All Time XIs – Match Ups (10)

Continuing my analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. Today’s match ups are the last four involving the Bs, and the first with the Cs in the hot seat.

Welcome to the latest in my series of posts analysing how the all time XIs I picked for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. This post sees the completion of the Bs and the first match up with the C team in the hot seat. The Bs come into today with 69 of a possible 105 points. Before I get to the main meat of the post, Heritage Open Day 2022 which was to have been this Sunday has been postponed due to the death of a ludicrously over-privileged old woman. Apaarently the council cannot support the event on Sunday and without their support it cannot be run. Provisionally Sunday 2 October is being looked at the new date – I have already declared my availability for that date.


The Bs are ahead on batting, but the Ws are ahead on bowling. I personally think the Ws have the bowling guns to compensate for the Bs batting advantage and score this one Bs 2, Ws 3.


The Xs lose 10 match ups out of 11 fairly comprehensively. Box, allowing for how difficult batting was in his day, can be considered to win the battle of the keepers, but that will make little difference to the overall outcome – Bs 5, Xs 0.


The Bs are ahead in all areas – even if one accepts that Poonam Yadav is a better leg spinner than Richie Benaud was, the Aussie’s batting compensates for this. Bs 5, Ys 0.


The Bs once again dominate this one, with only Zulqarnain Haider definitely winning his match up. I score this as Bs 5, Zs 0.


The Bs scored a further 17 points today, giving them 86 out of 125, or 68.80%. This puts them comfortably ahead of the As, who scored 69, and for the moment first in our ranking table.


The Cs come into this match up with 1.5 points out of a possible 10 from their match ups against the As and the Bs. The Cs have a strong opening combo, albeit both batting out of their very best positions, a good number three who is also a shrewd and resourceful skipper, two unequivocal greats at four and five, a mercurial all rounder at six, a fine keeper, and a decent quartet of bowlers. The Ds lose out in the matter of opening pairs, win the number three slot hands down, but as against that lose on captaincy. Four and five are closely fought, but the greater experience of the C pair gives them the honours. Number six goes to the Ds. Dujon comfortably wins the battle of the keepers, while Davidson beats Cornwall in the number eight slot. Daniel and Donald are a good match for Cummins and Croft in the pace department, and Dennett, possibly the finest bowler never to have played test cricket (he overlapped with Rhodes and Blythe, both even greater left arm spinners), probably has the edge on Chandrasekhar. This is by far the closes contest the Cs have been in, and allowing for Chappelli’s captaincy and the possibility of a turner, where they would have the advantage, I score this one Cs 2, Ds 3. This means that after three match ups the Cs are on 3.5 of a possible 15 points, 23.33%.


Time for my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Non-test Battle

Today’s all time XIscricket post, probably the penultimate in the series, gives the limelight to some of the best players not to have graced the test arena.


Today’s installment in my ‘all time XIs’ cricket series is envisaged to be the penultimate one – I have already selected my teams for tomorrow, and on Thursday I shall be writing about the resumption of test cricket, with one full day and part of the second to provide me with material if all goes well (overlapping the finish of this series with the restart of test cricket is part waiting for developments in the test match and part insurance policy in case of rain. Today we have a team of players who flourished too early and/or in the wrong country to play test cricket and a team of players whose selectors overlooked them in spite of consistent success at first class level.


  1. John Thewlis – right handed opening batter. He finished just before test cricket started. He scored the first first class century ever for Yorkshire, thereby inking himself indelibly into cricket’s history.
  2. Ephraim Lockwood – right handed opening batter. He was called up by Yorkshire in emergency as a teenager. When he walked out to open the innings with his uncle, the aforementioned Thewlis, he was jeered by spectators because he did not have the correct kit. They had plenty of time to amuse themselves at the expense of his sartorial inadequacy since he contributed 91 to an opening stand of 176. In August 1876 he was captaining Yorkshire against Gloucestershire at Clifton, with WG Grace coming off the back of 344 for MCC against Kent and 177 against Notts in his last two innings leading the home county. Grace won the toss, batted, and allegedly said in appreciation of the pitch “I shan;t get myself out today, you will have to get me”. He proceeded to make a chanceless triple century, his second in less than a week, driving the Yorkshire fielders and bowlers to the brink of mutiny. At one point Allen Hill flatly refused to bowl when asked to do by his captain.
  3. Mahadevan Sathasivam – right handed batter. He only got to play in 11 first class matches, spread over five years, and he averaged 41.83, several decades before his country, Sri Lanka, attained test status.
  4. Steve Tikolo – right handed batter. Kenya’s finest ever batter, he played in the 1996 world cup, being part of the historic win against the West Indies and also making 96 against Sri Lanka in a defeat. His first class average of 48 was much better than his limited overs record and suggests that he would have been well suited to test cricket.
  5. Ryan ten Doeschate – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. The finest cricketer The Netherlands have ever had, he was a stalwart for Essex through most of the first two decades of the 21st century. His first class figures are excellent, his ODI record makes breathtaking reading, even allowing for the weakness of some of the opponents he faced in that format.
  6. *Sydney Smith – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. A West Indian, he qualified by residence for Northamptonshire in 1909, did the double in his first season and went on to a distinguished first class career, averaging 31 with the bat and 18 with ball (approx equivalents on today’s flatter pitches, 46 and 27). Inspired by his presence Northamptonshire, promoted to first class status in 1905 and previously known only for taking hammerings, finished second in 1912, a position that 108 years on they have not improved on.
  7. +Fred Wyld – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A good enough batter to have a first class hundred to his name. His career ended just before test cricket in England started – he was part of the MCC side that played Australia in the game at Lord’s in 1878 that produced the lowest aggregate ever for a completed first class match – 105 runs for 31 wickets. In the second innings he and Flowers, also of Notts, shared a stand that accounted for 15 of MCC’s 19 all out.
  8. Bart King – right arm fast bowler. The greatest of all USian cricketers, but not quite great enough to propel them to test match status (it was talked about at one point). He had a credit balance between his batting and bowling averages, averaging 20 with the bat and 15 with the ball in first class cricket.
  9. Palwankar Baloo – left arm orthodox spinner. He took his first class wickets at 15 a piece, playing a decade or so before his country gained test status. As a low caste commoner he could not, unlike ‘Ranji’, ‘Duleep’ and the elder Nawab of Pataudi light out for England and establish himself there. Indeed caste prejudice delayed his selection for The Hindus in what was then the Bombay Quadrangular, and which later became the Bombay Pentangular and later still was abolished.
  10. Sandeep Lamichhane – leg spinner. The Nepali has made a big name for himself playing franchise and limited overs cricket, and I hope that he will eventually get to play regular first class cricket. There is little chance of him ever being a test player, because Nepal are not currently close to being strong enough as a whole to compete at that level, and such elevations need to managed carefully – Bangladesh and Zimbabwe both suffered from ill-timed promotions to the top table, as in a different way have Ireland, while Afghanistan’s promotion was properly managed.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. He was just too old to catch the start of test cricket, being born in 1841. He took 863 wickets in 138 first class appearances at 12.09.

