Welcome to today’s all time XI cricket post. Today we have a team of players whose names offer links to people who have played a major role in explorations and a team of players who found love while on their travels.
THE EXPLORATION XI
- Marcus Trescothick – left handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer. Averaged 43 in test cricket, and over the course of a lonh and illustrious Somerset career did everything short of win the county championship for them. I have allowed an element of flexibility here – his exploring counterpart is Marco Polo, who documented his experiences of global travel in a book “The Travels of Marco Polo”.
- Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. Scorer of almost 12,500 test runs. In 2010-11 he scored 766 runs in the Ashes series down under, representing the most successfull visit to Australia by anyone named Cook since the days of Captain James Cook and the Endeavour.
- Percy Perrin – right handed batter. Scorer of 66 first class centuries. His full name was Percival Albert Perrin, and that connects to Percival Lowell, an enthusiast for space exploration.
- Bryan Valentine – right handed batter. A stylish player for Kent for some years, never quite establishing himself at England level. Valentine is also a forename, and in some countries the specifically female version Valentina is used. The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova.
- *Warwick Armstrong – right handed batter, leg spinner, captain. One of Australia’s finest ever all rounders. He first toured England with Joe Darling’s 1902 squad, and on the 1905 tour he scored over 2,000 runs and rook over 100 wickets in first class matches, also touring in 1909, missing the 1912 tour due to a dispute with the newly established Australian Board of Control (later the Australian Cricket Board and now Cricket Australia), but making a final visit as captain in 1921, by when he was 41 years old, weighed almost 22 stone and was still playing superbly. Gideon Haigh in his book on Armstrong “Big Ship” demonstrates that in those last two years (1920 and 1921) Armstrong scored more runs than Steve Waugh in a comparable period and did more bowling than Shane Warne. His exploration namesake is of course Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on a celestial body other than planet Earth.
- Alonzo Drake – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. My second all rounder, a man who was denied international status only by the outbreak of World War 1. His doppelganger for this purpose is of course Francis Drake who organized an expedition that circumnavigated the globe when that was a very difficult thing to do, although he himself did not quite complete the journey.
- +Hanson Carter – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Australia’s first choice keeper between Jim Kelly and Bert Oldfield. In the second test of the 1907-8 Ashes at Melbourne he guided Australia to 397 in their second dig, setting England 282 for victory. When England lost their eighth second innings wicket at 208 it looked like his batting efforts had helped set Australia up for victory, but Syd Barnes chiselled out an unbeaten 38, batting first with England keeper Joe Humphries and then Arthur Fielder, Gerry Hazlitt panicked when a calm throw the the keeper would have secured test cricket’s first tie and England sneaked it by one wicket. His analogue is another H Carter, Howard, discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamun.
- Xenophon Constantine Balaskas – leg spinner, right handed batter. One could argue given the ‘Anabasis’ that the original Xenophon counts for this purpose, but I am actually using the Russian equivalent of his middle name, which gives us rocketry pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who played an important role in us taking our explorations beyond our own planet.
- Don Shepherd – off spinner, taker of more first class wickets than anyone else who never played test cricket. His name is pronounced the same way as Shepard, as in Alan Shepard, the first USian in space.
- ‘Bull’ Alexander – right arm fast bowler. He was one of those Australia might have selected in the 1932-3 Ashes had they opted to meet fire with fire instead of aiming for the moral high ground (Laurie Nash, Jack Scott and Eddie Gilbert were also mentioned in this context). As well as his fast bowling he gets in here as a nod to the great German explorer Alexander Von Humboldt.
- Stanley Christopherson – right arm fast bowler. An early England one cap wonder, he took his first class wickets at 21 a piece, though his career was massively shortened by an injury sustained in 1886. His analogue is explorer Henry Morton Stanley.
This is a well balanced team, with everyone down to Balaskas at eight capable of contributing with the bat, and a bowling attack that offers both pace and spin.
