All Time XIs – Through The Alphabet

Today’s all time XI cricket post follows a strict alphabetical progression.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on the all-time XI cricket theme. Today each featured player has a surname beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, and each letter is used strictly in sequence, meaning that the second XI ends with a player whose surname begins with V.

RAY ILLINGWORTH’S XI

  1. Bobby Abel – right handed opening batter. 744 test runs at 37.20, an excellent record for his period, over 30,000 first class runs.
  2. Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter. Has fared magnificently as an opener since being given the role for England in 2015.
  3. Belinda Clark – right handed batter. In the 1990s she had the same kind of reputation as a batter that her compatriot Meg Lanning does today. She averaged 45 in test cricket and 47 in ODIs, the latter figure including the first ODI double ton by anyone.
  4. Emrys Davies – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He was usually to be found in this sort of place in the batting order, and played some fine innings from no4.
  5. Ross Edwards – right handed batter. One of the better Aussie batters of the first half of the 1970s (he retired somewhat prematurely at the end of the 1975 series played after the inaugural men’s world cup). In the first match of that series at Edgbaston he was horrifically out of form but ground out a half century in four hours and ten minutes, while others scored quicker (notably Rod Marsh with the top score of 61) at the other end. Rick McCosker and Ian Chappell had also scored 50s, and Thommo down near the extras scored a test best 49 to boost the score to 359. England were then bowled out twice, with skipper Denness, who had won the toss an put Australia in, managing three and eight in his last two test innings. In the second test of that series Australia slumped to 81-7 in response to England’s first innings 315 (Greig 96, Knott 69, Steele 50) and it was that man Edwards, helped by DK Lillee, who dug Australia out of this king sized hole. Edwards made 99, Lillee a test best 73 not out, and in the end England led by just 47, and were unable to force victory.
  6. Andrew Flintoff – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. He took a while to establish himself at the top level before enjoying a couple of magnificent years, and occasionally reviving old memories thereafter.
  7. Jack Gregory – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Injuries took their toll late in his career, but his record confirms his status as a genuine all rounder.
  8. George Hirstright handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. His England record does not look that great, but his play for Yorkshire, over the course of three decades, places him firmly among the greatest of all time.
  9. *Raymond Illingworth – off spinner, right handed batter. In 1970-1, with Australia holding the Ashes, and having done so since winning them in 1958-9, Illingworth captained England to a 2-0 series victory to regain the urn, the first to do so in Australia since Jardine 38 years previously, and only the sixth in all after Bligh in 1882-3, Stoddart in 1894-5, Warner in 1903-4 and Douglas in 1911-2 as well as Jardine. Subsequent to that tour England’s only successes down under have been when Brearley defended the urn in 1978-9, Gatting in 1986-7 defending the urn won back by Gower in 1985 and Strauss in 2010-11, defending the 2009 spoils. He was a quality player in his day as well.
  10. +Eifion Jones – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He made more dismissals than any other Glamorgan keeper, 933 of them (840 caught, 93 stumped) in 405 matches.
  11. Rashid Khan – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Although it is his bowling that has got him in (after four tests he has 23 wickets at 21.08 at that level – a more than promising start – while eight first class matches in total have yielded him 58 wickets at 17.44, and he is not quite 22 years old.

This team has a solid top five, three fine all rounders, a keeper, and two spinners who can both bat. It has no tail to speak of (even Rashid Khan averages 23 in FC cricket), and Gregory and Hirst will make a fine new ball pairing, with Flintoff as back up, while Khan, Illingworth and Davies provide fine spinning options (especially the first two). This team will take a lot of beating.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

First of all, bear in mind my decision to pick players in positions they actually occupied. That means that Abel is virtually indisputable, although Mayank Agarwal will change that if he continues as he has started. Jack Brown of England, Bill Brown of Australia and Sidney George Barnes of Australia were all good options for the letter B, and I could accept any of them. Ian Chappell might have had the no 3 slot. I felt no 4 was a position too high for Basil D’Oliveira, and felt that Davies’ bowling gave him an edge of Joe Darling. No 5 was too low in the order for Bill Edrich (he either opened or batted no 3) or his cousin John (a specialist opener), while none of the other cricketing Edriches had a good enough record. George Emmett of Gloucestershire might have his advocates, although five was lower than he usually batted. Freddie Flintoff had no rivals. Jack Gregory’s slot might have gone to Tony Greig, but I felt that that the Aussie gave me three genuine pace bowlers. Hirst’s place might have gone to Schofield Haigh but I felt that his left arm bowling and superior batting clinched it in his favour. Illingworth’s two main rivals were Jack Iverson and Bert Ironmonger, but both were genuine no11s, so would have been two places too high, and in Ironmonger’s case I already had a left arm spinner in Davies. Some might think that Geraint Jones should have had the keeper’s slot, but his allegedly superior batting (I am not wholly convinced it actually was) does not make up for the fact that he was definitely a tad clumsy behind the stumps. Rashid Khan’s place could have gone to his compatriot the left arm wrist spinner Zahir Khan, while if I had wanted an extra pace bowling option Indian left armer Zaheer Khan could have been selected.

WALTER ROBINS’ XI

  1. Justin Langer – left handed opening batter, averaged 45 in test cricket, with a best of 250 against England at the MCG.
  2. Colin McDonald – right handed opening batter. The 1950s was a slow and low scoring decade, which makes McDonald’s test average of 39, batting at the top of the order particularly impressive. His best series was the 1958-9 Ashes when the he was the most successful batter on either side.
  3. Scott Newman – left handed batter. When he first started it seemed that an England career beckoned, but he never quite kicked on, finishing with a first class average of 38.
  4. Norman O’Neill – right handed batter. A fine stroke making batter for Australia. He averaged 45.55 in test cricket, making his debut in  the 1958-9 Ashes series.
  5. Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner.
  6. +Quinton De Kock – left handed batter, wicket keeper. I could not come up with a cricketer whose surname began with Q who could play as high as no six, so I allowed myself to pick someone whose first name began with Q.
  7. *Walter Robins – leg spinner, right handed batter, captain. A highly successful captain of Middlesex, well regarded by most of those who played under him. He averaged 26.39 with the bat and 23.30 with the ball, scoring 13,884 first class runs and capturing 969 wickets in his 379 games at that level.
  8. George Simpson-Hayward – off spinner (under arm). 23 wickets at 18 in his five test matches, 503 first class wickets at 21.
  9. Charles Turner – right arm medium fast bowler. One of the great bowlers of the early period of test history – took his 100th wicket in his 17th test match. Link two in an Australian chain through test history – Jack Blackham who kept wicket in the first 17 test matches ever played was a team mate of his, he gave Bill O’Reilly (3) some useful advice, who in turn gave Richie Benaud (4) some useful advice, and in his turn he passed on some advice to Shane Warne (5) – it only remains to provide a verifiable link from Warne to a current Aussie player to complete the chain.
  10. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler. 297 test wickets for the Kent maestro. Economical on pitches that did not help him and a destroyer on any surface that did help him.
  11. Vince Van Der Bijl – right arm fast medium bowler. The big South African took 767 wickets at 16.54 in first class cricket (his country were isolated due to apartheid, and he chose not to go down the route of qualifying to play for another country, so he played no official international cricket). Philippe-Henri Ednonds who played alongside Van Der Bijl for Middlesex said in “100 Greatest Bowlers” that Van Der Bijl would likely have had a test record in similar lines to Brian Statham’s had he played at that level.

This side has a powerful top five, an explosive batter/ keeper at six and a well balanced bowling attack. Turner and Van Der Bijl look every inch a quality new ball pair, while Underwood, Simpson-Hayward and Robins offer a fine variety of slower options.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

No other L challenges Langer for the no1 slot. N was also a fairly barren letter, as was O. I did consider selecting Ellyse Perry in place of Kevin Pietersen, while no5 is too low for Graeme Pollock, who batted either at no3 or no4. I covered Q in that entry. I think Robins’ all round skills and captaincy make him a must pick – no 7 is definitely at least a position too high for Andy Roberts the . great fast bowler. Similarly, I felt no 8 was too high in the order for Fred Spofforth, so went for the highly individual skills of Simpson-Hayward. Jeff Thomson’s hell fire pace was an alternative to Turner. Underwood had no rival for the letter U. I could have gone for Chaminda Vaas in place of Van Der Bijl, but considered that the South African’s amazing first class record had to be acknowledged. Including Hedley Verity would have left me with only Turner as a recognized new ball bowler.

THE CONTEST

Robins’ XI has the stronger top batting, but more of a tail. Illingworth’s XI are better equipped in bowling, and they bat deeper, although their top batting is the weaker of the two sides. It is a tough call, but I think that Illingworth’s XI just about has the edge.

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

Marathon

We are told that the runners in first and fourth told the truth and those in second and third lied. C’s statement has to be true, because it being a lie would put C in fourth and that is disallowed by the conditions. Since it is a true statement and C did not finish fourth there is only one place for C to finish, which is first, the other place who told the truth. A’s statement is thus proven true, so A came fourth. B thus lied and therefore finished second, making D the other liar and the third place finisher. Thus C was first and A was fourth, making them three places apart. The cause of the aggro when this problem appeared on brilliant is that two runners finished in between A and C and some therefore believed the answer to be two, but the number of places separating A and C is 4-1 = 3. Brilliant caved to the moaners, giving those who had selected two but explained their reasoning for doing so in the comments credit, and they added an explanatory note to the problem itself. However, having reasoned the problem out as I have explained above and then selected two is actually equivalent to arguing that 4-1 = 2, so I think they should have held firm on that one.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Holly Gillibrand, a young Scottish environmental activist has an article titled “Cry for the Wild” in the Oban Times. Below is a screenshot of the first few paragraphs:

HG

Time for my usual sign off:

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Through the Alphabet
The teams in tabulated form.

100 Cricketers – 1st X1: The All-rounders

Continuing my “100 cricketers” series.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome the latest installment in this series. So far there has been the introduction, a post about Tammy Beaumont, and a post about the other specialist batters from my first XI. This post now deals with the all-rounders from that list, of whom there are no fewer than four (including the wicketkeeper)…

ANDREW “FREDDIE” FLINTOFF

He took a long time to really establish himself at international level, but then had a couple of years when he could seemingly do no wrong, which included the fantastic 2005 Ashes series. Later on injuries took their toll, but even at the very end of his career his last involvement in the action was a direct hit on the stumps to run out Australian captain Ricky Ponting.

His performance at Edgbaston in 2005, when he scored 73 and 68 and took four wickets in each innings was outstanding, and helped to turn a series that very nearly died a premature death into one that nobody will ever forget. His 18 overs off the reel at the Oval in that same series to give England an unexpected first innings lead was incredible. In the second match of the 2009 series at Lords he bowled England to their first victory over Australia at that venue since 1934 when Hedley Verity took advantage of a rain affected pitch (remember, they played on “ooncoovered pitches” in those days) to record match figures of 15-104). 

England were rather more sensible about Flintoff’s departure than they had been about Ian Botham’s in the early 1990s, when many young cricketers had promising careers effectively strangled by having the “next Botham” label draped round their necks. This time they realised that a straight replacement for Flintoff was, to put it mildly, unlikely, and set about building a different kind of team.

Flintoff had two and a half really superb years (2004, 2005 and 2006 before the tour to Australia at the end of that year which was an unqualified disaster for him and most of the rest of the squad) and produced flashes of brilliance both before and after that period. 

KATHRYN BRUNT

She started out as a specialist bowler, batting low in the order. At one point she dropped out of the game but then made a comeback. Subsequently she has remained the England Womens team’s first choice opening bowler and has improved her batting to the point that she can be regarded as an all-rounder (she now habitually bats at no 6 or 7 in tests and ODIs, and often comes in higher than that in T20s when quick runs are wanted). 

So long as her back holds out (she has been plagued by problems in that area down the years) she will be wanted by England (in the final ODI against India recently she took 5-28, her wickets being those of the top five in the Indian order, and was on 18 not out when England completed their victory). 

ELLYSE PERRY

I saw a very young Ellyse Perry live at the Adelaide Oval in 2009, playing in an ODI for the Australian Women versus the New Zealand Women. In those days she bowled fast with new ball, batted at no 8 (it was obvious that she would be moving up the order in the future) and had a superb throwing arm.

She still bowls fast with the new ball, remains a brilliant fielder, and is now just about the best batter in the women’s game (a test-match double century being her career highlight, along with her recent dominance of the Women’s Big Bash League – three individual centuries in the most recent tournament). 

If you were selecting an Earth Women XI to take on Mars Women she would undoubtedly by the first name on the team sheet and it would go down in ink, not pencil. 

She should still have a few years ahead of her at the top, and my advice would be: enjoy it while you can – talents of this magnitude do not come along very often.

BEN FOAKES

One of the best wicketkeepers in the game, he has played five test matches for England and averages 41.50 with the bat as well as having demonstrated his skills as a keeper. Yet ridiculously his international future is in doubt because of the difficulty (in the minds of the current England selectors at least) of fitting him and Jonny Bairstow into the same England team. If they do not want to use Bairstow as a specilaist batter, filling the no3 slot, then as far as I am concerned he, and not Ben Foakes, should be the one to miss out.

Providing the England selectors see sense Foakes should go on to have a stellar international career.

THE NEXT POST IN THIS SERIES

My next post in this series will feature the specialist bowlers from my first XI and introduce my second X1 preparatory to posting about them.

PHOTOGRAPHY

A few of my own photographs to end:

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Seen from the Tuesday Market Place, King’s Lynn
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Near the Gaywood River, North Lynn
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My new beanie – from the part of Cornwall where my parfents live.

 

Special Post: Oval and Vauxhall

A piece principally about Ashes moments at the Oval cricket ground, with an introductory mention of the history of the two stations that serve it.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my series “London Station by Station”. I hope you will enjoy this post and that some of you will be encouraged to share it.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE GAS HOLDERS

I am treating these two stations together because they are at opposite ends of the Oval cricket ground. Oval was one of the original six stations of the City and South London Railway, the world’s first deep-level tube railway, which opened in 1890. Vauxhall only opened as an underground station in 1971, part of the newest section of the Victoria line, but is also a main-line railway station and would have opened in that capacity long before Oval.

Today is the Saturday of the Oval test, by tradition the last of the summer. At the moment things are not looking rosy for England, but more spectacular turnarounds have been achieved (bowled at for 15 in 1st dig and won by 155 runs a day and a half later – Hampshire v Warwickshire 1922, 523-4D in 1st dig and beaten by ten wickets two days later – Warwickshire v Lancashire 1982 to give but two examples). The Oval in it’s long and illustrious history has seen some of test cricket’s greatest moments:

1880: 1st test match on English soil – England won by five wickets, Billy Murdoch of Australia won a sovereign from ‘W G’ by topping his 152 in the first innings by a single run.

1882: the original ‘Ashes’ match – the term came from a joke obituary penned after this game by Reginald Shirley Brooks. Australia won by 7 runs, England needing a mere 85 to secure the victory were mown down by Fred Spofforth for 77.

1886: A triumph for England, with W G Grace running up 170, at the time the highest test score by an England batsman. Immediately before the fall of the first England wicket the scoreboard nicely indicated the difference in approach between Grace and his opening partner William Scotton (Notts): Batsman no 1: 134           Batsman no 2: 34

1902: Jessop’s Match – England needing 263 in the final innings were 48-5 and in the last-chance saloon with the tables being mopped when Jessop arrived at the crease. He scored 104 in 77 minutes, and so inspired the remainder of the English batsmen, that with those two cool Yorkshiremen, Hirst and Rhodes together at the death England sneaked home by one wicket.

1926: England’s first post World ward I Ashes win, secured by the batting of Sutcliffe (161) and Hobbs (100) and the bowling of young firebrand Larwood and old sage Rhodes – yes the very same Rhodes who was there at the death 24 years earlier.

1938: The biggest margin of victory in test history – England win by an innings and 579. Australia batted without opener Jack Fingleton and even more crucially no 3 Don Bradman in either innings (it was only confirmation that the latter would not be batting that induced England skipper Hammond to declare at 903-7)

1948: Donald Bradman’s farewell to test cricket – a single boundary would have guaranteed him a three figure batting average, but he failed to pick Eric Hollies’ googly, collecting a second-ball duck and finishing wit a final average of 99.94 – still almost 40 runs an innings better than the next best.

1953: England reclaim the Ashes they lost in 1934 with Denis Compton making the winning hit.

1968: A South-African born batsman scores a crucial 158, and then when it looks like England might be baulked by the weather secures a crucial breakthrough with the ball, exposing the Australian tail to the combination of Derek Underwood and a rain affected pitch. This as not sufficient to earn Basil D’Oliveira an immediate place on that winter’s tour of his native land, and the subsequent behaviour of the South African government when he is named as a replacement for Tom Cartwright (offically injured, unoffically unwilling to tour South Africa) sets off a chain of events that will leave South Africa in the sporting wilderness for almost quarter of a century.

1975: Australia 532-9D, England 191 – England in the mire … but a fighting effort all the way down the line in the second innings, Bob Woolmer leading the way with 149 sees England make 538 in the second innings and Australia have to settle for the draw (enough for them to win the series 1-0).

1985: England need only a draw to retain the Ashes, and a second-wicket stand of 351 between Graham Gooch (196) and David Gower (157) gives them a position of dominance they never relinquish, although a collapse, so typical of England in the 1980s and 90s sees that high-water mark of 371-1 turn into 464 all out. Australia’s final surrender is tame indeed, all out for 241 and 129 to lose by an innings and 94, with only Greg Ritchie’s 1st innings 64 worthy of any credit.

2005: For the second time in Oval history an innings of 158 by a South-African born batsman will be crucial to the outcome of the match, and unlike in 1968, the series. This innings would see Kevin Peter Pietersen, considered by many at the start of this match as there for a good time rather than a long time, finish the series as its leading run scorer.

2009: A brilliant combined bowling effort from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann sees Australia all out for 160 after being 72-0 in their first innings, a debut century from Jonathan Trott knocks a few more nails into the coffin, and four more wickets for Swann in the second innings, backed by the other bowlers and by Andrew Flintoff’s last great moment in test cricket – the unassisted run out of Ricky Ponting (not accompanied by the verbal fireworks of Trent Bridge 2005 on this occasion!).

The above was all written without consulting books, but for those who wish to know more about test cricket at this iconic venue, there is a book dedicated to that subject by David Mortimer.

As usual I conclude this post with some map pics…

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