Welcome to another variation on the all-time XI cricket theme. Today each featured player has a surname beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, and each letter is used strictly in sequence, meaning that the second XI ends with a player whose surname begins with V.
RAY ILLINGWORTH’S XI
- Bobby Abel – right handed opening batter. 744 test runs at 37.20, an excellent record for his period, over 30,000 first class runs.
- Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter. Has fared magnificently as an opener since being given the role for England in 2015.
- Belinda Clark – right handed batter. In the 1990s she had the same kind of reputation as a batter that her compatriot Meg Lanning does today. She averaged 45 in test cricket and 47 in ODIs, the latter figure including the first ODI double ton by anyone.
- Emrys Davies – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He was usually to be found in this sort of place in the batting order, and played some fine innings from no4.
- Ross Edwards – right handed batter. One of the better Aussie batters of the first half of the 1970s (he retired somewhat prematurely at the end of the 1975 series played after the inaugural men’s world cup). In the first match of that series at Edgbaston he was horrifically out of form but ground out a half century in four hours and ten minutes, while others scored quicker (notably Rod Marsh with the top score of 61) at the other end. Rick McCosker and Ian Chappell had also scored 50s, and Thommo down near the extras scored a test best 49 to boost the score to 359. England were then bowled out twice, with skipper Denness, who had won the toss an put Australia in, managing three and eight in his last two test innings. In the second test of that series Australia slumped to 81-7 in response to England’s first innings 315 (Greig 96, Knott 69, Steele 50) and it was that man Edwards, helped by DK Lillee, who dug Australia out of this king sized hole. Edwards made 99, Lillee a test best 73 not out, and in the end England led by just 47, and were unable to force victory.
- Andrew Flintoff – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. He took a while to establish himself at the top level before enjoying a couple of magnificent years, and occasionally reviving old memories thereafter.
- Jack Gregory – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Injuries took their toll late in his career, but his record confirms his status as a genuine all rounder.
- George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. His England record does not look that great, but his play for Yorkshire, over the course of three decades, places him firmly among the greatest of all time.
- *Raymond Illingworth – off spinner, right handed batter. In 1970-1, with Australia holding the Ashes, and having done so since winning them in 1958-9, Illingworth captained England to a 2-0 series victory to regain the urn, the first to do so in Australia since Jardine 38 years previously, and only the sixth in all after Bligh in 1882-3, Stoddart in 1894-5, Warner in 1903-4 and Douglas in 1911-2 as well as Jardine. Subsequent to that tour England’s only successes down under have been when Brearley defended the urn in 1978-9, Gatting in 1986-7 defending the urn won back by Gower in 1985 and Strauss in 2010-11, defending the 2009 spoils. He was a quality player in his day as well.
- +Eifion Jones – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He made more dismissals than any other Glamorgan keeper, 933 of them (840 caught, 93 stumped) in 405 matches.
- Rashid Khan – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Although it is his bowling that has got him in (after four tests he has 23 wickets at 21.08 at that level – a more than promising start – while eight first class matches in total have yielded him 58 wickets at 17.44, and he is not quite 22 years old.
This team has a solid top five, three fine all rounders, a keeper, and two spinners who can both bat. It has no tail to speak of (even Rashid Khan averages 23 in FC cricket), and Gregory and Hirst will make a fine new ball pairing, with Flintoff as back up, while Khan, Illingworth and Davies provide fine spinning options (especially the first two). This team will take a lot of beating.
First of all, bear in mind my decision to pick players in positions they actually occupied. That means that Abel is virtually indisputable, although Mayank Agarwal will change that if he continues as he has started. Jack Brown of England, Bill Brown of Australia and Sidney George Barnes of Australia were all good options for the letter B, and I could accept any of them. Ian Chappell might have had the no 3 slot. I felt no 4 was a position too high for Basil D’Oliveira, and felt that Davies’ bowling gave him an edge of Joe Darling. No 5 was too low in the order for Bill Edrich (he either opened or batted no 3) or his cousin John (a specialist opener), while none of the other cricketing Edriches had a good enough record. George Emmett of Gloucestershire might have his advocates, although five was lower than he usually batted. Freddie Flintoff had no rivals. Jack Gregory’s slot might have gone to Tony Greig, but I felt that that the Aussie gave me three genuine pace bowlers. Hirst’s place might have gone to Schofield Haigh but I felt that his left arm bowling and superior batting clinched it in his favour. Illingworth’s two main rivals were Jack Iverson and Bert Ironmonger, but both were genuine no11s, so would have been two places too high, and in Ironmonger’s case I already had a left arm spinner in Davies. Some might think that Geraint Jones should have had the keeper’s slot, but his allegedly superior batting (I am not wholly convinced it actually was) does not make up for the fact that he was definitely a tad clumsy behind the stumps. Rashid Khan’s place could have gone to his compatriot the left arm wrist spinner Zahir Khan, while if I had wanted an extra pace bowling option Indian left armer Zaheer Khan could have been selected.
WALTER ROBINS’ XI
- Justin Langer – left handed opening batter, averaged 45 in test cricket, with a best of 250 against England at the MCG.
- Colin McDonald – right handed opening batter. The 1950s was a slow and low scoring decade, which makes McDonald’s test average of 39, batting at the top of the order particularly impressive. His best series was the 1958-9 Ashes when the he was the most successful batter on either side.
- Scott Newman – left handed batter. When he first started it seemed that an England career beckoned, but he never quite kicked on, finishing with a first class average of 38.
- Norman O’Neill – right handed batter. A fine stroke making batter for Australia. He averaged 45.55 in test cricket, making his debut in the 1958-9 Ashes series.
- Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner.
- +Quinton De Kock – left handed batter, wicket keeper. I could not come up with a cricketer whose surname began with Q who could play as high as no six, so I allowed myself to pick someone whose first name began with Q.
- *Walter Robins – leg spinner, right handed batter, captain. A highly successful captain of Middlesex, well regarded by most of those who played under him. He averaged 26.39 with the bat and 23.30 with the ball, scoring 13,884 first class runs and capturing 969 wickets in his 379 games at that level.
- George Simpson-Hayward – off spinner (under arm). 23 wickets at 18 in his five test matches, 503 first class wickets at 21.
- Charles Turner – right arm medium fast bowler. One of the great bowlers of the early period of test history – took his 100th wicket in his 17th test match. Link two in an Australian chain through test history – Jack Blackham who kept wicket in the first 17 test matches ever played was a team mate of his, he gave Bill O’Reilly (3) some useful advice, who in turn gave Richie Benaud (4) some useful advice, and in his turn he passed on some advice to Shane Warne (5) – it only remains to provide a verifiable link from Warne to a current Aussie player to complete the chain.
- Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler. 297 test wickets for the Kent maestro. Economical on pitches that did not help him and a destroyer on any surface that did help him.
- Vince Van Der Bijl – right arm fast medium bowler. The big South African took 767 wickets at 16.54 in first class cricket (his country were isolated due to apartheid, and he chose not to go down the route of qualifying to play for another country, so he played no official international cricket). Philippe-Henri Ednonds who played alongside Van Der Bijl for Middlesex said in “100 Greatest Bowlers” that Van Der Bijl would likely have had a test record in similar lines to Brian Statham’s had he played at that level.
This side has a powerful top five, an explosive batter/ keeper at six and a well balanced bowling attack. Turner and Van Der Bijl look every inch a quality new ball pair, while Underwood, Simpson-Hayward and Robins offer a fine variety of slower options.
No other L challenges Langer for the no1 slot. N was also a fairly barren letter, as was O. I did consider selecting Ellyse Perry in place of Kevin Pietersen, while no5 is too low for Graeme Pollock, who batted either at no3 or no4. I covered Q in that entry. I think Robins’ all round skills and captaincy make him a must pick – no 7 is definitely at least a position too high for Andy Roberts the . great fast bowler. Similarly, I felt no 8 was too high in the order for Fred Spofforth, so went for the highly individual skills of Simpson-Hayward. Jeff Thomson’s hell fire pace was an alternative to Turner. Underwood had no rival for the letter U. I could have gone for Chaminda Vaas in place of Van Der Bijl, but considered that the South African’s amazing first class record had to be acknowledged. Including Hedley Verity would have left me with only Turner as a recognized new ball bowler.
Robins’ XI has the stronger top batting, but more of a tail. Illingworth’s XI are better equipped in bowling, and they bat deeper, although their top batting is the weaker of the two sides. It is a tough call, but I think that Illingworth’s XI just about has the edge.
SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER
We are told that the runners in first and fourth told the truth and those in second and third lied. C’s statement has to be true, because it being a lie would put C in fourth and that is disallowed by the conditions. Since it is a true statement and C did not finish fourth there is only one place for C to finish, which is first, the other place who told the truth. A’s statement is thus proven true, so A came fourth. B thus lied and therefore finished second, making D the other liar and the third place finisher. Thus C was first and A was fourth, making them three places apart. The cause of the aggro when this problem appeared on brilliant is that two runners finished in between A and C and some therefore believed the answer to be two, but the number of places separating A and C is 4-1 = 3. Brilliant caved to the moaners, giving those who had selected two but explained their reasoning for doing so in the comments credit, and they added an explanatory note to the problem itself. However, having reasoned the problem out as I have explained above and then selected two is actually equivalent to arguing that 4-1 = 2, so I think they should have held firm on that one.
LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Time for my usual sign off: