Welcome to my latest variation on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. Today’s post owes its genesis to three twitter correspondents who raised valid points in response to yesterday’s piece. Rather than change yesterday’s XIs I have decided to acknowledge the validity of the comments by selecting two teams that enable to me to devote coverage to the issues raised.
THE FOUR FAST BOWLERS XI
When I covered the West Indies I named an attack of four fast bowlers in the West Indies team from my lifetime, as a tribute to the great West Indies teams of my childhood, which were based precisely on that type of attack. I now name an all-time team with the same type of bowling attack.
- Barry Richards – right handed opening batter, named by Don Bradman in his all-time XI (see “Bradman’s Best” by Roland Perry). The four tests that he played before South Africa’s enforced isolation (four more than any of his non-white compatriots in the period concerned save for Basil D’Oliveira, who managed to get to England) yielded him 508 runs at 72.57, with two centuries. He was subsequently one of the stars of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket.
- Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. Statistically the most successful opener among those to have played 20 or more tests, with 4,555 runs at 60.73 at that level, including 2,741 at 66.85 in Ashes cricket. This upward progression of averages as the cricket he played got tougher bore out his famous response to being congratulated by Pelham Warner on a good rearguard action: “Ah, Mr Warner, I love a dogfight.”
- George Headley – right handed batter. Averaged 60.83 in test cricket, converting 10 of his 15 fifty-plus scores at that level into hundreds. I decided that to give either side Don Bradman would give them too big an edge, so he is not present today – instead we have ;the black Bradman’.
- Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. Averaged 60.97 at test level, a figure exceeded among thos to have played 20+ games only by Don Bradman and Adam Voges, the latter of whom was lucky in his opponents – his sole Ashes series was a poor one. A twitter correspondent yesterday suggested that he should have been in my non-county XI, and very constructively suggested I drop George Giffen to make way for him. I acknowledge the validity of the comments by naming him here.
- *Clive Lloyd – left handed batter and captain. 7,515 test runs, a century in the first men’s world cup final in 1975. He was the man behind the West Indies ‘four fast bowlers’ strategy that propelled them to the top of the cricket world and kept them there for a long time. As such there could be no better captain for an ‘all time’ squad whose chief feature is an attack of four fast bowlers. A twitter correspondent suggested that I could have found a place for him in yesterday’s best overseas county player team, again a perfectly valid suggestion, and I hope his presence here in the role he played so successfully IRL will be taken as a suitable acknowledgement.
- Steve Waugh – right handed batter. Probably the finest ever to be a regular no 6. He played 168 test matches, and in spite of not reaching three figures until the 27th of those he ended up with a batting average of over 50. His twin tons at Old Trafford in conditions with which none of the 21 other batters in that match came to terms were a particularly outstanding example of his toughness and determination.
- +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper. Statistically the greatest keeper batter ever to play test cricket.
- Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. His record speaks for itself.
- Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. Probably the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling.
- Curtly Ambrose – right arm fast bowler. The lowest bowling average of any bowler to have taken over 400 test wickets. A twitter correspondent yesterday queried the absence of Joel Garner from my overseas county stars team, and suggested that perhaps I was placing too much stress on balance: “with Macko and Bird bowling together do you need balance?” While not wholly agreeing I acknowledge that the objection had weight (after all, I did include Garner in my Somerset team), and the selection of this side is an acknowledgement that one can rely exclusively on fast bowling. Rather than ‘big bird’ I opted for another extra tall fast bowler whose record was even better.
- Waqar Younis – right arm fast bowler. His ability to produce greased lightning yorkers seemingly on demand led cricket journalist Martin Johnson to write “when a pitch does not favour him, Waqar Younis does not bother to use it.” At one time he was probably the fastest in the world, and his great record stands as testament to his overall effectiveness.
This side has an awesome top six, a fabulous keeper batter and four awesome specialist fast bowlers. In Clive Lloyd they have the perfect captain to handle an attack thus constituted, and their opponents will need to be on their mettle to have a chance.
THE BALANCED XI
- Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. Known universally as ‘The Master’, he tallied 61,237 first class runs with 197 centuries, both all time records. He still holds the England records for Ashes runs and centuries, with 3,636 and 12 respectively, the last made at the age of 46 making him test cricket’s oldest ever centurion.
- Bert Sutcliffe – left handed opening batter. The Kiwi’s most astounding performance came for Otago versus Canterbury, when he scored 385 in an all out tally of 500, and Canterbury in their two innings combined managed 382 off the bat all told! On the 1949 tour of England he aggregated more first class runs than any other tourist save only for Bradman. Given his left handedness and the challenge posed by pairs comprise one left and one right handed batters, and his outstanding skill there is every reason to believe that this Hobbs/Sutcliffe opening pair would be every bit as effective as the original.
- Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, brilliant close fielder. The only cricketer to have achieved the career first class treble of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches, and indeed the only outfielder ever to have taken 1,000 catches.
- *Frank Worrell – right handed batter, occasional left arm medium fast. The first black captain of the West Indies, and he led them to the top of the cricket world. Before his time success had been something of a rarity for the West Indies. CLR James contributed a chapter on him to “Cricket: The Great Captains”, and also gives him extensive coverage in “Beyond a Boundary”, and the name Worrell occurs again and again in the pages of the collection of CLR James writings titled simply “Cricket”.
- Walter Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast, ace slipper. The first ever to reach 7,000 test runs (7,249 at 58.45), the first fielder to pouch 100 test catches and sometimes useful with his bowling as well. He scored seven test match double centuries, four of them against the oldest enemy – 251 and 200 not out in successive matches in 1928-9, 231 not out in 1936-7 and 240 at Lord’s in 1938, which stood for 52 years as the highest score by an England captain.
- Garry Sobers – left handed batter, every kind of left arm bowler known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete all rounder there has ever been. He is the fulcrum of this side, enabling it to have a vast range of options.
- +Leslie Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100 first class hundreds, holds the record for most career stumpings (over 400 of them, to go with 700 catches). In two of the first three years in which the Lawrence trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season Ames won it (the intervening time it went to another Kent legend Frank Woolley).
- Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. I covered him in my Northamptonshire piece. Suffice to say that he was probably the quickest there has ever been.
- Sydney Francis Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. Probably the greatest of all bowlers. 27 test matches yielded him 189 wickets at 16.43 each. His special weapon was a leg break delivered at fast medium pace, beautifully described by Ian Peebles, himself a former test bowler, in a piece titled “Barnes The Pioneer” which appears in “The Faber Book of Cricket”.
- Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. The all time leading taker of test wickets, with 800 of them at a rate of just about six per game (Barnes had he played the same number of tests and maintained his wicket taking rate would have had approximately 930 test wickets). His 16 wickets on a plumb Oval pitch in 1998 (England batted first, Sri Lnaka scored nearly 600 in between the two England efforts) remains the greatest match performance I have ever seen by bowler. Two years before that he had been one of the heroes of the Sri Lankam world cup winning side, which relied as much on its phalanx of spinners not getting collared as it did on its dazzling batting line up.
- William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. He never got to play test cricket, his prime years coming just too early for that (and I mean just – in 1876 he took 17 wickets in a match against Hampshire, which Hampshire sneaked by one wicket). I note that he played for a county who have always been unfashionable (Derbyshire), and that 138 first class games yielded him 863 first class wickets at 12.09 each. I believe he would be even more devastating as part of the attack I have created here than he actually was. His brother Thomas was a wicket keeper, and this combination and the Nottinghamshire pair of fast bowler Frank Shacklock and keeper Mordecai Sherwin may well have been the inspiration for the names of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle was a cricket fanatic, and a very useful cricketer, some times turning out for MCC, and at least once accounting for WG Grace, albeit his bowling was not required until that worthy had 110 to his name). His presence alongside Tyson means that this side have some heavy weaponry of their own to counter the pace onslaught, as India did not in 1975-6, nor England in 1976, 1980 or 1984.
This side has a strong and varied top five, the greatest of all all rounders at six, a legendary keeper batter at seven and four superbly varied bowlers. The bowling, with Mycroft, Tyson, Barnes and Muralitharan backed up by Sobers, Woolley, Hammond and Worrell has pretty much every base covered.
This would be an epic contest. The toss would hardly be needed, since Lloyd would probably want to bowl first and Worrell would definitely want to bat first. Although I acknowledge that as exemplified by the West Indies under Lloyd a team with four fast bowlers can be well nigh unbeatable I am going to predict that it is Frank Worrell’s side who would emerge victorious.
SOLUTION TO TEASER
Yesterday I offered up the following from brilliant:
I got the the correct answer by first identifying the size of the large square from which the ‘L’ section comes – it is 16 by 16. I then counted backwards round the spiral to arrive at the size of the next largest square in the relevant segment – 12 X 12. So the answer we are looking for, for the area of the ‘L’ section is (16 x 16) – (12 x 12), which is equal to 256 – 144 = 112 units. NB – it took me less long to do the actual working out, which I did in my head, than it has to type this explanation.
A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Our two contending XIs have been introduced, I have provided a solution to the teaser I posed yesterday, which leaves on one thing to do before applying my usual sign off. Pete Wharmby has produced a superb thread about ‘functioning labels’ in relation to autism. His advice is the autism equivalent of Darwin’s famous note to himself about evolutionary biology: “avoid the words higher and lower.” I urge you to read his piece in full, which you can do here. Now for my usual sign off…