Today’s all time XI cricket post honours cricket’s two most famous pairs of twins by pitting an XI whose names all feature Mark or Steve, or a variation thereof against an XI whose names all contain either Eric or Alec (or variations thereof).
THE MARK/STEVE XI
- Mark Taylor – left handed opening batter. He announced his presence at the highest level by scoring 839 runs in the 1989 Ashes, the most in a series by any Aussie not named Bradman.
- Stephen Moore – right handed opening batter. The Johannesburg born Worcestershire man was a little unlucky to miss out on international recognition in the course of his long career. He finished with a first class average of 36.
- *Stephen Fleming – left handed batter, captain. Over 7,000 test runs at an average of just over 40 for the Kiwi. The only small question mark is that his conversion rate of 50s into 100s was very poor. I have named as captain in acknowledgement of his skilled handling of a New Zealand outfit that contained few stars.
- Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. One of the best batters ever seen, for all the unorthodoxies and unattractiveness of his method.
- Steve Waugh – right handed batter, occasional medium pacer. Averaged over 50 in test cricket. He like Taylor really hit the headlines in the 1989 Ashes – he made two unbeaten 150+ scores in the first two matches, and at one stage, immediately before his second dismissal of the series his average for that series stood at 418. His most remarkable performance came later, in a match at Old Trafford in which 21 of the 22 players failed to make a major score between them and he chiselled out twin centuries.
- Mark Waugh – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Very different from his twin brother, but also had a marvellous record at the highest level.
- +Steven Davies – wicket keeper, left handed batter. At one time he seemed nailed on for a long and distinguished England career, but it did not eventuate. He is a better red ball player than white ball, but the England selectors picked him only in white ball games, and thereby failed to see the best of him.
- Greville Stevens – leg spinner, right handed batter. The only player in either team to have been slipped in by use of the surname. It was the only way I could give this side a front line spinning option, and Stevens had a significantly better bowling record than the other option, Vic Marks, with the added benefit that as a leg spinner he combines somewhat better with the next best spin option in the side, Mark Waugh, than Marks. Stevens played before limited overs cricket at the highest level was a thing, so the comparable parts of their records are: Marks six tests, batting average 27.66, bowling average 44.00, 342 first class games, batting average 30.29, bowling average 33.28 and Stevens 10 tests, batting average 15.47, bowling average 32.40, 243 first class games, batting average 29.56, bowling average 26.84. Stephens took 684 first class wickets at a rate 2.80 per game, Marks 859 at 2.52 per game, so on wickets per game Stevens was marginally more effective as well.
- Mark Wood – right arm fast bowler. The first of two genuinely fast bowlers to feature in this XI, a current England regular.
- Mark Davies – right arm medium fast bowler. He was plagued by injuries, otherwise he would have been an England regular. The 109 first class games he played when not crocked brought him 315 wickets at 22.42 each.
- Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. A third successive Durham quick, one who was ranked number one the world in 2004, and also played a starring role in the 2005 Ashes.
This team has a good top six, a keeper who can bat and four fine bowlers. There is a shortage of spin options, but overall it looks a useful side.
Glamorgan fast medium man Steve Watkin and Middlesex quick Steve Finn were close to selection for bowling spots, while two other notable wicket keeping Steves were messrs Rhodes and Marsh (for all that he played test cricket Steve Rixon was not a notable wicket keeper). Mark Butcher was close to a batting slot, but the team was strong in that area. Mark Adair of Ireland may in due course claim his place as an all rounder but he is not there yet. Finally, although he was not close to selection, some might think that Mark Lawson of Yorkshire could have solved the spin bowling issue – the trouble with that being that he paid over 40 runs a piece for his first class wickets.
THE ALEC/ERIC XI
- Eric Rowan – right handed opening batter. A fine test record, including what was at the time the highest individual score by a South African, 236, a mark which stood until Graeme Pollock scored his 274 v Australia.
- Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. He averaged 45 for England in this specific role, and the combination of him and the combative Rowan looks like a strong start to the innings.
- Alec Bowell – right handed batter. A stalwart for Hampshire in the 1920s, regularly batting in this position.
- *Alex Blackwell – right handed batter, captain. A fine batter and captain of the Australian women’s team a few years ago, and not inappropriately for this post, one half of a pair of cricketing twins.
- Alexander Webbe – right handed batter, occasional right arm fast bowler. A stylish batter of the 1870s.
- Eric Bedser – right handed batter, right arm off spinner.
- Alec Kennedy – right arm fast medium, right handed batter. The seventh leading first class wicket taker of all time (2,874 of them), and good enough with the willow to have done the double (1,000 first class runs and 100 wickets in a first class season) eight times in his long career.
- Alec Bedser – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter.
- +Eric Petrie – wicket keeper. A superb keeper, though a rather limited batter, the Kiwi gets in here because I need Stewart’s batting unencumbered by keeping duties.
- Alex Hartley – left arm orthodox spinner. Part of England women’s 2017 World Cup winning squad.
- Eric Hollies – leg spinner. Has the biggest negative balance between runs scored in first class cricket and wickets taken (-650 – 1,673 runs, 2,323 wickets) in history. He was the bowler in the most famous commentary moment of them all: “…Bradman bowled Hollies nought…”, which left the Don with 6,996 runs at 99.94 in test cricket.
This team has a decent top six, with Eric Bedser just about rating as an all rounder, a great keeper, and four excellent and well varied front line bowlers. It lacks genuine pace, but Bedser and Kennedy would be a fine new ball pairing, while the spin trio of Hollies, Hartley and Eric Bedser have the great merit as a combination that each does something different (LS, SLA, OS).
The Mark/Steve combination definitely looks the stronger, although a discreet hint to the groundsman to prepare a ‘bunsen’ would help to make it more of a contest!
A MATHEMATICAL CHALLENGE
This problem, set today on brilliant.org, has generated a large amount of controversy there due to the interpretation made by some of one part of the question. Click on tghe screenshot below to see it in it’s original setting:
On brilliant there is a statement of clarification as a sop to all of those who reasoned it out correctly but then misinterpreted the final part of the question, and there are multiple choice answers available. I think making it multi-choice makes it too easy, and I want to see if any of my readers make the mistake quite a number of solvers on brilliant apparently did – explanation tomorrow.
Just a few photographs today = the weather took an unpleasant turn yesterday afternoon and is only now showing signs of becoming pleasant again.