Welcome to the latest post in my All Time XIs series. Today we are dealing with Essex.
ALL TIME ESSEX XI
- Graham Gooch – A huge run scorer over a very long period. In 1985 he made 196 at The Oval to ensure that England would regain The Ashes. In 1986 he made centuries against both India and New Zealand. In 1988 he scored 459 runs in a series against the West Indies that they won by four matches to nil (the series opener was drawn due to the weather), in 1990 he scored over 1,000 test runs in the home summer, the first (and to date) only time that such has ever been achieved, including 752 runs in a three match series v India (333 and 123 in the opener at Lords, 121 and 2 in the second and 88 and 85 in the third). In 1991 at Headingley he scored 154 not out against the West Indies in a team total of 252.
- Alastair Cook – England’s all time leading test run scorer by some margin, the left handed opener’s greatest series was against the Aussies in their own backyard, in 2010-11 when he helped England to a 3-1 series triumph (a scoreline that frankly flattered the Aussies) with 766 runs at 127.66. After digging England out of some trouble at Brisbane with 235 not out he scored 148 in the win at Adelaide, contributed a half century at Melbourne after Australia had been rolled for 98 in their first innings and finally at Sydney responding to a modest Aussie total he batted for over eight hours scoring 189 to set England up for another innings victory, a unique third in an Ashes series.
- Percy Perrin – a big run scorer at a time when Essex as a whole were not the strongest of sides. He hit 68 fours in making 343 not out, a boundary count rivalled only Brian Lara who hit 62 fours and 10 sixes in his 501 not out, against Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. Unfortunately for Perrin, this innings was ultimately unavailing as Derbyshire ended up winning by nine wickets (Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1).
- *Keith Fletcher – the man who captained Essex to their first county championship in 1979, and until Gooch overhauled him Essex’s leading first class run scorer.
- Nasser Hussain – a big run scorer through the 1990s, also the captain who initiated England’s climb back from bottom of the world test rankings, where they found themselves in 1999 after losing a home series against New Zealand in the immediate aftermath of a humiliating exit from a home world cup (in those days there was less separation between red and white ball cricket). Like many of his era he was mishandled at test level in the early stages of his career, which had an adverse effect on his overall career figures.
- Stan Nichols – an attacking left hand bat and right-arm fast bowler (does that remind you of any all-rounders of more recent vintage? hint – think Durham in county terms) whose first class career brought him over 17,000 runs and 1,800 wickets.
- +James Foster – a useful middle order batter and one of the finest wicket keepers ever to play the game.
- Peter Smith – a legspinner and a lower order batter who once scored 163 coming at no 11 (he and Frank Vigar, a rather more sedate type of player put on 218 for the tenth wicket, turning 199-9 into 417 all out).
- Simon Harmer – a South African born off spinner who played five test matches for his native land before deciding that English cricket offered brighter prospects he has been a key part of Essex’s recent successes, not just with his wickets, but also with some useful lower order runs at vital times.
- Charles Kortright – one of those whose name gets mentioned in discussions about just who was the quickest bowler ever. He produced what today would be described as an ‘epic burn’ when he cleaned up W G Grace, a notoriously reluctant leaver of the crease, with a snorter of a ball, saw that worthy look at the wreckage and head, face like thunder, towards the pavilion and chimed in with “You’re not going already are you Doctor? There’ s still one stump standing”.
- Walter Mead – a crafty medium pacer who still holds the record match figures for an Essex bowler – 17 wickets in a tour match against The Australians in 1893.
The decision that was most difficult in selecting this XI was who to have at no 6. As well as Nichols, Johnny Douglas and Trevor Bailey, both England regulars in their day had very obvious claims, but I went for Nichols both because of his left handed batting and his more aggressive approach in that department. Bowling wise this team has the pace of Kortright and Nichols, medium pace from Mead, off spin from Harmer, leg spin from Smith, with Gooch as a sixth option, while there are five top of the range batters, an all-rounder, a keeper-batter plus the possibility of runs from Smith, Harmer and Kortright.