All Time XIs – Warwickshire

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

INTRODUCTION

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

WARWICKSHIRE ALL TIME XI

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

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

VARIOUS OMISSIONS

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Middlesex

Continuing my all-time XIs series with Middlesex.

INTRODUCTION

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

MIDDLESEX ALL TIME XI

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

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

DIFFICULTIES AND CONTROVERSIES

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

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

OPENERS

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

NOS 3-5

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

NO 6

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

THE KEEPER

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

THE BOWLERS

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

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

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All Time XIs – Hampshire

Continuing the all-time XIs series with a virtual trip to the south coast and Hampshire.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next installment in my series of posts about all time XIs. Today we take a virtual trip (real trips not being on the menu any time soon) to the south coast to have a look at Hampshire.

HAMPSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. George Brown – he was not a specialist opener, but he was once selected to the do the job for England, and he was noted among other things for being a fearless player of fast bowling (John Arlott in the eponymous “John Arlott’s Book of Cricketers” describes Brown as the most complete cricketer there has ever been – recognized top order batter, capable wicketkeeper and sometimes effective as a pace bowler). His single most famous of many batting performances came in 1922 at Edgbaston in a match that would never been allowed to appear in a work of fiction (Editor “no way, your readers would never suspend disbelief for that”). Warwickshire batted first and through lusty efforts by Santall and Calthorpe reached a modest seeming 223 all out. Then, in 53 balls, Hampshire were bowled out 15 (which according to Warwickshire wicket keeper Tiger Smith should have been 7 – Tennyson edged a four at catchable height and Smith let four byes through), Howell 6-7 and Calthorpe 4-4. The follow on was duly enforced (teams rarely chose to go in again in such circumstances back then), and Hampshire fared better second time round, but still found themselves 177-6 with only Brown of the recognized batters left. The turn around began with a stand of 85 between Brown and Shirley, but the eighth wicket fell soon after Shirley’s own dismissal, bringing to crease Livsey, the Hampshire wicket keeper who doubled up as skipper Tennyson’s valet. It was then, from 267-8 that the real turnaround commenced. Brown and Livsey, the latter of whom had managed only three double figure innings all season, put on over 177 together before Brown’s innings ended for 172. Livsey and Stuart Boyes continued the resistance, taking Hampshire’s final total to 521, with Livsey completing his maiden first class hundred along the way and finishing unbeaten on 110. A dispirited Warwickshire then folded for 158 so that the side who had been bowled out for 15 in the first dig emerged victorious by 155 runs just about a day and a half later. Later in his career Brown once allowed one of Harold Larwood’s expresses to hit him in the chest and then caught the bowler’s eye and asked “come on Harold, when are you going to be bowl something quick?”.
  2. Robin Smith – another fearless player of quick bowling. The only serious blot on his copybook is the fact that Shane Warne made him look like a novice, but he was the hardly the only batter of his time about whom that could be said. Although it was not a job he actually did I believe that Smith’s pugnacity and seemingly genuine relish for taking on the quicks would equip him well for opening the innings.
  3. Robert Poore – an army officer whose main cricketing deeds were performed during two extended spells of leave. The second of these in 1899 saw him record an average of 91.23 for the season, a figure not surpassed until Don Bradman and Herbert Sutcliffe got to work in the 1930s. Poore used the Badminton Book of Cricket, a copy of which adorns my shelves, to teach himself the mechanics of batting. He must also have been at least half decent as an army officer since he eventually reached the rank of Brigadier General.
  4. Phil Mead – one of the most consistent run scorers ever. He scored more runs for any single team than any one else in history, 48,809 of his 55,000 first class runs being scored for Hampshire, and the 138 centuries he scored for them (out of a total tally of 153 in all first class cricket, the fourth most in history) are also a record for a single team.
  5. Kevin Pietersen – a perfect middle order counterpart to Mead, being an attacking right hander to the Mead’s more adhesive left hander. Although he equalled the score twice at test level and passed it several times before he was done his finest innings was without doubt the 158 he made at The Oval in 2005 to secure the Ashes that had been in Aussie hands since 1989 – the second most significant innings of 158 played by a South African born batter at The Oval behind D’Oliveira’s (see the Worcestershire post in this series) effort in 1968.
  6. *Lionel Tennyson – grandson of the poet laureate, a highly popular captain. During the break after Hampshire’s first innings horror show in the Edgbaston game referred to in the context of George Brown the Warwickshire captain Calthorpe approached him and suggested that as the match would clearly be over by then he and Tennyson might enjoy a round of golf. Tennyson said that not only would the match still be going on but that Hampshire would win it, and struck a bet with Calthorpe at outsize odds to that effect (nb for those worried about cricket and betting, while this would definitely not be permissible today each skipper was actually betting on his own team to win – there is no Cronje type story here). Tennyson was another one in this line up who had immense courage. He had an arm broken by Ted MacDonald during one of the 1921 test matches, and scored 63 and 36 batting virtually one handed.
  7. +Leo Harrison – a long serving wicketkeeper who was also a very useful bat.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – for my money (although Andy Roberts and Michael Holding would each certainly have their advocates) he was the finest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling. His long service as overseas player for Hampshire helped him to augment the pace he always possessed with a measure of craft and guile, increasing his already considerable stature as a performer.
  9. Alec Kennedy – 2,874 first class wickets. He spent most his career carrying an otherwise ordinary bowling attack.
  10. Peter Sainsbury – a slow left armer whose wickets came at 24 runs a piece. He was the main spinner when Hampshire won their first county championship.
  11. Derek Shackleton – only one bowler has ever taken 100 or more first class wickets in each of 20 successive seasons, and it is he. Only Rhodes who achieved the feat 23 times in his extraordinary career took 100 or more in a season more often than Shackleton.

