All Time XIs – the Letter P and Left Handers

An all time XI of players whose surnames begin with P, and because it is International Left Handers Day an all time XI of left handers.

Today is International Left Handers day, so this post includes a bonus feature – I lead off with an all time XI of left handers. A list of honourable mentions for such an XI would be incredibly long, so I shall not include it. After parading my chosen left handers the focus of the bulk of the blog post is on cricketers whose surnames begin with the letter B.

LEFT HANDERS XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. *Graeme Smith (South Africa). A steely left handed opening batter, and the obvious choice to captain this XI – a role he performed superbly for South Africa.
  2. Alastair Cook (Essex, England). The opener is England’s all time leading scorer of test runs (though likely to be overhauled by Joe Root in the not too distant future).
  3. Brian Lara (Warwickshire, West Indies). The holder of world record individual scores at both test and first class level, a joint feat achieved only once before in cricket history, by Don Bradman for the two and a half years that his 334 was the world test record score. Also the only player to have twice held the world test record score, and one of only two along with Bill Ponsford to have two first class quadruple centuries.
  4. Graeme Pollock (South Africa). Possibly the greatest batter ever produced by his country. When the curtain came down on the first period of SA being a test nation he was left with an average of 60.97.
  5. Frank Woolley (Kent, England). The only player to achieve the first class career treble of 10,000+ runs (58,969 in his case), 1,000+ FC wickets (2,066) and 1,000+ FC catches (1,018). Capable of match winning performances with both bat and ball (as a left arm orthodox spinner), and one the finest fielders ever to play the game.
  6. Garry Sobers (Nottinghamshire, West Indies). The most complete player to have played the game. One of the greatest batters of all time, a bowler of fast, medium or slow pace (both orthodox and wrist spin) and a brilliant fielder.
  7. +Adam Gilchrist (Australia). A top quality keeper, and a destructive middle order batter.
  8. Wasim Akram (Lancashire, Pakistan). Fast bowler, attacking batter.
  9. Alan Davidson (Australia). Fast medium bowler, occasional spinner, useful lower order batter and fielder of such brilliance that he earned the nickname ‘the claw’.
  10. Mitchell Johnson (Australia). One of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game and a useful lower order batter. On his day he was simply unplayable.
  11. Hedley Verity (Yorkshire, England). A left arm spinner and a useful lower order batter (indeed he was once pressed into service as an emergency opener in a test match and did well). On surfaces that didn’t help him he was very economical and never allowed batters to feel at ease. On surfaces that did help him he was a destroyer. Yorkshire’s match against Nottinghamshire in 1932 illustrated both sides of Verity the bowler – in Nottinghamshire first innings he took 2-64 from 41 overs, in their second, when he had a rain=affected pitch to exploit he recorded figures of 19.4-16-10-10 – the cheapest all ten in FC history.

This XI has an awesomely strong batting line up, and a bowling attack of Akram, Johnson, Davidson, Verity, Sobers and Woolley is both strong and varied.

SURNAMES BEGINNING WITH P IN BATTING ORDER

We move on to the main meat of the post, an all time XI of players whose surnames begin with P.

  1. Alviro Petersen (Glamorgan, South Africa). A solid right handed opener.
  2. Bill Ponsford (Australia). One of only two players to twice top 400 in FC matches. He scored centuries in his first two test matches and in his last two.
  3. Ricky Ponting (Australia). One of the two best number three batters of the modern era alongside Rahul Dravid. He was also an excellent slip fielder, and a long serving captain, though his record in that department was tarnished by the fact that oversaw three failed Ashes campaigns – the only other three time Ashes losing skipper in 140 years being Archie MacLaren of England (1901-2 in Australia, 1902 in England, 1909 in England), hence my not giving him the role in this side.
  4. Graeme Pollock (South Africa). One of the greatest of all left handed batters (see the left handers XI earlier in this post).
  5. Kevin Pietersen (Nottinghamshire, Hampshire, Surrey, England). A batter of undoubted greatness, though problematic in the dressing room to the extent that his first two counties were both glad to see the back of him. He top scored in both innings of his test debut, ended that series with the second most important innings of 158 to be played by a South African born batter at The Oval. His test best was 227 at the Adelaide Oval in the 2010-11 Ashes.
  6. +Rishabh Pant (India). Attacking left handed batter, quality keeper. Probably his greatest moment came at the Gabba when he played a match and series winning innings for an injury-hit India.
  7. *Mike Procter (Gloucestershire, South Africa). One of the finest all rounders ever – a genuinely fast bowler, an attacking middle order batter and a shrewd captain to boot – I have given him that role in this side.
  8. Shaun Pollock (Warwickshire, South Africa). An exceptionally accurate right arm fast medium bowler and a useful lower order batter. He is also my chosen vice captain for this side in preference to either Ponting or Pietersen.
  9. Peter Pollock (South Africa). A right arm fast bowler, spearhead of the South African attack during the last few years of their first period as a test nation.
  10. Charlie Parker (Gloucestershire, England). The third leading wicket taker in FC history with 3,278 scalps at that level, but only one England cap.
  11. Erapalli Prasanna (India). An off sinner who took 189 test wicketsin the 1970s.

This side has one good and one great opener, a superb engine room at 3-5, a keeper batter, a genuine all rounder, and four great bowlers. In Procter and Peter Pollock the side has two genuinely fast bowlers, with Shaun Pollock’s fast medium to back them up. Parker and Prasanna are an excellent pair of contrasting spinners.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Eddie Paynter has a higher test average than anyone I have overlooked at 59.23, but his test career was quite brief, and his average is over a run an innings less than that of Graeme Pollock. Cheteshwar Pujara is the next most notable omission, but no way can he be selected ahead of Ponting at number three, and his efforts when India recently used him as an ersatz opener were not very impressive.

The two Nawabs of Pataudi to play test cricket (the last two to have that title) were both fine batters, but not quite good enough to break into this powerful XI.

Roy Park of Australia never got the opportunity to prove himself at test level – his batting career for his country lasted exactly one ball. Ashwell Prince of South Africa might have his advocates as well.

Ellyse Perry is unlucky to have a surname beginning with P – there are many other letters where I would be delighted to be able to choose a player of her class, but she just misses out.

JH Parks of Sussex was a fine county all rounder, but hardly a challenger to Procter. JM Parks was a batter/ keeper for both Sussex and England, but for my money Pant is better in both departments than Parks was, and even if Parks’ batting shades it I would go for the better keeper (a walkover win for Pant).

Dattu Phadkar of India was good middle order batter an enough of a bowler to take the new ball for his country (although this is partly a reflection of India’s shortage of quick bowlers in his playing days), but could hardly displace Procter.

Liam Patterson-White, an all rounder who bowls left arm spin, may be challenging for inclusion in a few years time, as might leg spinner Matt Parkinson, but as yet they are potentials rather than actuals.

Three seriously quick bowlers who missed out were Patrick Patterson (WI) whose time at the top was short, Len Pascoe (Australia), who also didn’t have great depth of achievement and Pushpakumara of Sri Lanka, whose record was very modest for all his pace.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign-off…

All Time XIs – The Letter O

Today I continue my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a team made up of players whose surnames begin with the letter O.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Ali Orr (Sussex). He has a less extensive career than most to feature in an actual XI in this series, having started his FC career quite recently. However, only one of the XI has an FC career average better than Orr’s current figure of 42.
  2. Edgar Oldroyd (Yorkshire). One place up from usual spot for his county. He scored over 15,000 FC runs at an average of 36. His grand daughter Eleanor is a radio commentator and regular presenter of sports programmes.
  3. Charles Ollivierre (Derbyshire). One of the first great batting talents to emerge from the West Indies. He came to England in 1900 as part of non-test tour by the West Indies (they gained test status in 1928), and stayed on, qualifying by residence to play for Derbyshire (who also found him a clerical job which meant he could retain his amateur status). His finest hour came at Chesterfield in 1904 in a match that almost defies belief. Essex batting first scored 597, Perrin 343 not out, Derbyshire responded with 548 (Ollivierre 229), Essex fared precisely 500 runs less well second time round, as Bestwick and Warren extracted revenge for some rough treatment in the first innings, and Derbyshire managed the resultant chase of 147 in 125 minutes with time and nine wickets to spare, Ollivierre finishing 92 not out, Billy Storer 48 not out.
  4. Norman O’Neill (Australia). He averaged 46 with the bat at test level. He illustrated his class on his test debut, when at the end of a match featuring mind-bendingly slow scoring (518 runs in the first four days, Bailey 68 in 458 minutes) he took Australia to a comfortable victory by scoring 73 not out in two and a half hours, proving that it was possible to score at a reasonable rate on that surface.
  5. Maurice Odumbe (Kenya). An all rounder who batted right handed and bowled off spin, and (along with Steven Tikolo) one of the two best cricketers his country has ever produced. He was good enough to have scored an FC double hundred.
  6. Alec O’Riordan (Ireland). He batted right handed and bowled left arm fast medium. Most of his cricket was club cricket played at weekends, but he showed what he could do against higher class opposition when Ireland played the West Indies. He took four cheap wickets as the illustrious visitors were rolled for 25 on an emerald coloured pitch, and then batted well for Ireland (it was a one innings match officially, but in order to entertain the fans Ireland batted on after completing a nine wicket victory, and declared, nipping out a couple more wickets in the WI second innings before the day’s action ended.
  7. +Bert Oldfield (Australia). One of the greatest wicket keepers ever to play the game, his career tally of 52 test match stumpings remains an all time record.
  8. Chris Old (Yorkshire, Warwickshire, England). A right arm fast medium bowler and an occasionally useful left handed lower order batter. His England highlights include taking four wickets in five balls against Pakistan and being the accurate, mean foil to Willis when that worthy produced his match winning spell at Headingley in 1981.
  9. Pragyan Ojha (Surrey, India). A left arm orthodox spinner, his record for India was respectable rather than truly outstanding, though he was a little unfortunate that his career overlapped with the emergence of Ravindra Jadeja. No one could play him when he turned out for Surrey and was instrumental in them winning promotion back to division one of the county championship.
  10. *Bill O’Reilly (Australia). One of the greatest leg spinners ever to play the game. He bowled quicker than most of his type, his stock pace being at least medium and possessed an almost undetectable googly by way of variation. I have named him as captain of this XI, that being a difficult role to fill for this letter, since he obviously had tactical acumen in spades, and I have read some of his writings on the game and been impressed by them.
  11. Duanne Olivier (Derybshire, Yorkshire, South Africa). He pays less than 30 each for his test wickets, and will probably feature in the upcoming series between England and South Africa. Fast medium rather than outright fast he is still a very fine bowler. Whether he or Old would share the new ball with the left armer O’Riordan is one of the main decisions facing the skipper of this side

This XI is patchy, with a somewhat makeshift opening pair, fine batters at three and four, a couple of fine all rounders, a legendary keeper and one great and three very good specialist bowlers. The bowling, with the seam in the hands of Old, Olivier and O’Riordan and leg spinner O’Reilly, left arm spinner Ojha and off spinner Odumbe to attend to that department is this side’s strong suit, though there is no express pace option.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Before I get to the main meat of this section, Qasim Omar does not feature, because as difficult as this letter is, Q is far harder.

Unlike either of the two guys I chose to open the batting Javed Omar of Bangladesh did that job at test level. However, his record is pretty ordinary, hence him missing out. Alan Ormrod of Worcestershire was a county stalwart, but his FC average was only just the right side of 30. William Oscroft of Nottinghamshire might have provided some genuine pace, but he was not often used as a bowler by his county, and even allowing for the difficulty of the pitches when he was in his prime an average of 19 in his main suit simply isn’t good enough. Insufficient records of his overall performances ruled George Osbaldeston, a fast bowling all rounder of the early 19th century, out of consideration. Simon O’Donnell was an Australian all rounder who bowled fast medium, but his batting does not command a place in its own right, and his bowling record was modest, plus he bowled with his right arm, meaning that his presence would give the attack less variation than O’Riordan does. Rodney Ontong had a respectable career for Glamorgan but couldn’t quite claim a place in this side. Thomas Odoyo, a fast bowling all rounder for Kenya entered my thoughts. Dominic Ostler of Warwickshire had a long career, but only averaged a tick over 30 with the bat. Among the pacers who entered my thoughts but just missed out on selection were the Overton twins (especially Jamie, whose extra pace would have been useful), Henry Olonga of Zimbabwe, Peter Ongondo of Kenya and Iain O’Brien of New Zealand (the latter getting an expert summarisers gig by way of compensation).

Niall O’Brien, a solid keeper batter for Kent and Northamptonshire in the championship and with a decent record for Ireland as well is the officially designated reserve keeper, but as is usual for me in these cases I opted for finer keeper, Oldfield. Kevin O’Brien, an all rounder who bowled right arm fast medium, had most of his best moments in limited overs cricket

In a few years time Hampshire’s off spinning all rounder Felix Organ may have a record that allows him to displace Odumbe from this side, but he is not there yet.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off has two parts this time…

A TWOPENNY BLUE

James and Sons had a stamp sale earlier this week, and I acquired a two penny blue very cheaply. I am not in general enthusiastic about ordinary stamps, but the 2d blue has a connection which elevates it – every Victoria line station has a patterned mosaic displayed at platform level relating to it’s name, and because of the colour used for the line on the London Underground map the pattern at Victoria is based on this stamp, so I am pleased to have one in my possession.

PART TWO: REGULAR PICTURES

All Time XIs – The Letter N

Continuing the exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at the letter N.

Welcome to this latest installment in my exploration of the ‘all time XIs’ theme. This time the team all have surnames beginning with the letter N.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Stan Nichols (Essex, England). Left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. He didn’t play many games for England, but he was an Essex stalwart for many years, and he did on occasion open the batting for the county, a role I have given him in this.
  2. Mudassar Nazar (Pakistan). A stubborn right handed opening batter and occasional purveyor of medium pace. He forms an excellent counterpoint to the flamboyant Nichols.
  3. Seymour Nurse (West Indies). An excellent batter with test HS of 258. He is the first of a powerful trio of middle order batters for this team.
  4. Arthur Dudley Nourse (South Africa). A test average of 53, maintained through a long career.
  5. Arthur William ‘Dave’ Nourse (South Africa). A left handed batter and left arm medium pace bowler. He was Dudley’s father, but never coached his son. Once an argument about how to hold the bat broke out in a game of street cricket that Dudley was playing, and Dudley took the matter to his father. Papa Nourse, completely composed, told Dudley “Son I learned to bat with a fence paling – now you go and do the same”. From that moment on Dudley did things his way.
  6. *Monty Noble (Australia). A right handed batter and off spin bowler, he was one two notable all rounders to play for Australia in the early 20th century, Warwick Armstrong being the other. He was highly regarded as captain of the side, a role I have given him in this XI. He was the third victim of arguably the most notable test hat trick ever taken, when at Headingley in 1899 JT Hearne accounted for Clem Hill, Syd Gregory and him in successive balls – one great batter, one very good one and one all rounder. He was the bowler when Albert Trott hit his famous blow that carried the Lord’s pavilion. His accounts of the 1924-5 and 1928-9 Ashes series are both excellent reads. His full record can be viewed here.
  7. +Paul Nixon (Leicestershire, England). Years of sterling service for his county did not translate into many England caps, but he was a superb keeper, and good enough with the bat to have scored 1,000 FC runs in a season – the first Leicestershire keeper to reach that mark since 1935.
  8. Makhaya Ntini (South Africa). Over 300 test wickets confirm his status as a top notch fast bowler.
  9. Shahbaz Nadeem (India). A left arm orthodox spinner with a fine FC record whose international opportunities have been limited by the fact that he is a contemporary of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, both of whom are quite rightly ahead of him in the pecking order.
  10. Sarfraz Nawaz (Pakistan). Not a genuinely fast bowler, but a highly effective operator at fast medium. His greatest moment came with Australia 305-3 chasing a target of 382 – they were 310 all out, Sarfraz Nawaz taking all seven of those wickets, to give him nine in the innings, at a cost of one run.
  11. Anrich Nortje (South Africa). One of the fastest bowlers of the current era, no opponents relish facing him.

This side contains a somewhat make shift opening pair, a powerful trio at three, four and five, a genuine all rounder, a keeper who could bat and four fine specialist bowlers. It is not one of the strongest XIs in this series, but it is certainly not the weakest either. If forced to choose I would always prefer a strong bowling side with slightly questionable batting over a powerful batting side that will struggle to take 20 wickets – the former combo is much more likely to win matches, while the latter will probably be made to settle for a draw when its batting fires and be defeated when it does not.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I will start with the question of openers: the main alternatives to using Nichols in that role were Scott Newman, who never played international cricket though he was fairly prolific at county level, and Imran Nazir of Pakistan, most of whose greatest successes came in limited overs matches.

Henry Nicholls of New Zealand is a gritty batter but not quite of the necessary class to displace Nurse or either of the Nourses from this XI.

Otto Nothling was a fine all round athlete, and a good cricketer at state level in Australia, but when the chance came at test level he did nothing. Had I not settled on Noble as skipper I would have considered Shelley Nitschke for the all rounders slot – her being a left arm spinner would have made selecting the specialist spinner somewhat easier.

The only alternative to Nixon for the keeper’s slot that I could think of was another player with Leicestershire connections, Tom New. He was perhaps a little better with the bat than Nixon but he was not as good a keeper, and that settled the issue.

Rana Naved of Pakistan at number eight would have strengthened the batting (none of my four chosen bowlers would be likely to make a major contribution in that department), but while his record at FC level and in limited overs internationals was good, he paid over 50 a piece for his test wickets. Australian brothers Lisle and Vernon Nagel both bowled medium fast, making use of their height (6’6″) to generate awkward bounce. Lisle once took 8-32 in an innings in a tour match vs MCC (during the 1932-3 tour), but he did not deliver for the test team. Buster Nupen, the only test cricketer born in Norway, came close, but he paid 32 a piece for his wickets at the highest level, just too much. Australian pacer Ashley Noffke was never a regular at international level, and similarly current Indian pacer T Natarajan has yet to establish himself at the highest level.

Mark Nicholas could only have made the XI as a specialist captain, a notion I do not especially approve of, and with Noble available to skipper one that was hardly necessary. He would however get to lead the comms team when this XI was in action.

Nasim-ul-Ghani who was the first nightwatcher to score a test ton did not do enough with his left arm spin to merit inclusion. Sunil Narine, formerly of the West Indies and now plying his trade in short format leagues around the world is an off spinner thus with the presence of Noble doubly disqualified. Similar arguments apply to Afghan legend Mohammad Nabi.

I fully expect that ten years or so from now the young Afghan left arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad will have taken his place among the cricketing elite, but at the moment, not altogether surprisingly for a 17 tear old he does not have enough of a record to be worth a place. He may suffer somewhat because his country have such a glut of quality spinners: Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Qais Ahmad and Zahir Khan are just four of those he is up against for international honours.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing journey through the letter N is at an end and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter M

Continuing my exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at the veritable dragon’s hoard of talent available in the form of cricketers with surnames beginning with M.

I continue my exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter M. This was difficult, because as Sherlock Holmes said about this letter in reference to his own files, the collection of Ms is a fine one – so fine that as you will see in the honourable mentions a number of extraordinary players miss out.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Arthur Morris (Australia). The man rated by Donald Bradman as the best left handed opener he ever saw in action. His absolute peak came in the 1948 Ashes when he scored 696 in the series at 87.00, a series that Bradman, captain of that side, described him as having dominated.
  2. Vijay Merchant (India). There were a number of candidates for this slot, all with respectable test averages, but Merchant got the nod for two reasons: his test career was more spread out than that of other contenders, and in first class cricket where the sample size is much larger has average of 71.20 puts him second only to Bradman among qualifiers.
  3. Charles Macartney (Australia). The ‘Governor General’ as he was nicknamed is probably the most controversial pick in my XI given the other contenders for his slot in the XI, but what swung it for him was that he offered a genuine extra bowling option with his left arm orthodox spin (he won a test match for Australia in this capacity).
  4. Phil Mead (Hampshire, England). A dour left hander, Mead holds the records for most FC centuries (138) and runs (48,809) for a single team, Hampshire. Only three batters scored more FC runs in their careers than him: Hobbs, Woolley and Hendren, and only three scored more FC centuries than his 153: Hobbs, Hendren and Hammond
  5. Javed Miandad (Glamorgan, Pakistan). Rated by many as Pakistan’s all time number one batter, he went through an entire very long test career without his average ever dipping below 50 at that level, which amounts to an absolutely ironclad claim to greatness.
  6. *Keith Miller (Australia). One of the greatest all rounders ever to play the game, and a supreme entertainer. A wartime flying ace with the RAAF he was always aware that he had been lucky to emerge from the horrors of WWII still alive, which informed his attitudes thereafter. Once when asked about the pressures of international cricket he made the immortal reply “There is no pressure in cricket – pressure is flying a Mosquito with two Messerschmidts up your arse”.
  7. +Rodney Marsh (Australia). A superb wicket keeper and a more than capable middle order batter.
  8. Malcolm Marshall (Hampshire, West Indies). Probably the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling, and therefore without any question among the greatest of all time, he was also a capable lower order batter – indeed Hampshire, whom he served loyally as overseas player for a number of years, regarded him as an all rounder. The record for most wickets in an English FC season in the period since the championship programme was drastically pruned to make space for the John Player League in 1969 is held by Marshall with 134.
  9. Fazal Mahmood (Pakistan). A right arm fast medium bowler whose speciality was the leg cutter, he was the first bowler of any type from his country to claim greatness. Pakistan’s first win on English soil, at The Oval in 1954 owed much to him – he claimed 12 wickets in the match.
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan (Lancashire, Sri Lanka). His 800 test wickets is comfortably an all comers record in that format, with only Warne among other bowlers having gone past 700. It seems unlikely the even the apparently ageless James Anderson can keep going long enough to overhaul his tally. His finest match came at The Oval in 1998. Sri Lankan skipper Ranatunga won the toss and put England in. On a flat pitch Murali took 7-155 in that first innings as England scored 445. Sri Lanka replied by claiming a lead of 150, with Jayasuriya hitting a double century, and then on a pitch just beginning to wear Murali ran through England’s second innings with 9-65, leaving Sri Lanka with a mere formality of a target to knock off.
  11. Glenn McGrath (Worcestershire, Australia). The spearhead of the Australian pace attack in the most dominant period their men’s side ever had, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is significant that in the only Ashes series of his career that Australia did not win he was absent injured for both defeats. He signed off an illustrious career at his home ground in Sydney by contributing to a victory that gave Australia only the second 5-0 sweep of a series in Ashes history after Warwick Armstrong’s 1920-21 side.

This side contains a superb top six, including two all rounders of different type, a keeper who could bat and a quartet of superb and well varied bowlers. A bowling attack that has Marshall, McGrath, Fazal Mahmood and Miller to bowl pace and Muralitharan and Macartney to bowl spin is both deep and balanced. Mahmood’s skill with the leg cutter at least partly compensates for the absence of a genuine leg spinner.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

This section is the most difficult of its kind that I have yet had to create. It begins with individual highlights of a great batter and two great all rounders who I think deserve special coverage…

PETER MAY

Peter Barker Howard May was undeniably a very great batter. For someone who was by instinct an attacking stroke maker to have a test average of 46 in test cricket’s lowest, slowest scoring decade, the 1950s, was an extraordinary achievement. I simply felt that Macartney, bringing with him a bowling option has he did was an even better choice for the number three slot, while Mead’s left handedness gave him an edge (Macartney batted right handed).

MULVANTRAI ‘VINOO’ MANKAD

One of the greatest all rounders India ever produced, but I preferred Macartney as the finer batter. If you want to slot him in somewhere I won’t argue – but consider the effect on team balance.

MUSHTAQ MOHAMMAD

Another great all rounder, and one who would have given me a leg spin option. I felt that Fazal Mahmood’s leg cutters more or less covered that element of bowling, and that as great a cricketer as ‘Mushy’ undoubtedly was, Miller was even greater.

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Other than the pair I named a number of openers commanded attention. Hanif Mohammad was probably the greatest of those I overlooked, but Roy Marshall, Colin McDonald and Archie MacLaren were all fine openers in their different ways. Arthur Milton, though not really good enough to be seriously entertained has a place in sporting history as the last to play the England men’s teams in both cricket and football. The elegant Indian left hander Smriti Mandhana was the closest female cricketer to earning consideration, and would have been very close indeed had I been selecting with limited overs cricket in mind.

Other than May to whom I gave a whole paragraph of his own, Billy Murdoch and was also in the mix for the number three slot.

Stan McCabe was another of the unlucky ones, his right handedness costing him the slot I gave to Phil Mead. Daryl Mitchell of New Zealand, the best current cricketer to have a surname beginning with M could not quite command a spot in that powerful middle order.

Mushfiqur Rahim with initials MR is deeply unfortunate – both letters I might sneak him in under have all time great keepers already available. Arthur McIntyre of Surrey and England was a good keeper batter in the 1950s, but hardly a challenger to Marsh.

It is particularly in the bowling department that there is a huge overflow of talent for this letter. Leg spinner Arthur Mailey was a trifle too expensive to command a place, paying 34 a piece for his wickets. Ted McDonald, Devon Malcolm, Danny Morrison, Manny Martindale, Alan Mullally, David Millns, Martin McIntyre and Kyle Mills are among the fast bowlers who might have been considered.

For limited overs matches Eoin Morgan, Mitchell Marsh, Tom Moody, Tymal Mills and Adam Milne would all be in the mix as well.

If he can stay fit for a decent length of time Lancastrian quick Saqib Mahmood may be knocking on the doors in a few years time.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing journey through the letter M is at an end, and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter J

Continuing my all time XIs theme with a look at the letter J.

