A new County Championship cricket season gets underway tomorrow. This post looks ahead to that, with a couple of things.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
If you are not able to get to the grounds that does not stop you from following what is going on. The BBC will be providing radio commentaries on all county fixtures. Simply open up a web browser, go to www.bbc.co.uk/cricket, click on the ‘live commentaries’ button and select the match you want to tune into. If weather intervenes or other factors suggest a change of match this is easily accomplished. An additional resource for getting extra detail about the game you are following is www.cricinfo.com, which also has excellent player profiles and statistical info. My initial focus tomorrow will be on Middlesex v Somerset, as the latter seek to win the title for the first time, 130 years after first taking part in the competition.
AN ALL TIME XI OF COUNTY STALWARTS – NO TEST CAPS
This XI, in anticipation of tomorrow is composed of players who never got an international call up. All must have played after the start of test cricket but never have been picked at international level.
- John Langridge – right handed opening batter. 574 First class matches, 34,378 runs at 37.44, 76 centuries, and never an England call up. He did grace the test arena eventually, as an umpire.
- Alan Jones – left handed opening batter. The Welshman played 645 first class matches, scoring 36,049 runs at 32.89, with 54 centuries. He was selected for the England v Rest of the World series which was arranged to replace the South African series that was cancelled for political reasons, but those games were ruled unofficial as they were not country vs country (though Shane Warne has wickets taken in matches that were not country vs country in his official test record). He has the unwelcome distinction of scoring more first class runs than anyone else who never played test cricket.
- *Percy Perrin – the Essex amateur right handed batter was another who played a vast amount of first class cricket. 538 matches in his case, yielding 29,709 runs at 35.92, with 66 centuries. It is symptomatic of his luck that he holds the record score in first class cricket for someone who finished on the losing side – 343 not out v Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. The scores in that match were Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1, with Charles Ollivierre scoring 229 and 92 not out for Derbyshire. Perrin in that Essex first innings hit 68 fours, a boundary count beaten only once in an FC innings, Brian Lara’s 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham containing 62 fours and 10 sixes. He became an England selector and served briefly as chairman of selectors.
- James Hildreth – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler. The Somerset middle order man has scored 17,202 first class runs at an average of 42 and has got no closer to test cricket than taking the field as substitute during the 2005 Ashes.
- Tony Cottey – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The diminutive (officially 5’4″) Glamorgan and Sussex middle order man scored almost 15,000 runs at and average of 36 in his first class career. For much of his playing career England were not exactly known for the robustness of their middle order, making his continual omission all the more baffling. I saw him live in a game at Swansea when he made a century on the first day after Glamorgan had been in some trouble. That effort looked impressive then, and even more impressive a day later when Andy Hayhurst of Somerset had snailed his way to 96 in six hours on a pitch playing beautifully.
- Darren Stevens – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. Every team needs an all rounder, and the Leicestershire/ Kent man fits the bill very nicely. Now 45, and still playing, his current record stands at 308 matches played, 15,710 runs at 34.75, 546 wickets at 24.67.
- +Colin Metson – wicket keeper, right handed batter. I was spoilt for choice here – at least three other keepers who never gained international recognition, Fred Huish of Kent, David Hunter of Yorkshire and Wally Luckes of Somerset would have done just as well. I saw Metson in action, and so know just how good he was. I also saw some the guys selected for England during his playing days and how inadequate they were.
- Charles Kortright – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The fastest bowler of his generation, but never selected for England. Bobby Abel, the Surrey stalwart once said after having made his lack of relish for facing the Essex quick a trifle too obvious “I am the father of six children and there are plenty of other bowlers besides Mr Kortright who I can score runs off.” In 170 first class appearances Kortright took 489 wickets at 21.20, with best innings figures of 8-57.
- Don Shepherd – right arm medium/ right handed batter. A specialist bowler of off cutters, Shepherd played 668 first class matches, taking 2,218 wickets at 21.32 at that level. This give Glamorgan the double distinction of being home to the person who took more FC wickets than any other non-test bowler and the person who scored more runs than any other non-test batter.
- George Dennett – left arm orthodox spin, left handed batter. 401 matches, 2,151 wickets at 19.82 a piece, and no England call up. The presence during his playing years of such luminaries as Wilfred Rhodes, Colin Blythe, Frank Woolley and Roy Kilner goes some way to explaining this, but it does seem strange that he should have been utterly overlooked.
- William Mycroft – left arm fast, right handed batter. It is true that his 1841 birth date means that he was past his prime by the time the first test match was played in March 1877, and would have been old indeed for a quick biowler to make a debut , at 39, by the time the first test on English soil was contested in 1880, but nevertheless his outstanding career record (138 first class matches, 863 wickets at 12.09 each) makes it seem strange that he was entirely ignored, especially since he actually kept going until 1885, which means that there were five matches in England and several Aussie tours for which he might have been selected.
This team has a solid top five, an all rounder, a keeper and a stellar bowling attack – I can think of many actual test sides who would start second favourites against this assemblage. For quick reference here it is in batting order:
John Langridge (RHB)
Alan Jones (LHB)
*Percy Perrin (RHB, captain)
James Hildreth (RHB, occ RMF)
Tony Cottey (RHB, occ OS)
Darren Stevens (RHB, RMF)
+Colin Metson (WK, RHB)
Charles Kortright (RF, RHB)
Don Shepherd (RM, RHB)
George Dennett (SLA, LHB)
William Mycroft (LF, RHB)
I have already mentioned several alternative keepers, and I invite others to come up with honourable mentions of their own in the comments, but two definitely need to be covered here: Edgar Oldroyd, a regular no3, scored about 15,000 runs at 36, and was unlucky to miss out, as he was unlucky to miss out on the test match call up in life. His grand-daughter Eleanor is now a very well known sports broadcaster. Ernie Robson, a middle order batter and medium paced outswing bowler for Somerset could have had the slot I fave to Stevens but the latter has a much better batting record, and there bowling averages are similar. If James Anderson is reading this he might care to note that Jack Hobbs rated Robson one of the most difficult bowlers he ever faced and that Robson was still taking wickets with his outswingers at the age of 53!
A LINK AND SOME PHOTOGRAPHS