I continue my look at the England men’s cricket team through the ages with a look at the immediate postwar era. I have chosen 1962 as the endpoint because the 1963 season was notable on two grounds: it was the first season in which players were not divided between amateurs and professionals (or “Gentlemen” and “Players”) and it also saw the first staging of the first professional limited overs tournament, the Gillette Cup, and from these beginnings limited overs cricket, and subsequently very limited overs cricket in the form of T20 would come to play an ever increasing role in professional cricket.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- *Leonard Hutton (right handed opening batter, captain). In 1938 at Trent Bridge Walter Hammond became the first officially appointed England captain to have played cricket as a professional. In the very first England XI he led out on to the field was the man who would become the first to be appointed official England captain while still playing as a professional, Leonard Hutton. Hutton was comfortably England’s best batter of the immediate postwar years (the only remotely credible challenger, Denis Compton, actually wrote in one of hs books that Hutton was the greater batter of the two). What makes Hutton’s performances between 1946 and 1955, which stand among the greatest of anyone in the game’s history in any case, even more extraordinary is that as well as having lost six years of cricketing development to the war he had suffered a training accident which left him with one arm shorter than the other.
- Cyril Washbrook (right handed opening batter). The best of Hutton’s various opening partners. In 1956 after Hutton had retired, Washbrook, then a 41 year old selector, was chosen for the third test of the series against Australia and scored a crucial 98, paving the way for further successful recalls for David Sheppard (4th test, century from number three) then Bishop of Woolwich and Compton (5th test, having had his right kneecap surgically removed and fought his way back to fitness, 94).
- Colin Cowdrey (right handed batter, ace slip fielder, occasional leg spinner). The first cricketer to earn 100 test caps and by the end of his career scorer of 22 test centuries, at the time a joint England record with Hammond.
- Denis Compton (right handed batter, occasional left arm wrist spinner). Even with a long term knee injury, ultimately necessitating the removal of the kneecap he achieved some outstanding performances for England, including a century in each innings at Adelaide in the 1946-7 Ashes, four centuries against the visiting South Africans in 1947, two against Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles and a 278 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 1954.
- Peter May (right handed batter). In test cricket’s slowest scoring decade this naturally aggressive batter averaged 46.77, including a 285 not out that effectively terminated Sonny Ramadhin as an effective bowling force (Ramadhin ended up toiling through 98 overs in that innings, as West Indies, having led by 288 on first innings ended up clinging on for a draw with seven wickets down in their second innings).
- Trevor Bailey (right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler). A genuine all rounder.
- +Godfrey Evans (wicket keeper, right handed batter). One of the greatest keepers of all time and a good enough batter to have scored two test centuries.
- Jim Laker (off spinner, right handed lower order batter). 193 wickets at 21 a piece in 46 test appearances. In 1956 he claimed 46 wickets in the Ashes series at 9.6 a piece, including the best match haul in first class history, 19-90 at Old Trafford (9-37 in the first innings, 10-53 second time round).
- Johnny Wardle (left arm orthodox spinner, left arm wrist spinner, left handed lower order batter). 102 test wickets at 20.39. He was often passed over in favour of Tony Lock, and his career came to a premature end after he expressed forceful opinions about Yorkshire’s choice of captain in 1958. His robust late order hitting was also of value to England more than once.
- Fred Trueman (right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). The first bowler of any type to claim as many as 300 test scalps, 307 in 67 matches.
- Brian Statham (right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). 252 test scalps at 24 a piece, most of them bowling from the less favourable end as either Trueman or Frank Tyson (in the 1954-5 Ashes) had first choice of which end to bowl from.
This XI has a powerful top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a legendary keeper, two of the greatest spinners of all time and two great fast bowlers who were moreover a regular combination at test level.
I start this section with two name checks as the players concerned deserve more than a standard honourable mention:
A fine right handed batter and a useful right arm fast medium bowler. However I could only accommodate him in one of two ways: play him as an opener in place of Washbrook, or class him as an all rounder and give him Bailey’s slot, and neither of those seemed right to me.
For the first few years after the war he carried England’s bowling almost single handed, and at the time of his retirement he was test cricket’s leading wicket taker with 236 scalps. However I wanted two spinners, and considered the claims of the fast bowlers Trueman and Statham to be unanswerable, so I could not accommodate him.
OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Although Ken Barrington and Ted Dexter both played for England during this period I considered them to belong more properly to the next. No other keeper of this period was close to Evans with the gloves, though the more determined members of the “look at the batting first” school of thought might opt for James M Parks (his father James H Parks, a batting all rounder, also played for Sussex and England), a quality batter, but several classes below Evans with the gloves.
The brilliant but meteoric Frank Tyson might have had a fast bowling slot. Tony Lock’s bowling action for most of his England career was to put politely of dubious legality, and he could bowl only finger spin, whereas Wardle could also bowl wrist spin. Leg spinner Doug Wright could be devastating on his day (he claimed a record seven first class hat tricks), but when things weren’t going his way he was often very expensive. I end this section with one of cricket’s ultimate ‘might have beens’: Maurice Tremlett of Somerset (father of Tim, grandfather of Chris) who had a dream first class debut, claiming eight wickets in the match and then playing a splendid cameo innings to see his side over the line by one wicket against the team who would be that season’s champions, Middlesex. Unfortunately he fell victim to well meaning coaches who tried to turn a fast-medium who liked to give the ball a wallop into a genuine fast bowler and succeeded in destroying his confidence and interest in bowling, and within a few years he was playing for Somerset as an exciting middle order batter who was occasionally used as a partnership breaker with the ball.
My usual sign off…
One thought on “England XIs: WWII – 1962”