I continue the all-time XIs theme with a team comprising players whose surnames begin with J.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka). Opening batter, left arm spinner and good fielder. His test match highlights include a high score of 340 and an innings of 213 against England at The Oval that combined with Muralidaran’s 16 wickets in the match to give SL their first victory in England. In ODI cricket (T20 only became a thing after his prime cricketing years) he completely redefined the role of an opener, his explosive performances in that role playing a large part in winning his country the 1996 World Cup.
  2. Archie Jackson (Australia). He was a contemporary of Donald Bradman, and many who saw both rising through the ranks rated him the finer prospect. Ill health ruined his career – he died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 23, but an innings of 164 on test debut as a 19 year old provided some hard fact to reinforce the credentials he had established as a youngster.
  3. Dean Jones (Derbyshire, Australia). A combative character, he came of age as a cricket during the first innings of what proved to be only the second tied test match in history (36 years on there have still only been two) at Chennai in 1986. Jones in that innings scored 210, batting almost eight hours, and at the end of it he had to be taken to hospital and put on a saline drip. Later, during the 1986-7 Ashes he played an innings of 184, albeit aided by being given not out when on just 5. He also produced several valuable knocks in the 1989 Ashes, though not coming close to the productivity in that series of Mark Taylor or Steve Waugh.
  4. Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka). Possessor of the highest test innings by a right hander (374 versus South Africa), and without question in the top two of all time Sri Lankan test batters (Sangakkara being the other).
  5. *Stanley Jackson (Yorkshire, England). In 1905 he captained England to a decisive Ashes victory, topping both the batting and bowling averages, winning all five tosses and leading England to wins in both of the matches to reach definite conclusions. He scored five test centuries, all in home matches against the Aussies (he was an amateur, and business commitments always prevented him from touring). In 1902 he and George Hirst joined forces with the ball for Yorkshire to rout the touring Aussies for 23. His polished 49 at The Oval in the last test of that year’s Ashes enabled Jessop to begin England’s revival from 48-5 in pursuit of 263.
  6. +Amy Jones (England). A stellar keeper batter, a worthy successor in the England women’s squad to the legendary Sarah Taylor (and being kept on her toes by the knowledge that Ellie Threlkeld, also a magnificent keeper batter, is waiting in the wings).
  7. Gilbert Jessop (Gloucestershire, England). The most consistently rapid scoring batter the game has ever seen, a useful fast bowler and a brilliant fielder – in his great match at The Oval in 1902 his first significant contribution was not that innings, it was a brilliant bit of fielding that accounted for the key wicket of Victor Trumper, and he has been estimated to have been worth about 30 runs an innings in the field.
  8. Vallance Jupp (Sussex, Northamptonshire, England). An off spinning all rounder, who after his move north and qualification by residence for his new county achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in FC matches eight times in succession.
  9. Mitchell Johnson (Australia). A mercurial left arm fast bowler who at his best was as good any such to have played to the game – in the 2013-14 Ashes he was nigh on unplayable. It is true that he was a cricketing version of the girl in the nursery rhyme – when he was good he was very good, when he was bad (as in the 2010-11 Ashes) he was horrid, but I choose to honour the Dr Jekyll side of his bowling rather than use the Mr Hyde element as an excuse to drop him. He was also a useful lower order batter, with a test century and a 99 in that department.
  10. Simon Jones (Glamorgan, Hampshire, England). Plagued by injuries, but when fit he produced some outstanding performances – he was crucial to England’s triumph in the 2005 Ashes, reverse swinging the ball at high pace and causing every Aussie batter problems.
  11. Bill Johnston (Australia). Australia’s leading wicket taker in three series immediately post-war. He bowled left arm fast medium and left arm orthodox spin – it was not unknown for him to go from spinning the old ball to swinging the new one.

This side possesses good batting depth (a superb top four, a batting all rounder, a keeper batter, two all rounders and a bowler who can bat, with only S Jones and Johnston describable as bunnies), and a fine variety of bowling options – Johnson, S Jones, Johnston, Jessop and Jackson providing five seam options all different from one another, while Jupp, Jayasuriya and Johnston in his slower style provide spin options.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Before going into the rest of this section there is one player I am going to give a subsection to himself…

RAVINDRASINH JADEJA (INDIA)

Averaging 35 with the bat and 24 with the ball in test cricket gives him a case to be regarded as the best contemporary all rounder of any kind in the game . The problem is that his bowling stock in trade, left arm orthodox spin overlaps with Jayasuriya and Johnston in his slower style. This is why I preferred Jupp’s off spin and the explosiveness of Jessop in the two slots he might have occupied – I was concerned with the balance of the attack, wanting my skipper to be able to change the bowling as well the bowler.

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Steve James of Glamorgan and briefly England was a solid county opener, but I suspect that not even the staunchest of his county’s fans would expect him to be picked for this XI. Andrew Jones of New Zealand, a gritty and determinded number three for that country, might have had the slot I gave to Dean Jones, but while acknowledging his ability I felt that Dean, also a gritty competitor, had a sufficiently superior record to his trans-Tasman namesake to warrant getting the slot. Three fast bowlers who were close to being picked were in reverse chronological order Les Jackson of Derbyshire who took his FC scalps at 17 each but was only rewarded with two England caps, Ernie Jones of Australia, a seriously quick bowler in the 1890s, but also the first ever to be called for throwing in a test match, and John Jackson, a terror in the era immediately before WG Grace came to prominence. Prabath Jayasuriya has made a sensational start to his test career, but as a specialist left arm spinner it would hard for him to qualify for this XI even he maintains that start. Worcestershire leg spinner Roley Jenkins entered my thoughts, but I felt Jupp deserved the second spinner’s role. Digby Jephson, who was one of the last front line under arm bowlers at professional level and a good middle order batter is another I regret not being able to accommodate. Aqib Javed, a Pakistan fast bowler of the 1990s did not quite establish a good enough record to be a serious challenger. Among keepers only Eifion Jones, who was much less of a batter, comes close to namesake Amy behind the stumps – Geraint Jones was not up to standard in either department. Arthur Jepson does not qualify as a player but he can be one of the umpires, a role in which he excelled.

I end this section with two players who are very likely to be shoo-ins for this XI in 10 years time or thereabouts. Kyle Jamieson of New Zealand has made a magnificent start to his test career, and may well knock Mitchell Johnson out of the XI if he maintains his current progress. Will Jacks of Surrey is a hugely promising young batter and part time off spinner. In standard cricket formulation of initials and surname he is WG Jacks, and his recent 150 against Essex, most of it scored with tailenders for company, and giving his side an ultimately match settling first innings lead was worthy of the original WG.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing adventure through the letter J is complete and all that remains is my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter I

Continuing my exploration of the all-time XI theme with a look at the letter I.

