club cricket played at weekends, but he showed what he could do against higher class opposition when Ireland played the West Indies. He took four cheap wickets as the illustrious visitors were rolled for 25 on an emerald coloured pitch, and then batted well for Ireland (it was a one innings match officially, but in order to entertain the fans Ireland batted on after completing a nine wicket victory, and declared, nipping out a couple more wickets in the WI second innings before the day’s action ended.
  7. +Bert Oldfield (Australia). One of the greatest wicket keepers ever to play the game, his career tally of 52 test match stumpings remains an all time record.
  8. Chris Old (Yorkshire, Warwickshire, England). A right arm fast medium bowler and an occasionally useful left handed lower order batter. His England highlights include taking four wickets in five balls against Pakistan and being the accurate, mean foil to Willis when that worthy produced his match winning spell at Headingley in 1981.
  9. Pragyan Ojha (Surrey, India). A left arm orthodox spinner, his record for India was respectable rather than truly outstanding, though he was a little unfortunate that his career overlapped with the emergence of Ravindra Jadeja. No one could play him when he turned out for Surrey and was instrumental in them winning promotion back to division one of the county championship.
  10. *Bill O’Reilly (Australia). One of the greatest leg spinners ever to play the game. He bowled quicker than most of his type, his stock pace being at least medium and possessed an almost undetectable googly by way of variation. I have named him as captain of this XI, that being a difficult role to fill for this letter, since he obviously had tactical acumen in spades, and I have read some of his writings on the game and been impressed by them.
  11. Duanne Olivier (Derybshire, Yorkshire, South Africa). He pays less than 30 each for his test wickets, and will probably feature in the upcoming series between England and South Africa. Fast medium rather than outright fast he is still a very fine bowler. Whether he or Old would share the new ball with the left armer O’Riordan is one of the main decisions facing the skipper of this side

This XI is patchy, with a somewhat makeshift opening pair, fine batters at three and four, a couple of fine all rounders, a legendary keeper and one great and three very good specialist bowlers. The bowling, with the seam in the hands of Old, Olivier and O’Riordan and leg spinner O’Reilly, left arm spinner Ojha and off spinner Odumbe to attend to that department is this side’s strong suit, though there is no express pace option.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Before I get to the main meat of this section, Qasim Omar does not feature, because as difficult as this letter is, Q is far harder.

Unlike either of the two guys I chose to open the batting Javed Omar of Bangladesh did that job at test level. However, his record is pretty ordinary, hence him missing out. Alan Ormrod of Worcestershire was a county stalwart, but his FC average was only just the right side of 30. William Oscroft of Nottinghamshire might have provided some genuine pace, but he was not often used as a bowler by his county, and even allowing for the difficulty of the pitches when he was in his prime an average of 19 in his main suit simply isn’t good enough. Insufficient records of his overall performances ruled George Osbaldeston, a fast bowling all rounder of the early 19th century, out of consideration. Simon O’Donnell was an Australian all rounder who bowled fast medium, but his batting does not command a place in its own right, and his bowling record was modest, plus he bowled with his right arm, meaning that his presence would give the attack less variation than O’Riordan does. Rodney Ontong had a respectable career for Glamorgan but couldn’t quite claim a place in this side. Thomas Odoyo, a fast bowling all rounder for Kenya entered my thoughts. Dominic Ostler of Warwickshire had a long career, but only averaged a tick over 30 with the bat. Among the pacers who entered my thoughts but just missed out on selection were the Overton twins (especially Jamie, whose extra pace would have been useful), Henry Olonga of Zimbabwe, Peter Ongondo of Kenya and Iain O’Brien of New Zealand (the latter getting an expert summarisers gig by way of compensation).

Niall O’Brien, a solid keeper batter for Kent and Northamptonshire in the championship and with a decent record for Ireland as well is the officially designated reserve keeper, but as is usual for me in these cases I opted for finer keeper, Oldfield. Kevin O’Brien, an all rounder who bowled right arm fast medium, had most of his best moments in limited overs cricket

In a few years time Hampshire’s off spinning all rounder Felix Organ may have a record that allows him to displace Odumbe from this side, but he is not there yet.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off has two parts this time…

A TWOPENNY BLUE

James and Sons had a stamp sale earlier this week, and I acquired a two penny blue very cheaply. I am not in general enthusiastic about ordinary stamps, but the 2d blue has a connection which elevates it – every Victoria line station has a patterned mosaic displayed at platform level relating to it’s name, and because of the colour used for the line on the London Underground map the pattern at Victoria is based on this stamp, so I am pleased to have one in my possession.

PART TWO: REGULAR PICTURES

All Time XIs – The Letter N

Continuing the exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at the letter N.

Welcome to this latest installment in my exploration of the ‘all time XIs’ theme. This time the team all have surnames beginning with the letter N.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Stan Nichols (Essex, England). Left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. He didn’t play many games for England, but he was an Essex stalwart for many years, and he did on occasion open the batting for the county, a role I have given him in this.
  2. Mudassar Nazar (Pakistan). A stubborn right handed opening batter and occasional purveyor of medium pace. He forms an excellent counterpoint to the flamboyant Nichols.
  3. Seymour Nurse (West Indies). An excellent batter with test HS of 258. He is the first of a powerful trio of middle order batters for this team.
  4. Arthur Dudley Nourse (South Africa). A test average of 53, maintained through a long career.
  5. Arthur William ‘Dave’ Nourse (South Africa). A left handed batter and left arm medium pace bowler. He was Dudley’s father, but never coached his son. Once an argument about how to hold the bat broke out in a game of street cricket that Dudley was playing, and Dudley took the matter to his father. Papa Nourse, completely composed, told Dudley “Son I learned to bat with a fence paling – now you go and do the same”. From that moment on Dudley did things his way.
  6. *Monty Noble (Australia). A right handed batter and off spin bowler, he was one two notable all rounders to play for Australia in the early 20th century, Warwick Armstrong being the other. He was highly regarded as captain of the side, a role I have given him in this XI. He was the third victim of arguably the most notable test hat trick ever taken, when at Headingley in 1899 JT Hearne accounted for Clem Hill, Syd Gregory and him in successive balls – one great batter, one very good one and one all rounder. He was the bowler when Albert Trott hit his famous blow that carried the Lord’s pavilion. His accounts of the 1924-5 and 1928-9 Ashes series are both excellent reads. His full record can be viewed here.
  7. +Paul Nixon (Leicestershire, England). Years of sterling service for his county did not translate into many England caps, but he was a superb keeper, and good enough with the bat to have scored 1,000 FC runs in a season – the first Leicestershire keeper to reach that mark since 1935.
  8. Makhaya Ntini (South Africa). Over 300 test wickets confirm his status as a top notch fast bowler.
  9. Shahbaz Nadeem (India). A left arm orthodox spinner with a fine FC record whose international opportunities have been limited by the fact that he is a contemporary of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, both of whom are quite rightly ahead of him in the pecking order.
  10. Sarfraz Nawaz (Pakistan). Not a genuinely fast bowler, but a highly effective operator at fast medium. His greatest moment came with Australia 305-3 chasing a target of 382 – they were 310 all out, Sarfraz Nawaz taking all seven of those wickets, to give him nine in the innings, at a cost of one run.
  11. Anrich Nortje (South Africa). One of the fastest bowlers of the current era, no opponents relish facing him.

This side contains a somewhat make shift opening pair, a powerful trio at three, four and five, a genuine all rounder, a keeper who could bat and four fine specialist bowlers. It is not one of the strongest XIs in this series, but it is certainly not the weakest either. If forced to choose I would always prefer a strong bowling side with slightly questionable batting over a powerful batting side that will struggle to take 20 wickets – the former combo is much more likely to win matches, while the latter will probably be made to settle for a draw when its batting fires and be defeated when it does not.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I will start with the question of openers: the main alternatives to using Nichols in that role were Scott Newman, who never played international cricket though he was fairly prolific at county level, and Imran Nazir of Pakistan, most of whose greatest successes came in limited overs matches.

Henry Nicholls of New Zealand is a gritty batter but not quite of the necessary class to displace Nurse or either of the Nourses from this XI.

Otto Nothling was a fine all round athlete, and a good cricketer at state level in Australia, but when the chance came at test level he did nothing. Had I not settled on Noble as skipper I would have considered Shelley Nitschke for the all rounders slot – her being a left arm spinner would have made selecting the specialist spinner somewhat easier.

The only alternative to Nixon for the keeper’s slot that I could think of was another player with Leicestershire connections, Tom New. He was perhaps a little better with the bat than Nixon but he was not as good a keeper, and that settled the issue.

Rana Naved of Pakistan at number eight would have strengthened the batting (none of my four chosen bowlers would be likely to make a major contribution in that department), but while his record at FC level and in limited overs internationals was good, he paid over 50 a piece for his test wickets. Australian brothers Lisle and Vernon Nagel both bowled medium fast, making use of their height (6’6″) to generate awkward bounce. Lisle once took 8-32 in an innings in a tour match vs MCC (during the 1932-3 tour), but he did not deliver for the test team. Buster Nupen, the only test cricketer born in Norway, came close, but he paid 32 a piece for his wickets at the highest level, just too much. Australian pacer Ashley Noffke was never a regular at international level, and similarly current Indian pacer T Natarajan has yet to establish himself at the highest level.

