Last time out I created an XI of England cricketers from before WWI. Now I look at the next period – the interwar years, well covered by Gerald Howat in “Cricket’s Second Golden Age”. In this period England had immense batting strength with the result that some huge names miss out. The bowling was by no means weak either.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- Jack Hobbs (right handed opening batter). The Master. At Melbourne in 1929 he became the oldest ever test centurion at the age of 46 – the last his 12 Ashes centuries.
- Herbert Sutcliffe (right handed opening batter). His entry into first class cricket was delayed by WWI (he was already 24 when that conflict ended in November 1918) while the outbreak of WWII in 1939 marked the end of his FC career (his test career had ended in 1935, but his performance in FC cricket in 1939 was excellent even at the age of 44). He was the ultimate big occasion player as shown by the progression of his averages: 52.02 in all FC cricket, 60.73 in all test cricket and 66.85 in the cauldron of The Ashes. He and Jack Hobbs were the greatest of all test match opening combinations, averaging 87.81 per partnership.
- Walter Hammond (right handed batter, ace slip fielder, useful right arm medium fast bowler). Had Hammond like the older Sutcliffe allowed WWII to end his career he would have bowed out with a test batting average of 61.75 (6,883 runs), but he attempted a comeback post war, which dragged his average below 60.
- Eddie Paynter (left handed batter). Going by career batting averages England’s most successful ever left hander, averaging 59.23 at test level, including double centuries against Australia and South Africa. His career was truncated at both ends, by the immense strength of Lancashire’s batting when he first started to come through and by the outbreak of WWII.
- Patsy Hendren (right handed batter). Only Hobbs scored more FC centuries than Hendren’s 170, and his test record was also impressive.
- *Frank Woolley (left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent fielder and my chosen skipper). At Lord’s in 1921 when everyone else was helpless in the face of Jack Gregory and Ted McDonald he scored 95 and 93. I have named him as skipper even though as a professional of that era he never actually had the job because I believe his tactical nous, illustrated in his book “King of Games”, would have served him well in the role, and Hammond, the conventional choice of captain for this XI, appears to have not actually been even a good skipper.
- +Les Ames (right handed batter, wicket keeper). The first wicket keeper to average over 40 with the bat at test level and a destructive stroke maker, he is the ideal number seven for a side like this.
- Maurice Tate (right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter). In the ill-fated 1924-5 Ashes series he claimed 38 wickets for a well beaten side. In 1926 he was one of the stars of a successful Ashes campaign, and he was involved in both the 1928-9 and 1932-3 tours when England won 4-1 each time.
- Harold Larwood (right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter). In the 1932-3 Ashes he was unplayable, claiming 33 wickets before hobbling off injured in the final match (made to wait until Bradman was out by skipper Jardine).
- Hedley Verity (left arm orthodox spinner, useful lower order batter). In a career that lasted less than a decade he took 1,956 wickets at 14.90 a piece. At test level, where he encountered Bradman, he was less devastating, but 144 wickets at 24 is still a fine record, and I defer to the judgement of the Don himself who only acknowledged facing one bowler as an equal: Hedley Verity.
- Bill Voce (left arm fast medium bowler, lower order batter). This slot was the toughest to fill, but I opted to give Larwood his most regular bowling partner and rely on two other left armers, Verity and Woolley for the spin.
This side has a formidably deep batting line up, and Larwood, Voce, Tate, Verity, Woolley and Hammond can hardly be considered a weak bowling combination.
Although Denis Compton and Bill Edrich had both played for England by the time WWII broke out both played their best cricket after the war, so I held them back for then. Leonard Hutton scored his England record 364 in 1938, but that Oval pitch was a featherbed, Australia were short of bowling, and I felt that the proven Hobbs/ Sutcliffe combination at the top was a better bet in any case. Hutton, like the Middlesex “twins” will feature in the post-war version of this post. Phil Mead missed out – one of he or Paynter had to be unlucky and I preferred the Lancastrian. Ernest Tyldesley was another casualty of England’s immense batting strength in this period. Maurice Leyland of Yorkshire was another unlucky one in this regard. Several fine wicket keepers missed out – Herbert Strudwick, EJ “Tiger” Smith and George Duckworth being the most notable, while advocates of batter-keepers might have considered Paul Gibb. Vallance Jupp did the double eight times in successive seasons in the 1920s, but his England appearances were sporadic, so the off spinning all rounder missed out. Ted ‘Nobby’ Clark, a left arm fast bowler, was a candidate for the slot I gave to Voce. Three leg spinners, ‘Tich’ Freeman, Ian Peebles and Tommy Mitchell all had moments at the highest level but not substantial enough records at that level to claim a place. Two right arm medium-fast bowlers who were unlucky to be squeezed out were George Geary and Alec Kennedy, both outstanding at FC level and in Geary’s case also proven in test cricket. Tom Goddard, the best off spinner of the interwar years, was as he often was in real life, unlucky – the only way to include him would have been in place of Tate, relying on Hammond as third seamer. Finally, although Verity’s selection is incontrovertible several notable left arm tweakers missed out in consequence: Charlie Parker (treated scurvily by the selectors of his era, to end up as a one-cap wonder at test level while taking over 3,000 FC wickets), JC ‘Farmer’ White and Roy Kilner.
Before moving on to the main photo gallery, James and Sons’ March auction took place on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, and was a considerable success. In amongst the stuff going for big money I secured an interesting little piece of South African railwayana for a modest £12 – it was featured on the back cover of the printed catalogue, and online bidders saw these two images:
Here are some images of the item taken since I took possession of it…
I also took a high resolution scan of the item itself…
The scan after cropping and editing.
Now for my regular photo gallery…