All Time XIs – Through the Alphabet VIII

Today’s all time XI continues the alphabetic progression, starting with a Y.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s ‘all time XI‘ cricket post. After yesterday’s England v West Indies special we resume our alphabetic progression sequence of squads, starting with a Y.

PERCY FENDER’S XI

  1. Martin Young – right handed opening batter. A consisten run scorer for Gloucestershire for many years.
  2. Hazratullah Zazai – left handed opening batter. The attacking Afghan opener shuuld complement the more restrained Young very nicely.
  3. Chris Adams – right handed batter. He played for Derbyshire for many years before moving south to Sussex, who he captained to their first ever county championship title. Although prolific at county level he never quite delivered for England (though it must be acknowledged that he was given few opportunities to do so). He has gone on to a coaching career in which he has also enjoyed some success, being involved with the Surrey set up for one of their championship wins.
  4. Allan Border – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, vice captain. The first person to reach the career milestone of 11,000 test runs, and until another resolute left handed, Alastair Cook, went past it he held the record for consecutive test appearances, having played the last 153 of his 156 tests in succession. His career had two distinct components – part 1, when he was desperately attempting to hold together a struggling outfit, and was very often the only serious stumbling block faced by opposition bowlers, and part 2, when Australian efforts to rebuild began to bear fruit, and they went from chumps to champs in the space of a few years, a position they would occupy undisputed for another decade after Border’s retirement. I don’t often name vice captains in this series, but his status as the captain who turned Australia’s fortunes round in the late 1980s has to be acknowledged, and I had another player in the team I wanted to name captain.
  5. Michael Clarke – right handed batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner. To put it mildly he was not universally popular with Australian fans during his playing career, but the excellence of his record at the highest level cannot be denied. He had, in common with many of his team mates, a very poor series in the 2010-11 Ashes, and some of his efforts to avoid being seen to covet his skipper’s job were overdone to say the very least – such as suggesting that he at 29 might be retiring before the 36 year old Ponting. It may also have not have helped when in the final match of that series, with Ponting injured, the debutant Khawaja was given the job of filling the no3 slot while the veteran Clarke stayed down the order.
  6. +AB De Villiers – right handed batter, wicket keeper. An explosive middle order batter and a fine keeper. Although he was best known for his performances in limited overs cricket his test record was also splendid.
  7. Tom Emmett – left arm fast bowler, left handed batter. Although it was his bowling for which he was chiefly noted he could definitely bat as well – at one time Yorkshire pressed him into service as an opening batter when they were short. 
  8. *Percy Fender – leg spinner, right handed batter. An all rounder who once scored a first class century in 35 minutes against proper bowling (various quicker efforts appear in footnotes in the record books as they were scored against bowlers who were trying to concede quick runs to bring about a declaration, a ‘tactic’ that was once common in county cricket. He never got to captain England, but was universally acknowledged to be superb at the job, which is why I have named as captain of this side.
  9. Charlie Griffith – right arm fast bowler. One half of a great fast bowling pair. There is an amusing story from their schooldays featuring Griffith bowling off spin interspersed with the odd quicker one while the other member of the duo was keeping wicket.
  10. Wes Hall – right arm fast bowler. He bowled the final over of the first ever tied test, at Brisbane in 1960, spilling a catch that he would have been well advised to leave to Rohan Kanhai along the way. At Lord’s in 1963, when the match ended in a draw with England six runs and the West Indies one wicket short of the line, he bowled an epic unchanged spell on the final day.
  11. Bert Ironmonger – left arm orthodox spinner. Australia’s oldest ever test cricketer – he was 46 when he made his debut and 51 when he played his last test match. He and Bill O’Reilly were the bowling stars of Australia’s only victory in the 1932-3 Ashes series, at Melbourne, and the same duo shot South Africa out for 36 and 45 in a test match in which Bradman crocked himself and was unable to bat and Australia still won by an innings and 72 runs.

This team has a fine top six, including a keeper batter, and a bowling attack that is beautifully balanced, with left arm pace, right arm pace, leg spin and left arm orthodox spin. There is no off spin and no purveyor of ‘chinamen’, It is a side that I would expect to give a good account of itself.

MONTY NOBLE’S XI

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The MVP of the 1996 cricket world cup, and he had a fine test record as well.
  2. Michael Klinger – right handed opening batter. One of the better batters never to play test cricket, he enjoyed a long and distinguished career for South Australia, and was often mentioned as a possible for the test side. He did get to play a few T20Is.
  3. Roy Levy – left handed batter. He played 25 matches for Queensland in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and his record does not look stellar. He qualifies by virtue of an innings played at the age of 22 against South Australia with 37 year old leg spinner Clarrie Grimmett in their ranks. The match was desperately close in the final stages, as Levy shepherded the Queensland tail towards the target. Eventually Levy chanced his arm against the bowler at the other end to Grimmett, sent the ball into the air towards Grimmett who missed the catch, and then compounded the felony by shying wildly at the stumps and missing, which enabled Levy to complete the winning run. Levy in that innings finished with 85 not out, and Queensland won by one wicket. There is a detailed account of the match in Patrick Murphy’s “Fifty Incredible Cricket Matches”.
  4. Stan McCabe – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler.
  5. *Monty Noble – right handed batter, right arm medium pace bowler/ off spinner. A genuine all rounder and a fine captain as well. He and Warwick Armstrong once put on 428 together for Australia against Sussex for the sixth wicket.
  6. Niall O’Brien – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The Kent, Northamptonshire and Ireland keeper established a fine record over a long period of time.
  7. Anuja Patil – off spinner, right handed batter. Her international experience has been limited to T20s thus far, but her record makes impressive reading.
  8. Abdul Qadir – leg spinner. 67 test matches, 236 wickets at 32.80 at a time when spinners were in eclipse due to the success of Clive Lloyd’s battery of four fast bowlers for the West Indies, and a tendency developed therefrom by other countries to treat spinners as ‘fill-in’ bowlers. Leg spin in particular was all but extinct – the only specialist leg spinner who played international cricket at the same time as Qadir that I can think of was the older Australian Bob Holland, and save for once against the West Indies dear old ‘Dutchy’ was never a match winner. In 1986 at Faisalabad Qadir took 6-16 in the second West Indies innings as they slumped to a then all-time low for them of 53 all out, and defeat by 186 runs.
  9. Tom Richardson – right arm fast bowler. His thousandth first class wicket came in 134th match and his 2,000th in his 327th match at that level, both of which figures remain all time record. From the start of 1894 to the end of 1897 – four seasons and one tour of Australia – he captured over 1,000 wickets, a period of sustained destructiveness matched only by Kent leg spinner Tich Freeman. Neville Cardus selected Richardson as one of his “Six Giants of the Wisden Century” in 1963 because he was a real life version of a storybook fast bowler. He learned his craft on Mitcham Common, and as Surrey’s star fast bowler thought nothing of walking from his home in Mitcham to The Oval (a substantial walk, I can tell you, as someone who grew up in southwest London myself) with his kit bag, doing a day’s bowling and walking home again at the end.
  10. Alfred Shaw – right arm slow bowler. His dictum was “length and successful variations of pace are the key to successful bowling.” He bowled more overs in his career than he conceded runs (admittedly for most of his career an over consisted of four balls). He took over 2,000 wickets at 12 runs a piece, with his best season seeing him claim 186 at 8.54 each in first class matches. He also dismissed WG Grace more often than any other bowler – 49 times in all (they met in many types of fixture, including Gentlemen vs Players, North v South, Under 30 v Over 30, etc.). He bowled the first delivery ever in a test match. In the 1881 Gentlemen vs Players match (he was a professional, so played for the Players) he made what turned out to be a crucial 8 not out in the Players second innings, and then took 6-19 in the Gentlemen’s second innings, ending the match by taking a blinder off his own bowling to give the Players victory by two runs. After retiring from Nottinghamshire who he served for many years he became coach at Sussex, and in a crisis came out of retirement for them and proceeded to show a new generation what all the fuss had been about 20 years earlier.
  11. Jeff Thomson – right arm fast bowler. When there was all the hoop-la about Shoaib Akhtar’s first record 100mph delivery (which the batter played calmly to square leg with no apparent difficulty) one person who was resolutely unimpressed was Jeffrey Robert Thomson, who believed, not entirely unjustifiably that he had regularly propelled the ball at that speed 25 years earlier. He in tandem with Dennis Lillee and backed up the fast medium of Max Walker destroyed England in 1974 and 1975, and it was a 5-1 series defeat in that part of the world, again mainly caused by Lillee and Thomson that planted the germ of the four fast bowler idea in Clive Lloyd’s mind, and idea that crystallized when India scored 406-4 to win at Trinidad a few months later with the West Indies fielding three spinners because the pitch was expected to turn.

This side has some decent batting, a quality wicket keeper, and lots of bowling. Thomson, Richardson and Shaw, with Noble as fourth option in that department provide  ‘seam’ options, while Qadir and Patil offer two contrasting spin options, with Noble as back up in that department as well.

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

I offered the following problem from brilliant to readers yesterday:

Exponent

Here is Pall Marton’s published solution, a genuinely brilliant effort:

Pall Marton

A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Alison, who some of readers will know as ‘the unabashed autist‘ now has a new site, alisonrising, which I recommend to all of you – please visit and subscribe. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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TTA VIII
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – England v West Indies Special

A Saturday Spectacular in the all-time XI cricket series, inspired by a combination of today’s retrolive commentary and the upcoming ‘bio-secure’ test series.

INTRODUCTION

Todau a ‘retrolive’ commentary on the Headingley Test of 2017 between England and the West Indies began, and a week on Thursday the first ‘bio-secure’ test of the post Covid-19 era gets underway between the same two sides. Today’s all time XIs post therefore interrupts our sequence of ‘through the alphabet‘ posts to pit an England XI all of whom had great moments against the West Indies against a West Indies XI all of whom had great moments against England.

