All Time XIs – Match Ups 15

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

Welcome to the latest installment in my extended analysis of how the teams I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. This post features a ‘changing of the guard’ – the Cs occupy the hot seat at the beginning, and then we start the Ds. The Cs start today with 33 out of 115 points.


The Cs definitely have the stronger opening pair, nos 3,4 and 5 are very close, with Younis Khan outpointing I Chappell to the same extent that G Chappell outpoints Yallop. Norman Yardley outbats Constantine but loses the bowling element of their match up. Also, Chappelli is the better captain. S Yousuf outbats Carter but is out kept by the Aussie. Cummins and Croft have to be ranked above Younis and U Yadav as a new ball pair. Jack Young comfortably outmatches Cornwall as a finger spinner, while P Yadav vs Chandrasekhar is an even contest. The Ys have a marginal batting advantage, and win the spin bowling, but the pace bowling advantage is strongly with the Cs, and I think that will count for more than anything else and accordingly score this one: Cs 3, Ys 2.


The Cs dominate the top batting, with only Cowdrey arguably losing his match up against I Zadran. Zulch outbats Constantine, but does not offer a serious bowling option. Carter wins the wicket keeping match up, and Zaheer Khan and Monde Zondeki are way behind Cummins and Croft in the fast bowling stakes, while Constantine is the only back up pace option available to either side. The Zs probably win the spin department, but I don’t see that making much difference to the outcome of this one: Cs 4, Zs 1.


The Cs finish with 40 out of 125 points, a total score of 32%, comfortably bottom out of the three XIs who have been fully under the spotlight so far.


The Cs have one solid pro and one genius opening the batting, one of the greatest number threes of all time, two legendary stroke makers at four and five, and a number six whose record at the top level suffered because his elevations was massively delayed by his personal circumstances and who still had a fine record. Dujon was an excellent keeper and a stylish batter, their pace trio is awesome, with Daniel probably third seamer behind an opening pair of Davidson and Donald, and they have a great spinner who was unlucky to overlap with two even greater ones of the same type – Wilfred Rhodes and Colin Blythe. The Es have two left handed battlers to open the batting, a number three who is less far behind his opposite number than figures suggest on two counts – 1)Dravid batted in an easier era for batting than Bill Edrich, and 2) Edrich lost six prime years to WWII, in which he distinguished himself as a flying ace. Emmett and R Edwards are undoubtedly well behind Donnelly and Duleepsinhji, and Endean is beaten by D’Oliveira. Dujon wins the batting element of his match up against Evans, but the Englishman was an even greater keeper than the West Indian. The Es have a left/ right opening pair of pacers, and a couple of crafty slower bowlers in Evans and Ecclestone. Evans v Daniel is not strictly a match up since they were very different types of bowler, and it is hard to say who would be preferable. I rank Ecclestone ahead of Dennett as a slow left armer. The Ds are ahead on batting, the Es may be ahead on front line bowling, but the Ds have an extra option in D’Oliveira. I score this one as Ds 3, Es 2.


The Ds have a marginal advantage when it comes to the opening pair, and Dravid rates above Flower as a number three. Donnelly beats Fletcher confortably, and Duleepsinhji beats Faulkner with the bat, but as against that Faulkner offers a bowling option. The Ds are stronger with the bat at nos 6,7 and 8, but the Fs have the potential of useful contributions from Flowers at 9. The Fs boss the bowling, Foster, Freeman and Ferris being at least as good a pace combo as Davidson, Donald and Daniel, and the Fs having three front line spin options to the Ds 1. I expect the Fs to win this comfortably and score it Ds 1, Fs 4.


The Ds have the edge in batting, though by less than it seems at first glance, the Ds also have the better pace attack, with only Garner in the same class as their trio. The Gs have a significant advantage in the spin bowling department, and they have the redoubtable WG as skipper. I still make the Ds favourites and score this one Ds 3, Gs 2.


The Ds had 8 points out of 15 from their three previous encounters. They are now on 15 points out of 30, exactly 50%.


My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (6)

Welcome to the latest post in my series analysing how my all time XIs for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. We reached the conclusion of the A XIs match ups yesterday, so now we start with the B XIs. They have 3.5 points in the bank from their encounter with the As (see here).


The Bs dominate the batting, with only G Chappell among the top six outpointing his opposite number, and that by a mere fraction. Added to this is the fact that for reasons explained in the original post about the Cs Chanderpaul and arguably Cowdrey are batting out of position. Carter out bats Bari, but Bari was the finer keeper. Bates and Benaud are unquestionably a finer pair of spinners than Cornwall and Chandrasekhar, and both also possessed batting pedigree, something to which Cornwall has limited claim and Chandrasekhar none. Barnes and Bumrah for my money have the edge on Cummins and Croft as a new ball combination, though the Cs are undoubtedly the faster pair. Botham and Constantine were two mercurial all rounders, capable of match winning performances. I will allow for the possibility of a Constantine special, while rating it odds against, so my final score for this is Bs 4.5, Cs 0.5.


The Bs have an advantage with the bat – only Duleepsinhji, D’Oliveira and Dujon of those whose batting is of major significance win their match ups in this department. Davidson, Daniel and Donald as a pace trio probably beat Barnes, Bumrah and Botham, but as against that the Ds have only one front line spin option, Dennett, to match up against Bates and Benaud. Finally, Bradman was acknowledged to be a superb skipper, whereas Dennett never got any captaincy experience because of the social mores of his time. Although the Ds are far from helpless in this contest, the Bs are obvious favourites and I score it Bs 3, Ds 2.


The Bs have a huge advantage in batting, and Botham is definitely a better third pacer than Edrich, though Emmett and Elliott v Barnes and Bumrah is a fine contest, as is Ecclestone and Evans v Benaud and Bates in the spin bowling department. I make this one Bs 4, Es 1.


The Bs boss the batting as usual, though Foakes is the better keeper. The Fs have a greater range of bowling options, with six genuine front line bowlers. I accord them a definite win the pace department, with Ferris, Freeman and Foster clearly a stronger combo than Barnes, Bumrah and Botham. Flowers, Fender and Faulkner give the Fs three front line spin options. The question is whether the Fs extra bowling will compensate for the Bs huge superiority in batting. I don’t think it quite does, but I am not prepared to award the Bs victory here – Bs 2.5, Fs 2.5.


The Bs as usual are ahead on batting, but are clearly behind on bowling – WG is his side’s sixth best bowler. Grimmett and Gibbs are a good match for Bates and Benaud in the spin department, Gregory, Garner and Geary compare nicely with Barnes, Bumrah and Botham. I award this one to the Gs – Bs 2, Gs 3.


The Bs are that this stage on 19.5 points out of 30, or 65%. The As were on a mere 14.5 points after their first six match ups, for comparison.


My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter D

A brief mention of last night’s heroics by the England women, and a continuation of the all-time XIs theme with a look at the letter D.

I continue my All Time XIs theme with a look at the letter D. Before getting to the main meat of my post I have a piece of cricket news to pass on that is not entirely inappropriate to my overall theme.


Yesterday evening saw a T20I between England Women and South Africa Women. England dominated the game from the word go, and one of the two heroes may in future years merit consideration for the squad I am selecting here – after South Africa had limped to 111 from their 20 overs with Katherine Brunt taking a T20I best 4-15, England knocked the runs off very easily, Sophia Dunkley leading the way with an imperious 59 opening the batting. One of the three sixes she hit voided any discussion of boundary placements since it went right out of the ground. England’s win made them uncatchable in the multi-format series putting them 10-2 up with only four more points to play for.


  1. Chris Dent (Gloucestershire). Finding openers for this side was a challenge, but the left hander from Gloucestershire has scored over 10,000 FC runs at an average of 38 and can be trusted to do a solid job in this position.
  2. Stewie Dempster (Leicestershire and New Zealand). His brief international career, before he moved to Leicestershire yielded a batting average of 65.72.
  3. Rahul Dravid (India). No argument about this slot, since we have at our disposal one of the greatest number threes in cricket history, averaging over 50 through a very long test career. He was technically excellent and possessed limitless patience.
  4. Martin Donnelly (New Zealand). Another like his compatriot Dempster whose career at the highest level was short, and for similar reasons, but he did enough in that brief time to justify his place. One of only two cricketers along with Percy Chapman, also left handed, to achieve the triple feat of Lord’s centuries in The Varsity Match, Gentlemen versus Players match and a test match (206 in 1949 in this latter).
  5. Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji (Sussex, England). His career was shortened by ill health, but he averaged 58 in his brief test career, including 173 against Australia at Lord’s in 1930.
  6. Basil D’Oliveira (Worcestershire, England). Usually I reserve this position for a genuine all rounder, and based on his first class and test records D’Oliveira was a batter who bowled rather than a true all rounder. However, by the time he got the show what he could do on a stage worthy of his talents he was past his cricketing prime, being well into his 30s when he made his FC debut, and officially 35 but actually probably older by the time the test call came, and in the cricket he played in his native land before moving to England he was a genuine all rounder, so here he is at number six in this line up.
  7. +Jeff Dujon (West Indies). An elegant, attack minded, middle order batter good enough to score four test centuries, and superb at keeping to fast bowling. There is, due to his prime coinciding with the era of West Indies speed quartets, a question mark over how we would have handled keeping to top class spin, but his athleticism was such that I am prepared to believe he would have coped without undue difficulty.
  8. Alan Davidson (Australia). A demon left arm bowler, generally operating at pace but capable of turning his hand to spin at need, a fielder of such brilliance that he earned the nickname ‘the claw’ and a useful lower order batter. 186 test wickets at 20.53 tells its own story about how good he was.
  9. Wayne Daniel (Middlesex, West Indies). He never quite established himself at test level, but he was sensational for Middlesex. West Indies were spoilt for fast bowling options when he was in his prime, and he was far from the only top notch pacer not play as much at the very highest level as he ought to have done.
  10. Allan Donald (Warwickshire, South Africa). South Africa’s first great fast bowler on their return to the fold from sporting isolation, and probably still part of most people’s modern era South Africa pace trio (I would have him, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada in these three slots). Although his decision to wait for SA to be readmitted to test cricket, rather than qualify by residence for England, meant a latish start at test level he still took 330 wickets in 72 test matches.
  11. *George Dennett (Gloucestershire). He did not get to play test cricket, because when he was in his pomp as a left arm spinner so too were Wilfred Rhodes and Colin Blythe. 401 FC matches yielded him 2,151 wickets at 19.82 a piece. I have named him as captain, believing that he would do the job well, although in his playing days the obsession with “amateur” captains meant he never actually had the job.

This XI has a strong top six, one of the all time great keeper batters, one of the greatest of all ‘bowlers who can bat’ and three superb specialist bowlers. A bowling attack of Davidson, Donald, Daniel and Dennett backed up by D’Oliveira should not have any trouble capturing 20 opposition wickets either.


Abraham Benjamin ‘AB’ De Villiers is without doubt the greatest player I have left out, and had I been picking a limited overs side he would have definitely have been in there. As it is I had strong positive reasons for my selections of Donnelly, Duleepsinhji and D’Oliveira. Ted Dexter was also close to selection, but his natural slot is number three and I would laugh outright if anyone suggested that he was a better than Rahul Dravid. Many Indians would have named Mahendra Singh Dhoni as both keeper and captain, but I considered my batting to be deep enough to enable the selection of the best keeper, and I consider Dujon to be that. Once again, had I been picking with white ball in mind, Dhoni would have been in the XI. Quinton de Kock will feature later in this series – the letter Q is so tough that a certain amount of trickery is required. Johnny Douglas would be some people’s pick for the all rounders slot that I gave to D’Oliveira. There might have been a second West Indian speedster in the line up, but I preferred picking a spinner, Dennett, rather than going for an all out pace battery with Winston Davis in the line up. Joe Denly might have had the slot I awarded to Chris Dent, but unlike Dent he did appear at test level and an average of precisely 30, while it places him above his county colleague Crawley, also confirms him as not quite good enough. Mark Davies, formerly of Durham, is a ‘what might have been’ – his career was ruined by injuries, but he did enough while not injured to finish with an FC bowling average of 22. Similarly, Alonzo Drake, who was sensational for Yorkshire as a left arm spinner and middle order batter in the run up to WWI, but died before FC cricket resumed in 1919, didn’t quite have a weight enough record to claim a place. I mentioned Dunkley while covering England Women’s triumph of last night, and a second spinner who would contrast with Dennett would be off spinner Charlie Dean, beginning to make a name for herself in the England women’s side. A combination of injuries and the selectorial caprices of the 1980s meant that Graham Dilley was short of qualifying for a pace bowling slot.


My usual sign off…


An XI of southpaws for World Left Handers Day. Plus of course some photographs.

Today is World Left Handers Day, so I put together an XI of players who did everything cricket wise left handed. This means a lot of famous names are missing because they performed one discipline right handed. My chosen wicket keeper bowled six deliveries in a professional career that spans 470 matches across formats to date, and I have been unable to establish for sure which hand he bowled them with.


  1. Sanath Jayasuriya: left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner. In 1996 he was the MVP at the World Cup. Two years later at The Oval he scored 213 in Sri Lanka’s first innings, the highest individual score of the match.
  2. Warren Bardsley: left handed opening batter. The gritty Aussie scored over 2,000 test runs at an average above 40. He was the first to score twin centuries in a test match, at The Oval in 1909. In first class cricket he tallied 17,000 runs at 49 including 53 centuries. He scored 29 of those 53 centuries in England, proving that he was definitely not a ‘home track bully’.
  3. Frank Woolley: left handed batting, left arm orthodox spinner. The only person to have achieved the career treble of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches in first class cricket.
  4. *Allan Border: left handed batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner, captain. Another gritty Aussie, he was the first to the milestone of 11,000 test runs, having been the second after SM Gavaskar to reach 10,000. The first and greatest of four long serving Aussie captains with magnificent winning records to appear in my lifetime – he passed the baton to Mark Taylor, who was succeeded by Steve Waugh and then Ricky Ponting, who oversaw a regression back towards the mean in his last years in the job.
  5. Garry Sobers: left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. Fortunately the most complete cricketer ever to have played the game did everything cricket wise left handed, and is therefore a shoo-in for this team.
  6. John H King: left handed batter, left arm medium pace bowler. A stalwart all rounder for Leicestershire he suffered from ‘unfashionable county syndrome’ to the extent that in spite of a highly impressive record at FC level he was a one cap wonder for England.
  7. +Quinton de Kock: left handed batter, wicket keeper. He has a magnificent record in all formats of the game.
  8. Alan Davidson: left arm fast medium bowler (also occasional orthodox spin), left handed lower middle order batter. 186 test wickets at 20.53 secure his place in this side.
  9. Wasim Akram: left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. Fast tracked into his national side when then captain Imran Khan saw him bowling in the nets and liked what he saw he established himself as one of the greatest of left arm pace bowlers and a more than useful batter.
  10. Chaminda Vaas: left arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. The Sri Lankan never had pace bowling support of the same class at the other end (indeed for most of his career the only other bowler of unquestioned top class in the side was the off spinner, Muralitharan) but still established a fine test record.
  11. Shaheen Shah Afridi: left arm fast bowler, left arm lower order batter. The young Pakistani has already established a remarkable record in his brief career to date, and I expect many more highlights before his time at the top is done.

Below is a condensed version of the above in graphic form:


The side has a strong and deep batting order – Wasim Akram at nine would satisfy even England’s selectors as to depth, while Jayasuriya, Bardsley, Woolley, Border, Sobers and de Kock are all bona fide greats, and King, the all rounder, would probably have averaged 40 had he played on today’s pitches, though he would also have paid more for his wickets. The bowling resources are awesome, with Afridi, Akram, Davidson, Sobers and King to provide pace/ swing/ seam bowling, and Woolley, Jayasuriya and Sobers able to provide top quality spin. Sobers is the only wrist spin option, but there are very few left arm wrist spinners with commanding records. The depth of spin available means that Border, with a 10 wicket haul in a test match to his credit, would almost certainly never get a bowl. This southpaw squad would take a lot of beating.


My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Firsts and Onlies

Today’s variation on an all time XI theme looks at firsts and a few onlies, plus a couple of bonus cricket links and a measure of mathematics, and of course photographs.


Welcome to another variation on the all-time XI theme. Today we look at people who were the first to achieve certain landmarks, generally though not exclusively related to test cricket. Our two teams are named in honour of their designated captains and as usual due consideration has been given to the balance of each side.


  1. Warren Bardsley – left handed opening batter. He entered the test record books at The Oval in 1909, when he scored 136 and 130, the first time the double feat had been performed in a test match. Ironically, having hit two in one match, in a reverse of the usual bus situation, he would then wait ages for his next Ashes ton, which finally came almost 17 years later, at Lord’s in 1926 when he scored 193 not out in all out total of 389. England on that latter occasion batted the game to a stalemate, as each of their top five passed 50, and they amassed 475-3. The 1909 game at The Oval also ended in draw, which was enough for Australia to keep The Ashes. Bardsley was Australia’s leading scorer of first class centuries at the end of his career, at which time a young chap named Bradman was just beginning to make his presence felt in the batting record books that by the time he had finished would bear his seemingly indelible stamp.
  2. CAG Russell – right handed opening batter. Charles Albert George ‘Jack’ Russell, who I introduced by his initials was no relation of the later wicket keeper Robert Charles ‘Jack’ Russell who has featured elsewhere in this series, though the first ‘Jack’ Russell was the son of a county wicket keeper. At Durban in 1923 he scored 140 and 111, the first Englishman to achieve the double feat and test level, and the only person to date to have done so in their final appearance at that level! He was a casualty of the emergence of Herbert Sutcliffe, who made his test debut the following home season, had a record breaking Ashes tour in 1924-5 (see yesterday’s post) and never looked back. Russell’s test career lasted 10 matches, in which he played 18 innings, two of them not outs and scored 910 runs for an average of 56.87, or 50.56 if you discount the not outs. He passed fifty a total of seven times in those innings and converted five of the seven into hundreds.
  3. George Headley – right handed batter. The great West Indian, referred to by some as ‘the black Bradman’ (though in the Caribbean folk preferred to talk of ‘the white Headley’) was the first ever to score twin centuries in a test match at Lord’s, the home of cricket. He also holds the record for the highest individual score in the 4th innings of a test match, 223 at Kingston in 1930.
  4. Walter Hammond – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast, ace slip catcher. He was the first to score back to back test match double centuries, 251 at Sydney and 200 not out at Melbourne in the second and third matches of the 1928-9 Ashes, and was also the second to do so, when on the way home from the 1932-3 Ashes he scored 227 and 336 not out in New Zealand. He was also the first non-wicket keeper to take 100 catches at test level.
  5. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close catcher. He was the first to play in as many as 50 successive test matches. A combination of the infrequency of tests in his day and World War I meant that the great sequence began in 1909 and did not end until 1928, when he was passed over for the 1928-9 Ashes in favour of Phil Mead.
  6. *Enid Bakewell – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. She was the first player to score a century and record a ten wicket match haul in the same test match. Between 1968 and 1979 she played 12 test matches, scoring 1078 runs at 59.88 and taking 50 wickets at 16.62. I have awarded her the captaincy, and with it her name in the title of the XI.
  7. +Leslie Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He was the first regular wicket keeper to play at least 20 test matches and finish with a batting average of over 40. He scored 120 at Lord’s in 1934, matching left hander Maurice Leyland’s century and helping England to a total of 440, after which a combination of rain juicing up the pitch and the left arm spin of Hedley Verity (15-104 in the match) saw England to their only win in an Ashes match at headquarters in the entire 20th century.
  8. Alan Davidson – left arm pace bowler, left handed lower order batter, brilliant fielder (known as ‘the Claw’ for his ability to grasp catches that tested credulity). At the Gabba in 1960 Davidson became the first cricketer in test history to combine a match aggregate of 100 runs (44 and 80) and 10 wickets (5-135 and 6-87). His endeavours in that game were not quite in vain, but nor did they bring the desired result for his team – the match, for the first time in 83 years of test cricket, finished in an exact tie – WI 453 and 284, Aus 505 and 232. Two direct hit run outs from Joe Solomon, the first to account for Davidson when he seemed to be winning the match for Australia, and the second to bring about the tie were key, and Conrad Hunte produced a tremendous long throw to run out Meckiff when that worthy was going for a third that would have settled the issue in Australia’s favour. Davidson has the lowest average of bowlers to have played post war, taken at least 150 test wickets and finished their careers, his 186 wickets at the highest level costing 20.53 each.
  9. Billy Bates – off spinner, useful lower middle order bat. At Melbourne in 1882-3, en route to helping Ivo Bligh achieve his goal of bringing back ‘The Ashes of English Cricket’, following the 1882 Oval test match and subsequent mock obituary in The Sporting Times, Bates took seven wickets in each innings, while also scoring 55 for England. His bowling performance included the first hat trick by an English bowler in test cricket, the first hat trick by someone who scored 50 in the same test and the first test combination of ten wickets and a fifty. His career was ended early when he lost the use of an eye after being injured at net practice. His 15 tests yielded 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42. He was the first of a remarkable sporting dynasty – his son WE Bates played for Yorkshire and Glamorgan, while grandson Ted Bates was involved with Southampton Football Club in various capacities for upwards of six decades.
  10. Frederick Spofforth – right arm fast bowler (later added variations). Spofforth was the first bowler to take a test match hat trick, the first bowler to take three wickets in four balls at test level and the bowler responsible for the victory that created The Ashes.
  11. Jimmy Matthews – leg spinner. How does a bowler who took a mere 16 test wickets, and never more than four in a test innings get into a team like this? Simple, six of those wickets, his only ones of the match in question, and all captured without the assistance of fielders, came in the form of the only ever incidence of a bowler taking a hat trick in each innings of a test match. His great moment came in the Triangular Tournament of 1912, for Australia against South Africa, at Old Trafford. His victims were Beaumont, Pegler and Ward in the first innings, and Taylor, Schwarz and Ward in the second, giving Ward his place in the record books as the scorer a king pair and hat trick victim in each innings. Ward by the way was a wicket keeper, and he did actually score two test fifties in his career. The modes of dismissal were bowled, LBW, LBW in the first innings and bowled, caught and bowled, caught and bowled in the second.

This team has an excellent top five, two of whom could contribute as bowlers, a great all rounder at six, a splendid keeper batter at seven and four varied bowlers of whom three definitely deserve to be described as great. The bowling has Davidson and Spofforth to take the new ball, Hammond as third seamer if needed, Bakewell, Bates and Matthews to bowl three different varieties of spin and Woolley as seventh bowler – 20 wickets won’t be a problem for this combo.


  1. Arthur Morris – left handed opening batter. The first ever to score twin centuries on first class debut. Against Gloucestershire in 1948 he accepted responsibility for ensuring that off spinner Tom Goddard did not get an England call up, and proceeded to belt 290 in five hours, leaving Goddard nursing a very sick looking bowling analysis, and well and truly out of test contention. I have written about elsewhere.
  2. George Gunn – right handed opening batter. The Accidental Test Tourist – he was in Australia on health grounds when he got the emergency call up to join England’s ranks during the 1907-8 Ashes, the first time an English tour party had adopted such an approach. He responded by scoring 119 and 74.
  3. Lawrence Rowe – right handed batter. The first to score a double century and a century on test debut, 214 and 100 not out vs New Zealand. He subsequently took a triple century off England as well, but eye problems truncated his career.
  4. Tip Foster – the first to score a double century on test debut, the only person to captain England at cricket and football. I have covered him elsewhere.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, every kind of left arm bowler known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The first to hit six sixes in an over in first class cricket. I have written about him elsewhere.
  6. Basil D’Oliveira – right handed bat, right arm medium fast bowler. The first non-white South African to play test cricket. As mentioned in my South Africa post he had to move countries to be able to achieve this, and was lucky to find backers to help him do so. The 158 he scored against Australia at The Oval immediately before the selectors of that winter’s tour party to South Africa sat down to deliberate took his test record to 972 runs at 48.60, an average bettered only by Barrington among those then playing for England. The subsequent ramifications of his non-selection and then selection as replacement for someone picked as a bowler shook the sporting world, and ultimately led to South Africa being isolated from world cricket for over 20 years.
  7. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler, ace slipper. Ian Botham was the first male test cricketer to score a hundred and take a ten wicket match haul, against India in 1979. He was also the first to combine a century with a five wicket innings haul on more than two occasions (v New Zealand at Christchurch, 103, 30, 5 first innings wickets, three second innings wickets, v Pakistan at Lord’s, 108 and 8-34, the first century and eight-for combo at that level, v India in 1979 – 114, 6-58, 7-48, v Australia at Headingley 6-95, 50, 149 not out, one second innings wicket and v New Zealand on the 1983-4 tour, 138 and 5-59, before New Zealand were inspired by Martin Crowe’s maiden test hundred to save the game with a fighting second innings display), and the first to the career triple double at test level (3,000 runs and 300 wickets, achieved in his 72nd match).
  8. +Jack Blackham – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The first keeper to regularly do without a long stop, and the first keeper to score twin fifties in a test match.
  9. *Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order bat. First bowler to take 100 test wickets in a country other than his own – he reached the mark for matches in England in 2005. He is the leading wicket taker in Anglo-Australian tests and second to Muralitharan in the all-time list. He is the designated captain of this XI.
  10. Jim Laker – off spinner. Only one bowler in first class history has taken more than 17 wickets in a first class match, and he did in an Ashes test. James Charles Laker took 19-90 (9-37, followed by 10-53) at Old Trafford in 1956 to retain the Ashes for England. In a tour match for Surrey against Australia on a good Oval pitch he took 10-88 from 46 overs in the first innings of the match, settling for 2-42 at the second attempt, when his spinning partner Tony Lock took 7-49, Surrey becoming the first county to beat the Aussies since 1912. England made 459 in the first innings of the Manchester match, Peter Richardson and David Sheppard (then bishop of Woolwich, later bishop of Liverpool) making centuries, Sheppard’s 113 being the highest individual innings of the series. Australia then sank for 84, before determined resistance by Colin McDonald (89 in 337 minutes, highest Aussie score of the series) saw them to 205 second time round. Four front line spinners operated in this match, and three of them (Ian Johnson, Richie Benaud and Tony Lock) had combined match figures of 7-380 (an average of 54.43 per wicket). In 1950 Laker had taken 8-2 for England v The Rest at Bradford as The Rest limped to 27 all out. In 1954 he was involved in one cricket’s most remarkable fixtures, when Surrey sealed their third straight County Championship (a sequence they would extend to seven under first Surridge, five of them, and then Peter May, two more). Worcestershire were rolled for 25 in their first innings, and Surrey had reached 92-3 when Surridge decided that he fancied another go at Worcestershire that evening and declared! Not bothering with conventional new ball bowling he threw the cherry straight to his spin twins, who each produced an unplayable ball before the close. The following morning Worcetsreshire were blown away for 40, to lose by an innings and 27 runs. Laker, not required in the first innings rout of Worcestershire, took a hat trick in the second. That aggregate of 157 runs for 23 wickets remains the lowest ever for a completed County Championship game, and the victory that Surridge conjured out of nothing was as mentioned enough to secure that year’s title for Surrey.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. The first Indian fast bowler to rattle Australia in their own backyard. His 6-33 in Australia’s first innings at the MCG in 2018 effectively settled the destination of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Neither of the two great quicks of the 1930s, Amar Singh and Mahomed Nissar ever got to pit their wits against Australia, and basically between them and Bumrah India never had a really fast bowler of top quality.

This team has a splendid top four, three all rounders of differing types, a top of the range keeper and three fine specialist bowlers. Bumrah would share the new ball with either Botham or Sobers, with the other third seamer, while the spin options are provided by Warne, Laker and Sobers, and there is medium pace back up if required available from D’Oliveira.


These are two strong and formidably well balanced sides. Obviously, with all due respect to the only person ever to bag a hat trick in each innings of a test match the Warne XI have an advantage in the leg spin department. However, Bates vs Laker is a good match up, while Sobers’ talents are counterbalanced by those of Davidson, Bakewell and Woolley. The Warne XI have an edge in the pace bowling department, but not much of one. There is also no doubt in my mind that the Bakewell XI have greater strength and depth in batting. I reckon this one goes down to the wire and I cannot even attempt to call a winner.


The pinchhitter has produced an excellent post today, looking back 17 years ago to the highest successful run chase in test history, when the West Indies chased down 418 in Antigua.

The full toss blog have a post up comparing Strauss’ 2011 England with Vaughan’s 2005 England – and coming as far as I am concerned to the right conclusion as to which was the better unit.


Another one from

Fish Fiction

Your task is to use the above information to identify the smallest fish – and if you enjoy the task establish a complete ranking order of the five fish.


Today’s teams have put in their appearance, I have served up a couple of bonus cricket links and a mathematical teaser, so I now hand over to you for your comments with my usual sign off…

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The first of two particularly satsifying starling pics

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Mars mapping, from Dava Sobel’s “Planets”

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Firsts and Onlies
The teams in tabulated form.