This is a sort of follow up to the post I have just published – I pick a team of players who were consistently great in the county championship over very long periods, with one single exception – a kind of wild card pick I allowed myself, which I will tackle more fully when I come to him. This is an all-English XI.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- Jack Hobbs (right handed opening batter, outstanding cover fielder, occasional medium pacer). The scorer of more first class runs and more first class hundreds than anyone else in history.
- Herbert Sutcliffe (right handed opening batter). Although he was even better at test level than at county level he still has a case to be regarded as the greatest of all county championship batters, as I argued in the previous post.
- Walter Hammond (right handed batter, ace slip fielder, right arm medium fast bowler). The third leading scorer of first class hundreds, and one of seven players to have scored over 50,000 runs in first class cricket.
- Phil Mead (left handed batter). The fourth leading scorer of first class runs and first class hundreds.
- Patsy Hendren (right handed batter, outstanding fielder). The second leading scorer of first class hundreds, the third leading scorer of first class runs.
- George Hirst (right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler, outstanding fielder). Rated by his skipper Lord Hawke as the finest of all county cricketers, he achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets on 14 occasions, including the only ever ‘double double’ of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets. 10 of those 14 doubles were achieved in successive seasons, the greatest display of all round consistency in the history of cricket.
- Vallance Jupp (right handed batter, off spinner). He achieved the double eight times in succession in the 1920s, second only Hirst’s great sequence mentioned above.
- +Bob Taylor (wicket keeper, right handed batter). More dismissals than any other keeper in first class history.
- Frank Tyson (right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). The wildcard pick, probably the fastest bowler England has ever produced, and a few brief years he did brilliantly, including blitzing the Aussies in their own backyard in 1954-5.
- *Wilfred Rhodes (left arm orthodox spinner, right handed lower order batter). Rhodes had an amazing career comprising at least five distinct phases – specialist bowler, all rounder, specialist batter, all rounder, specialist bowler – but it his bowling that this side needs, and it as the taker of more first class wickets than anyone else that I have selected him. I have also named him as captain, reckoning that he would be an outstanding skipper had he had the chance. He once said of an England skipper “aye ‘ee wor a good un – he allus did what me and Jack (Hobbs) telt him”.
- Derek Shackleton (right arm medium fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). Only one bowler managed to take 100 or more first class wickets in each of 20 successive seasons, and it was him. Rhodes achieved the feat 23 times in all in his astonishing career.
This side has a super powerful top five, two outstanding all rounders at six and seven, a great keeper who was a better bat than he was often given credit for being and a well varied trio of great bowlers to round out the order. A bowling attack that has Tyson, Shackleton and Hirst to bowl seam, Rhodes and Jupp to bowl spin and Hammond as sixth bowler is more than amply equipped to claim 20 wickets.
This section has multiple subsections, starting with:
WG GRACE – AN EXPLANATION
This post is about cricketers who were in their prime when the championship was on an organized footing, and as mentioned in the previous post WG was past his prime by 1890.
SPECIAL MENTION: FRANK WOOLLEY
Frank Woolley had a truly outstanding record, and I would not argue against selecting him. It was a coin toss between him and Mead and I went for Mead.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: SIR LEONARD HUTTON
A very great batter, but I felt the Hobbs/ Sutcliffe combo, the greatest opening pair in history, had to be kept together.
ANTI-ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: GEOFFREY BOYCOTT
While his record with the bat was outstanding, it was too often not accompanied by success for his team, and for that reason he had to be disqualified.
The second leading wicket taker in first class history, the only bowler to take three first class all-tens, the only bowler to take 300 first class wickets in a season. However, while he habitually destroyed the ‘rest’ there was a notable falling off in his record even against the strongest counties – he paid over twice as much for his Surrey and Lancashire wickets as he did for his Northamptonshire and Somerset ones.
Had I been going to pick a specialist captain I would have gone with Stuart Surridge, who captained Surrey for five seasons and won five county championships, but I felt I could not accommodate a specialist skipper in this XI. Had I not decided to allow myself the wildcard pick of Frank Tyson I would have had two choices for a fast bowler who had a very long and consistent career: Tom Richardson or Fred Trueman. Maurice Tate might be considered unlucky to miss out, and everyone will have their favourites who they feel I have neglected.
My usual sign off…