The Smith XI

Inspired by Jamie Smith’s batting at Bristol in the last round of championship games I have selected a team comprised entirely of Smiths (he is twelfth person). Also includes some of my photographs.

This post was inspired by Jamie Smith’s double century for Surrey against Gloucestershire in the last round of county championship fixtures.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

For reasons that will become obvious I am including a twelfth person on this occasion.

  1. Graeme Smith (left handed opening batter) – the South African’s record confirms him as one of the finest openers of the modern era. He was also a candidate for the captaincy which I have awarded instead to his opening partner.
  2. *Mike Smith (MJK Smith, right handed opening batter, captain) – The Warwickshire stalwart averaged over 40 in FC cricket.
  3. Robin Smith (right handed batter) – An excellent player of fast bowling but had the gloss taken off his test record when he was found badly wanting against Shane Warne. Still even with the deleterious effect of Warne on his overall record he finished with a test average of 43.
  4. Steven Smith (right handed batter, occasional leg spinner) – The best test batter of the modern era, and possibly his country’s second best ever behind Donald Bradman.
  5. Collie Smith (right handed batter, occasional off spinner) – killed in a road accident at the age of 26 but he had already achieved plenty of note, including scoring 168 in a test innings and racking up a triple century in a Lancashire League game.
  6. Sydney Smith (left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner) – West Indian born but primarily associated with Northamptonshire. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball, figures that would probably equate to 46 and 27 on today’s more batting friendly surfaces. Three years after his arrival at Northamptonshire the county finished second in the championship, a position that they are yet to improve on 110 years later.
  7. +Ian Smith (right handed batter, wicket keeper) – A fine keeper and a good enough bat to have test centuries, including a top score of 173.
  8. ‘Big Jim’ Smith (CIJ Smith – right arm fast medium bowler, very aggressive right handed lower order batter) – still holds the record for the quickest 50 scored of genuine bowling, reaching the landmark in 11 minutes (overall innings 66 in 18 minutes). A good enough quick bowler to be selected for England at his peak.
  9. Peter Smith (leg spinner, attacking lower order batter) – his most famous performance came with the bat, for Essex against Derbyshire, when he came in at number 11 and proceeded to smash 163 out of a last wicket stand of 218. That innings helped him to achieve the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches for the first time in his career.
  10. Haydon Smith (right arm fast bowler, right handed tailender) – the Leicestershire quick will form a useful new ball pairing with ‘Big Jim’ in this team.
  11. ‘Razor’ Smith (off spinner, right handed tail ender) – over 1,000 FC wickets at 17.55 a piece. The Surrey and London County player completes a highly dangerous spin trio who all do different things with the ball (of the three Peter Smith the leg spinner is probably the least threatening, but even he took his FC wickets at 26.55 a piece.
  12. Jamie Smith (right handed batter, wicket keeper). The inspiration for this post. His double century at Bristol took his FC average north of 40, but he is not his county’s first choice keeper and I could not leave out Collie Smith to get him into the 11, so for the moment he is twelfthy for this team.

A LOOK AT THE XI

The team has a very strong top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an excellent keeper/ batter at seven, two useful hitters at eight and nine and only two out and out tailenders. The bowling his excellent variety, although it is short in the pace department. I would expect this team to give a good account of itself on most surfaces (only on a green seamer might they be in trouble).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Given the lack of pace bowling I will start with that department. Gloucestershire left armer Mike Smith did not have a good enough record to merit selection, though he was a good county bowler. Warwickshire all rounder Paul Smith, who bowled fast medium, could only have been accommodated had I left out one of Collie or Sydney Smith, and I did not feel that I could drop either to make way for him.

There were two wicket keeping candidates other than Ian Smith, both with Warwickshire connections – ‘Tiger’ Smith and Alan Smith.

Off spinner Neil Smith, for all that he was briefly an England cricketer, was not of the same calibre as the spinners I have selected. Had Sydney Smith not had an ironclad case for inclusion as an all rounder I might have included a female in the shape of left arm spinner Linsey Smith.

Chris Smith might have had the opening slot I awarded to MJK. David Smith (Surrey, Worcs, Sussex, picked for the 1986 tour of the Caribbean) was a good county player but not (in spite of the fact that he attended a previous incarnation of my own secondary school) good enough to qualify for selection.

Finally, I deliberately did not pick the guy known in his Cambridge days as ‘Smith’ – KS Duleepsinhji, because I would have considered it hypocritical to avail myself of this “cheat code” given my own condemnation of the conduct of a certain county at which a senior overseas pro was referred to as ‘Steve’ by folk who weren’t prepared to pronounce his real name.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

An All Time XI All From Different Countries

A variation on the all-time XI, this time requiring every player to come from a different country. Also some photographs.

I have one other thing to mention besides my main topic, which is a revisit to the All Time XI theme which I have explored here many times, especially during the period immediately after Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic.

THE BRIEF

This is to be an All Time XI with every selected player coming from different countries. It is to be a team that will pose a formidable threat in any and all conditions, so variety is essential. There are some players (Bradman and Sobers e.g) whose preeminence is such that they have to be their country’s representative, and in the case of some of the minor nations who are represented they had only one player wh0 could even be considered. This in turn limited who could be picked from other countries where the field was theoretically wider.

THE TEAM INCLUDING 12TH

  1. Jack Hobbs (England, right handed opening batter and occasional medium pacer). “The Master”, scorer of 61,237 FC runs including 197 centuries, scorer of 12 Ashes centuries. The oldest ever test centurion, the last of his centuries at that level coming at Melbourne in 1929 by when he was 46 years old. My English representative is highly likely to be one half of a pair that gets the innings off to a strong start.
  2. Sunil Gavaskar (India, right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer). He was the first to reach the milestone of 10,000 test runs. He had an excellent technique and seemingly limitless patience. One would absolutely ideally prefer one of the openers to be left handed but I can’t see many new ball bowlers queuing up for a crack at this opening pair!
  3. Don Bradman (Australia, right handed batter, occasional leg spinner). The greatest batter ever to have played the game (his test average of 99.94 puts him almost 40 runs an innings ahead of the next best, his FC average of 95.14 puts him 24 an innings ahead of the next best at that level). He is also vice captain of the team.
  4. Graeme Pollock (South Africa, left handed batter, occasional leg spinner). The best test average of any left hander to have played 20 or more test matches, 60.97 per innings.
  5. Garry Sobers (West Indies, left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket). Quite simply the most complete player the game has yet seen and one whose absence from this XI I could never countenance.
  6. +Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh, right handed batter, wicket keeper). One of the great stalwarts of Bangladesh cricket, an excellent keeper and a gritty middle order batter whose test record would almost certainly be even more impressive than it actually is had he been part of a stronger side.
  7. *Imran Khan (Pakistan, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler). Has a strong case to be regarded as the greatest genuine all rounder in test history (batting average 37, bowling average 22), and a great captain as well (he is designated skipper of this side, and one of very few who could possibly see Bradman named vice captain rather than captain).
  8. Rashid Khan (Afghanistan, leg spinner and useful right handed lower order batter). This one was fairly inevitable – I need a wide range of top class bowling options, and a leg spinner of undisputed world class who hails from a minor nation is pretty much indispensable in that regard.
  9. ‘Bart’ King (USA, right arm fast bowler, useful right handed lower order batter). The original ‘King of Swing’, taker of over 400 FC wickets at 15 a piece, and good enough with the bat to average 20.
  10. Richard Hadlee (New Zealand, right arm fast bowler, useful left handed lower order batter). With genuine respect to today’s Kiwi side, comfortably the strongest they have ever been able to field, he remains his country’s greatest ever cricketer.
  11. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka, off spinner, right handed tail end batter). 800 test wickets, taken at a rate of six per game. At The Oval in 1998, on a pitch that was quite hard and quite dry but basically blameless he claimed 16 English wickets in the match (7-155 in the first innings, and then after SL had taken a lead of 150, spearheaded by Jayasuriya scoring a double hundred, 9-65 in the second English innings).
  12. Andy Flower (Zimbabwe, left handed batter, wicket keeper, occasional off spinner). This man covers as many bases as possible as 12th – while I would not relish him coming in for any of the front line bowlers given that he is very much a part timer, and Sobers and Bradman can both be considered impossible to cover for anyway he won’t massively weaken the side even in a worst-case scenario.

RESULTS AND PROSPECTS

I start this little section by looking at the bowling, as it is that department that separates winners and also-rans. A pace bowling unit of Richard Hadlee, ‘Bart’ King and Imran Khan is awesome by any reckoning, and if there is definitely nothing for spinners, there is Sobers in his faster incarnations as fourth seamer. If spinners are called for, Rashid Khan and Muttiah Muralitharan are two of the all time greats, and offer a contrast, being leg spinner and off spinner respectively, and Sobers can bowl left arm orthodox and left arm wrist spin support. Thus there are bowling options available to meet every eventuality, and this side can be very confidently expected to take 20 wickets in any conditions.

The batting features a pair of openers who are highly likely to give the innings a strong start, a trio of fast and heavy scoring batters at 3, 4 and 5, a keeper who scores lots of runs at six, a genuine all rounder at seven, and three bowlers who can genuinely bat as well. Murali is the only bunny in a very deep batting order.

A number of the players in this XI, most notably Hobbs, Bradman and Sobers are rated among the the finest fielders ever to have played the game, and there are no carthorses anywhere, so they will give a good account of themselves in this department as well.

Finally, with Imran Khan as captain and Don Bradman as vice captain and Hobbs also there to be consulted this team has tactical acumen to burn and is highly unlikely to be outmatched in that area.

Thus this team seems to tick every box, and I would confidently expect it to dispose of any opposition put in front of it.

THE STEAM HOUSE CAFE

The STEAM House Cafe on King’s Lynn High Street is a cafe-style safe space for people with mental health issues, and I was there yesterday as part of a group from NAS West Norfolk. We and they are hoping to be able to organize something there specifically for autistic people.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

A brief summary of the XI.

XIs I Would Want To Watch

This post was inspired by a tweet from Third Man Cricket, which I reproduce below to set the scene:

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I shall be producing three XIs – a current men’s XI, an all time men’s XI and a current women’s XI. In the latter I will mention several names who would feature in an all time version.

MEN’S CURRENT XI

  1. Dean Elgar (left handed opening batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner). The South African has established himself as one of the best long form openers around, and he is a natural counterpoint to the other opening batter.
  2. Chris Gayle (left handed opening batter, occasional off spinner). The greatest T20 batter the world has yet seen, he can also handle long form cricket, as evidenced by two test triple centuries.
  3. *Tom Abell (right handed batter, right arm medium pacer, captain). With Elgar and Gayle opening he would likely get to the middle somewhat later than he usually does for Somerset, for whom he plays. Until September when things went pear shaped both for him and for Somerset he was having a fantastic season, and I for one look forward to seeing him playing test cricket.
  4. Joe Root (right handed batter, occasional off spinner). Since the start of 2021 seven test centuries have been scored by England batters, and six of those stand to the credit of Joe Root.
  5. Kane Williamson (right handed batter). The Kiwi recently led his side to victory in the first ever World Test Championship final.
  6. +Ben Foakes (right handed batter, wicket keeper). The best keeper currently playing the game, and at no6, with a bit of ballast between him and the genuine tail enders he should fare well.
  7. Matt Critchley (right handed batter, leg spinner). His bowling is not necessarily going to feature (as you will see I have gone spin heavy). He has had an excellent season for Derbyshire and would certainly be in my Ashes tour party.
  8. R Ashwin (off spinner, right handed batter). The best off spinner currently playing the game, and as England learned in India recently a more than useful lower order batter.
  9. Kagiso Rabada (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter). One half of an explosive new ball pairing I have selected.
  10. Jack Leach (left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter). England’s best current spinner, with 340 FC wickets at 26 a piece. His test record from 16 games reads 62 wickets at 29.98, very respectable. His next outing unless that tour gets cancelled will be in The Ashes later this year.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah (right arm fast, right handed batter). His spell on the final afternoon at The Oval broke England’s resistance in that match. He is also one of the select few visiting fast bowlers to have rattled the Australians in their own backyard.

This side has a strong batting line up, with everyone down to Ashwin at eight capable of major contributions, and has a splendid range of bowling options, though some my consider it light on seam/pace options, with Tom Abell the only bowler of that type other than the new ball pair. Ashwin and Leach should function well together as a spin duo, and although this is mainly about players I would want to see in action I would expect this combination to fare well against any opposition.

MEN’S ALL TIME

  1. *WG Grace (right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career, captain). The founding father of cricket as we know it, his career figures are staggering – 54,896 first class runs, beaten only by Hobbs, Woolley, Hendren and Mead, and 2,876 wickets, beaten only by Rhodes, Freeman, Parker, Hearne and Tom Goddard. From hitting a then ground record 224 v Surrey at The Oval (maiden FC ton) to saving a Gentlemen vs Players match by scoring 74 on his 58th birthday, his great moments in FC cricket spanned 40 years.
  2. Victor Trumper (right handed opening batter). In the wet season of 1902 he had what was virtually a royal progress around England, amassing 2,570 runs in first class matches for the Australians, including 11 centuries. The highlight both of that season and of his career came in the fourth test match at Manchester, when reached his century before lunch on the first day. England hit back strongly, and at one stage in the final innings were 92-3, needing only a further 32 to complete victory, but a batting collapse saw them all out for 120 giving Austalia victory by three runs and with it The Ashes.
  3. George Gunn (right handed batter). One of cricket’s great eccentrics, he could do almost anything depending on his mood. He once gave his wicket away because he did not want to bat in the hot weather, and on another occasion he responded to being told that lunch was being taken later than usual by getting himself out so that he could eat at his regular time. He was would dance down the pitch against fast bowlers. Neville Cardus described him as “o rare George Gunn”. His brother William was an England regular and also the original Gunn of Gunn & Moore batmakers. Although she is also a native of Nottinghamshire as far as I am aware Jenny Gunn who has recently finished a long career for the England women’s team is unrelated to him.
  4. Frank Woolley (left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner). The only player ever achieve the first class career treble of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches. He scored his runs at a tremendous rate, and must have been incredible to watch in action.
  5. Wally Hammond (right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler). His chief glory was his cover drive, rated by Don Bradman as the greatest example of that shot the he ever saw (and Bradman as well as being the best batter ever to play the game saw almost every great player of the 20th century).
  6. Garry Sobers (left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket). The most complete player the game has ever known, and surely one of the most watchable as well.
  7. Gilbert Jessop (right handed batter, right arm fast bowler). The fastest scorer the game has ever seen, a fine bowler (it was actually in this capacity that he was first selected for England) and a gun fielder.
  8. +Alan Knott (wicket keeper, right handed batter). One of the greatest ever exponents of the keepers art and a more than useful lower middle order batter, noted for his ability to improvise long before that was a major thing in cricket.
  9. Harold Larwood (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter). One of three English fast bowlers to have blitzed the Aussies on their own pitches, along with Tyson in 1954-5 and Snow in 1970-1. In the final match of the 1932-3 Ashes, what turned out to be his last ever test appearance, he scored 98 as nightwatch. On his previous tour of Australia in 1928-9 he had scored 70 from no9 in the first test match.
  10. Syd Barnes (right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter). 189 wickets from just 27 matches, an average of seven wickets per game, and they cost him only 16.43 a piece. His great weapon was a leg break, delivered at fast medium pace. The only bowler other than him to master a delivery of this type was Alec Bedser.
  11. William Mycroft (left arm fast bowler, right handed batter). The only non-test player in the XI, but over 800 FC wickets at 12 a piece. In 1876 he became the first player ever to take 17 wickets in a first class match, for Derbyshire against Hampshire, but Hampshire sneaked home by one wicket.

This side is fantastically equipped in all departments, and would fare well against most combinations.

WOMEN’S CURRENT XI

  1. Tammy Beaumont (right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper, occasional off spinner). The diminutive opener demonstrated her enduring class with a superb century against New Zealand at her home ground of Canterbury in the last international fixture of the 2021 season. Her innings laid the foundation for a late onslaught from Danni Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley that propelled England to 347-5 from 50 overs, a total that NZ never looked like chasing.
  2. Laura Wolvaardt (right handed batter). The South African has not yet played test cricket (the women don’t get to play nearly enough of that format) but all indications, including the fact the she is much better in ODIs than in T20Is are that she would be at home in that format.
  3. *Smriti Mandhana (left handed batter, captain). The stylish Indian has just burnished an already hugely impressive record by scoring a test century against Australia in Australia, at Carrara.
  4. Ellyse Perry (right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler). The best all rounder of either sex currently playing the game. If she learns to bowl spin (both off and leg spin would be required) she would rival Sobers for the title of the most complete cricketer of them all.
  5. +Amy Jones (right handed batter, wicket keeper). A brilliant wicket keeper and a fine attacking batter.
  6. Sophia Dunkley (right handed batter, occasional leg spinner). She has rapidly established herself as an England regular.
  7. Deepti Sharma (left handed batter, off spinner). The Indian all rounder helped to build on the platform that Mandhana’s innings referred to above gave India in Carrara, scoring 59 of her own.
  8. Katherine Brunt (right arm fast medium, right handed batter). The veteran from Barnsley remains a formidable bowler, has developed her batting to the point of being not far short of a genuine all rounder, and is always hugely entertaining.
  9. Sophie Ecclestone (left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter). She takes her international wickets at 20 each and at the age of 22 is the best finger spinner currently playing women’s cricket.
  10. Stella Campbell (right arm fast, right handed batter). The tall (1.86 metres = 6′ 1″ in old money) Aussie teenager is a perfect contrast to the much shorter Brunt. She is also significantly quicker than the Yorkshirewoman, as the tweet below from Hypocaust shows:

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11. Poonam Yadav (leg spinner, right handed batter). From the tallest member of the side, and its fastest bowler, to the shortest and its slowest bowler. She tosses the ball so high that one sometimes wonders whether air traffic control towers pick up tiny white dots on their radar screens when she is bowling. The method is undoubtedly effective for her – she has a magnificent record.

This side features a strong batting line up and a beautifully balance bowling unit, with Campbell, Brunt and Perry to bowl pace and the trio of Yadav, Ecclestone and Sharma providing three very different spin options.

I have chosen not to an all-time women’s XI, but the following players not named above would all be ones I would want to accommodate somehow: Charlotte Edwards (right handed opening batter), Enid Bakewell (right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner), Carole Hodges (right handed batter, off spinner), Karen Rolton (right handed batter), Sarah Taylor (right handed batter, wicket keeper) and Cathryn Fitzpatrick (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter)

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

AN ALL LEFT HANDED XI

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

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

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

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

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

EVALUATION OF RESOURCES

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship Action

A look at the county championship match between Middlesex and Somerset, an XI inspired by the Somerset top order and plenty of photographs.

This post looks at the county championship match between Somerset and Middlesex, with a bonus feature related to Somerset’s batting order. However I begin with…

OLD MAN DIES – BBC WILDLY OVERDOES THINGS

At 12:13PM yesterday an official announcement was made that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had died at the age of 99. The news was not much of a surprise since it was known that he had been ill, and his death can hardly be considered untimely at that age. Yet the BBC not only devoted all their TV channels and all their principal radio stations to talking about this and only this, they also commandeered every other aspect of their coverage for the same purpose, which meant that my plan to produce a blog post while listening to the cricket yesterday went by the board. I found a live stream on youtube, but that had to be watched, and could not simply be on in the background while I did other things. It may have been justifiable for both BBC1 and BBC2 to be devoted exclusively to this death, and for radio 1,2,3,4 and 5 to be devoted to it as well, though I would have considered even that to be overdoing it. However, to black out specialist content such as cricket commentaries, which one tunes into for one purpose and one purpose only was definitely overdoing it. The BBC is now back at more or less normal service after most of a day and night of blanket coverage of the death. It also seems inappropriate to be making so much of the death of a very old man by natural causes at a time when some 150,000 Brits have died before their time due to the Johnson government’s appalling mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

MIDDLESEX V SOMERSET

Somerset put Middlesex in, and a so-so bowling performance (only Lewis Gregory with 5-68 and Jack Leach with a superbly economical effort of 1-43 off 22 overs really bowled well) and some very poor fielding allowed the home side to reach 313 in their first innings, Sam Robson making the most of several slices of luck to rack up 165.

