All Time XIs – The Letter J

Continuing my all time XIs theme with a look at the letter J.

I continue the all-time XIs theme with a team comprising players whose surnames begin with J.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka). Opening batter, left arm spinner and good fielder. His test match highlights include a high score of 340 and an innings of 213 against England at The Oval that combined with Muralidaran’s 16 wickets in the match to give SL their first victory in England. In ODI cricket (T20 only became a thing after his prime cricketing years) he completely redefined the role of an opener, his explosive performances in that role playing a large part in winning his country the 1996 World Cup.
  2. Archie Jackson (Australia). He was a contemporary of Donald Bradman, and many who saw both rising through the ranks rated him the finer prospect. Ill health ruined his career – he died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 23, but an innings of 164 on test debut as a 19 year old provided some hard fact to reinforce the credentials he had established as a youngster.
  3. Dean Jones (Derbyshire, Australia). A combative character, he came of age as a cricket during the first innings of what proved to be only the second tied test match in history (36 years on there have still only been two) at Chennai in 1986. Jones in that innings scored 210, batting almost eight hours, and at the end of it he had to be taken to hospital and put on a saline drip. Later, during the 1986-7 Ashes he played an innings of 184, albeit aided by being given not out when on just 5. He also produced several valuable knocks in the 1989 Ashes, though not coming close to the productivity in that series of Mark Taylor or Steve Waugh.
  4. Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka). Possessor of the highest test innings by a right hander (374 versus South Africa), and without question in the top two of all time Sri Lankan test batters (Sangakkara being the other).
  5. *Stanley Jackson (Yorkshire, England). In 1905 he captained England to a decisive Ashes victory, topping both the batting and bowling averages, winning all five tosses and leading England to wins in both of the matches to reach definite conclusions. He scored five test centuries, all in home matches against the Aussies (he was an amateur, and business commitments always prevented him from touring). In 1902 he and George Hirst joined forces with the ball for Yorkshire to rout the touring Aussies for 23. His polished 49 at The Oval in the last test of that year’s Ashes enabled Jessop to begin England’s revival from 48-5 in pursuit of 263.
  6. +Amy Jones (England). A stellar keeper batter, a worthy successor in the England women’s squad to the legendary Sarah Taylor (and being kept on her toes by the knowledge that Ellie Threlkeld, also a magnificent keeper batter, is waiting in the wings).
  7. Gilbert Jessop (Gloucestershire, England). The most consistently rapid scoring batter the game has ever seen, a useful fast bowler and a brilliant fielder – in his great match at The Oval in 1902 his first significant contribution was not that innings, it was a brilliant bit of fielding that accounted for the key wicket of Victor Trumper, and he has been estimated to have been worth about 30 runs an innings in the field.
  8. Vallance Jupp (Sussex, Northamptonshire, England). An off spinning all rounder, who after his move north and qualification by residence for his new county achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in FC matches eight times in succession.
  9. Mitchell Johnson (Australia). A mercurial left arm fast bowler who at his best was as good any such to have played to the game – in the 2013-14 Ashes he was nigh on unplayable. It is true that he was a cricketing version of the girl in the nursery rhyme – when he was good he was very good, when he was bad (as in the 2010-11 Ashes) he was horrid, but I choose to honour the Dr Jekyll side of his bowling rather than use the Mr Hyde element as an excuse to drop him. He was also a useful lower order batter, with a test century and a 99 in that department.
  10. Simon Jones (Glamorgan, Hampshire, England). Plagued by injuries, but when fit he produced some outstanding performances – he was crucial to England’s triumph in the 2005 Ashes, reverse swinging the ball at high pace and causing every Aussie batter problems.
  11. Bill Johnston (Australia). Australia’s leading wicket taker in three series immediately post-war. He bowled left arm fast medium and left arm orthodox spin – it was not unknown for him to go from spinning the old ball to swinging the new one.

This side possesses good batting depth (a superb top four, a batting all rounder, a keeper batter, two all rounders and a bowler who can bat, with only S Jones and Johnston describable as bunnies), and a fine variety of bowling options – Johnson, S Jones, Johnston, Jessop and Jackson providing five seam options all different from one another, while Jupp, Jayasuriya and Johnston in his slower style provide spin options.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Before going into the rest of this section there is one player I am going to give a subsection to himself…

RAVINDRASINH JADEJA (INDIA)

Averaging 35 with the bat and 24 with the ball in test cricket gives him a case to be regarded as the best contemporary all rounder of any kind in the game . The problem is that his bowling stock in trade, left arm orthodox spin overlaps with Jayasuriya and Johnston in his slower style. This is why I preferred Jupp’s off spin and the explosiveness of Jessop in the two slots he might have occupied – I was concerned with the balance of the attack, wanting my skipper to be able to change the bowling as well the bowler.

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Steve James of Glamorgan and briefly England was a solid county opener, but I suspect that not even the staunchest of his county’s fans would expect him to be picked for this XI. Andrew Jones of New Zealand, a gritty and determinded number three for that country, might have had the slot I gave to Dean Jones, but while acknowledging his ability I felt that Dean, also a gritty competitor, had a sufficiently superior record to his trans-Tasman namesake to warrant getting the slot. Three fast bowlers who were close to being picked were in reverse chronological order Les Jackson of Derbyshire who took his FC scalps at 17 each but was only rewarded with two England caps, Ernie Jones of Australia, a seriously quick bowler in the 1890s, but also the first ever to be called for throwing in a test match, and John Jackson, a terror in the era immediately before WG Grace came to prominence. Prabath Jayasuriya has made a sensational start to his test career, but as a specialist left arm spinner it would hard for him to qualify for this XI even he maintains that start. Worcestershire leg spinner Roley Jenkins entered my thoughts, but I felt Jupp deserved the second spinner’s role. Digby Jephson, who was one of the last front line under arm bowlers at professional level and a good middle order batter is another I regret not being able to accommodate. Aqib Javed, a Pakistan fast bowler of the 1990s did not quite establish a good enough record to be a serious challenger. Among keepers only Eifion Jones, who was much less of a batter, comes close to namesake Amy behind the stumps – Geraint Jones was not up to standard in either department. Arthur Jepson does not qualify as a player but he can be one of the umpires, a role in which he excelled.

I end this section with two players who are very likely to be shoo-ins for this XI in 10 years time or thereabouts. Kyle Jamieson of New Zealand has made a magnificent start to his test career, and may well knock Mitchell Johnson out of the XI if he maintains his current progress. Will Jacks of Surrey is a hugely promising young batter and part time off spinner. In standard cricket formulation of initials and surname he is WG Jacks, and his recent 150 against Essex, most of it scored with tailenders for company, and giving his side an ultimately match settling first innings lead was worthy of the original WG.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing adventure through the letter J is complete and all that remains is my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter I

Continuing my exploration of the all-time XI theme with a look at the letter I.

I continue my all time XIs theme with a look at the letter I. The letter I is problematic the opposite reason to the letter H, but I think I have still assembled a respectable side.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Khalid Ibadulla (Warwickshire, Pakistan). He scored 166 on test debut. After his playing days were done he became a distinguished coach – it was he he first spotted the talent of Glenn Turner of New Zealand, and it was at his urging that the Kiwi secured a county contract.
  2. Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh). The classiest batter his country has yet produced. His test average is just below 40, but that has been achieved without having an opening partner of similar class and with Bangladesh often facing big opposition totals.
  3. Colin Ingram (South Africa). A rare non test player in one of these XIs. His first class record is respectable, his list A record outstanding.
  4. Frank Iredale (Australia). Played in the late 19th century when pitches were often poor. His test batting average (36.68) is three runs an innings better than his first class average.
  5. Asif Iqbal (Kent, Pakistan). A middle order batter with a test average of 38.75 and an occasional medium pacer. His finest hour came in losing cause, when he came in with the score 53-7 and proceeded to score 146 out of 202, sharing a ninth wicket stand of 190 with Intikhab Alam.
  6. James Iremonger (Nottinghamshire). No test caps, but a stalwart for Nottinghamshire for many years. An all rounder who bowled medium pace he scored 16,622 FC runs at 35.06 with an HS of 272 and took 619 wickets at 22.97, with a BBI of 8-21. He subsequently became coach of the county he had played for, being responsible among others for the development of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce.
  7. +Imtiaz Ahmed (Pakistan). A fine keeper batter, with a test match 209 to his credit in the latter department.
  8. *Ray Illingworth (Yorkshire, Leicestershire, England). An off spinning all rounder, one of the select few to have scored 20,000 FC runs and taken 2,000 FC wickets, also a very shrewd captain (reclaiming the Ashes in 1970-1 – the only post war England captain to have travelled to Australia without the urn and returned with it – Hutton, Brearley, Gatting and Strauss all retained the Ashes down under).
  9. Shoriful Islam (Bangladesh). Very little test experience, but his record in ODIs and T20Is is excellent, and finding pacers of anything approaching the requisite standard was difficult.
  10. Anthony Ireland (Gloucestershire, Zimbabwe). The only other new ball bowler of remotely sufficient standard I could find to partner Shoriful Islam.
  11. Bert ‘Dainty’ Ironmonger (Australia). A rarity – an unquestionably world class Australian left arm orthodox spinner. 74 test wickets at 17.97, 464 FC wickets at 21.50.

This team has a reasonably deep batting order, with all down to Illingworth at number eight capable of making significant contributions in this department. The bowling is less pretty, with the weakest new ball combo I have yet selected, Iremonger’s medium pace the principal back up seam option, and spinners Illingworth and Ironmonger likely to have to shoulder a heavy workload

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Even with a weak letter like this one some have to miss out. Doug Insole might have had a middle order batting slot, but his test record was less good than Iredale. Jack Iddon was a good all rounder for Lancashire in his day, and another Lancastrian, Jack Ikin, might have had a middle order slot. Jack Iverson missed out, because his almost exclusive reliance on the googly makes him basically an off spinner, and Illingworth’s all round skills and captaincy got him that slot. Manzural Islam (Bangladesh) might have become a great all rounder had he not been killed in a car crash. Finally, two Indians, batter Shreyas Iyer and all rounder Venkatesh Iyer may claim their places in this squad in the next few years, although the former needs to work on how he plays the short ball – at the moment an encounter between him and Mitchell Starc on a bouncy Perth track would be be brief and brutal.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter H

Continuing the all-time XI theme with a look at the letter H.

Before introducing this post I have a point of information to offer. I have various commitments over the next few days which may mean I don’t get to put up any further posts before Sunday. We continue the all-time XIs theme with the letter H (letter G was treated out of position to coincide with the skipper’s birth anniversary), which presents us with a massive embarrassment of riches. There will be a vast mass of honourable mentions.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Jack Hobbs (Surrey, England). The Master’s case for inclusion needs no further amplification – it is beyond dispute.
  2. *Leonard Hutton (Yorkshire, England). His extraordinary record is even more extraordinary when you consider he lost six prime development years to WWII and emerged from that conflict with one arm shorter than the other due to a training accident.
  3. George Headley (West Indies). To date the only test cricketer to have been born in Panama, and one of the select few to finish with an average in excess of 60 at that level. He was nicknamed ‘Atlas’ because he seemed to carry WI’s batting on his shoulders.
  4. Walter Hammond (Gloucestershire, England). Only an ill advised comeback post WWII when he was in his mid forties reduced his test average below 60 runs an innings. He was also an ace slip fielder and a serviceable medium-fast bowler.
  5. Mike Hussey (Northamptonshire, Australia). His test career started late because when he was in his absolute prime Australia were utterly dominant, with a strong and settled batting line up, but once the chance came he took it with both hands, establishing a superb record at the highest level.
  6. Patsy Hendren (Middlesex, England). The third leading scorer of FC runs and second leading scorer of FC centuries in history, he rounds out a fearsome top six.
  7. +Ian Healy (Australia). Australia have had a long line of top class wicket keepers, and this guy was one of the greatest of them all, though his batting was not a match for that of his successor, Gilchrist.
  8. Richard Hadlee (Nottinghamshire, New Zealand). Indisputably the finest cricketer ever to play for New Zealand (Clarrie Grimmett, the great leg spinner, was born in Dunedin, though he had to cross the Tasman to find cricketing fulfilment).
  9. Simon Harmer (Essex, South Africa). So far he has had few opportunities at test level, but his performances for Essex in the county championship have been sensational over the years, and I expect to see him in action against England later this summer.
  10. Michael Holding (Derbyshire, Lancashire, West Indies). Attained legendary status in 1976 when alone among the bowlers on either side he managed to make things happen on a placid Oval surface, claiming 14-149 in the match, as many wickets as the other bowlers on both sides took put together. In 1981 he produced possibly the most intimidating opening over ever bowled in a test match, at Bridgetown, when veteran opener Geoff Boycott was comprehensively beaten by four balls, got bat on one and lost his off stump to the sixth.
  11. Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka). The left arm spinner was one of the best of his kind ever to play the game, and his test record makes hugely impressive reading.

