All Time XIs – Leicestershire

Continuing my ‘all-time XIs’ series with Leicestershire, including a little challenge – can you find a more economical player to player linked chain that spans the whole of test cricket’s 143 year history than the one I have included while covering George Geary?

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of “All Time XIs”. Today we will look at Leicestershire. However, before getting into the main body of today’s post I have a small additional thing to do…

INTRODUCING MY MOTHER’S BLOG

Yes, my mother has started blogging. Her first post, about the camellias that grow near her home in Cornwall can be viewed here – and I urge to you do so, and to offer her comments and support.

LEICESTERSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. Cecil John Burditt Wood – an opener who had limited support from the rest of his batting order. He holds two batting records to this day: most times anyone has carried their bat through a completed first class innings (17 – two ahead of joint second place WG Grace of Gloucestershire and Dick Barlow of Lancashire), and the unique double feat of carrying his bat for centuries in both innings of a match, which he did against Yorkshire – 117 not out in the first dig and 107 not out in the second, and his team still lost by nine wickets. At the end of that match George Hirst paid him a Yorkshire tribute – “next time master Wood, we’ll get a gun and shoot you out”.
  2. Les Berry – another opener who could never count on much support from lower down the order (Leicestershire have not historically been a strong county, and they are not currently bucking that trend).
  3. John Steele – a solid right handed batter and capable purveyor of left arm spin.
  4. David Gower – a left handed batter of the type for whom words such as elegant and graceful were invented. Unlike those above him in this order he did get the chance to prove himself at the very highest level, and 8,231 test runs at 44.25 is an eminently respectable record. His greatest series was the 1985 Ashes when he scored 732 runs, including scores of 166 at Trent Bridge, 215 at Edgbaston and 157 at The Oval. Five years after that he scored another 157 at The Oval to save a match against India. Another notable effort was his 154 not out in eight hours to save the 1981 test match at Sabina Park, Jamaica (England would lose their next ten test matches against the West Indies). A combination of narrow-mindedness, inflexibility and possibly (on the part of then captain Graham Gooch – see my Essex piece) envy from the England setup brought his international career to a premature close, which led to his retirement from the first class game. Immediately after his final departure England had an unqualified disastrous tour of the subcontinent. Gower, who had scored 200 not out against India at Edgbaston in 1979, could scarcely have fared worse than most of the England batters who were selected. In addition to his batting Gower was, until a shoulder condition affected him, a superb fielder.
  5. James Whitaker – a heavy scoring batter in his day (he was a county team mate of Gower for some years) who only got one England cap – England selection practices in the 1980s and 1990s were inconsistent at best and downright scandalous at worst, and the teams that emerged as a result of such practices tended to have very ordinary records as one might expect. Whitaker eventually became part of the 21st century England management structure and did well as a national selector. Although not completely eradicated, England selections in the 21st century have featured many fewer “WTF? moments” than used to be the case in the 1980s and 1990s, when they were almost the rule rather than the exception.
  6. *Ewart Astill – an offspinning all-rounder who did the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets eight times in the course of the 1920s. Although he never got to perform the role due to the class based obsession with amateur skippers that prevailed in his day I have named in captain as I believe that he would have been good at the job.
  7. +Paul Nixon – an excellent wicket keeper over many years, and a useful batter as well.
  8. George Geary – a right arm medium-fast bowler who could bowl a good leg cutter, possessed immense reserves of stamina (in one test innings at Melbourne on the 1928-9 Ashes tour he had figures of 5-105 from 81 overs – yes you read that right, 81 overs in a single innings) and was also a useful lower order batter and a capable fielder. His CV includes two Ashes winning moments – at the Oval in 1926 he clean bowled Arthur Mailey to win the match and the Ashes, and at Melbourne in 1929 he smote a four through mid on the get England to their victory target of 332, which won them that match and out them invincibly 3-0 up in the series. Also, he features in what I believe (though feel free to comment if you reckon you can outdo me on this one) to be the most economical player to player chain spanning the whole of test cricket’s 143 year history. My rules are these: everyone in the chain must have played test cricket, and there must be a verifiable link between any two successive members of the chain. My chain runs as follows: Billy Midwinter who played for Australia in the inaugural test match in 1877 was also a county team mate of WG Grace who played for England in the first test match on English soil in 1880, WG in his last test match was a team mate of Wilfred Rhodes, who in 1926 was a team mate of George Geary, who in retirement coached at Charterhouse where one of his charges was Peter May (Surrey), who after his own distinguished career was done became a selector and was chair of the panel that picked Chris Broad (Nottinghamshire), whose son Stuart is now an England regular, making Stuart Broad, the current player, the seventh link in the chain. There are several other ways to link Grace to people who played in the inaugural test match, but no way to link Rhodes directly to any of them. Geary has the second cheapest ever first class ‘all ten’ to his name – 10-18 against Glamorgan, bettered only by Hedley Verity’s 10-10 for Yorkshire vs Nottinghamshire.
  9. David Millns – the last person to have worked at a coalface before becoming a professional cricketer, a right arm fast bowler, he was also a useful lower order bat (left handed). Injury problems meant that he never got to represent England. After his retirement he became an umpire and has done well at that job too. People who have been following this series will have already noted that I am sparing in my use of the term ‘all rounder’. This is because getting into following cricket when I did meant that with Ian Botham (Somerset) going into decline I witnessed a time when England were absolutely desperate for all rounders, and many people who were not good enough to warrant the label (in many cases inadequate in both departments) were touted as all rounders in an effort to fill the Beefy shaped hole in England’s ranks. In reaction against this I will only describe someone as an all-rounder if I genuinely believe that they would have warranted selection based on either part of their skill set. In this side in addition to Astill who was a genuine all rounder there are three players who have useful secondary skills that are not enough for them to be described as all rounders, at least in my book: John Steele, George Geary and Millns.
  10. Jack Walsh – an Australian left arm wrist spinner, and my overseas pick. He holds a several Leicestershire bowling records, and gives this side a bit of variety.
  11. Haydon Smith – a right arm fast bowler, who had some great moments in partnership with Geary, including a spell of consistent success in which they bowled together unchanged through four straight opposing innings none of which totalled as much as 80. On one occasion he let Harold Larwood have a bouncer, and when it was his turn to bat he had to face Larwood. Smith edged one of Larwood’s expresses into the slips where it was scooped up on the half volley. Smith instantly turned for the pavilion, and when the fielder tried to say that he had not caught it (a fine piece of honesty), Smith, who had a stutter, said “Yes you f-f-f-f-ucking well did” and continued his walk back to the pavilion – lesson learned about dishing out bouncers when you are genuine no 11 yourself methinks.

This team comprises a top three who are definitely capable of giving the innings a solid foundation, two high quality middle order batters, one left handed and one right handed, a genuine all rounder, a wicketkeeper who can bat, a medium-fast bowler who can bow a dangerous leg cutter, a left arm wrist spinner and two purveyors of out and out pace in Millns and Smith. With Geary and Millns both capable of providing useful batting support the order looks quite solid (which would be a bit of a novelty for Leicestershire!).

OMISSIONS

Maurice Hallam and Barry Dudleston were both fine opening batters, and when Darren Maddy’s career started I thought he was going to become an England regular, but he did not kick on. Willie Watson, Chris Balderstone, Sam Coe, Ben Smith, Clive Inman and Peter Marner all did good things for Leicestershire, although Inman and Marner were both told to go elsewhere by Ray Illingworth because he felt that with them around the team could not function as such. Illingworth himself could have had the role that I gave to Astill, but he was noted for under bowling himself as captain (Brearley mentions this in “The Art of Captaincy”) and does not strike me as having been quite so complete a player as Astill. The wicket keeping position was not contested in my book – although Roger Tolchard was named as reserve keeper in a few England tour parties that was largely a way a smuggling in an extra batter rather than a tribute to his keeping. Dick Pougher (pronounced ‘puffer’) was an early Leicestershire fast bowler who was part of the MCC bowling attack that routed an Australian XI for 18, the lowest score ever recorded by a team with that designation, while Jonathan Agnew, Les Taylor and Alan Mullally all got picked for England, but none were convincing at the highest level (although the first named of course has first dibs on a commentary gig, while the last named would have given extra variety as a left arm bowler). Harry Gurney, a left arm fast bowler who started with Leicestershire before decamping to Nottinghamshire, would have increased the variety of bowling available to this side, but though an England career seemed likely at one stage he is actually not quite in the front rank even of current performers. I have been restricting myself to one overseas player, and felt it important not to play fast and loose when dealing with a county in whose dressing room Afrikaans was once the first language. That meant that having chosen Walsh for the variety he provides I had to overlook one great and one high quality fast bowler, Andy Roberts and Winston Benjamin, and also one of the most talented batters ever to emerge from The Land of the Long White Cloud, Stewie Dempster (he did actually play briefly for his native land, so I felt that I could not regard him as a forerunner to Ben Stokes).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes, we have finished our look at Leicestershire, and it remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…

Test cricket chain
A jpg showing my player to player linked chain that covers the whole span of test history. Can you do better?

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Today has been a warm and sunny day, and I took the opportunity of spending an hour or so in my garden (though I am tightly restricted at present due to my medical history I am one of the fortunate ones whose home, small though it is, comes with a private garden, which means that I can get outside when the weather allows).

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All Time XIs – Somerset

Continuing my all-time XIs series with a look at Somerset.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to creating it will be captain of the “What Might Have Been XI”.

SOMERSET ALL TIME XI

  1. Marcus Trescothick – left handed opener who scored stacks of runs in his long and distinguished career. He was selected for England against the West Indies in 2000, showed masses of character in surviving an early onslaught from the veteran pacers Ambrose and Walsh, going on to score 66 on debut. That same winter facing the very different challenges posed by a dry pitch and some crafty spinners in Sri Lanka he made his maiden test hundred. Runs continued to flow against all opponents for some years. At Edgbaston in 2005 after England had been badly beaten in the opening match of that year’s Ashes series at Lord’s a display of controlled aggression brought him 90 on the opening day, after Ponting in spite of losing McGrath, the bowler most likely to cause such a decision to succeed, to injury on the morning of the game put England in. His England career was ended my mental health issues at the back end of 2006, but he returned to Somerset and went on scoring runs for them right up until the end of the 2019 season. He was also a fine slip fielder and bowled respectable medium pace.
  2. Harold Gimblett – the man who still holds the record for most career first class runs for Somerset, and the highest first class score by a Somerset native (310). On his debut against Essex, after being called up at the last moment, he scored 123 in 79 minutes, winning that season’s Lawrence Trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season in the process. As with many others who plied their trade for a county who were generally on the fringes of things he received less international recognition than he deserved.
  3. Lionel Palairet – a stroke making batter of the late Victorian and Edwardian period. In the 1901 season he scored 100 runs in a morning session on five separate occasions. One of those was in a game against Yorkshire that tests credulity: On the first morning Somerset were rolled for 87, to which Yorkshire replied with 325, only for Somerset to score 630 in their second innings, nos 1,2 and 3 all scoring hundreds. Facing a victory target of 393 Yorkshire crumbled to 113 all out, and defeat by 279 runs, their only defeat of the season. He was picked twice for England, Old Trafford and The Oval in 1902, a pulsating three run defeat that settled the destination of that year’s Ashes and “Jessop’s Match” – see my Gloucestershire piece, an extraordinary one wicket victory.
  4. James Hildreth – a free and heavy scoring middle order batter who somehow completely escaped the notice of the England selectors during a distinguished career. He was used a fielding substitute during the 2005 Ashes, but never got closer than that to the test arena.
  5. Leonard Braund – at a time when Somerset had few reliable batters, and were not unknown to struggle to get 11 players together for their matches he was a very consistent run scorer, rated as one of the finest of all slip fielders and was a high quality leg spinner. Braund was one of the three centurions in the Somerset come-back mentioned in connection with Palairet (Frank Phillips was the third), and, mirabile dictu, the following season Yorkshire were again champions, again lost only one game and again it was Somerset who were their undoing. This triumph was very much down to Braund – he made the highest individual score of the game and captured 15 wickets in the two Yorkshire innings. In 1907 he found himself in a “good player were at t’other end” scenario, when Albert Trott comprehensively ruined his own benefit match by taking four wickets in four balls and then shortly afterwards ending such resistance as Somerset had offered by doing the hat trick – and poor Braund observed this carnage from 22 yards away, emerging with 28 not out.
  6. *Sammy Woods – born in Sydney but Somerset through and through. Captain through some very difficult times, and my choice for that role in this side. An attacking right handed bat and a right arm fast bowler.
  7. Ian Botham – all rounder, a third acknowledged expert in the art of slip fielding alongside Trescothick and Braund in this side. I have him in the position in the batting order from which he scored his two most iconic centuries – 149 not out at Headingley in 1981 to breathe life back into that year’s Ashes when it seemed that Australia were in charge (Bob Willis then took 8-43 to complete the turnaround – see my Warwickshire piece) and then a few weeks later, after he psyched out the Aussie lower order at Edgbaston (a spell of 5-1 in 28 balls, and the only wicket to go a really difficult ball was Ray Bright), with England looking to push home a first innings advantage at Old Trafford he settled the destination of the Ashes and the series by reaching his century off 86 balls, eventually finishing with 118 off 102. After 53 balls of that Old Trafford innings he was on 28 not out, meaning that his last 90 came off 48 balls.
  8. Dominic Bess – an offspinner and handy lower order bat, who I would hope still has a lot of his career to run. I have selected him in this team because I have been hugely impressed by what he has done in his career thus far, and because I felt obliged for reasons I will explain later to overlook another current England spinner. I first wrote about him in this post, on July 19, 2017, and he has done plenty right since then.
  9. Joel Garner – my chosen overseas player. A right arm fast bowler of extreme accuracy who was especially awkward on account of his great height (6’8″, which coupled with a leap in his delivery stride and a high arm action meant that the ball was coming down from a height of somewhere in the region of 10 feet above ground level).
  10. Farmer White – a slow left arm bowler of extreme stamina and accuracy. In the course of the 1928-9 Ashes series in which all matches were played to a finish (and England won 4-1) he ploughed through 542 overs in the five test matches. In the Adelaide match (and beautiful place though it is I would doubt that Adelaide is on many bowlers’ lists of preferred destinations!) in great heat he bowled 124 overs over the course of the two Australian innings, collecting match figures of 13-256.
  11. +Wally Luckes – a wicket keeper who rendered 25 years service to his county. He batted low in the order on the instructions of his doctor (on one occasion against Kent he was sent in at no 5 and scored 121 not out, so he could make runs). His neat and unobtrusive style of wicket keeping was massively appreciated by the bowlers, but was so very unobtrusive as to absolutely fail to attract the attention of the England selectors. As already mentioned he was largely restricted on health grounds to batting late in the order, and he made a name for himself in tight finishes. Against Gloucestershire in 1938 he hit the third and fourth balls of the last possible over of the game for fours to give Somerset a one wicket win (Ben Stokes, if you are reading this, you and only you are permitted to say “what, he didn’t wait until the fifth and sixth balls to complete the job?”). In 365 first class appearances he took 587 catches and executed 240 stumpings.

My chosen XI consists of four specialist batters, three genuine all-rounders of differing types, three specialist bowlers of differing types and an excellent wicketkeeper. I have two out and out pacemen of contrasting approach in Garner and Woods, a right arm swing bowler in Botham, and all types of spin other than left arm wrist spin (White, Bess and Braund). The only type of bowling not available to this side is left arm pace. Other than that, unlike far too many real Somerset sides it looks both balanced and formidably strong.

SOMERSET PRESENT AND FUTURE

Somerset have never won the County Championship, and deep into the 1980s had never finished higher than third. They have been runner-up a number of times in recent years, including in 2019, and in 2016 when they topped the table going into the final day of the season but lost out when Middlesex and Yorkshire connived to create a result out of what looked a certain draw (Middlesex being the beneficiaries in the end). Firmly established in front rank of current players are Jack Leach, who I considered for the left arm spinners slot given to White, Lewis Gregory, a right arm fast medium bowler who is also a useful lower middle order bat and the Overton twins, Craig and Jamie, robust lower order hitters who both bowl right arm at above medium pace (Jamie on top form can be genuinely quick). Also rapidly establishing himself is Tom Abell, a right handed batter who seems to positively relish playing long innings against the red ball (a rarity in this day and age), and who has shown himself to be a shrewd captain. Finally, three youngsters who are at various stages of emerging talent, all of whom I expect to be seriously big names before too many years have passed are Tom Banton, an attacking top order batter and sometimes wicket keeper, George Bartlett, another top order batter who also bowls off spin, and Lewis Goldsworthy, slow left arm bowler and middle order bat (and the only player so far mentioned anywhere in this series whose birth year begins with a 2) who had some memorable moments in the under-19 world cup. That elusive County Championship should not remain elusive for many more years with this kind of talent on tap.

MAURICE TREMLETT – A TALENT DENIED

When Somerset went to Lord’s in 1947 to take on Middlesex who were on their way to that year’s County Championship they took with them a young fast medium bowler named Maurice Tremlett. He took 3-47 in the first Middlesex innings, and then in the second innings 5-39, all of those wickets coming in a spell of five overs during which he conceded only eight runs. Then, batting at no 11 he joined Horace Hazell, a slow left armer who already had a reputation in tight finishes (he was Luckes’ last wicket partner in that 1938 game against Gloucestershire) and won the game for his side with a little gem of an innings which included a straight six off spinner Jack Young. This sort of debut should have set the stage for an illustrious career (and maybe if physicists are right about there being parallel universes that is what happened in one of those). Sadly England’s desperate need for pace bowling options at that time and maybe Tremlett’s own nature intervened. Various coaches, and at least one international captain, Gubby Allen, in the West Indies that winter, tried to mould him into the genuine fast bowling article. Changes to the length of his run up (four strides added in an effort to generate more pace), the position of his hips, thighs and feet, and so on led to a loss of his greatest natural asset, the outswinger, control and confidence. Within a few years he had packed in bowling save for occasional attempts to break a partnership and was making his way as a specialist batter, in which capacity he did fairly well but was never of international standard. He was also for a period a highly regarded county captain, which is why when I have created it he will be captain of the “What Might Have Been XI”. In a counterfactual novel dealing with the cricket of this period (or that parallel universe!) Tremlett, not messed about with, would have developed into an attacking no 8 bat and new ball bowler with a hugely successful test record. In the real world it would be two generations before a Tremlett, grandson Chris, would enjoy serious test match success as a bowler, playing a vital role in 2010-11 Ashes triumph.

OMISSIONS

In addition to Leach and White the left arm spinner’s berth could have gone to Edwin Tyler, Beaumont Cranfield or Horace Hazell. Roy Virgin, Brian Rose and Mark Lathwell were three fine opening batters (and there are those who would say that had be been properly handled Lathwell could have been a great batter). In the middle of the order three names who might have had a place were Jack MacBryan (who would have expected to be unlucky – this is the guy who played test cricket but never batted, bowled or fielded, since the match he was selected for was ruined by rain, and there was evidently something wrong with the way he hung around in the pavilion), Brian Close, who taught Somerset how to win in the 1970s, and Peter Randall Johnson. The last named played in an era when residential/ birth qualifications were taken very seriously by the powers that be, but less so by Somerset, who found ingenious ways round these rules. In Mr Johnson’s case Somerset went for the absolutely brazen approach of airily telling the powers that be “oh yes, he was born in Wellington”, which was the truth but not the whole truth – they failed to mention which Wellington he was born in, and yes, it was the one in New Zealand! Bill Alley, an Australian born batter and medium pace bowler merited consideration. Arthur Wellard, a fast medium bowler and big hitting batter (25% of his 12,000 first class runs came in the form of maximums) was also a candidate, but with Woods and Botham nailed-on selections his presence would have unbalanced the side. ‘Crusoe’ Robertson-Glasgow, a Scottish born pace bowler and no 11 batter did not make the cut as a player but has the consolation of being my first choice to write about this team’s performances. Finally, only one Somerset born bowler has ever lifted a senior world cup: Anya Shrubsole – and I did think about it. Somerset has had some splendid official overseas players down the years, with Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Justin Langer, Greg Chappell and Martin Crowe all authentic greats, but as usual when it came to the overseas player I went for a bowler, in this case Garner. The off spinner’s position could have gone to Brian Langford, who had a long and distinguished Somerset career, while Vic Marks also played for England as an off spinning all rounder. Ian Blackwell, a big hitting middle order bat and left arm spinner simply could not be accommodated. Among the wicket keepers the wonderfully named Archdale Palmer Wickham (nicknamed ‘snickham’ such was his incompetence with the bat) was clearly s splendid practitioner. More recently Piran Holloway, Craig Kieswetter, Jos Buttler and Steven Davies would all have their advocates.

Readers may have other players that I have not mentioned in mind, and suggestions are welcome, but remember to consider the effect that your suggestions will have on the balance of the side.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes, our rollercoaster ride through Somerset cricket is at an end, and all that remains is my usual sign off…

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To give you an indication of how small this bottle green beetle is, the text you can see in shot is nornal sized print from the blurb of a book (I sat out in my garden earlier today, for a brief period).

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A highly entertaining history of Somerset cricket.
Somerset All Time
The team in batting order.
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Pictures from the David Foot book (two shots)

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All Time XIs – Nottinghamshire

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we look at Nottinghamshire. There is at least one omission that will seem huge to some eyes, but as I explain in the section immediately after I have presented my chosen XI it is actually not.

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. Arthur Shrewsbury – when WG Grace (see my Gloucestershire team) became the first batter to record 100 first class hundreds he was second on the list of century makers with 41 to his credit. WG at a time when his primacy was unchallenged was asked who he rated next best among batters and responded “Give me Arthur”. In 1886 at Lord’s he took 164 off the Aussies to set England up for an innings victory, and at the time his score was the highest for England in a test match (WG Grace reclaimed the record that this took from him two matches later at The Oval with 170). Shrewsbury’s Nottinghamshire team mate Alfred Shaw, probably the most miserly bowler of all time, asked that he be buried 22 yards from Shrewsbury so that he could send him a few balls – and their graves are actually 27 yards apart, allowing space for Shaw’s standard five yard run up. For much of Shrewsbury’s playing career there was no such thing as a tea break, and it is said that if he was not out at lunchtime he would instruct the dressing room attendant to bring a cup of tea out to the middle at 4PM, such was his confidence that he would still be batting by then.
  2. George Gunn – a man who positively relished taking on the quicks. In 1907-8 when he was in Australia not as part of the official tour party but initially for the good of his health he was drafted into the test side in desperation and proceeded to score 119 and 74. He was also on the 1911-12 tour as part of the chosen party. In 1929-30 when England contested a test series in the West Indies for the first time Gunn at the age of 50 formed one half of test cricket’s oldest ever opening partnership along with the comparative pup 39 year old Andy Sandham (an honourable mention in my Surrey piece). In the 1929 English season he had celebrated turning 50 by being one half of a unique occurrence – he scored 183 for Nottinghamshire and his son George Vernon Gunn made precisely 100 in the same innings. A local amateur of no huge skill once determined to take Gunn on in a single wicket match, suggesting a £100 stake. Gunn was reluctant at first, but eventually succumbed to repeated importunings, although insisting that the stake be reduced to £5. They played during successive evenings – Gunn batted first and by the end of the first evening was 300 not out. At the end of the second evening Gunn had reached 620 not out and the amateur suggested that a declaration might be in order. Gunn refused but as a concession allowed the amateur to bowl at the heavy roller, six feet wide, instead of a regulation set of stumps. Half way through the third evening Gunn had reached 777 and the amateur finally decided that he had had enough and left Gunn to his triumph.
  3. William Gunn – elder brother of George (there was a third brother, John, who also played for Notts and indeed England as well, plus George’s son GV, but as far as I can establish, although she was born in Nottingham, contemporary England Women’s star Jenny Gunn is not related to this Gunn family), regularly no 3 for Notts and England. He scored 225 for The Players against the visiting Australians on one occasion, and in a Non-smokers v Smokers match he and Shrewsbury shared a stand of over 300 as the non-smokers made 803 (qualifications for these matches were not that rigorously checked – on another occasion Bonnor, the big hitting Aussie, made a century for the non-smokers – and was subsequently seen strolling round the boundary puffing on a cigar). William Gunn in addition to his playing career was the original Gunn of “Gunn and Moore” the bat makers, and at a time when many professionals died in poverty, sometimes destitution, he left an estate worth over £100,000. There is a book about the Gunns, “The Bridge Battery”, by Basil Haynes and John Lucas.
  4. Richard Daft – in the 1870s he was considered the next best batter in the country to WG Grace.
  5. Joe Hardstaff Jr – played for Nottinghamshire and England in the 1930s and 1940s. He contributed an undefeated 169 to England’s 903-7 declared at The Oval in 1938, while in 1946 he scored a double century against India.
  6. Garry Sobers – aggressive left handed batter, with a test average of 57.78, left arm bowler of absolutely everything (he began his career as slow left arm orthodox bowler, adding first wrist spin and then also adding pace and swing. He was at one time as incisive as anyone with the new ball. He was also excellent in the field.
  7. Wilfred Flowers – an off spinning all rounder from the late 19th century whose record demands inclusion.In first class cricket he averaged 20 with the bat and 15 with the ball.
  8. +Chris Read – a wonderful wicket keeper and a useful attacking middle order batter, he was badly treated by the England selectors and should have played more test cricket than he actually did. He made 1,109 dismissals in his first class career.
  9. Harold Larwood – the list of English fast bowlers who have blitzed the Aussies in their own back yard is a short one (Frank Tyson in 1954-5 and John Snow in 1970-1 are the only post Larwood examples I can think of, and while Tom Richardson (see my Surrey piece) was clearly magnificent in the 1894-5 series his gargantuan efforts hardly constitute a blitzing of his opponents), and he is on it. His treatment after that 1932-3 series, when he should have been seen as the conquering hero, was utterly shameful as the English powers that be caved to Aussie whinging, and he never again played test cricket after the end of that series, though he continued for Nottinghamshire until 1938. As late as 1936 he produced a spell in which took six wickets for one run.
  10. Tom Wass – a bowler of right arm fast medium and leg spin. On one occasion an over zealous gate keeper did not want to let his wife into the ground and Wass dealt with him by saying “if that beggar don’t get in then this beggar don’t play”. 1,666 first class wickets at 20.46, 159 five wicket hauls and 45 10 wicket matches are testimony to his effectiveness.
  11. Fred Morley – left arm fast bowler who was in his pomp in the 1870s. He paid a mere 13 a piece for his wickets. He died at the tragically young age of 33, or he would probably have had many more wickets even than he did. He was the most genuine of genuine number 11s. In his day the roller at his home ground, Trent Bridge, was horse drawn, and it is said that the horse learned to recognize Morley and when it saw him walking out to bat it would place itself between the shafts of the roller ready for the work it knew would not be long delayed (Bert Ironmonger, the Aussie slow left-armer who was the second oldest of all test cricketers, playing his last game at the age 51, is the subject of another classic ‘incompetent no 11’ story – a phone call came through to the ground he was playing at, and it was Mrs Ironmonger wanting to speak to her husband, “sorry, he has just gone into bat” came the response, to which Mrs Ironmonger said “I’ll hang on then”!).

This team contains a solid top five, the greatest of all all rounders at no 6, a second fine all rounder at 7, a top of the range wicket keeper and three specialist bowlers of widely varying types.

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE PRESENT & FUTURE

Stuart Broad did not qualify for two reasons. Firstly, his wickets cost 27 a piece, which is respectable but not by any means bargain basement. Secondly, as a right arm fast medium (kindly do not attempt to persuade me that he counts as fast, he does not) his effectiveness is heavily dependent on conditions and therefore very variable.Graeme  Swann was a very fine spinner of the recent past, but the inescapable fact is that his first class wickets cost 32 a piece, twice as much as those of Wilf Flowers, and while I would accept that Flowers would pay more today and Swann would have paid less in Flowers’ day I do not accept that the difference would be enough to close the gap that yawns between them. Joe Clarke is a highly talented young batter who may yet go on to become great, but he is very much not the finished article yet. Billy Root has shown some signs of skill but has a way to go to get close to big brother Joe (see my Yorkshire piece). Liam Patterson-White is a left arm spinner who if handled properly should have a huge future ahead of him, and if I revisit this series in a decade or so it is quite possible that he like Zak Crawley and Oliver Graham Robinson who I mentioned in yesterday’s piece about Kent will demand consideration by then.

OTHER OMISSIONS

First of all, I deal with…

OVERSEAS PLAYERS

There were four of these other than Sobers who obviously demanded attention. Bruce Dooland immediately before Sobers was an Australian all-rounder (right hand bat, leg spin) who performed wonders for Nottinghamshire, but he is hardly in the same bracket as Sobers. Clive Rice was more a batter who bowled than a genuine all rounder but he could bowl decidedly quick when in the mood. He was not as good a wielder of the willow as Sobers and his bowling did not have the same range. Closest to displacing Sobers as overseas pick was Sir Richard Hadlee, a right arm fast bowler and attacking left hand bat in the lower middle order. Had he not been a Kiwi he would have been an absolute shoo-in, but I am restricting myself to one overseas player per team, and with the presence of Larwood and Morley I felt that Sobers brought more that I did not already have available to the table. Franklyn Stephenson had one sensational season in 1990, when he did the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, the only player other than Hadlee to do so since 1969 (for those who consider that the limitation of English first class seasons to 14 games now makes this impossible, WG Grace achieved this double in the space of the last 11 games of his 1874 season – and people who are over-inclined to use the word “impossible” in the context of cricket often end up with egg on their faces), and he finished that season with a match in which he scored twin centuries and took four first innings wickets and seven second innings wickets, the most dominant four-innings match display since George Hirst’s twin centuries and twin five wicket hauls for Yorkshire against Somerset in 1906), but overall he did not do enough to warrant consideration.

OPENING BATTERS

William Scotton was too much the out and out stonewaller for my liking. He was part of a rare happening at The Oval in 1886, when such was the difference in approach between him and WG Grace that the scoreboard at one stage showed No 1 134 and No 2 34. Walter Keeton, Freddie Stocks, Reg Simpson and Brian Bolus all had their moments at the top of the order, without the enduring success of Shrewsbury and the Gunns. In the 1980s Chris Broad and Tim Robinson were both chosen to open for England, and each had one magnificent Ashes series, Robinson at home in 1985, Broad in 1986-7, but neither did enough overall as far as I am concerned, and Robinson was certainly found out in no uncertain terms by the West Indies.

THE MIDDLE ORDER

I regretted not being able to find a place for Derek Randall, but I had reasons for all of my inclusions. Wilf Payton, Joe Hardstaff Sr and John Gunn (who also bowled medium pace), would all have their advocates as well.

WICKET KEEPERS

Nottinghamshire does not quite offer the embarrassment of riches in this department that some other counties do, but other than my choice of Read there are four who would definitely have their advocates: Fred Wyld, Mordecai Sherwin, Ben Lilley (who did the job when Larwood and Voce were in their pomp) and Bruce French who was an England pick at times in the 1980s.

BOWLERS

Sam Redgate was the first Nottinghamshire bowler to make a real impression, and he was followed by John Jackson. Alfred Shaw, over 2,000 wickets at 12 a piece was unlucky to miss out, while his name sake Jemmy Shaw, a left arm medium pacer of similar vintage also had a fine record. It was Jemmy Shaw who summed up what many at that time probably felt in similar circumstances when tossed the ball to have a go against a well set WG Grace: “there’s no point bowling good ‘uns now, it’s just a case of I puts where I pleases and he puts it where he pleases”. William Barnes was an England all-rounder for a time, and once arrived for a match late and rather obviously the worse for wear and still had a hundred on the board by lunchtime. Rebuked over his tardiness by the committee he responded by asking them “how many of you ever scored a hundred, drunk or sober?”. Finally, there was Larwood’s partner in crime Bill Voce. Voce was less quick than Larwood, and probably less quick than Morley who I selected as my left arm pace option, and while not by any means an expensive wicket taker, he did pay 23 a time for his scalps, which puts him in the respectable rather than truly outstanding class. Once many years after their careers were done Voce visited Larwood in Australia where the latter had settled, and while they were drinking together a breeze blew through a window behind Larwood, prompting Voce to say “Harold, after all these years you’ve still got the wind at your back”, a comment that Gus Fraser (an honourable mention in my Middlesex piece) would probably have appreciated.

AFTERWORD

Although the County Championship was not put on an official footing until 1890, various cricketing publications named what they called “champion counties” before then, and in the last 25 years before that watershed in 1890 Nottinghamshire were so named on ten occasions. This is why there are so many 19th century names in my selections for this county – Nottinghamshire were strong then, and barring odd intervals have not been particularly so. The current Nottinghamshire would but for Covid-19 be preparing for a season in the second division of the championship after a quite ghastly season in 2019. Doubtless some readers will have their own ideas about players who I could have included, and I welcome such comments with the proviso that they show due consideration for the balance of the side and that there is some indication of who your suggestions would replace.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Our little journey through Nottinghamshire cricket is at an end, but just before my usual sign off I have a couple of important links to share, to posts by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK:

  1. Answering the Question: ‘How are you going to pay for it’? – a very clear and straightforward answer to this question, and one that everybody should read.
  2. Writing off NHS debt of 134 billion is a charade. What is required instead is the renationalisation of the NHS: nothing less will doanother hugely important piece, and one that again I urge you to read.

We end as usual with some pictures…

Test of Time
The John Lazenby book that I mentioned in my Kent and Lancashire pieces.

Test of Time back cover

Tour map
The map showing the route of the 1897-8 Ashes tour.

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Virtual interaction with NAS West Norfolk for Autism Awareness Month – this shows me donating £1 as I prepare to eat my lunch (just for the record the wine went back in the fridge with a plate covering the glass, and I will drink it with supper this evening). On the top page the spiral bound notebook are four of my all-time XIs – Warwickshire, Lancashire, Kent and Nottinghamshire.

 

All Time XIs – Kent

My ‘All Time XIs’ series continues with a look at Kent.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we look at Kent, and although there will no controversies to match one of my omissions from yesterday’s Lancashire side, this one has also had its challenges.

KENT ALL TIME XI

  1. Bill Ashdown – an attack minded opening bat. He holds the record for the highest individual Kent score, 332, made in just over a day against Essex at Brentwood. Kent were 623-2 at the close of the first day, Ashdown 300 not out, and declared at 803-4 and then bowled Essex out twice to win by an innings and 192 runs. His medium pace bowling was also sometimes of use to the team. He and Sussex pro Bert Wensley once teamed up to defeat a village XI in a reprise of an event that happened a century previously. The original match came about because the landlord of the village pub grew so incensed with the boasting of its team the he told them he would find two players who could beat them without team mates. He came back with two of the best players of the day, and they duly beat the village team. A century later the event was recreated with Ashdown and Wensley taking on the villagers, and the result was the same, a victory for the pros. In the field Ashdown and Wensley alternated between bowling and keeping wicket, meaning that there were just two gaps in the field – the off side and the on side! Andrew Ward’s “Cricket’s Strangest Matches” features this game.
  2. Arthur Fagg – in 1938 at Colchester he scored 244 and 202 not out in the same match, the only time in first class history that anyone has hit two double centuries in a game. Once his playing days were done he became an umpire.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter who scored 58,969 first class runs including 145 centuries, 2,066 wickets with his left arm spin at less than 20 a piece and 1,018 catches, the most in first class history by anyone who did not keep wicket. He was an integral part of Kent’s first four county championships. He was picked in every England team for a 19 year period (1909-28) – a run which today would give anyone achieving it about 250 test appearances as opposed to his final total of 64. In 1921 at Lord’s when everyone else was being blown away by Gregory and McDonald he scored 95 and 93. In the 1924-5 Ashes he and his county colleague Freeman shared a ninth wicket stand of 128 in ultimately losing cause. His greatest test with the ball was at The Oval in 1912 in the match that settled the Triangular Tournament (an experiment which was ruined by the weather, the weakness of the third team, South Africa, and the fact the the Aussies were hit by a serious dispute) in England’s favour. In that match Woolley had combined figures of 10-49. His volume of cricket related memoir “King of Games” is an excellent read, and I would also recommend Ian Peebles‘ “Woolley: The Pride of Kent”. It is partly on ground of the tactical thoughts expounded in “King of Games” that I have awarded Woolley the captaincy, a post that due to the class-based obsession with amateur captains that prevailed in his day he never actually held.
  4. Colin Cowdrey – a right handed batter who made a record six tours of Australia, the last of them at the age of 42 when he answered an SOS call and replaced his intended festive season with a trip out to attempt to counter Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. At the time his career ended his 114 test match appearances were an all comers record and his tally of 7,624 runs at that level was an England record, while his 22 centuries were a joint record with Wally Hammond. He was part of a family that currently stands alone in having produced four successive generations of first class cricketers (his father Ernest played a handful of games, two of his sons Graham and Chris were stalwarts of Kent in the 1980s and 1990s and his grandson Fabian played for Kent and now commentates on Kent games for local radio. The Tremletts with Maurice, Tim and Chris and the Headleys with George, Ron and Dean have each had three successive generations of first class cricketers and may yet get a fourth.
  5. Fuller Pilch – rated as the best batter of his era. He also featured in a dismissal that suggests a somewhat overly lively pitch – in the Gentlemen vs Players match of 1837 his dismissal reads ‘hat knocked on wicket’. He is one of two players from this era in my Kent team. He was noted for using a bat with a long blade and a short handle.
  6. +Leslie Ames – the only recognized wicketkeeper ever to score a hundred first class hundreds. The ‘wicket keeper’s double’ of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in the same season was achieved three times in history, and two of those were by Ames. In 1929 he pouched 78 catches and executed 49 stumpings, for a total of 127 dismissals. He won the Walter Lawrence trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season twice in the first three years of its existence, and his career high score of 295 took a mere three and a half hours. His test best of 149 came against the West Indies at Sabina Park in 1929-30, when Andrew Sandham scored 325, skipper Calthorpe was overly doctrinaire about not enforcing the follow on in a timeless match (England led by 563 on first innings!) and two days of rain and the necessity of England catching their boat home caused this timeless match to be drawn, with the West Indies 408-5 needing a further 428 to win (yes – they were set 836).
  7. Alfred Mynn – a fast bowling all rounder from the same era as Pilch. He was known as ‘The Lion of Kent’, and would appear in both his physical build and his approach to the game to have been the Freddie Flintoff of the 1830s and 40s.
  8. Arthur Fielder – right arm fast bowler, and useful lower order batter. He once scored 112 not out from no 11, as he and Frank Woolley added 235 for the last wicket.
  9. Tich Freeman – a diminutive (5’2″) leg spinner who made use of his extreme lack of height by releasing the ball upwards so that it spent most of its journey towards the batter above their eyeline. He stands second in the all time list of first class wicket takers with 3,776. In the 1928 season he collected 304 wickets, and he also holds second and third place if the list of season wicket hauls with 298 and 295. He stands alone in having taken all 10 wickets in a first class innings on three separate occasions. He took 386 five wicket innings hauls in his astonishing career and bagged 10 in a match 140 times.
  10. Colin Blythe – a left arm spinner who was killed during World War One, but not before he had taken a lot of wickets very cheaply. Against Northamptonshire in 1907 he took 17-48 in the match, and according to Woolley, writing in “The King of Games” he came within touching distance of getting all twenty in that match. As Woolley describes it, Blythe took all 10 in the first innings, and had the first seven in the second innings, before Vials, the last remaining Northants batter of any substance offered a return catch, which would have left Blythe a couple of absolute rabbits to polish off to claim an ‘all twenty’. Blythe dropped the catch and was apparently so discomposed by doing so that he was unable to refocus on his bowling, and the Kent captain had reluctantly to put another bowler on to finish it. He took 2,503 first class wickets at 16, and his 100 test wickets came in 19 games at that level.
  11. Fred Martin – a left arm fast bowler who took over 900 wickets for Kent at 19 a piece. He was selected for England at The Oval in 1890, and recorded 6-50 in the first innings and 6-52 in the second, still a match record for an England debutant.

These choices give me a team with a strong top five, a wicketkeeper who made big runs at a rapid pace at no 6, a fast bowling all-rounder at 7 and four bowlers of widely varying type. The bowling resources this side has include a left arm fast bowler, two right arm fast bowlers, a leg spinner and two slow left armers, plus Ashdown’s occasional medium pace if needed.  The next section will look to the present and future, and then I will look at some of the other players I have missed out.

KENT PRESENT AND FUTURE

This section deals with three current Kent players who part of the England setup and a fourth who may well become so. Joe Denly, a stop gap selection at no 3 in the test team, has produced a string of consistent performances since taking on the role. I suspect that when play resumes again post Covid-19 he will be displaced as England will go with Sibley, Burns, Crawley as their top three. Zak Crawley was elevated to international level without having what most would consider any considerable weight of achievement ad domestic level in the bank but has unquestionably thrived at the top level, and I suspect that if I revisit this series in ten years or so he will be challenging Ashdown or Fagg for one of those openers slots. Sam Billings is part of the England limited overs setup, but unlikely to feature in test selections. His wicket keeping will not be factor, given Kent’s illustrious history in that department, but were I selecting with white ball cricket in mind he would definitely be a candidate. Finally, Oliver Graham Robinson (as opposed to Sussex medium pacer and useful lower order batter Oliver Edward Robinson – please guys could you allow yourselves to be referred to by your middle names?) is a 21 year old wicket keeper who would appear to have a colossal future ahead of him (here’s hoping that the selectors treat him better than they have Ben Foakes), and even allowing for Kent’s historic riches in this department he may force his way into consideration in time.

