Welcome to the latest variation on the ‘all time’ XI cricket theme. The current still slightly iffy state of my health precludes a serious attempt at doing a full blog post in one go, so I am aiming at publishing this one day after starting it, for a reason that I will make clear later in the post.
This post has a central aim celebrating a landmark which will be revealed later, and to that end I have created two XIs, one of whom have associations with the number nine and one of whom have associations with parties. As always class is by no means discounted even in these circumstances. The day on which I started work on this post, May 9th, was the day in 1895 on which WG Grace launched the first successful assault on 1,000 first class runs in the month of May, but I deemed that connection a tad too tenuous to include him.
THE NINERS XI
- David Lloyd – left handed opening batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner. He played nine test matches, in one of which he scored 214 not out, his only 50 plus score at that level (the record holder in this curious department is Karun Nair of India whose 303 not v England last time England toured there accounts for over four fifths of his tally of test runs).
- Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter, excellent outfielder. Nine of his 149 first class hundreds were amassed in Roses matches – at one stage big scores in such fixtures were so common with Sutcliffe that Neville Cardus of the Manchester Guardian took ro describing him as “keeping his appointment with a century”. .
- *Frank Worrell – right handed batter, left arm medium fast, occasional left arm orthodox spin. He scored nine test centuries (his conversion rate from 50s to hundreds was not especially good) in the course of a distinguished career that saw him become the West Indies first ever black captain.
- Clem Hill – left handed batter, brilliant fielder. In the 1901-2 Ashes series Hill had a unique series of test innings, 99, 98 and 97 in succession (he did amass eight centuries in his test career, and was at one point until overhauled by Hobbs the leading career run scorer at that level).
- Jess Jonassen – left handed part, left arm orthodox spinner. Scored 99 in a recent test match, which is her highest international score to date.
- Arthur Chipperfield – right handed bat, leg spinner. He scored 99 on test debut. Unlike Jonassen who has yet to do so he did eventually score a test hundred.
- Richard Hadlee – right arm fast bowler, left handed attacking middle order bat. He has the best innings figures ever recorded by a fast bowler at test level, 9-52 vs Australia in the 1984-5 series.
- +Gil Langley – wicket keeper, right handed bat. He was the first keeper ever to make nine dismissals in a single test match – he tallied 98 overall in 26 test matches (83 catches and 15 stumpings).
- George Lohmann – right arm medium pacer, attacking right handed lower order bat. He has the cheapest nine-for in test history, 9-28 versus South Africa (in another match in that same series he took 8-7 as SA were rolled for 30, the joint second lowest innings total in test history, shared by the 1924 South Africans who were dismissed by Tate and Arthur Gilligan for that same score). He has the lowest average of any taker of 100 or more test wickets, 10.75, the best strike rate, a wicket every 34 balls and was joint quickest to 100 wickets in 17 matches). He once played an innings of 62 not out in a test match that only included one single!
- Arthur Mailey – leg spinner. He took 99 test wickets in all, including the first ever nine wicket innings haul by an Aussie, 9-121 in the 1920-1 Ashes series won 5-0 by Australia (Mailey took 36 wickets in that series, a record at the time). He is one place above his regular batting slot, but I deemed a more worthy candidate for promotion than…
- Devon Malcolm – right arm fast bowler and genuine no11. He has the best test innings figures ever recorded by an England fast bowler, 9-57 vs South Africa at The Oval in 1994.
This team contains a solid looking opening pair, a good 3 and 4, all rounders at 5,6 and 7, a great wicket keeper who was no mug with the bat, and three quality specialist bowlers. The bowling, with a front four of Hadlee, Malcolm, Lohmann and Mailey backed up by Jonassen, Chipperfield and if needed Frank Worrell looks even more impressive than the batting (sorry, Bumble, you are definitely eighth choice bowler). Even with my decidedly unusual selection criteria it is unquestionably a strong and balanced unit that should give a good account of itself.
THE PARTY XI
- Jack Lyons – right handed attack minded opening batter. The Aussie had some remarkable high speed knocks to his credit, often opening the batting with Harry Trott. He is here courtesy of the ice cream makers Lyons.
- Tim Robinson – right handed opening batter. The Nottinghamshire opener made an extraordinary start to his test career against India away and then Australia at home, before being found out in the West Indies in 1986, an experience from which Robinson the batter never fully recovered. His international involvement ended for good in 1989 when he signed up for what turned about the last of the rebel tours of South Africa. He is in this team courtesy of Robinson’s Barley Water.
- Alf Dipper – right handed batter. A regular opener for Gloucestershire I have moved him one place down here.
- Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He is here not just for his likely contribution with the willow, but also because his nickname, ‘KP’, is the name of manufacturer of snack foods.
