All Time XIs – The Grand Finale

Bringing the curtain down on an immense series that has taken us through the alphabet, 200+ years of cricket history and every inhabited continent in the world. The XIs are presented in reverse ranking order, with links back to the selectorial posts.

This post concludes our cricketing journey through the alphabet, a couple of centuries of history and every inhabited continent, with a listing of each XI in reverse ranking order from 26th up to first. I have appended extra comments along the way where my thinking may have changed, or where cricketing developments caught up with me during the course of this series, which has been running since late July. Each XI is also accompanied by a link to the relevant selectorial post.

26TH: THE Qs

The challenge for this letter was actually finding 11 players to constitute an XI, and not surprisingly the final result was decidedly ill assorted. They managed just 7 of a possible 125 points.

25TH: THE Zs

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24TH: THE Is

While this XI has no great strength anywhere its biggest weakness was in the seam/ pace bowling department.

23RD: THE Xs

This was an XI which required a lot of chicanery to pull together. Between the creation of this XI and latter stages of the match ups a women’s tournament took place in New Zealand, and one development there was the arrival in the big time of off spinner Xara Jetly, who were I selecting this XI now would replace MaX Waller, who adds very little to the XI.

22ND: THE Us

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21ST: THE Ns

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20TH: THE Ys

The strong middle order, good spin pairing and one high class fast bowler saved this side from complete disaster.

19TH – THE Cs

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18TH: THE Es

A good spin pairing, two pacers with remarkable records and a world class keeper, but not enough batting for comfort and Bill Edrich the best available back up bowler. More here.

17TH: THE Os

The same score as the Es, but the Os get the higher spot as they won the match up between the two sides.

16TH: THE Ds

Good batting, good pace/ seam bowling, good keeper but the Ds fall down on spin bowling and captaincy.

15TH: THE Js

The Js.

14TH: THE Vs

The Vs superb bowling unit did not quite propel them into the top half of the table, as they lost a split tie (both XIs scoring 69 out 125) to…

13TH: THE As

Solid batting, a top keeper and a superbly balanced bowling unit was just enough to get the As into the top half of the table, since they won their match up with the Vs.

12TH: THE Hs

Stellar batting, a great keeper and a sound captain, but not quite enough bowling to get them to the very top. Neil Harvey might replace Hussey in some people’s estimation, and I would probably have served this letter better had I steeled myself to pick an all rounder (probably George Hirst, with his bowling stock in trade being left arm pace) rather than Hendren, but dropping the scorer of the second most FC centuries ever would have been a huge call.

11TH: THE Ps

The Ps, just missing out on the top ten.

10TH – THE Rs

This exemplifies the advantage of having Rhodes available – you can pick him for any one of several roles depending on your needs. Here, Rhodes the specialist spinner was required and therefore I selected him in that capacity, the one in which he both started and finished his career. The Rs.

9TH – THE Bs

In retrospect, given that Barnes could be said to attend to the leg spinners angle of attack with his ‘Barnes ball’, as explicated by Ian Peebles, himself an England leggie, it might have made this team even better to have selected Palwankar Baloo, Bishan Singh Bedi or left arm spinning all rounder Enid Bakewell in place of Benaud (who could instead be put in charge of the commentary team) to increase the variety available in the bowling department. Nevertheless, the Bs are a fine combination, and it says more about the top eight than it does about them that they ended up ninth.

8TH: THE Gs

If the Gs can be said to have a defect it is that none of their bowlers are left armed.

7TH: THE Ts

The Ts amassed the same number of points (90 out of 125) as the Ks and the Fs, but my tie-splitting procedure ranked them third out of three. Their batting was weakened slightly by the necessity of ensuring that there were relief bowling options available for three specialist quicks who demanded inclusion, a problem resolvable only by turning to the all round talents of Frank Tarrant.

6TH: THE Ks

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5TH: THE Fs

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4TH: THE Ls

Strong and well balanced, but the Ls just missed out on a medal.

3RD: THE Ss

The Ss are a stellar combination, although Sangakkara would not be considered a top flight keeper and the spin options are limited.

2ND: THE Ms

A powerful batting line up and a superbly balanced bowling line up, with Mahmood’s leg cutter meaning that a specialist leg spinner is unlikely to be missed.

FIRST: THE Ws

A strong batting line up, a wonderfully balanced bowling attack (Wardle’s ability to bowl left arm wrist spin covers the lack of an off spinner), a quality keeper and one of the greatest of all captains. The Ws are worthy champions.

This has been a fun exercise, though challenging in parts (both weak letters where actually completing an XI takes effort and strong letters where in some cases a second or third XI would beat most of the rest of the alphabet, which require extended acknowledgements of players one has overlooked).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Not one of my largest photo galleries, but I hope you enjoy it…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 42

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another, ushering the Ks into the spotlight.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how my teams fare against one another. Today the Ks enter the spotlight, with 37 of a possible 50 points banked from the matches against teams who precede them alphabetically.

THE Ks V THE Ls

The Ls have the better opening pair, though their advantage there is lessened by the fact that one of their openers is batting out of position. The Ls also have the better number three. However, Kallis outranks Lloyd with the bat, and offers an extra bowling option not available to the Ls. Both sides have excellent captains. The Ks win the wicket keeping battle. Lindwall, Lillee and Lohmann are a match for I Khan, King and Kortright, while Laker and Langridge are a better balanced spin combo than R Khan and Kumble. This is a proper battle, but I think Kallis just tips the scales the Ks way: Ks 3, Ls 2.

THE Ks V THE Ms

The Ms have much the stronger opening pair. The Ks win the number 3-5 slots, though number four only on sample size. Each side has one recognized bowler in their top five, and for my money Macartney outranks Kallis in that department. Miller against I Khan is just about the ultimate in match ups between fast bowling all rounders. The Keepers battle is also a clash of titans. Marshall outranks King as a bowler, but King is clear with the bat (King’s record in his era translates to averaging 30 with the bat and 23 with the ball on covered pitches). At the moment, though this is subject to change as the Afghan develops Mahmood outranks R Khan as a bowler. Murali outranks Kumble as a bowler. McGrath comfortably wins his match up against Kortright. The Ks, with their super powerful engine room at nos 3-5, and King at eight outranking Marshall in that department may just win the batting, but the Ms comfortably win the bowling. I make this a slightly more comfortable than regulation win for the Ms: Ks 1.5, Ms 3.5.

THE Ks V THE Ns

The Ks boss the top batting, with only Dudley Nourse close to his opposite number in that department among their top five. The Ks also have the better keeper, far the better pace bowling unit and the better spinners. Only in captaincy, where Noble is a worthy rival to I Khan to the Ns even come close, and that will not save them: K5 , Ns 0.

THE Ks V THE Os

The KO clash is indeed a KO – in the Ks favour. Oldfield, O’Reilly and Olivier win their match ups for the Os, but the other eight all go very comfortably in favour of the Ks. This has to be scored as Ks 5, Os 0.

THE Ks V THE Ps

The Ps have the better opening pair, although not by much, especially given that the one person who could claim to have sorted Ponsford out was an express paced bowler, Larwood. The Ks have two such, Kortright and I Khan, plus King who was also pretty sharp. Ponting and G Pollock win the number three and four slots more conclusively, Kallis winning the number five slot, and offering an extra bowling option into the bargain. Pant outbats Kirmani, but the older Indian was probably the better keeper of the two. Procter against I Khan is another titanic clash of fast bowling all rounders on the same lines as Miller against I Khan. King and S Pollock are hard to pick apart, as are P Pollock and Kortright. Parker and Prasanna are a better balanced spin pairing than R Khan and Kumble, and probably just about outrank them anyway. I just give this to the Ps: Ks 2, Ps 3.

THE Ks PROGRESS REPORT

The Ks have scored 16.5 out of 25 today, moving them up to 53.5 out of 75, 71.33% so far.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 35

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I picked for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Today sees the last two match ups involving the Hs, who come into today with 70 of a possible 115 points, and also the first three match ups of the Is period in the spotlight, which they come into with 2.5 of a possible 40 points banked.

THE Hs V THE Ys

The Hs dominate the batting, have the better new ball pairing, the better keeper and the better spin combination. Norman Yardley perhaps rates as a somewhat better third seamer than Hammond but even that is debatable. The Ys have no chance here: Hs 5 Ys 0.

THE Hs V THE Zs

The Hs have the Zs beaten in all departments. Hs 5, Zs 0.

THE Hs FINAL SCORE

The Hs finish with 80 of a possible 125 points, a score of 64%.

THE Is V THE Js

The Js have a strong superiority in batting, an overwhelming advantage in pace bowling, and they lose only tiny amount of ground in spin bowling, and also have the better keeper. The Is are miles adrift and I score this Is 0, Js 5.

THE Is V THE Ks

This is even more conclusive in the Ks favour. My scoring system limits margins of victory to 5-0, so I score this Is 0, Ks 5 and note that the Is are lucky to get 0.

THE Is V THE Ls

The Ls have an overwhelming advantage in both batting and pace/ seam bowling, the better keeper, the better captain, and while James Langridge rates below Ironmonger as a left arm spinner, Jim Laker comfortably outranks Illingworth as an off spinner. Only one scoreline is possible: Is 0, Ls 5.

THE Is PROGRESS REPORT

The Is have not added a single point to their tally and are now on 2.5 points out of a possible 55, 4.55%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 32

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Today the Hs occupy the spotlight and they have 25 of a possible 40 points so far.