OTHER CANDIDATES

Had I not been determined to include the “Lion of Kent” the number seven slot, and the captaincy that I actually awarded to Frank Woolley would have gone to Jack Mason, the subject of John Lazenby’s “Test of Time”, and also mentioned in many other cricket books, including Woolley’s “King of Games”.

There were a number of candidates for the opener’s slots: Wally Hardinge, Mark Benson (a one cap wonder for England in 1986 – 21 and 30 in a drawn game against India), David Fulton (ignored by the England selectors, even in the season in which he notched his 1,000 runs by mid June) and Robert Key being just four who merited consideration. In the middle of the order Kenneth Hutchings, Percy Chapman and Geoffrey Legge would all have their adherents. Among the bowlers to miss out were Doug Wright, who took more first class hat tricks, seven in total, than anyone else in cricket history, Derek Underwood whose left arm slow medium could not quite displace Blythe in my thinking and Bill Bradley, a right arm fast bowler who could have had the slot I gave to Fielder. I genuinely could not think of a Kent offspinner who I could even consider (yes folks, I am well aware that James Tredwell was an England pick at one time, but he was no one’s idea of a great bowler!).

The wicket keeping issue was a knotty (or should that be Knotty?) one, as Kent have had a stack of great practitioners down the years – Fred Huish, John Hubble, Godfrey Evans and Alan Knott most notably, but also in more recent times Geraint Jones has done the job for England and I have already mentioned the emerging talent of Oliver Graham Robinson. However, to select any of these legendary practitioners and play Ames as a specialist batter would have been to deprive myself of a desperately needed slot in the team, hence giving the gloves to Ames.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes, a journey that has taken us through nearly 200 years of cricket in the hop county (during any period of which you could if so inclined have partaken of Shepherd Neame’s finest!) is now at an end it is time for my usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Lancashire

Continuing my ‘All Time XIs’ series with a look at Lancashire. There is one very controversial omission from the XI, but I hope that I have adequately explained my reasoning.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my series of ‘All Time XIs‘. This one deals with Lancashire, and features one selection decision that is by any reckoning colossally controversial and another that will be seen as such in certain quarters. Before we move into the main body of the post however, today is the first day of ‘Autism Awareness Month’, and I therefore start with a small item that reflects that…

A GREAT TWITTER THREAD ON AUTISM BY AN AUTISTIC PERSON

This thread, from Pete Wharmby, aka @commaficionado deserves to widely read and shared. Please click on the screenshot of the start of it to view it in its entirety.

Thread

Now it is time for the main business of the day…

LANCASHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. *Archie MacLaren – an attack minded opening bat who scored the first ever first class quadruple century – 424 against Somerset at Taunton in 1895, amassed in eight hours. Also, have a gander at his stats for the 1897-8 Ashes tour, which you can read about in John Lazenby’s “Test of Time”, which reconstructs the tour through the eyes of his ancestor Jack Mason, one time captain of Kent. I have also named him as my captain – he guided Lancashire to a county championship in which they went through the season unbeaten in 1904. In 1921 he put together a team to take on Warwick Armstrongs all-powerful Aussies, and after being all out for 43 in the first and losing MacLaren early in the second they emerged victorious by 28 runs. In 1922, eight year before the Kiwis took their official test bow he scored 200 not out in a representative game in Wellington, that at the age of 51.
  2. Cyril Washbrook – he and Len Hutton hold the record opening stand for England, 359 against South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
  3. Johnny Tyldesley – no 3 for Lancashire and England in his day. At Edgbaston in 1902 he scored 138 in the first innings against Australia. His highest first class score was 295 against Kent, an innings that Frank Woolley, who played for Kent in that match, writes about in some detail in “King of Games”.
  4. Eddie Paynter – a left hander whose test opportunities were limited by the extreme strength of batting available to England at that time, but who still managed to average 59.23 at that level, including double centuries against both Australia and South Africa. His most famous innings came during the 1932-3 Ashes (aka Bodyline), when he rose from his sick bed to score 83 in four hours at Brisbane, and innings that put England in control of the match and with it the series (the Brisbane game was the fourth of that series, not the opener as it would be today and England had won an acrimonious match in Adelaide to go 2-1 up).
  5. Ernest Tyldesley – much younger brother of Johnny, and the only Lancastrian ever to score 100 first class hundreds, reaching the landmark at the age of 45, the second oldest after W G Grace.
  6. Andrew Flintoff – big htting middle order bat and right arm fast bowler. His finest hours came in the 2005 Ashes, though it was also his spell of bowling that settled the destiny of the Lord’s match in 2009, and in his final test appearance at The Oval in 2009 he produced a direct hit throw to run out Ricky Ponting. He is this team’s X Factor player, a luxury that the strength of the top five permits.
  7. Cecil Parkin – his stock delivery was the off break, but he also bowled just about every other kind of delivery known (and probably more besides!) to right armers, and he had his moments with the bat as well, hence his position in this order.
  8. Johnny Briggs – a slow left arm bowler, a brilliant fielder and a useful lower order bat. He was one of two such bowlers who caught the Aussies on a ‘sticky’ in Sydney in 1894 (Bobby Peel of Yorkshire was the other) to achieve the first test victory by a side following on (Aus 586, Eng 325 and 437, Aus 166, Eng won by 10 runs). England also won the second match of that series, before Australia took games three and four and then England won the decider.
  9. +George Duckworth – Wicket keeper in Lancashire’s greatest period, the latter half of the 1920s.
  10. Syd Barnes – rated by most of those who saw him as the greatest of all bowlers. He worked out a way of bowling a leg break at fast medium pace, which was his deadliest delivery. In 27 test matches he took 189 wickets at 16.43, a haul that included 77 at 21 a piece down under. He also destroyed South Africa in their own backyard, in a series in which he took 49 wickets at 10.93 in four matches before refusing to play the fifth following an argument over terms. As late as 1930 there were those who thought that Barnes, then approaching 60 years of age, was the best hope of subduing Bradman. Bradman was sufficiently impressed by what he read and heard about Barnes to include him in his all-time England XI (see “Bradman’s Best Ashes Teams by Roland Perry). Barnes remained a league pro until the outbreak of World War Two, meaning that for 44 years of his adult life there was someone willing to pay him to play cricket.
  11. Brian Statham – right arm fast bowler. He combined with Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson to bowl England to the 1954-5 Ashes, and later formed a hugely successful England new ball pairing with Freddie Trueman. For England his 252 wickets cost 24 a piece, for Lancashire where he had first choice of ends as undisputed lead bowler he took his wickets at a mere 16 a piece.

This team has a hugely powerful top five, an attacking all rounder at six, four widely varied bowlers and a top of the range wicket keeper to ensure that no chances go begging.

CONTROVERSIES AND OMISSIONS

I start this section by dealing with my most obviously controversial admission…

JIMMY ANDERSON

England’s all time leading test wicket taker, which is a tribute to his longevity. However his test bowling average is only just the right side of 30, and to include him would mean either sacrificing variety by dropping one of Parkin or Briggs, or dropping Statham. If I have Anderson, Statham and Barnes in the team that means Statham not getting the new ball, since Barnes would have to have it and Anderson would lose a huge amount of his value if not given the new ball.

OTHER OMISSIONS

There were a number of openers who could have been considered, starting with “My Hornby and my Barlow, long ago”, continuing with the transplanted Yorkie Albert Ward whose career highlight was his 75 and 117 in the Sydney test that England won after following on, R H Spooner whose omission probably has Neville Cardus turning in his grave, left hander Charles Hallows, one of only three players to achieve the strict feat of scoring 1,000 first class runs actually in the month of May (as opposed to in the English season before the start of June), ‘Shake’ Makepeace, Geoff Pullar, Barry Wood, David Lloyd, Graeme Fowler and Mike Atherton. Hornby was an amateur stylist, as was Spooner, and MacLaren was also an amateur with a rather weightier record. Barlow, though his left arm medium pace could also have been a useful addition, was an absolute stonewaller (twice spending two and a half hours over scores of 5, and on another occasion taking 80 minutes over a blob). All of the others would have their advocates, and only Atherton has a big black mark against him – his negative attitude to county cricket as conveyed in his writings since his retirement (hence why, unlike in the case of Anderson, I do not personally see his omission as in any way controversial).

Among the middle order batters Neil Fairbrother is the most obvious non-overseas omission, along with John Crawley. However, neither of those two really delivered at the highest level, and although Fairbrother holds the record for the highest score in a first class match in London (366 at The Oval in 1990), that innings was played on a pitch of mind-numbing flatness. Ian Greig of Surrey, no ones idea of a great player, scored 291 on that same pitch. Clive Lloyd could easily have had the nod as an overseas player, although I am normally disinclined to choose batters for that as will now be obvious to anyone who has followed this series. 

I could find no way of fitting in Wasim Akram (left arm quick, attacking left handed bat) unless I had gambled on him batting as high as six and had dropped Flintoff for the sake of greater variety in the bowling department. I felt that having bitten one king sized bullet by leaving out Anderson dropping Freddie was going too far.

There were three spinners who entered my thoughts but who I could not accommodate, leg spinner Richard Tyldesley (unrelated to the two Tyldesleys already in the side), off spinner Roy Tattersall who had the misfortune of overlapping with Jim Laker (see my Surrey team) and Malcolm Hilton, who has a niche in the history books, because playing for Lancashire v Australia in 1948 he accounted for Bradman in both innings, but he does not quite have the overall weight of achievement to displace Briggs.

That brings to an end this section of the post. Feel free to comment, but remember to consider how your chosen selections might fit into an XI and which of mine you would displace.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Warwickshire

Continuing my all-time XIs series with a look at Warwickshire.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my “All Time XIs” series. We are now in the middle of our virtual trek round the first class cricketing counties, and appropriately for such a position we will be looking at the most landlocked of all the 18 first class counties, Warwickshire.

WARWICKSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. Dennis Amiss – the only Warwickshire player to have score 100 first class hundreds. He also had the knack of going on after reaching three figures – his test best was 262 not out to save a match in Kingston, Jamaica, and he also scored a double century at The Oval in 1976 when Michael Holding was the only bowler on either side able to extract anything from the pitch (14-149 in the match for the speedster).
  2. Willie Quaife – a diminutive batter (exact height unknown but estimates vary between 5′ 2″ and 5′ 5″) who showed great endurance in two ways – he played a number of very long innings for his county, and his career was exceptionally long – his last first class century, scored just before his retirement was made at the age of 56 years and 4 months making him the oldest ever first class centurion (a record previously held by W G Grace who played an innings of 166 on his 56th birthday). He and his son Bernard Quaife created a first and only in first class cricket when playing for Warwickshsire against Derbyshire they opened the batting together against the bowling of the Billy and Robert Bestwick, who were also father and son. He also bowled serviceable leg breaks.
  3. Jonathan Trott – an adhesive rather than flamboyant no 3 whose finest hours (and there were many of them, especially at Brisbane and Melbourne) came during the 2010-11 Ashes. His England career could still be going now but for mental health issues that forced him to abandon international cricket.
  4. Ian Bell – one the best timers of a cricket ball ever seen and possessed of a good range of shot.
  5. *Tom Dollery – possibly the first professional cricketer to be entrusted with the captaincy of his county (for a long time the very notion of a mere professional being a county captain would have been laughed at) on an official basis, a fine middle order bat and also a serviceable wicket keeper.
  6. Frank Foster – an attacking middle order bat with a career best of 305, he was also an excellent left arm quick bowler (on the 1911-12 Ashes tour, when England won the series 4-1, he and the legendary S F Barnes shared the new cherry and Foster took 32 wickets to Barnes’ 34 for the series) and a splendid fielder.
  7. Dick Lilley– my pick from various possible wicketkeepers. He was an England regular for many years, playing 32 Ashes matches in which he made 84 dismissals behind the stumps. A career high first class score of 171 shows that he could bat as well. In “Jessop’s Match” of 1902 he shared a partnership of 34 with George Hirst that took England to within 15 of victory, which remaining runs were accumulated by Hirst and Rhodes.
  8. Percy Jeeves – a fast medium bowler and talented lower middle order batter, he was just beginning to establish himself when World War 1 broke out. He was one of the very many who died in that conflict. One of his better performances caught the eye of P G Wodehouse (who played in an Authors vs Actors match in 1907 with Arthur Conan Doyle and A A Milne among his team mates), and encouraged that worthy to give the name Jeeves to Percy Wooster’s valet.
  9. Bob Willis – a right arm fast bowler, and my envisaged new ball partner for Frank Foster. He took 325 test wickets in a long and distinguished career. His finest hour came at Headingley in 1981. After Australia had made 401-9 declared in their first innings, a total that their captain Kim Hughes described as ‘worth about a thousand on that pitch’, an assessment endorsed by England skipper Mike Brearley, England were bowled at for 174, followed on and were 135-7 when Botham and Dilley added 117 in 80 minutes for the eighth wicket, Botham and Old added 67 for the ninth wicket, and Willis himself lasted long enough in Botham’s company for a further 37 to be scored. Australia needing 130 were cruising at 56-1 when Willis who had bowled an unsatisfactory spell from the Football Stand End was put on at the Kirkstall lane end for one last effort to save his career. 11 overs later (six of them from Willis in that spell), Australia were 75-8 and six of the wickets had fallen to Willis. Dennis Lillee and Ray Bright then had a last fling that yielded 35 in four overs before Lillee miscued a drive and Gatting (of all people) took a running diving catch at mid on. Alderman was dropped twice in the slips off Botham, before Willis produced a yorker that shattered Bright’s stumps to give England victory by 18 runs. Willis had taken 8-43 and a career that had nearly been over was revived with a vengeance – he would go on to captain England and would bow out of international cricket at the end of the 1984 season. Mike Brearley’s “Phoenix From The Ashes” tells the story of the 1981 Ashes, while Rob Steen and Alastair McLellan’s “500-1” (based on the odds given against England at one stage of the match) is a book devoted to Headingley 1981 specifically.
  10. Lance Gibbs – an offspinner who was briefly the world’s leading test wicket taker, with 309, and my choice for overseas player.
  11. Eric Hollies – a legspinner who has the record ‘wrong way round’ disparity between runs scored (1,673) and wickets taken (2,323) in first class cricket. He once went 71 successive first class innings without reaching double figures. It was his googly that denied Bradman a test average of 100 (a single boundary in that innings would have seen Bradman both to 7,000 test runs and a guaranteed 100 average).

This team consists of a solid top five, a top class all-rounder in Foster, a top class wicket keeper who could also bat, and four well varied bowlers. It is true that with Willis as high as number nine the tail looks a long one, but I think there is enough batting to cope with that.

VARIOUS OMISSIONS

To many people the most glaring omission will be that of the holder of the world test and first class individual scores (the latter of which he made for Warwickshire), Brian Charles Lara. As is so often the case I considered that there was enough home grown batting strength and that the single overseas player I am allowing myself was needed to strengthen both the depth and variety of the bowling. This also explains why I opted for Gibbs ahead of Allan Anthony Donald, a right arm fast bowler whose presence would have changed the balance of the bowling attack. Similarly had I opted for Shaun Pollock, right arm fast medium and useful lower order batter, as overseas player it would have meant a side with a different balance to it.

Among the home grown batters MJK Smith, Dominic Ostler (a fine middle order player in the 1990s who was resolutely ignored by the England selectors), James Troughton (a contemporary of Ian Bell, and at one stage considered to be at least as likely an England prospect), John Jameson, Nick Knight and Bob Wyatt would all have had their advocates.

Tiger Smith, Tim Ambrose (although please note he was called up for England while still at Sussex) and A C Smith (who once stepped in as an emergency bowler and collected a hat trick) would all have their advocates for the gauntlets, and someone utterly obsessed to the exclusion of all else with getting runs from their keeper might even point to Geoff Humpage.

Fast bowler Harry Howell, fast mediums David Brown, Gladstone Small and Tim Munton might all also attract attention. Offspinner Neil Smith might be pointed to from certain quarters, but he paid 37 runs per wicket, which is expensive.

I look forward to your comments, although if indicating someone else should be in the team, please also indicate who you would drop to make way for them.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Middlesex

Continuing my all-time XIs series with Middlesex.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my All Time XIs series. We move on to our eighth county (a feat that even a modern day overseas mercenary might find difficult!), Middlesex. On the All Time XI theme, the fulltoss blog has just served up a very interesting XI of bizarre test debut stories – please do have a gander. After I have gone through my chosen XI I am going to include another section in this post explaining the particular challenges that this assignment has posed.

MIDDLESEX ALL TIME XI

  1. *Andrew Strauss – left handed opening batter and captain. He was alone in scoring two inividual hundreds in the 2005 Ashes, won the Compton-Miller trophy for his batting and captaincy in the 2009 Ashes (highlighted by a first innings 161 at Lord’s to put England in command of that match) and then captained England to a first Ashes win in Australia since 1986-7 (and first overseas Ashes win under a captain not to answer to Mike since Ray Illingworth’s 1970-1 triumph!). In 2011 his captaincy career reached its apogee when he led England to a convincing series win over India that propelled them to the top of the world test rankings, a mere 12 years after defeat against New Zealand had consigned them to bottom of the pile.
  2. Jack Robertson – An underrated opener whose 331 not out vs Derbyshire remains the highest ever individual score for Middlesex. In the 1947 season when Bill Edrich and Denis Compton made all the headlines he scored 12 centuries of his own, and it was often a solid start from him that they were cashing in on.
  3. Bill Edrich – one of five members of his family (three of his brothers, plus cousin John – see my Surrey team) to play first class cricket, an excellent no 3 bat and a superb fielder and a very useful bowler of right arm fast medium (on one occasion during the 1948 Ashes he shared the new ball for England with Alec Bedser). His first really big score at the highest level came the match that killed the notion of timeless tests stone dead, at Durban at the end of 1938-9 tour of South Africa, when he contributed 219 to an England score that reached 654-5 in pursuit of a victory target of 696 before the rain came down and the match had to be abandoned as a draw for fear of England missing their boat home. His career was split into two portions by World War II, during which he served in the RAF.
  4. Denis Compton – for much of his career he combined cricket for Middlesex and England with football for Arsenal, though he was not quite a double international – he played for England in wartime matches which were not given full international status. He was forever forgetting things, including on one memorable occasion his bat – he borrowed a spare from a team mate and scored 158 with it. In 1947 he scored 3,816 first class runs, with 18 centuries. During the 1948-9 tour of South Africa he scored 300 not out in 181 minutes at Benoni, the fastest ever first class triple hundred (Charlie Macartney for Australia v Nottinghamshire in 1921 reached 300 in 198 minutes on his way to a score of 345 in 232 minutes). 5,800 test runs at 50 shows how good he was. He reached the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds in his 552nd innings, quicker than anyone else save Don Bradman who got there in just 295 innings. In addition to his batting he bowled left arm wrist spin and was an excellent fielder. Don Bradman paid Compton the tribute of selecting him at number three, the equivalent position to the Don’s own in the Australian XI in his all time England XI, which you can read about in Roland Perry’s “Bradman’s Best Ashes Teams”.
  5. Patsy Hendren – the third leading first class run scorer of all time with 57,611 (behind Hobbs – 61,237 if you are a traditionalist, 61,760 if you are a revisionist – and Woolley, 58,969) and the second leading centurion of all time with 170 (Hobbs 197 if you are traditionalist, 199 if you are a revisionist). He was also a brilliant fielder and a practical joker. During the 1928-9 Ashes he was involved in a famous exchange with Douglas Jardine. Jardine was getting the bird from Aussie spectators and Hendren said to him “they don’t seem to like you very much, Mr Jardine”, to which Jardine responded “it is ****ing mutual” – playwright Ben Travers was party to the exchange and mentioned it in his book “94 Declared”.
  6. Bernard Bosanquet – the creator of the googly and a hard hitting middle order batter. Under today’s laws the googly may well have been still born, its first victim Sam Coe being done by one which bounced four times before hitting the stumps and would therefore have been called no-ball today (worse still for Coe he was on 98 at the time). Bosanquet scored over 11,000 first class runs in his career.
  7. +John Murray – only one wicketkeeper has ever made more career dismissals than Murray, Bob Taylor of Derbyshire and England. Murray was also a very useful bat. In the Oval test match of 1966 England were 166-7 when he arrived at the crease to join Tom Graveney (see my Gloucestershire piece). Graveney made 165, Murray 112 an to add insult to already considerable injury nos 10 and 11, Ken Higgs and John Snow then weighed in with half centuries of their own to boost the final total to 527. Unsurprisingly deflated by this the West Indies subsequently went down to an innings defeat, some consolation for England at the end of the series in which they had been thoroughly outplayed.
  8. Fred Titmus – a long serving off spinner and useful lower order bat, he had an excellent tour of Australia in 1962-3. He made his first class debut in 1949, and his career only ended in 1982.
  9. Gubby Allen – a fast bowler who was also a capable bat – he scored a test century against New Zealand, helping to turn 190-7 into 436 all out. He holds the record innings figures for a Middlesex bowler – 10-40 against Lancashire. His career figures were limited by the fact that he was that rare thing, a genuine amateur who played at the top level and worked for a living in a non-cricket related job, hence the fact that he played less than 150 times for Middlesex in the course of a 29 year span.
  10. Jack Hearne – the fourth leading wicket taker in first class history, with 3,061 scalps. He bowled medium-fast, took nine wickets in a first class innings on no fewer than eight occasions. In 1899 at Headingley he took what may be regarded as the best of all test match hat tricks, Clem Hill, Syd Gregory and Monty Noble, two specialist batters and an all-rounder.
  11. Wayne Daniel – the West Indies had so many great fast bowlers when he was in his prime that he got little opportunity at test level, but his record as an overseas player for Middlesex was excellent. He was also very popular with his team mates – Mike Brearley in “The Art of Captaincy” writes about him in glowing terms.

This team is a solid opening pair, including a left handed bat in Strauss, a powerful engine room at nos 3-5, a hard hitting all rounder at six, an excellent keeper/ batter at seven and four varied bowlers to round out the order. The bowling has two purveyors of out and out speed in Allen and Daniel (with Edrich’s fast-medium also available at need), a crafty medium-fast operator in Hearne, an off spinner in Titmus, Bosanquet’s wrist spin and Compton’s left arm wrist spin, an attack that boasts both depth and variety.

DIFFICULTIES AND CONTROVERSIES

Middlesex have produced many great names down the years, and a vast number of Middlesex names are well known, because until quite recently playing a lot of your matches at Lord’s gave you a huge advantage in terms of being seen by suitably influential people. This side was difficult to select because doing so meant leaving out huge numbers of players all of whom will have their advocates. I would hope that my comments immediately below the selections would explain my thinking, especially as regards balancing the side to contain both depth and variety with both bat and ball.

I am now going to look down the order at some of those who missed out – please be aware that I had positive reasons for including those I did, not negative reasons for leaving people out.

OPENERS

Andrew Stoddart (a great captain as well), Pelham Warner and Mike Brearley would all have merited consideration for one of these berths, as would Desmond Haynes had I not already decided that the overseas player should be a bowler.

NOS 3-5

My three selections all had absolutely commanding cases for inclusion – it tells you how strong Middlesex have been in this department that there was no room for long time England stalwart Mike Gatting.

NO 6

The traditional all rounder’s berth, and there were a wealth of options to fill it. Vyell Walker, ‘Young’ Jack Hearne (to distinguish him from ‘Old’ Jack, picked as a specialist bowler), Greville Stevens, Aussie exiles Albert Trott and Frank Tarrant,  and Walter Robins were just six of the names who could have been considered. I awarded the palm to Bosanquet for his innovative qualities.

THE KEEPER

Again, Middlesex have been well served in this department, with Hylton Phillipson, Gregor MacGregor and Paul Downton having also represented their country down the years.

THE BOWLERS

Vintcent Van Der Bijl would have his advocates for the overseas player/ fast bowler role that I gave to Wayne Daniel, and he would be equally as deserving. Among the spinners who missed out were John Emburey, Phil Edmonds and Phil Tufnell. Among quicker home grown bowlers Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones, Angus Fraser, Norman Cowans and John Price would all have their advocates, and I would not argue against them, merely for my own choices. I end this section by saying: if you want to suggest people for inclusion, be they those I have highlighted or others, by all means do so, but consider the balance of the selected team, and tell me which of my choices should be dropped to make way for yours.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes folks, we’ve reached the end of today’s journey, and it is time for my usual sign off…

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