It is the final day of another round of county championship matches and so I am picking a combined all time XI for the two teams involved in the game I am focussing on. In this case with only two matches still in progress and the game between Glamorgan and Leicestershire a stone-cold certainty to end in draw that means Gloucestershire and Sussex (also highly likely to end in a draw but there is an outside chance of a Sussex win). I also have a splendid photo gallery to share with you.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- *WG Grace (Gloucestershire, right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types, captain). An absolute must, both as player and as captain.
- CB Fry (Sussex, right handed opening batter). Managing to average 50 with the bat over the course of a very long first class career and scoring 94 FC centuries is all the more remarkable given how much else he did besides playing cricket – he never visited Australia as a player, and general reckoning is that he would have been an even bigger scorer there than he was at home. He and WG opened together for England in what turned out to be WG’s last test match, the first of the 1899 Ashes.
- Wally Hammond (Gloucestershire, right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, ace slip fielder). A truly amazing career record, especially given that he lost a season to bureaucratic malice (on the part of the ignoble Lord Harris who had discovered that by birth Hammond belonged to Harris’ own Kent), another to illness and six to WWII. He still scored over 50,000 FC runs including the third most FC tons of anyone, 167.
- KS Ranjitsinhji (Sussex, right handed batter). The first of two members of the ruling family of Nawanagar to feature in this line up. He was the first ever to score 3,000 runs in first class matches in a single season.
- KS Duleepsinhji (Sussex, right handed batter). Nephew of ‘Ranji’ and according some an even finer batter than his uncle had been. For many years he held the Sussex scoring record with 333.
- Mike Procter (Gloucestershire, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler). One of the greatest of all all rounders and my choice for the overseas slot.
- Gilbert Jessop (Gloucestershire, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, outstanding fielder). His approach to batting makes him a perfect fit for number seven in a very strong line up.
- +Jack Russell (Gloucestershire, wicket keeper, left handed batter). One of the greatest of all wicket keepers and a decent batter to boot.
- Maurice Tate (Sussex, right arm fast medium, right handed batter). One of the greatest of all seamers and a good enough bat to have achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 200 wickets in first class matches three times in a row (the only other examples of this type of double being Albert Trott’s two and George Hirst’s double double of 1906).
- Tom Goddard (Gloucestershire, off spinner, right handed tail end batter). The fifth leading wicket taker in first class cricket, with 2,979 scalps, all the more remarkable given that he started as a fast bowler and took time out to remodel his action and come back as spinner, and his retirement was hastened by an attack of pleurisy.
- Charlie Parker (Gloucestershire, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed tail end batter). The third leading wicket taker in first class history with 3,278 scalps, yet he only got to play one test match. In his benefit match he hit the stumps with each of five successive deliveries, but the second of them was called a no-ball.
This side has an incredibly powerful batting line up, and a superb bowling line up as well – I reckon that between Parker, Goddard, Tate, Grace, Jessop, Procter and Hammond there are about 15,000 FC wickets, and save for the absence of an accredited leg spinner they have all bases covered.
I had two great fast bowling all rounders available for the overseas slot, Imran Khan of Sussex being the other. John Langridge was a candidate for the second openers slot that I gave to Fry, while selecting Joe Vine in that position while somewhat weakening the batting would have given me a leg spin option.
Ted Dexter of Sussex was a fine number three, and like my actual choice Hammond, was also a useful bowler at somewhat quicker than medium pace, but there is no serious question as to who was the better batter.
Another way to have got a leg spinner in would have been to give Charles Townsend of Gloucestershire, the second cricketer after WG Grace to achieve the 2,000 runs/ 100 wickets double in a first class season, the number seven slot that I assigned to Jessop, but I felt that Jessop’s claim was the stronger.
The best home grown fast bowler I left out was John Snow of Sussex, but I wanted the two spinners and felt Tate offered more variation in the attack than Snow did. Also Snow was not exactly enthusiastic about county cricket, rarely stirring himself to bowl at above medium pace at that level – he needed the buzz of test cricket to really get the juices flowing. Courtney Walsh of Gloucestershire was great fast bowler and utterly whole hearted in county cricket, but I felt that a fast bowling all rounder was a better choice as overseas player than a specialist (and I am pretty sure that not even Walsh himself would put him anywhere other than number 11 in the order). Oliver Edward Robinson (Sussex), a tall right arm fast medium bowler, is establishing himself as one of the finest of contemporary English bowlers, but at the moment he does not dislodge Tate.
The two spinners picked themselves, leaving another great left armer, George Dennett of Gloucestershire, yet again unlucky to miss out. With the batting strength available to me I had no need to compromise at all on keeping standards, so neither James M Parks nor Matt Prior, both of Sussex, were ever candidates in my mind.
Today’s photo gallery is a really fine one…