At 89-9 it looked like Somerset may well be headed for an innings defeat, but nos 10 and 11, Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, put on 83, de Lange reaching a half century, to get Somerset to 172, just past the minimum needed to avoid the follow on, 164. Middlesex reached 87-2 by the close of day two, Craig Overton with both wickets, but a brilliant bowling performance today, with Overton getting a third wicket, Josh Davey taking 3-16 from 11 and Leach 3-18 from 11.2 overs saw Middlesex bowled out for 143, leaving Somerset needing 285 to win. Tom Lammonby fell early, but the other two Toms, Banton and Abell are going well, with Somerset 65-1, needing 220 more to win. This segues nicely on to my bonus feature…

THE TOMS XI

The fact that the top three in the Somerset order all answer to Tom got me thinking about an XI all of whom answered to Tom (nb I was very specific that this must be players who were actually referred to as Tom – Thomas or Tommy do not county – I am a Thomas and I dislike any diminutive form of my first name). Below is what I came up with:

  1. Tom Hayward – right handed opening batter, right arm medium paced bowler. He would be delighted to know that in this XI he will definitely by no higher than sixth choice as a bowler – he advised his great protege and fellow Cambridge native Jack Hobbs not let Surrey find out how good a bowler he was, because he felt that he himself was overworked by the county in that department. He was the second to reach 1,000 FC runs in an English season before June after WG Grace, and also second after WG to the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds. He was also a fine fielder.
  2. Tom Lammonby – left handed opening batter, left arm medium pacer. Two failures in the current match has reduced has record to 464 runs at 42.18 (was 459 at 51.00 going into it). That record includes three centuries. He is one the Somerset trio, two of whom I have named in this XI (Banton, who has just gone to make it 79-2, 206 still needed, is the one to miss out).
  3. Tom Abell – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. The second of the two current Somerset Toms in this XI. He currently averages 32 in FC cricket, but is clearly on an upward trajectory, and an England career would not surprise many. Hayward shared many large partnerships with Bobby Abel – maybe he would also go well with an Abell!
  4. *Tom Graveney – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner, captain. The best batting record of any Tom, and the second most prolific batter to have played all his FC cricket after WWII. In 1966 he was part of a record breaking revival – West Indies had scored 268 and reduced England to 166-7, but Graveney (165), Murray (112 from no 9) and Higgs and Snow with a fifty a piece boosted England to 527 – 361 for the last three wickets! Unsurprisingly the West Indies were knocked sideways by this and went down to an innings defeat.
  5. Tom Killick – right handed batter. He averaged just above 40 through a 92 match first class career. This included 15 centuries and a career best score of 206.
  6. +Tom Blundell – right handed batter, wicket keeper, occasional off spinner. The Kiwi has a test average of 38 including two centuries, slightly better than his FC average of 36.
  7. Tom Emmett – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. Though it is principally his bowling for which he is selected, he was good enough with the willow to record a first class century when such scores were far from being commonplace. He was one of five ‘tykes’ to feature in the first ever test match in 1877.
  8. Tom Cartwright – right arm medium pace bowler, right handed lower order batter. Again picked for his bowling, but again far from valueless with the bat. He played a role in South Africa’s isolation from international cricket – he was named in the original England tour party, and withdrew citing injury but in truth because he did not want to tour in such circumstances. D’Oliveira, who should have been a shoo-in for the original squad anyway was named in his place, and when Balthazar Johannes Vorster then announced that D’Oliveira would not be accepted the tour was cancelled. This same Vorster a couple of years later gave vent to some particularly crass racism during a one to one meeting with Don Bradman which prompted the latter to pull the plug on South Africa.
  9. Tom Wills – right arm fast bowler/ right arm slow bowler. 130 FC wickets at less than 10 a piece. He was a hugely important figure in Australian sporting history, with his involvement in the 1868 Aboriginal tour of England and his role as the pioneer of Australian Rules Football, which he conceived as something for Aussie cricketers to do in their off season.
  10. Tom Goddard – right arm off spinner. He started his long career as a quick bowler and even took a hat trick using that method, but his overall returns were underwhelming, and Gloucestershire’s veteran left arm spinner Charlie Parker noted his big hands and suggested he turn his attention to spinning the ball. Goddard spent three years turning himself into an off spinner and gained his reward in the form of a long career which saw him become the fifth most prolific bowler in FC history with 2,979 scalps at less than 20 a piece. He achieved five more first class hat tricks as an off spinner, putting him joint second (alongside Parker who also achieved the feat six times) in this category, one behind Doug Wright who achieved seven first class hat tricks. As late as 1948 when he was not far short of 50 an England recall was a possibility, scotched by Arthur Morris who accepted responsibility for knocking him out of contention when Australia played Gloucestershire and doing just that, racking up 290 in five hours.
  11. Tom Richardson – right arm fast bowler. He took his 1,000th first class wicket in his 134th match at that level and his 2,000th in his 327th match at that level, both of which remain records for reaching those milestones. In the calendar years 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1897 combined he took 1,005 wickets. Neville Cardus, who named him one of the ‘Six Giants of the Wisden Century’ in a 1963 essay, recounted an incident from a match against Lancashire in brutal heat, when Richardson, deep into one of his customary marathon spells chased a ball all the way to the boundary off his own bowling.

This team has a strong top five, a keeper batter at six, two bowlers who can bat at seven and eight and three excellent specialist bowlers. Although there is only one genuine spinner the attack has plenty of variety. The chief misses due to the tightness of my restrictions were Tommy Andrews, an Aussie batter who was also an outstanding cover fielder and Thomas Godfrey Evans, one of the greatest of all keepers, who was always known by his middle name Godfrey. Please feel free to use the comments to identify any Toms you think I have treated harshly by not including them.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship 2021

Preparing for the upcoming county championship season – starts tomorrow folks. Also as usual, plenty of photographs.

A new County Championship cricket season gets underway tomorrow. This post looks ahead to that, with a couple of things.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP

If you are not able to get to the grounds that does not stop you from following what is going on. The BBC will be providing radio commentaries on all county fixtures. Simply open up a web browser, go to www.bbc.co.uk/cricket, click on the ‘live commentaries’ button and select the match you want to tune into. If weather intervenes or other factors suggest a change of match this is easily accomplished. An additional resource for getting extra detail about the game you are following is www.cricinfo.com, which also has excellent player profiles and statistical info. My initial focus tomorrow will be on Middlesex v Somerset, as the latter seek to win the title for the first time, 130 years after first taking part in the competition.

AN ALL TIME XI OF COUNTY STALWARTS – NO TEST CAPS

This XI, in anticipation of tomorrow is composed of players who never got an international call up. All must have played after the start of test cricket but never have been picked at international level.

  1. John Langridge – right handed opening batter. 574 First class matches, 34,378 runs at 37.44, 76 centuries, and never an England call up. He did grace the test arena eventually, as an umpire.
  2. Alan Jones – left handed opening batter. The Welshman played 645 first class matches, scoring 36,049 runs at 32.89, with 54 centuries. He was selected for the England v Rest of the World series which was arranged to replace the South African series that was cancelled for political reasons, but those games were ruled unofficial as they were not country vs country (though Shane Warne has wickets taken in matches that were not country vs country in his official test record). He has the unwelcome distinction of scoring more first class runs than anyone else who never played test cricket.
  3. *Percy Perrin – the Essex amateur right handed batter was another who played a vast amount of first class cricket. 538 matches in his case, yielding 29,709 runs at 35.92, with 66 centuries. It is symptomatic of his luck that he holds the record score in first class cricket for someone who finished on the losing side – 343 not out v Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. The scores in that match were Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1, with Charles Ollivierre scoring 229 and 92 not out for Derbyshire. Perrin in that Essex first innings hit 68 fours, a boundary count beaten only once in an FC innings, Brian Lara’s 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham containing 62 fours and 10 sixes. He became an England selector and served briefly as chairman of selectors.
  4. James Hildreth – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler. The Somerset middle order man has scored 17,202 first class runs at an average of 42 and has got no closer to test cricket than taking the field as substitute during the 2005 Ashes.
  5. Tony Cottey – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The diminutive (officially 5’4″) Glamorgan and Sussex middle order man scored almost 15,000 runs at and average of 36 in his first class career. For much of his playing career England were not exactly known for the robustness of their middle order, making his continual omission all the more baffling. I saw him live in a game at Swansea when he made a century on the first day after Glamorgan had been in some trouble. That effort looked impressive then, and even more impressive a day later when Andy Hayhurst of Somerset had snailed his way to 96 in six hours on a pitch playing beautifully.
  6. Darren Stevens – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. Every team needs an all rounder, and the Leicestershire/ Kent man fits the bill very nicely. Now 45, and still playing, his current record stands at 308 matches played, 15,710 runs at 34.75, 546 wickets at 24.67.
  7. +Colin Metson – wicket keeper, right handed batter. I was spoilt for choice here – at least three other keepers who never gained international recognition, Fred Huish of Kent, David Hunter of Yorkshire and Wally Luckes of Somerset would have done just as well. I saw Metson in action, and so know just how good he was. I also saw some the guys selected for England during his playing days and how inadequate they were.
  8. Charles Kortright – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The fastest bowler of his generation, but never selected for England. Bobby Abel, the Surrey stalwart once said after having made his lack of relish for facing the Essex quick a trifle too obvious “I am the father of six children and there are plenty of other bowlers besides Mr Kortright who I can score runs off.” In 170 first class appearances Kortright took 489 wickets at 21.20, with best innings figures of 8-57.
  9. Don Shepherd – right arm medium/ right handed batter. A specialist bowler of off cutters, Shepherd played 668 first class matches, taking 2,218 wickets at 21.32 at that level. This give Glamorgan the double distinction of being home to the person who took more FC wickets than any other non-test bowler and the person who scored more runs than any other non-test batter.
  10. George Dennett – left arm orthodox spin, left handed batter. 401 matches, 2,151 wickets at 19.82 a piece, and no England call up. The presence during his playing years of such luminaries as Wilfred Rhodes, Colin Blythe, Frank Woolley and Roy Kilner goes some way to explaining this, but it does seem strange that he should have been utterly overlooked.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast, right handed batter. It is true that his 1841 birth date means that he was past his prime by the time the first test match was played in March 1877, and would have been old indeed for a quick biowler to make a debut , at 39, by the time the first test on English soil was contested in 1880, but nevertheless his outstanding career record (138 first class matches, 863 wickets at 12.09 each) makes it seem strange that he was entirely ignored, especially since he actually kept going until 1885, which means that there were five matches in England and several Aussie tours for which he might have been selected.

