All Time XIs -The ‘Signed Off In Style’ XI

My latest variation on the ‘all time XI’ theme, with a couple of special honourable mentions and a bonus feature on enforcing the follow on.

INTRODUCTION

Yes folks, it is time for another variation on the ‘All Time XI‘ theme. Today the focus is on people who produced particularly special final curtain calls. This is an all Test Match XI, and I follow it with a couple of honourable mentions, and then a piece that touches on a topic that a couple of my XI had more than a little to do with – The Follow On. Scene setting complete it is time to introduce the…

‘SIGNED OFF IN STYLE’ XI

  1. Andrew Sandham – his last test match took place in Kingston, Jamaica in1930. He scored 325 of England’s first innings 849 (both of them records at the time, his innings being the first test score of over 300, relieving Tip Foster with his debut 287 of the record), and then when skipper Calthorpe decided that as it was a ‘timeless’ match he would not enforce the follow on, in spite of having an advantage of 563 on first innings, Sandham scored a further 50 as England scored 272-9 declared. His aggregate of 375 was a record for a test match until Greg Chappell tallied a total of 380 for Australia v New Zealand about half a century later. Sandham (Surrey) was the in many ways the southern equivalent of Percy Holmes – one half of a tremendously successful county opening pair who did not get the opportunities at test level – their county opening partners Herbert Sutcliffe and Jack Hobbs, test cricket’s greatest ever opening pair, getting the nod most of the time, and quite rightly. Nevertheless, Hobbs and Sandham gave their county a century start 66 times in all (as opposed to the 69 by Sutcliffe and Holmes for Yorkshire). Sandham was involved with Surrey in various capacities for over six decades. It was typical in a way of his unobtrusiveness that his hundredth first class hundred came not at one of cricket’s big showpiece venues but at humble Basingstoke. Sandham was 39 at the time of his last test bow, a mere pup compared to his opening partner in that game, 50 year old George Gunn.
  2. Bill Ponsford – the stocky Victorian scored 181 at Leeds in the 4th test of the 1934 Ashes, a game which was drawn due to the weather. With the series tied, the final game at The Oval was decreed to be timeless, and when Australia won the toss and batted they needed to get some serious runs on the board. Helped by Bradman (244) in a second wicket stand of 451, Ponsford produced an innings of 266, the Aussie score when he was finally dislodged reading 574-4. Australia went on to 701, and after declining to enforce a follow on, won the match by 562 runs, as skipper Woodfull regained the urn on his birthday, for the second time in four years. That was Ponsford’s swansong, and he had announced his arrival at the top level eight years and a bit previously with tons in each of his first two test matches, the only person to have both started and finished his career in such fashion. It says something about the nature of Aussie pitches of the period and timeless matches, then in vogue in Australia, that Ponsford averaged 84 in the Sheffield Shield but only 48 in test cricket.
  3. Alec Stewart – as a Surrey native, Stewart had an easy way to take his final test match curtain call in front of a home crowd – retire at the end of a test summer, which is what he did. He treated his home crowd to wonderful farewell century, finishing with a tally of test runs, 8.463, that had an interesting symmetry with the digital representation of his 8th April, 1963 birthdate – 8.4.63! Although I named as wicket keeper in order to fit him into my Surrey all time XI, the truth is that Stewart the specialist batter was about 15 runs an innings better than Stewart the keeper, and as an excellent player of quick bowling who was an uncertain starter against spin, a top order slot makes sense for him.
  4. Greg Chappell – the 6’4″ South Australian (one of a number of distinguished cricketing products of Prince Alfred College, Adelaide dating back to Joe Darling and Clem Hill in the late 19th century) produced a score of 182 in his final test innings against Pakistan in 1984. 14 years earlier, at the WACA, he had scored 108 in his first test match innings, and barring the quibble-cook exception of Andy Ganteaume whose first and last test innings were one and the same, no one else has centuries in their first and last test innings.
  5. *Steve Waugh – being a native of NSW, Steve Waugh was in a position to script the fairy tale ending to his illustrious career – has final test match was the last match of a triumphant Ashes series and took place on his own home ground, the SCG. He supplied the last ingredient needed to complete the recipe – a bravura century brought up off the final ball of a day’s play. The tension in the closing overs of that day, as Waugh got tantalisingly closer and closer to the landmark was really something.
  6. Stanley Jackson – the Yorkshireman was 35 years old (the same age to the day as his opposite number Joe Darling) when he captained England in the 1905 Ashes series. He won all five tosses in that series, England won both the matches that had definite results, and Jackson topped both the batting and bowling averages for the series (70 and 15 respectively). In the final match he contributed 76 with the bat. It would be 76 years before an England all rounder next dominated an Ashes series in such a way – and his golden period came only after he had resigned the captaincy just before he got pushed.
  7. +Alan Knott – the keeper who had declared himself unavailable for tours was brought back at Old Trafford in 1981, and contributed 59 to an England win. Then at The Oval, with England in serious danger of defeat he signed off with a match saving 70, well backed by his skipper Brearley who also scored a fifty. At the time of his retirement he had made more dismissals – 269 (250 catches and 19 stumpings) than any other England wicket keeper. He had also averaged 32.75 with the bat for his country. He subsequently (in my opinion at least) blotted his copybook by going on the first ‘rebel tour’ of apartheid South Africa, but his test farewell was splendid.
  8. Harold Larwood – the bowling star of the 1932-3 Ashes, which also turned out to be his last test series. In the final game he scored 98, before injuring himself while bowling. Skipper Jardine made him complete the over, and then kept him out on the field while Bradman was still batting. When Bradman was out, Larwood was finally allowed to leave the field, so the two greatest antagonists of the series departed the arena at the same moment. I have mentioned his subsequent shameful treatment by the powers that be in other posts.
  9. Jason Gillespie – sent as nightwatchman he scored 201 not out in what turned out to be his last test innings. This ended his career on much higher note than had looked likely when in the 2005 Ashes he bowled largely unthreatening medium pace, paying out over 100 runs per wicket and looking every inch a spent force.
  10. Sydney Barnes – The England ace took seven wickets in each innings of the fourth match of the 1913-4 series in South Africa. That brought his tally for the series to 49, and his overall test tally to 189. He then quarrelled with management over money and refused to play the final game, otherwise, such was his hold over the South Africans that it is likely he would have had 60+ wickets for the series and been the first to reach the landmark of 200 career test wickets (in what would have been only 28 games). Still, one match earlier than ought to have been the case, Barnes had produced an appropriate swansong performance to confirm his status as the greatest bowler the game had ever seen.
  11. Hugh Trumble – in the final innings of his final test match he bowled his team to victory by bagging 7-28, bringing his tally of Ashes scalps to 141, which remained a record for over 77 years until Dennis Lillee overhauled it at Headingley in 1981.

This XI has a splendid top five, including a tough and resourceful skipper, an all-rounder at six, a splendid keeper/batter at seven and four front line bowlers of varying types.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I am limiting these to two, who I think demand explanation, although one was a first class rather than a test farewell. I start with…

SIR ALASTAIR’S SWANSONG

In 2006 Alastair Nicholas Cook announced himself at test level by scoring a fifty and a century versus India. 12 years and 12,500 test runs later the Essex left hander signed off by scoring a fifty in the first innings and a century in the second at The Oval – against India, for a neat dual symmetry. So why have I not included him? Well, my XI includes a top three who were all regular openers, the performances of Sandham and Ponsford in their sign off matches (remember the name of the XI) commanded inclusion, and in spite of the fact that a left handed batter would have been useful I could not place Cook’s sign off effort above Stewart’s home ground century. Also I could not miss the opportunity to include Stewart in his optimal role as a specialist batter. Finally, I wanted a stroke maker to follow my opening pair. Additionally I was slightly disappointed by the timing of Cook’s announcement of his plan to retire. England were struggling to find folk to open in test matches as the summer of 2018 drew its close, with Stoneman already having been found wanting and Jennings blatantly obviously being in the process of being found wanting. I envisaged, as I wrote in a post at that time, Cook staying on for one last tilt at the oldest enemy in 2019, and helping to usher through two new openers, Burns (who had made an irrefutable case for selection by then) and another (my suggestion, to alleviate concern over having two openers with no international experience, was that England should indulge in a spot of lateral thinking and invite Tammy Beaumont to take her place alongside the men). Thus, while I concede that there is a strong case for Cook having a top three place in this XI, I conclude (a bit like the umpire in a festival match who responded to an appeal against WG Grace by saying “close, but not close enough for a festival match”) that it is not quite strong enough, especially with the most likely drop being Stewart.

HEDLEY VERITY’S LAST BURST

In August 1939, as the warmongers mobilized, Hedley Verity played in Yorkshire’s last championship fixture of the year at Hove. In one final spell of left arm spin wizardry he captured seven Sussex wickets at a personal cost of nine runs. Four years later Captain Verity of the Green Howards was hit by sniper fire as he led his men towards a strategically important farmhouse on Sicily. He was moved to a military hospital at Caserta but died of his wounds at the age of 38. Although his story is a poignant one, and an extra spinning option would have appealed to me, I decided that it would be out of keeping to an include him in an XI picked for their test match sign offs. It is more than likely that had he survived the war Verity would have carried on playing, and I suspect that had been in the test side at Headingley in 1948 Australia would not have been able to chase down 404 on a wicket that was taking spin. It is even possible, without allowing him to break his great forebear Wilfred Rhodes’ record for being the oldest to play test cricket to imagine a 51 year old Verity being Laker’s spin twin in the 1956 Ashes rather than Tony Lock. His 1,956 wickets at 14.90 in less than a full decade of first class cricket show him to have been a very great bowler indeed, which is backed up by Bradman’s acknowledgement of precisely one bowler he faced as an equal: Hedley Verity.

TO ENFORCE OR NOT TO ENFORCE,
THAT IS THE QUESTION

This is a thorny question, and I tackle it here because of the presence in my XI of Sandham, who played in a match that was drawn after a refusal to enforce, Ponsford who played in several matches where the follow on was not enforced with varying degrees of success and Jackson who played a role in the enforcement of the follow on becoming voluntary.

A POTTED HISTORY OF FOLLOW ON REGULATIONS

While the margin required to enforce the follow on changed over the years, being as low as 80 at one point and climbing by stages to 150, until the 1890s it was compulsory to enforce it. Then there was a Varsity match in which Stanley Jackson (son of Lord Allerton, and never anyone’s idea of a rebel) deliberately orchestrated the giving away of eight runs so that his opponents would not follow on. It backfired – set 330 in the final innings the dark blues chased them down, but the lawmakers got the message after years of tampering with required margins that what people wanted was the right to choose.

FOLLOW ON HAPPENINGS

Three test matches have been won by a side following on – Sydney 1894, when enforcing was compulsory, Headingley 1981 and Kolkata 2001. The Sydney match, in which no decision over whether to enforce could have been made anyway, was largely lost on the fifth evening, when Giffen decided to block until the close, keeping wickets in hand for the morrow. Australia ended that day 113-2, needing just 64 for more to win. It rained overnight, though Bobby Peel, who seems to have had a Flintoffesque capacity for unwinding at the end of a day’s play apparently did not hear it. The combination of overnight rain (remember, uncovered pitches in those days) and a hot Sydney sun turned the pitch seriously nasty, and Australia fell to the wiles of Peel and Briggs, losing eight wickets for 36 runs (Darling, the other not out overnight batter, began with some big hitting, but was caught in the deep with the score at 130, and thereafter it was a complete procession). Additionally, during the England second innings the Aussies lost a bit of discipline in the field – both Francis Ford (48) and Johnny Briggs (42) offered easy chances that went begging. At Headingley in 1981 Ian Botham and Graham Dilley did not initially believe they could make a contest of it, and England’s great revival began as a slogfest. Australia had some undistinguished moments in the field, but the crucial period of play happened just before lunch on the final day. Australia were 56-1 with the interval not long away, when Willis was given a go from the Kirkstall Lane end to save his career. In the last stages of the morning play Trevor Chappell could not get out of the way of a bouncer and gave an easy catch, Kim Hughes and Graham Yallop fell to fine catches by Botham and Gatting respectively, and at lunch Australia were 58-4, and suddenly thinking about defeat as a real possibility. Even if Australia had scored no runs at all in that last period before lunch it is hard to imagine that a lunch score of 56-1 could have given them collywobbles to quite the same extent. The third match, which I mentioned in yesterday’s post, was turned on its head by an amazing partnership between Dravid and Laxman, and is the only one of the three where you can seriously argue that the decision to enforce the follow-on contributed to the defeat. At the end of the first day at Headingley, when Australia were 203-3, Brearley opined that a side could be bowled out for 90 on that surface, and it may well have been the case had Australia gone in again that something along those lines happened – third innings collapses are not unknown by any means (Australia once lost a test match after not enforcing when they were rolled for 99 in the third innings and South Africa successfully chased over 300, and Essex in 1904 and Warwickshire in 1982 to name but two can tell their own tales of horrendous third innings folds), and with a draw out of the question England may well have chased a target of just over 300. In the ‘timeless match’ that marked the end of Sandham’s test career England skipper Calthorpe declined to enforce the follow on, and the West Indies were 408-5 (Headley 223) chasing 836 when rain and England’s departure plans scuppered the match. Six years earlier Calthorpe had been involved in a credulity straining comeback, when Hampshire collapsed for 15 in their first innings, Calthorpe enforced the follow on and Hampshire made 521 second time round and emerged victorious by 155 runs. However, we have the word of Warwickshire keeper Tiger Smith that autocratic secretary RV Ryder had sent Calthorpe a message saying that the committee were meeting the following day and would like to see some cricket, and Calthorpe obediently put on some part time bowlers to ensure that there was not an early finish. In other words, this was another match in which the decision to enforce was not itself key to the outcome. Finally, we come to the last ever timeless test, at Durban in early 1939. South Africa batted first, made 530, England were out for 316, South Africa, scorning to enforce the follow on, scored a further 481, leaving England 696 to get. England, helped by a long defensive innings from Paul Gibb (140 in nine hours) and a double century from Bill Edrich (who had never previously scored a test 50) had reached 654-5, a mere 42 short of their goal, when rain and England’s departure plans intervened, and 11 days after its commencement the match was officially confirmed as a draw. Had the match, as originally intended, been played to its conclusion, there seems little doubt that England would have scored those last 42 runs, and claimed the victory. One man who was utterly convinced that South Africa’s failure to enforce the follow on was a blunder was England skipper Hammond, who was no fan of timeless matches (and for the record, neither am I). Hammond felt that after that 316 all out in their first innings England were demoralized, and that a follow on would have seen South Africa comfortably home.

My opinion on enforcing the follow on is that there are a few circumstances in which I might countenance not enforcing it, to whit:

  • It is the last (five day) test of a series, and your side is a match to the good. While I would consider it stolid, if not downright negative, I would understand the reasoning behind declining to enforce and aiming instead to pile up a colossal lead.
  • It is the final round of the County Championship, and your team, at the top of the table, are playing the team in second place, and a draw will see you champions, while a defeat would see the opposition take the title. Again, while I would not go so far as to support a decision to to enforce, I would understand the reasoning behind it.
  • Notwithstanding a couple of counter examples already mentioned, in a timeless match I could understand why it might seem imperative to rest your bowlers by going in again.

However, even making due allowance for these specific situations, my firm opinion remains: if you have the opportunity to go for the quick kill by enforcing the follow on you should be very strongly inclined to take it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Another ‘All Time XI’ has paraded its skills on this blog, a couple of magnificent cricketers have been given well merited honourable mentions and an answer has been offered to the question of whether or not to enforce the follow, and all that remains is my usual sign off…

TNOs
This comes from the twitter account of Olivier Hernandez.