Mark Nicholas could only have made the XI as a specialist captain, a notion I do not especially approve of, and with Noble available to skipper one that was hardly necessary. He would however get to lead the comms team when this XI was in action.

Nasim-ul-Ghani who was the first nightwatcher to score a test ton did not do enough with his left arm spin to merit inclusion. Sunil Narine, formerly of the West Indies and now plying his trade in short format leagues around the world is an off spinner thus with the presence of Noble doubly disqualified. Similar arguments apply to Afghan legend Mohammad Nabi.

I fully expect that ten years or so from now the young Afghan left arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad will have taken his place among the cricketing elite, but at the moment, not altogether surprisingly for a 17 tear old he does not have enough of a record to be worth a place. He may suffer somewhat because his country have such a glut of quality spinners: Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Qais Ahmad and Zahir Khan are just four of those he is up against for international honours.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing journey through the letter N is at an end and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter M

Continuing my exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at the veritable dragon’s hoard of talent available in the form of cricketers with surnames beginning with M.

I continue my exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter M. This was difficult, because as Sherlock Holmes said about this letter in reference to his own files, the collection of Ms is a fine one – so fine that as you will see in the honourable mentions a number of extraordinary players miss out.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Arthur Morris (Australia). The man rated by Donald Bradman as the best left handed opener he ever saw in action. His absolute peak came in the 1948 Ashes when he scored 696 in the series at 87.00, a series that Bradman, captain of that side, described him as having dominated.
  2. Vijay Merchant (India). There were a number of candidates for this slot, all with respectable test averages, but Merchant got the nod for two reasons: his test career was more spread out than that of other contenders, and in first class cricket where the sample size is much larger has average of 71.20 puts him second only to Bradman among qualifiers.
  3. Charles Macartney (Australia). The ‘Governor General’ as he was nicknamed is probably the most controversial pick in my XI given the other contenders for his slot in the XI, but what swung it for him was that he offered a genuine extra bowling option with his left arm orthodox spin (he won a test match for Australia in this capacity).
  4. Phil Mead (Hampshire, England). A dour left hander, Mead holds the records for most FC centuries (138) and runs (48,809) for a single team, Hampshire. Only three batters scored more FC runs in their careers than him: Hobbs, Woolley and Hendren, and only three scored more FC centuries than his 153: Hobbs, Hendren and Hammond
  5. Javed Miandad (Glamorgan, Pakistan). Rated by many as Pakistan’s all time number one batter, he went through an entire very long test career without his average ever dipping below 50 at that level, which amounts to an absolutely ironclad claim to greatness.
  6. *Keith Miller (Australia). One of the greatest all rounders ever to play the game, and a supreme entertainer. A wartime flying ace with the RAAF he was always aware that he had been lucky to emerge from the horrors of WWII still alive, which informed his attitudes thereafter. Once when asked about the pressures of international cricket he made the immortal reply “There is no pressure in cricket – pressure is flying a Mosquito with two Messerschmidts up your arse”.
  7. +Rodney Marsh (Australia). A superb wicket keeper and a more than capable middle order batter.
  8. Malcolm Marshall (Hampshire, West Indies). Probably the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling, and therefore without any question among the greatest of all time, he was also a capable lower order batter – indeed Hampshire, whom he served loyally as overseas player for a number of years, regarded him as an all rounder. The record for most wickets in an English FC season in the period since the championship programme was drastically pruned to make space for the John Player League in 1969 is held by Marshall with 134.
  9. Fazal Mahmood (Pakistan). A right arm fast medium bowler whose speciality was the leg cutter, he was the first bowler of any type from his country to claim greatness. Pakistan’s first win on English soil, at The Oval in 1954 owed much to him – he claimed 12 wickets in the match.
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan (Lancashire, Sri Lanka). His 800 test wickets is comfortably an all comers record in that format, with only Warne among other bowlers having gone past 700. It seems unlikely the even the apparently ageless James Anderson can keep going long enough to overhaul his tally. His finest match came at The Oval in 1998. Sri Lankan skipper Ranatunga won the toss and put England in. On a flat pitch Murali took 7-155 in that first innings as England scored 445. Sri Lanka replied by claiming a lead of 150, with Jayasuriya hitting a double century, and then on a pitch just beginning to wear Murali ran through England’s second innings with 9-65, leaving Sri Lanka with a mere formality of a target to knock off.
  11. Glenn McGrath (Worcestershire, Australia). The spearhead of the Australian pace attack in the most dominant period their men’s side ever had, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is significant that in the only Ashes series of his career that Australia did not win he was absent injured for both defeats. He signed off an illustrious career at his home ground in Sydney by contributing to a victory that gave Australia only the second 5-0 sweep of a series in Ashes history after Warwick Armstrong’s 1920-21 side.

This side contains a superb top six, including two all rounders of different type, a keeper who could bat and a quartet of superb and well varied bowlers. A bowling attack that has Marshall, McGrath, Fazal Mahmood and Miller to bowl pace and Muralitharan and Macartney to bowl spin is both deep and balanced. Mahmood’s skill with the leg cutter at least partly compensates for the absence of a genuine leg spinner.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

This section is the most difficult of its kind that I have yet had to create. It begins with individual highlights of a great batter and two great all rounders who I think deserve special coverage…

PETER MAY

Peter Barker Howard May was undeniably a very great batter. For someone who was by instinct an attacking stroke maker to have a test average of 46 in test cricket’s lowest, slowest scoring decade, the 1950s, was an extraordinary achievement. I simply felt that Macartney, bringing with him a bowling option has he did was an even better choice for the number three slot, while Mead’s left handedness gave him an edge (Macartney batted right handed).

MULVANTRAI ‘VINOO’ MANKAD

One of the greatest all rounders India ever produced, but I preferred Macartney as the finer batter. If you want to slot him in somewhere I won’t argue – but consider the effect on team balance.

MUSHTAQ MOHAMMAD

Another great all rounder, and one who would have given me a leg spin option. I felt that Fazal Mahmood’s leg cutters more or less covered that element of bowling, and that as great a cricketer as ‘Mushy’ undoubtedly was, Miller was even greater.

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Other than the pair I named a number of openers commanded attention. Hanif Mohammad was probably the greatest of those I overlooked, but Roy Marshall, Colin McDonald and Archie MacLaren were all fine openers in their different ways. Arthur Milton, though not really good enough to be seriously entertained has a place in sporting history as the last to play the England men’s teams in both cricket and football. The elegant Indian left hander Smriti Mandhana was the closest female cricketer to earning consideration, and would have been very close indeed had I been selecting with limited overs cricket in mind.

Other than May to whom I gave a whole paragraph of his own, Billy Murdoch and was also in the mix for the number three slot.

Stan McCabe was another of the unlucky ones, his right handedness costing him the slot I gave to Phil Mead. Daryl Mitchell of New Zealand, the best current cricketer to have a surname beginning with M could not quite command a spot in that powerful middle order.

Mushfiqur Rahim with initials MR is deeply unfortunate – both letters I might sneak him in under have all time great keepers already available. Arthur McIntyre of Surrey and England was a good keeper batter in the 1950s, but hardly a challenger to Marsh.

It is particularly in the bowling department that there is a huge overflow of talent for this letter. Leg spinner Arthur Mailey was a trifle too expensive to command a place, paying 34 a piece for his wickets. Ted McDonald, Devon Malcolm, Danny Morrison, Manny Martindale, Alan Mullally, David Millns, Martin McIntyre and Kyle Mills are among the fast bowlers who might have been considered.

For limited overs matches Eoin Morgan, Mitchell Marsh, Tom Moody, Tymal Mills and Adam Milne would all be in the mix as well.

If he can stay fit for a decent length of time Lancastrian quick Saqib Mahmood may be knocking on the doors in a few years time.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing journey through the letter M is at an end, and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter L

A couple of pieces of news and a continuation of my exploration of the All Time XIs theme with a team whose surnames all begin with L.

Before I get to the main meat of this blog post – another variation on the all time XIs theme I have a couple of pieces of news to share.

HERITAGE OPEN DAY

Yesterday I got the news of my stewarding commitment for Heritage Open Day (Sunday 11th September), and I regard it as a plum posting: the Red Mount Chapel, between 10AM and noon. I have visited this remarkable place a number of times, including during last year’s Heritage Open Day.

PRESS COVERAGE OF WNAG

Your Local Paper have produced an article about the Beer Festival at Stewart House raising funds for the West Norfolk Autism Group.

Now we move on to the main meat of the post, a look at the greatest cricketers to have surnames beginning with the letter L.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Bill Lawry (Australia). A dour left handed opener, his test record speaks for itself.
  2. Marnus Labuschagne (Glamorgan, Australia). One of the best contemporary test match batters in the world. He generally bats at three, but I am moving up one place to open due to the number high quality batters I have to accommodate and the fact that there are not many regular openers of quality who had surnames beginning with L.
  3. Brian Lara (Warwickshire, West Indies). The only person to twice hold the world record individual score in test cricket and one of only two (Bradman being the other) to simultaneously hold the world FC and test record individual scores.
  4. VVS Laxman (India). A monumental 281 vs Australia in 2001 helped set up only the third instance of a team coming back from being made to follow on to win a test match. He was part of a massively strong middle order, playing alongside Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly in their prime.
  5. *Clive Lloyd (Lancashire, West Indies). A shoo-in for the captaincy of this side, as one of the two greatest West Indian skippers ever (Frank Worrell being the other). 110 test matches yielded him 7,515 runs, and he quite often only had to bat once because of the immense strength of his West Indies side.
  6. James Langridge (Sussex, England). A left arm spin bowling all rounder, his international opportunities were limited by him being a contemporary of Hedley Verity who had first dibs on the left arm spinner’s spot. Nonetheless his test averages were the right way round, while in the course of his long first class career he averaged 35 with the bat and 21 with the ball.
  7. +Gil Langley (Australia). One of the many great wicket keepers produced by Australia over the years. He was the first keeper to make as many as nine dismissals in a single test match, a feat later equalled by Rodney Marsh and bettered by Jack Russell.
  8. Ray Lindwall (Australia). One of the greatest of all fast bowlers and a handy enough lower order batter to have scored two test centuries.
  9. George Lohmann (Surrey, England). The cheapest wicket taking average of anyone to have claimed 100+ test wickets – 110 at 10.75 each, also by far the quickest strike rate of any taker of 100+ wickets at that level – one every 34 balls.
  10. Jim Laker (Surrey, Essex, England). For my money the greatest off spinner ever to play the game. 193 wickets in 46 test matches, at 21 a piece. His absolute peak was the 1956 Ashes when he took 46 wickets at 9.60 a piece in the series, including a test AND FC record match analysis of 19-90 at Old Trafford. In the tour match for Surrey v Australia he took 10-88 in the first innings of the match, bowling 46 overs on that occasion. His most shattering single piece of bowling came at Bradford in 1950 when playing for England against The Rest he took 8-2 (one of the singles being a gift to Eric Bedser) as The Rest collapsed to 27 all out.
  11. Dennis Lillee (Northamptonshire, Australia). A former holder of the record for most career test wickets – 355 in 71 test matches. He was at least two great bowlers – a fire and brimstone quick in his younger days, and a superbly accurate fast-medium bowler late in his career.

This team has a strong top five, albeit one of them batting out of position, a great all rounder, a great keeper and four great and well varied bowlers. Two genuine quicks in Lindwall and Lillee, a very crafty medium pacer in Lohmann, Laker’s off spin and Langridge’s left arm spin represents a strong and superbly balanced bowling attack.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I considered two specialist openers in addition to Lawry. John Langridge, brother of James, scored 76 first class hundreds and tallied over 34,000 FC runs but never gained an England cap. The other possibility, as a rebuke to Cricket South Africa for their treatment of her, was Lizelle Lee, hounded into international retirement by her board. However, although I recognize that there is an element of a gamble in playing a regular number three as an opener I would challenge any who insist on selecting one of these openers to say who out of Lara, Laxman and Lloyd you will drop to accommodate Labuschagne in his preferred number three slot.

Another fine middle order batter who had to miss out was the little West Indian battler Gus Logie.

The choice of James Langridge as all rounder meant that two high quality left arm spinners missed out: Tony Lock and Jack Leach. Left arm wrist spinner Jake Lintott may well merit consideration for this XI in a few years time, but he has played very little long form cricket as yet.

The best quick bowlers to miss out were Bill Lockwood and Harold Larwood. Lockwood was one of the pioneers of the slower ball, but as fine a cricketer as he was he could not dislodge Lindwall. Harold Larwood had one great test series (the 1932-3 Ashes when he claimed 33 wickets), but otherwise a fairly ordinary international career, and could hardly therefore be seen as a challenger to the consistent excellence of Lindwall and Lillee. Brett Lee was quick but somewhat erratic, reflected in his slightly high test bowling average. Geoff Lawson had a patchy career and was not worth serious consideration.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our look at the letter L is at an end and it remains only to produce my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter K (Plus Metronomes’ Debut Match)

A dual purpose post – a brief account of the Metronomes inaugural match and continuing my exploration of the all-time XI theme with a look at the letter K.

This is a two part post – I will begin with an account of yesterday’s match between Spen Victoria and The Metronomes to raise funds for the National Autistic Society and awareness of autism, before continuing my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a team of players whose surnames begin with the letter K.

