Another day brings another variation on the ‘All Time XIs‘ theme. Today’s is based on a well known piece of cricket folklore – the belief that left handers are naturally more elegant than their right handed colleagues. Like all good folklore it has a basis in fact, but it is definitely an overstatement of the case. Thus today I challenge it by providing an XI of strictly functional left handers and to oppose it an XI of notably elegant right handers. Note that some the bowlers in the left handers XI batted with their right hands – it is their bowling for which they are picked, and mutatis mutandis for the right handed batter who bowled with his left. First to parade their skills are…
THE FUNCTIONAL LEFT HANDERS XI
- Gary Kirsten – the South African, half brother of Derbyshire’s Peter Kirsten, had seemingly limitless patience and concentration but a decidedly limited range of strokes.
- Sir Alastair Cook – the Essex and England man, his country’s all time leading scorer of test runs, was another who cultivated a limited range of strokes but used those he did possess to great effect.
- Graeme Smith – the former South African was mighty effective, but an aesthetic disaster (among top order batters named Smith it is an interesting question as to whether he or current Aussie right hander Steve represents the greatest aesthetic outrage).
- Shivnarine Chanderpaul – the Guyanese stayer had the oddes batting stance I have ever seen, so open that he was almost at 45 degrees to the bowler as opposed to the recommended side-on position (Austin Matthews who played for Glamorgan many decades ago as a bowler of medium pace and lower middle order batter wrote a coaching manual after his retirement in which he stated “cricket is a sideways game”), and while the method worked for him it was very much ‘one not to watch’.
- *Allan Border – the nuggety NSW, Queensland and Australia middle order man had in the words of Frances Edmonds “not so much a style as a modus operandi”. This quote appears in “Cricket XXXX cricket” her humorous book about the 1986-7 Ashes (she also wrote “Another Bloody Tour”, which somehow managed to be amusing about England’s unqualified disastrous Caribbean excursion of 1985-6. For about the first decade of his long career he pretty much was, in batting terms, Australia’s resistance.
- Jimmy Adams – his obdurate approach saw him dubbed ‘Jimmy Padams’.
- +Jack Russell – wicket keeper and as a batter just about the ultimate in lower middle order irritants, sometimes very usefully for his country.
- Richard Illingworth – Worcestershire and England slow left armer (emphatically NOT a spinner – if he ever turned one I never saw it). His economical, reliable but unthreatening methods were often preferred by England selectors of the time to the higher risk Phil Tufnell.
- Ryan Sidebottom – the Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and England fast medium bowler had long run up which his pace never quite seemed to justify.
- Doug Bollinger – the NSW and Australia fast medium bowler was another whose run up appeared to promise more pace than he actually proved capable of delivering. I saw him bowl live at Adelaide v the West Indies in 2009, and, the first innings scalp of Gayle not withstanding he looked unimpressive, while his ‘efforts’ at the same ground in the 2010 Ashes match there were of a very low order.
- Paul Adams – the left arm wrist spinner’s action was once memorably likened to a frog in a blender. South Africa have not in recent times been overly understanding or supportive of spinners, and Adams probably should have played more test cricket than he actually did.
This line up has a solid top six, though no genuine all rounder, a splendid keeper who could do useful work with the bat and four bowlers of differing left handed types. They would take some digging out and might put up some decent totals because of that, but they would struggle to capture 20 wickets unless Paul Adams found some assistance in the surface. Now we meet their opponents…
THE ELEGANT RIGHT HANDERS
- Jack Robertson – the Middlesex man was a highly regarded stylist, and although he only got picked for 11 test matches an average of 46 at that level suggests that he had steel to go with that style.
- Reggie Spooner – opener for Lancashire and occasionally England. Noted for grace and poise at the crease. Neville Cardus used to watch Lancashire whenever he could in his schooldays, and later, established through his decades of work for the Manchester Guardian as one of cricket’s finest writers he waxed lyrical about Spooner and his part of what Cardus claimed as a uniquely distinctive top three – MacLaren, Spooner, JT Tyldesley. (the latter an ancestor of Michael Vaughan – can elegant batting be inherited?!). Spooner was the first ever to score 200 in a ‘Roses’ match, and did so in under four hours at the crease – they were not always dour affairs.
- *Sir Frank Worrell – the first black captain of the West Indies (yes, as with England and so-called ‘amateur’ skippers the Windies had their own captaincy fetish, in their case a belief that blacks had to be led by someone white skinned), and generally reckoned the most stylish of the ‘Three W’s” who dominated Caribbean batting in the 1950s and early 1960s.
- Tom Graveney – another whose grace and elegance at the crease had folk waxing lyrical – and he backed it up with over 47,000 first class runs.
- Kenneth Lotherington Hutchings – noted as one of the most attractive batters in a very successful Kent unit (four championships in seven years) that was also noted for playing particularly dazzling cricket. Such was the nature of his driving that for him and him alone George Hirst would retreat a few yards from his usual mid off position.
- Keith Miller – whether batting, bowling fast (or his occasional off spin with which he once took a test match seven-for on a rain affected Gabba pitch) or fielding he never failed to cut a dash. Once when playing in a ‘picnic match’ at East Molesey (the opposite bank of the Thames to Hampton Court Palace) he took on a challenge to land a ball on Tagg’s Island, a carry of 140 yards (just over 125 metres), and was only just short of making it.
- +Jeff Dujon – wicket keeper who kept with panther like grace to the quick bowlers (given the nature of Caribbean bowling units is his day it is impossible to comment on his keeping to class spinners) and batted attractively in the middle order, scoring four test centuries and averaging 30 at that level.
- Ray Lindwall – fast bowler, attacking lower order bat. His run up and bowling action are routinely described as being ‘poetry in motion’, and in addition to the pace he possessed he could swing the ball both ways seemingly at will.
- Michael Holding – fast bowler, referred to as ‘Whispering Death’ on account of the silence of his approach to the bowling crease. His opening over to Boycott at Bridgetown in 1981 has become a classic cricketing scare story – the Yorkshireman was beaten by four of the six deliveries, got bat on one and was comprehensively bowled by the sixth. Five years earlier, on a pitch at The Oval from which no one else could even raise a squeak he had recorded match figures of 14-149, the best ever test match figures by a West Indian.
- Sydney Barnes – the greatest bowler of them all. Even at Warwickshire in 1894 where he achieved little his bowling action was noted for its beauty, and CLR James, watching a 59 year old Barnes in action in the Lancashire League, noted that his arm remained classically high and straight. Mr James, by the way is the author of that sine qua non of cricket books “Beyond a Boundary’, which takes as its theme the question “what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?”, and my collection also features a book of his writings titled “Cricket”, and he contributed a chapter about Worrell to “Cricket: The Great Captains”, as well as being the author of “Black Jacobins”, a history of the Toussaint l’Ouverture rebellion in what is now Haiti.
- David Harris – cricket’s first great bowler (see Phil Edmonds “100 Greatest Bowlers” and John Nyren’s “Cricketers of My Time”) and even if you refuse to permit under arm (he played in the late 18th century when all bowling was under arm) I counter by saying that I reckon he could have mastered over arm had it been legal in his day. See also my Eccentric XI post for my opinion on real under arm, as opposed to Trevor Chappell style grubbers (although Harris was in part responsible for a change in cricket’s approach from relying on balls either rolling or at least shooting through to looking to cause problems by generating extra bounce, which he was an expert at – the very early bats looked more like hockey sticks than today’s cricket bats precisely because they were intended to counter balls at ground level, and it was Harris who was more responsible than any other for the shape of bats changing towards what we now recognize). Late in his career Harris suffered dreadfully from gout, but such was the value of his bowling that his team would bring an armchair on to the field, and when not actually engaged in bowling he would have a sit down. The Hambledon ace, who I felt I could not mention in connection with Hampshire, for all that he lived there, gets his moment in the sun this time round.
This team as a high quality to five, a great all rounder at six, an excellent wicket keeper at seven and four varied bowlers (Barnes, for all his official fast medium designation, can be classed as a spinner, while Harris if his actual bowling style is permitted offers a variation of a different sort, Miller as mentioned had off spin as a variation, and Worrell was a recognized bowler of left arm fast medium who also occasionally turned his hand to left arm spin.
I suspect that what I shall provisionally call the Strauss/ Trumper trophy, honouring a functional left hander and a stylish right hander, would go to the Elegant Right Handers, because while the functional left handers would take a lot of dislodging I have no doubts that the right handers could take 20 wickets, whereas the left handers are lacking in that department. The big question for Worrell as captain of the right handers, given that Barnes would not tolerate not being given the new ball is which of Holding or Lindwall does not get it – my reckoning is probably that Lindwall shares the new ball with Barnes and Holding comes on first change when Lindwall needs a rest.
A QUESTION ANSWERED
Yesterday I included a teaser from brilliant.org:
The four possible answers were 94, 96, 98 or 100.
My own method of solving this, a mixture of cheat and punt, was to start by ruling out 100, as that is a square number, and it would therefore be out of keeping with brilliant for it to be the right answer. I then looked at the the areas given and noted that they added up to 56 – could I see a connection between 56 and one of the other answers? Yes, a very appealing one came instantly to mind – both have seven as a factor. A quick mental calculation confirmed that the ratio of 98 to 56 was 1.75, and that was enough for me to take a punt (I had already ensured that my problem solving streak had gone into another day – and it is now equal in days to Bobby Abel’s indvidual Surrey record innings in runs), and I was right.
Here is a more authentic solution courtesy of David Vreken:
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
As we move towards the conclusion of today’s post I have a few links to share.
- The pinchhitter have given me an extended mention in today’s offering, and apparently a copy of one of the ‘Chapelli’ books I mentioned in yesterday’s post is en route to pinchhitter HQ. If you have found this blog by way of pinchhitter please comment, and likewise, if anyone has found pinchhittter by way of me why not let them know.
- A very important petition on change.org, calling for the surcharge that penalises NHS and Care workers from abroad to be scrapped – as someone who owes a huge debt of gratitude to workers in both categories I urge you to sign and share.
- A science piece from Culture’s Ways about Sagittarius A*, believed to be the location of a supermassive black hole – the picture below is formatted as a link:
And now it is time to sign off with my usual photographic flourish…