- Andrew Symonds – right han ded batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. He is here courtesy of Symonds Scrumpy Jack, a brand of cider that is not actually a genuine scrumpy – it is fizzy, but a less sweet than most such, as well as for his big hitting batting and fine fielding.
- Ellyse Perry – right handed bat, right arm fast medium, brilliant fielder. The most complete all rounder currently playing the game in my book. In addition to her immense cricketing merit, perry is of course a variant of cider made from pears rather than apples.
- *FHB Champain – right handed batter, right arm slow bowler. Full name Francis Henry Bateman Champain, sometimes shown as hyphenated but I have seen scorecards from the period with it not hyphenated. His first class career began in 1895 and ended in 1914, and he amassed 4677 runs at 24.61 with five hundreds and took 17 wickets at 24.58, the latter figure suggesting that his bowling was underused. I have named as captain as none of this team are full time captains, and I think that his performances are least likely to be adversely affected by the captaincy.
- Will Beer – leg spinner, capable lower order batter. Although left arm spinner Michael Beer has a test cap and Will does not I remember how impotent Beer was in that match – other than Collingwood who holed out to ‘raging against the dying of the light’ type smear down the ground essayed when two metres from the pitch of the ball he got no other wickets, and I never sympathise with bowlers of no balls, especially slow ones, so for me his ‘denied wicket’ of Alastair Cook is an irrelevance, mentioned only to dismiss it. Will Beer, our chosen Beer, has played for Sussex for a number of years, and during the 2019 championship season they used him up the order when they were lacking options in that area.
- Robert Crisp – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The only bowler to have twice captured four wickets in four balls in first class matches (the second instance occurring in an innings haul of 9-64). He was a very adventurous type, and a multiply decorated war hero as well as a top level cricketer.
- +’Punch’ Phillipson – wicket keeper, right handed bat. Played for Middlesex and England the 1890s. Played the last four matches of the 1894-5 Ashes after Leslie Gay had a disaster in the first at Sydney.
- Doug Bollinger – left arm fast medium, genuine no11. Had it arisen it would have been rather harder to decide who got the promotion out of him and Malcolm than it was in the actual case of Malcolm and Mailey. He had his moments at test level before his unqualified disastrous performance at Adelaide in 2010 when he was lacking in pace or threat and quite blatantly obviously not fully fit.
This team has a fine top five, a magnificent all rounder at six, Champain at seven is admittedly something of a punt, but the the keeper and the three guys selected as bowlers all have fine records. The big decision is whether your trust ‘Doug the rug’ with the new ball or open up with Crisp and Perry (my inclination would be the latter).
I would say that the ‘Niners’ are not quite as strong in batting as the ‘Party Themed’ XI but their bowling is unquestionably stronger. The ‘Party Themed’ XI would probably need Perry to ‘come to the party’ in a big way to have a serious chance, but of course that cannot be ruled out. My prediction, borne out by the evidence of cricket’s long history that sides with better bowling and somewhat less good batting are more likely to win (see Yorkshire in the 1900s and the 1930s and Surrey in the 1950s as positive examples and the bowler-light but batter-heavy and never close to winning Sussex of the 1900s as a negative example of this), is that ‘The Niners’ would win a five match series, with the most likely margins for such being in my book 3-2, 3-1 with one draw, 2-1 with two draws and 4-1 in that order.
What was this little exercise all about (apart from obviously some fun)? Well today, my envisaged day for publishing this post is a landmark in aspi.blog’s history. It is my ninth ‘blogiversary’ (hence the team with the associations with the number nine). Click here to view the first post that ever appeared on this site way back in 2011. Since then this blog has truly gone global, which as an internationalist I am delighted by, with a follower count just topping the thousand, and visitors from the majority of our planet’s 192 recognized countries, as the map below shows – only the completely unshaded countries have yet to provide this sit with a visitor:
Incidentally for a real life example of XIs marking a special occasion I refer you to David Kynaston’s book “W.G.’s Birthday Party”, referring to the scheduling of the 1898 Gentlemen versus Players match so that its third and final day coincided with “The Champion’s” 50th birthday. On that day, WG, carrying an injury, took part in a last ditch resistance with Charles Kortright ‘the Demon of Leyton’ which almost saved the game for the Gentlemen. Precisely eight years later in 1906 WG playing in the same fixture marked his 58th birthday was last major innings in top level cricket, a match saving 74.
Finally, although I have avoided honourable mentions I must explain one omission: Mohammed Azharruddin played 99 test matches which I could have used to include him, but I took note of the reason why his tally of test caps did not reach the century: he was embroiled in a match fixing scandal.
Our two ‘blogiversary’ XIs have been introduced, the topped and tailed by explanations of the brief and the reason for the choice of theme. There is of course one last ingredient needed to complete an aspi.blog post – the signing off flourish…