THE Hs V THE Js

The Hs as usual boss the batting. Jackson outranks fellow Yorkie Hutton as a skipper. The keeping match up is a close one, the Js have the better seam/ pace attack, but the Hs have the better spin attack. I think the Hs have enough to win this one, but it is by no means conclusive: Hs 3, Js 2.

THE Hs V THE Ks

The Hs are well ahead in batting – only Kallis in the top six wins a batting match up for the Ks. The battle of the keepers is close, I Khan outranks Hutton as a skipper. The Ks have much the better pace attack, with their fourth seamer, Kallis, outranking Hammond as a bowler. As against that the Hs spin attack is better balanced. I think the Ks have this and score it: Hs 2, Ks 3.

THE Hs V THE Ls

The Hs win the batting and keeping elements of this match up, but lose on captaincy, pace bowling and off spin (sorry, Harmer fans, I cannot rank him as even Laker’s equal in that department). Langridge is outranked as a left arm spinner by Herath. I think the Ls bowling is settling this one and I see them winning comfortably: Hs 1, Ls 4

THE Hs V THE Ms

The Hs have the better batting, the keeping situation is a clash of titans, the Ms absolutely boss the pace bowling, and Murali is the best individual spinner in the contest. While Macartney, the Ms sixth bowler, is not on a par with Herath, Mahmood’s facility with the leg cutter somewhat closes that gulf. Ms are winning this comfortably: Hs 1, Ms 4.

THE Hs V THE Ns

The Hs as usual dominate the batting, though Noble outranks Hutton as a skipper. The Ns have a numerical superiority in the seam department, but none of their seamers are a match for either Holding or Hadlee. Harmer clearly outranks Noble as a bowler, and Herath is even further clear of Nadeem, giving the Hs a huge advantage in spin bowling. The Hs are winning this one comfortably – Hs 4, Ns 1.

THE Hs PROGRESS UPDATE

The Hs have scored 11 of a possible 25 points today, moving on to 36 out of a possible 65, 55.38% at the moment.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter K (Plus Metronomes’ Debut Match)

A dual purpose post – a brief account of the Metronomes inaugural match and continuing my exploration of the all-time XI theme with a look at the letter K.

This is a two part post – I will begin with an account of yesterday’s match between Spen Victoria and The Metronomes to raise funds for the National Autistic Society and awareness of autism, before continuing my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a team of players whose surnames begin with the letter K.

METRONOMES’ DEBUT

The much anticipated ‘match for autism’ between Spen Victoria CC and The Metronomes took place yesterday. Spen Victoria’s scenic home ground was the venue. Most of the players involved were enthusiastic club cricketers, though the Metronomes had one overseas star, Roberta Moretti Avery, captain of Brazil.

Michael Coleman, one half of the couple whose idea this match was and who did so much to bring it to fruition, along with his wife Bex, took the new ball, with initially nine slips posted. 10 runs accrued of the first over. Mark Puttick who had done much to keep the occasion in people’s minds with a 100-day countdown featuring cricket statistics relating to each number opened the bowling at the other end and bowled a respectable first over. However, it was first change bowler Isaac Lockett who took the first wicket (actually he claimed the first three wickets taken by the Metronomes), while Moretti Avery had her first impact on the game with a wicket. There was a playing condition that anyone reaching 30 had to retire, and two Spen players reached that landmark, one of them very quickly indeed. In the end Spen tallied 175-8 from their 20 overs, a fine score.

It was soon apparent that Metronomes would struggle to chase this, they got away to very a slow start. The chief culprit was an opener by the name of Himsworth, who faced 19 dots out of his first 21 balls. Dugnutt, who had claimed a wicket with his spinners scored a spirited 26, while Moretti Avery completed a fine all round effort by becoming the third player in the match to reach 30. Ben Bonney holed out off the last scheduled delivery with Metronomes well adrift, but an extra over was bowled, which enabled WG Rumblepants, creator of several magnificent pictures of well known cricketers, to have a bat, and he managed a single. Metronomes ended up losing by 20 runs. We wait to find out how much money was raised.

PICTURES ONE: NEW STUFF

As a dividing line between the two segments of the post here are some pictures of my most recent purchases:

PART TWO: THE LETTER K

We now move on to the second part of the post, the continuation of my exploration of the theme of all time XIs. We look today at players whose surnames begin with K.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka). Finding openers for this XI was not easy, but the gritty Sri Lankan left hander has a test average of almost 40 and has not always had a lot of support from down the order.
  2. Majid Khan (Glamorgan, Pakistan). Had a similar average to that of his opening partner, but was otherwise very different, being a flamboyant right hander.
  3. Rohan Kanhai (Warwickshire, West Indies). We have the word of CLR James who watched him in action that he was a genius with a bat in his hands, and the evidence of over 6,000 test runs at 47 to provide the hard fact that justifies his place in this side.
  4. Virat Kohli (India). Though he has struggled recently, not scoring a century since November 2019 he remains India’s greatest batter of the post-Tendulkar era.
  5. Jacques Kallis (Middlesex, South Africa). One of the two greatest ‘batters who bowl’ ever to play the game (his record reads similarly to that of Sir Garry Sobers, although he did not master as great a range of skills as the Barbadian).
  6. *Imran Khan (Sussex, Pakistan). With a batting average of 37 and a bowling average of 22 he is firmly established as one of the greatest of all all rounders, and he was also an excellent captain, a role I have given him in this team.
  7. +Syed Kirmani (India). This one will arouse controversy, but as you will see in the honourable mentions I felt it necessary to overlook the most obvious choice of keeper whose name begins with K. I went for Kirmani over his compatriot Budhi Kunderan because he was a much finer keeper than the latter, and this side is strong in batting.
  8. Bart King (USA). He took over 400 wickets at 15 a piece, most of them for Philadelphian touring teams in England, and also averaged 20 with the bat. He was the original ‘king of swing’.
  9. Rashid Khan (Afghanistan). Probably the best leg spinner currently playing the game.
  10. Anil Kumble (India). One of only three bowlers ever to take all ten wickets in a test innings, and the fourth leading taker of test wickets in history with 619 scalps. He was a very different type of bowler from Rashid Khan, relying mainly on top spin and bowling at almost medium pace.
  11. Charles Kortright (Essex). One of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game, and perpetrator of the harshest put down that the legendary WG Grace ever found himself on the end of: “Surely you’re not going already Doctor, there’s still one stump standing.”

This team has a contrasting pair of adequate if not great openers, a power packed 3-5, one of the greatest all rounders ever, a keeper who can bat, and four well varied bowlers, all of whom had some ability to bat – no order with Kumble at 10 can be considered shallow! The bowling with a pace trio of Kortright, King and Imran Khan, plus Kallis as fourth seamer, and two very different types of leg spinner in Kumble and Rashid Khan also possesses both depth and variety.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Before moving on to the standard honourable mentions two explanations are warranted:

EXPLANATION 1: YOUNIS KHAN

Many would have given this man the number three slot that I gave to Rohan Kanhai, but he is more needed for the letter Y, which is much tougher to fill than K, so I have held him back until then.

EXPLANATION 2: ALAN KNOTT

One of the greatest keepers ever to play the game and a fine middle order batter, he missed out because of his decision to go on the first rebel tour to apartheid South Africa. Regular readers of my posts will know that I take a very dim view of these rebel tours, and the one Knott signed up for, having told England that he was no longer willing to tour, was the first of them all, and carries extra opprobrium for that reason.

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Two others I considered for the opening slots were Mohsin Khan of Pakistan, whose test average was similar to those of Karunaratne and Majid Khan, and Michael Klinger, who never managed to earn a baggy green cap. His FC average was on the wrong side of 40, so he missed out.

Probably the two best middle order batters I overlooked were Alvin Kallicharran and Vinod Kambli. JH King of Leicestershire and briefly England was a gritty left handed batter and a left arm medium fast bowler who would have brought extra variety to the bowling attack, but I had no way to accommodate him. Heather Knight has a remarkable test record, and her off spin would have given an extra bowling option, but I could only accommodate her by playing her as an opening batter, a role that as far as I am aware she has never performed.

Jim Kelly who kept for Australia around the turn of the 20th century was a fine performer in that role, but probably not the equal of Kirmani. Dinesh Karthik would have been in the mix for the gauntlets had I been picking a limited overs side, but unless otherwise stated I always have long form cricket in mind, though there might be room for him in the commentary box.

There were two other contenders for Kortright’s slot: JJ Kotze, South Africa’s first genuine express paced bowler and Neville Knox of Surrey and England. Both were of limited effectiveness at test level, and Knox only had two really good FC seasons before knee trouble got the better of him. Michael Kasprowicz was not a regular pick for Australia in his playing days. Aristides Karvelas, Sussex’s Greek international doesn’t yet have the weight of achievement to merit serious consideration, but he may enter the conversation in future. I would have liked the variation in the spin attack to be greater than between two admittedly different leggies, but Murali Kartik (SLA) did little at international level, Tom Kendall (SLA), first holder of the best bowling figures in test cricket (7-53 in the fourth innings of the inaugural test), played only two tests, and a mere nine FC matches in total, Zahir Khan (left arm wrist spin) doesn’t yet have the weight of achievement to force his way in.

PHOTOGRAPHS

The cricketing journey through the letter K is at an end, and it remains only to provide 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.

All Time XIs – Playing Cards vs Alliterative

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket themed piece of whimsy pits an XI with connections to playing cards against an XI with alliterative names.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s ‘all time XI‘ cricket themed exercise sees an eleven whose names have an association with playing cards take on an eleven whose first names and surnames begin with the same letter. There are a few extra sections in which I explain various selection difficulties as well.

THE PLAYING CARD XI

Playing cards is a well known way of passing time in the pavilion when not directly involved in the action. Apart from his distaste for ‘taking candy off babies’ one of the explanations offered for Keith Miller’s first baller at Southend in 1948 (the 721 in a day match) is that he was enjoying a winning streak at the card table, which further increased his disinclination to involve himself with the slaughter of the Essex bowling. Mike Brearley once had some stern words to say about card playing in the Middlesex dressing room, creating a brief silence which was punctuated when someone finally piped up “whose deal is it then?”. Finally, at Melbourne in 1982 Australia resumed on the final day needing 37 to win with one wicket left, and Rod Marsh insisted that those in the pavilion should resume what they had been doing in the final session of the previous day, which in the case of Marsh and a handful of others meant playing cards and drinking beer. Marsh’s ‘superstitionship’ as Stephen Potter would have called it proved unavailing, as England did eventually get that last wicket and won by three runs.

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The jack is the lowest ranking picture card in the deck, sometimes referred to as the knave.
  2. Jack Robertson – right handed opening batter. A worthy opening partner for ‘the master’.
  3. Collis King – right handed batter. His most famous innings was played in the final of the 1979 World Cup, when he and Viv Richards took England’s bowlers to the cleaners.
  4. Ryan ten Doeschate – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. The Dutchman had a first class batting average of 46, and in ODIs for the Netherlands he averaged 67. He is the only one who gets in by association with a spot card – courtesy of having ten in his name.
  5. *Jack Mason – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler, excellent captain. He played regularly between 1893 and 1906, after which his work as a solicitor restricted his appearances. He averaged 33 with the bat in first class cricket and took his wickets at 22 runs each. As well as his considerable skill as a player he was a highly rated captain. Frank Woolley, not generally noted for hyperbole, rated him the best captain he ever saw.
  6. Jack Gregory – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ace slip fielder.
  7. John King – left handed batter, left arm medium pacer. He had a fine record for Leicestershire over the years.
  8. +Jack Board – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Good enough to amass nine first class hundreds over the years, with a best of 214, but not a consistently big scorer – he averaged 19.37 in first class cricket, which I believe is the lowest for someone who scored a double century, with Jason Gillespie averaging 19.59 and having a best of 201 not out. However, 851 catches and 355 stumpings are the real reasons for his inclusion.
  9. Bart King – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. 415 first class wickets at 15.66.
  10. Jack Walsh – left arm wrist spinner.
  11. Jack Saunders – left arm medium pace bowler, left arm orthodox spinner. His 14 test matches left him with a batting average of 2.29, but also 79 wickets at 22.73, including an Ashes retaining moment, when he cleaned up Fred Tate at Old Trafford in 1902 to give Australia victory by three runs and put them 2-1 up with one to play, meaning that as Ashes holders they kept possession of the urn.

This team has a solid batting line up, with everyone down to Bart King at no 9 capable of significant contributions. The bowling, with Bart King and Jack Gregory taking the new ball, pace back up available from Mason, John King, Saunders in his quicker style and at a pinch ten Doeschate, and Walsh and Saunders offering different styles of left arm spin also looks impressive.

NEAR MISSES AND EXCLUSIONS

Jack Brown of Yorkshire was an excellent opening batter, and I was close to including him. Two players known as ‘Jack’ who I had to disqualify on grounds that it should be considered a nickname and not genuinely connected to their first names were Clifton James Richards of Surrey and Robert Charles Russell of Gloucestershire. Another great wicket keeper who missed out was Jack Blackham Australia’s first test wicket keeper. Surrey’s 21 year old batter who bowls a bit Will Jacks does not yet have a record of sufficient substance to merit inclusion, but there is certainly talent there, and his time may well come. Doubtless readers will have examples of their own.

THE ALLITERATIVE XI

Now it is time to defy that famously contradictory ‘commandment’: Always assiduously avoid all alliteration…

  1. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. 8,900 test runs at 42.38
  2. Gordon Greenidge – right handed opening batter. 7,558 test runs at 44.72. These two could have become a regular opening pair, because the Barbados born Greenidge was educated in Reading, and might have chosen to throw his lot in with England rather than the West Indies.
  3. Richie Richardson – right handed batter. 5,949 test runs at 44.39. At the height of his career he was ranked no 1 batter in the world.
  4. Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. 7,227 test runs at 62.84 to date, an average that if he maintains it will see him second to Bradman among those who have played 20 or more tests.
  5. Colin Cowdrey – right handed batter. 7,624 test runs at 44.06. He played 114 test matches in all, and was the first to play a three figure number of such games.
  6. Mushtaq Mohammad – right handed batter, leg spinner. 3,643 test runs at 39.17, 79 wickets at 29.22.
  7. Sydney Smith – left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. Born in the West Indies, he played most of his career for Northamptonshire. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball in first class cricket, missing out the career double of 10,000 runs and 1,000 wickets by 45 wickets.
  8. *Frank Foster – left arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. He averaged 26.61 with the bat and 20.75 with the ball in first class cricket, and he took an average of 4.5 wickets per match.
  9. +Robert Charles ‘Jack’ Russell – wicket keeper, left handed batter. A very handy person to be coming at no 9, but it is his 1,192 first class catches and 128 stumpings that get him the nod.
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 test wickets in his 133 appearances at that level – an average of six wickets per game.
  11. Colin Croft – right arm fast bowler. With Garner, Holding, Roberts and the young Malcolm Marshall as colleagues he was part of the meanest fast bowling machine ever assembled by any side in the history of cricket.

This team has an excellent top five, three genuine all rounders, a keeper who is by no means a ‘bunny’ with the bat and two master bowlers at 10 and 11. The bowling, with Croft and Frank Foster sharing the new ball, and Murali, Sydney Smith and Mushtaq Mohammad to bowl varieties of spin looks strong and well balanced. An extra quick would be nice, but accommodating them would be tricky.

SPECIAL MENTION: PETER POLLOCK

The best alliteratively named fast bowler after Croft is Peter Pollock of South Africa. Croft played 27 test matches and took 125 wickets at 23.30 at that level. Pollock played 28 test matches and took 116 wickets at 24.18. The only two players I could drop to accommodate Pollock would be Richie Richardson or Colin Cowdrey.

AWESOMELY ALLITERATIVE ASSOCIATES

Cecil Charles Coles Case, known as ‘Box’, obviously wins the alliterativeness stakes hands down, but he was a specialist batter who averaged only 22, so I could not include him. Robert Richard Relf, a Sussex bowler of fast medium pace and good enough batter that his career averages were the right way round (28.41 with the bat, 27.49 with the ball) was very close to inclusion, but Foster’s clear superiority as a bowler and the fact the he bowled left arm got him the nod.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

There were huge numbers of possibilities. William Maldon Woodfull was a fine opening batter for Australia, but was generally called Bill. Conversely Billy Bates, the England off spinning all rounder was actually Willie in full, and hence he appears in records as W Bates. John Jameson had a fine record for Warwickshire but was a distinct cut below the very highest class. Paul Parker was a magnificent fielder but did not quite have the batting record to justify a place. Two Aussie keepers, Ben Barnett and Richie Robinson might have had Russell’s place, as might Ben Brown of Sussex or the Indians Parthiv Patel and Deep Dasgupta, but I felt it would be harsh to rule him out of two XIs on the same day. A hard hitting middle order batter and sometimes effective purveyor of medium pace who might have his advocates is the Aussie Mitchell Marsh. George Geary’s CV includes two Ashes winning moments, as he took the last wicket to fall at The Oval in 1926, and belted the four through mid on that won the match at Melbourne in 1928-9 to put England 3-0 up with only two matches to play. Chris Cairns the Kiwi all rounder would have his advocates as well. Two fine fast bowlers of the 19th century, John ‘Foghorn’ Jackson and Martin McIntyre, both with Nottingham connections, were also among the possibles. Finally, 23 year old George Garton has shown some promise as a left arm fast bowler, but his record needs considerable improvement before he can be considered. Two players named Willie Watson, the Yorkshire and England left handed batter and the Kiwi right arm medium pacer might have their advocates, while another Yorkie, Tom Taylor enjoyed some success in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Mulvantrai Himmatlal ‘Vinoo’ Mankad was a possibility for the place I gave to Sydney Smith, and Bishan Bedi was a great left arm orthodox spinner. Pakistani batter Wajahatullah Wasti one scored twin tons in a test match, but his overall record did not quite merit inclusion.

THE CONTEST

The only thing I can say for sure about this contest, which in honour of a great writer about the game I shall describe as being for the ‘Raymond Robertson-Glasgow Trophy’ is that it would be an absolute humdinger.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time now for my usual sign off…

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PC v A
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – Non-Cricketing Birthplaces

My latest variation on the ‘All Time XI’ theme – an XI of cricketers with non cricketing birthplaces, which I then use for a little look at birthplace in cricket, mentioning a couple of current interesting cases.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest variation on the ‘All Time XI theme. Today our XI are linked by born in ‘non-cricketing’ countries – which is to say countries not generally associated with the game, since the ICC, the sport’s global governing body has over 100 members and affiliates. After introducing the XI I will share some of my own thoughts on the relevance or otherwise of birthplaces. I will look at a couple of current cases in detail. Before moving in to the main body of this post I would like to thank the pinchhitter (latest post here), who you can also visit on twitter @LePinchHitter for including links to a number of my recent posts in their own efforts.

THE NON-CRICKETING BIRTHPLACE XI

  1. Paul Terry – right handed opening bat, born Osnabruck, Germany, 16,427 first class runs at 36.66. He played for Hampshire and briefly England. Even by 1980s standards his treatment by the England selectors was utterly disgraceful – he was pitched in at the deep end against the 1984 West Indies who were en route to a ‘blackwash’ of their hapless hosts (whether the 1980 or 1984 fast foursome was the more awesome combo is discussion topic for another post – in terms of pitching a debutant in against them it is a bit like asking whether a punch from Muhammad Ali or Jack Dempsey would do more damage), got horrifically injured and was callously cast aside, never to be heard from again at international level.
  2. Archie Jackson – right handed opening bat, born Rutherglen, Scotland, 4,383 first class runs at 45.65. I covered this man in the ‘what might have been XI‘. Although it has been the birthplace of some talented cricketers down the years, Scotland is not widely thought of as a cricket hot spot.
  3. Ted Dexter – right handed bat, right arm fast medium bowler, born Milan, Italy, 21,150 first class runs at 40.75, 419 first class wickets at 29.92. A swashbuckling no 3, a fine fielder and his bowling is by no means negligible. You can find out more about him in my Sussex post.
  4. George Headley – right handed bat, born Colon, Panama, 9,921 first class runs at 69.86 (he averaged 60.83 in test cricket, with 15 fifty plus scores, of which he converted ten into centuries, a conversion rate ahead of everyone other than Bradman. Also the progenitor of a cricketing dynasty that at the time of writing spans three generations (son Ron and grandson Dean) and two test teams (the West Indies and England), and may yet go to on to join the Cowdreys (all five players shown are of the same family) in producing a fourth successive generation of first class cricketers.
  5. Mike Denness – right hand bat, born Ayr, Scotland, 25,886 first class runs at 33.48. A fine batter for Kent and later Essex, his test average was actually six runs per innings higher than his first class, in spite of a horror run in the 1974-5 Ashes which induced him to drop himself as captain.
  6. Natalie Sciver – right hand bat, right arm medium, born Tokyo, Japan, 3,538 international runs at 31.87 and 104 international wickets at 23.23. A genuine all-rounder, her wickets tally looks low because of her internationals have been limited over and T20s. She is also an outstanding fielder. She also has a shot anmed after, the ‘Natmeg’ where the ball is played under the batter’s leg (descriptions of the ‘draw’, a shot favoured by some 19th century batters suggest she may not have been quite such a pioneer as this suggests, but there is no doubting the stroke’s value).
  7. *Freddie Brown – right hand bat, leg spin and occasional right arm medium, born Lima, Peru, 13,325 first class runs at 27.36, 1,221 first c;ass wickets at 26.21. He played county cricket for Surrey and Northamptonshire. After being part of the 1932-3 Ashes winning party but not playing a test match on tour, he next went on tour when he captained the 1950-1 Ashes tour party (the tour is sympathetically chronicled by Bill O’Reilly in “Cricket Taskforce” and Jack Fingleton in “Brown and Company”, two excellent reads both penned by Aussies). Brown’s team went down 4-1, dogged by injuries and ill luck, but his efforts as captain (third choice – George Mann and Norman Yardley were both offered the job but already had commitments they could not renege on) were universally appreciated. It was on that tour that with an already ill equipped bowling unit hit by injuries he turned to medium pace in an attempt to plug a gaping hole and did not fare badly. I reckon that with the combination I am giving him he would be both a good and a winning captain.
  8. +Geraint Jones – Wicket keeper and right hand bat, born in Papua New Guinea, 9,037 first class runs at 32.45, 599 first class catches and 36 first class stumpings. I mentioned him briefly in my Kent post, and also gave him a place in my ‘Tried and Untrusted‘ XI.
  9. John Barton ‘Bart’ King – right arm fast bowler and right hand bat, born Philadelphia, USA, 415 first class wickets (in 65 appearances at that level) at 15.66, 2,134 first class runs at 21.34. The original ‘King of swing’ – the first bowler to deliberately use swing as a weapon. Various first class counties tried to persuade him to settle there and play for them, including one county who tried an ‘out of the box’ approach – they offered to set him up with a wealthy widow who was a fan of the club if he would come and play for them. The very first international game of cricket was between the USA and Canada in 1844, while the first documented tour to leave English shores in 1859 was also to North America, and the first of WG Grace’s three overseas trips (in 1872-3) was to Canada and the USA. At one time the possibility was entertained of the USA joining England, Australia and South Africa as a test playing nation. Philadelphia was the strongest cricketing outpost in those parts, with the Newhall family also boasting impressive records. It would seem likely that King developed the technique of swinging the ball from baseball (as the slightly later Australian Frank Laver did, with remarkable effects in the test arena). The game of course did not build on these promising beginnings in that part of the world, although maybe with Liam Plunkett heading that way it will experience a rebirth there.
  10. Ole Mortensen, right arm fast medium bowler, right hand batter, born Vejle, Jutland, 434 first class wickets at 23.88, 709 runs at 8.97. Part of a Derbyshire bowling unit of considerable effectiveness, but one that was also decried by nativists (yes, USians, we have them too, although not usually in high office) because as well as him it featured Devon Malcolm, born in Jamaica, and Alan Warner who was actually born in this country but who was often assumed by those who judge on physical appearance not to have been.
  11. Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right hand bat, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, 923 first class wickets at 21.38, 2,213 first class runs at 9.13. Peebles did play a few games for England, and numbered Bradman among his test victims, but was largely victim of endemic English mistrust of wrist spinners. He had a distinguished county career with Middlesex. After his playing days were done he turned to writing and achieved arguably even greater success there, with “Woolley: Pride of Kent”, “Batter’s Castle”, “Spinner’s Yarn”, “The Fight For The Ashes 1958-9” and “Batters Castle” among his considerable and very readable output, which also includes a chapter on Pelham Warner in “Cricket: The Great Captains”. I would expect him to turn out a splendid chronicle of this team’s endeavours!

My team features a strong top five, two genuine all rounders, a keeper who can bat and three superb specialist bowlers. The bowling has five front liners plus Dexter, with spin options in Peebles and Brown, so that won’t let it down. The keeping, with Jones having the gloves is not of the very highest standards, and someone would have to make it clear to Jones that he is expected to stand up not just for the spinners but also for Sciver (some of whose wickets have come by means of stumpings) and possibly even Dexter.

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE (IR)RELEVANCE OF BIRTHPLACE

I am far more concerned about the quality of a cricketer than where they are born. If you can hire a top player do so regardless of their origins. What I object to is the use of second string foreign born players who qualify as ‘English’ on a technicality while having neither the intention nor the skill to play for England. Apart from anything else it has a record of proven failure – Leicestershire, one of the most notorious followers of this policy have been stone last five times in the last ten seasons. If somebody is good enough they might hail from a lunar colony (read Andy Weir’s “Artemis” for one version of how such a thing might work – come to think of it I could imagine Jazz Bashara faring pretty well as a crafty spinner!) for all that it matters. That said, there are a couple of current cases I am going to touch on…

SIMON HARMER

After playing five tests for his native South Africa with some success, Harmer, not thinking he was getting picked regularly enough decamped for this country, and a contract with Essex. He has been wonderful for Essex, a fact that I have acknowledged by naming him in my ‘All Time Essex’ XI, and that this year’s Wisden has acknowledged by naming him as one of the ‘five cricketers of the year’. He has now been based in this country for long enough to qualify by residence, and of course that means that thoughts are turning in some circles to whether to pick him for England. My answer is in the negative, not from lack of respect for Mr Harmer, nor from any worry over someone representing two countries – has happened before and probably will again, but because with Bess looking established in the off spinner’s spot for England and young Virdi doing brilliantly at Surrey I believe it would be a retrograde step and a slap in the face for the two players I have just named to select Harmer at this juncture. I will finish this subsection by re-emphasising that this is not anti Harmer in any way – both his play and his on-field conduct have been impreccable, it is about the best interests of England looking forward, which I consider to lie in developing and encouraging the young spinning talent that we have. That leads on to…

DUANNE OLIVIER

This young quick bowler made waves in his native South Africa, and like Harmer has actually played for them at international level, but he has now decided to make a life and a career for himself in England, and good luck to him. In a few years from now he will qualify for England, and the question will be whether to pick him or not. My answer will depend on the situation regarding English fast bowling at that time – if picking him means blocking the career development of a home grown talent then the answer should be “no”, but if the fast bowling situation is less rosy then there would be a serious case for picking him.

OVERSEAS AND ‘KOLPAK’ TYPE PLAYERS

On overseas players my feeling is straightforward: if you can get one of genuinely top class standard go for it, but don’t sign any old overseas player just for the sake of having one. With the ‘Kolpak’ types I would ask myself two questions: first, are they of top class or possessing the obvious potential to become top class?, second, am I sure that they offering me something that the players I already have cannot provide? If the answer to either of the foregoing is a no, then don;t do it, and if the answer to the first of the two questions is only a ‘maybe’ I would be strongly disinclined to proceed.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our look at cricketers with non-cricketing birth places is done, and it now remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…

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The only flower that is fully out on my fuchsia – but there are a couple of other buds clearly visible.

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In among the gravel borders of my garden, a small sea shell.

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A collared dove among the greenery (only the giant pigeons of which there are far too many count as ‘aves non grata’)

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Non-cricketing birthplaces
The team in tabulated form.