All Time XIs: Gloucestershire and Sussex Combined

A combined Gloucestershire/ Sussex all time XI and a bumper photo gallery.

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

  1. *WG Grace (Gloucestershire, right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types, captain). An absolute must, both as player and as captain.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. +Jack Russell (Gloucestershire, wicket keeper, left handed batter). One of the greatest of all wicket keepers and a decent batter to boot.
  9. 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).
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Today’s photo gallery is a really fine one…

Picking an all time Asian Test XI

Constructing an all time Asian XI, also sharing a petition and as usual including a photo gallery.

This post is my extended response to a tweet from Tanmay:

What would be your All Time Asian Test XI?

🇮🇳 • 🇵🇰 • 🇱🇰 • 🇧🇩

— TANMAY 🤡 (@spear_93) April 13, 2023

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I gave a brief twitter friendly answer yesterday, and I am now using this post to expand my thoughts and look at the architecture of an all time XI.

THE BRIEF

I have taken Tanmay’s question as referring specifically to players who played for Asian nations as opposed to players of Asian heritage who played for other nations. I also decided that for the purposes of this post only players with genuinely weighty test records should be considered – there have been players who have been brilliant at lower levels and struggled at the summit, and there have been players who have made incredible starts at test level and then fizzled out (look up Narendra Hirwani in the context of this specific post). I also require that any XI I name be well balanced and obviously capable of functioning as a unit, so I try to select varied players.

BUILDING OUR XI

We start with the openers. Here there is one candidate who overshadows all others, Sunil Gavaskar with over 10,000 test runs at an average above 50. Gavaskar’s partner should ideally pose a contrast, so I want a more attacking player, and preferably a left handed one. For me the person who fits the bill best in terms of Asian test players is Saeed Anwar of Pakistan.

The number three slot is non-negotiable in my opinion – Rahul Sharad Dravid with 13,288 test runs at an average of 53 is a lock for this slot

There would be more candidates for the number four slot but for the presence of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar who preferred this slot in test matches.

At number five I want a left hander given that numbers three and four are right handers, and again there is one commanding candidate: Kumar Sangakkara, the second most prolific of all test match left handers behind Alastair Cook, and with a better batting average than the former England opener.

At number six I want an all rounder, and there is once again a clear cut candidate, who also happens to have been an outstanding captain, Imran Khan.

A wicket keeper who can make major contributions with the bat is a major asset to any side, and Mushfiqur Rahim, a fine keeper and one of the most consistent test batters Bangladesh has yet produced fits the bill nicely.

A number eight should be primarily a bowler, but ideally you want them to be reasonably capable with the bat as well, and Wasim Akram, one of the greatest of all left arm fast bowlers and possessor of a test match double century to boot would seem the ideal candidate.

Numbers 9, 10 and 11 are bowling slots, and we want at least one more fast bowler and at least one spinner. Waqar Younis of Pakistan and Muthiah Muralidaran of Sri Lanka answer these descriptions – the former a genuinely great right arm fast bowler and regular bowling partner of Wasim Akram as well and the latter an off spinner and holder of the record for career test scalps – 800 in 133 matches. For the number nine slot my preference is for a second spinner and one who does something different to Murali, and I opt for leg spinner Anil Kumble, fourth in the list of all time test wicket takers and a big contrast to Murali.

Thus we have constructed our XI and in batting order it reads:

Sunil Gavaskar
Saeed Anwar
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
Kumar Sangakkara
*Imran Khan
+Mushfiqur Rahim
Wasim Akram
Anil Kumble
Waqar Younis
Muthiah Muralidaran

This gives us a very powerful top five, one of the greatest of all all rounders, a quality keeper who is also a very good bat and four top line bowlers of great quality and variety. The bowling with three fast bowlers, one of whom bowls left arm for extra variation and two of the greatest spinners ever to play has both depth and variety as well. I hesitate to say that this side could beat an ROW all time XI because the latter, something like: JB Hobbs, H Sutcliffe (the best ever test match opening pair), *DG Bradman, SPD Smith, G St A Sobers, AW Greig, +AC Gilchrist, AK Davidson, MD Marshall, SK Warne, GD McGrath has arguably even stronger batting and definitely greater depth and variety in the bowling – between Sobers and Davidson any type of delivery that a left arm bowler can produce is covered, while Marshall, McGrath, Warne and Greig do likewise for right arm bowlers, but this Asian XI would be able to give even such formidable opposition as this a genuine contest.

THE MISSING

In an exercise of this nature many legendary cricketers are bound to miss out and probably no two people would pick the same XI. I would not argue against the likes of Virat Kohli, Javed Miandad or any of a fistful of left arm spinners: three all rounders, ‘Vinoo’ Mankad, Ravindra Jadeja and Shakib al Hasan and at least two specialists in the craft, Bishan Singh Bedi and Rangana Herath would all have their advocates, merely in favour of my own choices. Two contemporary greats who I decided did not yet have the weight of achievement at test level to merit selection but who I may well include should I revisit this in a few years were Rishabh Pant (who may very well displace Mushfiqur Rahim) and Rashid Khan (who faces an even more formidable obstacle in the form of Kumble).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before my usual sign off I have a petition to share: The Academy in Brixton is in danger and there is a petition on change.org to save it. I grew up in southwest London, close enough to Brixton that when I temped there for a period in 1997 I walked to and from work. Finally we come to the photographs…

All Time XIs: 11 Countries, no England or Australia

Today I select an all time XI where every player comes from a different country and the first two test match protagonists, England and Australia, are excluded. Also features an extensive photo gallery.

I set myself a tough challenge today: could I name an international XI where each player came from a different nation and neither of the two original test protagonists, England and Australia were included. This meant a degree of compromise, and some huge names missing out because accommodating them would have left me insoluble problems elsewhere. I think the end result is a fairly impressive looking side.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Sunil Gavaskar (India, right handed opening batter). His credentials are unarguable, but of course selecting him meant no place for Tendulkar, Kohli or any of the great spinners India have had down the years.
  2. George Headley (West Indies, right handed opening batter). A magnificent test record, and has a genuine claim to have been WI’s best ever. Filling the opening slots was the single toughest job involved in selecting this side.
  3. Graeme Pollock (South Africa, left handed batter). Another all time great, at least ensuring that the batting well get off to a decent start.
  4. Steve Tikolo (Kenya, right handed batter). His country’s best ever, and an FC average of 48 underlines his credentials
  5. Sikandar Raza (Zimbabwe, right handed batter, off spinner). Number five was too low in the order for Andrew Flower, and the latter was not good enough to dislodge any of top three, so I made the compromise selection of a batting all rounder for this slot.
  6. *Imran Khan (right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain). An excellent captain and among the greatest of all all rounders, ideal for this side.
  7. +Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh, right handed batter, wicket keeper). A top quality keeper, and a fine batter as well.
  8. Richard Hadlee (New Zealand, right arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter). Other than perhaps Clarrie Grimmett, who had to cross one national and two state boundaries to find cricketing fulfillment, disqualifying himself for this XI in the process, there is no case for anyone else being regarded as New Zealand’s finest ever bowler.
  9. Bart King (United States of America, right arm fast bowler, right handed lower middle order batter). Just over 400 FC wickets at 15 a piece, mainly for the Philadelphians in the course of four tours of England and good enough with the willow to average 20 in that department. As a ‘minor nation’ representative of indisputable top class he helped make the task of this post possible.
  10. Rashid Khan (Afghanistan, leg spinner, right handed lower order batter). A superb leg spinner, and his position at number ten in this order notwithstanding far from a mug with the bat as well.
  11. Muthiah Muralidaran (Sri Lanka, off spinner, right handed lower order batter). More test wickets than any other bowler in history – 800 of them. Some have suggested that his record is unduly boosted by cheap Bangladeshi and Zimbabwean scalps, but even against the more highly regarded nations he took 624 wickets at 24 – a cheaper average than Shane Warne’s against all comers (176 wickets at 15 against the two ‘minnows’).

This XI has a very powerful top four, a batting all rounder at five, one of the all time great genuine all rounders at six, a keeper who is also a top drawer batter and four of the greatest bowlers in history, three of whom can bat to varying degrees – Hadlee and King being close to all rounders and Rashid Khan definitely a ‘bowler who bats’. I do not see a bowling unit that has Hadlee, King and I Khan to bowl pace, Murali and R Khan to bowl spin and Raza as sixth option struggling to claim 20 wickets on any surface.

ALTERNATIVES

Obviously many great names missed out, but if you want to press the case for your favourites consider a) who misses out to get them in, b) how does that affect the balance of the side. Remember for example that if you want Tendulkar or Kohli to bat at four, Gavaskar has to be replaced as opener by a non-Indian, and unless you can find an opener from Kenya (Tikolo’s country) or a country not covered in my original selections that will in turn mean that someone else from down the order having to be replaced. One possibility that I could see for changing my XI would be to replace Rahim as keeper with Titendu Taibu (Zimbabwe), and then bring left arm spin bowling all rounder Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh) in in place of Raza, leaving the other nine positions unaffected and slightly improving the depth and variety of the bowling by increasing the range of spin coverage. However my view is that Rahim outranks Taibu in both departments, and that Al Hasan is not enough of an improvement on Raza to justify the swap.

PHOTOGRAPHS

The weather is very changeable here in Norfolk at the moment, but there has been enough of the good, or at least decent, variety that I have a large photo gallery to share…

All Time XIs: England Record Setters

Today I pick an England XI each of whom have their place or places in the record books. Several excellent candidates missed out because I could only accommodate 11 players, but I think my XI has a good mix of quirkiness and class.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Herbert Sutcliffe (right handed opening batter). Not just an England record, an all comers record: the only player to have played 20 or more test matches and never had a batting average below 60 at that level. I have previously mentioned how the progression of his averages shows him to have been the ultimate big game player.
  2. Alastair Cook (left handed opening batter). His feat of scoring a 50 and a century on test debut and finishing his career in the same way 12 years later is one of multiple ways in which he qualifies: England’s leading run scorer, England’s leading century maker, scorer of more runs from number two than any other England player.
  3. Walter Hammond (right handed batter, ace slip fielder, right arm medium fast bowler). More runs from number three than any other England batter, most runs in a series for England (905 at 113.125 in the 1928-9 Ashes), unique sequence of over 700 runs in the space of four test innings (101 and 75* in the last test of the 1932-3 Ashes, 227 and 336* in the two innings he played in New Zealand on the way home from that tour), twice scorer of back to back test double centuries (251 and 200 in the 1928-9 Ashes as well as the NZ runfest already detailed).
  4. Joe Root (right handed batter, occasional off spinner). Leading run scorer among current England batters, by a long way, leading career aggregate for any England right hander.
  5. Eddie Paynter (left handed batter). Has the best average of any left hander to have played 20 or more test matches for England – 59.23. His record includes double centuries against Australia and South Africa, but his most famous innings was 83 at Brisbane in the 1932-3 Ashes when he defied nurses advice and rose from his sick bed to bail England out of a crisis.
  6. +Les Ames (right handed batter, wicket keeper). Uniquely in this line up, because I required a keeper who was also a top class batter, I have used first class records to get him – more career stumpings than anyone else in history, three of the four “keeper’s doubles” (1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in first clas matches in the same season) stand to his credit.
  7. *Aubrey Smith (right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter, captain). The only player to captain England in his only test, and since England won the match comfortably a rare England skipper with a 100% winning record in the job.
  8. Jim Laker (off spinner, right handed lower order batter). Most wickets in an Ashes series (46 in 1956, a haul that included a first class record 19 in the match at Old Trafford).
  9. Syd Barnes (right arm fast medium, right handed lower order batter). 189 wickets in just 27 tests for an average of seven per match. Two thirds of those wickets came overseas – 77 in 13 matches in Australia and 49 in just four matches in South Africa (in the last series before WWI).
  10. James Anderson (right arm fast medium, left handed lower order batter). England’s all time leading wicket taker, closing on 700 test scalps.
  11. Charles ‘Father’ Marriott (leg spinner, right handed tail end batter). 11 wickets in his only test appearance, the most by any one cap wonder. One of the select club of players to have taken more first class wickets than he scored runs.

This XI contains a very powerful top six, and although Smith and Laker are both probably a place too high in the order both could handle a bat – the latter had a test best of 63. Also a bowling attack that has Anderson, Barnes and Smith as front line seam/swing/pace options plus Hammond as fourth seamer if needed and Marriott and Laker as a contrasting spin pairing is not going to need as many runs behind it as some attacks would.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

There are quite a few of these, so I am going to divide them up into categories.

Opening batters: Len Hutton (test record score for England, 364 at The Oval in 1938), Jack Hobbs (a record 12 centuries for England against Australia), John Edrich (highest score by an England left hander, 310* v NZ) and Graham Gooch (most runs by an batter in a single test match – 456 (333 and 123 v India at Lord’s in 1990) are all definite candidates, and some would also include WG Grace, the only player to twice hold the England record score (152 and 170, both v Australia, at The Oval in 1880 and 1886).

Middle order batters: RE Foster (highest ever score by a debutant and still the highest for England in Australia, 287 at Sydney in 1903), and the only player to captain England men’s teams at cricket and football and KS Ranjitsinhji (150+ scores on debut in two countries – 154* at Old Trafford in 1896 and 175 at Sydney in 1897) are the most obvious.

All rounders: Ian Botham reached the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in an all comers record 21 matches, and 2,000 and 200 in 42 matches before falling away later in his career. Billy Bates took England’s first hat trick, part of a performance that saw him become the first ever to score a 50 and take 10 wickets in the same test match.

Pace bowlers: George Lohmann has the cheapest career average of any bowler to have taken 100 or more test wickets – 10.75. Frank Tyson is the only post WWII England bowler to finish a test career of more than 10 matches with a bowling average below 20 – 18.56. Kent left arm quick Fred ‘Nutty’ Martin still has the record for most wickets by an England debutant – 12.

Other bowlers: Derek Underwood took the most test wickets of any England bowler of below medium pace – 297 with his left arm slow medium. Graham Swann was the leading career wicket taker among England off spinners.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship Round Three

A look back at round three of the 2023 County Championship (mainly Somerset v Lancashire, plus the closing stages of Middlesex v Nottinghamshire) and a bumper photo gallery.

Just before 7PM yesterday Nottinghamshire foozled what should have been an easy run out, allowing Middlesex to complete a four wicket victory with one over scheduled to be played and another round of county championship fixtures was at an end.

SOMERSET V LANCASHIRE

Somerset had a depleted bowling attack (Overton and Davey both out injured), and the Taunton pitch was very flat. Somerset batted first, and while I was at work on Thursday they got off to a shocking start, being 80-4 at low water mark. At that point 19 year old James Rew joined skipper Tom Abell, and by the close of play the fifth wicket pair were still together, both with centuries to their name. The stand was broken early on the second day, but Abell went on to a new career best, and the tail wagged more than a bit, meaning that Somerset eventually totalled 441 in their first innings. This score was soon put in perspective by the Lancashire top order and at one point it looked like a total of 800 was on (and Lancashire, as revealed by their captain, were thinking in such terms). However, on day three Keaton Jennings was hit and hat to retire hurt on 189, and then wickets fell. Eventually Lancashire had to settle for a lead of 113 on first innings.

The Somerset second innings again began poorly, but the Rew/ Abell pairing again shared a good partnership before Abell was bowled. Rew rode his luck somewhat this time round, including benefitting from James Anderson, a man who was taking top level wickets before Rew was even born, dropping an absolute dolly catch. When Rew was sixth out Somerset were far from safe, but another youngster, Kasey Aldridge, scored his maiden first class 50, while Lewis Gregory played a very solid innings at the other end, and once the second new ball failed to work any magic for Lancashire the draw was secure. After a token over from Colin de Grandhomme Lancashire acknowledged as much and hands were shaken. By that stage only one other championship game was still active…

…MIDDLESEX V NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

Nottinghamshire had had rather the better of the opening three days at the world’s most overrated cricket ground (the one in St John’s Wood in case you had any doubts), but rain struck on day four, and Nottinghamshire faced with one session in which 40 overs were scheduled decided to gamble on their advantage of 248 being enough (remember that this was not officially a limited overs game, so there were no fielding restrictions and no ultra tide wide regulations) and invited Middlesex to go for victory. Middlesex took up the gauntlet that Nottinghamshire had thrown down and went for the runs. At the point I joined the coverage they needed under 100 at just below five an over and were only two wickets down. Although they lost four further wickets in the pursuit these were all given rather than being taken and the only thing that might have baulked Middlesex in the end was fading light. Nottinghamshire exaggerated the difficulty with the light, and put Stuart Broad on in the closing stages in the hope that the umpires would decide it was too dark for the England quick to be bowling. The finale was a moment of pure craziness – Middlesex went for a run that was never on and Nottinghamshire made a mess of the attempted run out, allowing the winning run to be scored.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have a bumper gallery for you today…

A Combined Lancashire/ Somerset XI

A Composite Lancashire-Somerset all time XI in honour of the game I am following in this round of championship fixtures and a fine photo gallery.

It is day four of the current round of county championship fixtures, and as has been my habit so far this season I will present a composite all-time XI for the two counties involved in the match to which most of my attention has been devoted. My individual XIs for the counties concerned can be found here and here.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Marcus Trescothick (Somerset, left handed opening batter, excellent slip fielder, occasional medium pacer). Somerset’s second leading scorer of FC runs in history, and had an excellent test record as well.
  2. Archie MacLaren (Lancashire, right handed opening batter, excellent slip fielder). Still holder of the record first class score by an English cricketer, 424 for Lancashire against Somerset at Taunton in 1895. His greatest moments at international level came on the 1897-8 tour of Australia.
  3. Johnny Tyldesley (Lancashire, right handed batter). One of the best bad wicket players in the game’s history, and a fixture in the Lancashire 1st XI from his debut in 1895 to the outbreak of war in 1914. Post WWI he turned out for the county only on an occasional basis at times of great need.
  4. James Hildreth (Somerset, right handed batter, occasional medium pacer). One of the unluckiest of all non-international cricketers – not many scorers of 18,000 FC runs at an average in the mid-40s have failed to attract the notice of the national selectors.
  5. Neil Fairbrother (Lancashire, left handed batter). Never quite cracked test cricket, though he was a fine ODI player for a time, but his record for Lancashire speaks for itself. Career highlights include the highest ever FC score at a London venue (366 v Surrey in 1990).
  6. Len Braund (Somerset, right handed batter, leg spinner, excellent slip fielder). One of the relatively few Somerset players to attain the status of an England regular. Played a key role for Somerset in a famous 1901 victory at Headingley over then dominant county Yorkshire, and then won a match against the same awesome opposition virtually single handed the following season – he took 15 wickets in the match and made the highest individual score on either side.
  7. *Sammy Woods (Somerset, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain). Captain for a long period when Somerset often struggled to get 11 players together. Sydney born, but settled in Somerset and was genuinely devoted to the county.
  8. Wasim Akram (Lancashire, left arm fast bowler, left handed batter). After two genuine all rounders comes a bowling all rounder, and our official overseas player, one of the two best in history in his particular role (Alan Davidson of Australia being the other).
  9. +George Duckworth (Lancashire, wicket keeper, right handed batter). Many would opt for a keeper who was better with the bat, but I reckoned that with two genuine all rounders and one of the greatest of all bowling all rounders in the XI I could afford to pick the best keeper of those available, and for me Duckworth was that.
  10. Jack ‘Farmer’ White (Somerset, left arm orthodox spinner, tail ender). One of the finest of his type to play the game, his stamina and unrelenting economy were crucial to England’s 4-1 win down under in 1928-9. At Adelaide in that series he bowled 124 overs across the two Aussie innings, claiming 13 wickets and conceding at just a tick over two runs an over.
  11. Sydney Barnes (Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, tail ender). The consensus pick for the greatest bowler of all time, though his county experience was fairly limited as he preferred Lancashire League, where the money was better. 189 test scalps at 16.43 a piece in 27 appearances at that level (i.e an average of seven wickets per match) is some testament to his skills against even the best around. He was offered a place on the 1920-1 tour of Australia but would only go if his wife was allowed to accompany him, and the powers that be foolishly refused him. Had they agreed to his request a) England would almost certainly not have been beaten 5-0 and b) He would probably have beaten Warne by over 80 years to becoming the first to take 100 test wickets in a country other than his own (he had 77 in 13 matches in Australia).

This XI has a powerful batting line up and a superb and wonderfully balanced bowling attack – Akram and Barnes to share the new ball, Woods as third pacer and two contrasting spinners in White and Braund. It would take a fine side to challenge them.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Besides the two I picked there were three openers who merited serious attention: Harold Gimblett, Cyril Washbrook and Mike Atherton in that order of precedence.

Of non-overseas middle order batters Ernest Tyldesley was the unluckiest to miss out.

My preference for having bowlers or bowling all rounders as overseas players and my decision to restrict myself to one overseas player meant that Sunil Gavaskar, Greg Chappell, Viv Richards (all Somerset) and Clive Lloyd (Lancashire) could not be accommodated. Similarly Faroukh Engineer’s wicket keeping credentials did not enter the equation

Andrew Flintoff was obviously a candidate for the fast bowling all rounders slot, but I wanted Woods as captain, and also Woods was outstanding for many years, whereas Flintoff pre-2004 was a player with great potential and post 2006-7 Ashes was basically a spent force, whereas Woods was outstanding for many seasons.

Johnny Briggs was a rival to White for the left arm spinner’s slot, and I might also have given that slot to an off spinner in Brian Langford or indeed have opted for Cecil Parkin’s all sorts.

The biggest controversy is undoubtedly in the pace bowling department, where neither of the two bowlers after whom the ends at Old Trafford are named made the cut. The reason for my not selecting either is that with an envisaged new ball pairing of Akram and Barnes whichever of them I selected would have had to be third pacer, and giving that role to Woods meant that I got his captaincy and the opportunity to pick the best keeper rather than selecting a batter-keeper such as Steven Davies or Craig Kieswetter. The other great fast bowler to miss out was Ted MacDonald, the Aussie ace who opted for Lancashire league and ultimately the county.

Matt Parkinson may yet establish himself as a great leg spinner, but whereas Braund was a genuine all rounder and superb in the field Parkinson is a genuine number 11 with the bat and nothing special in the field.

I end this section with a look to the future: James Rew is playing for Somerset in the current match, and at the age of 19 already looks a very fine cricketer. He may yet force his way into the reckoning.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Time for my usual sign off…

All Time XIs: Greenery

A ‘greenery’ XI and a photo gallery in two parts.

As my photo galleries indicate I enjoy spending time in and around greenery, so for today I am creating an XI of cricketers whose names connect with greenery in some way, shape or form.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. John Berry Hobbs (right handed opening batter, outstanding cover fielder, occasional right arm medium pace bowler). More commonly known as Jack Hobbs, aka ‘The Master’, but it is that middle name ‘Berry’ that qualifies him for this XI.
  2. Les Berry (right handed opening batter). A long and distinguished career for Leicestershire, though typically for a player at an ‘unfashionable’ county scant recognition from the England selectors.
  3. *Andrew Flower (left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper, occasional off spinner, captain). At the height of his career the world number one ranked batter. Also had a distinguished coaching career, albeit England’s rise to number one in the test rankings under his stewardship was accompanied by a number of the players suffering in terms of personal well being.
  4. Grant Flower (right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner). A fine batter and a useful bowler, well worth his place in this side.
  5. James H Parks (right handed batter, right arm slow medium bowler). The only cricketer ever to score 3,000 runs and take 100 wickets in the same first class season. I have included his middle initial to distinguish him from his son James M Parks, a batter/ keeper.
  6. Cameron Green (right handed batter, right arm fast bowler). Still young, but the tall Aussie is very rapidly establishing himself as a multi-format star.
  7. Wilfred Flowers (right handed batter, off spinner). A good enough all rounder to have done the season’s double five times in the course of his career and to have had a respectable test record.
  8. +Dick Lilley (wicket keeper, right handed batter). A long serving England keeper of the late 19th and early 20th century and a useful lower order batter. Although the plant is spelt differently it is of course the lily that gets him in.
  9. William Lillywhite (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter). The ‘nonpareil’, one of the first masters of ’round arm’, the bowling style that developed from under arm and led to over arm, along with his county colleague James Broadbridge. Again it is the lily that gets him in.
  10. Dennis Lillee (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter). The lily gives the side another great opening bowler.
  11. Eric Hollies (leg spinner, right handed batter). Our line up is completed with a leg spinner, using the fact that his surname looks like the plural of ‘holly’.

This XI has a powerful line batting line up and a varied bowling attack – Lillee, Lillywhite, Green and Parks to provide pace, seam and swing, and Hollies, Flowers and G Flower providing a full range of spin options

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Graham Rose, the Somerset bowling all rounder, was a clear candidate. James M Parks, like his father James H would have his advocates, but I preferred the finer keeper in Lilley. Had Grant Flower not had a place already then left arm spinner Holly Colvin, a former world cup winner for England Women, would have been up for consideration. Another Holly who some might have considered was Aussie Women’s pacer Holly Ferling. Arthur Bush, Gloucestershire wicket keeper in WG Grace’s early days (and best man at the latter’s wedding as well), was not quite good enough to displace Lilley. New Zealand women’s seamer Lea Tahuhu could have been included by way of her first name – lea is a poetic word for meadow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off comes in two parts because today was a Just a Cuppa Autism Acceptance morning at King’s Lynn Library. As an autistic person, a founder member of the West Norfolk Autism Group and a big library user I enjoy these mornings hugely – my preferred activity during them is lego architecture…

Now for my regular pictures…

All Time XIs: All Captains

An all time XI of great former test skippers and a huge photo gallery.

For today’s blog post I have selected an XI made up entirely of players who captained their country in test cricket. I required players with excellent playing records – no passengers for me, and also who had been successful as captains.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Mark Taylor (Australia, left handed opening batter, ace slip fielder). Second link in a chain of four successive very successful Aussie skippers. He succeeded Allan Border who had inherited a rabble and passed on the best side in the world. Taylor kept Australia at the top of the world pecking order, in its own way as impressive an achievement as his predecessor’s feat of dragging them to the top in the first place.
  2. *Frank Worrell (West Indies, right handed opening batter, left arm fast medium bowler, occasional left arm spinner). He averaged 49 with the bat, which confirms that he was worth his place as a player. I have named him as captain of this side of captains because as well as being a superbly successful skipper he was one of genuinely historic importance – his appointment represented the end of a particularly unpleasant captaincy fetish, since he was the first black man to be appointed West Indies captain.
  3. Don Bradman (Australia, right handed batter, outstanding outfielder). The most prolific batter there has ever been, with a test average of 99.94, and a superb captain. In the 1936-7 Ashes he turned a 0-2 deficit after two matches into a 3-2 series win. In 1948 he led the Australians through an unbeaten tour of England.
  4. Clive Lloyd (left handed batter, outstanding cover fielder and later a fine slip). The pioneer of the ‘four fast bowlers’ strategy that propelled West Indies back to the top of the world game after a difficult period in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
  5. Steve Waugh (Australia, right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler). The third link in the chain of Aussie skippers I referred to earlier, and he built on the earlier achievements of Border and Taylor give an acknowledged best side in the world an aura of total invincibility.
  6. Imran Khan (Pakistan, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler). A great all rounder and a great skipper. Maybe in a few years time Stokes will challenge him for this slot – he has made an outstanding start as skipper, and an Ashes triumph this summer would help to cement his reputation in that role, but as things stands he has no challenger.
  7. +Rodney Marsh (Australia, wicket keeper, left handed batter). A bit of a cheat as he never actually captained his country, but keeper-captains in test cricket are few and far between, and successful keeper-captains at test level are in the ‘hens teeth’ category of rarity, and he would have been a better choice than Kim Hughes to skipper the 1981 Ashes touring party.
  8. Wasim Akram (Pakistan, left arm fast bowler, left handed batter). His greatness as a player is unquestioned and he was a fine skipper as well. Not too much should be read into the acrimonious end to his tenure in the top job – Pakistan skippers rarely go gently into the night.
  9. Richie Benaud (Australia, leg spinner, right handed batter). The first cricketer to achieve the test career double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets. His captaincy highlights include regaining the Ashes in 1958-9, defending them in 1961 and again in 1962-3, and captaining Australia in the classic 1960-1 tied test series against the West Indies when his opposite number was Frank Worrell.
  10. Bishan Singh Bedi (India, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed tail end batter). One of the greatest ever masters of his craft and a successful skipper in somewhat difficult circumstances.
  11. Courtney Walsh (right arm fast bowler, right handed tail end batter). The first bowler ever to take 500 test wickets, and a respectable captaincy record in spite of the fact that the job is generally reckoned tough for specialist fast bowlers and the West Indies were on the way to crashing down from the heights of the Lloyd/ Richards eras by the time he got the job.

This side has a powerful batting line up, a great keeper, and Walsh, Wasim Akram and Imran Khan as front line bowlers, Benaud and Bedi as front line spinners and support bowling available from Worrell and Waugh. It is a side to be reckoned with in every department.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I regarded Frank Worrell as having the right handed openers slot under wraps, and I preferred my other opener to be left handed. Taylor’s chief rival for this slot was Andrew Strauss (England), who led his side to the top of the world rankings. Worrell’s presence also meant that I had to leave out WG Grace, a superb skipper as well as the best cricketer of the 19th century. I could not accommodate Border alongside Lloyd without having a huge surfeit of left handers, and I regarded the West Indian’s achievements as captain as being the greater. The fourth in that chain of successful Aussie skippers, Ricky Ponting, cannot be said to be unlucky – a) he was up against Bradman for the number three slot and b) when the greats he had inherited from his predecessors departed the scene he was shown up as a fairly ordinary skipper and one given to inappropriate outbursts – his rant on being run out by Gary Pratt and his infamous stand off with umpire Dar six years later being two examples. Another Aussie, Steve Smith, rendered himself ineligible by being caught up in a cheating scandal while captain. If you feel I have been unfair to your favourite feel free to comment. None of the England skippers I have witnessed in action have massively impressed me save Stokes, who I have mentioned as a potential future captain. Alec Stewart, who could have been used as a solution to the keeper-captain problem failed two grounds in my book: keeping was not his best role and he was a very poor skipper to boot.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have a bumper photo gallery for you…