Welcome the latest in my series of variations on an ‘all-time XI‘ cricket theme. Today’s takes its inspiration from recent developments in British politics.
The Johnson-Cummings scandal now has more legs than a millipede, as both leading figures in it provided media appearances which managed to conflict with both the truth and each other. One government minister has already resigned in protest, and others may well follow. Today’s variation on an all-time XI theme therefore sees a team og players whose surnames begin with B pitted against a team of players whose surnames begin with S, combining to form BS, competing for the Johnson-Cummings Trophy.
THE B XI
- Sidney Barnes – right handed opening batter. A combination of World War II and conflicts with various authority figures limited his test career, but the few matches he did get to play yielded an average of 63.05 at that level. His most famous match was at Sydney in the second match of the 1946-7 Ashes when he and Don Bradman each scored 234, sharing a 5th wicket stand of 405.
- Bill Brown – right handed opening batter. Had a fine record at the highest level, with a test best of 206. He was briefly before his death the oldest living test cricketer.
- *Don Bradman – right handed batter, captain. The greatest batter the game ever saw.
- Ken Barrington – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Averaged 58.67 in test cricket. His first nine test centuries were all scored away from home, his first three figure test innings in England being the 256 he made at Old Trafford in 1964 to save that match for England after Bob Simpson, given a plumb pitch on which to take on the task of ensuring at least a draw to guarantee his side retention of the Ashes managed to do so quite literally off his own bat, making 311 in just over two full days at the crease.
- Basil Butcher – right handed batter. He averaged 43 in test cricket with a highest score at that level of 209. However, his greatest and most important test knock came at Lords in 1963, when his 133 with the West Indies otherwise doing very little with the bat in their second innings helped save the match for the visitors. A great spell of fast bowling by Wes Hall almost won it for the West Indies, but Colin Cowdrey came out to bat one handed when the ninth England wicket fell, and David Allen survived the last two balls with England needing six for victory.
- Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler, ace slipper. The designated all rounder in this side, although in truth the 6.7 and 8 slots could be moved around without difficulty.
- +Ben Brown – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The Sussex stumper has a first class batting average of 40 (he has never had the opportunity to play at the top level, and by now is too old for such to be a realistic prospect) and is a highly regarded keeper.
- Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. He played 15 tests in the 1880s, averaging 27 with the bat and 16 with the ball. His greatest highlight came at Melbourne in 1882-3 (as part of Ivo Bligh’s mission to regain ‘The Ashes of English Cricket’, following the defeat at The Oval in 1882 and Regunald Shirley Brooks’ mock obituary in The Sporting Times) when he took 7-28 including the firt hat trick by an English bowler at test level, scored 55 and then took 7-74 to give England an innings win.
- Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. The greatest there has ever been in this department, 189 wickets in just 27 test matches at 16.43 each.
- Bishan Bedi – left arm orthodox spinner. The former Indian skipper had a splendid test record and also did well for Northamptonshire as an overseas player.
- Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. The best genuine quick bowler his country has ever produced (they have not been overstocked in that department down the years), a rare visiting fast bowler who managed to rattle the Aussies in their own backyard.
This team features a very strong top five, two bowling and one wicket keeping all rounder and three of the finest specialist bowlers you could wish to meet. With Bumrah and Barnes to share the new ball, Bedi and Bates to bowl spin and the ‘golden arm’ of Botham as fifth bowling option a good number of bowling bases are covered. It is true that with Barrington the best available the leg spin department is under stocked, but this side should be able to cope with that.
THE S XI
- Bert Sutcliffe – left handed opening batter. One of the greatest batting talents ever produced by New Zealand.
- Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. Statistically England’s greatest ever opener, averaging 60.73 in test cricket, including 2,741 Ashes runs at 66.8S. The two great Sutcliffes complement each other nicely, Bert the New Zealander being left handed and attack minded, Herbert the Englishmen being more inclined to dig in for the long haul (although never neglectful of scoring opportunities).
- *Graeme Smith – left handed batter, captain. A third recognized opener just to make sure that the middle order are not exposed too early. He was a fine captain of his country, and his many batting feats included scores of 259 and 277 in successive matches against England.
- Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. His current test batting average places him second to Bradman among those who have played at least 20 games on the all-time list.
- Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, ace fielder. The most complete cricketer there has ever been.
- Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. A clash of the all round titans as he goes head to head with Botham. In this team it is his batting that will count for more, his bowling being used in short sharp bursts.
- Greville Stevens – right handed batter, leg spinner. Averaged 29.56 with the bat and 26.84 with the ball in first class cricket.
- Amar Singh – right arm fast medium bowler. One of the greatest pace bowlers his country ever produced, capturing his wickets at 18.56 each in first class cricket, at a time when Indian cricket was chiefly known for tall scoring. He is at no 8 here because his batting record included first class centuries.
- Harbhajan Singh – Off spinner, occasionally useful lower order batter. His performance against the 2001 Australians when he took 32 wickets in a three match series was the highlight of his career.
- +Herbert Strudwick – wicket keeper. Born in Mitcham in 1880 (even today, though to a large extent swallowed by the sprawl of London, Mitcham is classed as Surrey – I grew up a few miles away from there in Tooting, which is very definitely southwest London), he made his Surrey debut in 1902, beginning an association with the county that would last in various guises for over six decades. His first class career, which lasted until 1927 (and he was keeper in the 1926 Ashes) saw him take 1,237 catches and execute 258 stumpings. His 28 test matches yielded 61 catches and 12 stumpings. The batting available to this team, and Strudwick’s brilliance as a keeper between them are enough to pick a specialist with the gloves in this XI.
- Brian Statham – right arm fast bowler. 252 test wickets at 24, his overall first class bowling average was a mere 18. He has an end named in his honour at the Old Trafford ground that he graced for so many seasons.
This team has a strong if not entirely aesthetically pleasing top four (remember, there are no style marks in cricket), the most complete player there has ever been at no 5, an x-factor all rounder at six, another genuine all rounder at seven, three bowlers and one of the greatest keepers ever to play the game. The bowling has all bases covered – there is outright pace from Statham and Stokes, fast-medium from Amar Singh, anything left handed that conditions call for courtesy of Sobers, Harbhajan Singh’s off spin and Stevens’ leg spin.
For the B XI Alec Bedser missed out as IMO SF Barnes would do the same job better, I considered Palwankar Baloo for the role I gave to Bishan Bedi, and Bernard Bosanquet would have dealt with the leg spin shortage. For the S XI the biggest miss is John Snow, but I rated Statham higher. If I wished to include an extra pace option and sacrifice the leg spinner then Franklyn Stephenson could come in for Greville Stevens. Finally, there would be some who would have given a batting slot to Guyanese stayer Ramnaresh Sarwan.
THE CONTEST FOR THE
Even though the ‘B’ XI has both Bradman and SF Barnes in its ranks, and they are well backed by quite a few other greats, I do not consider this to be a one-sided contest – the S XI have a quite awesome top five, a keeper in Strudwick who will miss nothing and some awesome bowling options. I cannot predict a winner.
A COUPLE MORE CUMMINGS STORIES
Having introduced the two teams who fill the BS brief and will compete for the ‘Cummings-Johnson Trophy’. I have a couple more bits for you. Fintan O’Toole has a piece in The Guardian comparing the arrogance of Cummings and Johnson with that of the Catholic Church in O’Toole’s native land and notes that the behaviour of the church cost it most of its influence in that country. The Tory Fibs twitter account has brought my attention the letter signed by leaders of six opposition parties (Labour being cunningly, forensically absent from the list). The letter is below:
A MATHEMATICAL TEASER
Can you solve this little tester from brilliant.org:
Solution will appear in a later blog post.
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Just before we come to the pictures I have a few more links to share:
- A piece in New Scientist about the formation of the sun.
- A piece on EurekAlert about the discovery of what they call “The First Fossil Nursery of The Great White Shark“.
- Finally, a piece demonstrating almost Cummingsesque levels of shamelessness on the part of a Canadian politician, in The Globe and Mail, drawn by attention by Greta Thunberg, and titled “Alberta minister says it’s a ‘great time’ to build a pipeline because COVID-19 restrictions limit protests against them“.
Now it is time for my usual sign off: