Welcome to the latest post in my “100 Cricketers” series. The introduction to the series can be found here, and the most recent post can be found here. Before I get into the main meat of this post, as it is cricket themed I will briefly mention…
AFGHANISTAN V IRELAND
The inaugural test match between these two newly elevated nations is taking place in Delhi at the moment. After one day’s play Afghanistan are 90-2 in reply to Ireland’s 172 all out. At one stage it looked like being a lot worse for Ireland – they were 69-8 at one point and then 85-9 before George Dockrell and Tim Murtagh performed a rescue act, the latter top scoring with 54 not out from number 11. Whatever happens over the next four days one of these sides will make the best start to their test match involvement since 1877 when the first two test sides, England and Australia each one won match – each have only played once before, so the winner will record a success in their second outing. Now onto business, with the man at no 6 in my third XI…
Normally I would have an all-rounder at no 6, but Steve Waugh can hardly be so described, even though when he first got the call-up in the mid 1980s he was seen as a bowling all-rounder. He seemed to positively relish difficult situations, such as the occasion at Manchester when 21 players failed to achieve anything of significance with the bat due to a difficult pitch and perpetually overcast conditions, while he chiselled out a century in each innings to win the game for his side.
He really arrived as a test match player in the 1989 series in England when he made big hundreds in the first match at Headingley and the second at Lord’s, both times being supported by lower order batters who were inspired to play above their usual station (Merv Hughes with 71 at Headingley, Geoff Lawson with 74 at Lord’s), and scored over 350 runs before being dismissed for the first time in the series.
Time again through the 1990s and in to the early 2000s Australia would look be struggling and then Steve Waugh would come to the crease, and right when it was most needed would make sure he was still there at close of play, with Australia firmly back in control. Teams often tested him with bouncers because he rarely played the hook and often looked less than comfortable against short stuff, but I cannot recall him ever losing his wicket to it.
He was the third in the sequence of long-serving Aussie captains that started with Allan Border and ended with Ricky Ponting. Earlier in this series when I covered Border I rated him the best captain of the four, based on the fact that he turned the fortunes of Australian cricket around when they had been in the doldrums. Steve Waugh, who made a team of champions even stronger, so that they became as near as any team in history to be absolutely unstoppable is for me number two in that ranking, with Mark Taylor a respectful distance back in third and Ponting a poor fourth.
Teams were just starting to take seriously the need for wicketkeepers to have potential as runmakers when Dujon came on the scene. Alan Knott’s England career was just coming to a finish, and many matches therein had been influences by his ability to contribute runs from the lower middle order, and England were frantically looking for a replacement (it would take the emergence of Matt Prior some quarter of a century later before they found someone who was good enough in both departments, since when there have also been Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes). Other countries also started requiring regular runs from their wicketkeepers.
Dujon scored four test centuries, averaged over 30 when that was unusual for a wicketkeeper (and generally made his runs when they were badly needed) and was an excellent keeper standing back to the fast bowlers. There is no way of knowing how we would have handled keeping to top class spinners, as the only person picked as a front-line spinner by the West Indies during his time as keeper was Roger Harper (who was also a fine middle-order batter and one of the greatest fielders the game had ever seen), but the fact that I have named in this XI rather than holding him back for the XI featuring a quartet of West Indies quicks tells you what I think – he would have been as good keeping to spinners as he was keeping to quicks.
NEXT IN THIS SERIES
We cover the bowlers from this Third XI and introduce the Fourth XI in batting order.
Here are some photographs to finish…