With my attention focussed on Lancashire v Surrey in the opening round of the 2023 County Championship I am today picking an all time combined XI for the two counties (tomorrow I will write about this match, when I know the result). In keeping with my policy in the original All Time XIs series of 2020 I am restricting myself to one overseas player. Have a look at the Lancashire and Surrey pieces, noting that since 2020 Foakes has displaced Stewart as keeper in the Surrey XI.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- Jack Hobbs (Surrey, right handed opening batter, outstanding cover fielder, occasional medium pacer). The Master, scorer of 61,237 runs in FC cricket including 197 centuries (or 61,760 and 199 if you are a revisionist). Those centuries included 12 in the heat of Ashes battle.
- John Edrich (Surrey, left handed opening batter). Edrich’s left handedness enabled him to keep out several contenders for this slot. He is a member of the 100 FC hundreds club, and he had an excellent test record.
- Ken Barrington (Surrey, right handed batter, occasional leg spinner). Statisically England’s leading batter to have played exclusively post WWII, with a test average of almost 59 (6,807 runs, HS 256).
- Graham Thorpe (Surrey, left handed batter). Another with an excellent test record, and often achieved while he was trying to hold the innings together without adequate support.
- Peter May (Surrey, right handed batter). A test average of 46 achieved in game’s lowest and slowing scoring decade, 85 FC centuries in all, and that with a career cut short by ill health.
- +Ben Foakes (Surrey, wicket keeper, right handed batter). His only rivals with the gloves would be Duckworth (Lancashire) and Pooley (Surrey), and neither were as good with the bat as Foakes.
- *Percy Fender (Surrey, right handed batter, leg spinner, fine fielder, captain). An ideal type of player to have coming in at seven in a very strong line up, and a shrewd skipper.
- Wasim Akram (Lancashire, left arm fast bowler, left handed batter). One of the two best ever cricketers of his type (his rival, the Aussie ace Alan Davidson never played county cricket) and there are no other great left arm pacers in the mix, so he was the proverbial shoo-in for the overseas slot.
- Johnny Briggs (Lancashire, left arm orthodox spinner, right handed lower order batter, brilliant fielder). He was the first cricketer ever to reach the milestone of 100 test wickets (Charlie ‘Terror’ Turner of Australia got there later in the same match), while in FC cricket he claimed over 2,000 wickets. He was a good enough batter that he scored a test century and had a career tally of over 14,000 first class runs.
- Jim Laker (Surrey, off spinner, right handed lower order batter). 193 test wickets in 46 matches at 21 a piece. Two all-tens against Australia in 1956, one for Surrey in the first innings of that match (the county won by 10 wickets) and one for England in the second Australian innings of the Old Trafford test, this latter after having already taken 9-37 in the first innings.
- Sydney Francis Barnes (Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter). 189 test wickets at 16.43 in just 27 matches at that level. He didn’t play a huge number of games for the county, preferring Lancashire League cricket where the terms were more generous, but his status as arguably the greatest of all bowlers demands that he be included.
This XI features a very powerful top five, one of the all time great keepers who also bats well, an all rounder who happens to be a great captain at number seven, a left arm pacer who can bat and who rates as one of the two greatest ever cricketers of that type, two legendary spinners and arguably the greatest of all bowlers at number 11. The pace department is a little under stocked, with Hobbs being the third ranked seamer in the XI but I do not think this bowling unit will struggle to take wickets.
Two Surrey openers with over 100 first class hundreds each missed out: Tom Hayward and Andrew Sandham, while Lancastrians Archie MacLaren and Cyril Washbrook were also fine openers (Atherton’s negative attitude towards county cricket is enough to rule him out in my view).
Barrington’s chief rival for the number three slot was Johnny Tyldesley, but even allowing for the fact that the Lancastrian batted in a more difficult era the gap between their respective records was too wide. I wanted a left hander in the middle order, and with due respect to Neil Fairbrother, Thorpe was the stand out candidate. May at five was rivalled by a member of the 100 hundreds club, Ernest Tyldesley, but there is no question that the interwar period was paradise for batters (16 of the 25 leading scorers of first class runs played some or all of their cricket in this period and there is a reason for that), and May’s career was as I said shortened by ill health. Andrew Flintoff was a candidate for the aggressive all rounders slot at number seven, but I wanted Fender’s captaincy, so even though it meant the pace department being short staffed I went that way. Wasim’s slot was as non-negotiable in my view as Hobbs’ at the top of the order. Laker had no rivals for the off spinners slot (Murali played a bit for Lancashire but I had limited myself to one overseas player). Briggs did have a rival for the left arm spinner’s berth, but Tony Lock’s action was questionable at the height of his career, and besides Lancashire are a little under represented in the final XI. Various excellent seam and pace bowlers missed out: George Lohmann, Tom Richardson, Alec Bedser and Peter Loader for Surrey and for Lancashire Brian Statham and James Anderson. All of these players would adorn any side of which they were part of, but I had only 11 slots available which meant deserving cases missing out. Jack Crossland and Arthur Mold were both quick, but both had highly dubious actions.
Finally, a member of the 100 hundreds club who was NOT unlucky to miss out: Mark Ramprakash had a fine record for Surrey after moving across the Thames from Lord’s, but he was not a big occasion player, a fact emphasized by his poor test record (an average of 27 and a mere two tons from 52 matches), and for me being a big occasion player is one of the criteria for selection in an XI of this nature.
I will undoubtedly have missed some fine players, and feel free to mention them in the comments, but remember if advocating for inclusion to consider how their presence in the XI would affect its balance.
My usual sign off…