Welcome to my latest offering. I am studiously avoiding paying any attention whatsoever to events in London today, and this sentence will be the only hint of anything to do with those events you get in this blog. Today I select an all time XI that I would trust to play cricket with the same approach as Ben Stokes’ current England test side. I am following my “county” rules in terms of selection – one overseas player allowed, the rest English.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- *WG Grace (right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career, captain). A batter who always looked to score runs and scored huge numbers of them, his approach to captaincy was also fundamentally attacking.
- Lionel Palairet (right handed opening batter). A dashing opening batter who scored 10o+ runs in a morning session on five separate occasions in 1901, one of them against that years champions Yorkshire when Somerset trailed by 238 on first innings and came back to win by 279 runs.
- Frank Woolley (left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, ace slip fielder). The only cricketer ever to score 10,000+ FC runs, take 1,000+ FC wickets and pouch 1,000+ FC catches, and noted for feats of fast scoring with the bat.
- Denis Compton (right handed batter, occasional left arm wrist spinner). A top drawer entertainer with a magnificent record.
- Garry Sobers (left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, ace fielder). There was really only one candidate for the overseas player in an XI of this nature – the most complete player there has ever been, and very attacking by inclination.
- +Les Ames (right handed batter, wicket keeper). He won the Lawrence trophy for the fastest first class century of the season twice in the first three years of its existence.
- Gilbert Jessop (right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ace fielder). He scored 53 first class hundreds, yet only once did he bat for more than three hours in a single innings, for a score of 240. He still has the record for the fastest test century by an England batter, though there have been several recent challenges.
- Arthur Wellard (right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter). In 1935 he hit 66 sixes in the first class season, a record that stood for half a century. A quarter of his 12,000 FC runs came in sixes, and he was a good enough bowler to set the Somerset record for most first class wickets in a season.
- Jim Laker (off spinner, right handed lower order batter). With Woolley, Sobers and Compton able to cover every variety of left arm spin and the next player in the order famed for bowling what was effectively a quick leg break I felt that an off spinner was called for, and Laker was clearly the answer.
- Syd Barnes (right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter). Probably the greatest bowler there has ever been, a must pick.
- William Mycroft (left arm fast bowler, right handed tail end batter). My envisaged new ball partner for Barnes, he just missed out on the start of test cricket, being 35 years old when the inaugural such match was played, though he had had a fine season in 1876. He took over 800 first class wickets at 12 a piece.
This squad has a powerful batting line up, with all of the top seven save Palairet (two caps in 1902) test match regulars, and the only non-bowlers are keeper Ames and Palairet, though Compton would be unlikely to be called on for many overs in this line up. The bowling attack is richly varied, and that Barnes was well suited to sharing the new ball with a left arm pacer is proven by the great success he had in the 1911-12 Ashes when opening the bowling with Frank Foster, just such a bowler. I would expect this side to score big totals at a rapid rate and not to have any problems taking 20 opposition wickets.
Of course there are hundreds of potential qualifiers for this XI. My biggest regret was not being able to accommodate an under arm bowler – there were three outstanding candidates, David Harris, the first authentically great bowler, Digby Jephson who might have had Wellard’s slot and George Simpson-Hayward, the last of the breed to play at test level. If you want to suggest other players go ahead – as I have said there are many possibles, but do consider how your choices would affect the balance of the side.
I have a fine photo gallery, including a new bird sighting – I saw a pair of shelduck where the Nar flows into the Great Ouse while out walking this morning. Also, I will probably not get a post up tomorrow as I will be out for most of the day since the Metronomes are playing at Broxbourne. Now for those photos…