METRONOMES’ DEBUT

The much anticipated ‘match for autism’ between Spen Victoria CC and The Metronomes took place yesterday. Spen Victoria’s scenic home ground was the venue. Most of the players involved were enthusiastic club cricketers, though the Metronomes had one overseas star, Roberta Moretti Avery, captain of Brazil.

Michael Coleman, one half of the couple whose idea this match was and who did so much to bring it to fruition, along with his wife Bex, took the new ball, with initially nine slips posted. 10 runs accrued of the first over. Mark Puttick who had done much to keep the occasion in people’s minds with a 100-day countdown featuring cricket statistics relating to each number opened the bowling at the other end and bowled a respectable first over. However, it was first change bowler Isaac Lockett who took the first wicket (actually he claimed the first three wickets taken by the Metronomes), while Moretti Avery had her first impact on the game with a wicket. There was a playing condition that anyone reaching 30 had to retire, and two Spen players reached that landmark, one of them very quickly indeed. In the end Spen tallied 175-8 from their 20 overs, a fine score.

It was soon apparent that Metronomes would struggle to chase this, they got away to very a slow start. The chief culprit was an opener by the name of Himsworth, who faced 19 dots out of his first 21 balls. Dugnutt, who had claimed a wicket with his spinners scored a spirited 26, while Moretti Avery completed a fine all round effort by becoming the third player in the match to reach 30. Ben Bonney holed out off the last scheduled delivery with Metronomes well adrift, but an extra over was bowled, which enabled WG Rumblepants, creator of several magnificent pictures of well known cricketers, to have a bat, and he managed a single. Metronomes ended up losing by 20 runs. We wait to find out how much money was raised.

PICTURES ONE: NEW STUFF

As a dividing line between the two segments of the post here are some pictures of my most recent purchases:

PART TWO: THE LETTER K

We now move on to the second part of the post, the continuation of my exploration of the theme of all time XIs. We look today at players whose surnames begin with K.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka). Finding openers for this XI was not easy, but the gritty Sri Lankan left hander has a test average of almost 40 and has not always had a lot of support from down the order.
  2. Majid Khan (Glamorgan, Pakistan). Had a similar average to that of his opening partner, but was otherwise very different, being a flamboyant right hander.
  3. Rohan Kanhai (Warwickshire, West Indies). We have the word of CLR James who watched him in action that he was a genius with a bat in his hands, and the evidence of over 6,000 test runs at 47 to provide the hard fact that justifies his place in this side.
  4. Virat Kohli (India). Though he has struggled recently, not scoring a century since November 2019 he remains India’s greatest batter of the post-Tendulkar era.
  5. Jacques Kallis (Middlesex, South Africa). One of the two greatest ‘batters who bowl’ ever to play the game (his record reads similarly to that of Sir Garry Sobers, although he did not master as great a range of skills as the Barbadian).
  6. *Imran Khan (Sussex, Pakistan). With a batting average of 37 and a bowling average of 22 he is firmly established as one of the greatest of all all rounders, and he was also an excellent captain, a role I have given him in this team.
  7. +Syed Kirmani (India). This one will arouse controversy, but as you will see in the honourable mentions I felt it necessary to overlook the most obvious choice of keeper whose name begins with K. I went for Kirmani over his compatriot Budhi Kunderan because he was a much finer keeper than the latter, and this side is strong in batting.
  8. Bart King (USA). He took over 400 wickets at 15 a piece, most of them for Philadelphian touring teams in England, and also averaged 20 with the bat. He was the original ‘king of swing’.
  9. Rashid Khan (Afghanistan). Probably the best leg spinner currently playing the game.
  10. Anil Kumble (India). One of only three bowlers ever to take all ten wickets in a test innings, and the fourth leading taker of test wickets in history with 619 scalps. He was a very different type of bowler from Rashid Khan, relying mainly on top spin and bowling at almost medium pace.
  11. Charles Kortright (Essex). One of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game, and perpetrator of the harshest put down that the legendary WG Grace ever found himself on the end of: “Surely you’re not going already Doctor, there’s still one stump standing.”

This team has a contrasting pair of adequate if not great openers, a power packed 3-5, one of the greatest all rounders ever, a keeper who can bat, and four well varied bowlers, all of whom had some ability to bat – no order with Kumble at 10 can be considered shallow! The bowling with a pace trio of Kortright, King and Imran Khan, plus Kallis as fourth seamer, and two very different types of leg spinner in Kumble and Rashid Khan also possesses both depth and variety.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Before moving on to the standard honourable mentions two explanations are warranted:

EXPLANATION 1: YOUNIS KHAN

Many would have given this man the number three slot that I gave to Rohan Kanhai, but he is more needed for the letter Y, which is much tougher to fill than K, so I have held him back until then.

EXPLANATION 2: ALAN KNOTT

One of the greatest keepers ever to play the game and a fine middle order batter, he missed out because of his decision to go on the first rebel tour to apartheid South Africa. Regular readers of my posts will know that I take a very dim view of these rebel tours, and the one Knott signed up for, having told England that he was no longer willing to tour, was the first of them all, and carries extra opprobrium for that reason.

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Two others I considered for the opening slots were Mohsin Khan of Pakistan, whose test average was similar to those of Karunaratne and Majid Khan, and Michael Klinger, who never managed to earn a baggy green cap. His FC average was on the wrong side of 40, so he missed out.

Probably the two best middle order batters I overlooked were Alvin Kallicharran and Vinod Kambli. JH King of Leicestershire and briefly England was a gritty left handed batter and a left arm medium fast bowler who would have brought extra variety to the bowling attack, but I had no way to accommodate him. Heather Knight has a remarkable test record, and her off spin would have given an extra bowling option, but I could only accommodate her by playing her as an opening batter, a role that as far as I am aware she has never performed.

Jim Kelly who kept for Australia around the turn of the 20th century was a fine performer in that role, but probably not the equal of Kirmani. Dinesh Karthik would have been in the mix for the gauntlets had I been picking a limited overs side, but unless otherwise stated I always have long form cricket in mind, though there might be room for him in the commentary box.

There were two other contenders for Kortright’s slot: JJ Kotze, South Africa’s first genuine express paced bowler and Neville Knox of Surrey and England. Both were of limited effectiveness at test level, and Knox only had two really good FC seasons before knee trouble got the better of him. Michael Kasprowicz was not a regular pick for Australia in his playing days. Aristides Karvelas, Sussex’s Greek international doesn’t yet have the weight of achievement to merit serious consideration, but he may enter the conversation in future. I would have liked the variation in the spin attack to be greater than between two admittedly different leggies, but Murali Kartik (SLA) did little at international level, Tom Kendall (SLA), first holder of the best bowling figures in test cricket (7-53 in the fourth innings of the inaugural test), played only two tests, and a mere nine FC matches in total, Zahir Khan (left arm wrist spin) doesn’t yet have the weight of achievement to force his way in.

PHOTOGRAPHS

The cricketing journey through the letter K is at an end, and it remains only to provide my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter J

Continuing my all time XIs theme with a look at the letter J.

I continue the all-time XIs theme with a team comprising players whose surnames begin with J.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka). Opening batter, left arm spinner and good fielder. His test match highlights include a high score of 340 and an innings of 213 against England at The Oval that combined with Muralidaran’s 16 wickets in the match to give SL their first victory in England. In ODI cricket (T20 only became a thing after his prime cricketing years) he completely redefined the role of an opener, his explosive performances in that role playing a large part in winning his country the 1996 World Cup.
  2. Archie Jackson (Australia). He was a contemporary of Donald Bradman, and many who saw both rising through the ranks rated him the finer prospect. Ill health ruined his career – he died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 23, but an innings of 164 on test debut as a 19 year old provided some hard fact to reinforce the credentials he had established as a youngster.
  3. Dean Jones (Derbyshire, Australia). A combative character, he came of age as a cricket during the first innings of what proved to be only the second tied test match in history (36 years on there have still only been two) at Chennai in 1986. Jones in that innings scored 210, batting almost eight hours, and at the end of it he had to be taken to hospital and put on a saline drip. Later, during the 1986-7 Ashes he played an innings of 184, albeit aided by being given not out when on just 5. He also produced several valuable knocks in the 1989 Ashes, though not coming close to the productivity in that series of Mark Taylor or Steve Waugh.
  4. Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka). Possessor of the highest test innings by a right hander (374 versus South Africa), and without question in the top two of all time Sri Lankan test batters (Sangakkara being the other).
  5. *Stanley Jackson (Yorkshire, England). In 1905 he captained England to a decisive Ashes victory, topping both the batting and bowling averages, winning all five tosses and leading England to wins in both of the matches to reach definite conclusions. He scored five test centuries, all in home matches against the Aussies (he was an amateur, and business commitments always prevented him from touring). In 1902 he and George Hirst joined forces with the ball for Yorkshire to rout the touring Aussies for 23. His polished 49 at The Oval in the last test of that year’s Ashes enabled Jessop to begin England’s revival from 48-5 in pursuit of 263.
  6. +Amy Jones (England). A stellar keeper batter, a worthy successor in the England women’s squad to the legendary Sarah Taylor (and being kept on her toes by the knowledge that Ellie Threlkeld, also a magnificent keeper batter, is waiting in the wings).
  7. Gilbert Jessop (Gloucestershire, England). The most consistently rapid scoring batter the game has ever seen, a useful fast bowler and a brilliant fielder – in his great match at The Oval in 1902 his first significant contribution was not that innings, it was a brilliant bit of fielding that accounted for the key wicket of Victor Trumper, and he has been estimated to have been worth about 30 runs an innings in the field.
  8. Vallance Jupp (Sussex, Northamptonshire, England). An off spinning all rounder, who after his move north and qualification by residence for his new county achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in FC matches eight times in succession.
  9. Mitchell Johnson (Australia). A mercurial left arm fast bowler who at his best was as good any such to have played to the game – in the 2013-14 Ashes he was nigh on unplayable. It is true that he was a cricketing version of the girl in the nursery rhyme – when he was good he was very good, when he was bad (as in the 2010-11 Ashes) he was horrid, but I choose to honour the Dr Jekyll side of his bowling rather than use the Mr Hyde element as an excuse to drop him. He was also a useful lower order batter, with a test century and a 99 in that department.
  10. Simon Jones (Glamorgan, Hampshire, England). Plagued by injuries, but when fit he produced some outstanding performances – he was crucial to England’s triumph in the 2005 Ashes, reverse swinging the ball at high pace and causing every Aussie batter problems.
  11. Bill Johnston (Australia). Australia’s leading wicket taker in three series immediately post-war. He bowled left arm fast medium and left arm orthodox spin – it was not unknown for him to go from spinning the old ball to swinging the new one.

This side possesses good batting depth (a superb top four, a batting all rounder, a keeper batter, two all rounders and a bowler who can bat, with only S Jones and Johnston describable as bunnies), and a fine variety of bowling options – Johnson, S Jones, Johnston, Jessop and Jackson providing five seam options all different from one another, while Jupp, Jayasuriya and Johnston in his slower style provide spin options.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Before going into the rest of this section there is one player I am going to give a subsection to himself…

RAVINDRASINH JADEJA (INDIA)

Averaging 35 with the bat and 24 with the ball in test cricket gives him a case to be regarded as the best contemporary all rounder of any kind in the game . The problem is that his bowling stock in trade, left arm orthodox spin overlaps with Jayasuriya and Johnston in his slower style. This is why I preferred Jupp’s off spin and the explosiveness of Jessop in the two slots he might have occupied – I was concerned with the balance of the attack, wanting my skipper to be able to change the bowling as well the bowler.

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Steve James of Glamorgan and briefly England was a solid county opener, but I suspect that not even the staunchest of his county’s fans would expect him to be picked for this XI. Andrew Jones of New Zealand, a gritty and determinded number three for that country, might have had the slot I gave to Dean Jones, but while acknowledging his ability I felt that Dean, also a gritty competitor, had a sufficiently superior record to his trans-Tasman namesake to warrant getting the slot. Three fast bowlers who were close to being picked were in reverse chronological order Les Jackson of Derbyshire who took his FC scalps at 17 each but was only rewarded with two England caps, Ernie Jones of Australia, a seriously quick bowler in the 1890s, but also the first ever to be called for throwing in a test match, and John Jackson, a terror in the era immediately before WG Grace came to prominence. Prabath Jayasuriya has made a sensational start to his test career, but as a specialist left arm spinner it would hard for him to qualify for this XI even he maintains that start. Worcestershire leg spinner Roley Jenkins entered my thoughts, but I felt Jupp deserved the second spinner’s role. Digby Jephson, who was one of the last front line under arm bowlers at professional level and a good middle order batter is another I regret not being able to accommodate. Aqib Javed, a Pakistan fast bowler of the 1990s did not quite establish a good enough record to be a serious challenger. Among keepers only Eifion Jones, who was much less of a batter, comes close to namesake Amy behind the stumps – Geraint Jones was not up to standard in either department. Arthur Jepson does not qualify as a player but he can be one of the umpires, a role in which he excelled.

I end this section with two players who are very likely to be shoo-ins for this XI in 10 years time or thereabouts. Kyle Jamieson of New Zealand has made a magnificent start to his test career, and may well knock Mitchell Johnson out of the XI if he maintains his current progress. Will Jacks of Surrey is a hugely promising young batter and part time off spinner. In standard cricket formulation of initials and surname he is WG Jacks, and his recent 150 against Essex, most of it scored with tailenders for company, and giving his side an ultimately match settling first innings lead was worthy of the original WG.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing adventure through the letter J is complete and all that remains is my usual sign off…