This team has a solid top five, an all rounder, a keeper and a stellar bowling attack – I can think of many actual test sides who would start second favourites against this assemblage. For quick reference here it is in batting order:

John Langridge (RHB)
Alan Jones (LHB)
*Percy Perrin (RHB, captain)
James Hildreth (RHB, occ RMF)
Tony Cottey (RHB, occ OS)
Darren Stevens (RHB, RMF)
+Colin Metson (WK, RHB)
Charles Kortright (RF, RHB)
Don Shepherd (RM, RHB)
George Dennett (SLA, LHB)
William Mycroft (LF, RHB)

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I have already mentioned several alternative keepers, and I invite others to come up with honourable mentions of their own in the comments, but two definitely need to be covered here: Edgar Oldroyd, a regular no3, scored about 15,000 runs at 36, and was unlucky to miss out, as he was unlucky to miss out on the test match call up in life. His grand-daughter Eleanor is now a very well known sports broadcaster. Ernie Robson, a middle order batter and medium paced outswing bowler for Somerset could have had the slot I fave to Stevens but the latter has a much better batting record, and there bowling averages are similar. If James Anderson is reading this he might care to note that Jack Hobbs rated Robson one of the most difficult bowlers he ever faced and that Robson was still taking wickets with his outswingers at the age of 53!

A LINK AND SOME PHOTOGRAPHS

Before getting to my usual sign off, therunoutblog, which I heartily recommend, has an impassioned piece up titled “Womens Cricket; on the rise” which I urge you to read. Now for those photographs…

Selecting An All Time Test XI

I take on the near impossible task of selecting an all time test XI. Also some more photographs for you.

Let me start by saying that this task, suggested on twitter by Adam Sutherland, is the sort of thing Alexa might come up with if asked for an example of an insoluble problem. The embarrassment of riches at one’s disposal is such that I would expect no two people to arrive at the same answer. Nevertheless it is fun to do, and I am going to offer my answer. Feel free to list your alternatives, or if you dare, a completely different XI of your own to take on mine in a five match series in the comments.

THE TEAM

There are lots of candidates for an opening pair. In my case I resolve the issue by selecting an opening pair who were the best in test history and who I therefore pick as a package: Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, with their average partnership of 87.81 at that level.

Number three, with all due respect to such masterly practitioners as Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting is one of the two nailed on certainties for a place in this XI: the one and only Donald Bradman, who I also name as captain of the side. An average of over 30 runs an innings more than any of the competition does not allow for argument.

Number four has many contenders, but having named three right handers I wanted a left hander, and the best record among such batters is held by Graeme Pollock, with an average of 60.97 (Brian Charles Lara is the other contender, but too many of his really big scores came in either defeats or draws).

Number five goes to Sachin Tendulkar. Again there were many possibilities, but I accept the word of Don Bradman, who recognized something of himself in the way Tendulkar batted (a resemblance also acknowledged by Lady Bradman when consulted), and there can be no higher praise.

Now we need an all-rounder, and this is the other utterly undisputable slot other than no3: the most complete cricketer there has ever been, Garfield St Aubrun Sobers. He scored 8,032 test runs at 57.78, took 235 wickets, bowling virtually every type of delivery known to left arm bowlers (he was originally selected as a left arm orthodox spinner, batting no9) and he was also one of the greatest fielders the game ever saw.

For the wicket keeper, although I do not normally approve of compromising at all on keeping skills I rate Adam Gilchrist’s batting at no seven so highly that I am selecting him for the role.

For my remaining bowlers I go for Wasim Akram at no8, left arm fast and capable of generating prodigious swing. No9 is Malcolm Marshall, for me the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling. No10 is Sydney Barnes, 189 wickets in just 27 tests (seven per game) at 16.43 a piece. I round out the order with the off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

Thus in batting order we have:

JB Hobbs
H Sutcliffe
*DG Bradman
RG Pollock
SR Tendulkar
G St A Sobers
+AC Gilchrist
Wasim Akram
MD Marshall
SF Barnes
M Muralitharan

Barnes’ principle weapon was a leg break at fast medium pace, so I felt that the off spinner Muralitharan as opposed to a leg spinner (Warne, O’Reilly, Grimmett and Kumble being the principle contenders) gave the attack more variation. Wasim Akram’s place as left arm paceman could have gone to Alan Davidson or Mitchell Johnson without appreciably weakening the side, and there are a plethora of right arm quicks for whom cogent cases could be made. Barnes’ extraordinary record made him the third clearest selection in the entire XI.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before my usual sign off, a link to the piece I produced OTD last year as part of my ‘all time XIs’ series: Leicestershire. Now for those photos…

All Time XIs – Somerset

Originally posted on aspiblog:
INTRODUCTION Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to…

When I created this post OTD last year Bess was riding high and having felt it necessary to exclude Leach I hoped he would continue to go well and justify my faith in him. Not helped by some mismanagement over the winter he has gone backwards since then, and I would remove him from the XI and replace him with Brian Langford, who took 1410 wickets at 24.79 in 510 first class appearances. Thus the revised XI is Trescothick, Gimblett, Palairet, Hildreth, Braund, *Woods, Botham, Garner, Langford, White, +Luckes. I also have some new photos to show…

aspiblog

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to creating it will be captain of the “What Might Have Been XI”.