I continue my all time XIs theme with a look at the letter I. The letter I is problematic the opposite reason to the letter H, but I think I have still assembled a respectable side.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Khalid Ibadulla (Warwickshire, Pakistan). He scored 166 on test debut. After his playing days were done he became a distinguished coach – it was he he first spotted the talent of Glenn Turner of New Zealand, and it was at his urging that the Kiwi secured a county contract.
  2. Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh). The classiest batter his country has yet produced. His test average is just below 40, but that has been achieved without having an opening partner of similar class and with Bangladesh often facing big opposition totals.
  3. Colin Ingram (South Africa). A rare non test player in one of these XIs. His first class record is respectable, his list A record outstanding.
  4. Frank Iredale (Australia). Played in the late 19th century when pitches were often poor. His test batting average (36.68) is three runs an innings better than his first class average.
  5. Asif Iqbal (Kent, Pakistan). A middle order batter with a test average of 38.75 and an occasional medium pacer. His finest hour came in losing cause, when he came in with the score 53-7 and proceeded to score 146 out of 202, sharing a ninth wicket stand of 190 with Intikhab Alam.
  6. James Iremonger (Nottinghamshire). No test caps, but a stalwart for Nottinghamshire for many years. An all rounder who bowled medium pace he scored 16,622 FC runs at 35.06 with an HS of 272 and took 619 wickets at 22.97, with a BBI of 8-21. He subsequently became coach of the county he had played for, being responsible among others for the development of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce.
  7. +Imtiaz Ahmed (Pakistan). A fine keeper batter, with a test match 209 to his credit in the latter department.
  8. *Ray Illingworth (Yorkshire, Leicestershire, England). An off spinning all rounder, one of the select few to have scored 20,000 FC runs and taken 2,000 FC wickets, also a very shrewd captain (reclaiming the Ashes in 1970-1 – the only post war England captain to have travelled to Australia without the urn and returned with it – Hutton, Brearley, Gatting and Strauss all retained the Ashes down under).
  9. Shoriful Islam (Bangladesh). Very little test experience, but his record in ODIs and T20Is is excellent, and finding pacers of anything approaching the requisite standard was difficult.
  10. Anthony Ireland (Gloucestershire, Zimbabwe). The only other new ball bowler of remotely sufficient standard I could find to partner Shoriful Islam.
  11. Bert ‘Dainty’ Ironmonger (Australia). A rarity – an unquestionably world class Australian left arm orthodox spinner. 74 test wickets at 17.97, 464 FC wickets at 21.50.

This team has a reasonably deep batting order, with all down to Illingworth at number eight capable of making significant contributions in this department. The bowling is less pretty, with the weakest new ball combo I have yet selected, Iremonger’s medium pace the principal back up seam option, and spinners Illingworth and Ironmonger likely to have to shoulder a heavy workload

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Even with a weak letter like this one some have to miss out. Doug Insole might have had a middle order batting slot, but his test record was less good than Iredale. Jack Iddon was a good all rounder for Lancashire in his day, and another Lancastrian, Jack Ikin, might have had a middle order slot. Jack Iverson missed out, because his almost exclusive reliance on the googly makes him basically an off spinner, and Illingworth’s all round skills and captaincy got him that slot. Manzural Islam (Bangladesh) might have become a great all rounder had he not been killed in a car crash. Finally, two Indians, batter Shreyas Iyer and all rounder Venkatesh Iyer may claim their places in this squad in the next few years, although the former needs to work on how he plays the short ball – at the moment an encounter between him and Mitchell Starc on a bouncy Perth track would be be brief and brutal.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter H

Continuing the all-time XI theme with a look at the letter H.

Before introducing this post I have a point of information to offer. I have various commitments over the next few days which may mean I don’t get to put up any further posts before Sunday. We continue the all-time XIs theme with the letter H (letter G was treated out of position to coincide with the skipper’s birth anniversary), which presents us with a massive embarrassment of riches. There will be a vast mass of honourable mentions.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Jack Hobbs (Surrey, England). The Master’s case for inclusion needs no further amplification – it is beyond dispute.
  2. *Leonard Hutton (Yorkshire, England). His extraordinary record is even more extraordinary when you consider he lost six prime development years to WWII and emerged from that conflict with one arm shorter than the other due to a training accident.
  3. George Headley (West Indies). To date the only test cricketer to have been born in Panama, and one of the select few to finish with an average in excess of 60 at that level. He was nicknamed ‘Atlas’ because he seemed to carry WI’s batting on his shoulders.
  4. Walter Hammond (Gloucestershire, England). Only an ill advised comeback post WWII when he was in his mid forties reduced his test average below 60 runs an innings. He was also an ace slip fielder and a serviceable medium-fast bowler.
  5. Mike Hussey (Northamptonshire, Australia). His test career started late because when he was in his absolute prime Australia were utterly dominant, with a strong and settled batting line up, but once the chance came he took it with both hands, establishing a superb record at the highest level.
  6. Patsy Hendren (Middlesex, England). The third leading scorer of FC runs and second leading scorer of FC centuries in history, he rounds out a fearsome top six.
  7. +Ian Healy (Australia). Australia have had a long line of top class wicket keepers, and this guy was one of the greatest of them all, though his batting was not a match for that of his successor, Gilchrist.
  8. Richard Hadlee (Nottinghamshire, New Zealand). Indisputably the finest cricketer ever to play for New Zealand (Clarrie Grimmett, the great leg spinner, was born in Dunedin, though he had to cross the Tasman to find cricketing fulfilment).
  9. Simon Harmer (Essex, South Africa). So far he has had few opportunities at test level, but his performances for Essex in the county championship have been sensational over the years, and I expect to see him in action against England later this summer.
  10. Michael Holding (Derbyshire, Lancashire, West Indies). Attained legendary status in 1976 when alone among the bowlers on either side he managed to make things happen on a placid Oval surface, claiming 14-149 in the match, as many wickets as the other bowlers on both sides took put together. In 1981 he produced possibly the most intimidating opening over ever bowled in a test match, at Bridgetown, when veteran opener Geoff Boycott was comprehensively beaten by four balls, got bat on one and lost his off stump to the sixth.
  11. Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka). The left arm spinner was one of the best of his kind ever to play the game, and his test record makes hugely impressive reading.

This side contains a massively strong top six, a great keeper who could bat and four of the greatest bowlers ever to play the game. Due to my decision to select Harmer, the only controversial choice in the XI, it has only two specialist quicks, with Hammond as third seamer, but I don’t foresee taking 20 wickets being a huge problem even so.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

We start with the openers, of whom at least four were unlucky to have surnames beginning with the same letter as Hobbs and Hutton: Two west Indians, Conrade Hunte aka ‘old everlasting’ and Desmond Haynes had excellent test records but could not quite challenge my two choices, two other English openers, Tom Hayward and Percy Holmes both had fine records, although the latter got few opportunities at test level due to overlapping with Hobbs and Sutcliffe. Finally, Matthew Hayden had a magnificent overall record, but he has one black mark: in England in 2005 he had a shocking series only partially redeemed by a score of 138 in the final match thereof.

Among the middle order batters who failed to make the cut are Neil Harvey, a magnificent left hander who might have been awarded the slot I gave to Hussey, David Hussey who had a fine domestic record but got few opportunities at test level, Clem Hill, another legendary left hander, Hunter ‘Stork’ Hendry also had a fine record but not quite good enough to challenge. James Hildreth of Somerset never got the opportunity to show what he could do at the highest level, and given the strength of the batting available for this letter he has to miss out again.

Three wicket keepers challenged for the slot I gave to Ian Healy: his niece Alyssa, who has a magnificent record for the Aussie women’s team, Brad Haddin, who was not Healy’s equal with the gauntlets though may have been better with the bat and Warren Hegg of Lancashire. Those who pick their keepers solely on batting ability might have looked to Geoff Humpage of Warwickshire, but even he would not claim on his own behalf to have been a great keeper, and I am disinclined to pick anyone who chose to go on rebel tours to South Africa, as he did.

I did not pick an all rounder, which is unusual for me, but I felt that none of that top six could be left out. Five all rounders had records to merit consideration: George Hirst of Yorkshire and England, and Jason Holder of the West Indies are the two pace bowling all rounders to merit a mention for this letter, while three leg spinning all rounders, JW ‘young Jack’ Hearne, David Holford (West Indies) and Wanindu Hasaranga (Sri Lanka) also merit mentions. Krom Hendricks, the first South African to be excluded from selection based on skin colour, back in the 1890s, does not have a detailed enough record to be given more than a mention.

There is an absolute plethora of great bowlers for with surnames beginning with H: Wes Hall, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Heine, Vanburn Holder (part of the original WI pace quartet of 1976), Steve Harmison and JT ‘old Jack’ Hearne (the fourth leading wicket taker in FC history, with 3,061 scalps) being clear cut examples. Ryan Harris and Dean Headley were fine bowlers who were deprived of greatness by injuries. Rodney Hogg had a meteoric career starting in the late 1970s and ending in the early 1980s. Schofield Haigh, a bowler of above medium pace who could swing, seam, cut or spin the ball had a massively successful county career for Yorkshire but only a few England caps. David Harris of Hambledon would need a law change to be able to use his preferred methods in the modern game, and a lack of any detail about his career figures relegates him to the honourable mentions. Finally, Alex Hartley, a world cup winning left arm spinner, is unlucky to be competing with Herath for a slot, and has to settle for a commentary gig (she is good at that too).

Our on-field umpires to go with this XI can be John Holder and Anna Harris.

PHOTOGRAPHS

After a look at the cornucopia of talent available to a selector of a side with surnames beginning with H it is time for my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter F

A look at some of the greatest cricketers to have surnames beginning with the letter F and some photographs.

I continue my exploration of the all time XI theme with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter F.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Roy Fredericks (West Indies). Somewhat overshadowed by the later deeds of the greatest opening combo WI have ever produced, Greenidge and Haynes, Fredericks was nevertheless a player of the highest class. His most famous test knock was an innings of 169 against Australia at the WACA in Perth, not generally a happy hunting ground for visiting players. He was also only the second player to score a century in a men’s ODI after Dennis Amiss.
  2. Charles Burgess Fry (Sussex, England). His mastery of the art of batting is all the more astonishing given that cricket was just one area in which he excelled. He once scored a six successive first class centuries, a feat equalled by Bradman and Procter but unsurpassed to this day. Although he did score test centuries possibly his greatest innings at that level was the 79 he scored on a horrible pitch at The Oval in 1912, which put England in an unassailable position and secured both the match and the first and only triangular tournament for England.
  3. Andrew Flower (Essex, Zimbabwe). Without doubt the best test match batter his country has ever produced, he was also an adequate wicket keeper and an occasional off spinner, neither of which roles he will be called on to perform in this side.
  4. Keith Fletcher (Essex, England). At the time of his retirement he had scored more FC runs for Essex than any other player, though Graham Gooch broke that record.
  5. Aubrey Faulkner (South Africa). Only one person to have played 20 or more test matches can claim the double feat at that level of averaging over 40 with the bat and under 30 with the ball: Faulkner, who averaged 40.79 with the bat and took 85 wickets at 26.58 each.
  6. +Ben Foakes (Essex, Surrey, England). The best keeper of the 21st century, with the possible exception of Sarah Taylor of the England women’s side and a good batter. In this side there are three batters of serious substance to follow him, and only one genuine bunny.
  7. *Percy Fender (Surrey, England). As I stated in my Surrey piece his aggression makes him an ideal person to bat at seven in a very strong line up. A good leg spinner, a brilliant fielder and a shrewd captain (unlike the England selectors of his day I have given him this role in the side).
  8. Frank Foster (Warwickshire, England). His career was terminated early by a motorcycle accident, but he had done enough, including joining forces with Sydney Barnes in the 1911-12 Ashes to form the most potent opening bowling pair seen to that point in test cricket to justify his selection here. He was also a fine middle order batter, indeed the first Warwickshire player ever to record a triple century.
  9. Wilfred Flowers (Nottinghamshire, England). With two all rounders in the side whose bowling speciality was leg spin I wanted someone to spin the ball the other way, and Flowers, a bowling all rounder who bowled off spin fitted the bill nicely.
  10. George Freeman (Yorkshire). 288 wickets in 44 first class matches at less than 10 runs a piece earn him his place in this XI. He played as an amateur, hence the small number of appearances he made at FC level, earning his living as an auctioneer.
  11. Jack Ferris (Australia, England). The left armer had an astonishing record in his brief test career, and his FC record over a much bigger sample size also stacks up very well. His “England” appearance came on a privately organized visit to South Africa, where the match that team played against an SA XI was classed as test match somewhat later.

This side has a very strong batting line up, with Flowers at number nine having done the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches on five separate occasions. The bowling, with Ferris, Freeman and Foster to bowl varieties of seam, and Flowers, Faulkner and Fender available as front line spin options has both depth and variety. There is a very shrewd captain in Fender, and a keeper who will accept every chance going in the form of Foakes.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I am going to start this section with subsection dedicated to the most glaring omission:

ALFRED PERCY ‘TICH’ FREEMAN

The second leading wicket taker in first class history, only bowler to have claimed 300 FC wickets in a single season, only bowler to take all ten wickets in a first class innings three times. Considered purely on this basis he should be sho0-in, but two factors mitigated against his inclusion: he was a specialist leg spinner, and with Faulkner and Fender both having ironclad cases for inclusion I wanted a third spinner who did something different, also while he was destroyer of small fry his record against the stronger counties, and at test level, was no more than respectable, and this was an additional strike against him.

BATTERS

Reginald Erskine ‘Tip’ Foster scored 287 on test debut, but only topped 50 at that level once thereafter, so record breaker though he was he doesn’t qualify. Arthur Fagg, until recently the only player to score two double hundreds in a first class match, might have had an opening slot, but Fredericks’ left handedness plus the fact that he delivered at the highest level and Fagg did not swung that position his way. Some Aussies might root for Aaron Finch, and if I was picking a limited overs side he would be a sh00-in, but I make my judgements based on long-form cricket, and Finch’s numbers don’t stack up there. Francis Ford, an attacking left hander of the late 19th century did not have a good enough test record to merit inclusion. Neil Fairbrother never quite delivered at international level as he did for Lancashire.

WICKET KEEPERS

James Foster of Essex and England was a magnificent keeper, and scurvily treated by the England selectors of his day, but in the old saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and to select him in this side would be to wrong Ben Foakes. The only other keeper of note to have a surname beginning with F, Bruce French, was not in the same class as Foster or Foakes in either department.

BOWLERS

Other than ‘Tich’ Freeman with whom I started this section, the best known bowler I have omitted is Gus Fraser, who had a fine test record, but who I could not in honesty place above any of Ferris, George Freeman or Frank Foster. A combination of injuries, selectorial caprice and a decision to join a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa robbed Neil Foster of the kind of record that would have earned him a place alongside his namesake Frank. If I had been going to risk picking a female pace bowler I would have gone for Cathryn Fitzpatrick, the Aussie who was by some way the quickest female bowler of her generation. Left arm wrist spinner ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith was just too expensive to claim a place. West Indian quick George Francis was past his best by the time they gained test status. Paul Franks had a fine career for Nottinghamshire but never did anything of note at international level.

ALL ROUNDERS

Duncan Fletcher might have been the second Zimbabwean to feature in this XI, but he finished before his country gained test status, so will have to settle for being head coach of this XI, a job he performed with distinction for England. Aussie James Faulkner would be well in the running were I selecting a limited overs side, but his long form record is not quite good enough.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Now that our look at cricketers whose surnames begin with F is at an end it remains only to offer up my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter E

A look at the letter E as I continue my all time XIs theme.

This blog post continues the All Time XIs theme with a look at the letter E.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Dean Elgar (South Africa). Among the best contemporary long form openers, a very tough competitor. He also bowls left arm orthodox spin, although he is not likely to be needed for that by this side.
  2. John Edrich (Surrey, England). One of two Norfolk born cricketers in this XI (out of five members of their family to play FC cricket). Like Elgar a very tough competitor who had to be got out. He had the useful knack of really making it count when he got himself in, illustrated by a HS of 310* v NZ and scores of 175 and 164 against Australia.
  3. Bill Edrich (Middlesex, England). Lost six years of his prime to WWII, also often missed due to differences of opinion between himself and those in authority, but still averaged 40 in test cricket. He could also bowl useful right arm fast medium, more than once taking the new ball in a test match. Possessed of almost limitless courage, exemplified by his efforts as a flying ace during the war, he was a fine player of fast bowling in particular.
  4. George Emmett (Gloucestershire, England). A fine batter for Gloucestershire.
  5. Ross Edwards (Australia). Once scored 170* against England in a test match. In the 1975 Ashes, at the end of which he retired from test cricket he showed his battling qualities with a 56 in just over four hours at Edgbaston and a 99 that saved Australia from the wreckage of 81-7 (with the assistance of a certain DK Lillee, who produced 73*)
  6. Russell Endean (South Africa). A hunch pick by his captain Jack Cheetham for a tour of Australia after SA had been hit with a huge number of retirements, leading some to argue for the abandonment of the tour. SA drew the series 2-2 with Endean justifying his skipper’s faith by producing a score of 162* in seven hours at a crucial juncture.
  7. +Godfrey Evans (Kent, England). One of the greatest keepers of all time (173 catches and 46 stumpings, the latter an England record, at test level). His batting highlights included two test centuries and an innings where with England battling for a draw he was on 0* for 97 minutes, supporting Denis Compton who was batting at the other end.
  8. Tom Emmett (Yorkshire, England). A great left arm fast bowler and a good enough lower order batter to have scored a first class ton at a time when those were not easy to come by.
  9. Edwin Evans (Australia). A right arm slow bowler and reasonably capable lower order batter, his domestic record was outstanding, and he played in the second test match ever.
  10. Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire, Manchester Originals, England). A left arm orthodox spinner who takes her international wickets at 20 a piece overall and has had her moments batting down the order. Her stock bowling speed is in the low to mid 50s miles per hour, which is somewhat quicker than that of Matt Parkinson to give just one example. I would not pick a female seam/ pace bowler as they are a lot slower than their male equivalents, but spin is not principally about the speed at which one propels the ball, and I believe Ecclestone is up to the job.
  11. Gideon Elliott (Victoria). A right arm fast bowler who played less than anyone else to feature in any of these XIs – just nine FC matches between March 1856 and a similar time in 1862. In those nine matches he took 48 wickets at less than five runs a piece, including the performance in which wickets taken outstripped runs conceded by the greatest amount in FC history – 9-2 in a single innings.

This team has a solid top six, a great keeper and four splendid and varied bowlers. Given that Bill Edrich took the new ball on occasions at test level I am not that worried about him being the third bowler of above medium pace in this side, while the slower bowlers, Ecclestone and Edwin Evans provide a classic contrast in styles.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I will deal with the spin situation first: there were two obvious spinners whose surnames begin with E, John Emburey and Philippe-Henri Edmonds. As valuable as these two were to Middlesex’s cause over the years neither had a great test record, and Emburey blotted his copybook by going on both English rebel tours to South Africa, the only person to do so.

Fidel Edwards would have been a more conventional choice of a right arm fast bowler than Gideon Elliott, but my feeling is that Elliott’s absurdly cheap wicket taking average, even from so small a sample size justifies his inclusion.

The only challenger to Godfrey Evans for the gauntlets was Faroukh Engineer of India, but though he was a better bat than Evans he was not as good behind the stumps, and as usual I opted for the better keeper.

The only other test match opening batter whose surname begins with E that I could think of was Bruce Edgar, and his average was only just the right side of 30, considerably less than either Elgar or John Edrich.

Richard Ellison, a right arm fast medium bowler and useful lower order batter, had his moments for England, including the last two matches of the 1985 Ashes, but his record is not quite good enough overall.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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.

ENGLAND WOMEN SECURE SERIES WIN AGAINST SA

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.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  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.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…