All Time XIs – Match Ups 22

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Es XI continue to occupy the spotlight, and they start today on 21 of a possible 75 points.

THE Es V THE Qs

The Es dominate the batting, and are also massively superior in pace bowling, having a proper new ball pairing in the form of T Emmett and Elliott, whereas the Qs only front line seamer is a bad third in the seam bowling rankings across the sides. The Qs have a numerical advantage in the slow bowling department, but Ecclestone is probably the best individual slow bowler on either side. I do not think that even on a turning pitch the Qs can close the gulf between them and the Es and accordingly score this one Es 5, Qs 0.

THE Es V THE Rs

The Rs win the first five batting match ups, and while Endean ranks ahead of Robins as a batter, Robins’ all round skills partly compensate for that, and he also comfortably outranks the fairly pedestrian Elgar as a captain. Russell’s batting advantage of over 6.5 per innings over G Evans undoubtedly more than makes up for any slight superiority Evans may have had as a keeper. The Rs are comfortably clear in bowling as well – they have three front line pacers to the Es two, and magnificent though she is Ecclestone cannot be ranked ahead of Rhodes in the pantheon of left arm spinners. I score this one Es 0, Rs 5.

THE Es V THE Ss

The Ss dominate in all departments save wicket keeping – G Evans was undoubtedly a finer keeper than Sangakkara. Es 0, Ss 5.

THE Es V THE Ts

I give the Ts the verdict on opening pairs – Taylor’s marginal disadvantage v J Edrich is compensated for by his greater tally of runs, while Trumper made his runs on much more difficult pitches than Elgar. Additionally I would rate Taylor a better skipper than Elgar. While Tarrant loses the batting element of his match up against Bill Edrich, he offers an extra bowling option. The Ts have an overwhelming advantage in the number 4,5 and 6 positions. Bob Taylor ranks below Evans with the bat, similarly as a keeper. The Ts have far the stronger pace attack, and while Ecclestone just outranks Tarrant as a bowler Trumble has a significant advantage over E Evans. The Ts are well ahead and I score this Es 0, Ts 5.

THE Es V THE Us

The Es win the first three batting slots, the Us win the the next three. Umar Akmal outranks G Evans with the bat but is miles behind him as a keeper. The Es comfortably outrank the Us in the new ball contest, though Ulyett’s presence as a third pace option reduces the gap in this department. Ecclestone against Underwood is a mighty contest, though Ecclestone offers more with the bat. Given that he has done his bowling on 21st century pitches, which offer less to slow bowlers than the 19th century surfaces that E Evans exploited I put Ur Rahman ahead in this match up. Overall the Es should have enough, but it is close: Es 3, Us 2.

THE Es PROGRESS REPORT

The Es have scored 8 of a possible 25 points today, moving them to 29 out of 100 – 29%.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Today’s photo gallery comes from the first part of my return journey from Cumbria. I agreed to be dropped at Penrith station and buy a single from Penrith to Carlisle to get back on track with my return journey. I had a bit of a wait at Carlisle for a train to Newcastle, and as you will see the station there has various points of interest. This gallery takes us to my arrival at Newcastle, where I had a much longer wait as I opted to travel on the train on which I had a reserved seat rather than trying my luck on an earlier service.

All Time XIs – Match Ups 13

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.

Welcome to the next installment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Cs still occupy the hot seat, and they are on 14.5 out of of 65 going into today’s match ups.

THE Cs V THE Os

The Cs have an overwhelming advantage in batting, and also have the better captain. Finally, Cummins and Croft are a better pair of opening bowlers than Old and Olivier. However, as against that O’Riordan is certainly a better third seamer than Constantine, and his left arm gives the Os seam attack a point of variation. The Os comfortably win in the spin bowling department, with Odumbe, third ranked spinner for them, clearly better than Cornwall, second ranked spinner for the Cs. Unfortunately for the Os their spin superiority only reduces the margin by which they lose this one: Cs 3.5, Os 1.5.

THE Cs V THE Ps

In theory the Cs have a substantial advantage in the opening position, but that is mitigated by the fact that both the Ps openers are regulars at the top of the order, unlike the C counterparts. Ponting and G Pollock comfortably win their match ups batting wise, and Ponting is not the captain. Chappelli probably does outrank Procter as a captain but not by as much as he would Ponting. G Chappell beats Pietersen in the number five slot. Pant wins the battle of the keepers, Procter is miles clear in the battle of the all rounders.S and P Pollock are outpointed by Croft and Cummins in the new ball stakes, but Parker and Prasanna are the better spin pairing. The Ps win everywhere except one batting slot (G Chappell outpointing Pietersen) and in the matter of the new ball pairing. These are more than compensated for by their overall superiority. Cs 0 Ps 5.

THE Cs V THE Qs

The Qs are massively outpointed in batting, keeping and fast bowling. Their advantage in the spin bowling department is not enough to make a dent in their inferiority elsewhere. Cs 5, Qs 0.

THE Cs V THE Rs

The Rs have the better opening pair, especially given that both of theirs are regular openers. Richards also wins the batting match up vs Chappelli. Root and Compton looks a very close contest, but Compton had more support than Root, who was often holding a dysfunctional order together, so I give that one to the Rs as well. G Chappell outpoints Ranji but not by as much as their figures make it look – Ranji played at a time when batting was a lot more difficult than it was in G Chappell’s pomp. Robins wins the battle of the all rounders, and is little if any inferior to Chappelli as a skipper. The Rs win the fast bowling comfortably – Croft and Cummins may outpoint whichever two of Roberts, Rabada and Richardson take the new ball, but the third of that trio is miles clear of Constantine. Robins and Chandrasekhar are closely matched as leg spinners. Rhodes comfortably outpoints Cornwall – far more so than a comparison of their overall records shows, since Rhodes the specialist spinner, the role I have given him in this XI, was one of the greatest of all time. Quite simply there is no set of circumstances in which I can envisage the Cs getting the better of the Rs: Cs 0, Rs 5.

The Ss have by far the better opening pair – especially given that both of theirs were regular openers. Graeme Smith wins the number three contest and draws the captaincy of element of his match up with Chappelli. Steven Smith beats Compton. Sangakkara wins his batting match up over G Chappell, though he loses the keeping match against Carter. Using Sangakkara as keeper enables the selection of Sobers and Stokes at six and seven. Sobers has no match up in the Cs XI, and Stokes beats Constanine massively on batting and just loses on bowling. Starc and Steyn are outpointed in the battle of the new ball bowlers by Cummins and Croft, but Statham is a far better bowler than Constantine, and the Ss have Sobers in his faster incarnations and Stokes as extra back up options in the seam department. Stevens is a close match for Chandrasekhar with the ball and better with the bat, while Sobers in his slower incarnations is at least as good as Cornwall. This is a complete non-contest: Cs 0, Ss 5.

THE Cs PROGRESS UPDATE

The Cs have scored 8.5 out of 25 points today moving them on to 23 of a possible 90 points, 25.56%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (8)

Continuing my extended analysis of how my all time XIs for each letter fare against each other. Also some of my own photographs.

We continue our extended look at how the all time XIs I picked for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. The Bs are still in the hot seat, and go into today with 35 points out of a possible 55.

THE Bs V THE Ms

The top batting is the usual story of dominance by the Bs, although Macartney’s skill as a bowler should be born in mind when looking at his position. Miandad outdoes Border in the number five slot, Miller is clear of Botham with the bat and miles clear of him with the ball. Marsh is better in both departments than Bari. Marshall and McGrath at least match Barnes and Bumrah as a new ball pairing. Fazal is ahead of Benaud, his nearest bowling match in opposition ranks, although the Aussie was a much better batter. Muralidaran just beats Bates – in the modern era, with pitches being less treacherous than they were in Bates’ day he would probably have paid about 24 per wicket to Murali’s 22, in addition to which Murali’s performance would probably be better as part of this attack than it was IRL, when he was largely carrying an indifferent bowling unit. Also, as touched on earlier, the Ms have a sixth bowling option (and Macartney did win Australia a test match as a bowler). I think the Ms stellar bowling resources are enough for them to overcome the advantage that the Bs have in the batting department, but this would be a heck of a contest – I score it Bs 2, Ms 3.

THE Bs V THE Ns

The Bs totally dominate in batting, and while Bari would rate the better of the two keepers Nixon has his batting to compensate. The Bs, with due respect to Ntini and Nortje have the better new ball pairing, and Botham rates ahead of Nawaz as third seamer. Bates was a finer bowler than Noble, though the latter was better with the bat. Benaud is streets ahead of Nadeem in both departments. I find it very hard to see any situation in which the Ns can make a contest of this: Bs 5, Ns 0.

THE Bs V THE Os

Oldfield wins the clash of the keepers, and O’Reilly outpoints Benaud as a leg spinner, though the latter was a much better bat. O’Riordan outpoints Botham with the ball, though Botham wins with the bat, the Irishman’s left arm is an extra point of variation for the Os. The Os have an extra bowling resource – while Ojha is outdone by Bates as second spinner, the Os also have a third spinner in Odumbe. However on a raging bunsen Border could bowl his left arm spin, so even on that surface I do not see the Bs being unduly challenged: Bs 5, Os 0.

THE Bs V THE Ps

The Bs have the advantage in batting, also less so than usual – G Pollock at no 4 outpoints Barrington, Pant has a clear advantage over Botham in that department, Procter is even more dominant over Bari. S Pollock is on figures ahead of Bates with the bat, but Bates’ average is worth about 40 in 21st century conditions. The Ps are slightly behind on new ball pairings, but that is compensated for by the extent to which Procter outclasses Botham as third seamer. Bates has to be rated ahead of Prasanna with the ball, but Parker is at least a match for Benaud in that department. This is a very close contest, but I think the Bs just about have enough: Bs 3 Ps 2.

THE Bs V THE Qs

The Bs dominate this one in all areas, and there is simply no way for the Qs to make a contest out of this: Bs 5, Qs 0.

Bs PROGRESS UPDATE

The Bs have scored 20 out of 25 in this set of match ups, which puts them on 55 points out of 80, 68.75%. The As for comparison were on 43.5 out of 80 points.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (4)

This is the fourth post in my series analysing how the all time XIs I picked for each letter stack up against each other. We are working through the As at this stage, and this post starts with them on 38.5 out of a possible 75 points.

THE As V THE Qs

The As dominate in batting, keeping and fast bowling. The Qs big hope is with their spinners, but although they have a numerical advantage in this department, they cannot honestly be said to be indisputably superior even here. Score: As 5 Qs 0.

THE As V THE Rs

The Rs win all of the top four batting match ups, narrowly lose out at number five, and lose no six handsomely on the batting front but win it on the bowling front. Ames outdoes Russell with the bat, but Russell was far the superior keeper. Roberts, Rabada and Richardson should fare decently with the ball vis-a-vis Akram, Ambrose and Anderson. Rhodes, selected as a specialist left arm spinner, the role in which he both started and finished his extraordinary career, is without doubt the best spinner in either line up. The teams are very well matched, but the Rs have an advantage in batting, and Rhodes the specialist bowler had a big reputation for keeping his head in tight finishes, most notably at The Oval in 1902, when he helped his ‘Kirkheaton twin’ George Hirst to score the last 15 needed to secure a famous one wicket win in “Jessop’s match”. Thus I score this one As 2, Rs 3.

THE As V THE Ss

The Ss have a substantial advantage in the top six batting slots, Ames edges Stokes at seven, Stevens matches Akram in that department, Starc is just behind Ashwin as a batter. Ames outdoes Sangakkara as a keeper, but using him in that role gives the Ss greater bowling depth than the As – Starc, Statham and Steyn are pretty close to Akram, Ambrose and Anderson as a pace trio and are backed by Sobers in his quicker incarnations and Stokes in that department. Stevens and Sobers in his slower incarnations are not as potent as Al Hasan and Ashwin, but the gap is not a large one. We are not in whitewash territory here, but the Ss have a very significant advantage over the As: As 1 Ss 4.

THE As V THE Ts

The As are stronger overall in positions 1,2 and 3 in the order, but the Ts are ahead in positions 4,5 and 6. Ames out bats Taylor, but is comfortably out kept by the latter. The As also have the extra batting depth lent by Akram and Ashwin’s capabilities in that department. Tyson, Trueman and Thomson are the quickest pace trio to feature in this series, with the Yorkshireman ranking third quickest of them. Trumble beats Ashwin in the battle of the off spinners, and Tarrant’s left arm slow medium is demonstrably more potent than Al Hasan’s left arm orthodox spin. It is Tarrant’s presence, both adding an extra variation to the attack, and ensuring that three speedsters will be able to get some rest between spells of bowling that turns what would be a close contest in to a decisive win for the Ts. It is not quite impossible to see the As getting the better of the Ts in any circumstances, but it is hard, and I score it: As 0.5, Ts 4.5.

THE As V THE Us

The As have a clear advantage here. I reckon that in a five match series Underwood will have at least one field day for the Us, which means I score this one As 4 Us 1.

THE STATE OF PROGRESS

The As have taken 12.5 out of 25, exactly 50% from today’s match ups, which gives them a tally so far, with five of their match ups to go of 51 points out of 100, 51%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

All Time XIs – The Letter Q

Continuing my exploration of the ‘all time XIs’ theme with a look at the letter Q.

Welcome to the latest installment of my exploration of the theme of ‘all time XIs’. Today we look at players whose surnames begin with the letter Q. A certain amount of latitude has been exercised with the brief, though not quite as much as required by the letter X. Some of the players are comparatively obscure, hence both more quoting of exact career records and explanation than in some of these posts.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Billy Quaife (Warwickshire, England). The oldest ever scorer of a first class hundred at the grand old age of 56 years and four months. Only one player has scored more FC career runs for Warwickshire – Dennis Amiss. In addition to his batting he bowled serviceable leg spin, though given the make up of the side is unlikely to be required in that role.
  2. Quinton de Kock (South Africa). Using his forename to sneak him in. Although he is better known for his deeds in limited overs cricket the South African averages over 40 at FC level as well, and plays fast bowling well, hence, given the players available to me, using him as an ersatz opener and not as a wicket keeper.
  3. Qasim Omar (Pakistan). Not one of Pakistan’s better known top order players, but he played against England when they were there in 1984 and scored some valuable runs. Overall he averaged 39 at test level.
  4. Walter Quaife (Sussex, Warwickshire). Not the batter that Billy was, but by the standards of the 1880s and 1890s an average of 22.88 was modestly respectable, with pitches often difficult.
  5. Francis Quinton (Hampshire). 51 FC matches spread over 15 years in the late 19th century yielded him an average of 27.82, with two centuries and a top score of 178. He was also an occasional slow bowler, though not likely be needed in that capacity for this side.
  6. Patrick Quinlan (Ireland, Western Australia). 13 widely spaced FC matches yielded him 530 runs at 26.50, with four FC fifties. He was also an occasional right arm medium pacer, the relevance of which will be obvious by the end of the XI.
  7. +Bernard Quaife (Warwickshire). Although his father Billy liked the pair to open the batting together (they once did so against Derbyshire, whose new ball pair comprised Billy and Robert Bestwick, likewise related, to create a unique happening in FC cricket), he was never actually good enough as a batter to open, but he was a decent keeper, taking 186 catches and executing 54 stumpings at FC level in that role, and his 9,594 FC runs at 20.02 assume greater significance with batting being made his secondary role.
  8. Iqbal Qasim (Pakistan). Not one of the world’s best known left arm orthodox spinners, but 171 test wickets at 28.11 in 50 appearances at that level (999 FC wickets at 20.48 in 246 appearances) are a testament to his effectiveness in the role.
  9. Matt Quinn (New Zealand). A right arm medium fast bowler whose FC wickets cost 30.61 a piece, he is the only seamer for this letter who comes anywhere near making the grade.
  10. *Abdul Qadir (Pakistan). The 1980s was a difficult decade for spinners – and leg spin in particular almost fell into complete disuse at that time. With all due respect to Laxman Sivaramakrishnan (India) and Bob Holland (Australia) credit for this art form surviving long enough to be picked up by Shane Warne belongs chiefly to Abdul Qadir, whose 67 test appearances yielded 236 wickets at 32.80. That included a seismic performance at Faisalabad against the West Indies, then the dominant force in world cricket. WI needed 240 to win in the fourth innings, and Faisalabad is not exactly known for being bowler friendly. Pakistan won that match by 186 runs, and the chief architect of the West Indian collapse to 53 all out was Qadir, whose sorcery yielded 6-16. In recognition of his historical significance, and believing that he would have done the job well given the chance I have chosen him as captain of this XI.
  11. Qais Ahmad (Afghanistan). One of the best leg spinners currently playing the game, though rivalled in that department by his compatriot Rashid Khan. He will never have the historical significance of Qadir, but it would not surprise me if he finishes with a better overall record than the Lahori.

The XI is definitely short of batting, although deploying QDK as a specialist opener at least creates a chance of the top three delivering serious runs. There is only one recognized pace option, Matt Quinn. I see three ways round this: give Quinlan a few overs to get the shine of the new ball for the spinners, adopt a policy used with success by many English counties in the past, opening with right arm pace (Quinn) at one end and the left arm spin of Iqbal Qasim at the other (Kent won four titles between 1906 and 1913 with Fielder and Blythe, jusr such a combination, opening their bowling), or one or other of the leggies, Abdul Qadir or Qais Ahmad shares the new ball with Quinn.

ON THE FRINGES

I usually call this section ‘Honourable Mentions’ but there is nothing honourable about failing to claim a place in this XI, so I am using a title more reflective of the nature of this section of this post. I did locate one fast bowler other than Quinn to have a surname beginning with Q – James Quinton. However, even faced with a desperate shortage of options in his department I could not include someone who claimed one wicket in six FC matches. Hamidullah Qadri had a good time in the U19 World Cup, but at the moment his first class wickets cost 43 runs a piece and come at less than two per game, so although I had two leggies, a left armer and no specialist offie I could not include him. Imran Qayyum, a young left arm spinner, has a very similar FC bowling average to Qadri, and doesn’t seem likely to challenge Iqbal Qasim. Ian Quick, an Australian left arm spinner, paid just over 30 a piece for his FC wickets, not close to being as effective as Qasim, though he might be worth a place in an XI of players who don’t live up to their names! There was also one other challenger for the keeper’s slot, Trevor Quirk, a South African. His batting record was similar to that Bernard Quaife but over fewer matches, and he managed only 122 catches and eight stumpings (given the predominance of spin in the XI this last figure was a cause for concern as well).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing exploration of the letter Q is at an end, and it remains only to provide the usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Through The Alphabet XII

Another alphabetic progression for today’s all time XI cricket post, some thoughts on events at the Ageas bowl and England’s 1st test line up and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s all time XIs cricket post, the 12th of our alphabetic progression posts, starting today at I. Tomorrow’s post will have a historical theme, the last of these alphabetic progression posts will appear on Sunday morning, and I have an international post lined up for Monday, which leaves me subject matter to find for Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s posts, and then on Thursday I will have an actual live test match to write about, and my gap-filling mission will have been accomplished. Before getting into the main body of today’s post it is time for an…

UPDATE FROM THE AGEAS BOWL

Yesterday Buttler’s team bowled out Stokes’ team for 233, taking a first innings lead of 54. Bess bowled well, taking two wickets. Oliver Edward Robinson also had two wickets, and was very economical, and there was a cameo appearance from Amar Virdi in which he looked impressive and picked up the wicket of Saqib Mahmood (admittedly one of the more genuine no11s playing today). The Buttler team are now 142-4 in their second innings, with Pope going well. Dan Lawrence has not batted this time round, so I presume that he has already been told he is in the test team (otherwise this is inexcusable since if he gets to the wicket it will be to have a slog before the declaration). Moeen Ali has had a turn at the bowling crease, and Rory Burns got out to him as Team Buttler started trying to force the pace, which they have done moderately effectively, but the evidence from his spell overall was clear – he is the third best off spinner on show at the Ageas bowl behind Bess and Virdi, and the fifth best spinner, with Leach and Parkinson also better practitioners. Curran has gone down ill, and will presumably miss the test match, and with Anderson failing to impress this morning, unless Broad turns on a spectacular new ball spell when the time comes I see Robinson as the one to get the nod, meaning that allowing for the loss of Curran my XI for the test match would be: Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Lawrence, *Stokes, Pope, +Foakes, Robinson, Bess, Wood, Archer.

ABDUL QADIR’S XI

  1. James Iremonger – right handed opening batter. He played for Nottinghamshire, mostly in the years running up to World War 1, and had a first class batting average of 35. Subsequently he became a coach, and numbered Larwood and Voce among his charges.
  2. Steve James – right handed opening batter. He played for Glamorgan, and was the first batter ever to score a triple century for the county (albeit on a very flat pitch and at a very small ground – Glamorgan topped 700 for the loss of just three wickets). He played very briefly for England, discovering as others before him had that England selectors aren’t good at picking up what happens to their west. After his retirement he became a writer, his books including the excellent “The Plan” and the interesting “The Art of Centuries”.
  3. Jacques Kallis – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Only one other test cricketer to have been a regular bowler (Alastair Cook took one test wicket at a cost of 7 runs in his long test career)  has had as big a credit balance between their batting and bowling averages as Kallis: Garfield St Aubrun Sobers.
  4. VVS Laxman – right handed batter. In partnership with Rahul Dravid he turned the Kolkata 2001 test match on its head, so that India, following on 273 runs behind ended up winning by 171 runs, as Harbhajan Singh completed the turn around by spinning through a dispirited Australia in the 4th innings.
  5. John Morris – right handed batter. A heavy scoring stroke maker for Derbyshire, he never managed to establish himself for England, and his involvement in the ‘Tiger Moth’ incident with David Gower may well have ended his chances of so doing – certainly, even though he had scored 132 in the match in question, he was never heard from again at England level.
  6. Marcus North – left handed batter, occasional off spinner. He played for a number of counties, and made a good start to his international career before falling away at that level. The axe descended on his international career during the 2010-11 series when an ill-equpped and poorly led Australia were well beaten.
  7. +Bertie Oldfield – wicket keeper, right handed batter. One of the finest keepers ever to play the game, his 52 test stumpings remains an all-time record.
  8. Keemo Paul – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter. He is best known for his performances in limited overs cricket, but he also has a respectable record in long form cricket.
  9. *Abdul Qadir – leg spinner. In the 1980s the art of leg spin nearly died out, with all due respect to Australians Bob Holland, Trevor Hohns and Peter Sleep, the latter two of whom would never have been picked but for their skills with the bat. The man who kept the embers aglow, to fanned into glorious flame by Shane Warne in the 1990s was Abdul Qadir.
  10. Raymond Robertson-Glasgow – right arm fast medium bowler. A Scot who was able to short circuit the residential qualification rules of the day because he was related to someone who owned property in Bath, and also because Somerset were past masters at dodging those rules anyway. He regularly opened the Somerset bowling with James Bridges. Both believed they should bat higher than they did, and Bridges could be said to have had the better of that little dispute since it was usually him who got to bat at the lofty heights of no10. He went on to become one of the finest writers on the game.
  11. Billy Stanlake – right arm fast bowler. He plays mainly short form cricket, especially T20, but a first class bowling average of 31 is a respectable effort for someone who is not a regular at long form cricket (he has played eight first class matches in total as compared to 28 list A games and 64 T20 games). He is often referred to by commentators as ‘big Billy’ because of his great height (2.04 metres, approximatedly 6’8″ in imperial measurements).

This team has a good top six, a top of the range keeper and four varied bowlers. The spin department is a little understocked, with only North’s part time off spin as a back up for Qadir, but Stanlake, Robertson-Glasgow, Paul and 4th seamer Kallis is certainly a respectable pace attack.

XENOPHON BALASKAS’ XI

  1. Mark Taylor – left handed opening batter. He was one of the stars of the 1989 Ashes, with 839 runs in the series – more than any other Aussie save Bradman has ever tallied in a series. That series saw the end of Australia as whipping boys and the beginning of a rise that would see them reach the top of the cricket world by 1995, and then occupy that position for another decade. The combined impact of mismanagement, Kerry Packer and Ali Bacher had seen Australia flat lining since the mid 1970s, with England winning the Ashes at home in 1977, retaining in 1978-9, retaining again in 1981, surrendering them in 1982-3 when they were themselves weakened by the attentions of Mr Bacher, regaining them in 1985 and retaining them in 1987. Then, when Australia turned the tables in 1989 a combination of English mismanagement and refusal to face the obvious saw Australia retain the urn in 1990-1, 1993, 1994-5, 1997, 1998-9, 2001 and 2002-3, and all of those eight Ashes series from 1989 through to 2002-3 England only once one a game with the series still alive, at Edgbaston in 1997. Taylor, as well as his contributions at the top of the order took on the captaincy after Border retired, eventually handing over to Steve Waugh in turn.
  2. Taufeeq Umar – left handed opening batter. Played for Pakistan at the start of the 2000s, and averaged just below 39 as an opener in test matches.
  3. Ken Viljoen – right handed batter. He batted in this position in the infamous timeless test at Durban in 1939.
  4. Everton Weekes – right handed batter. Averaged 58.62 in test cricket, being the only player ever to score five centuries in successive test innings. He died recently at the age of 95, the last of the ‘three Ws’ (Walcott, Weekes and Worrell, born within a few miles of each other in the space of 18 months) to die.
  5. *Xenophon Balaskas – right handed batter, leg spinner. He is perhaps a little higher in the order than his batting record warrants, but he was a fine all rounder in his day.
  6. Norman Yardley – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler. When he went on the 1946-7 tour of Australia, which was supposed to be a ‘goodwill tour’, except that Bradman did not get the memo it was as young batter whose bowling was rarely even used by his county, but a combination of injuries and a lack of resources in that department saw him pressed into service as a bowler for his country, and he responded well, bowling economically and picking up the odd useful wicket. He captained England in the 1948 Ashes, but was one of two candidates to refuse the captaincy of the 1950-1 tour (FG Mann of Middlesex being the other).
  7. +Zulqarnain Haider – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A brief but spectacular appearance in the limelight, during one of Pakistan’s many troubled periods.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed batter. He got his break when, at the age of 16, he bowled a spell in the nets that caught the eye of his country’s captain, Imran Khan. That was the launch of a career that saw him become one of the game’s all time greats, a fearsome fast bowler, a dangerous attacking bat in the lower middle order, and at one time captain. In 1992 he and Waqar Younis teamed up to render England’s batting feather legged. That winter in the world cup final he made the key intervention, ripping out two wickets at a crucial stage of the match and enabling his side to lift the trophy. England would spend most of the next 20 years or so after that loss producing one day cricket performances that were uninspired at best and downright incompetent at worst before a humiliating experience in the 2015 world cup would finally act as the kick up the backside they needed.
  9. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. That official description tells you about on tenth of the story of Barnes the bowler, discovered in the Lancashire nets by Archie MacLaren (England’s own nearest equivalent to the Wasim story), taken on a tour of Australia largely on the strength of that net session. A combination of him being constitutionally incapable of tugging his forelock, disapproval in official circles of his preference for Lancashire League cricket over the county ground and the fact that Lord Hawke, the Lincolnshire born author of the ‘Yorkshire born players only’ policy at that county did not see eye to eye with MacLaren and tended to disapprove of his hunches as a matter of principle led to Barnes playing less than half the number of tests he could, therefore should, have done. In 13 tests in Australia he captured 77 wickets, also taking 29 Aussie wickets in seven home tests against them, while against South Africa he captured 83 wickets in just seven test matches, and had he not quarrelled over terms and conditions with management and pulled out of what turned out to be the last test match before World War 1, he would almost certainly have had 60+ wickets for that series (he was on 49 from four matches) and been the first to 200 test wickets in what would have been his 28th game at that level.
  10. Rahkeem Cornwall – off spinner. 13 test wickets at 22 after two matches, 303 first class wickets at 25 each. We are likely to see something of the 27 year old off spinner in the upcoming ‘biosecure’ test series. This is a possible head to head contest between someone named Cornwall, and someone who was born in the neighboring county of Devon (there four Devonians in the current England camp, Bess the offspinner, Gregory the seam bowling all rounder and the Overton twins – one a genuinely fast bowler, one a fast medium, while England women’s captain Heather Knight was also born in Devon). I do not particularly expect to Gregory or either Overton in test action, but Bess must surely play.
  11. George Dennett – left arm orthodox spinner. 2,151 first class wickets at 19.82 each and never a single England cap. In the 1907 season, a very wet one in which in those days of “ooncoovered pitches” spinners flourished, he took over 200 first class wickets. The trouble was that Wilfred Rhodes and Colin Blythe were even greater masters of the art of left arm spin bowling than he was, and Frank Woolley always commanded a place as a batter.

This side has a decent top four, and the presence of Wasim Akram at no 8 means that all the next four are also capable of major innings. The bowling, with Akram and Barnes to take the new ball, Dennett, Cornwall and the skipper as spin options and Yardley’s medium paced nibblers as sixth option is very strong.

THE CONTEST

Abdul Qadir’s XI have the stronger batting line up, but Xenophon Balaskas’ XI have a quartet of front line bowlers that looks seriously formidable, plus the skipper. In keeping with my reckoning that it is the bowlers who win matches I make Xenophon Balaskas’ XI definite favourites. If the pitch turns than Qadir will struggle to match the combined efforts of Cornwall, Dennett and the opposition skipper. Over at the Ageas bowl Team Stokes have been set 255 for victory, and are 46-0 in the 13th, with Sibley and Bairstow opening.

PHOTOGRAPHS

While I have been typing this up Team Stokes have moved to 126-2, needing a further 129 with 19 and a half overs to be bowled. Zak Crawley, no 3 in the test for a certainty (Denly’s score of one for Team Buttler earlier today removed any tiny lingering doubt there) is going well. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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