This side contains a massively strong top six, a great keeper who could bat and four of the greatest bowlers ever to play the game. Due to my decision to select Harmer, the only controversial choice in the XI, it has only two specialist quicks, with Hammond as third seamer, but I don’t foresee taking 20 wickets being a huge problem even so.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

We start with the openers, of whom at least four were unlucky to have surnames beginning with the same letter as Hobbs and Hutton: Two west Indians, Conrade Hunte aka ‘old everlasting’ and Desmond Haynes had excellent test records but could not quite challenge my two choices, two other English openers, Tom Hayward and Percy Holmes both had fine records, although the latter got few opportunities at test level due to overlapping with Hobbs and Sutcliffe. Finally, Matthew Hayden had a magnificent overall record, but he has one black mark: in England in 2005 he had a shocking series only partially redeemed by a score of 138 in the final match thereof.

Among the middle order batters who failed to make the cut are Neil Harvey, a magnificent left hander who might have been awarded the slot I gave to Hussey, David Hussey who had a fine domestic record but got few opportunities at test level, Clem Hill, another legendary left hander, Hunter ‘Stork’ Hendry also had a fine record but not quite good enough to challenge. James Hildreth of Somerset never got the opportunity to show what he could do at the highest level, and given the strength of the batting available for this letter he has to miss out again.

Three wicket keepers challenged for the slot I gave to Ian Healy: his niece Alyssa, who has a magnificent record for the Aussie women’s team, Brad Haddin, who was not Healy’s equal with the gauntlets though may have been better with the bat and Warren Hegg of Lancashire. Those who pick their keepers solely on batting ability might have looked to Geoff Humpage of Warwickshire, but even he would not claim on his own behalf to have been a great keeper, and I am disinclined to pick anyone who chose to go on rebel tours to South Africa, as he did.

I did not pick an all rounder, which is unusual for me, but I felt that none of that top six could be left out. Five all rounders had records to merit consideration: George Hirst of Yorkshire and England, and Jason Holder of the West Indies are the two pace bowling all rounders to merit a mention for this letter, while three leg spinning all rounders, JW ‘young Jack’ Hearne, David Holford (West Indies) and Wanindu Hasaranga (Sri Lanka) also merit mentions. Krom Hendricks, the first South African to be excluded from selection based on skin colour, back in the 1890s, does not have a detailed enough record to be given more than a mention.

There is an absolute plethora of great bowlers for with surnames beginning with H: Wes Hall, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Heine, Vanburn Holder (part of the original WI pace quartet of 1976), Steve Harmison and JT ‘old Jack’ Hearne (the fourth leading wicket taker in FC history, with 3,061 scalps) being clear cut examples. Ryan Harris and Dean Headley were fine bowlers who were deprived of greatness by injuries. Rodney Hogg had a meteoric career starting in the late 1970s and ending in the early 1980s. Schofield Haigh, a bowler of above medium pace who could swing, seam, cut or spin the ball had a massively successful county career for Yorkshire but only a few England caps. David Harris of Hambledon would need a law change to be able to use his preferred methods in the modern game, and a lack of any detail about his career figures relegates him to the honourable mentions. Finally, Alex Hartley, a world cup winning left arm spinner, is unlucky to be competing with Herath for a slot, and has to settle for a commentary gig (she is good at that too).

Our on-field umpires to go with this XI can be John Holder and Anna Harris.

PHOTOGRAPHS

After a look at the cornucopia of talent available to a selector of a side with surnames beginning with H it is time for my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter F

A look at some of the greatest cricketers to have surnames beginning with the letter F and some photographs.

I continue my exploration of the all time XI theme with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter F.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Roy Fredericks (West Indies). Somewhat overshadowed by the later deeds of the greatest opening combo WI have ever produced, Greenidge and Haynes, Fredericks was nevertheless a player of the highest class. His most famous test knock was an innings of 169 against Australia at the WACA in Perth, not generally a happy hunting ground for visiting players. He was also only the second player to score a century in a men’s ODI after Dennis Amiss.
  2. Charles Burgess Fry (Sussex, England). His mastery of the art of batting is all the more astonishing given that cricket was just one area in which he excelled. He once scored a six successive first class centuries, a feat equalled by Bradman and Procter but unsurpassed to this day. Although he did score test centuries possibly his greatest innings at that level was the 79 he scored on a horrible pitch at The Oval in 1912, which put England in an unassailable position and secured both the match and the first and only triangular tournament for England.
  3. Andrew Flower (Essex, Zimbabwe). Without doubt the best test match batter his country has ever produced, he was also an adequate wicket keeper and an occasional off spinner, neither of which roles he will be called on to perform in this side.
  4. Keith Fletcher (Essex, England). At the time of his retirement he had scored more FC runs for Essex than any other player, though Graham Gooch broke that record.
  5. Aubrey Faulkner (South Africa). Only one person to have played 20 or more test matches can claim the double feat at that level of averaging over 40 with the bat and under 30 with the ball: Faulkner, who averaged 40.79 with the bat and took 85 wickets at 26.58 each.
  6. +Ben Foakes (Essex, Surrey, England). The best keeper of the 21st century, with the possible exception of Sarah Taylor of the England women’s side and a good batter. In this side there are three batters of serious substance to follow him, and only one genuine bunny.
  7. *Percy Fender (Surrey, England). As I stated in my Surrey piece his aggression makes him an ideal person to bat at seven in a very strong line up. A good leg spinner, a brilliant fielder and a shrewd captain (unlike the England selectors of his day I have given him this role in the side).
  8. Frank Foster (Warwickshire, England). His career was terminated early by a motorcycle accident, but he had done enough, including joining forces with Sydney Barnes in the 1911-12 Ashes to form the most potent opening bowling pair seen to that point in test cricket to justify his selection here. He was also a fine middle order batter, indeed the first Warwickshire player ever to record a triple century.
  9. Wilfred Flowers (Nottinghamshire, England). With two all rounders in the side whose bowling speciality was leg spin I wanted someone to spin the ball the other way, and Flowers, a bowling all rounder who bowled off spin fitted the bill nicely.
  10. George Freeman (Yorkshire). 288 wickets in 44 first class matches at less than 10 runs a piece earn him his place in this XI. He played as an amateur, hence the small number of appearances he made at FC level, earning his living as an auctioneer.
  11. Jack Ferris (Australia, England). The left armer had an astonishing record in his brief test career, and his FC record over a much bigger sample size also stacks up very well. His “England” appearance came on a privately organized visit to South Africa, where the match that team played against an SA XI was classed as test match somewhat later.

This side has a very strong batting line up, with Flowers at number nine having done the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches on five separate occasions. The bowling, with Ferris, Freeman and Foster to bowl varieties of seam, and Flowers, Faulkner and Fender available as front line spin options has both depth and variety. There is a very shrewd captain in Fender, and a keeper who will accept every chance going in the form of Foakes.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I am going to start this section with subsection dedicated to the most glaring omission:

ALFRED PERCY ‘TICH’ FREEMAN

The second leading wicket taker in first class history, only bowler to have claimed 300 FC wickets in a single season, only bowler to take all ten wickets in a first class innings three times. Considered purely on this basis he should be sho0-in, but two factors mitigated against his inclusion: he was a specialist leg spinner, and with Faulkner and Fender both having ironclad cases for inclusion I wanted a third spinner who did something different, also while he was destroyer of small fry his record against the stronger counties, and at test level, was no more than respectable, and this was an additional strike against him.

BATTERS

Reginald Erskine ‘Tip’ Foster scored 287 on test debut, but only topped 50 at that level once thereafter, so record breaker though he was he doesn’t qualify. Arthur Fagg, until recently the only player to score two double hundreds in a first class match, might have had an opening slot, but Fredericks’ left handedness plus the fact that he delivered at the highest level and Fagg did not swung that position his way. Some Aussies might root for Aaron Finch, and if I was picking a limited overs side he would be a sh00-in, but I make my judgements based on long-form cricket, and Finch’s numbers don’t stack up there. Francis Ford, an attacking left hander of the late 19th century did not have a good enough test record to merit inclusion. Neil Fairbrother never quite delivered at international level as he did for Lancashire.

WICKET KEEPERS

James Foster of Essex and England was a magnificent keeper, and scurvily treated by the England selectors of his day, but in the old saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and to select him in this side would be to wrong Ben Foakes. The only other keeper of note to have a surname beginning with F, Bruce French, was not in the same class as Foster or Foakes in either department.

BOWLERS

Other than ‘Tich’ Freeman with whom I started this section, the best known bowler I have omitted is Gus Fraser, who had a fine test record, but who I could not in honesty place above any of Ferris, George Freeman or Frank Foster. A combination of injuries, selectorial caprice and a decision to join a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa robbed Neil Foster of the kind of record that would have earned him a place alongside his namesake Frank. If I had been going to risk picking a female pace bowler I would have gone for Cathryn Fitzpatrick, the Aussie who was by some way the quickest female bowler of her generation. Left arm wrist spinner ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith was just too expensive to claim a place. West Indian quick George Francis was past his best by the time they gained test status. Paul Franks had a fine career for Nottinghamshire but never did anything of note at international level.

ALL ROUNDERS

Duncan Fletcher might have been the second Zimbabwean to feature in this XI, but he finished before his country gained test status, so will have to settle for being head coach of this XI, a job he performed with distinction for England. Aussie James Faulkner would be well in the running were I selecting a limited overs side, but his long form record is not quite good enough.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Now that our look at cricketers whose surnames begin with F is at an end it remains only to offer up my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter E

A look at the letter E as I continue my all time XIs theme.

This blog post continues the All Time XIs theme with a look at the letter E.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Dean Elgar (South Africa). Among the best contemporary long form openers, a very tough competitor. He also bowls left arm orthodox spin, although he is not likely to be needed for that by this side.
  2. John Edrich (Surrey, England). One of two Norfolk born cricketers in this XI (out of five members of their family to play FC cricket). Like Elgar a very tough competitor who had to be got out. He had the useful knack of really making it count when he got himself in, illustrated by a HS of 310* v NZ and scores of 175 and 164 against Australia.
  3. Bill Edrich (Middlesex, England). Lost six years of his prime to WWII, also often missed due to differences of opinion between himself and those in authority, but still averaged 40 in test cricket. He could also bowl useful right arm fast medium, more than once taking the new ball in a test match. Possessed of almost limitless courage, exemplified by his efforts as a flying ace during the war, he was a fine player of fast bowling in particular.
  4. George Emmett (Gloucestershire, England). A fine batter for Gloucestershire.
  5. Ross Edwards (Australia). Once scored 170* against England in a test match. In the 1975 Ashes, at the end of which he retired from test cricket he showed his battling qualities with a 56 in just over four hours at Edgbaston and a 99 that saved Australia from the wreckage of 81-7 (with the assistance of a certain DK Lillee, who produced 73*)
  6. Russell Endean (South Africa). A hunch pick by his captain Jack Cheetham for a tour of Australia after SA had been hit with a huge number of retirements, leading some to argue for the abandonment of the tour. SA drew the series 2-2 with Endean justifying his skipper’s faith by producing a score of 162* in seven hours at a crucial juncture.
  7. +Godfrey Evans (Kent, England). One of the greatest keepers of all time (173 catches and 46 stumpings, the latter an England record, at test level). His batting highlights included two test centuries and an innings where with England battling for a draw he was on 0* for 97 minutes, supporting Denis Compton who was batting at the other end.
  8. Tom Emmett (Yorkshire, England). A great left arm fast bowler and a good enough lower order batter to have scored a first class ton at a time when those were not easy to come by.
  9. Edwin Evans (Australia). A right arm slow bowler and reasonably capable lower order batter, his domestic record was outstanding, and he played in the second test match ever.
  10. Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire, Manchester Originals, England). A left arm orthodox spinner who takes her international wickets at 20 a piece overall and has had her moments batting down the order. Her stock bowling speed is in the low to mid 50s miles per hour, which is somewhat quicker than that of Matt Parkinson to give just one example. I would not pick a female seam/ pace bowler as they are a lot slower than their male equivalents, but spin is not principally about the speed at which one propels the ball, and I believe Ecclestone is up to the job.
  11. Gideon Elliott (Victoria). A right arm fast bowler who played less than anyone else to feature in any of these XIs – just nine FC matches between March 1856 and a similar time in 1862. In those nine matches he took 48 wickets at less than five runs a piece, including the performance in which wickets taken outstripped runs conceded by the greatest amount in FC history – 9-2 in a single innings.

This team has a solid top six, a great keeper and four splendid and varied bowlers. Given that Bill Edrich took the new ball on occasions at test level I am not that worried about him being the third bowler of above medium pace in this side, while the slower bowlers, Ecclestone and Edwin Evans provide a classic contrast in styles.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I will deal with the spin situation first: there were two obvious spinners whose surnames begin with E, John Emburey and Philippe-Henri Edmonds. As valuable as these two were to Middlesex’s cause over the years neither had a great test record, and Emburey blotted his copybook by going on both English rebel tours to South Africa, the only person to do so.

Fidel Edwards would have been a more conventional choice of a right arm fast bowler than Gideon Elliott, but my feeling is that Elliott’s absurdly cheap wicket taking average, even from so small a sample size justifies his inclusion.

The only challenger to Godfrey Evans for the gauntlets was Faroukh Engineer of India, but though he was a better bat than Evans he was not as good behind the stumps, and as usual I opted for the better keeper.

The only other test match opening batter whose surname begins with E that I could think of was Bruce Edgar, and his average was only just the right side of 30, considerably less than either Elgar or John Edrich.

Richard Ellison, a right arm fast medium bowler and useful lower order batter, had his moments for England, including the last two matches of the 1985 Ashes, but his record is not quite good enough overall.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter D

A brief mention of last night’s heroics by the England women, and a continuation of the all-time XIs theme with a look at the letter D.

I continue my All Time XIs theme with a look at the letter D. Before getting to the main meat of my post I have a piece of cricket news to pass on that is not entirely inappropriate to my overall theme.

ENGLAND WOMEN SECURE SERIES WIN AGAINST SA

Yesterday evening saw a T20I between England Women and South Africa Women. England dominated the game from the word go, and one of the two heroes may in future years merit consideration for the squad I am selecting here – after South Africa had limped to 111 from their 20 overs with Katherine Brunt taking a T20I best 4-15, England knocked the runs off very easily, Sophia Dunkley leading the way with an imperious 59 opening the batting. One of the three sixes she hit voided any discussion of boundary placements since it went right out of the ground. England’s win made them uncatchable in the multi-format series putting them 10-2 up with only four more points to play for.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Chris Dent (Gloucestershire). Finding openers for this side was a challenge, but the left hander from Gloucestershire has scored over 10,000 FC runs at an average of 38 and can be trusted to do a solid job in this position.
  2. Stewie Dempster (Leicestershire and New Zealand). His brief international career, before he moved to Leicestershire yielded a batting average of 65.72.
  3. Rahul Dravid (India). No argument about this slot, since we have at our disposal one of the greatest number threes in cricket history, averaging over 50 through a very long test career. He was technically excellent and possessed limitless patience.
  4. Martin Donnelly (New Zealand). Another like his compatriot Dempster whose career at the highest level was short, and for similar reasons, but he did enough in that brief time to justify his place. One of only two cricketers along with Percy Chapman, also left handed, to achieve the triple feat of Lord’s centuries in The Varsity Match, Gentlemen versus Players match and a test match (206 in 1949 in this latter).
  5. Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji (Sussex, England). His career was shortened by ill health, but he averaged 58 in his brief test career, including 173 against Australia at Lord’s in 1930.
  6. Basil D’Oliveira (Worcestershire, England). Usually I reserve this position for a genuine all rounder, and based on his first class and test records D’Oliveira was a batter who bowled rather than a true all rounder. However, by the time he got the show what he could do on a stage worthy of his talents he was past his cricketing prime, being well into his 30s when he made his FC debut, and officially 35 but actually probably older by the time the test call came, and in the cricket he played in his native land before moving to England he was a genuine all rounder, so here he is at number six in this line up.
  7. +Jeff Dujon (West Indies). An elegant, attack minded, middle order batter good enough to score four test centuries, and superb at keeping to fast bowling. There is, due to his prime coinciding with the era of West Indies speed quartets, a question mark over how we would have handled keeping to top class spin, but his athleticism was such that I am prepared to believe he would have coped without undue difficulty.
  8. Alan Davidson (Australia). A demon left arm bowler, generally operating at pace but capable of turning his hand to spin at need, a fielder of such brilliance that he earned the nickname ‘the claw’ and a useful lower order batter. 186 test wickets at 20.53 tells its own story about how good he was.
  9. Wayne Daniel (Middlesex, West Indies). He never quite established himself at test level, but he was sensational for Middlesex. West Indies were spoilt for fast bowling options when he was in his prime, and he was far from the only top notch pacer not play as much at the very highest level as he ought to have done.
  10. Allan Donald (Warwickshire, South Africa). South Africa’s first great fast bowler on their return to the fold from sporting isolation, and probably still part of most people’s modern era South Africa pace trio (I would have him, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada in these three slots). Although his decision to wait for SA to be readmitted to test cricket, rather than qualify by residence for England, meant a latish start at test level he still took 330 wickets in 72 test matches.
  11. *George Dennett (Gloucestershire). He did not get to play test cricket, because when he was in his pomp as a left arm spinner so too were Wilfred Rhodes and Colin Blythe. 401 FC matches yielded him 2,151 wickets at 19.82 a piece. I have named him as captain, believing that he would do the job well, although in his playing days the obsession with “amateur” captains meant he never actually had the job.

This XI has a strong top six, one of the all time great keeper batters, one of the greatest of all ‘bowlers who can bat’ and three superb specialist bowlers. A bowling attack of Davidson, Donald, Daniel and Dennett backed up by D’Oliveira should not have any trouble capturing 20 opposition wickets either.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Abraham Benjamin ‘AB’ De Villiers is without doubt the greatest player I have left out, and had I been picking a limited overs side he would have definitely have been in there. As it is I had strong positive reasons for my selections of Donnelly, Duleepsinhji and D’Oliveira. Ted Dexter was also close to selection, but his natural slot is number three and I would laugh outright if anyone suggested that he was a better than Rahul Dravid. Many Indians would have named Mahendra Singh Dhoni as both keeper and captain, but I considered my batting to be deep enough to enable the selection of the best keeper, and I consider Dujon to be that. Once again, had I been picking with white ball in mind, Dhoni would have been in the XI. Quinton de Kock will feature later in this series – the letter Q is so tough that a certain amount of trickery is required. Johnny Douglas would be some people’s pick for the all rounders slot that I gave to D’Oliveira. There might have been a second West Indian speedster in the line up, but I preferred picking a spinner, Dennett, rather than going for an all out pace battery with Winston Davis in the line up. Joe Denly might have had the slot I awarded to Chris Dent, but unlike Dent he did appear at test level and an average of precisely 30, while it places him above his county colleague Crawley, also confirms him as not quite good enough. Mark Davies, formerly of Durham, is a ‘what might have been’ – his career was ruined by injuries, but he did enough while not injured to finish with an FC bowling average of 22. Similarly, Alonzo Drake, who was sensational for Yorkshire as a left arm spinner and middle order batter in the run up to WWI, but died before FC cricket resumed in 1919, didn’t quite have a weight enough record to claim a place. I mentioned Dunkley while covering England Women’s triumph of last night, and a second spinner who would contrast with Dennett would be off spinner Charlie Dean, beginning to make a name for herself in the England women’s side. A combination of injuries and the selectorial caprices of the 1980s meant that Graham Dilley was short of qualifying for a pace bowling slot.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter C

Continuing my all-time XIs theme with a look at the letter C.

The temperature here is back to what would be expected of England in July after two days of serious heat. Peterborough, just over an hour to the west of me by bus was one of various UK places to top 40 degrees yesterday, while the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge, south of me, clocked 39.9. Holbeach and Marham, either side of King’s Lynn and closer still, both also had temperatures between 39 and 40. I am continuing my series of all-time XI posts with a look at the letter C.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Shivnarine Chanderpaul (Lancashire, West Indies). The Guyanese super stacker was not a regular opener, but with due respect to his achievements this season I could hardly pick Ben Compton, and nor did any other regular openers beginning with C jump out at me. I reckon he can handle the job, and as you will see going down the order I have a stack of quality players who belong in the middle order.
  2. Colin Cowdrey (Kent, England). Not a full time opener, but he did the job with success during the low scoring 1956 Ashes series. Also, when summoned out as an emergency replacement to the 1974-5 tour as a 42 year old who was short of practice, he stood up to the terrifying pace of Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee as well as any top order English batter (only middle order batters Greig and Knott could be said to fare well with the bat in this series).
  3. *Ian Chappell (Australia). Had an excellent record as a test match number three and was also a shrewd and ruthless skipper, a role I have no hesitation in assigning to him in this XI.
  4. Denis Compton (Middlesex, England). To maintain an average of 50 over a career of 78 test matches which was disrupted by six years of war and a knee injury one has to be class player. Denis Charles Scott Compton was also a prime entertainer. In addition to the batting he was a fine fielder and bowled presentable left arm wrist spin.
  5. Greg Chappell (Somerset, Australia). The first Australian to top 7,000 test runs, one of the safest slip catchers in the game’s history and an occasional bowler of both leg spin and medium pace.
  6. Learie Constantine (Nelson, West Indies). I mention his Lancashire League club, a club he served phenomenally when is his prime because his deeds as a league Pro are an essential part of the package that was Learie Constantine. An attacking batter, a fast bowler (before later turning to medium pace and spin with the odd quicker one interspersed) and one of the greatest of all fielders, he was a true all rounder.
  7. +Hanson Carter (Australia). The Yorkshire born keeper took over behind the stumps from the long serving Jim Kelly and yielded his spot to the legendary Bert Oldfield. He loses little even by comparison to these legends of the stumper’s art.
  8. Rakheem Cornwall (West Indies). Off spinner and useful lower order batter. He is on my own admission the most questionable pick in this side, but I have opted for him to give the bowling attack extra balance.
  9. Patrick Cummins (Australia). Currently the best test match fast bowler in the world, and a better batter than his test average suggests.
  10. Colin Croft (West Indies). Another fast bowler, similar in height and in bowling with his right arm to Cummins, also has a magnificent record, but the two are utterly dissimilar in other ways. He has the best innings figures in test cricket by a WI fast bowler, 8-29. He was also the second after Gary Gilmour to take a six-for in an ODI (6-15). I have positioned him one place above his usual spot in the batting order because there is an even more undisputed no11 to come…
  11. Bhagwath Chandrasekhar (India). One of a quartet of spinners to play for India in the 1970s (Bedi and Prasanna were both also indisputably world class, Venkataraghavan less so). He bowled leg spin at a fairly brisk pace, turning the withering of his right arm by childhood polio into a huge plus for himself. Only one bowler not have played county championship cricket took more FC wickets than Chandra, another leg spinner in Clarrie Grimmett.

This side contains a powerful top five (the only conceivable question mark there being whether Chanderpaul could handle the opening gig), a genuine all rounder, a keeper who can bat and varied quartet of bowlers. Cummins, Croft and Constantine are a fine trio of pacers, and leg spinner Chandrasekhar and off spinner Cornwall constitute a decent spin attack. In support if needed are Compton, G Chappell and Chanderpaul in that order of preference.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Sir Alastair Cook might have had the slot I gave to Chanderpaul, but my feeling having witnessed both is that the Guyanese was the better cricketer. Cook benefitted from being part of an exceedingly strong line up, something Chanderpaul rarely experienced. Another Cook, Jimmy of South Africa, is the ultimate ‘what might have been?’ – his domestic record was outstanding, but bearing in mind another southern African, Graeme Hick, I have to rule him out.

The best batter I was unable to accommodate was Martin Crowe (Somerset, New Zealand). I had positive reasons for including Compton and the Chappells (including the captaincy in the case of the most vulnerable of the trio to the Crowe challenge, Ian Chappell) rather than negative reasons for leaving Crowe out. Michael ‘Pup’ Clarke had a fine test record, but not quite the equal of anyone I selected. Another Aussie named Clarke, Belinda, might have got an opening slot. Medium pacer and useful lower order batter Tom Cartwright was the challenger to Cornwall for the number eight slot, and if you prefer relying on one front line spinner I accept that. Albert ‘Tibby’ Cotter, an Australian fast bowler who was killed during WWI was on the fringes, as was West Indian Sylvester Clarke. Neither Lance nor Chris Cairns quite merited a place. I end with the reverse of an honourable mention: Zak Crawley is a current England opener, but few have ever been less deserving of the position – his record is an opener puts him down in the ‘Brearley without the captaincy’ class, and even for Kent he barely averages 30 an innings.

PHOTOGRAPHS

All Time XIs – The Letter G

Continuing my all time XIs theme with a skip ahead to the letter G, it being the 174th anniversary of the birth of that letters captain.

Outside it is ferociously hot, as per weather forecast. I have curtains drawn at the front of my bungalow, blinds down at the back and windows open everywhere, and so far that is keeping indoors bearable. I have skipped forward a few letters in my selection of teams with surnames beginning with the same letter because today is the 174th anniversary of the birth of the skipper of the team for whom that letter is G. Coverage of the second women’s ODI between England and South Africa is just underway. Ben Stokes has announced that tomorrow’s ODI in Durham will be his last game in that format – he is still available for selection in T20Is, but his main focus is the team of which he is captain, the test team.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Sunil Gavaskar (Somerset and India). The first to reach the career milestone of 10,000 test runs. His career highlights include an innings of 221 at The Oval in 1979 which almost enabled India to chase down a target of 438 (they were 429-8 when time ran out, having panicked from a high-water mark of 366-1).
  2. Gordon Greenidge (Hampshire, West Indies). The Barbadian was aggressive by nature but possessed the ability to rein in his attacking instincts in the interests of the side. His two double centuries in the 1984 ‘blackwash’ series exemplify the different ways he could approach an innings: at Lords he was brutally destructive, carrying WI to a nine wicket victory with 214* in under five hours at the crease. Later in the series at Old Trafford, with WI needing a long innings Greenidge contributed 223*, batting almost 10 hours to wrench the initiative back for his side.
  3. *WG Grace (Gloucestershire, London County, England). The birthday boy, and this team’s captain. His first first class hundred (out of 126 he was to score – I have no truck with the revisionist stats that give him only 124) came at The Oval in 1866 (224*). His last began on his 56th birthday, in 1904 (166). When he completed 50 FC centuries in 1875 that tally was equal to that of the next 13 leading century makers combined. When he made it 100 FC centuries 20 years later second in the list of century makers was Arthur Shrewsbury with 41 to his name). Add to that the bowling that brought him 2,876 FC wickets at 17.39 each and about 900FC catches and you have a serious all rounder. He was a regular opener, but I do not see him having a problem with first drop.
  4. David Gower (Leicestershire, Hampshire, England). After three right handers we have a left hander. 8,231 test runs at 44.25 show that he had plenty of steel to go with the style he was justly famous for.
  5. Tom Graveney (Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, England). The second leading scorer of FC runs among players who played exclusively after WWII. He was part of an astonishing turn around at The Oval in 1966 – England were 166-7, still over 100 behind the WI first innings total at low water mark. Graveney (165) and keeper Murray (112) began the turn around, which was completed when tail enders Snow and Higgs each hit maiden test fifties, carrying England to 527 all out. WI not surprisingly went down to an innings defeat.
  6. +Adam Gilchrist (Australia). The wicket keeper, and our second left hander, one place above his preferred no seven. The only minor blot on a stellar international record was his horror series in England in 2005.
  7. Jack Gregory (AIF and Australia). It was Plum Warner who suggested to the Australian International Forces team when they were uncertain of who to pick for the last place in their XI to go for Gregory, saying “there never was a Greogry of Sydney who couldn’t play the game”. Plum was spot on, and Jack Gregory developed into a genuine all rounder, attacking left handed batter (once hit a century against South Africa in just 70 minutes at the crease), one half of test cricket’s first great pair of fast bowlers along with Ted McDonald and a superb fielder in the slip and gully regions.
  8. George Geary (Leicestershire and England). A bowler of seemingly inexhaustible stamina (once at Melbourne he bowled 81 overs in a single innings, taking 5-105) and possessed of all the tricks of the medium-fast bowler’s trade and a useful lower order batter to boot. His CV included two Ashes winning moments – in 1926 it was he who bowled Arthur Mailey to seal the victory at The Oval, while at the MCG two and a half years later he hit the winning runs as England scored 332-7 to go 3-0 in the five match series. His best FC bowling performance came for Leicestershire against Glamorgan, when he took all ten wickets for 18 runs, the second cheapest first class all ten ever (Hedley Verity 10-10 v Nottinghamshire being the champion performance in this department).
  9. Joel Garner (Somerset and West Indies). One of the most awkward propositions ever seen on a cricket field – his 6’8″ height, a leap in delivery stride and long arms combined to mean that the ball came down from way up in the air (above the height of more than one test match ground’s sight screens).
  10. Clarrie Grimmett (Australia). He had to cross one international and two state boundaries before establishing himself. He was 33 when he made his test debut, collecting 11 English wickets in the match. He ended with 216 wickets in just 37 test matches, and there were many, including his regular test match bowling partner Bill O’Reilly who thought that 46 year old Grimmett should have been picked for the 1938 tour of England.
  11. Lance Gibbs (Warwickshire and WI). The off spinner was briefly the world record holder for career test wickets, with 309 wickets at that level, breaking the record set by Fred Trueman.

This team has a powerful top five, the most destructive keeper-batter ever, a genuine all rounder, a bowling all rounder (Geary), and three great specialist bowlers. Garner, Gregory and Geary represent an excellent pace/seam trio, Grimmett the leg spinner and Gibbs the off spinner represent a fine combination in that department, and of course there is WG as an extra bowling option.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Graham Gooch cannot be accommodated, with three regular openers already there (backdated punishment for going on the first of the rebel tours of SA!). Larry Gomes (test average 39) and Mike Gatting (35.55) are a both a touch short of the necessary class. Lewis Gregory is a fine all round cricketer for Somerset, but not a serious rival to his namesake Jack. Lewis Goldsworthy may challenge for batting/ left arm spin slot in years to come, but having only just registered his maiden first class century his case remains to be made. Alf Gover was a fine fast bowler, and in later years a highly respected coach (although the coaching school he established in Wandsworth numbers at least one ghastly failure – I attended sessions there in my childhood and never developed so much as a hint of skill as a player) but hardly a serious rival to Garner. George Gunn was another I regretted not being able to fit in. Shannon Gabriel was another fast bowler to come up short. Anshuman Gaekwad was another test batter with a respectable rather than outstanding record. Had I been selecting with white ball in mind Ruturaj Gayakwad would have had a strong case. In ten years time Shubman Gill may be considered a shoo-in, but he does not yet have the weight of proven achievement to dislodge any of my choices.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter B

The deciding ODI between England and India is intriguingly poised as I start this post picking the greatest XI of cricketers with surnames beginning with B (see the As). Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy is within sight of The Open Championship and five of the most unpleasant human beings anyone could conjure up are engaged in a battle to make Sauron look like one of the good guys as a way of securing the Conservative party leadership and with it the post of Prime Minister.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Charles Bannerman – Australia. The Kent born opener scored 165 in the first ever test match innings, and even with him scoring that many his team could only tally 245 all out. He also impressed in his native land during the heavily rain affected summer of 1878, though that tour did not feature a test match.
  2. Sidney George Barnes – Australia. A combination of WWII and continual skirmishes with the authorities limited his test career to 13 matches, but a batting average of 63 speaks for itself.
  3. *Donald Bradman – Australia. The most prolific batter the game has ever seen, his test average of 99.94 leaves a respectable career average (around 40) between him and the best of the rest at that level.
  4. Ken Barrington – Surrey and England. The Berkshire born right hander averaged 58 at test level, with a best of 256 at Old Trafford in 1964.
  5. Allan Border – Essex and Australia. The nuggety left hander pretty much was Australia’s resistance batting wise for about the first 10 years of his illustrious career. In the last few years of that great career, with Australia a good side, he played some excellent attacking innings. He would be the vice-captain of this side, as an acknowledgement of his status as the best skipper Australia have had in my lifetime.
  6. Ian Botham – Somerset, Worcesstershire, Durham and England. For a few years he was a genuinely great all rounder, for a few more after that he was a producer of occasionally devastating performances. England selectors of the period during and after his final decline spoiled many a promising career by trying to get decent young cricketers to fit into the Botham shaped hole opening in England’s ranks.
  7. +Wasim Bari – Pakistan. Pakistan’s best ever wicket keeper, and unlike some of his successors in that post there were never any questions asked about where his real loyalties were.
  8. Billy Bates – Yorkshire and England. His brief test career was ended by a freak eye injury sustained during net practice, but 656 runs at 27 and 50 wickets at 16 at that level are some testament to the off spinning all rounders capabilities. He took England’s first ever test hat trick, part of a match performance that yielded 55 in the only innings he had to play and seven wickets in each Australian innings.
  9. Richie Benaud – Australia. Before becoming ‘the Bradman of TV commentators’ (yes I believe he was that far clear of the best of the rest in that role) the Aussie leg spinning all rounder became the first to achieve the test career double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets.
  10. Sydney Francis Barnes – England. Probably the most skilled bowler of any type ever to have played the game. Like his near namesake who is opening the batting for this XI he had a less than harmonious relationship with the authorities. He played little county cricket because he was paid better for being a professional for various clubs in the northern leagues. This meant that he played less than half of the test matches that England played between the start and end of his test career. Nonetheless, 189 wickets in 27 matches at 16.43 a piece is sufficient evidence of the trouble he caused even the best opponents.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – India. He burst on the scene at the end of 2018, taking a cheap six-for in that year’s Boxing Day test in Melbourne. He is now established as one the finest contemporary pace bowlers, and is still young enough that he should still be improving. He would form a seriously potent new ball combination with Barnes (sorry Beefy, in this line up you don’t get the new ball).

This team has a heavy scoring top five, a colossus of an all rounder at six, a top drawer keeper, two bowlers who can bat and two of the greatest specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Barnes and Bumrah sharing the new ball, Botham as back up pacer and two contrasting spinners in Benaud and Bates is both strong and well balanced.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The team has no left arm orthodox spinner, and two who came very close were the Indians Bishan Singh Bedi and Palwankar Baloo. However, the only people I could have dropped to make way for one of them were Bates or Benaud, and that would have weakened the batting. Bill Brown (Australia) and Jack Brown (Yorkshire, England) were two fine opening batters, either of whom might have been selected instead of Bannerman. Jonny Bairstow missed out due to the extreme strength of batting available here and the fact that he has blown hot and cold (currently blazing hot) through his career. Two South Africans, Eddie Barlow and Colin Bland were very close to selection – the former missing out to Ian Botham and the latter to the general batting strength available, though he is of course designated fielding sub in the event of anyone having to leave the field. Bill Bowes was the best pace bowler to miss out and would certainly be in the tour party for this letter. West Indian speedsters Winston and Kenny Benjamin were also fine players, but no one is persuading me that they get in ahead of Barnes and Bumrah (or indeed Bowes). I also regretted not being able to accommodate Somerset and England’s Len Braund, resourceful batter, good leg spinner and brilliant slip fielder. West Indies batter Carlisle Best was ruled out for the same reason I had to rule out Keith Arthurton in the previous post – not enough substance to go with the style.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter A

Assembling an XI all of whose surnames begin with A. Also some photographs.

I am revisiting the theme of All Time XIs. This time I am focussing on teams that can be composed with players whose surnames all begin with the same letter. I begin at the beginning with the letter A.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Bobby Abel – Surrey and England. The diminutive opener scored 74 first class centuries with a best of 357* v Somerset at Taunton. He was the first England batter to carry his bat through a completed test innings, scoring 132* on that occasion. He was also a fine fielder.
  2. Saeed Anwar – Pakistan. A superb left handed stroke maker, an excellent counterpart to Abel at the top of the order.
  3. Babar Azam – Pakistan. One of the best all format batters in the world at the moment.
  4. Zaheer Abbas – Gloucestershire and Pakistan. The only Asian to have scored 100+ FC hundreds, a roll of honour that includes scores of 274 and 240 vs England in test matches and eight instances of a century in each innings of an FC match, including four where one of the centuries was a double.
  5. Mohammad Azharruddin – India. A wristy middle order batter who did enough before his career ended in scandalous circumstances (match fixing and other dealings with dodgy bookies) to earn his place in this XI. He announced himself with centuries in each of his first three test matches, and at his peak dominated attacks all around the world.
  6. *Shakib Al-Hasan – Bangladesh. Has an amazing all round record and has achieved it without ever having what could be described as a stellar supporting cast around him
  7. +Leslie Ames – Kent and England. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100FC hundreds. Also holds the record for career stumpings in FC cricket (418). Won the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest hundred of the season twice in its first three seasons. Three of the four instances of the ‘wicket keepers double’ – 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in FC cricket in a single season – were achieved by him.
  8. Wasim Akram – Lancashire and Pakistan. Among left arm fast bowlers who bat only Alan Davidson of Australia, who played many fewer matches, boasts a test record to rival him.
  9. R Ashwin – India. The best off spinner of the current era, and a handy lower order batter. It is a fair bet that England’s exhilarating run chase at Edgbaston would have been harder work had India picked him rather than Thakur for the number eight slot in their team.
  10. Curtly Ambrose – Northamptonshire and West Indies. The list of bowlers with over 400 test wickets at under 21 a piece currently stands at one: Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose. He rocked the WACA in Perth in 1998 by claiming seven Australian wickets for one run in a spell of 33 balls. Australia having reached 100 only one wicket down were all out for 118. At Trinidad in 1994 England need 194 in the last innings to win, with an awkward hour and a bit to survive in murky light on the penultimate day as their first task. By the end of that short session England were 40-8, and although bad batting played its part, so to did an immaculate spell of bowling by Ambrose.
  11. James Anderson – Lancashire and England. More test wickets than any other pace bowler, and nor is there any obvious sign of his powers waning as his 40th birthday approaches.

This XI has a heavy scoring top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an all time great keeper batter at seven and a quite awesome quartet of bowlers, two of whom can certainly also bat. While the bowling attack is missing a leg spin option it is by any standards both powerful and varied, with left arm pace (Akram), two of the greatest right arm fast mediums of all time, who are different in methods to boot (Ambrose, relying on his immense height and unrelenting accuracy, and Anderson with his mastery of swing and seam). This trio is backed up by a pair of contrasting spinners (Ashwin, off spin, and Al-Hasan, left arm orthodox spin). The biggest decision is likely to which of Anderson or Ambrose gets to share the new ball with Akram.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Mike Atherton was close to claiming an opening slot and Dennis Amiss even closer, but I feel credit should be given to Abel for the fact that most of his runs were scored in the 19th century when pitches were often treacherous, and in the case of Amiss also feel that his decision to join a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa counts against him. Two top order batters who could bowl seam up both entered my thoughts: Mohinder Amarnath and Tom Abell. Russel Arnold of Sri Lanka came close. Among the quicks I could not accommodate were Kyle Abbott (Hampshire and South Africa) and Mohammad Abbas (Hampshire and Pakistan). Sri Lankan strokemaker Charith Asalanka may merit a place in few years time. Tommy Andrews, an Aussie middle order batter and ace close fielder of yesteryear was another who could not force his way into the middle order. West Indian left hander Keith Arthurton needed a bit more substance to go with his style to claim a place. Finally, although anyone capable of scoring 167 on the kind of pitches that existed in 1777 as James Aylward of Hambledon did must have been a very fine player, but I felt that there was just too little evidence to justify such a selection.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…