Welcome to my latest variation on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. Today after a couple of overseas posts we return to home territory, but featuring cricketers from four different centuries. The dividing line between these teams is the centre of the alphabet – our first team have surnames that begin with a letter from early in the alphabet while our second mutatis mutandis have surnames beginning with letters from late in the alphabet.While limiting myself to home players for this post I have aimed to embrace a wide range of types of player with the prime focus on entertainment.
BEGINNING OF THE ALPHABET XI
- Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. ‘The Master’ is a good place to start any XI – 61,237 first class runs with 197 centuries at that level.
- Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter. A wonderful timer of a cricket ball, probably the smallest player on either side in this contest, but with a proven ability to score big – and quick – she once reached a ton against South Africa off just 47 balls.
- James Aylward – left handed batter. One of three 18th century cricketers in this XI, in 1777, a mere eight years after the first record century in any cricket match, he scored 167 versus England, batting through two whole days in the process. He is the ‘sticker’ of this team, surrounded by more aggressive talents.
- William ‘Silver Billy’ Beldham – right handed batter. At a time when such scores were very rare he amassed three first class centuries. His special glory so we are told was the cut shot. He was exceptionally long lived, being born in 1766 and not dying until 1862 – in his childhood canals were the new big thing in transportation, and he missed out by a mere six months on living to see the opening of the world’s first underground railway.
- Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. He averaged 50 with the bat over the course of 78 test matches, and he scored his runs fast. According to the man himself in “Playing for England” he developed his left arm wrist spin as a second string to his bow because he was impressed by the Aussie ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith, and because he noticed during the 1946-7 Ashes tour how many of the Aussies had second strings to their bow and thought that he should develop one.
- George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm pace bowler, brilliant fielder. One of the greatest all rounders ever to play the game. He achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class games on 14 occasions, 11 of them in successive years. Having topped 2,000 to go with over a hundred wickets in both 1904 and 1905 he then achieved the double double in 1906 – 2,385 runs and 208 wickets in first class matches (in the 21st century a non-pandemic hit English season involves 14 first class games, so anyone doing the 1,000 run, 100 wicket double would achieve a feat of similar standing, while 500 runs and 50 wickets would be a jolly impressive all round effort). In the Oval 1902 match in which Jessop blazed his 75 minute century Hirst took the first five Aussie wickets in the first innings and scored 101 for once out in the match (43 and 58 not out to see England home). He also stands alone in first class cricket history thus far in achieving the double double match feat of centuries in both of his own team’s innings and five wicket hauls in both of his opponents innings (Yorkshire v Somerset 1906).
- +Leslie Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The only recognized keeper to have tallied a hundred first class hundreds.
- Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed lower middle order batter. The first ever to combine a fifty with a ten wicket match haul in a test match. His 15 appearances at that level brought him 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42. His career was ended prematurely by an eye injury. If we were to assume that without that injury he could have kept going until 40, very fair by the standards of the time, that would mean that he could have played in the 1888, 1890, 1893 and 1896 home series against Australia, the 1891-2 and 1894-5 away series against the same opposition and in a couple of the early series in South Africa, which brings him close to 40 test matches, and if he maintained similar output an aggregate of 1,749 runs and 133 wickets. If we accept that nowadays he would be pay half as much again for his wickets, we must also allow that that applies to all bowlers and that he would also score half as many runs again, so an approximate conversion of his averages in to today’s terms sees him average 41 with bat and 24.63 with the ball – a handy person to be coming in at no8!
- Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium. Possibly the greatest of all bowlers. At Melbourne in the 1911-12 Ashes when Johnny Douglas won the toss and inserted Australia early wickets were needed to back that decision up, and Barnes in his opening burst accounted for the entire Australian top four for a single between them. Australia recovered from this blitz to tally 184, but as at Adelaide 99 years later, the damage had been done on the first morning, and England were in control of the match throughout.
- Sophie Ecclestone – left arm orthodox spinner. She has already enjoyed considerable success in her fledgling career, with a best ODI bowling performance of 4-14 and a T20I bowling performance of 4-13 among her highlights. In total across international formats she has 93 wickets for 1793 runs, an average of 19.28 per wicket, and she only turned 21 less than a fortnight ago.
- David Harris – right arm fast (underarm). The first great bowler, so highly prized that late in his career when gout was causing him horrendous problems an armchair would be brought out on to the field so that he could sit down when not actually bowling! If you look at early scorecards (early to mid 18th century) you will see that catches were not generally credited to the bowler, and the single person most responsible for changing that was Harris, who sought extra bounce with the precise intention of inducing batters to yield up catches. All you bowlers of today who rely on slip cordons, bat-pad catchers, short legs, silly mid-ons etc take note of the man who pioneered bowling to induce catches and be grateful that catches are credited to you. I have argued elsewhere for the re-legalization of under arm bowling both of Harris’ type and of under arm spinners such as Simpson-Hayward. The Greg/Trevor Chappell type of ‘grubber’ can be simply dealt with now that balls that bounce more than once are automatically called no-ball – simply add a coda that for the purposes of this law a ball that rolls along the deck shall be considered to have bounced an infinite number of times and is therefore a no ball.