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Signed Off In Style
The XI in tabulated form with abbreviated comments.

All Time XIs – Eccentrics

My latest variation on the ‘all time XI’ theme, this time producing an Eccentric XI – and using one of them as a jumping off point for a law change suggestion. Challenge for you: is the XI or its creator more eccentric?

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on the ‘All Time XI‘ theme. In the spotlight today are cricketing eccentrics. All of the players named have notable achievements to their credit, and my follow-up feature to presenting the XI will refer to one of these in particular.

THE ALL TIME ECCENTRICS XI

  1. George Gunn – right handed opening bat, 35,208 first class runs at 35.96. I wrote about him in my Nottinghamshire piece (all my county XIs can be accessed from this page), and I am now going to concentrate on his eccentricities. On one occasion, when facing Gubby Allen of Middlesex at the start of an innings Gunn took the unusual approach when facing a quick bowler of commencing to walk down the pitch as Allen began his run up! This extraordinary little innings lasted five balls before Allen managed to clean bowl Gunn, and the score at that point was 18-1! On another occasion Gunn was batting on a beautiful sunny day and was looking in fine form when he suddenly popped up a simple chance. Asked what had happened he laconically replied “too hot.” Once Gunn was unbeaten when the lunch interval (as he thought) arrived, and he started to head for the pavilion, only to be told that the playing hours had been revised, and lunch was not until 2:00. Gunn allowed the next delivery to bowl him and walked off saying “I always take my lunch at 1:30”. There was a game against Yorkshire, when after those worthies had posted a big total Gunn ground out a century in over six hours, copping all manner of stick from the fielders along the way. Notts failed to avoid the follow on, and with less than two hours left in the game they went in again. This time, Gunn was 109 not out, with none of the other three players to bat in the Notts second innings even in double figures. Gunn said about this second innings display “I thought I’d play swashbuckle to show them”. My final story concerns a letter Gunn was given at the back end of the 1920 season, which he pocketed and promptly forgot about. Rediscovering it the following spring he opened it and found that it had contained an invitation to go on the 1920-1 Ashes Tour!.
  2. George Brown – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, occasional wicket keeper. 25,649 runs at 26.49, 626 wickets at 29.31, 568 catches and 78 stumpings in first class cricket. I described his response to a barrage from Larwood in my Hampshire post. Another example of distinctive behaviour is the story of how he came to Hampshire in the first place – it is said that he walked the 60 miles from his native village of Cowley, Oxfordshire to Southampton with his cricket bag over his shoulder.
  3. Sydney Rippon – right handed bat, 3,823 first class runs at 21.53. One half of a pair of identical twins (Dudley was the other) who played for Somerset. They looked so similar that scorers often had a hard time working out which of them to credit runs to (both were front line batters). Sydney gains his place in this XI for a highly unusual achievement – batting for the same county team in the same season under two different names! He was an amateur who worked as a civil servant, and once while he was off work sick Somerset had dire need of his services with the bat. Not wishing either to let his county down or get in trouble with his employers he appeared in the match in question as ‘S Trimnell’! He had a reasonable game under his assumed name, and did manage to avoid trouble with his employers.
  4. Bill Alley – left handed bat, right arm medium-fast, 19,621 first class runs at 31.88 and 768 wickets at 22.68. Another Somerset legend. He joined the county when closer to 40 than 30 years of age and played for them for over a decade. He did many thing sin his eventful life. When his playing days were done he became an umpire. There are two versions of a story about his early umpiring days which are both entertaining: both versions involve a young bowler attempting to illicitly alter the condition of the ball in his favour – in one Umpire Alley spots what is going and intervenes telling the youngster in the twang of his native Oz “mate, this is how you do it”, and gives him the benefit of his experience; while in the other Alley sees the ball at the end of an over and says to the youngster “you’ve done a good job on this – if you don’t get seven wickets with it I’m reporting you.” There is also a claim made that would definitely if true put Alley in a club of one – that a certain FS Trueman terminated a friendly visit to the Somerset dressing room because Alley’s lurid language was too much for him!
  5. Derek Randall – right handed batter, brilliant fielder, 28,456 first class runs at 38.14. Rated by many who saw him as possibly the fidgetiest cricketer in history. He got a raw deal from the England selectors, who often used him up near the top of the order when he was better suited to batting in the middle, but he still managed some outstanding performances at that level, notably his 174 in the Centenary Test in 1977 when England made a gallant effort to chase a target of 463, losing by 45 runs, coincidentally the identical margin by which they lost the inaugural test match in 1877. In the fourth test of the 1978-9 Ashes at Sydney it was Randall who stopped England from losing their grip on that series. England had won the first two games, but had then been beaten in Melbourne, and had batted atrociously in the first innings at Sydney. After some stern words from skipper Brearley the team had rallied in the field to restrict their first innings deficit to 142, but they still needed something special to get out of the hole they were in. After the early loss of an out of sorts Boycott, Randall came in, and supported first by Brearley, then by Gooch and then by a few others lower down Randall batted for nine and a half hours in searing heat to reach 150. That meant that England had 204 to defend, and on a pitch that was starting to misbehave Yallop’s inexperienced Aussie side crashed to 111 all out putting England 3-1 up, with two matches to go in the six match series, meaning that The Ashes, regained by Brearley in 1977 were safely retained. As it happened England won both remaining matches and the series finished 5-1, an almost complete reversal of Aussie skipper Yallop’s preliminary 6-0 to Australia boast. Derek Randall wrote an autobiography, “The Sun Has Got It’s Hat On”, which I recommend.
  6. Billy Midwinter – right handed batter, right arm medium, 4,534 first class runs at 19.13, 419 wickets at 17.41.His chief eccentricity lay in his career pattern – Australia v England at the dawn of test cricket in 1877, England v Australia in 1881-2 and then back to Australia v England (others have played for both countries, but none for both A v E and E v A). His birthplace, for those who set store by such details (see my previous post in this series) was English – St Briavels in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
  7. +Alan Knott – wicket keeper and right handed bat, 18,105 runs at 29.63, 1,211 catches and 133 stumpings in first class cricket. The difficulty with finding a wicket keeper for a side of this nature is that so very many of the breed are so clearly eligible that it is hard to pick one. Accounts of his antics suggest that Alan Knott very successfully inhabited the border zone between outright genius (exemplified by his glovework) and downright bonkers.
  8. *Aubrey Smith – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat, 346 first class wickets at 22.34, 2,986 runs at 13.63. ‘Round the Corner’ Smith as he was dubbed for his run up (apparently it was actually more a logarithmic curve than a round-the-corner run) captained England in his only test match appearance (win record 100%, 7 wickets at 8.71 each in the match), before handing the reins to Monty Bowden, who at the age of 23 remains the youngest person to have captained the England men in a test match. After his playing days were done he trod the boards, ultimately going to Hollywood (at their instance, not his), where he established Hollywood Cricket Club, of which, having done the job for England, he was the inaugural captain. There is a story of Smith in his old age fielding at slip, dropping a catch, calling for his glasses, then dropping another sitter and saying “dashed fool brought my reading glasses”.
  9. George Simpson-Hayward – right arm bowler of under arm off spin, right handed bat, 503 first class wickets at 21.39, 5,556 runs at 18.58. The ‘last of the lobsters’ (his style of under arm bowling was also known as ‘lobs’), he won a test series for England against South Africa (23 wickets at 18.26 in the five matches) with his bowling, the last to make a mark with that style of bowling at the very highest level (although Mike Brearley did on occasion try under arm bowling for Middlesex many years later). 
  10. Cecil Parkin – right arm bowler of all sorts, right hand bat, 1,048 wickets at 17.58, 2,425 runs at 11.77. In so far as he had such a thing his stock delivery was the off break, but he is known to have augmented it with a leg break, a top spinner, a yorker and probably many other types of delivery as well. The Durham born Lancashire ace is one of the three subjects of David Foot’s literary triptych “Cricket’s Unholy Trinity” (the others are Charlie Parker of Gloucestershire and Jack MacBryan of Somerset).
  11. Phil Tufnell  – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed bat, 1,057 wickets at 29.35, 2,066 runs at 9.69. Eccentricity is nearly as prevalent a trait among left arm spinners as it is among wicket keepers. Unusually for an English cricketer of his generation he actually did win something in Australia, albeit in the jungle rather than on the pitch. He has contributed some light hearted efforts to the literature of the game and is a popular expert summariser on the radio. He is also one half of ‘Tuffers and Vaughan‘ which is regularly broadcast on radio 5 live. He has been a long serving captain on the TV show “A Question of Sport”. He was unequivocally the match winner for England on three occasions, against the West Indies at The Oval in 1991, against Australia at The Oval in 1997, and against New Zealand in Christchurch in 1992, when Martin Crowe holed out going for the boundary that would have brought New Zealand level, ensuring a draw as there would have been insufficient time left in the game for the England second innings to commence, to complete an innings haul of 7-47 for Tufnell. His eccentricities caused him to be mistrusted in certain circles – he never appeared for England when Alec Stewart was captain, and when Raymond Illingworth was in overall charge (a job he did abysmally) Tufnell was rarely considered – when Illingworth wanted a slow left arm option he usually went for his Worcestershire namesake Richard who never turned the ball, but would keep things tight even if he never looked like taking wickets.

This team has a decent top five, an all-rounder, a keeper who can bat and four very widely bowlers. There is no leg spinner, but I think we can cope with that. Any of George Brown, Bill Alley or Billy Midwinter could share the new ball with Smith before the spinners are unleashed.

ON SIMPSON-HAYWARD AND A SUGGESTED LAW CHANGE

There are those will consider the suggestion I am about to make to be heretical, crazy or both. As an atheist I am hardly going to be bothered by accusations of heresy, while I make no secret of my history of mental health issues, and an accusation of craziness does not even merit a raised eyebrow as far as I am concerned. Under arm bowling was outlawed in the early 1980s in a ham-fisted move provoked by a disgraceful act by two of the Chappell brothers (the senior brother Ian was on commentary and was unimpressed). New Zealand needed six to tie a match off the final ball, with no11 Brian McKechnie, a former all-black rugby player, on strike. Aussie skipper Greg Chappell instructed the bowler, his younger brother Trevor, to roll the ball along the ground, which was then legal. McKechnie, baulked of the opportunity to go for glory, blocked the ball and then made his own feelings plain by throwing his bat in protest at the tactic. The point here was that with the ball rolling along the floor skill was taken out of the equation, the hitting of a six being rendered impossible. I believe that the outlawing of all under arm bowling was unnecessary then, and is more unnecessary now, because these days if a ball bounces more than once it is called ‘no ball’ and must be bowled again, with the batting side awarded two runs as well. All that is necessary is to make it clear that in the eyes of the law a ball rolling along the ground is considered to have bounced an infinite number of times and is therefore a no-ball. If someone is prepared to ride out the storm of mockery such an attempt would initially be greeted with and revive under arm, either lobs such as Simpson-Hayward bowled or the more vigorous version practiced by David Harris and immortalized by John Nyren in “The Cricketers of My Time” then good luck to them say I. So let us legalize under arm bowling once more, while guarding ourselves against a repeat of that final ball by Trevor Chappell – variety after all is supposed to be the spice of life. On this theme I would also recommend to readers attention that splendid short story “Spedegue’s Dropper” by Arthur Conan-Doyle, which can be found in various cricket anthologies.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

My latest ‘All Time XI’ have taken their bows, and I have made a suggestion for a law change that depending on your take can be considered bold, crazy or a multitude of other adjectives. Before I bring down the curtain on this post, I draw your attention to my mother’s latest effort on her new blog, titled “Follies and Fountains” – please do visit. And now it is time for my signing of flourish…

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Another find while doing laps of my garden – an interesting snail shell.

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two pics of this bird – from tail pattern and small size I think it is a dunnock.

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Eccentrics
Our XI in tabulated form.