This team has a splendid top five, an inspiring captain who could do his part from no 6, a keeper who could bat and four splendid bowlers plus George Brown’s pace. It is somewhat deficient in the spin department by my standards, but that is because Shaun Udal, the most obvious second choice Hampshire spinner paid 32 runs per wicket and in view of the fact that neither Kennedy nor Shackleton were especially quick I wanted some extra pace, which meant choosing Marshall as overseas player rather than Warne.

Similarly, in the matter of openers, where I have named two who were not specialists at that job. The trouble is that the only three Hampshire openers I could think of with really top records were Roy Marshall, Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge, two West Indians and a South African. I could had I fancied taking a legalistic approach have legitimately argued that Roy Marshall was more akin to a “Kolpak” than a true overseas player (except that unlike far too many real “Kolpaks” he genuinely was top class), but I did not consider that in the spirit of my self set rules for this exercise. For those wondering about the absence of David Gower the simple truth is that his best days as a player were behind him by the time he moved from Leicestershire, and it will be when it comes to that county the he features in a team.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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For those of you who are on facebook there is now a challenge going there for people to produce photographs of sea scenes. This picture, taken three months (though of course it now feels like as many eons) ago from the heights of Tintagel was my contribution.
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At present I am limited to ophotograophs that can be taken without leaving home…

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These last three photographs provide a clue as where the background to thesepieces comes from.

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All Time XIs – Glamorgan

Continuing my all-time XIs series with Glamorgan.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the continuation of my series of all time XIs. Today we look at the county that is chiefly responsible for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB for short) being so named, Glamorgan.

GLAMORGAN ALL TIME XI

  1. Hugh Morris – a left hander who was consistently to be found among the leading run scorers of the season in the first part of the 1990s. In common with many whose prime years were then he was shockingly handled by the England selectors.
  2. Alan Jones – the scorer of more first class runs than anyone else who never got to play test cricket (he did play for England against the Rest of the World in the series that was organized to replace the South African visit of 1970 when that was cancelled, but those games were not deemed to be test matches).
  3. Emrys Davis – a left hander who often opened the innings and was a very consistent scorer of runs in his day, including being a major contributor to Glamorgan’s first ever county championship in 1948. He holds the record for the highest second innings score in English first class cricket, 287 not out (the overall record belongs, like so many batting records, to Donald Bradman who scored 452 not out in NSWs second innings tally of 760-8 declared versus Queensland in 1929-30). He was also capable of bowling left arm spin – 903 first class wickets at 29.30.
  4. Matthew Maynard – a stroke playing middle order batter whose prime years coincided with a period when the England team was abysmally mismanaged.
  5. Tony Cottey – a diminutive but aggressively inclined middle order batter who tended to come up trumps when it was most needed. That the England selectors never came calling for him was a major oversight on their part – 1990s England middle orders were not known for their solidity or resilience and it seems likely that someone of Cottey’s character and talents would have significantly improved the situation. For more see this post from my 100 cricketers series.
  6. *Wilfred Wooller – captain and an all-rounder in at least two and possibly three senses, his middle order batting, medium paced bowling and excellent fielding making him a cricketing all-rounder and the fact that he also played rugby for Wales (in which game he was both a prolific try scorer and a very good kicker, hence the three senses of being an all rounder) making him a sporting allrounder. He captained Glamorgan to the championship in 1948.
  7. +Haydn Davies – a long serving and very successful wicketkeeper for the county.
  8. Len Muncer – a highly skilled bowler of both off spin and leg spin, who took his wickets at under 20 a piece and no mug with the bat.
  9. Don Shepherd – an off spinner who bowled significantly quicker than most of his kind. He holds the record for the most first class wickets taken by anyone who never played test cricket, an unwelcome double first for Glamorgan.
  10. Simon Jones – a crucial cog in England’s 2005 Ashes winning machine, during which series he recorded the best innings figures by a Welshman in test cricket, in the fourth match at Trent Bridge. A genuinely fast (over 90mph) bowler whose ability to ‘reverse swing’ the ball made him at least as dangerous with an old ball as with a new one. He was also an excellent fielder and had his moments as an attacking lower order batter, notably at Edgbaston in 2005 when his contribution to a last wicket stand with Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff was crucial to the outcome of the match.
  11. Steve Watkin – an accurate and persistent medium-fast bowler who was as consistently at or near the top of the seasonal wicket takers lists as Hugh Morris was the run scoring lists and who got pretty much equally scant recognition from the England selectors.

This side has a strong front five, an all-rounder at six, a quality keeper and four high quality bowlers of different types. The presence of Watkin and Wooller to bowl their varieties of medium and also the two spinners Muncer and Shepherd plus Emrys Davies’ SLA if needed means that Simon Jones, the X factor bowler could be used in short bursts operating always at top speed.

THE WICKETKEEPER AND SPINNERS

This subsection deals with a couple of areas that caused difficulty. There were several keepers who would merit attention: Eifion Jones, Colin Metson (he was closest other than Davies to getting the nod) and Mark Wallace being the three most obvious.

The situation with the spinners/ support bowlers is that there were quite a few contender. First, some would look at the fact that Robert Croft was a fairly regular pick for England, and that one part of the 1997 county championship triumph, Glamorgan’s third and to date last, was the success enjoyed by Croft and Dean Cosker. Johnnie Clay, Muncer’s older contemporary (they combined effectively to help their side win the 1948 Championship, by when Clay, who had taken part in Glamorgan’s inaugural first class season of 1921, was 50 years old) was another who had to be considered. I also considered Malcolm Nash, who in spite of once being walloped for six sixes in an over by Garfield Sobers was a successful purveyor of left arm medium pace and spin over the years. Croft and Cosker, playing in the 1990s and 2000s took their wickets at 35.08 and 36.31 a piece respectively, both quite pricey for guys whose batting would never have got them selected. Nash, playing in the 1950s and 60s, averaged a respectable 25.87, Clay, operating between 1921 and 1948, averaged 19.76 per wicket and Muncer, who played in the 1940s and 1950s averaged 19.90 per wicket, but had the advantage of being able to bowl two kinds of spin, whereas Clay bowled only off spin. I accept that Clay and Muncer would have paid more for their wickets in the 1990s, but I do not believe that they would have paid almost twice as much. Similarly, Croft and Cosker would both have paid less for their wickets in an earlier era, but not by enough to close the chasm that yawns between their figures and those of Clay and Muncer. Hence, having already determined that Shepherd with his huge tally of wickets had to be in the side, it came down to Clay vs Muncer, and Muncer’s more varied bowling stock in trade was the clincher.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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All Time XIs – Essex

Continuing with the all-time XIs, today is the turn of Essex.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my All Time XIs series. Today we are dealing with Essex.

ALL TIME ESSEX XI

  1. Graham Gooch – A huge run scorer over a very long period. In 1985 he made 196 at The Oval to ensure that England would regain The Ashes. In 1986 he made centuries against both India and New Zealand. In 1988 he scored 459 runs in a series against the West Indies that they won by four matches to nil (the series opener was drawn due to the weather), in 1990 he scored over 1,000 test runs in the home summer, the first (and to date) only time that such has ever been achieved, including 752 runs in a three match series v India (333 and 123 in the opener at Lords, 121 and 2 in the second and 88 and 85 in the third). In 1991 at Headingley he scored 154 not out against the West Indies in a team total of 252.
  2. Alastair Cook – England’s all time leading test run scorer by some margin, the left handed opener’s greatest series was against the Aussies in their own backyard, in 2010-11 when he helped England to a 3-1 series triumph (a scoreline that frankly flattered the Aussies) with 766 runs at 127.66. After digging England out of some trouble at Brisbane with 235 not out he scored 148 in the win at Adelaide, contributed a half century at Melbourne after Australia had been rolled for 98 in their first innings and finally at Sydney responding to a modest Aussie total he batted for over eight hours scoring 189 to set England up for another innings victory, a unique third in an Ashes series.
  3. Percy Perrin – a big run scorer at a time when Essex as a whole were not the strongest of sides. He hit 68 fours in making 343 not out, a boundary count rivalled only Brian Lara who hit 62 fours and 10 sixes in his 501 not out, against Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. Unfortunately for Perrin, this innings was ultimately unavailing as Derbyshire ended up winning by nine wickets (Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1).
  4. *Keith Fletcher – the man who captained Essex to their first county championship in 1979, and until Gooch overhauled him Essex’s leading first class run scorer.
  5. Nasser Hussain – a big run scorer through the 1990s, also the captain who initiated England’s climb back from bottom of the world test rankings, where they found themselves in 1999 after losing a home series against New Zealand in the immediate aftermath of a humiliating exit from a home world cup (in those days there was less separation between red and white ball cricket). Like many of his era he was mishandled at test level in the early stages of his career, which had an adverse effect on his overall career figures.
  6. Stan Nichols – an attacking left hand bat and right-arm fast bowler (does that remind you of any all-rounders of more recent vintage? hint – think Durham in county terms) whose first class career brought him over 17,000 runs and 1,800 wickets.
  7. +James Foster – a useful middle order batter and one of the finest wicket keepers ever to play the game.
  8. Peter Smith – a legspinner and a lower order batter who once scored 163 coming at no 11 (he and Frank Vigar, a rather more sedate type of player put on 218 for the tenth wicket, turning 199-9 into 417 all out).
  9. Simon Harmer – a South African born off spinner who played five test matches for his native land before deciding that English cricket offered brighter prospects he has been a key part of Essex’s recent successes, not just with his wickets, but also with some useful lower order runs at vital times.
  10. Charles Kortright – one of those whose name gets mentioned in discussions about just who was the quickest bowler ever. He produced what today would be described as an ‘epic burn’ when he cleaned up W G Grace, a notoriously reluctant leaver of the crease, with a snorter of a ball, saw that worthy look at the wreckage and head, face like thunder, towards the pavilion and chimed in with “You’re not going already are you Doctor? There’ s still one stump standing”.
  11. Walter Mead – a crafty medium pacer who still holds the record match figures for an Essex bowler – 17 wickets in a tour match against The Australians in 1893.

The decision that was most difficult in selecting this XI was who to have at no 6. As well as Nichols, Johnny Douglas and Trevor Bailey, both England regulars in their day had very obvious claims, but I went for Nichols both because of his left handed batting and his more aggressive approach in that department. Bowling wise this team has the pace of Kortright and Nichols, medium pace from Mead, off spin from Harmer, leg spin from Smith, with Gooch as a sixth option, while there are five top of the range batters, an all-rounder, a keeper-batter plus the possibility of runs from Smith, Harmer and Kortright.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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All Time XIs – Yorkshire

Continuing my all-time XIs series with Yorkshire.

INTRODUCTION

This is the fourth all-time XI post I have done (Surrey, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire were the first three). I have an ancestral connection to Yorkshire, and I lived in Barnsley for six years. As you would expect of the county that has by far the most outright championships (32 at the present time), there is a positive embarrassment of riches to choose from.

YORKSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. Herbert Sutcliffe – a big occasion player, as witnessed by the progression of his averages (overall FC 52.02, overall test 60.73, Ashes 66.85), he also overlapped for a few years at first class level and rather longer at club level (both were raised in Pudsey) with the person I have chosen as the other opener. He could claim that both World Wars affected his career since the first prevented his entry into first class cricket until he was 24, and the second led to his retirement from the game (and his 1939 performances were not those of a man preparing to lay aside his bat for the last time, though resuming after a six season layoff when past the age of 50 was obviously not going to happen). He tallied over 50,000 first class runs in total with 149 centuries.
  2. Leonard Hutton – a man who averaged 56.7 in test cricket and was also hugely productive in first class cricket, in spite of missing six of what would have been prime development years to World War II, from which he emerged with one arm shorter than the other due a training accident. In 1953 as captain he regained the Ashes which had been in Australian hands since Woodfull’s 1934 triumph, and eighteen months later he led England to victory down under.
  3. David Denton – in the first decade of the 20th century only one Yorkshire cricketer gained England selection purely on the strength of batting skill, and that person was David Denton. He was known as ‘lucky’ Denton because he seemed to benefit from plenty of dropped chances but there are two counters to that, firstly there is Napoleon’s “give me a lucky general rather than a good one”, and secondly people noticed him benefitting from dropped chances for the very simple reason that he made it count when such occurred.
  4. Maurice Leyland – a left handed bat and a bowler of ‘chinamen’, he scored heavily for both Yorkshire and England.
  5. Joe Root – the current England test captain, and a bat of proven world class, though his off spin would not see much use in this team, and you will note that I have not named as captain of this team.
  6. George Hirst – rated by his long time county captain Lord Hawke as the greatest of all county cricketers, he batted right handed and bowled left-arm pace. He achieved the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches 14 times, 10 of them in successive seasons. In each of 1904 and 1905 he had over 2,000 runs and 100 wickets, and in 1906 uniquely he had over 2,000 runs and 200 wickets. He was also noted for his fielding at mid-off.
  7. *Wilfred Rhodes – the other of the ‘Kirkheaton twins’, a right handed bat and slow left arm bowler with over 4,000 first class wickets and almost 40,000 first class runs in his career, the longest ever test career in time terms (31 and a half years between his first and last appearances) his astonishing career linked the era of Grace with that of Bradman. I have named as captain because although being a humble professional he never officially had the job I believe he would have been excellent at it- when asked about Percy Chapman as England captain Rhodes said “‘ee wor a good ‘un – he allus did what me an’ Jack telt him”.
  8. Tom Emmett – a left arm pace bowler who took his wickets very economically and was a good enough wielder of the willow to have a first class hundred at a time when they were not easy to come by. He accounted for W G Grace 36 times (as well as Gloucs v Yorks, there were fixtures such as North v South, Gentlemen vs Players etc, so top cricketers came up against one another frequently) and was highly rated by ‘The Doctor’.
  9. Fred Trueman – “T’finest bloody fast bowler that ever drew breath” at least in his own oft stated opinion, and it was close enough to true for the exaggeration to be pardonable. He was the first to take 300 test wickets, and in a 20 year first class career he bowled an average of 800 overs per year. He could also handle a bat and was a good fielder.
  10. Schofield Haigh – a right arm quick medium/ off cutter bowler and lower order bat who sometimes made useful contributions. He often bowled devastatingly in tandem with Hirst and/or Rhodes.
  11. +David Hunter – the only non-international in the XI, he made 1,200 dismissals as Yorkshire wicket keeper, and with the depth of the batting in this side I felt it right to go for the best wicket keeper irrespective of batting ability.

There are a stack of players who could have merited inclusion but for the limit of 11. Among the openers Louis Hall, Jack Brown and Percy Holmes (partner of Herbert Sutcliffe in 74 century opening stands, 69 of them for Yorkshire) could all have been considered, while Brian Close would have his advocates in the middle order, as would various others. Off spinning all rounders Ted Wainwright and Billy Bates could have had a place, and there are a number of slow left armers who could have been given the nod – any of Ted Peate, Bobby Peel, Hedley Verity, Johnny Wardle or Alonzo Drake. Among the faster bowlers for whom no space could be found were George Freeman, Emmett’s regular opening partner for a few years, who took his first-class wickets at less than 10 a piece, George Macaulay, Emmott Robinson, Darren Gough and Chris Silverwood, all of whom might have their advocates. Similarly I could have given the gloves to Arthur Dolphin, Arthur Wood (“always wor a good man for a crisis” when coming in at 770-6 at the Oval in 1938), Jimmy Binks, David Bairstow or Jonny Bairstow. One big name who I refuse to call unlucky to miss out is Geoffrey Boycott – I pick teams to win, not to draw, and Yorkshire’s record in the two seasons in which Boycs averaged over 100 is testimony to the problems his approach created in that regard. Undoubtedly he has the best career record of anyone I have neglected to pick for one of these teams, but too often his runs were not made in a winning cause. I try to balance my sides as well as possible, and in the one I chose I have five top of the range batters, two of the greatest all-rounders to ever play the game, three great and contrasting bowlers and a super gloveman. The bowling options include two different types of left arm pace (Emmett and Hirst), right arm pace (Trueman), right arm medium fast (Haigh), left arm spin (Rhodes), left arm wrist spin (Leyland) and at a push off spin in the person of Root and right arm  leg spin courtesy of Hutton. Also, if I am going to err in selecting a side it will be in the direction of stronger bowling rather than stronger batting – you will note that both two actual overseas players I have picked in previous posts and the potential one that I mentioned in the Surrey post are all bowlers. There are examples of teams with less than stellar batting but excellent bowling being big winners – Yorkshire in several of their most outstanding periods, Surrey in the 1950s and a few others, but there are few examples of the converse. Sussex in the the first decade of the 20th century had a powerful batting line up, with Fry and Ranjitsinhji among the all time greats and Joe Vine are top drawer opening partner for Fry plus a few other useful contributors, but they never came close to being champions because they did not have the bowling to press home the advantage that batting should have given them.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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The cars in the background are parked, not travelling anywhere.

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All Time XIs – Worcestershire

Continuing my series of all time XIs with Worcestershire.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my series of All Time XIs. Today, following from the opening post which featured Surrey and the second about Gloucestershire the focus is on Worcestershire.

WORCESTERSHIRE

  1. Peter Richardson – an England opener in the 1950s, and an obvious choice for this side.
  2. Don Kenyon – from the same sort of era is Richardson, and unlucky not to play more international cricket than he did.
  3. Graeme Hick – a massively prolific batter at county level who was badly mishandled at international level. The rules of qualifying for England by residence were changed in his favour and he was then rushed into the side at the first opportunity, struggled badly against a four-pronged West Indies pace attack and was then left out of the one-off match against Sri Lanka which should have been earmarked for his debut. He never fully recovered from this at the top level and finished with a test average of 31. He is the only person to have scored first class triple centuries in three different decades (1980s, 1990s and 2000s), although W G Grace scored two of his three in 1876 and the third in 1896.
  4. Reginald Foster – a superb middle order batter who had the big occasion temperament – 171 in the Varsity Match, a century in each innings for the Gentlemen against the Players in 1900 and 287 on test debut at Sydney (one of two records he still holds, and the other of being the only man to captain full England teams at both cricket and football will definitely remain his).
  5. Wilfrid Foster – a second member of an extraordinary family, seven brothers from which played for the county. I have opted for him in spite of his brief career rather than his brother H K Foster because he and brother Reginald once achieved a family double of each scoring two centuries in the same game – proof of how well they could bat together (this dual feat of high scoring was later emulated by Ian and Greg Chappell playing for Australia against New Zealand).
  6. Basil D’Oliveira – attacking middle order batter and useful medium pacer who came late to first class cricket due being born in apartheid South Africa with non-white skin. With all due respect to Kevin Pietersen’s astounding Ashes clinching innings of 2005 he remains the author of the most influential innings of 158 ever to be played at The Oval – his effort triggered a series of events that led to South Africa spending a quarter of a century in cricketing isolation. Test series between England and South Africa are (when circumstances permit) contested for the D’Oliveira Trophy, currently in English hands after a very convincing victory in South Africa just a few months ago.
  7. +Steve Rhodes – a fine wicketkeeper.
  8. Robert Burrows – a speedster who still holds the record for sending a bail the furthest distance from the stumps (67 yards and six inches) and also capable of useful contributions with the bat.
  9. *Norman Gifford – a slow left arm bowler who played for Worcestershire and Warwickshire at different stages of his very long career.
  10. Len Coldwell – a medium pacer who spearheaded Worcestershire’s bowling the first two times they won the county champtionship (in 1964 and 1965, by which time Coldwell had already been on an Ashes tour).
  11. Glenn McGrath – my overseas player, he would of course open the bowling, probably with Coldwell, possibly with Burrows. The second highest tally of test wickets by a pace bowler (behind James Anderson)

I could have picked any number of fast-medium bowlers who have played for Worcestershire down the years, but I think that Burrows’ outright speed combined with the control of Coldwell and McGrath would work well, with Gifford providing the main spin option. D’Oliveira and Hick could also both bowl some overs, and each would bring something different to the table in that department. The batting also looks solid.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are a few of my latest…

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The first jay of 2020 (two pics)

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The first bee of 2020 (photographed while out getting my exercise for the day).

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