SOMERSET ALL TIME XI

  1. Marcus Trescothick – left handed opener who scored stacks of runs in his long and distinguished career. He was selected for England against the West Indies in 2000, showed masses of character in surviving an early onslaught from the veteran pacers Ambrose and Walsh, going on to score 66 on debut. That same winter facing the very different challenges posed by a dry pitch and some crafty spinners in Sri Lanka he made his maiden test hundred. Runs continued to…

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April 2

An autistic perspective on April the Second, with some important links.

This post is mainly geared to sharing, since I have made some good connections today, but I am also going to say a bit about today and what it should really be about.

APRIL THE SECOND

Today is offically dubbed ‘World Autism Awareness Day’, a designation that for reasons I explained two days ago I find difficult to accept. I will be in town for the turning on of special lights tonight, but they will be in the colours of the National Autistic Society, and as branch secretary of NAS West Norfolk I can fully accept that – had the lights going on been blue I would have refused to have anything to do with the event as a matter of principle.

Autistic people should be accepted for who they are. Regrets about who/what they are not have no place in acceptable discourse about autism, neither should attempts to change important parts of who we are. If an autistic person stims, let them do so. If an autistic person has special interests allow them to pursue those interests, do not try to wean them away from those interests.

The narrative has to move forward – at barest minimum Autism Acceptance is mandatory, and as I have said before Autistic Pride is not inappropriate either. Take note of the ‘spectrum infinity’ device that heads this blog, and of the different version I use for my equivalent of business cards.

SOME SHARES FROM TODAY

I start this section with a thank you to Phoebe MD, who has once again opened up her blog for others to promote their own blogs – do take the opportunity thus offered by clicking here.

My own interaction with the above blog has already brought to my attention a lovely post which is part of my reason for creating this post:

Yuvi MK, who runs the artwarlock blog, has produced a post in which she displays World Autism Awareness Day Doodle Cards, which you can read by clicking here – and I urge you to do so.

My other autism related share for today comes from the wonderful neurodivergent rebel, who should need no introduction to readers of this blog. She takes the subject of Autism Awareness Month head on and explains just why autistic people are so averse to ‘lighting up blue’. Please read the piece by clicking here.

Finally for this section, I am focussing on one of my own special interests: cricket. This time last year, with the first coronavirus lock down in full force and no knowing when there would next be live cricket is creating a series of ‘all time XIs‘ posts, which started with one for each of the 18 first class counties. On April 2 last year my subject was Kent – click here to read in full. In retrospect I would make one change to my chosen XI – Underwood in for Blythe, because Underwood’s bowling method would lend extra variety to the attack – Blythe, like Woolley was a very orthodox left arm spinner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Tammy Beaumont Turns 30

A post put together for England ace Tammy Beaumont’s 30th birthday.

Today is England Women’s cricketer Tammy Beaumont’s 30th birthday. I celebrate the day by drawing your attention to some of my previous writings about one of my favourite current cricketers.

A RADICAL SOLUTION TO ENGLAND’S OPENING WOES

This blog’s first mention of Tammy Beaumont was in August 2018 when Cook was nearing retirement and Keaton Jennings was proving not to be up to the task. I had noted that Beaumont had been scoring well for some time in international cricket, and that other than Rory Burns no one was making a really convincing case for themselves. I still think England would have been well advised to try out my suggestion. The post can be viewed here, with the featured image from it reproduced below:

Beaumont on the attack

THE OPENING POST OF THE 100 CRICKETERS SERIES

When I produced my ‘100 Cricketers’ series in 2019, I started with a post dedicated to Tammy Beaumont (the series also concluded with a standalone post dedicated to a female cricketer, Claire Taylor). This post can be viewed here. An overview of the entire series with links to all posts can be seen by visiting this page. I reproduce the complete list of those involved below.

TAMMY BEAUMONT
IN ALL TIME XIS

During the first lockdown I produced a series of All Time XI themed posts which you can view by clicking here. The first of these to feature Tammy Beaumont was a contest in which an XI of Goliaths took on an XI of Davids. It can be seen here, with the feature image reproduced below.

A 47 BALL CENTURY

I first included this in a post last year “The Cognominal Clash” after it was drawn to my attention by the Pinch Hitter:

TAMMY BEAUMONT
ON CRICINFO

Full details of Tammy Beaumont’s career can be found on cricinfo. Her profile can be viewed by clicking here. I have reproduced part of it below.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…