ENGLAND

  1. Dennis Amiss – right handed opening batter. In the Kingston test of 1973 England were staring down both barrels as they went into their second innings. They escaped with a draw, and when stumps were drawn at the end of the match Amiss was on career best 262 not out. In 1974 and 1975 a ferocious working over by Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson adversely affected Amiss but he bravely remodelled his stance to better enable him to stand up to the very fast bowlers, and at The Oval in 1976 England were facing a total of 687-8 declared. Amiss produced another double century, but this time the West Indies won the match.
  2. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pace bowler. In the first test of the 1991 series between England and the West Indies, at Headingley, England took a small first innings lead. Curtly Ambrose then served up a storm at the start of the England second innings, taking the first six wickets to fall, with only Ramprakash who exactly matched his first innings 27 having provided Gooch any support. Derek Pringle bravely held out for two hours making 27 of his own, and Gooch shepherded the nine, ten, jack as best he could. England were all out for 252, and Gooch had an unbeaten 154 to his name. The West Indies collapsed in their own second innings and England were victorious. This was by no means Gooch’s highest test score – he made 333 against India in 1990, 210 against New Zealand in 1994, 196 against Australia in 1985 and 183 against New Zealand in 1986 to give a few examples. However, these scores came on flat wickets and against largely modest bowling attacks – of the bowlers involved in those innings only Hadlee (for New Zealand in 1986) and Kapil Dev (for India in 1990) were performers of unquestionably top rank. The Headingley 1991 pitch was a difficult one, and the West Indies bowlers were Marshall, Patterson, Ambrose and Walsh, three of whom were unquestionably great bowlers and the fourth, Patterson, was seriously, blisteringly quick, although a trifle inconsistent.
  3. Alec Stewart – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. In the third test of the 1994 series England needed 194 to win and had an hour to survive in murky light on the penultimate day. By the end of that hour they were 40-8, courtesy of the old firm of Ambrose and Walsh, and the game ended early the following morning with England out for 46, only one run more than their lowest ever total. The next match was at Bridgetown, Barbados (see yesterday’s post for more about that island’s cricketing pedigree) where no visiting side had triumphed since 1935. Stewart, opening with Atherton in that series, proceeded to notch up twin centuries and England rebounded from their humiliation in the third test with victory in the fourth. Given the make up of the West Indies bowling attack picking three recognized openers is a tactic with plenty going for it anyway.
  4. David Gower – left handed batter. When England began their second innings in the final test of the 1981 tour of the West Indies defeat seemed certain. By the end of day four the odds were still in favour of a West Indies victory, but Gower was on 70, and had some good support from Peter Willey. On the final morning Willey fell, and Ian Botham, captaining the side and struggling for form also fell cheaply. Paul Downton joined Gower in the last chance saloon. The resistance held out, and the match was safe by the time Gower took one last single deep into the last hour to move to 154 not out, the highest individual score for England in the series. This innings, occupying eight hours and scored in the teeth of the most lethal fast bowling unit ever assembled (Andy Roberts had just been dropped after going wicketless in the previous match, leaving a foursome of Holding, Garner, Croft and Marshall, the new kid on the block) confirmed Gower’s place among the world’s top batters – his first century had been made against an ordinary New Zealand, his first Ashes century against an under-strength and badly captained Australian side and his 200 not out against India at Edgbaston was scored against a less than stellar attack on a very flat pitch. The next two series between England and the West Indies were both 5-0 to the West Indies, and it was at Headingley in 1988 that England next drew a match against them.
  5. *Peter May – right handed batter, captain. In the Edgbaston test of 1957 England collapsed badly in their first innings against ‘those two little pals of mine, Ram and Val’ – Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine and were made to follow on. Both openers fell cheaply, and May walked out to play an innings in which England needed him to go big. The third England wicket fell with England still adrift, bringing Colin Cowdrey to the crease. May and Cowdrey who came together near the end of day 3 were still in occupation when then fifth and final day got underway. Cowdrey fell for 154 to end a stand of 411, still an England record for any wicket. By the time May declared to give the West Indies an awkward little session of batting he had been at the crease for ten hours and scored 285 not out, at the time a record for an England captain, beating the 240 scored by Hammond at Lord’s in 1938. Ramadhin had wheeled down 98 overs that second England innings and had just two wickets to show for it – and was never to same force again. The West Indies, having for a long time looked like winning were in the end relieved to come away with a draw, having lost seven wickets in the closing stages of the game. England went on to win the series.
  6. +Leslie Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. In the last series before World War II, in 1939, Ames and Hammond shared a fifth wicket stand of 242, then an England record against all comers, to set up a victory.
  7. Andrew Flintoff – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. He had a couple of magnificent years from 2004 through the summer of 2006, and one of the seemingly endless succession of highlights for him in that period was his highest test score, 167 against the West Indies at Edgbaston in 2006, in an England win.
  8. Angus Fraser – right arm fast medium bowler. He twice took eight wickets in an innings in the Caribbean, including the best ever by an England bowler in that part of the world, 8-53. In 1990 England set off for the Caribbean in what seemed to be a very poor state. The last three series between the two had been 5-0, 5-0 and 4-0 to the Windies, and England had just been thrashed by Australia in the 1989 Ashes. In 1988, which included that 4-0 drubbing by the Windies, 28 players had been called up for England test teams. Then in 1989 against Australia 31 players were named in England test squads and 29 actually took the field for England. The only player to have played every game in both years was David Gower, and he was not picked for the tour of the Caribbean. Greenidge and Haynes started smoothly for the West Indies at Sabina Park, Jamaica, before their partnership was ended by misadventure – a ball was played to Devon Malcolm who fumbled it, which encouraged Greenidge to turn for a second, Malcolm unleashed a bullet throw and there was a run out. Then in a spectacular role reversal the West Indies middle order folded, and having reached 60 before losing a wicket they were all out for 164 and Fraser had 5-28. A big partnership between Allan Lamb and Robin Smith rammed home England’s advantage, and they won the match. Fraser subsequently had injury problems and also suffered like many others from the attitude of Ray ‘In My Day’ Illingworth when he was England supremo.
  9. Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. When England under the captaincy of Michael Vaughan headed to the Caribbean in 2004 Harmison was just beginning to establish himself as a genuinely top class, genuinely fast bowler. That series underlined his improvement, with his personal highlight being a spell of 7-12 as the West Indies were hustled out for a record low of 47. Nb – when talking about bowling figures number of wickets take precedence, and it is only identical wicket hauls that are split by economy, a reflection of the fact that in non-limited overs cricket you need to take 20 wickets to win the match and that in limited overs cricket getting someone out is still the most definitive way to prevent them from scoring, so although on the basis of runs per wicket (1.71 against 6.63) 7-12 is better than 8-53 the fact that Fraser’s haul was eight wickets rather than seven trumps the difference in economy.
  10. Phil Tufnell – left arm orthodox spinner. England came to The Oval in 1991 2-1 down in the series, needing to win the square it which after the disasters of the 1980s would be a very fine result. A century for Robin Smith and few other useful innings got England to 400 in their first innings. Phil Tufnell then got to work with the ball, beginning his spell of destruction with the psychologically crucial wicket of Viv Richards. That huge breakthrough achieved Tufnell took a further five wickets in his spell, at a cost of a mere four runs. His overall innings figures were 6-25, the West Indies were made to follow on, and England won and squared the series. Before this series, series scores between the two teams since 1980, with England first, had been 0-1, 0-2, 0-5, 0-5, 0-4 and 1-2 – a net 1-18 against England.
  11. Charles ‘Father’ Marriott – leg spinner. The Lancashire and Kent leg spinner, who had been playing county cricket since 1920 was called up for the last test of the 1933 series. England batted first and scored 312. The West Indies were all out for 100 in their first innings, Marriott 5-37 (and Nobby Clark the left arm fast bowler 3-16). England enforced the follow on, the West Indies batted better second time round, but not well enough, being all out for 195, Clifford Roach making 56 opening the batting, Marriott taking 6-59, while the fast bowlers Clark, and Stan Nichols of Essex took two each, left arm spinner Langridge bowling seven wicketless overs. Marriott had 11-96 in the match, and was known to be a pure bowler (711 first class wickets at 20.11, 574 first class runs at 4.41), England had won by an innings and 17 runs, but that was the sum total of Marriott’s test career.

This side has a strong top six, a player who at his best was an x-factor all rounder, and four well varied bowlers. Harmison, Fraser, Flintoff, Marriott and Tufnell is an attack should be useful in all conditions.

THE WEST INDIES

  1. Gordon Greenidge – right handed opening batter. On the most difficult pitch of the 1976 ‘grovel’ series he made twin centuries, the first of them being 61% of his team’s innings total. His two double centuries in 1984 are also worthy of mention.
  2. *Frank Worrell – right handed batter, left arm medium fast bowler, occasional left arm orthodox spinner, captain. In 1957 he carried his bat through an innings, finishing with 191 not out. In 1963 he was captain, and the series was regarded as one of the greatest ever played.
  3. George Headley – right handed batter. A man who averaged 60.83 in test cricket clearly had highlights against every opponent. However, the particular performance that gets him in here came in the 1939 series, when he became the first batter ever to score twin centuries in a Lord’s test.
  4. Viv Richards – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Was his 232 in the opening match of the 1976 series better than his 291 at The Oval in the final match thereof, were they both trumped by the first test century to be recorded at St John’s Antigua in 1981 or were all other efforts trumped by his 56-ball century at Antigua five years later? That is even before we consider ODIs (138 not out in the 1979 World Cup Final, 189 not – then an ODI record individual score – in an innings total of 272-9 at Old Trafford in 1984). These details provide some indication of why even in 1991 when he was well past his prime his wicket which started Phil Tufnell on his merry way was so psychologically important.
  5. Shai Hope – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. When England and the West Indies convened at Headingley in 2017 533 first class matches had been played at the ground and nobody had ever scored twin tons there, even though some mighty fine batters called the place home, e.g. Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton. The person who finally entered the record books by achieving that feat, and did it in a test match to boot, was Shai Hope. Three years on those remain his only two test centuries at test level, a remarkable quirk.
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. He had a stack of extraordinary performances against all opposition, as befits the most complete player the game has yet seen. The particular match I have picked on to include him here featured the West Indies deep in trouble when their fifth second innings wicket went down and Sobers being joined at the crease by David Holford, primarily a leg spinner. The pair put on an undefeated 274 together for the sixth wickets, Sobers 163 not out, Holford 105 not out, and England ended up being glad to escape with a draw after losing a few second innings wickets.
  7. +Jeff Dujon – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Although the West Indies largely dominated the 1988 series (4-0, and the drawn first match owed more to the weather than to the stoutness of England’s resistance), but there was one occasion therein when they hit trouble – 53-5 in their first innings, and Dujon, with support from Logie rescued them – the sixth wicket stand was worth 130, and got the West Indies back into the match.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler. At Headingley in 1984 he sustained a broken arm, a rare case in that era of a West Indian being on the receiving end of an injury. When the ninth West Indian wicket fell Gomes was on 96, and so Marshall went in to bat one-handed to see his team mate to a century. Then, to English consternation, he proceeded to take the new ball. He proceeded to rip through the second England innings with career best figures of 7-53, displacing the 63 and 36 scored by Tennyson batting one-handed against Australia with Gregory and McDonald as the greatest test performance by a cricketer playing with one usable hand.
  9. Michael Holding – right arm fast bowler. In August 1976 England was baking in a heatwave, the pitch at The Oval was absolutely flat and lifeless and the outfield was almost grassless due to the drought. The West Indies piled up 687-8 declared, but even their bowlers could get little out of the pitch, with one exception. Michael Anthony Holding took 8-92 in England’s first innings, the best innings figures at that time by a West Indian fast bowler (a spinner, Jack Noriega, had taken nine wickets in a test innings for them). The West Indies declined enforce the follow-on, giving their bowlers a breather. A declaration  at 182-0 left England needing to match their first innings 435 to win. This time round Holding took 6-57 to give him 14-149 in the match and his side victory and a 3-0 series scoreline.
  10. Curtly Ambrose – right arm fast bowler. I have already mentioned his bowling at Headingley in 1991 and at Trinidad in 1994 (the 46 all out game), but before that he had settled the 1990 series in the West Indies by destroying England in the last two test matches thereof. England had won the opener (see under Fraser), the second, scheduled for Guyana, had been washed out without a ball being bowled, and a combination of more bad weather and some scandalous (and unchecked, never mind punished) time wasting by Desmond Haynes as stand-in captain had condemned the third match at Trinidad to another draw, in spite of Malcolm picking up ten wickets in a test match (6-77 in one innings) for the first time in his career. However, in the final two tests, Ambrose was simply unstoppable, his figures including an 8-45 in one innings. England’s best resistance in those  matches came from pugnacious wicket keeper Jack Russell who produced a day-long rearguard in one of them.
  11. Alf Valentine – left arm orthodox spinner. He made his test debut in the 1950 series and proceeded to capture the first eight England wickets to fall, only to be denied absolute immortality to Berry and Hollies, two of the game’s greatest ‘ferrets’. The feat still remains a record, and helped the West Indies to their first win on English soil, as he and as spin twin Sonny Ramadhin weaved their webs around England’s batters. England did not properly counter this duo until the 1957 series and the May-Cowdrey partnerhsip at Edgbaston.

This team has a stellar top four, a record breaker at five, the most complete player in the game’s history at six, an excellent keeper who can bat and fine quartet of bowlers. The choice of Valentine as specialist spinner means there is a little overlap in skills with Sobers, who numbered left arm orthodox spin among his bowling styles. Marshall, Holding and Ambrose, with Sobers left arm as fourth pace option and Worrell also available looks a superb pace attack, while Valentine’s finger spin and Sobers’ wrist spin should be sufficient in that department.

OTHER CONTENDERS

There are of course many, but I will mention just some of the more obvious. Andy Sandham scored the first ever test match triple century at Sabina Park in 1930, but that match, supposedly ‘timeless’ ended in a draw because England had to go home, taking some of the gloss off the innings. Fred Trueman had a fabulous series against the West Indies in 1963, including a career best test match haul of 12-119 at Edgbaston. Among the all rounders I felt that Greig’s presence would fire the West Indies up too much, so his 13 wicket match haul at Trinidad did not get him in, Ian Botham’s record against the West Indies was very ordinary (one innings haul of 8-103 at Lord’s in 1984, but even that came in a losing cause, and a highest score against them of 81) and Stokes has not had one of his greatest performances against them as yet (the ‘bio-secure’ series may well change that). Brian Lara twice made world test record scores against England (375 in 1994, 400 not out in 2004, both at St Johns, Antigua), but both were accumulated on flat wickets in high scoring, stale, draws, and the latter, as was that case with his 501 not out for Warwickshire v Durham, was definitely an example of the individual counting for more than the team. Courtney Walsh had a magnificent series in England in 2000, at the age of 38, but lack of support from the rest of his team caused it to be in a losing cause, so, with regret, I was not able to pick him. Sonny Ramadhin, Valentine’s spin twin, missed out because of the history making nature of Valentine’s debut. Finally, Ellis ‘Puss’ Achong caused cricket’s terminology to expand when he dismissed Walter Robins, and the chagrined all rounder said as he headed back to the pavilion “fancy being bowled by a chinaman”, which is why that type of delivery is now called a chinaman.

THE CONTEST

This has all the makings of an absolute cracker. The odds definitely favour the West Indies, especially as Worrell has to be considered a better captain than May, but it should be a good contest.

PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEASER

As a lead in to my regular sign off, here is a teaser from brilliant.org:

Exponent

Solution in tomorrow’s post.

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Eng v WI special
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – Through the Alphabet VI

Our sixth ‘alphabetic progression’ post in this ‘all time XI’ cricket series, a solution to yesterday’s teaser and plenty of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

In today’s all time XIs cricket post we continue with our alphabetic progression. Yesterday we ended on an F, so today we start from G.

BILL O’REILLY XI

  1. Gordon Greenidge – right handed opening batter. He was a crucial part of the West Indies success in the 1980s. In the 1984 series in England the West Indies were twice in deep trouble, and both times were hauled out of it by Greenidge. At Old Trafford he saved the day with an innings of 223 in 10 hours at the crease, and the Windies emerged victorious. At Lord’s the Windies were set 342 to win in just under a full day (and Gower, the England captain, was criticized for not declaring earlier, and for allowing his batters to accept on offer of the light when they should, four fast bowlers notwithstanding, have stayed out there. The West Indies won by nine wickets, with Greenidge blazing his way to 214 not out, while Larry Gomes (92 not out) played the supporting role to perfection. In the MCC Bicentennary match he made a century, notable for the setting of a fielder specifically to cut down the number of runs the reverse sweep was bringing him. A long county career with Hampshire helped him to score more first class hundreds (90) than any other West Indian bar Viv Richards.
  2. Desmond Haynes – right handed opening batter. He was Greenidge;s regular opening partner for Barbados and the West Indies. Barbados, a coral island similar in size to the Isle of Wight has produced over 70 test match cricketers – an all time batting order with these two opening, the three Ws at 3,4 and 5, Sobers at six, a keeper and four bowlers, two of them Marshall and Garner is shaping up mightily impressively. The Isle of Wight for comparison has produced a few cricketers who reached the dizzy heights of the Hampshire 2nd XI. Haynes and Greenidge put on over 6,000 runs together in first wicket stands at test level, although their average opening stand is not quite as eye-popping as the 87 of Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe.
  3. Shreyas Iyer – right handed batter. The young Indian, noted for his aggressive approach, has yet to play test cricket, but hes an averages 52 in first class cricket and has made a remarkable start to his ODI career. I can envisage him being devastating after Greenidge and Haynes have given the innings their usual strong start (and similarly when the time comes coming in after the Sharma/ Agarwal opening partnership has been broken).
  4. Mahela Jayawardene – right handed batter. He holds the record for the highest test score by a right handed batter, 374 vs South Africa, when he and gthe left handed Kumar Sangakkara put on 624 together for the third wicket, starting from 14-2. Three higher individual test scores have been recorded, Lara’s 400 not out and 375, which both came in high scoring draws, whereas Jayawardene’s set his side up for an innings victory, and Matthew Hayden’s 380, scored against a hapless Zimbabwe team at Perth. Following the list on down, Sobers’ 365 not out was made against a Pakistan side who fielded only two front line bowlers, Hutton’s 364 at The Oval set his side up for a crushing victory, Jayasuriya’s 340 came in a monstrosity of a game at Colombo (over 100 runs per wicket through the five days), Hanif Mohammad’s 337 secured a draw for his side, Hammond’s 336 not out and Bradman’s 334 both came in drawn games- not that many of the super-huge scores have actually helped their team to win.
  5. Rohan Kanhai – right handed batter. His record at first class and test level is highly impressive, and I have the word of CLR James, that he was an absolute genius with a bat in his hand.
  6. Geoffrey Legge – right handed batter. He played for Kent and England. He managed only one century for his country, but it was a big one – 196.
  7. +Billy Murdoch – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Fred ‘the demon’ Spofforth missed the first ever test match because he believed that only Billy Murdoch could keep to his bowling (he came in to the side when the second match was arranged, apparently convinced that the chosen keeper, Blackham, was good enough after all), so although it was not where he usually played in test cricket he did have pedigree as a wicket keeper. His batting deeds included 153 not out in the first test on English soil at The Oval, the first ever test double century at the same ground four years later, 286 for Australia in a tour match and a first class triple century, at a time when only WG Grace (twice) and Walter Read of Surrey had previously achieved the feat.He played county cricket for Sussex and was part of WG Grace’s ultimately ill-fated London County venture.
  8. Dion Nash – right arm fast medium bowler. An effective swing bowler for New Zealand in the 1990s, and by no means valueless as a lower order batter.
  9. Bill O’Reilly – leg spinner. Nicknamed ‘tiger’ for his on field ferocity (he was later to be fairly ferocious with a pen in his hand as well), he bowled faster than most of his type (one action shot of him was erroneously labelled ‘Bill O’Reilly, Australia fast bowler, and seeing it one can understand how the mistake happened).Donald Bradman rated him the best bowler he ever saw or faced, although as O’Reilly himself acknowledged Bradman was the one opposition batter who generally had his measure. World War II basically ended his career at the top level, although he played a one-off test against New Zealand, taking a hatful of cheap wickets but also learning the hard way that his knees were finally knackered.
  10. Jamie Porter – right arm fast bowler. Has done good things for his county Essex, but has not yet been given the opportunity to perform at a higher level. I hope he does get the chance to prove himself at the highest level. He has 329 first class wickets at 24.31.
  11. Hamidullah Qadri – off spinner. He currently pays 35 per wicket in his fledgling first class career, and needs to reduce that figure, but he is still very young, and he did enjoy some success in the last U19 world cup. Given that I already had a legspinner (more on this later), the alternative was Imran Qayyum, a left arm orthodox spinner, but he pays 43 per wicket, which is simply too expensive to hold out serious hopes of him making the grade.

This side has a stellar batting line up but is a trifle light on bowling options. Nonetheless I would expect it to give a good account of itself.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Strong cases could be made for the selection of Gavaskar or Gooch as my opening batter whose name begins with G, and a respectable one for Chris Gayle, while Jack Hobbs and Matthew Hayden could both have been picked as the opener whose name begins with H, with Tom Hayward also a possibility. However, Greenidge and Haynes functioned superbly well as a pair, and I have opted for them because of that detail. Abdul Qadir deserves credit for keeping the embers of the torch of leg spin bowling aglow in the 1980s, to be fanned in full blazing flame by Shane Warne in the 1990s, but with Bill O’Reilly in the side I did not especially want a second leg spinner, so I went with the unknown quantity of Hamidullah Qadri.

ANDREW STRAUSS’ XI

  1. Jack Robertson – right handed opening batter. A test average of 46 is testament to his class. In the great 1947 season when Denis Compton and Bill Edrich rewrote the record books Robertson hit 12 first class centuries, very often teeing the innings up for the other two.
  2. *Andrew Strauss – left handed opening batter, captain. The man who captained England to no one in the world at test cricket, and who averaged over 40 with the bat, both as captain and in the ranks gets the nod here.
  3. Johnny Tyldesley – right handed batter. In the first decade of the twentieth century only two professionals were selected in England teams purely for their batting, this man and David Denton of Yorkshire.
  4. Inzamam Ul-Haq – right handed batter. He announced his arrival at the top level with an innings of 60 off 37 balls in the 1992 World Cup (back then, performances like that were not commonplace).
  5. James Vince – right handed batter. Has a good record for Hampshire, and has done fairly well in limited overs matches for England. His test career has featured far too many well compiled 20s and 30s and no really major innings (83 at Brisbane is his highest).
  6. +Clyde Walcott – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Selecting him as wicket keeper, enables me to pick a strong bowling line up.
  7. Xenophon Balaskas – leg spinner, right handed batter. This is about the right position for him, and X is a difficult letter.
  8. Bruce Yardley – off spinner. He was effective for Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s, once being te match winner against the West Indies at a time when defeats for them were a great rarity.
  9. Dawlat Zadran – right arm fast medium bowler. Has done some good things for Afghanistan and may yet get better still. Certainly worth his place.
  10. James Anderson – right arm fast medium bowler. Zadran could only benefit from sharing the new ball with an experienced partner, and they don’t come much more experienced in that regard than the man who has taken more test wickets than any other pace bowler, and the most by any Eng;land bowler (and officially he is still counting).
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. The list of visiting quick bowlers to really rattle the Aussies in their own backyard is not a long one, although the West Indies in the great years under Lloyd and Richards had a few. The list of Indian bowlers of serious pace is also not a long one – Amar Singh in the 1930s, and Javagal Srinath in the 1990s are the only two before the present era who I can think of. If one were to use the two lists to create a Venn diagram, there would be one name in the overlap between the two circles: Jasprit Bumrah, whose sheer speed in the 2018-9 series for the Border-Gavaskar trophy was more responsible than anything else for India’s triumph.

This team has an excellent top six, Xenophon Balaskas at seven can be considered an all-rounder, Yardley may provide some assistance to the top order, and then there are three pace bowlers. With Anderson to guide and encourage them the two younger bowlers, Bumrah and Zadran should fare well. If there is real turn Xenophon Balaskas and Yardley should be capable of exploiting it. This looks a fine side.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Bobby Simpson would have his advocates for the opening slot I gave to Strauss. I thought about picking Radha Yadav, the left arm spinner, for the no eight slot but decided that gave me too long a tail (Anderson at 10 is definitely in the ‘rabbit’ category with the bat, while Bumrah is a ‘ferret’ – someone who comes after the raqbbits).

THE CONTEST

Bill O’Reilly XI have a very deep batting line up packed with class, but they are short of bowling guns. Andrew Strauss’ XI have less in the way of batting riches, although their top order is strong on any reckoning, but they do have what looks a strong and balanced bowling unit. My reckoning, based on the evidence from cricket’s history is that it is the bowlers who settle matches, and so my reckoning is that Andrew Strauss’ XI start as firm favourites.

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

Yesterday I set this teaser, from brilliant.org:

Octagons

Here is Chew-Seong Cheong’s excellent published solution:

Oct Sol

As an habitue of brilliant.org I recognized a trick when I saw it and realized that the trick answer given the wording of the question was that the areas were equal and therefore went for that as my answer.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced today’s teams, assessed the contest and presented the solution to yesterday’s teaser. The only thing left to for this post to be complete is my usual sign off…

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TTA VI
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Through The Alphabet V

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket post continues the alphabetic progression theme. Also features a mathematical teaser and lots of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s all time XI cricket post. We continue the alphabetic progression theme. Yesterday’s second XI ended with a J, so we start with an opening batter whose name begins with K.

SHAUN UDAL’S XI

  1. Don Kenyon – right handed opening batter. A consistent and reliable opener for Worcestershire over a number of years.
  2. David Lloyd – left handed opening batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner. After a distinguished career for Lancashire and nine appearances in test matches he went to become a highly entertaining commentator and writer, and a good coach.
  3. Roy Marshall – right handed batter. He usually opened, mainly for Hampshire. Regular openers often fare well at number three – Mark Butcher and Michael Vaughan are two who did so for England.
  4. Brendan Nash – right handed batter. Australian born, but played for the West Indies.
  5. Simon O’Donnell – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Toured England in 1985 as a promising young all rounder, but did not quite make the grade at test level (he was a casualty of a rebuilding effort that paid dramatic fruit starting in 1989 with an Ashes win in England and going on to become a dominant international force). He finished his first class career with a first class batting average of 39 and a bowling average of 37.
  6. Ellyse Perry – right handed batter, right arm fast medium.
  7. +Quinn Sunde – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Finding Qs to fit the bill calls for some flexibility. He is only just 19 and has not yet played first class cricket, but has played for NZ U-19.
  8. Graham Rose – right arm medium fast bowler, useful lower order batter. A Somerset stalwart, who did not do quite enough to attract the attention of the England selectors. I saw him in  action in 1996 at Swansea, and he took four cheap wickets in a Glamorgan total of 310 in the first innings. Somerset took a small lead, with Lathwell playing fluently early in their innings and Hayhurst and Bowler providing grittier efforts, while Steve Watkin had a very similar analysis to Rose’s. Somerset’s advantage was insufficient – Robert Croft spun them to defeat on the final day. His averages are just the right way round, and hos bowling average is just less than 30.
  9. Brian Statham – right arm fast bowler. 252 test wickets at 24 each, mainly from the wrong end – for Lancashire when he had the choice of ends he took his wickets at just 16 a piece. Like his successor as Lancashire and England new ball bowler, James Anderson, he batted left handed, occasionally playing very useful innings – in one of the 1954-5 Ashes matches he was involved in a crucial partnership in England’s first innings – the last wicket stand between him and Johnny Wardle account for 43 of a total of 154, and England won that game by 38 runs. Also, at a time when quite a few of his colleagues had to be ‘hidden’ in the field he was excellent in that department as well.
  10. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. The other half of that 1954-5 Ashes winning new ball pairing. His was a brief but spectacular career – he had other strings to his bow, which meant that he did not have worry about prolonging his career, and by the end of the 1950s he was finished as a professional.
  11. *Shaun Udal – off spinner, captain. A long career, mainly for Hampshire, before moving to Middlesex for his last few years. He did get to play for England but did not fare very well at the highest level.

This team has a decent top four, one good and one great all rounder, a wicket keeper and a bowling foursome that looks pretty good. It is deficient in the spin department – the only back up available for Udal’s off spin is Lloyd’s part time left arm spin.

GEORGE DENNETT’S XI

  1. Joe Vine – right handed batter, leg spinner. The role he played for Sussex for many years, and briefly for England. Sussex in that period were a magnificent batting side, but somewhat light on bowlers, so they never seriously threatened in the county championship – there is a vast mass of evidence to support the contention that if you are going to a little short in either of these departments it is better to be light in batting – good bowlers do not need absolutely huge totals to defend, whereas unless you get lucky with opposition declarations you cannot win games without taking 20 wickets. This is why, when I started this series with a look at the 18 first class counties and restricted myself to one overseas player per county that overseas choice was nearly always a bowler, occasionally an all rounder and almost never a pure batter.
  2. Benjamin Wilson – right handed opening batter. He was Wilfred Rhodes’ most regular Yorkshire opening partner in the years immediately before World War 1. He was sometimes criticized for taking an overly defensive approach to his innings (I have an idea that there was a more recent Yorkshire opener who also got that kind of criticism!).
  3. Xavier Marshall – right handed batter. A man who has played for two international sides – the West Indies where he was born and the USA. X, like Q, calls for a wee bit of flexibility.
  4. Mohammad Yousuf – right handed batter. After a slightly suspect top three we come to someone who averaged over 50 in his test career. He finished under something of a cloud (and I saw every ball of that shocking match in Sydney which he basically handed to Australia after Pakistan had taken a first innings lead of 200). First, with Hussey and tail ender Siddle resuming overnight and Australia only 74 to the good he failed to set attacking fields, and his tactics allowed Australia to reach lunch with no further loss. Then, with Pakistan needing 176, when it should have been under 100, he surrendered his own wicket to an appalling stroke, leaving his side 54-4 and with no experienced front line batters left.
  5. Bas Zuiderent – right handed batter. England’s performance in the 1996 World Cup was one of their most disgraceful ever in any tournament, on-field incompetence being matched by bad behaviour off it (skipper Atherton, who should have been nowhere near a limited overs side in any case,  called one reporter who was having difficulty phrasing a question in what was after all not his first language a buffoon, and there were other cringeworthy stories as well). England reached the quarter finals only because they had been put in a group with two non-test playing nations, Holland and the United Arab Emirates, the only two teams they beat in that competition (justice was done in the quarter-final when they were marmalised by Sri Lanka). The Holland win was decidedly unconving, with Zuiderent, then only 18, and Van Noortwijk plundering a century stand together – it was only Van Noortwijk’s dismissal to a boundary catch that finally put England in control. Zuiderent’s share of the spoils was a merry 54. He did not go on to great things after that start, but his innings that day, which garnered more plaudits than Hick’s century for England had, gets him his place as a middle order batter beginning with Z.
  6. +Tim Ambrose – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He made a century on test debut, but never fully established himself. For Sussex and then Warwickshire he was a consistent run getter in the middle of the order and a superb wicket keeper.
  7. Katherine Brunt – right arm medium fast bowler, right handed batter. She began as a pure bowler, but although not doing so as effectively as Ellyse Perry who also began down the order she has developed her batting to a level that allows her to be described as an all rounder.
  8. Tom Cartwright – right arm medium fast bowler, useful lower order batter. The obverse of Brunt in terms of career development – he started as mainly a batter, and actually scored a first class double century playing as such, before dropping down the order because his bowling was more valuable to the side than his batting. He started with Warwickshire and moved to Somerset. He became so metronomically accurate that it is claimed that at the end of a season at Taunton there would be a worn patch two feet long and six inches wide at one end, where he had been lading the ball time after time through the season. He played a walk-on role (more accurately walk-off) in the D’Oliveira affair – he was initially selected in the 1968-9 tour party to South Africa, while D’Oliveira to general consternation was left out. Cartwright then withdrew citing injury, but as he later admitted, actually because he did not wish to go to South Africa. His replacement was D’Oliveira, mainly a batter, and Balthazar Johannes Vorster, then South African president, proceeded to state that D’Oliveira would not be accepted (attempts had earlier been made to bribe D’Oliveira, as documented by Peter Oborne in his book “Basil D’Oliveira”), and the tour was promptly cancelled. England and South Africa next went head to head in 1994, and a visit by Bradman to South Africa in which he had a face to face meeting with Vorster, and the latter, erroneously feeling safe, gave vent to some unvarnished racism led to the final isolation of apartheid South Africa.
  9. *George Dennett – left arm orthodox spinner. When cricinfo tweeted yesterday asking for people’s suggestions for the best player never to have played test cricket this man was mine. 2,151 wickets at 19.82 each in first class cricket, mainly for Gloucestershire, and never an England call up. This is because when he was in his pomp first Wilfred Rhodes and then Colin Blythe (2,503 first class wickets at 16) were ahead of him in the pecking order of left arm spinners, and Frank Woolley, worth his place as a batter anyway, also bowled left arm orthodox spin. Similarly, when I named my Gloucestershire all-time XI (second post in this series), Charlie Parker, third leading wicket taker in first class history got the left arm spinner’s position, with the off-spin of Tom Goddard (no 5 on the all time first class wicket taking list with 2,979) in support. The mores of his time prevented it from even being a consideration then, but I have named him as captain of this team, a job I think he would have done well.
  10. Fidel Edwards – right arm fast bowler. A genuinely fast bowler for the West Indies, at a time when they as a side were struggling. His tendency to waywardness is partially addressed by the fact that the support pace bowlers, Cartwright and Brunt are both noted for accuracy.
  11. Chuck Fleetwood-Smith – left arm wrist spinner. He was the reason for Denis Compton choosing this most difficult type of bowling when he decided to add a second string to his bow. He was often expensive, but always capable of bowling the wicket taking ball.

This team has a respectable top order, a quality keeper who can bat well in the middle od the order, and five players selected principally for their bowling, although two of them could definitely make significant contributions with the bat. There is not a front line off spinner, but Dennett, Fleetwood-Smith and Vine are a fine and varied trio of spinners, while the presence of Brunt and Cartwright should enable Edwards ton be used in short bursts.

THE CONTEST

Shaun Udal’s XI are somewhat stronger in batting (if only because they bat deeper)  than George Dennett’s XI, but their bowling attack is not as well balanced. I would expect George Dennett’s XI to prevail, and would be absolutely certain that they would do so on a turner, as Udal backed by Lloyd’s part time stuff hardly compares with Dennettt, Fleetwood-Smith and Vine.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem came up on brilliant.org today:

Octagons

The original question has multiple choice answers, but I am not offering that. I will offer you a gentle hint – there are three possible answers to this question. In tomorrow’s post I will include an official solution and an explanation of my own ‘method’.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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TTA V
The teams in tabulated form

All Time XIs – Through The Alphabet

Today’s all time XI cricket post follows a strict alphabetical progression.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on the all-time XI cricket theme. Today each featured player has a surname beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, and each letter is used strictly in sequence, meaning that the second XI ends with a player whose surname begins with V.

RAY ILLINGWORTH’S XI

  1. Bobby Abel – right handed opening batter. 744 test runs at 37.20, an excellent record for his period, over 30,000 first class runs.
  2. Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter. Has fared magnificently as an opener since being given the role for England in 2015.
  3. Belinda Clark – right handed batter. In the 1990s she had the same kind of reputation as a batter that her compatriot Meg Lanning does today. She averaged 45 in test cricket and 47 in ODIs, the latter figure including the first ODI double ton by anyone.
  4. Emrys Davies – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He was usually to be found in this sort of place in the batting order, and played some fine innings from no4.
  5. Ross Edwards – right handed batter. One of the better Aussie batters of the first half of the 1970s (he retired somewhat prematurely at the end of the 1975 series played after the inaugural men’s world cup). In the first match of that series at Edgbaston he was horrifically out of form but ground out a half century in four hours and ten minutes, while others scored quicker (notably Rod Marsh with the top score of 61) at the other end. Rick McCosker and Ian Chappell had also scored 50s, and Thommo down near the extras scored a test best 49 to boost the score to 359. England were then bowled out twice, with skipper Denness, who had won the toss an put Australia in, managing three and eight in his last two test innings. In the second test of that series Australia slumped to 81-7 in response to England’s first innings 315 (Greig 96, Knott 69, Steele 50) and it was that man Edwards, helped by DK Lillee, who dug Australia out of this king sized hole. Edwards made 99, Lillee a test best 73 not out, and in the end England led by just 47, and were unable to force victory.
  6. Andrew Flintoff – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. He took a while to establish himself at the top level before enjoying a couple of magnificent years, and occasionally reviving old memories thereafter.
  7. Jack Gregory – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Injuries took their toll late in his career, but his record confirms his status as a genuine all rounder.
  8. George Hirstright handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. His England record does not look that great, but his play for Yorkshire, over the course of three decades, places him firmly among the greatest of all time.
  9. *Raymond Illingworth – off spinner, right handed batter. In 1970-1, with Australia holding the Ashes, and having done so since winning them in 1958-9, Illingworth captained England to a 2-0 series victory to regain the urn, the first to do so in Australia since Jardine 38 years previously, and only the sixth in all after Bligh in 1882-3, Stoddart in 1894-5, Warner in 1903-4 and Douglas in 1911-2 as well as Jardine. Subsequent to that tour England’s only successes down under have been when Brearley defended the urn in 1978-9, Gatting in 1986-7 defending the urn won back by Gower in 1985 and Strauss in 2010-11, defending the 2009 spoils. He was a quality player in his day as well.
  10. +Eifion Jones – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He made more dismissals than any other Glamorgan keeper, 933 of them (840 caught, 93 stumped) in 405 matches.
  11. Rashid Khan – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Although it is his bowling that has got him in (after four tests he has 23 wickets at 21.08 at that level – a more than promising start – while eight first class matches in total have yielded him 58 wickets at 17.44, and he is not quite 22 years old.

This team has a solid top five, three fine all rounders, a keeper, and two spinners who can both bat. It has no tail to speak of (even Rashid Khan averages 23 in FC cricket), and Gregory and Hirst will make a fine new ball pairing, with Flintoff as back up, while Khan, Illingworth and Davies provide fine spinning options (especially the first two). This team will take a lot of beating.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

First of all, bear in mind my decision to pick players in positions they actually occupied. That means that Abel is virtually indisputable, although Mayank Agarwal will change that if he continues as he has started. Jack Brown of England, Bill Brown of Australia and Sidney George Barnes of Australia were all good options for the letter B, and I could accept any of them. Ian Chappell might have had the no 3 slot. I felt no 4 was a position too high for Basil D’Oliveira, and felt that Davies’ bowling gave him an edge of Joe Darling. No 5 was too low in the order for Bill Edrich (he either opened or batted no 3) or his cousin John (a specialist opener), while none of the other cricketing Edriches had a good enough record. George Emmett of Gloucestershire might have his advocates, although five was lower than he usually batted. Freddie Flintoff had no rivals. Jack Gregory’s slot might have gone to Tony Greig, but I felt that that the Aussie gave me three genuine pace bowlers. Hirst’s place might have gone to Schofield Haigh but I felt that his left arm bowling and superior batting clinched it in his favour. Illingworth’s two main rivals were Jack Iverson and Bert Ironmonger, but both were genuine no11s, so would have been two places too high, and in Ironmonger’s case I already had a left arm spinner in Davies. Some might think that Geraint Jones should have had the keeper’s slot, but his allegedly superior batting (I am not wholly convinced it actually was) does not make up for the fact that he was definitely a tad clumsy behind the stumps. Rashid Khan’s place could have gone to his compatriot the left arm wrist spinner Zahir Khan, while if I had wanted an extra pace bowling option Indian left armer Zaheer Khan could have been selected.

WALTER ROBINS’ XI

  1. Justin Langer – left handed opening batter, averaged 45 in test cricket, with a best of 250 against England at the MCG.
  2. Colin McDonald – right handed opening batter. The 1950s was a slow and low scoring decade, which makes McDonald’s test average of 39, batting at the top of the order particularly impressive. His best series was the 1958-9 Ashes when the he was the most successful batter on either side.
  3. Scott Newman – left handed batter. When he first started it seemed that an England career beckoned, but he never quite kicked on, finishing with a first class average of 38.
  4. Norman O’Neill – right handed batter. A fine stroke making batter for Australia. He averaged 45.55 in test cricket, making his debut in  the 1958-9 Ashes series.
  5. Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner.
  6. +Quinton De Kock – left handed batter, wicket keeper. I could not come up with a cricketer whose surname began with Q who could play as high as no six, so I allowed myself to pick someone whose first name began with Q.
  7. *Walter Robins – leg spinner, right handed batter, captain. A highly successful captain of Middlesex, well regarded by most of those who played under him. He averaged 26.39 with the bat and 23.30 with the ball, scoring 13,884 first class runs and capturing 969 wickets in his 379 games at that level.
  8. George Simpson-Hayward – off spinner (under arm). 23 wickets at 18 in his five test matches, 503 first class wickets at 21.
  9. Charles Turner – right arm medium fast bowler. One of the great bowlers of the early period of test history – took his 100th wicket in his 17th test match. Link two in an Australian chain through test history – Jack Blackham who kept wicket in the first 17 test matches ever played was a team mate of his, he gave Bill O’Reilly (3) some useful advice, who in turn gave Richie Benaud (4) some useful advice, and in his turn he passed on some advice to Shane Warne (5) – it only remains to provide a verifiable link from Warne to a current Aussie player to complete the chain.
  10. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler. 297 test wickets for the Kent maestro. Economical on pitches that did not help him and a destroyer on any surface that did help him.
  11. Vince Van Der Bijl – right arm fast medium bowler. The big South African took 767 wickets at 16.54 in first class cricket (his country were isolated due to apartheid, and he chose not to go down the route of qualifying to play for another country, so he played no official international cricket). Philippe-Henri Ednonds who played alongside Van Der Bijl for Middlesex said in “100 Greatest Bowlers” that Van Der Bijl would likely have had a test record in similar lines to Brian Statham’s had he played at that level.

This side has a powerful top five, an explosive batter/ keeper at six and a well balanced bowling attack. Turner and Van Der Bijl look every inch a quality new ball pair, while Underwood, Simpson-Hayward and Robins offer a fine variety of slower options.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

No other L challenges Langer for the no1 slot. N was also a fairly barren letter, as was O. I did consider selecting Ellyse Perry in place of Kevin Pietersen, while no5 is too low for Graeme Pollock, who batted either at no3 or no4. I covered Q in that entry. I think Robins’ all round skills and captaincy make him a must pick – no 7 is definitely at least a position too high for Andy Roberts the . great fast bowler. Similarly, I felt no 8 was too high in the order for Fred Spofforth, so went for the highly individual skills of Simpson-Hayward. Jeff Thomson’s hell fire pace was an alternative to Turner. Underwood had no rival for the letter U. I could have gone for Chaminda Vaas in place of Van Der Bijl, but considered that the South African’s amazing first class record had to be acknowledged. Including Hedley Verity would have left me with only Turner as a recognized new ball bowler.

THE CONTEST

Robins’ XI has the stronger top batting, but more of a tail. Illingworth’s XI are better equipped in bowling, and they bat deeper, although their top batting is the weaker of the two sides. It is a tough call, but I think that Illingworth’s XI just about has the edge.

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

Marathon

We are told that the runners in first and fourth told the truth and those in second and third lied. C’s statement has to be true, because it being a lie would put C in fourth and that is disallowed by the conditions. Since it is a true statement and C did not finish fourth there is only one place for C to finish, which is first, the other place who told the truth. A’s statement is thus proven true, so A came fourth. B thus lied and therefore finished second, making D the other liar and the third place finisher. Thus C was first and A was fourth, making them three places apart. The cause of the aggro when this problem appeared on brilliant is that two runners finished in between A and C and some therefore believed the answer to be two, but the number of places separating A and C is 4-1 = 3. Brilliant caved to the moaners, giving those who had selected two but explained their reasoning for doing so in the comments credit, and they added an explanatory note to the problem itself. However, having reasoned the problem out as I have explained above and then selected two is actually equivalent to arguing that 4-1 = 2, so I think they should have held firm on that one.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Holly Gillibrand, a young Scottish environmental activist has an article titled “Cry for the Wild” in the Oban Times. Below is a screenshot of the first few paragraphs:

HG

Time for my usual sign off:

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Through the Alphabet
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Mark/Steve vs Alec/Eric

A nod to cricket’s most famous pairs of twins as an XI of Mark/Steves takes on an XI of Alec/Erics. Plus a mathematical teaser.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s all time XI cricket post honours cricket’s two most famous pairs of twins by pitting an XI whose names all feature Mark or Steve, or a variation thereof against an XI whose names all contain either Eric or Alec (or variations thereof).

THE MARK/STEVE XI

  1. Mark Taylor – left handed opening batter. He announced his presence at the highest level by scoring 839 runs in the 1989 Ashes, the most in a series by any Aussie not named Bradman.
  2. Stephen Moore – right handed opening batter. The Johannesburg born Worcestershire man was a little unlucky to miss out on international recognition in the course of his long career. He finished with a first class average of 36.
  3. *Stephen Fleming – left handed batter, captain. Over 7,000 test runs at an average of just over 40 for the Kiwi. The only small question mark is that his conversion rate of 50s into 100s was very poor. I have named as captain in acknowledgement of his skilled handling of a New Zealand outfit that contained few stars.
  4. Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. One of the best batters ever seen, for all the unorthodoxies and unattractiveness of his method.
  5. Steve Waugh – right handed batter, occasional medium pacer. Averaged over 50 in test cricket. He like Taylor really hit the headlines in the 1989 Ashes – he made two unbeaten 150+ scores in the first two matches, and at one stage, immediately before his second dismissal of the series his average for that series stood at 418. His most remarkable performance came later, in a match at Old Trafford in which 21 of the 22 players failed to make a major score between them and he chiselled out twin centuries.
  6. Mark Waugh – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Very different from his twin brother, but also had a marvellous record at the highest level.
  7. +Steven Davies – wicket keeper, left handed batter. At one time he seemed nailed on for a long and distinguished England career, but it did not eventuate. He is a better red ball player than white ball, but the England selectors picked him only in white ball games, and thereby failed to see the best of him.
  8. Greville Stevens – leg spinner, right handed batter. The only player in either team to have been slipped in by use of the surname. It was the only way I could give this side a front line spinning option, and Stevens had a significantly better bowling record than the other option, Vic Marks, with the added benefit that as a leg spinner he combines somewhat better with the next best spin option in the side, Mark Waugh, than Marks. Stevens played before limited overs cricket at the highest level was a thing, so the comparable parts of their records are: Marks six tests, batting average 27.66, bowling average 44.00, 342 first class games, batting average 30.29, bowling average 33.28 and Stevens 10 tests, batting average 15.47, bowling average 32.40, 243 first class games, batting average 29.56, bowling average 26.84. Stephens took 684 first class wickets at a rate 2.80 per game, Marks 859 at 2.52 per game, so on wickets per game Stevens was marginally more effective as well.
  9. Mark Wood – right arm fast bowler. The first of two genuinely fast bowlers to feature in this XI, a current England regular.
  10. Mark Davies – right arm medium fast bowler. He was plagued by injuries, otherwise he would have been an England regular. The 109 first class games he played when not crocked brought him 315 wickets at 22.42 each.
  11. Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. A third successive Durham quick, one who was ranked number one the world in 2004, and also played a starring role in the 2005 Ashes.

This team has a good top six, a keeper who can bat and four fine bowlers. There is a shortage of spin options, but overall it looks a useful side.

NEAR MISSES

Glamorgan fast medium man Steve Watkin and Middlesex quick Steve Finn were close to selection for bowling spots, while two other notable wicket keeping Steves were messrs Rhodes and Marsh (for all that he played test cricket Steve Rixon was not a notable wicket keeper). Mark Butcher was close to a batting slot, but the team was strong in that area. Mark Adair of Ireland may in due course claim his place as an all rounder but he is not there yet. Finally, although he was not close to selection, some might think that Mark Lawson of Yorkshire could have solved the spin bowling issue – the trouble with that being that he paid over 40 runs a piece for his first class wickets.

THE ALEC/ERIC XI

  1. Eric Rowan – right handed opening batter. A fine test record, including what was at the time the highest individual score by a South African, 236, a mark which stood until Graeme Pollock scored his 274 v Australia.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. He averaged 45 for England in this specific role, and the combination of him and the combative Rowan looks like a strong start to the innings.
  3. Alec Bowell – right handed batter. A stalwart for Hampshire in the 1920s, regularly batting in this position.
  4. *Alex Blackwell – right handed batter, captain. A fine batter and captain of the Australian women’s team a few years ago, and not inappropriately for this post, one half of a pair of cricketing twins.
  5. Alexander Webbe – right handed batter, occasional right arm fast bowler. A stylish batter of the 1870s.
  6. Eric Bedser – right handed batter, right arm off spinner.
  7. Alec Kennedy – right arm fast medium, right handed batter. The seventh leading first class wicket taker of all time (2,874 of them), and good enough with the willow to have done the double (1,000 first class runs and 100 wickets in a first class season) eight times in his long career.
  8. Alec Bedser – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter.
  9. +Eric Petrie – wicket keeper. A superb keeper, though a rather limited batter, the Kiwi gets in here because I need Stewart’s batting unencumbered by keeping duties.
  10. Alex Hartley – left arm orthodox spinner. Part of England women’s 2017 World Cup winning squad.
  11. Eric Hollies – leg spinner. Has the biggest negative balance between runs scored in first class cricket and wickets taken (-650 – 1,673 runs, 2,323 wickets) in history. He was the bowler in the most famous commentary moment of them all: “…Bradman bowled Hollies nought…”, which left the Don with 6,996 runs at 99.94 in test cricket.

This team has a decent top six, with Eric Bedser just about rating as an all rounder, a great keeper, and four excellent and well varied front line bowlers. It lacks genuine pace, but Bedser and Kennedy would be a fine new ball pairing, while the spin trio of Hollies, Hartley and Eric Bedser have the great merit as a combination that each does something different (LS, SLA, OS).

THE CONTEST

The Mark/Steve combination definitely looks the stronger, although a discreet hint to the groundsman to prepare a ‘bunsen’ would help to make it more of a contest!

A MATHEMATICAL CHALLENGE

This problem, set today on brilliant.org, has generated a large amount of controversy there due to the interpretation made by some of one part of the question. Click on tghe screenshot below to see it in it’s original setting:

Marathon

On brilliant there is a statement of clarification as a sop to all of those who reasoned it out correctly but then misinterpreted the final part of the question, and there are multiple choice answers available. I think making it multi-choice makes it too easy, and I want to see if any of my readers make the mistake quite a number of solvers on brilliant apparently did – explanation tomorrow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just  a few photographs today = the weather took an unpleasant turn yesterday afternoon and is only now showing signs of becoming pleasant again.

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MS v AE
The gteams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – STEM Challenge

Today’s all time XI cricket post features two teams assembled to fight out a STEM challenge.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my all time XI cricket series. Today the focus is on cricketers whose names link to STEM subjects.

MATHEMATICAL XI

  1. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. As I have previously mentioned he averaged 45 for England in this specific role. Undoubtedly his greatest moment as opener came at Barbados in 1994. England had just lost the Trinidad test match, collapsing to 46 all out in pursuit of a target of 194, and nobody had beaten the West Indies at Barbados since 1935. Stewart responded to the challenge with 143 and 118, and England duly won the match.His analogue is Ian Stewart, author of a number of excellent books about mathematics.
  2. Bobby Abel – right handed opening batter. The first ever to carry his bat through an England innings, and holds the record for carrying his bat through the largest first class innings (Surrey 811 all out v Somerset, Abel 357 not out). His alter ego for this purpose is Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel.
  3. Carole Hodges – right handed batter, off spinner. A fine all rounder whose regular batting position this was. Her alter ego is Andrew Hodges, author of a book titled ‘One to Nine’.
  4. Stan McCabe – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. An Aussie legend of the 1930s, author of three of the greatest test innings ever played – 187 at Sydney in the first match of the 1932-3 Ashes, 189 not out vs South Africa facing a target of over 400, and playing so brilliantly that the SA captain appealed against the light, and 232 not out at Trent Bridge in 1938, when Bradman called his team out on to the balcony on the grounds that they would probably never see anything like this again. George McCabe did some work on the mathematics of lottery wins.
  5. Harry Graham – right handed batter. A century on test debut at Lords, a feat no repeated at that ground until John Hampshire in 1969. His alter ego is Ronald Graham, he worked out Graham’s number, which is so huge that it could never be written out in full. More about this number and its significance here.
  6. *George Frederick Grace – the youngest Grace of WG’s generation, he was one of the leading all rounders of the 1870s. A freak illness killed him at the age of 29. I have given him his full name to set the stage for the explanation of an admittedly tenuous piece of linking. His middle name of Frederick is the English version of Friedrich and his surname begins with a G, which is just enough, given who I am linking to to give a nod to Carl Friedrich Gauss, one of the greatest of all mathematicians. Gauss showed his brilliance as a child, when his teacher set the class to add up all the numbers from 1 to 100. The teacher was expecting a long break while the students worked on this task, but Gauss realized that the problem could be viewed as 50 pairs of numbers which summed to 101, in otherwords 50 x 101 = 5,050, and was finished very quickly. Later in his life Gauss correctly calculated the orbit of Ceres and told astronomers where they needed to look with their telescopes to see it again.
  7. +Mark Wallace – wicket keeper, left handed batter. A very fine player for Glamorgan who never quite managed to attract the attention of the England selectors. His alter ego is David Foster Wallace, author of a biography of Georg  Cantor.
  8. Graham Napier – right arm medium pace bowler, right handed batter. He was better at limited overs cricket than long form, but he did once hit 17 sixes in a first class innings against Surrey. His analogue is John Napier, pioneer of logarithms.
  9. Jack Newman – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter. He abd Alec Kennedy carried the Hampshire bowling load together for many years. He is in here as analogue to James Newman who edited a book called ‘World of Mathematics‘.
  10. Srinivas Venkataraghavan – off spinner. One of the great Indian spin quartet of the 1970s, and later a fine umpire. His analogue is Srinivasa Ramanujan, a great Indian mathematician of the early 20th century.
  11. Sophie Ecclestone – left arm orthodox spinner. The women these days play very little test cricket, but she has had considerable success in the shorter forms, especially given how young she still is. She is here because she shares a first name with Sophie Germain, a great French mathematician who has a class of prime numbers named in her honour. A Sophie Germain prime is a prime number which when you double it and add one gives another prime. There are Sophie Germain prime sequences, where each number obtained by this process is a prime – one well known example goes 89, 179, 359, 719 and 1439 – 2,879 is not itself a Sophie Germain prime because 5759 is equal to 443 x 13.

This team has a good top five, an all rounder at six, a keeper who can bat, and four varied bowlers. There is a lack of genuine pace, but otherwise the bowling looks respectable.

 AN HONOURABLE MENTION

I could also have got the Sophie Germain reference in by picking New Zealand pace bowling all rounder Sophie Devine. I reckoned that selecting the spinner made for a more balanced team.

THE SCIENCES XI

  1. Alan Jones – right handed opening batter, more first class runs than anyone else who never played test cricket. His analogue is evolutionary biologist Steve Jones.
  2. Mike Norman – right handed opening batter. Had a long career with first Northamptonshire and then Leciestershire. He owes his place here to David Norman, author of several paleontology books. He has a subversive streak, and carried out a thought experiment in evolution based on the dinosaurs not going extinct, arriving at the conclusion that one particular lineage of dinosaurs might have arrived at a large brained biped 40 million years ago.
  3. Kepler Wessels – left handed batter. The only player to have scored over 1,000 runs for each of two different countries. His scientific namesake is the one and only Johannes Kepler.
  4. Arthur Ridley – right handed batter, occasional fast bowler. He shared the largest partnership of the 1878 match between MCC and Australia, 22 with AN Monkey Hornby. At 27-2 in the MCC first innings Frederick Robert Spofforth was called up for a bowl, and took 6-4, causing the last eight wickets to crash for six runs. In the second innings after Australia had eked out a lead of eight Spofforth and Boyle opened, Spofforth taking 4-16 and Boyle 6-3, as MCC crashed for 19, making 18 wickets for 25 runs. He has two namesakes from the world of biology, Matthew and Mark Ridley.
  5. *Jack Mason – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler., captain. A fine record which would have been greater still had he not retired to concentrate on his career as a solicitor at the age of 28. Stephen Mason is the author of “A History of Science.”
  6. +John Hubble – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Kept for Kent between Frederick Huish and Les Ames. His namesake is the legendary Edwin Powell Hubble.
  7. Alonzo Drake – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. A remarkable career, ended by World War 1 – in the last two months of his professional career he collected 85 wickets in first class matches and played some crucial innings. His namesake is Frank Drake, creator the Drake Equation, which may ultimately enable the calculation of the likelihood of extraterrestrial civilisations (at the moment the error bars on many of the terms are simply too large for it to of any real value).
  8. Jack Gregory – right arm fast bowler, left handed batter. In first class cricket he averaged 36 with the bat and 20.99 with the ball, while in test cricket he paid 30 per wicket. He formed one half of test cricket’s first great fast bowling partnership, with Ted McDonald. Skipper Warwick Armstrong deployed them with such ruthlessness that Australia won eight straight matches in 1920 and 1921, before a combination of Phil Mead’s batting and some inclement English weather allowed the last two matches of that series to be drawn.His namesake is Andrew Gregory, author of “Eureka! the birth of science”, a title inspired by the great Archimedes of Syracuse.
  9. Harry Boyle – right arm medium pace bowler. Yes, the self same Boyle who combined with Spofforth to dismiss MCC for 19 on that famous day in 1878. His namesake is Robert Boyle, famous for Boyle’s law.
  10. Ken Higgs – right arm fast medium bowler. A successful bowler for first Lancashire and then Leciestershire, including playing for England at one point  He gets in here as namFesake to Peter Higgs, of Higgs boson fame (incidentally the word boson for that class of particles derives from Indian scientist Satyendra Bose).
  11. Bhagwath Chandrasekhar – leg spinner. Among bowlers who never played county championship cricket only Clarrie Grimmett, also a leg spinner, took more first class wickets. His namesake is Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, after whom the Chandrasekhar limit (the most mass a white dwarf can have before gravity causes to collapse an form a neutron star) is named.

This side has a respectable top order, genuine all rounders in Hubble, Drake and Gregory and three varied bowlers. Higgs, Gregory, Boyle, Chandrasekhar and Drake looks a good and well balanced bowling unit.

AN HONOURABLE MENTION

Folk whose vision is particular strong in the green and gold regions of the spectrum will be aware of Jim Higgs, a fine leg spinner of the 1970s, and a candidate for Peter Higgs’ namesake. I felt that with one leg spinner and absolutely blown in the glass no 11 already inked in for selection that fast medium bowler Ken was a better pick in terms of balance.

THE CONTEST

This should be a good contest – the general science XI has a slightly better balance to it, and in Jack Gregory the only serious pace available to either side, but the mathematical team is definitely stronger in batting. Also, the fact that Hodges (especially) and McCabe among the the mathematical team’s top batters are genuine bowling options partially makes up for their lack of pace, and at least with Venkataraghavan, Ecclestone and Hodges bowling varieties of spin it is not all going to be workaday medium pace.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced my two teams for today’s STEM contest, but before I sign off, Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has being running a ‘mythbuster‘ series of posts on his blog, and his latest such takes on the ‘National Debt‘. Now we have reached time for my usual sign off…

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STEM
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Graeme v John

Today’s voyage through ‘all time XI’ cricket territory features a team of players with forename Graham or Graeme take on a feature of players with forename John for the ‘Bretton Trophy’.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s exploration of ‘all time XI‘ cricket territory focusses on forenames. An XI all of whom have the forename Graeme or Graham take on an XI who all have the forename John.

THE GRAEME/GRAHAM XI

  1. Graeme Fowler – left handed opening batter, occasional medium pace bowler, occasional wicket keeper. His highest first class score came in a test match, 201 vs India in India. His most remarkable first class batting performance came against Lancashire at Southport in1982. He made 128 in the first innings and 126 not out in the second, as Lancashire, after seeing their opponents make 523-4 declared on the first day won by ten wickets. Fowler was injured early in his first innings, and batted for the rest of that innings with David Lloyd as his runner. In the second innings Ian Folley took over as runner, while Lloyd reverted to his main role as opening partner to Fowler. At the end of this match Fowler had eight first class hundreds to his credit and four of them had come at the expense of Warwickshire. He was dropped by England at the start of the 1985 season to make way for Gooch, returning from his three year international ban for going on the first rebel tour of apartheid South Africa. Then, with England winning the Ashes in 1985 the incumbents Gooch and Tim Robinson who had made a remarkable start to his test career were selected for the trip to the West Indies, with Wilf Slack of Middlesex chosen as reserve opener and Fowler ignored. Robinson failed badly on that tour, but there was to be no international return for Fowler.
  2. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer. He was a little fortunate to be brought straight back into the team after his ban for going to South Africa, and he then missed the 1986-7 Ashes, when Chris Broad and Bill Athey opened for England. He had a good series against the West Indies in 1988, but then some crass comments of his played their own role in the cancellation of the planned 1988-9 tour to India, and in 1989 against Australia he fared poorly, at one point in the series actually asking to be dropped. The 1989-90 tour of the Caribbean saw England fare respectably, winning one test and being denied victory in another only by scandalous time wasting tactics. However, it was the 1990 home season against New Zealand and India that saw Gooch, then 37 years of age, really come to the fore as an international batter. At Headingley in 1991 he played one of the finest of all test innings, and as late as 1994 at the age of 41 he hit a double century against New Zealand, but the Ashes tour of that winter was as he would subsequently admit a tour too far, and his test career ended with 8.900 runs at 42.38.
  3. Graeme Smith – left handed batter. An unattractive player to watch but his record speaks for itself.
  4. Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. He averaged 60.97 in test cricket before his country’s isolation for political reasons ended his career. He was due to play in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, but fears of that being used as a stalking horse for the readmission of apartheid South Africa led to a ruling that only South Africans who played county cricket could participate. Besides Pollock a leg spinner named Denys Hobson missed out because he too was not a county cricketer.
  5. Graham Thorpe – left handed batter, occasional medium pace bowler. He made his debut in the Trent Brisge test of 1993, scoring 114 in the second innings, but not getting to savour a victory first time out as skipper Gooch delayed the declaration too long and Australia had no great difficulty securing a draw. His England career ended in 2005, when the selectors decided to go with Pietersen and Ian Bell for that year’s Ashes (for my money they made two mistakes in the early part of that season – Pietersen should have played in the tests against Bangladesh at the start of it, and Bell should have been left out – he fared well against Bangladesh but was unconvincing against Australia.
  6. Graham Dowling – right handed batter. He averaged 31 in test cricket for New Zealand, similar to the average recorded by Graeme Hick for England. The highlight of his test career was an innings of 239.
  7. +Graham Kersey – wicket keeper, right handed batter. His death following a  car accident at the age of 25 ended a career that had shown huge promise – in 59 matches at first class level he made 193 dismissals (181 catches and 12 stumpings) and had produced a few significant batting performances as well.
  8. *Graeme Swann – off spinner, useful lower order bat. England’s best off spinner of my life time.
  9. Graham McKenzie – right arm fast medium bowler. At the end of his career he had the most wickets ever by an Australian pace bowler (246), though he was overhauled by Dennis Lillee not many years later. On an Old Trafford pitch in 1964 which yielded 1,271 runs for 18 wickets over five days he had bowling figures of 7-153 in England’s 611.
  10. Graham Dilley – right arm fast medium bowler. His career was ravaged by injuries, and he also suffered from the sometimes bizarre approach of England selectors in those days. His test career ended when he signed up for what turned out to be the last of the rebel tours of apartheid South Africa in 1989, and he took his wickets at the highest level at only just under 30, while at first class level he paid 26 a time. It was him joining Botham, with the score reading 135-7 in the England second innings and 92 still needed to avoid the innings defeat that started the incredible turnaround at Headingley in 1981 – he contributed 56 to a stand of 117 in 80 minutes, which inspired Old to contribute a further 29 to a stand of 67, and finally Willis resisted gamely will Botham continued to lash out. In the final innings Dilley showed a cool head and excellent judgement to remain within the fine leg boundary while catching Rod Marsh’s skied hook, a moment that left Australia 74-7. Had Dilley misjudged and slipped over the rope it would have been 80-6 instead.
  11. Graham Onions – he was first noted because of his combination with his county wicket keeper, Phil Mustard, which led to a significant number of C Mustard B Onions entries on scoresheetts. While never a star at the very highest level he did not ever let England down either. He himself would not quarrel with his position at no11, but would justly point out that he did help to save two successive test matches withe bat.

This team is strong in batting, has an excellent wicket keeper, but the bowling attack is neither absolutely top line nor fully balanced. Still they would not be pushovers for anyone.

THE JOHN/JACK XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. ‘The Master’ is a fine start to any batting order.
  2. Jack Robertson – right handed opening batter. His 11 test appearances between 1946 and 1951 saw him average 46 at that level. Bizarrely he was not chosen for either the 1946-7 or the 1950-1 Ashes tours, even though one of England’s chief weaknesses on both tours concerned the top of the order.
  3. Johnny Tyldesley – right handed batter. His test highlight was 138 at Edgbaston in 1902. He was a regular part of the Lancashire line up from 1895 until the outbreak of World War I and made further sporadic appearances over the course of four years after that war ended. He was once involved in a famous exchange with Lancashire opener and captain Archie MacLaren. The pair of them were batting against Frank Laver who discovered a way to bowl a really vicious late swinger, and they initially played him with great caution. After a few overs MacLaren summoned Tyldesley for a mdiwicket conference. MacLaren said “Johnny, I’m going to drive this chap Laver” to which Tyldesley responded “You’ll of course do as you think best, Mr MacLaren, but I am going to cut him.”
  4. John Small – Right handed batter. He was one of the greats of Hambledon. He once batted through an innings lasting three whole days of play. He was also indirectly responsible for a major change to the game – on one occasion Edward ‘Lumpy’ Stevcns, rated no2 to David Harris among bowlers of that era beat him three times in an innings with balls the passed between the wicket, which at that time comprised two stumps and a single crosspiece linking them. Stevens’ misfortune was noted, and the arrangement of three stumps set sufficiently close together that a ball could not pass through with two bails on top was introduced. Since then top level matches have not seen any repeats of Stevens’ misfortune, but one HS Dawe of Thistleton took all of his opponents wickets but had his analysis slightly spoiled by two deliveries passing between the stumps. What happened? The umpires had used an old (and as it transpired) swollen ball to measure the distance between the stumps!
  5. John Richard Reid – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. One of New Zealand’s greatest ever.
  6. *Johnny Douglas – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. His initials, JWHT (for John William Henry Tyler), and his approach to batting saw Aussie spectators dub him “Johnny Won’t Hit Today”, with a few even suggesting that “Johnny Won’t Even Hit Tomorrow”. He was an effective user of the new ball, although giving it to himself in preference to SF Barnes in the first test of the 1911-2 Ashes was misconceived – a fact which Douglas eventually acknowledged, and he restored the new ball to Barnes for the rest of the series, which England won 4-1. He was sometimes temperamental in the field. On one occasion the Essex slips were being more than usually generous towards opposition batters, and eventually second slip muffed one sitter too many, and turning to chase the ball he found himself being overtaken by his skipper, who was shouting “don’t worry, I’ll fetch the bl***y thing myself.”
  7. +John Murray – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Eratosthenes, Librarian of Akexandria at a time when that was THE plum academic posting was once dubbed ‘Beta’ by a rival, after the second letter of the Greek alphabet on the grounds the he was “second best in the world at everything.” In a sense, Murray was the ‘Beta’ of wicket keepers  – second to Bob Taylor in career dismissals, and the second of only two (the other being Les Ames who achieved the feat three times) to manage the wicket keeper’s season double of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals.
  8. John Emburey – off spinner, useful unorthodox lower order batter.  He was in his prime in an era that was not friendly to any kind of spin bowling, and was often required by his captains to bowl in a purely defensive capacity, keeping things tight while the quicker bowlers got thier breath back. This means that his record looks very ordinary by comparison with many of his forebears among conventional off spinners, but until the 1992-3 tour of India when he encountered batters who regularly dealt with quality spinners even in club cricket and was simply not allowed to bowl in his preferred style he was rarely collared. He visited Australia twice, in 1978-9 and 1986-7, and England won both series quite comfortably (the 1986-7 scoreline looks close, but England;s loss was in the final match of the series, when they took on a run chase that they would have eschewed had the series been live.
  9. Jack Walsh – left arm wrist spinner. An excellent counter part to the very orthodox off spin fo Emburey, the Leicestershire based Aussie was a huge spinner of the ball, regular taking huge bags of wickets in the county championship.
  10. John Wisden – right arm fast bowler. I opted for him in preference to that other Sussex speedster John Snow. His most famous bowling performance was all ten wickets in an innings, all clean bowled. On a tour of North America he once took six wickets with successive balls in a two day match.
  11. Jack Ferris – left arm medium fast bowler. One of the finest of Australia’s early bowlers.

This team has a fine top four, two genuine all rounders, a splendid keeper and four excellent and varied bowlers, three of whom could make useful contributions with the bat.

THE CONTEST

The contest for what I shall dub the ‘Bretton Trophy’ (from Charlotte Bronte’sVillette“, honouring the character John Graham Bretton, who we meet first as ‘Graham’ and then as ‘Dr John’) should be a good one. The Graene/Graham team are stronger in batting, but as against that the John/Jack (and all my chosen Jacks were actually registered as John at birth, but later referred to as Jack) team have greater strength, depth and variety in bowling, and therefore I would expect them to emerge victorious in the end.

A CRICKET VIDEO

My thanks to the pinch hitter for putting me on to video footage of Murali’s destruction of England at The Oval in 1998:

POLITICAL UPDATE

The Cummings/ Johnson scandal continues to rumble on, with the number of Tory MPs now being openly critical of Cummings into the 60s. Durham Police have confirmed what most of us already knew, namely that Cummings’ activities did constitute a breach of lockdown. My second message to my own MP, former Johnson advisor James Wild, remains, as does the first, unresponded to. If this is still the case come tomorrow morning then a third message from me will be hitting his inbox. This has gone beyond the political scandal it has been since Cummings’ activities were revealed and is now a public health scandal, as in spite of such being necessary to anyone with eyes to see, no government with Cummings still involved can claim the moral authority to enforce a lockdown. I recognize that I am fortunate in two regards, in that my home small as it is is all mine – it is not shared with anyone, and it does have a small garden, which means that although it is still two weeks before my shielding period expires I am at least able to get out in the open air, but it is still thoroughly annoying to see senior Tories effectively declaring that normal rules do not apply to them and their mates, while I have not been further afield than my little bit of garden since mid March.

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

Yesterday’s post included the following from brilliant.org:

The blue area is three quarters of a square, which thus has area (48 x 4)/3 = 64. The orange area has area 64 less the overlapping portion of the green square. The green square has dimensions precisely half that of the blue and orange squares, i.e 4X4, making its area 16, and the overlap is one quarter of that = 4, so the orange region has a total area of 64 -4 = 60.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Having introduced today’s teams and explained the contest, produced a quick update on the political situation and solved yesterday’s teaser it is time for my usual sign off:

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Graeme v John
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Good vs Bad

Today we have a topical battle between good and bad as the Ardern XI, containing some of the more prominent good folk of cricket, takes on the Cummings XI featuring 11 from the dark side of cricket.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s variation on the all-time XI maintains the link with the scandal convulsing British politics at the moment, as a team of cricket’s more prominent good people, named in honour of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern takes on a team drawn from the dark side of cricket, which as punishment for their collective misdeeds bears the name of the 21st century Rasputin.

THE CUMMINGS XI

  1. David Warner – left handed opening batter. One of the two members of the sandpaper trio to be included in this team (the third of this particular unholy trinity, Cameron Bancroft, is not a good enough player to merit selection, so must make do with this dishonourable mention). He was prepared to appeal against his punishment, so lacking in genuine repentance was he, but when both of his two partners in crime held their hands up even he recognized the hopelessness of his position.
  2. Salman Butt – right handed opening batter. Captain of Pakistan at the time of the 2010 spot fixing scandal, and one of those in the pay of illegal bookmakers (during the previous Australian season, when I was in that country, he was involved in some odd happenings that in view of his later fall from grace look highly suspicious, such). His two partners in crime, the bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir miss out on places, as he serves for all three (Amir at least pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and accepted his punishment, and is now back playing, whereas the other two both failed to show repentance).
  3. Mohammad Yousuf – right handed batter. He was captain of Pakistan when they took Australia on at Sydney in 2010. Australia sank for 124 in the first innings, Pakistan led by 200 on first dig, and Australia at the end of the third day were 274-8 in their second innings, Huseey an unconvincing 79 not out and Siddle new to the crease. The following morning Yousuf failed to attack either Hussey or Siddle, and they batted through to lunch without either of their wickets being threatened. As a result of this, instead of having under 100 to chase, Pakistan ended up needing 176, and with Yousuf compounding his felonies by getting out to a dreadful shot to make the score 57-4 they ended up losing. The subsequent abrupt end to Yousuf’s international career suggests that his failings that allowed Australia back into that match had more about them than met the eye.
  4. *Hansie Cronje – right handed batter, occasional medium pace bowler, captain, criminal and hypocrite. Not only did this man not merely accept but solicit money from illegal bookies, he drew at least two of his most vulnerable team mates (Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams) into his web of corruption. When there was no longer any way of denying his guilt he finally confessed, and was banned from cricket for life. Subsequently he died in a flying accident, and some of his compatriots have made attempts to rehabilitate his reputation, but no one outside South Africa is buying it.
  5. *Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner, captain. The captain of the sandpaper trio, and very lucky indeed as such not to have been banned for life.
  6. Shahid Afridi – right handed batter, leg spinner. HIs various misdeeds include an incident in which he was caught on camera biting the ball.
  7. +Kamran Akmal – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He was regarded as a fine batter, but an unreliable wicket keeper, until it emerged that not all of his droped catches had been accidental, and his international career came to a very sudden end.
  8. Roy Gilchrist – right arm fast bowler. His indelible entry in the hall of shame came in a Central Lancashire League game between Crompton and Radcliffe. Marsh of Radclifffe had been involved as fielder in an incident that aroused Gilchrist’s ire, and when Marsh walked out to open the Radcliffe batting, Gilchrist opening the bowling began with a bouncer, followed by a beamer, and then completed his little performance by charging through the bowling crease and hurling the thing at Marsh from about 16 yards. At that point Marsh and his partner took matters into their own hands and walked off. Both Crompton and Gilchrist copped severe punishments.
  9. Sylvester Clarke – right arm fast bowler. There were no major incidents like the Gilchrist one above, just a pattern of vicious aggression as a bowler that saw him established as comfortably the most disliked county pace bowler of the 1980s.
  10. Leslie Hylton – right arm fast bowler. The only test cricket ever to be hanged for murder (just for the record I am deeply opposed to the death penalty). His victim was his wife Lurlene who had been having an affair with a notorious lothario and wanted to leave him. There were those who reckoned that Hylton killed the lothario he would probably have been acquitted, suchwas the man’s reputation. As it was he shot his wife, and came with a defence that has hints of ‘Classic Dom’ about it – he claimed he had been trying to shoot himself rather than her. Among the holes in this were problems with just how anyone could be that inaccurate, and the fact that some point in proceedings he had reloaded the gun. The jury took 40 minutes to arrive at their guilty verdict.
  11. Jack Crossland – right arm fast. The Lancashire quick was such a chucker that England always refused to select him for that very reason. He was eventually no-balled out of the game.

This team lacks a bit of balance with four fast bowlers and only Afridi as genuine spin option, but otherwise it is perfectly functional.

THE ARDERN XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium. A great cricketer and by all reports a fine human being as well.
  2. Victor Trumper – right handed opening batter. There are countless stories of his goodness. Once on a tour of England Trumper spotted an urchin selling sheet music on the street on a cold wet evening, bought his entire stock, and soon as he was out of sight, binned it. On another occasion a wannabe batmaker asked Trumper to use his product, a misshapen club at least a pound heavier than Trumper’s preferred bats. Trumper used it, scored 80-odd, and returned signed and with a hearty endorsement to the young hopeful.
  3. *Frank Worrell – right handed batter, left arm medium fast bowler, occasional left arm spinner, captain. In the words of CLR James “He was a happy man, a good man and a great man.”
  4. Sachin Tendulkar – right handed batter. In the 1996 World Cup, when he could have secured sponsorships from absolutely everybody he made a point of refusing to accept money from purveyors of booze or cigarettes. Subsequently he has used the great wealth he acquired from cricket to assist the less well off in his native Mumbai.
  5. Ellyse Perry – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. She is regarded pretty much as highly for how she conducts her life as for how she plays the game.
  6. Learie Constantine – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. CLR James again “He revolted against the revolting contrast between his first class status as a cricketer and his third class status as a human being”. His civil and human rights work after his cricket days were done earned him a knighthood and ultimately the title of Baron Constantine of Maraval and Nelson.
  7. +Sarah Taylor – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Her bravery in speaking out about her own mental health issues and encouraging others to do likewise gets her in here.
  8. Tom Cartwright – right arm medium fast bowler, useful lower order batter. He actually began his career as a batter, before concentrating his attention on bowling. His withdrawal from the 1968-9 tour party to South Africa virtually obliged the MCC to name Basil D’Oliveira as his replacement, which forced Balthazar Johannes Vorster, the racist thug who ran South Africa at the time, to tip his hand. Vorster stated publicly what he had already privately told certain English high-ups, that D’Oliveira would not be accepted, and that was the end of the tour,  and the beginning of the process that led to South Africa’s sporting isolation, and contributed to the downfall of Apartheid. Various people tried various underhanded methods to get apartheid South Africa back into the international fold, but it took the release of Nelson Mandela and subsequent dismantling of apartheid to end their isolation.
  9. Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner. Captain Verity of the Green Howards was leading his men towards a strategically important farmhouse on the island of Sicily in 1943 when he was hit by a shell. His last words were “Keep going, keep going”.
  10. Radha Yadav – left arm orthodox spinner. 49 international wickets, all in T20s, at 16 each, and she has only just turned 20, and is clearly still improving. When she got her central contract to play for the Indian Women the first thing she did with the money that came with it was buy a proper shop for her father, who had earned a small living as a street vendor.
  11. Glenn McGrath – right arm fast medium bowler. A good few English batters of the 1990s and early 2000s will wonder how he can qualify for this team, but his work with the Jane McGrath foundation, which he established in honour of his first wife who died of breast cancer at the age of just 42 gets him in.

This team has a good batting line up, and a well varied bowling line up. Although Verity and Radha Yadav both bowl left arm spin Verity was quicker than most bowlers of that type, and except on rain affected pitches not a huge turner – variations of flight and pace were his main weapons.

HONOURABLE AND
DISHONOURABLE MENTIONS

Everyone will have their own ideas about inclusions and exclusions from these squads. Conrad Hunte might had an opening berth in the Ardern XI but for me he cannot quite dislodge Hobbs or Trumper. Mohammad Azharruddin and Saleem Malik were probably the most prominent batters to escape the Cummings XI, while Charlie Griffith and Colin Croft might have had places as fast bowlers. Obviously there have been spinners with dodgy bowling actions, but the worst offender, Tony Lock, was genuinely horrified when he saw video footage of his own bowling on the 1958-9 tour and promptly remodelled his action, going on to bowl with distinction for Leicestershire and Western Australia. Most of the stories that exist of spinners misdemeanours do not suggest true villainy. Also just for clarification I do not regard ‘Mankadding’ as in any way an offence – if you seek to gain advantage by leaving your ground at the non-strikers end early and the bowler runs you out, well don to them, so I never even considered Vinoo Mankad. Finally, there have been plenty of wicket keepers whose over-enthusiasm for appealing has led to dodgy incidents, but I am disinclined to be over harsh on that sort of thing.

THE CONTEST

I think that the Ardern XI would see justice done by winning this one – especially if the groundstaff were discreetly advised to prepare turners for Hedley Verity and Radha Yadav to exploit. Given some of the players in the Cummings XI, I suggest Dickie Bird and Frank Chester as on field umpires, Aleem Dar as TV Replay umpire, Clive Lloyd as match referee.

ON THE SCANDAL

At the most recent count that I have seen, which dates from last night, has almost certainly increased since then the number of Tory MPs to have publicly stated that Cummings needs to go has gone into the forties:

MPs turning on Cummings

Shrewd observers will note that the name of Northwest Norfolk MP James Wild is not on that list. I have as yet have no response to my email to my him on Monday (automated ones do not count), and this morning I got on to him again:

Thomas Sutcliffe
21 Columbia Way
King’s Lynn
Norfolk
PE30 2LA

Email: thomasavsutcliffe@gmail.com

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Dear James Wild,

I wrote you on Monday morning about the Dominic Cummings scandal. So far other than the automated acknowledgement one always gets for such things I have yet to receive a response from you. Meanwhile the scandal has deepened and extended to become the Cummings/ Johnson scandal. Cummings’ public appearance in the rose garden at Downing Street exacerbated an already bad situation as he failed to show any remorse for his conduct or any understanding of why people were angry, and the story he hold in a pathetic attempt to justify his conduct had more holes in it than my colander. Then came Johnson’s follow up in which he refused to answer questions about Cummings. Then yesterday there was ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ which was again marked by the arrogance and lack of understanding that has been the feature of all official Tory responses to the situation.

Cummings’ position is completely untenable, and by supporting him so unequivocally Johnson has put his own position in great jeopardy. Over 40 of your Conservative colleagues have publicly stated that Cummings must go, and one minister at least has resigned in protest at the government’s handling of this situation. It is way past time for you, who used to be one of Johnson’s advisors, to stand up and be counted, and make it clear to Johnson that continuing to ignore the public is entirely unacceptable and that at barest minimum Cummings must be fired (at this stage allowing him to resign would no longer be acceptable).

Many people in tougher situations than that experienced by Cummings managed to adhere to the lockdown in full and without caveats.

While ever Cummings remains in post the government has no moral authority to impose lockdown measures, though I believe that such are still necessary.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Sutcliffe

A MEASURE OF MATHEMATICS

I have a solution and another problem for you. In yesterday’s piece I included the following:

There are only to ways to split eight tiles such that each of three people have different numbers of tiles and all eight are used: 4,3,1 and 5,2,1. 11 cannot be reached with one tile, so Kaitlin has at least two tiles, but she has also said that she does not have the greatest number, so she has no more than three. Kaitlin’s tiles have sum 11 and a product divisible by three, which means that they must include either the six or the three. A little bit of experimenting leads to the conclusion that the only way to meet all the criteria is if Kaitlin had 6,4 and 1, Kevin just has the 8 and Conor the remaining four tiles, 2,3,5 and 7. We are looking for the sum of Conor’s tiles and that comes to 17.

Today’s problem is this:

Orange

Solution as usual in a later blog post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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A bug put in appearance while I was reading this yesterday afternoon (John Gribbin’s “The Reason Why”).

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Good v Evil
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – The BS Clash

Today in ‘all time XI’ territory cricket and politics overlap as a team of players whose surnames begin with B take on a team of players whose surnames begin with S for the Johnson-Cummings trophy. Also a few extras.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome the latest in my series of variations on an ‘all-time XI‘ cricket theme. Today’s takes its inspiration from recent developments in British politics.

THE BRIEF

The Johnson-Cummings scandal now has more legs than a millipede, as both leading figures in it provided media appearances which managed to conflict with both the truth and each other. One government minister has already resigned in protest, and others may well follow. Today’s variation on an all-time XI theme therefore sees a team og players whose surnames begin with B pitted against a team of players whose surnames begin with S, combining to form BS, competing for the Johnson-Cummings Trophy.

THE B XI

  1. Sidney Barnes – right handed opening batter. A combination of World War II and conflicts with various authority figures limited his test career, but the few matches he did get to play yielded an average of 63.05 at that level. His most famous match was at Sydney in the second match of the 1946-7 Ashes when he and Don Bradman each scored 234, sharing a 5th wicket stand of 405.
  2. Bill Brown – right handed opening batter. Had a fine record at the highest level, with a test best of 206. He was briefly before his death the oldest living test cricketer.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter, captain. The greatest batter the game ever saw.
  4. Ken Barrington – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Averaged 58.67 in test cricket. His first nine test centuries were all scored away from home, his first three figure test innings in England being the 256 he made at Old Trafford in 1964 to save that match for England after Bob Simpson, given a plumb pitch on which to take on the task of ensuring at least a draw to guarantee his side retention of the Ashes managed to do so quite literally off his own bat, making 311 in just over two full days at the crease.
  5. Basil Butcher – right handed batter. He averaged 43 in test cricket with a highest score at that level of 209. However, his greatest and most important test knock came at Lords in 1963, when his 133 with the West Indies otherwise doing very little with the bat in their second innings helped save the match for the visitors. A great spell of fast bowling by Wes Hall almost won it for the West Indies, but Colin Cowdrey came out to bat one handed when the ninth England wicket fell, and David Allen survived the last two balls with England needing six for victory.
  6. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler, ace slipper. The designated all rounder in this side, although in truth the 6.7 and 8 slots could be moved around without difficulty.
  7. +Ben Brown – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The Sussex stumper has a first class batting average of 40 (he has never had the opportunity to play at the top level, and by now is too old for such to be a realistic prospect) and is a highly regarded keeper.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. He played 15 tests in the 1880s, averaging 27 with the bat and 16 with the ball. His greatest highlight came at Melbourne in 1882-3 (as part of Ivo Bligh’s mission to regain ‘The Ashes of English Cricket’, following the defeat at The Oval in 1882 and Regunald Shirley Brooks’ mock obituary in The Sporting Times) when he took 7-28 including the firt hat trick by an English bowler at test level, scored 55 and then took 7-74 to give England an innings win.
  9. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. The greatest there has ever been in this department, 189 wickets in just 27 test matches at 16.43 each.
  10. Bishan Bedi – left arm orthodox spinner. The former Indian skipper had a splendid test record and also did well for Northamptonshire as an overseas player.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. The best genuine quick bowler his country has ever produced (they have not been overstocked in that department down the years), a rare visiting fast bowler who managed to rattle the Aussies in their own backyard.

This team features a very strong top five, two bowling and one wicket keeping all rounder and three of the finest specialist bowlers you could wish to meet. With Bumrah and Barnes to share the new ball, Bedi and Bates to bowl spin and the ‘golden arm’ of Botham as fifth bowling option a good number of bowling bases are covered. It is true that with Barrington the best available the leg spin department is under stocked, but this side should be able to cope with that.

THE S XI

  1. Bert Sutcliffe – left handed opening batter. One of the greatest batting talents ever produced by New Zealand.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. Statistically England’s greatest ever opener, averaging 60.73 in test cricket, including 2,741 Ashes runs at 66.8S. The two great Sutcliffes complement each other nicely, Bert the New Zealander being left handed and attack minded, Herbert the Englishmen being more inclined to dig in for the long haul (although never neglectful of scoring opportunities).
  3. *Graeme Smith – left handed batter, captain. A third recognized opener just to make sure that the middle order are not exposed too early. He was a fine captain of his country, and his many batting feats included scores of 259 and 277 in successive matches against England.
  4. Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. His current test batting average places him second to Bradman among those who have played at least 20 games on the all-time list.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, ace fielder. The most complete cricketer there has ever been.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. A clash of the all round titans as he goes head to head with Botham. In this team it is his batting that will count for more, his bowling being used in short sharp bursts.
  7. Greville Stevens – right handed batter, leg spinner. Averaged 29.56 with the bat and 26.84 with the ball in first class cricket.
  8. Amar Singh – right arm fast medium bowler. One of the greatest pace bowlers his country ever produced, capturing his wickets at 18.56 each in first class cricket, at a time when Indian cricket was chiefly known for tall scoring. He is at no 8 here because his batting record included first class centuries.
  9. Harbhajan Singh – Off spinner, occasionally useful lower order batter. His performance against the 2001 Australians when he took 32 wickets in a three match series was the highlight of his career.
  10. +Herbert Strudwick – wicket keeper. Born in Mitcham in 1880 (even today, though to a large extent swallowed by the sprawl of London, Mitcham is classed as Surrey – I grew up a few miles away from there in Tooting, which is very definitely southwest London), he made his Surrey debut in 1902, beginning an association with the county that would last in various guises for over six decades. His first class career, which lasted until 1927 (and he was keeper in the 1926 Ashes) saw him take 1,237 catches and execute 258 stumpings. His 28 test matches yielded 61 catches and 12 stumpings. The batting available to this team, and Strudwick’s brilliance as a keeper between them are enough to pick a specialist with the gloves in this XI.
  11. Brian Statham – right arm fast bowler. 252 test wickets at 24, his overall first class bowling average was a mere 18. He has an end named in his honour at the Old Trafford ground that he graced for so many seasons.

This team has a strong if not entirely aesthetically pleasing top four (remember, there are no style marks in cricket), the most complete player there has ever been at no 5, an x-factor all rounder at six, another genuine all rounder at seven, three bowlers and one of the greatest keepers ever to play the game. The bowling has all bases covered – there is outright pace from Statham and Stokes, fast-medium from Amar Singh, anything left handed that conditions call for courtesy of Sobers, Harbhajan Singh’s off spin and Stevens’ leg spin.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

For the B XI Alec Bedser missed out as IMO SF Barnes would do the same job better, I considered Palwankar Baloo for the role I gave to Bishan Bedi, and Bernard Bosanquet would have dealt with the leg spin shortage. For the S XI the biggest miss is John Snow, but I rated Statham higher. If I wished to include an extra pace option and sacrifice the leg spinner then Franklyn Stephenson could come in for Greville Stevens. Finally, there would be some who would have given a batting slot to Guyanese stayer Ramnaresh Sarwan.

THE CONTEST FOR THE
JOHNSON-CUMMINGS TROPHY

Even though the ‘B’ XI has both Bradman and SF Barnes in its ranks, and they are well backed by quite a few other greats, I do not consider this to be a one-sided contest – the S XI have a quite awesome top five, a keeper in Strudwick who will miss nothing and some awesome bowling options. I cannot predict a winner.

A COUPLE MORE CUMMINGS STORIES

Having introduced the two teams who fill the BS brief and will compete for the ‘Cummings-Johnson Trophy’. I have a couple more bits for you. Fintan O’Toole has a piece in The Guardian comparing the arrogance of Cummings and Johnson with that of the Catholic Church in O’Toole’s native land and notes that the behaviour of the church cost it most of its influence in that country. The Tory Fibs twitter account has brought my attention the letter signed by leaders of six opposition parties (Labour being cunningly, forensically absent from the list). The letter is below:

Image

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

Can you solve this little tester from brilliant.org:

Brilliant

Solution will appear in a later blog post.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before we come to the pictures I have a few more links to share:

Now it is time for my usual sign off:

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This goldfinch shot was blurry (due to the nature of the light I could not really see what I was doing – but was not remotely tempted to head off for a jaunt to a castle).
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This was a better shot, and I was able to extract from it…
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…this magnificent close up.
BS Clash
The teams in tabulated form.