12TH MAN & HONOURABLE MENTION
I could have opted for Learie Constantine in place of Xenophon Constantine Balaskas for my link to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, but preferred the spinner. However, as well as being a fast bowling all rounder Learie Constantine was an outstanding fielder, so rather than just giving him an honourable mention I name him as 12th man (though unfortunately there will be no Ponting in the opposition to provide fireworks in the event of a direct hit run out!). Alf Valentine, the West Indian left arm spinner who took the first eight wickets to fall in the first test innings in which he bowled would be argued by some to have a prior claim over Bryan Valentine, but I needed to strengthen the batting, and not even Alf Valentine’s most devoted fan could claim he would have helped with that.
TRAVELLING ROMANCE XI
- Andrew Strauss – left handed opening batter. Born in South Africa, played for an captained England, and married an Australian.
- Archie MacLaren – right handed opening batter. He had a tremendous time with the bat on the 1897-8 tour of Australia, and it was also in Australia that he met the woman who became Mrs MacLaren.
- Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He married his first wife for money, and that marriage did not work out well. The second Mrs Hammond was a South African beauty queen whose birth name was Sybil Ness-Harvey. The surprise given what is known of how Hammond conducted his personal life is that there were only the two Mrs Hammonds.
- *Ivo Bligh – right handed batter, captain. After England’s dramatic loss at The Oval in 1882 and the subsequent mock obituary of English Cricket in The Sporting Times, Bligh assembled a team to travel to Australia and win back what he called ‘The Ashes of English Cricket.” While on this tour, which had a successul playing outcome, Bligh stayed at Rupertswood, a luxurious house owned by Victoria’s wealthiest family. Florence Rose Morphy, a young woman of Irish ancestry, was employed there as governess/ music tutor. She was one of a group of ladies who presented Bligh with the famous urn that England and Australia have fought over ever since (no one has ever established what the ashes actually are – there are conflicting claims). Ms Morphy evidently made a huge impression on Bligh because they ultimately married. The one time governess/ music tutor ended her life as Dowager Countess of Darnley. Although his playing record was not great his historical significance means that he has to be captain of this side.
- Percy Chapman – left handed batter. The fifth successive batter in our order to have captained England, and he won his first eight matches as test captain (The Oval 1926, a 3-0 triumph in the West Indies first ever test series in 1928 and the first four matches of the 1928-9 Ashes). He married the sister of New Zealand batter Tom Lowry.
- Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Jessop was travelling to Australia for the 1901-2 Ashes when an allegedly errant throw by him during a deck game hit the handbag of a female passenger. There are those familiar with Jessop’s fielding who reckon that the throw must have been intentional. Whether it was intentional or not it worked well for Jessop, since he and the young woman, named Millicent, got talking, and ultimately they married.
- +David Murray – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A West Indian keeper who married an Australian woman, a story mentioned by Rodney Marsh in “Inside Edge” while explaining why he was not going to play in South Africa at that time (then Aussie PM Malcolm Fraser had threatened Murray that if he went he would not be allowed back into Australia).
- John Emburey – off spinner. He married an Australian – he missed a first class game on the 1986-7 Ashes tour in order to spend more time with her and her family in Melbourne.
- Gladstone Small – right arm fast medium bowler. Noted for his apparent lack of a neck (actually he was born missing one of the vertebrae in his neck, which means that it looks like his head is resting on his chest), the Barbadian born England bowler married an Australian.
- Frederick Spofforth – right arm fast bowler (developed variations later in his career). Australia’s first great bowler, he married an English woman (her father ran a tea trading company which passed in due time to Spofforth, who left an estate worth £164,000 – about £7,000,000 in today’s money).
- Glenn McGrath – right arm fast medium bowler. The first Mrs McGrath, in whose memory the McGrath Foundation was established) was an English woman.
This is a respectable team, although the bowling lacks spin options, with only Emburey in that department. Only the top three are unquestionably of test standard with the bat, but a side with Emburey at no8 cannot be said to be hopelessly weak in that department.
This is a good contest, though I think the ‘Exploration XI’ have the edge – and if the surface offers any turn they will definitely be favourites, with Shepherd, Drake, Balaskas and Armstrong to exploit such a surface while the ‘Travelling Romance XI’ have only Emburey as a counter of their own.
Having introduced today’s contest and presented the two teams it remains only for me to apply my usual sign off…