Today’s variation on the ‘all time XI‘ theme looks at the game’s shortest regular format, T20 (one innings each of 20 overs per side), and I pit a team who were in their prime before top level limited overs cricket was played against a team of T20 experts.
T20 PLAYING CONDITIONS
At least five bowlers must be used, and no bowler may bowl more than four overs in a T20 innings. For the first six overs no more than two fielders may be stationed more than 30 metres from the bat, and thereafter no more than five. This format has been very successful since its top level introduction in 2003, with T20 tournaments flourishing all round the world. Having briefly set the scene it is time to meet our teams starting with…
THE PRET20 FRANCHISE XI
- Garry Sobers – left handed bat, every kind of left arm bowling known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete cricketer ever to play the game, he was an absolute must for this side.
- Gilbert Jessop – right handed bat, right arm fast bowler and brilliant fielder. Even if his batting was his only recommendation the most consistently fast scorer the game has ever known would have been a ‘shoo-in’. Add his intelligent bowling and fielding that was estimated as being worth 30 an innings to his team and, from a century before the format was used at top level you have the blueprint for the perfect T20 exponent.
- *WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of various styles, fine close catcher. My chosen captain.
- Frank Woolley – left handed bat, left arm orthodox spin bowler, brilliant close catcher.
- Denis Compton – right handed bat, left arm wrist spinner, fine fielder.
- +Leslie Ames – right handed bat, wicket keeper. He won the Lawrence trophy for the fastest hundred of the season twice in the first three years of its existence. He was one of the Kent batters who combined to chase down 219 in two hours, with no fielding restrictions in place.
- Bill Lockwood – right handed bat, right arm fast bowler. He was one of the pioneers of the ‘slower ball’, a type of delivery that is especially useful in T20, and it is for that reason that I have included him here.
- Jim Laker – off spinner and right handed lower order bat.
- Alfred Shaw – right arm medium/ slow bowler, lower order bat. The Nottinghamshire man bowled more overs in first class cricket than he conceded runs. He paid just 12 a piece for his first class wickets. He once said that “length and variation of pace are the secrets of successful bowling”, and though he would probably get hit occasionally I think his method would work beautifully in T20.
- Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner, useful lower order batter. His match against Nottinghamshire in 1932 provides a vignette of his bowling skills – in the first Notts innings on a pitch not assisting him he operated as a stock bowler taking 2-64 in 41 overs. In their second innings, after an overnight thunderstorm had gingered up the pitch he took 10-10 in 19.4 overs, with 16 maidens, still the cheapest ‘all ten’ in first class history. He was noted for being especially skilled at varying his pace to suit the conditions, and even in T20 it is hard to imagine anyone ‘collaring’ him.
- David Harris – right arm fast bowler. Hambledon’s finest, who once sent a spell of 170 deliveries from which one solitary single was garnered by the opposition. I have argued elsewhere (see the Eccentrics post in this series) that proper styles of underarm bowling such as his, and the lobs of Simpson-Hayward mentioned in that post, as opposed to Trevor Chappell style grubbers should be legal. The grubber can be covered under today’s legislation with the single addition that a ball rolled along the deck is considered to have bounced an infinite number of times and will therefore be called no-ball.
This XI is strong in batting, everyone other than Ames would be capable of contributing with the ball, and the bowling is staggeringly rich in variety as well. Their designated fielding substitute can be Sydney Copley, who while on the Notts groundstaff took an astonishing catch as sub in the 1930 test match there to dismiss Stan McCabe (who unlike another Aussie top order batter dismissed by a sub in more recent times did not give vent to a string of obscenities on his way back to the pavilion), breaking a threatening partnership. Now we we turn to…
T20 ERA FRANCHISE XI
- Chris Gayle – left handed opening bat, occasional off spinner. The ‘Universe Boss’ has to open the innings for this team, his record in this format being simply astonishing. As a very tall left handed bat he forms a perfect contrast to the person I have chosen to open with him…
- Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening bat of diminutive stature but possessed of a full range of strokes, good footwork and incredible timing. Her many highlights include a 47 ball hundred against South Africa. Additionally, I consider that the completeness of the contrast between her and Gayle would pose a huge challenge to opposition bowlers. Yesterday’s post featured a video clip showing her in action – please go back and watch it.
- *Virat Kohli – right handed batter. The best all format batter currently in world cricket – Steve Smith is better at test cricket, and Chris Gayle is better at T20.
- Glenn Maxwell – right handed batter, off spinner. A man with an incredible record in limited overs cricket, and had I failed to select him I probably wouldn’t have needed radio equipment to hear the howls of protest from Australia.
- Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The x-factor all rounder.
- +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper. His career started before the establishment of top level T20, but he did play the format before he finished.
- Rashid Khan – right arm leg spinner, lower order batter. The Afghan has a phenomenal record in limited overs cricket, and has had some successes in his few forays into long form cricket as well. Save for being brutalized by Eoin Morgan in the 2019 world cup he has had few bad days.
- R Ashwin – off spinner, lower order bat. An excellent limited overs record. Also, the possibility for what would be the cricket incident to end all cricket incidents were he to (as he has done to others) ‘Mankad’ WG Grace!
- Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. He went in a few months from people questioning whether England should pick him to being an essential part of a world cup winning outfit.
- Chris Jordan – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order bat, brilliant fielder. One of the most effective bowlers at mixing the pace up and sowing confusion that way, his fielding is so good as to practically be worth picking him even if you don’t plan to use his bowling.
- Lasith Malinga – right arm fast bowler. The Sri Lankan slinger would be especially dangerous in the ‘death overs’.
This team has depth in batting, with only Malinga absolutely ruled out of making a significant contribution in that department, and a splendid range of bowling options to choose from. As a designated fielding sub I give them (who else?) the one and only Gary Pratt. I apologize for the player names not being formatted as links to their cricinfo profiles – that site is currently malfunctioning – hope normal service will soon be resumed.
THE CONTEST AND AN EXPLANATION
This would be a heck of a contest, with I think the PreT20 team just about favourites, but any of these 22 players could be the match winner.
Until this post my all-time XIs have all been picked with long form cricket in mind. The reason I changed that today was because of the following tweet from the folks at cricinfo:
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) April 28, 2020
They were asking specifically about T20 and their options were Gayle or Kohli, and I voted for Gayle, but as I explained, it is actually a very poor comparison, since Gayle’s bowling gives him a second string that wins it for him at T20 (and at that format, and only that format, he is of more value even purely as a batter than Kohli). I decided to use this blog post to address their question at greater length than can be managed in a tweet, meaning that post I was mentally planning for today will feature tomorrow instead (yes, when sufficiently provoked even an autistic person can make rapid changes to their plans). Note that while I have named Gayle as one half of the ultimate example of a contrasting opening pair I have also named Kohli as no 3 and skipper.
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Just a few of links before signing off. First, the pinchhitter has again mentioned me in today’s offering, which I urge you to read. Second, to bring to the cricket part of this post to a close, a quiz in The Guardian.
Finally, a mathematical teaser adapted from a problem I solved on brilliant.org this morning (I considered their version waaay too easy, since they had made it multiple choice):
Finally, after a good sized chunk of cricket and a measure of mathematics it is time for my regular sign off: