All Time XIs: County Stars Who Never Played Test Cricket

To mark the start of another championship season I pick an XI of county stalwarts who somehow escaped the attention of the England selectors of their day. I also have my usual photo gallery at the end.

A new county championship season is under way (I have commentary on Lancashire v Surrey on in the background), and in honour of this I am putting together an XI of the best English county cricketers who never got the call up for England. Players whose careers took place before test cricket was played are ineligible.


  1. John Langridge (Sussex, right handed opening batter and excellent close fielder). Over 34,000 FC runs, 76 centuries and hundreds of catches taken in the field but never an England call up for the Sussex stalwart.
  2. Alan Jones (Glamorgan, left handed opening batter). More FC runs than anyone else not to get an England cap, 36,049 of them including 56 centuries. He was selected for the series against The Rest of the World that replaced the South African visit of 1970 when that was cancelled but those games are not officially classed as test matches.
  3. Percy ‘Pete’ Perrin (Essex, right handed batter). Almost 30,000 FC runs at 36, with 66 centuries including an HS of 343* and no England cap. Ironically having been continually passed over as a player he did get to serve as chairman of selectors.
  4. James Hildreth (Somerset, right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler). Not far short of 20,000 FC runs at an average of 44, but the England call never came.
  5. David Sales (Northamptonshire, right handed batter). I first heard the name when I was listening to a test match commentary and Christopher Martin-Jenkins mentioned that a 17 year old had just scored 210* on FC debut. I thought that he was certain to become an England regular and sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, not only did he not get fast tracked, he never got an England cap, although his FC output was consistently impressive, including a triple century and a 276*.
  6. *Darren Stevens (Leicestershire, Kent, right handed batter, right arm medium pacer, captain). An aggressive middle order batter and a highly successful swing bowler. He missed out partly because in the first part of his career at Leicestershire he hardly bowled and his batting record did not merit selection on its own. He was already in his thirties when at Kent he became a serious bowler, and age always told against him, even though Stevens in his 40s was playing the best cricket of his life.
  7. Ernie Robson (Somerset, right handed batter, right arm medium pacer). He played for Somerset for 28 years (1895-1923), comfortably managed the career double of 10,000 runs and 1,000 wickets in FC games. In his last season, at the age of 53, he hit a six in the last possible over of a match to win it for Somerset. Jack Hobbs rated him one of the most difficult bowlers he ever faced. Incidentally he and Stevens are well matched as bowlers – Stevens’ main weapon was the inswinger, whereas Robson’s specialism was outswing.
  8. +David Hunter (Yorkshire, wicket keeper, right handed batter). A rare example of a top class Yorkshire player being ignored by the England selectors, he made 1,200 dismissals in a long and distinguished career and featured in several important lower order partnerships as well.
  9. Tom Wass (Nottinghamshire, right arm fast medium, right arm leg spin, right handed lower order batter). A magnificent county record in the Edwardian era, but never an England call up.
  10. Don Shepherd (Glamorgan, off spinner, right handed lower order batter). It is telling of the frequency with which England selectors have been unable to see what happens west of the Severn that Glamorgan, home to the leading run scorer never to have played for England also boasts the leading FC wicket taker not to have played for England. Shepherd took over 2,200 wickets at a very cheap average, and was part of the 1969 team which won the County Championship without losing a match.
  11. George Dennett (Gloucestershire, left arm orthodox spinner). 2,151 FC wickets at 19.82. He missed out in part because England were very strong in the left arm spin department during his career – Rhodes and Blythe were ahead of him in the pecking order pre-WWI, and the all round skills of Roy Kilner often got him the nod in the 1920s. Also Frank Woolley, who could bowl left arm spin, was an England regular throughout Dennett’s career.

This team has a powerful top five, two swing bowling all rounders, a great keeper and trio of contrasting specialist bowlers. Between them the available bowlers tick every box save sheer pace. Many an actual England XI would struggle against this side.


Opening batters: Daryl Mitchell of Worcestershire had a fine county record without ever attracting selectorial attention. Chris Dent of Gloucestershire is not yet officially qualified for this team, but if he does not get a call up for England before retiring he will be a challenger to Alan Jones for the left handed opener’s role.

Middle order batters: Edgar Oldroyd of Yorkshire was Perrin’s chief rival for the number three slot – 15,000 FC runs at 36 a piece, and probably as regular number three behind Holmes and Sutcliffe more time spent padded up waiting to bat than anyone else in FC history. Tony Cottey (Glamorgan and Sussex) had an excellent county record and often scored his runs when the team really needed them, and given the struggles of 1990s England middle orders can be considered particularly unlucky to have been overlooked.

All rounders: Two potential imports who England ultimately decided not to pick, Frank Tarrant (born in Australia, played for Middlesex for many years as a left handed batter and left arm slow medium bowler) and Sydney Smith (born in the West Indies, not then playing test cricket, played for Northamptonshire as a middle order batter and left arm spinner), doing the double in his first season for the county and ultimately averaging 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball in FC cricket. Digby Jephson (Surrey) was a very distinctive all rounder, an aggressive middle order batter and a fast underarm bowler, who fell short of international recognition.

Wicket keepers: Wally Luckes (Somerset) and Colin Metson (Glamorgan) are the two most obvious challengers to Hunter.

Fast bowlers: bowlers of genuine pace rarely miss out altogether on selection, though Charles Kortright (Essex) and Billy Bestwick (Derbyshire) both did. William Mycroft (Derbyshire) only just overlapped with the start of test cricket, so I felt I could not include him, while George Freeman’s retirement in 1875 to concentrate on his auctioneering business definitely ruled him out.


I have a fine gallery for you today…

Author: Thomas

I am a founder member and currently secretary of the West Norfolk Autism Group and am autistic myself. I am a very keen photographer and almost every blog post I produce will feature some of my own photographs. I am an avidly keen cricket fan and often post about that sport.

2 thoughts on “All Time XIs: County Stars Who Never Played Test Cricket”

  1. Hours of fun to be had here – maybe not consistently knocking on the door but Roy Virgin had a couple of seasons in the sun? Of current/currentish players Chris Rushworth, Jamie Porter and Wayne Madsen? Captains that could have been – Mark Nicholas and John Barclay? Talking of which what is the criteria, no Test cap or no internationals appearances (thinking of Mark Alleyne here) ? Those that never even get mentioned, but how many overs did Jason Lewry wang down for how many wickets? (5,316 for 621 at 27.10.) You could even raise the debate a notch by saying who our favourites were up against – I guess some are fair enough, others inexplicable (simplistic example from football, Derek Statham would have won far more than three cups but for a bloke called Kenny Sansom). Actually, football is easier to do, as trying to think of a better uncapped English footballer than Howard Kendall is futile.

    Looking forward to the best one cap wonder XI.


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