This team has a splendid top five, one of the greatest of all all rounders, a keeper batter up there with the best in history and a wonderfully varied foursome of bowlers. Barnes, Harris and Hirst represent an excellent trio of pacers, Bates and Ecclestone are two high class spin options. There is no fronnt line leg spinner, but Barnes’ greatest weapon was a leg break delivered at fast medium pace, and there is Compton with his left arm trickery as well should a sixth bowler be needed. I would expect this team to take a lot of beating.
THE END OF THE ALPHABET XI
- Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. He went through his entire test career with an average in excess of 60 – it ended at 60.73. He was often reckoned to be one of fortune’s favourites, but that was at least partly because when he did benefit from a slice of luck he made it count. For example, at Sydney in the opening match of the 1932-3 Ashes series he was on 43 when he chopped a ball from Bill O’Reilly into his stumps without dislodging a bail – and thus reprieved he went on to a test best 194, setting England up for a ten wicket win (Australia dodged the nnings defeat by the narrowest possible margin, leaving England a single to get in the fourth innings, duly scored by Sutcliffe).
- Arthur Shrewsbury – right handed opening batter. He was rated second only to WG Grace in his era. In those days the tea interval was not a regular part of the game, and on resuming his innings after lunch he would ask the dressing room attendant to bring him a cup of tea at four o’clock, so confident was he that he would still be batting by then. He briefly held the highest test innings score by an Englishman, 164 at Lord’s in 1886 which set his side up for an innings victory – two matches later at The Oval Grace reclaimed the record which had been his 152 in 1880 with a score of 170, made out of 216 while he was at the wicket.
- *Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. Once, when Kent were chasing 219 in two hours for a victory, his partner suggested that he should try to hit fewer sixes as it took time for the ball to come back from the crowd! Kent won that match, due in no small part to Woolley. At Lord’s in 1921 when Gregory and McDonald were laying waste to the rest of England’s batting he scored 95 and 93.
- Eddie Paynter – left handed batter. He averaged 59.23 in test cricket, with double centuries against both Australia and South Africa along the way. He was 28 by the time he broke into the Lancashire team, and World War II brought his career to a close. He it was who officially settled the destiny of the 1932-3 Ashes, hitting the six that won the 4th match of that series giving England an unassailable 3-1 lead (they won the fifth match as well, that one also ending with a six, this time struck by Wally Hammond). None of England’s huge scorers are more frequently overlooked than the little fella from Oswaldtwistle.
- Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The reverse combo to George Hirst, and definitely somewhat more batter than bowler – my intention in this side is that when called on to bowl it will be in short, sharp bursts.
- George Osbaldeston – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler (under arm). Another explosive all rounder, the fastest bowler of his day.
- +Sarah Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. One of the two finest English keepers I have seen live (Ben Foakes is the other) and a magnificent stroke making batter. Mental health issues brought her career to a premature close. Across the international formats she scored 6,535 runs at 33.17, took 128 catches and executed 102 stumpings – most of those latter eye-blink swift leg side efforts.
- Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. One of the quickest ever – I suspect that not even the keeper I have chosen would be making many stumpings off his bowling!
- Bill Voce – left arm fast medium bowler. An excellent foil to an outright speedster at the other end.
- Linsey Smith – left arm orthodox spinner. One of a phalanx of young spinners currently involved with the England Women’s side – as well as Ecclestone and Aberdonian SLAer Kirstie Gordon there are several leg spinners, including Sophia Dunkley and Sarah Glenn, with Helen Fenby on the periphery. Thus far Smith has only been required in T20Is, but she takes her wickets in that form of the game at a bargain basement 14 a piece.
- Douglas Wright – leg spinner. A leg spinner with a 15 yard run up, and whose armoury included a bouncer to ensure that there was no automatic going on to the front foot against him. The problem was, that especially if the fielders were not having one of their better days, the human world was too fallible a place for his kind of bowling – far too often he simply beat everyone and everything all ends up. When things went his way they could do so in spades – he took a record seven first class hat tricks. He is not quite the only specialist spinner to have had an accredited bouncer – Philippe-Henri Edmonds could also bowl one when the mood took him.
This team has a powerful top four, two explosive all rounders, one of the finest of all keeper batters and a strong and varied quartet of specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Tyson and Voce sharing the new ball, Osbaldeston and Stokes offering pace back up and spin twins Smith and Wright also looks impressive
This contest, for what I shall call the ‘Bakewell – Nichols Trophy’, in honour of two fine all rounders, Stan Nichols, a left handed batter and right arm fast bowler and Enid Bakewell, who batted right handed and bowled slow left arm would be an absolute belter. It is mighty hard to pick a winner, but I think that Barnes just gives the side from the beginning of the alphabet the edge, and I would suggest that a five match series would finish 3-2 to the team from the beginning of the alphabet.
LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS
There is a petition currently running calling on the government of Botswana not to legalize elephant hunting. Please click on the screenshot below to sign and share:
Above is the picture accompanying the tweet that drew my attention to this petition.
Now, with the teams introduced and an important link shared it is time for my usual sign off: