This is the fourth post in my series analysing how the all time XIs I picked for each letter stack up against each other. We are working through the As at this stage, and this post starts with them on 38.5 out of a possible 75 points.
THE As V THE Qs
The As dominate in batting, keeping and fast bowling. The Qs big hope is with their spinners, but although they have a numerical advantage in this department, they cannot honestly be said to be indisputably superior even here. Score: As 5 Qs 0.
THE As V THE Rs
The Rs win all of the top four batting match ups, narrowly lose out at number five, and lose no six handsomely on the batting front but win it on the bowling front. Ames outdoes Russell with the bat, but Russell was far the superior keeper. Roberts, Rabada and Richardson should fare decently with the ball vis-a-vis Akram, Ambrose and Anderson. Rhodes, selected as a specialist left arm spinner, the role in which he both started and finished his extraordinary career, is without doubt the best spinner in either line up. The teams are very well matched, but the Rs have an advantage in batting, and Rhodes the specialist bowler had a big reputation for keeping his head in tight finishes, most notably at The Oval in 1902, when he helped his ‘Kirkheaton twin’ George Hirst to score the last 15 needed to secure a famous one wicket win in “Jessop’s match”. Thus I score this one As 2, Rs 3.
THE As V THE Ss
The Ss have a substantial advantage in the top six batting slots, Ames edges Stokes at seven, Stevens matches Akram in that department, Starc is just behind Ashwin as a batter. Ames outdoes Sangakkara as a keeper, but using him in that role gives the Ss greater bowling depth than the As – Starc, Statham and Steyn are pretty close to Akram, Ambrose and Anderson as a pace trio and are backed by Sobers in his quicker incarnations and Stokes in that department. Stevens and Sobers in his slower incarnations are not as potent as Al Hasan and Ashwin, but the gap is not a large one. We are not in whitewash territory here, but the Ss have a very significant advantage over the As: As 1 Ss 4.
THE As V THE Ts
The As are stronger overall in positions 1,2 and 3 in the order, but the Ts are ahead in positions 4,5 and 6. Ames out bats Taylor, but is comfortably out kept by the latter. The As also have the extra batting depth lent by Akram and Ashwin’s capabilities in that department. Tyson, Trueman and Thomson are the quickest pace trio to feature in this series, with the Yorkshireman ranking third quickest of them. Trumble beats Ashwin in the battle of the off spinners, and Tarrant’s left arm slow medium is demonstrably more potent than Al Hasan’s left arm orthodox spin. It is Tarrant’s presence, both adding an extra variation to the attack, and ensuring that three speedsters will be able to get some rest between spells of bowling that turns what would be a close contest in to a decisive win for the Ts. It is not quite impossible to see the As getting the better of the Ts in any circumstances, but it is hard, and I score it: As 0.5, Ts 4.5.
THE As V THE Us
The As have a clear advantage here. I reckon that in a five match series Underwood will have at least one field day for the Us, which means I score this one As 4 Us 1.
THE STATE OF PROGRESS
The As have taken 12.5 out of 25, exactly 50% from today’s match ups, which gives them a tally so far, with five of their match ups to go of 51 points out of 100, 51%.
Continuing my analysis of my all-time XIs match up against each other. Today we look at the As against the Ls, Ms, Ns, Os and Ps.
Welcome to the continuation of my look at how my all time XIs for each letter of the alphabet match up against each other. Going into this post we have been through ten of the A XI’s match ups, and they are so far on 27 of a possible 50 points.
THE As V THE Ls
Among the top five batters the Ls have a clear advantage, even allowing for the fact that Labuschagne is out of position – only Laxman and Lloyd are not significantly clear of their opposite numbers. At number six we have a clash of left arm spinning all rounders. Shakib Al Hasan is ahead on the batting front, but there is very little doubt that Langridge was the finer bowler. While Langley was a better keeper than Ames he was a fraction of the batter that Ames was. Lindwall is outpointed by Akram, but Lohmann and Lillee are worthy adversaries for Ambrose and Anderson. Laker wins the battle of the off spinners on the bowling front, though he was a lot less of a batter than Ashwin.
Boiling it all down, The Ls have an advantage of the batting front, although their batting power is very top heavy, have the better keeper and are at least the equal of the As on the bowling front, and for my money definitely superior. There would probably be one occasion in a series when the As batting depth would count in their favour over the Ls top heavy power in that department, so I score it As 1 Ls 4.
THE As V THE Ms
Among the top five only Babar Azam for the As has a better batting average than his opposite number. Miller comes out slightly below Al Hasan on the batting front, way ahead on the bowling front. I suspect he was also the finer captain. Ames has an advantage on the batting front among the keepers, but Marsh was one of the greatest keepers ever to play the game. Marshall, McGrath and Mahmood a certainly a capable match for Akram, Ambrose and Anderson. Murali comfortably wins the battle of the off spinners on the bowling front, though Ashwin’s batting partly compensates for this. Additionally the Ms have a sixth bowling option, Charlie Macartney, who did win his country a match with the ball in hand. Miller once switched to off breaks on a Brisbane ‘sticky dog’, and took seven wickets, so even producing a raging bunsen for the benefit of Ashwin and Al Hasan might not be enough for the As. I find it hard to see any situation in which the As come out on top in this clash and accordingly score it As 0 Ms 5.
THE As V THE Ns
The As boss the opening combo. Nurse and Dudley Nourse outpoint Azam and Abbas, in one case by a minor margin in the other substantially. Azharuddin has a significant advantage over Dave Nourse. Al Hasan beats Noble with the bat, but the Aussie wins hands down with the ball and as a captain. Ames wins the battle of the keepers with the bat, and there is no huge difference in gkovework. Ntini, Nawaz and Nortje are comfortably outpointed by Akram, Ambrose and Anderson, and Nadeem is nowhere close to Ashwin in either department. The Ns do have an extra pace option in Nichols, but even that is not enough – The As have an overwhelming advantage in bowling and I expect that to tell in their favour: As 4, Ns 1.
THE As V THE Os
The As dominate this in all departments. The only member of the Os team the As would want in their own ranks is Bill O’Reilly. There can only be one scoreline here: As 5, Os 0
THE As V THE Ps
The opening pairs are closely matched here, the Ps dominate slots 3-5. Procter is massively ahead of Al Hasan as an all rounder – while the Bangladeshi has a better batting record, the Saffa is far ahead with the ball. Pant has a better batting average than Ames and is at least his equal with the gloves. Shaun Pollock is almost an exact match to Akram in terms of bowling figures and almost ten runs an innings better with the bat. Peter Pollock is beaten only by Ambrose among the As quick bowlers. Parker, a victim of selectorial malice in his playing days (a one cap wonder at test level in spite of that huge tally of FC wickets), is the best spinner on either side in this match, though Prasanna is outmatched by Ashwin. The Ps are stronger in batting, and Procter, S Pollock, P Pollock, Parker and Prasanna is not a definitely inferior bowling unit to Ambrose, Anderson, Akram, Ashwin and Al Hasan. I expect the Ps to win, and slightly more comfortably than a bare 3-2. Final score As 1.5, Ps 3.5.
As PROGRESS SO FAR
This has been a tough set of match ups for the As XI, and even with one 5-0 in their favour they score just 11.5 of a possible 25 points in this segment of the alphabet, putting them on 38.5 out of 75, a score of 51.33%, down from the 54% they were on going into this post.
Continuing my analysis of how I see the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet faring against on another.
Yesterday I started the long process of analyzing how my teams for each letter of the alphabet measure up against each other. In that post I have covered the As XI against Bs, Cs, Ds, Es and Fs. At that stage the As rated at 13.5 out of 25. We pick up where we left off.
THE As V THE Gs
The Gs have substantial advantages batting wise in positions 1 and 6, a theoretical disadvantage in position 3 and are otherwise about even down to number seven. WG Grace’s test batting average of 32.29 has to be looked at a) with regard to the fact that he was 32 when his career at that level began and almost 51 when it ended and b) with regard to the fact that he played on some pretty ropey pitches. I would thus say that he should be regarded as at minimum Babar Azam’s equal in that department. In bowling the Gs have a very clear advantage, with their sixth best bowler by average, Gregory, marginally better than the As fifth best, Shakib Al Hasan. I also have to say that I reckon that WG has to be considered a better skipper than Shakib Al Hasan. I would score this one as Gs 4, As 1.
THE As V THE Hs
The question here is whether the Hs can make their massive batting advantage tell, when their bowling is weaker than the As. With Hammond prospective third seamer for them, they probably need a turner, when their spinners Harmer and Herath are probably a stronger pair than Ashwin and Al Hasan – Ashwin may be better than Harmer, though it is far from conclusive, but Herath is unquestionably superior to Al Hasan as a bowler. For all the greatness of Hadlee and Holding, they are outnumbered by Akram. Ambrose and Anderson, and the first named of the trio is left handed to add a point of variation. I think that anywhere other than India or Sri Lanka the As would be able to make their pace bowling advantage count, and I score this one As 3, Hs 2.
THE As V THE Is
The As have a huge advantage in batting and in seam bowling, additionally, Ashwin’s clear superiority as an off spinner over Illingworth counter balances Ironmonger’s advantage over Al Hasan as a bowler. Finally, the tail end of the Is is very weak batting wise – Anderson would bat above any of Islam, Ireland or Ironmonger. This is a colossal mismatch in favour of team A, and I accordingly score it As 5 Is 0.
THE As V THE Js
Down to number five the Js win every batting match up. They also have an ‘X factor’ player in Jessop, a great captain in Stanley Jackson. In bowling the Js have greater depth, but the As have more frontline strength. I consider the As to have a definite advantage overall, courtesy of their stellar bowling line up, but not enough to score it at 4-1. Final verdict: As 3.5, Js 1.5.
THE As V THE Ks
Positions 1-3 are fairly even between these two teams, but the Ks boss positions four and five, and while Shakib Al Hasan has a slightly better batting average than his rival skipper, Imran Khan’s bowling average blows Al Hasan’s out of the water. Ames has a better batting record than Kirmani, but the Indian was probably the finer keeper. Charles Kortright, Bart King and Imran Khan are a faster trio than Akram, Ambrose and Anderson, though don’t include a left armer in their number. The contrasting pair of leg spinners, Kumble and Rashid Khan probably give the Ks the edge in the spin department, and they also have the luxury of having Kallis available as sixth bowler. Finally, whereas the As who two genuine tail enders in Ambrose and Anderson, the Ks bat literally all the way down, with the no11 having two first class hundreds. I award the Ks a substantial advantage, my final score being As 1, Ks 4.
As STATS UPDATED
In the end, with two heavy defeats, one overwhelming win and two respectable wins in these five matches the As score another 13.5 points, now having 27 out of a possible 50 and still being on 54%.
Having selected all time XIs for each letter of the alphabet I am now beginning the task of looking at how they compare.
Having posted my all time Zs XI yesterday I am now attempting to analyse the merits of the respective XIs in competition. This is a major undertaking and will take a large number of posts. I start today with team A and cover its first five match ups.
THE As V THE Bs
To set the scene, here a table showing two teams with the most important details about the players:
Both of these teams are deep in batting, with potential matchwinners in that department all the way down to number nine in each case, both teams have five high class bowling options. Team B’s top batting is much stronger than that of team A. It is very close between the two pace attacks, with Barnes’ utter brilliance compensating for Botham’s slightly expensive wicket taking rate. The spin bowling palm goes to the A XI, especially given that Al Hasan would probably fare considerably better as part of a strong attack than he actually does as part of a comparatively modest one. I would expect the Bs to win, probably 3-2 over a five match series, maybe even 4-1. Envisaging five match series, and thus using a five point scoring scale I score this as B 3.5, A 1.5
THE As V THE Cs
Here, the Cs have a stronger top five than the As, but 6,7 and 8 are weak slots, in all of which they are outpointed, while as good as Cummins and Croft are, they certainly do not do more than match up to Ambrose and Anderson, while Akram is clearly superior to Constantine. Ashwin is streets clear of Cornwall and from a bowling point of view Chandrasekhar has Al Hasan beaten. Ames v Carter is a mismatch in Ames’ favour. Overall, the power of the Cs top five batters notwithstanding I give team A a commanding advantage in this one, scoring at as As 4 Cs 1.
THE As V THE Ds
Dempster wins the battle of the right handed openers, Anwar that of the left handed openers. Dravid has a clear advantage over Azam. Donnelly and Duleep are at least a match for Abbas and Azharuddin. D’Oliveira, especially when his circumstances are taken into account is better with the bat than Al Hasan. Ames has to considered a better bat than Dujon, but the West Indian compensates for that by being the finer keeper. Akram v Davidson is a clash of the titans, but Davidson just edges it, having better averages in both departments. Daniel and Donald match evenly against Ambrose and Anderson. Dennett is a better SLA than Al Hasan, but he is the sides only front line spinner, whereas Al Hasan is second spinner behind Ashwin. Overall, I marginally favour the Ds in this contest, scoring it as Ds 3 As 2.
THE As V THE Es
The As dominate on the batting front, with batters 2-7 inclusive outdoing their counterparts from the Es, while Abel’s performance on Victorian era wickets probably equates to rather better than Elgar’s on modern surfaces. Evans is a better keeper than Ames, but the Es have only four front line bowlers to the As five. The Es bowlers are very good, with Ecclestone the best spinner on either side. I think the As have a very clear advantage here, but not enough for a whitewash to be on, so my score is As 4, Es 1.
THE As V THE Fs
This is a hard one to call. The As are ahead on batting, but the Fs have stronger bowling. My own reckoning here is that Fs greater range of bowling options and the captaincy of Percy Fender, one of most astute ever in that role, give them an edge, and I score it as Fs 3, As 2.
THE As SCORE AT PRESENT
Tallying up the scores at this point, The As are on 13.5 of a possible 25, 54% of possible points. The only one of the five sides we have put them up against so far who have an absolutely indisputable advantage over them are the Bs.
Continuing my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a look at the letter Z.
I continue my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a team of players whose names begin with Z. I included Zaheer Abbas in the As, and in keeping with my policy that no one will feature is two XIs in this trip through the alphabet I therefore do not select him today. Other omissions can wait until the Honourable Mentions section.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Fakhar Zaman (Pakistan). A left handed opening batter with a magnificent ODI record, a respectable test record and a good FC average.
Ibrahim Zadran (Afghanistan). A right handed opening batter, currently averaging 44 test cricket, and with a good FC record.
Zubayr Hamza (South Africa). A right handed top order batter who averages 48 in FC cricket, though he has not been successful at test level as yet.
Najibullah Zadran (Afghanistan). His opportunities at test level have been limited to date, but he has a fine record in limited overs cricket, and I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Khaya Zondo (South Africa). Has an excellent FC batting record, though has not yet been given the opportunity to prove himself at the highest level.
Billy Zulch (South Africa). A right handed batter and occasional right arm medium pacer, he averaged 30 in test cricket when SA were a struggling outfit, had a good FC record.
+Zulqarnain Haider (Pakistan). An innings of 88 in what proved to be his only test (he fled Pakistan in fear of his own safety) underlined his skill with the bat and he was a fine keeper as well.
Monde Zondeki (South Africa). A right arm fast bowler who took his test wickets at 25 a piece.
Zia Ur Rehman (Afghanistan). A left arm orthodox spinner who takes his FC wickets at 19 a piece, but has yet to be given a chance at test level. Afghanistan have amazing strength in depth in the spin bowling department, and his test opportunity may never arrive.
Zaheer Khan (India). A left arm fast medium bowler, his test average of 32 looks on the high side, but he rarely had much in the way of pace support (India having strength in depth in the pace bowling department is a recent phenomenon).
Zahir Khan (Afghanistan). A left arm wrist spinner who claims his FC wickets at 21 a piece and bowled respectably in his three tests, though seven wickets at 34 a piece is a record that needs improvement.
This XI has a solid batting unit, a good keeper who can bat and four varied bowlers. It is a pity that the back up seam options are limited to Ibrahim Zadran and Billy Zulch, neither of whom could be classed as front line bowlers, but Zaheer Khan, Zondeki, Zia Ur Rehman and Zahir Khan should function fairly well as a main bowling attack.
The main rival to Fakhar Zaman as left handed opener was Hazratullah Zazai of Afghanistan, but though he has a respectable FC record he has yet to be picked for a test match. No right handed opener comes remotely close to challenging Ibrahim Zadran – while his test average of 44.50 comes from only eight innings at that level (no not outs to boost the average), his first class average of 41 comes from a much larger sample size and confirms his class. He averages about 18 runs an innings more than Zak Crawley at test level and 12 an innings more than the proven failure who happens to be a management favourite manages even at FC level.
Bas Zuiderent of the Netherlands played a fine innings against England in the 1996 World Cup, but overall his record is quite ordinary. Saif Zaib is an alleged batting all rounder, but his FC averages at the moment are the wrong way round – 22 with the bat and 31 with the ball. Tim Zoehrer was Zulqarnain’s rival for the gauntlets, but he had such a poor series in the 1986-7 Ashes that spectators at the MCG of all places were heard expressing the opinion that even the New South Welshman Greg Dyer would be in improvement on him (of course they really wanted their own Dimattina to get the job).
Mohammed Zanhar, a Sri Lankan leg spinner, took his FC wickets at 25 a piece, but only played 10 matches at that level. Adam Zampa has a great record in limited overs cricket, but his FC wickets come at massively pricey 48 runs a piece. Two fast bowlers, Dawlat Zadran of Afghanistan and Nuwan Zoysa of Sri Lanka (who once took a hat trick with his first three balls of a test match) entered my thoughts but neither had that great an overall record. Zak Chappell is expensive even at first class level, and is nearly as far short of meriting serious consideration as the other Zak I have mentioned in passing.
While I regret the absence of a genuine all rounder that omission could only be rectified by outright cheating, using a nickname to avail myself of ‘Zulu’ Klusener.
We have finished our cricketing journey through the letter Z and all that is left is my usual sign off…
Continuing my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a look at the letter Y.
I continue my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter Y (the kind of chicanery required for the letter X is not needed for this letter. A quick reference back to the Xs – Ted DeXter was an honourable mention for the Ds, so I felt able to include him in the Xs, and edited yesterday’s post to reflect this – please read the edited version. VVS Laxman was in the Ls XI, and I am not allowing myself to include someone in two different XIs in this trip through the alphabet.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Michael Yardy (Sussex, England). A left handed opening batter who scored over 10,000 FC runs at 36, and also an occasional bowler of left arm orthodox spin, though his chief value in that department was in limited overs cricket.
Martin Young (Gloucestershire). A right handed opener who was a consistent score for his county for a number of years without ever attracting the attention of the England selectors.
Younis Khan (Pakistan). Over 10,000 test runs at 52, and number three is this right hander’s natural position in the order.
Mohammad Yousuf (Pakistan). He also averaged 52 in test cricket, though he did not score quite as many runs as Younis Khan. He holds the record for most test runs in a calendar year with 1,788.
Graham Yallop (Australia). A left handed batter with a fine test record in that department.
*Norman Yardley (Yorkshire, England). A right handed middle order batter, and a right arm medium pacer who revealed an aptitude for breaking partnerships on the 1946-7 tour of Australia. He was also a fine captain, a role I have given him in this side.
+Saleem Yousuf (Pakistan). A fine wicket keeper and useful right handed batter.
Umesh Yadav (India). A right arm fast bowler, his presence at no eight indicates this team’s biggest issue – lack of runs from the lower order.
Waqar Younis (Surrey, Glamorgan, Pakistan). One of the fastest bowlers in the world in his pomp, and one of the finest pacers his country ever produced.
Jack Young (Middlesex, England). A left arm orthodox spinner who took his FC wickets at less than 20 a piece, but got few opportunities at test level.
Poonam Yadav (India). The most controversial of all my selections, the diminutive leg spinner has a fine record in all formats, including 3-68 in her only test appearance to date. I have mentioned various skilled female cricketers in a lot of these posts, and a look at the E XI will confirm that I have named at least one female in a previous XI.
This XI has a solid opening pair who should be able to set a platform for the engine room of Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Graham Yallop. Yardley would captain the side well, which should make up for any shortfall in his own performance. Saleem Yousuf is a fine keeper, and there are four excellent bowlers. The pace department is a trifle thin, with Yardley officially third seamer, but Jack Young and Poonam Yadav look a fine spin combo. Overall I would expect this XI to give a decent account of itself.
Other than those I named there were three obvious candidates for opening batting slots: Bryan Young and Will Young, both of New Zealand have done the job at test level, but in both cases their record is no more than respectable. Rob Yates has had his moments for Warwickshire, but is too inconsistent to merit selection. Among middle order batters Suryakumar Yadav and Yashpal Sharma are unlucky that this team has such a strong middle order.
The only wicket keeping alternative to Saleem Yousuf was Hugo Yarnold of Worcestershire, but he was far inferior to Yousuf as a batter, and given the length of the tail as things were I felt the slot had to go to the Pakistani.
Three off spinners, Bruce Yardley, Shivlal Yadav and Jayant Yadav, were available, and any of them would have strengthened the batting, but all have moderate bowling records, and I am not prepared to boost the batting at the cost of reducing the team’s chances of taking 20 wickets. A left arm wrist spinner, Kuldeep Yadav, was available, and was the logical alternative to Poonam Yadav for the role of the second spinner. Radha Yadav, a left arm orthodox spinner, has had some successes for the Indian women’s team, but does not as yet compare to Jack Young, and like him is not to be relied on with the bat.
The only quick bowler other than two I selected that I could think off was Kuldip Yadav, a left arm fast medium bowler, but he has one first class scalp to his name, which makes picking him an unwarrantable gamble for me.
I end with one for the future: Yash Dhull, an off spinning all rounder, has had some captaincy experience with India Under 19s, and I will be surprised if in ten years time he does not dislodge Norman Yardley from the number six slot in this team. He has made a sensational start to his FC batting career, although he has yet to do much with the ball at that level. I would also sound a mild cautionary note: Tom Lammonby scored three centuries in his first six FC matches, but fell away badly in his first full length season to the extent that he was actually dropped five matches into it.
Our cricketing journey through the letter Y is at an end, and all that is left is my usual sign off…
Continuing my exploration of the All Time XIs theme with a look at the letter X.
I continue my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a look at the letter X. Filling the XI required a considerable amount of chicanery, so even though other players than the eleven I chose merited consideration I shall not be producing an ‘Honourable Mentions’ section today. Most of this XI have at least some international experience, and some are genuinely top class. Also, although we get into the all rounders a trifle too early for comfort, there are no absolute bunnies.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
MaX O’Dowd (Netherlands). His country’s most consistent current batter.
MaX Holden (Middlesex). A left handed opening batter. His FC record is modest, but he does average over 40 in list A cricket, and he is still young enough to do something about that FC average.
Ted DeXter (Sussex, England). A dashing right handed stroke maker, a useful medium-fast bowler and a fine fielder.
*Alan KippaX (Australia). His opportunities at international level were limited, not least because he did not get on well with Don Bradman, but an FC average of 57 tells you how good he was. He and Halford Hooker shared the all time record 10th wicket stand in FC history, turning 113-9 into 420 all out. He was a notably stylish batter to the extent that some even mentioned him in the same sentence as the immortal Victor Trumper.
Sam LoXton (Australia). An aggressive right handed batter (the five sixes he hit in his 93 at Headingley in 1948 remained an Ashes record for a single innings until Old Trafford 1981 when Ian Botham hit six in his 118) and a right arm fast medium bowler.
AXar Patel (India). A good enough left handed batter to average 33 in FC cricket and a very fine left arm orthodox spinner. His test opportunities have been limited by his being a contemporary of Ravindra Jadeja, but when England visited and Jadeja was injured he was the best bowler in the series.
Xenophon Balaskas (South Africa). A leg spinner and good lower middle order batter.
Ron OXenham (Australia). A right arm medium pacer, and a useful batter as well. He once shared a match winning last wicket stand of 76 while nursing an injury.
+Tom BoX (Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex). A wicket keeper and right handed batter. The earliest player to actually feature in an XI in this series, having played FC cricket between 1826 and 1856. His 247 FC appearances yielded 235 catches and 162 stumpings, and given the make up of this team that high number of stumpings counts in his favour. Between 1832 and 1856 inclusive he played in every single match involving Sussex. Given what my reading on the game;s history has told me about the state of pitches early in cricket’s history I have mentally upgraded his batting average of 11.95 and moved him a couple of places up the order in consequence.
MaX Walker (Australia). A right arm fast medium bowler, known as “Tangles” on account of somewhat unorthodox approach to the wicket. He was at his best as third seamer behind Lillee and Thomson. He took his test wickets at 27 a piece, a respectable figure.
MaX Waller (Somerset). A leg spinner, and like Walker above him, a reasonably competent lower order batter rather than an out and out tail ender.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE XI
The opening pair of MaX O’Dowd and MaX Holden is definitely makeshift, but I would expect the latter to at least be able to bat for a bit of time even if he didn’t score many. Dexter at three and KippaX at four are the engine room of the side batting wise, with the latter the best batter in the side, and due being a contemporary of a number of superstackers is somewhat underrated. He is this XI’s answer to Joe Root, though a better captain than the Yorkshireman. LoXton is probably a place too high, but he did average closer to 40 than 30 with the bat. AXar Patel is probably the third most important player in the side behind DeXter and KippaX. Balaskas and Oxenham were both genuine all rounders as well, and Box, a superb keeper, never got to bat on properly prepared pitches – even Fuller Pilch, the best batter of his era, averaged under 20 at FC level, which lends some context to Box’s average of 11.95. MaX Walker was an authentically test class fast medium bowler, and Waller is not the worst of leg spinners, though his Fc record is modest. The XI is undoubtedly a touch light on batting, but the bowling is good to compensate. The big question is whether to open with OXenham and LoXton to enable MaX Walker to come on as third seamer, or use the one genuine test class seamer as a new ball bowler. DeXter is not the worst fourth seamer either.
Our brief cricketing excursion through the letter X is at an end and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…
I continue my exploration of the all time XI theme with a look at surnames beginning with the letter W. Such is the immense strength of players who qualify for this team that a second XI of near equal strength could easily be selected and some fine players would still miss out.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Frank Woolley (Kent, England). A left handed batter known for his excellence against fast bowling, a high class left arm orthodox spinner and a brilliant close catcher. He frequently opened for Kent, especially late in his career when he found the newer ball easier to see first up. This was the only way I could accommodate the only cricketer ever to achieve the triple career landmark of 10,000 runs (58,969), 1,000 wickets (2,066) and 1,000 catches (1,018).
*Frank Worrell (West Indies). A right handed batter of high class (averaged 49 in test cricket), opening was one of his positions, though he could bat anywhere. He was also a useful left arm seamer, and one of the greatest of all captains, a role I have given him in this side. West Indies has unique features in international cricket terms, being in truth a composite side, with players from a number of different countries who usually view each other as rivals making up the XI. The number of captains who have overcome these rivalries sufficiently to create a genuinely unified and harmonious team totals two, Worrell, also the first black captain WI ever had, and Clive Lloyd.
Everton Weekes (West Indies). Statistically the finest batter to have a surname beginning with W, having averaged 58.61 at test level. A powerful stroke maker, but one who believed firmly in keeping the ball on the ground. He was a dual international, having represented Barbados at contract bridge.
Clyde Walcott (West Indies). A powerful right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper and even more occasional seamer. He averaged 56.62 at test level.
Steve Waugh (Australia). Until 1989 his seam bowling was a makeweight which kept him in the team while his batting matured. The 1989 Ashes changed all that, as he began the series with two massive unbeaten centuries, setting a pattern that would endure from then until his retirement. He allowed his right arm medium-fast bowling to fall in virtual abeyance as his right handed batting flourished and he became one of the best in the world in that department. He made tough runs – his batting was crucial to the series win in the Caribbean in 1995 which set the seal on Australia’s ascent to the top of the cricket world, and on a pig of an Old Trafford wicket he chiselled out twin centuries to settle the match in favour of his side.
+BJ Watling (New Zealand). A superb keeper and a gritty right handed middle order batter.
Sammy Woods (Somerset, Australia, England). In his day one could only play county cricket by qualifying by residence for a county, which meant giving up playing for his home country. He turned for England against South Africa, but not, as Billy Midwinter had done against Australia. An attacking middle order batter, handicapped at Somerset by often having almost nothing to come after him and a right arm fast bowler of superb quality. He was also a fine captain, and with all respect to the guy one place below him in this order would be my choice as Worrell’s vice captain in this XI.
Shane Warne (Hampshire, Australia). Arguably the greatest of all leg spinners (although Bill O’Reilly and Clarrie Grimmett both took more wickets per game at better averages), a fine slip fielder and a useful lower order batter, holding the record for most test runs without a century (HS at that level 99).
Johnny Wardle (Yorkshire, England). A left arm orthodox spinner and a left arm wrist spinner (probably more needed in this latter category in this XI), and a hard hitting lower order batter. His career ended prematurely when he made the mistake of publicly criticising Yorkshire for their appointment of Ronnie Burnett as captain, but 102 wickets at 20.39 at test level is testament to his skill, and I don’t see Worrell having any problems handling him.
Bill Whitty (Australia). A left arm fast medium bowler whose 14 tests yielded 65 wickets at 21 a piece, an excellent prospective new ball partner for the man one place below him in the order…
Bob Willis (Surrey, Warwickshire, England). A right arm fast bowler. His ‘phoenix from the ashes’ turn around in 1981, when at Headingley he was called up for one final burst from the Kirkstall Lane end knowing that anything other than quick breakthroughs would spell the end of his test career and proceeded to blow Australia apart, claiming eight wickets in next to no time extended his test career by three years and meant that by the end he had claimed 325 wickets at the highest level, at the time an England record.
This is a superb XI, with a stellar top five, a keeper who can bat, an aggressive all rounder at seven and four wonderfully varied specialist bowlers. A bowling attack that features Willis, Whitty, Woods and Worrell to bowl seam, and Warne, Wardle and Woolley as spin options is top of the range by any standards.
This is its own way is the most difficult section of its type that I have yet had to write, and will feature many subsections. I am starting with three name checks because all with strong advocates for their inclusion.
A fine attacking left handed opener, but could only be accommodated by dropping either Woolley with is vast range of skills or Worrell, my chosen captain. Although I could quote sandpapergate against him I settle for saying that I had strong positive reasons for selecting Woolley and Worrell rather than reasons for not selecting alternatives.
‘Junior’ or ‘Afghan’ as he was referred to (the latter because of the delay compared to his twin brother in him getting international recognition – ‘the forgotten Waugh’) was a fine batter in the middle order in tests and opening in limited overs, as safe a slip fielder as I have ever seen in action and an occasional off spinner. However, the stellar records of my chosen specialist batters and my preference for five genuine bowlers left no space for him. If Aussies didn’t volubly disapprove of such things I would name him as designated substitute fielder.
One of the best batters in contemporary cricket, but just who out of Weekes, Walcott or S Waugh would I drop to make way for him? Sadly, as great as he is he has to miss out.
I have already dealt with Warner, but there are a stack of other openers who need to be mentioned. Bill Woodfull was a fine opener for Australia in his day, but a small mark against him as the considerable fall off from an FC average of 65 to a test average of 46, respectable rather than truly great. John Wright was a gritty and determined opener for New Zealand. ‘Plum’ Warner was the second England player ever to carry his bat through a test innings, and was also a notable captain. Siddath Wettimuny played a crucial role in the test match in which Sri Lanka first made the cricketing world treat them with respect, at Lord’s in 1984. His 190, which lasted until the third morning of the match was the underpinning of a Sri Lankan score of 491-7 declared. Shane Watson did well for Australia as a makeshift opener, but rarely produced really big scores. Albert Ward of England had a fine series in the 1894-5 Ashes but not the necessary consistent test success to merit any more than a mention. Finally, the silky skills of Laura Wolvaardt, for my money the best player of the cover drive of any contemporary cricketer deserve an honourable mention.
MIDDLE ORDER BATTERS
Doug Walters is probably the best middle order batter beginning with W that I have not yet mentioned. I considered acknowledging his partnership breaking skills as a medium pacer by giving him the number seven slot that I actually assigned to Woods, but preferred the genuine all rounder to the batter who bowled. Willie Watson was at the heart of one of cricket’s greatest rearguard actions at Lord’s in 1953, when England saved a match in which they looked beaten for all money, Watson holding out for approximately six hours. However his overall record falls short of greatness, so not even his left handedness could get him in. Another left hander who had to miss out was Vic Wilson, a gritty batter, Yorkshire’s first ever professional captain and a brilliant short leg fielder. Bob Woolmer had his moments for England, including three centuries, all against the oldest enemy, but he was a definite cut below top class. Imad Wasim of Pakistan is not quite good enough with the bat to qualify, and in a team already featuring Woolley and Wardle his left arm spin is a non-factor.
David Wiese of Sussex and Namibia would have been one of the first names on the team sheet had I been picking with limited overs in mind, but his FC record while good is not on a par with his limited overs record. Rockley Wilson had a good record for Yorkshire and did well for England when getting a late call up, but is chiefly known for his work at Winchester College where one of his charges was a certain DR Jardine. Vyell Walker shares with WG Grace the distinction of scoring a century and taking all ten wickets in an innings of the same first class match, but I needed a fast bowling all rounder.
Other than Watling I considered John Waite and Harry Wood of England for the gloves, but neither have the weight of achievement that Watling does.
The biggest miss here was Courtney Walsh, but I felt that he and Bob Willis were a trifle to similar, both being right armers of similar height, whereas Whitty’s left arm introduced an extra level of variation. Two injury blighted England quicks of different eras, Mark Wood and Alan Ward missed out. Willie Watson of New Zealand had a respectable test record, but like many others of his era his main job was to support Richard Hadlee. Arnold Warren of Derbyshire took five cheap wickets on his only test appearance. Daniel Worrall, an Aussie born seamer who has played a lot of county cricket was another to miss out. Probably the best quick bowler I overlook was Thomas William Wall of Australia, but his average ended up the wrong side of 30 due to the strength of the batting he came up against and the fact that he was often the only quick bowler in the side. Luke Wood, a left arm quick, is just beginning to make a name for himself, and may displace Bill Whitty in time. Mike Whitney of Australia was called up in an injury crisis after just six FC appearances, and established a respectable record. William Woof, the first player ever to sign a professional contract with Gloucestershire, was a left arm bowler who took 754 FC wickets at less than 18 a piece, but the fact that he was never chosen to play for England tells against him. Similarly, Tom Wass of Nottinghamshire, a right arm bowler of fast medium or leg spin who took 1,666 FC wickets at 20.43 just misses out, partly because the leg spin aspect of his bowling would not get much use in this XI.
JC ‘Farmer’ White was a very fine left arm spinner, essential to England’s success in the 1928-9 Ashes, but lost out to Wardle due to the fact the Yorkie could bowl wrist spin as well as orthodox, whereas White could only bowl orthodox. Had the leg spinner’s slot not been an automatic selection I would have considered Amanda-Jade Wellington of Australia. Doug Wright, taker of seven first class hat tricks, was too inconsistent to qualify.
PLAYERS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
Tom Walker of Hambledon had to be overlooked due to lack of a verifiable career record, but as the first cricketer ever to have been styled ‘old everlasting’ he deserves a mention. John Willes and Edgar Willsher were key contributors to two major transitions in bowling history – the former the introduction of round arm, and the latter the move from round arm to over arm. Tom Wills was involved in the 1868 tour of England by a team of aboriginals and also created Aussie Rules football to give Aussie c.ricketers a way to keep fit during the close season.
Two players who would otherwise have merited considerable thought, Waqar Younis and MaX Walker were needed for other letters of the alphabet – X requiring a considerable degree of chicanery to fill.
ONE FOR THE FUTURE
Isabelle Eleanor Chih Ming Wong, generally known as Issy Wong, is a young quick bowler who has also had her moments with her aggressive batting, including a 94 (33) in domestic cricket. In ten years or so, if she keeps improving in both disciplines she may challenge Woods for the number seven slot.
Our cricketing journey through the letter W is at an end and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…
Continuing my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a look at players whose surnames begin with V.
I continue my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter V. There were many challenges with the selection of this side, which I will elucidate through the post.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Michael Vandort (Sri Lanka). A left handed opening batter, his test record was respectable rather than outstanding.
Joe Vine (Sussex, England). A right handed opening batter and a leg spinner. His job for much of his career was to bat defensively for long periods – Sussex sides of his time were well equipped with stroke makers, but no so much with folk capable of playing the anchor role. An innings of 202 in five hours late his career showed that he could play more expansively when the situation allowed. His batting and bowling averages are the right way round.
*Michael Vaughan (Yorkshire, England). A right handed batter, occasional off spinner, and an excellent captain, a role I have given him in this side.
Gundappa Viswanath (India). A right handed batter possessed of consdierable grit and determination. He averaged over 40 in test cricket.
Dilip Vengsarkar (India). A right handed batter who averaged 42 in test cricket. He scored tough runs as well – he averaged a run more per innings against the West Indies, utterly dominant in his era, than he did in overall test cricket. At Headingley in 1986 when no one else on either side could score even one 50 he produced innings of 61 and 102.
+Kyle Verreynne (South Africa). A right handed batter and a fine wicket keeper. He is still establishing himself at test level, but he averages over 50 in FC cricket, and his keeping skills are abundantly clear.
Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka). A quality left arm fast medium bowler who never benefitted from having adequate seam support, and a useful left handed lower order batter. I freely admit that he is one place higher than would be ideal, but none of the bowlers I have named could accurately be described as mugs with the bat.
Bert Vogler (South Africa). A leg spinner, part of the great ‘googly quartet’ that South Africa fielded in the years 1907-10. His test wickets cost 22 a piece and came at well over four per match. In first class cricket his averages were the right way round – 20 per innings with the bat and 18 runs per wicket with the ball.
Hedley Verity (Yorkshire, England). One of the greatest of all left arm orthodox spinners. 144 test wickets at 24 a piece in a decade that featured doped pitches and Bradman’s batting is a fine record, and he also averaged 20 with the bat in test cricket. At first class level he was an absolute destroyer, claiming is wickets at 14.90 a piece, which enabled him to have batting and bowling averages the right way round.
Bill Voce (Nottinghamshire, England). A high quality left arm fast medium bowler, and a useful lower order batter. He was part of the 1932-3 England side that won 4-1 down under, and was the best bowler in the side four years later in a 2-3 defeat.
Vintcent Van Der Bijl (South Africa). The only member of this XI not to play test cricket, due to apartheid, but regarded as a great bowler by all who met him. The deeds at test level of the likes of Garner, Ambrose and McGrath are testament to how effective exceptionally tall bowlers can be at that level. He took his FC wickets at 16.57 a piece, though he doesn’t quite join the list of players in this side with their averages the right way round since he only averaged 16.20 with the bat.
This side contains an opening pair likely to build a good platform for the engine room of Vaughan, Viswanath and Vengsarkar to cash in on, a keeper who is also a genuinely high class batter, and a strong and varied bowling unit. Van der Bijl and Voce with the new ball will pose a challenge for anyone, and I suspect that Vaas as third seamer in a strong attack rather than opening bowler in an ordinary one would be even better than he actually was in the circumstances he faced, while Verity and Vogler are on reckoning a quality pair of contrasting spinners. My selection here absent a genuine all rounder (Vine, though a respectable bowler definitely does not merit the title all rounder) is an extreme example of my preference for strong bowling resources even if it means slightly limited batting. I refer sceptical readers to the deeds of Yorkshire in the 1930s and Surrey in the 1950s for examples of champion sides who were such precisely because of their bowling strength.
I start this section with a subsection devoted to a single player…
Ignoring current players, a couple of whom are in the mix, this man has the highest batting average among those to have played 20 or more test matches, so why does he miss out? Quite simply because he cashed in on some pop-gun attacks, and in the only Ashes series he was part of, he like his team came a cropper. Thus, at the risk of enraging worshippers of the baggy green, I declined to select him.
Pieter Van Der Bijl (father of Vintcent) did well in his five test matches, including coming within a few runs of notching twin tons in the last ever timeless test match, at Durban in 1939. Murali Vijay had a respectable record for India. In short form cricket, especially T20, Elyse Villani of Australia’s women’s team would have a strong case, but there is a notable falling off in her record even between T20 and OD cricket.
MIDDLE ORDER BATTERS
Hanuma Vihari has a magnificent record in Indian domestic cricket, but has never delivered at international level, and his best position is number three, reserved in this XI for skipper Vaughan. Martin Van Jaarsveld had a solid record in domestic cricket but his test record was modest, whereas Vaughan,Viswanath and Vengsarkar were all proven at the highest level. Mike Veletta had a decent record in Australian domestic cricket, but a test batting average of less than 20 tells its own story about him at international level. Lou Vincent of New Zealand was no more than a goodish middle order batter, reflected by averaging in the mid thirties. Bryan Valentine of Kent had an excellent record in the few test matches he got to play, and I regretted not being able to include him. Dane Van Niekerk of South Africa Women is excellent at T20, good at OD cricket, but has hardly played any long form cricket.
Other than Verreynne two candidates entered my thoughts. Sadanand Viswanath was one of the most talented keepers India ever produced, but that talent was largely unfulfilled, especially at international level. He has 25 years experience as an umpire however, so there is a role for him. Ricardo Vasconcelos started sensationally at Northamptonshire, but has fallen back in recent years, with his FC batting average standing at 34.
The two bowlers I most regret not being able to accommodate were both left arm spinners, and unsurprisingly could not challenge the claims of Hedley Verity. Alf Valentine, the second of ‘those two little pals of mine’, took the first eight wickets to fall in the first test innings in which he ever bowled, but his overall record was not as good as Verity’s. Daniel Vettori of New Zealand may well be the second best spinner ever to have been born in the land of the long white cloud behind Clarrie Grimmett, who played his test cricket for Australia, but he comes some way short of challenging Verity.
Our cricketing journey through the letter V is at an end and all that remains is the usual sign off…
Continuing my exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at the best cricketers to have surnames beginning with the letter U.
I continue my exploration of the all time XIs theme with an XI of the best players to have surnames beginning with U. As I type this post I am listening to Trent Rockets vs London Spirit in The Hundred – today should be day four of England v South Africa, but even with over half of day one lost to rain England went down to an innings defeat before yesterday’s play was done.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Taufeeq Umar (Pakistan). A left handed opening batter with a test double hundred to his credit, and an overall average of close to 40.
George Ulyett (Yorkshire, England). Right handed opening batter and right arm fast bowler. His batting record looks ordinary to our eyes, but in the period between 1877 and 1890, when he played, scoring was much lower than nowadays. His batting and bowling averages were the right way round, and he achieved notable feats in both departments, with a test best of 149 and best bowling figures of 7-36.
Imam Ul-Haq (Pakistan). A left handed top order batter with a respectable test record.
Inzamam Ul-Haq (Pakistan). A right handed middle order batter with a test average just short of 50 and an occasional left arm spinner.
*Misbah Ul Haq (Pakistan). My designated captain, a role he performed wirth distinction for his country. A right handed middle order batter, who briefly held the record for the fastest ever test century in terms of balls faced. He came very late to test cricket but still managed 75 appearances, and recorded a batting average of 46.
Polly Umrigar (India). Right handed batter, part time off spinner. Until Gavaskar came along he held Indian records for most test runs and most test hundreds
+Umar Akmal (Pakistan). An attacking right handed batter and this team’s wicket keeper. He really ought to have done better than just over 1,000 test runs at 34 given the talent he had.
Umar Gul (Pakistan). Right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. A fine bowler with a splendid yorker.
Umran Malik (India). One of the fastest bowlers around, and one who I am sure will fare well in test matches when the time comes. It is less than three years since he first bowled with a proper cricket ball, and he is already making waves in limited overs cricket.
Derek Underwood (Kent, England). A specialist left arm slow medium bowler, especially effective on rain affected surfaces and pitches that had broken up (he would have been a destroyer on the Ahmedabad surface that saw England beaten inside two days in 2021) and very economical on all surfaces.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan). An off spinner with a magnificent record in limited overs cricket. I am prepared to credit him with being able to bowl well in any format, and have chosen him on that basis, this being one of the more difficult letters.
This team has seven quality batters, five genuine front line bowlers (Ulyett being an all rounder is the key). Umran Malik, Ulyett and Umar Gul is a strong pace attack, albeit not quite on a par with the Ts, while Underwood and Mujeeb Ur Rahman offer craft and guile, and should complement each other well.
This is a short section. Derek Ufton was at one time Knott’s understudy at Kent, but was not good enough to be selected for this side. Andrew Umeed, a Scot who bats right handed and bowls a bit of leg spin has just started playing for Somerset. His record at present is very moderate, but he may yet develop into a fine player.