This side has a strong top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a keeper who can bat and four excellent and well varied bowlers. Mycroft and King look an excellent new ball pairing, with ten Doeschate as support seamer if needed, and Lamichhane, Baloo and Smith to bowl spin.


  1. John Langridge – right handed opening batter. He amassed 76 centuries in his long first class career, but was never once selected for England. He also pouched 788 catches in the field.
  2. Alan Jones – right handed opening batter. He was selected for England against the Rest of the World in the hastily arranged series of 1970 which took the place of the planned visit by South Africa, but that series was not accorded test status (although illogically certain later matches between Australia and non-national XIs have been given test status and contribute to, to give just one example, Shane Warne’s wicket tally. He scored more first class runs, 36,049 of them including 56 centuries, than anyone else who never to got to play test cricket.
  3. Percy Perrin – right handed batter. He amassed 66 first centuries, including a best of 343 not out, which at the time he compiled it was the fifth highest score ever in first class cricket. His driving off the front foot was so fierce that opposition teams would regularly have four fielders posted in the deep to reduce his scoring rate from such shots. Yet the England selectors ignored him completely. Ironically once his own career was done he became a selector himself, and was at one stage chairman of selectors.
  4. Jamie Siddons – right handed batter. His career began in the mid 1980s and ended at the start of the 21st century. In that period he scored just over 11,000 first class runs at an average of 45, a very impressive record, but not quite enough to secure him a baggy green.
  5. Tony Cottey – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The 5’4″ Swansea native scored almost 15,000 first class runs at an average of 36. He also tended to produce when his side really needed it – he would be far more likely to make a hundred if he came in at 30-3 than from 300-3. However, England selectors have always seemed to have great difficulty comprehending what is going on to their west, and Cottey was a victim of this, somehow being entirely overlooked at a time when the England middle order was not generally noted for its solidity.
  6. Basil D’Oliveira – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He did get to play test cricket eventually, but his international career started for England when he was in his mid-thirties, instead of for his native land a decade earlier. His performances in the cricket he was allowed to play in his native land, and for the SACBOC XI, the only remotely representative South African side to be selected prior to the 1990s (there were no whites involved, but not because they were excluded – they chose not to participate) give a hint of what the world missed because of this. While I acknowledge, as I did yesterday, the misfortunes of those such as Graeme Pollock, whose careers were ended prematurely by their country’s isolation I am far more concerned for the likes of Krom Hendricks and others who were deprived of the opportunity to forge an international career purely because of the colour of their skin, and my selection of Basil D’Oliveira, a man who in spite of being well past his cricketing prime by the time he got to play test cricket averaged 40 at that level and took some important wickets (notably that of Barry Jarman at The Oval in 1968 in the game in which he scored 158 in the first innings, which opened up the tail for Derek Underwood) is an acknowledgement of their plight.
  7. *Cec Pepper – leg spinner, right handed batter. He averaged 29.64 with the bat and 29.35 with the ball in a 44 match first class career. He was also a highly regarded Lancashire League pro, having decided that he was not going to be selected for his native Australia. Once his playing days were finished he became an umpire.
  8. +Colin Metson – wicket keeper, right handed batter. An excellent keeper for many years, but England were always looking for a better batter to do the job. It was true that Metson was no great shakes with the willow, but he did score useful runs on occasion (and nearly all of his runs were useful – like Cottey he responded well to his side being in need).
  9. Don Shepherd – off spinner. He took more first class wickets than any other bowler who never played test cricket (2,218 at 21.32). It must be acknowledged that England had a wealth of good off spinners at the time, with Appleyard and Laker overlapping the early part of his career, Illingworth, Titmus, David Allen and John Mortimore being around during the latter part of his career, but nevertheless it does look odd that he never got picked at all.
  10. Eddie Gilbert – right arm fast bowler. Playing for Queensland against NSW he once produced a spell that included inflicting on Bradman what the great man himself described as “the luckiest duck I ever made.” NSW were dug out of trouble on that occasion by Stan McCabe who scored a double century. Bowling against Jardine in one of the minor matches of the 1932-3 Ashes tour he scored a hit on the England skipper’s hip which according to eyewitness Bill Bowes left a discoloured area the size of a soup plate. Had Australia decided to fight fire with fire, he along with ‘Bull’ Alexander, Laurie Nash and Jack Scott was one of the fast bowlers they might have turned to. As it happened Australia went for the moral high ground, and for firing of whingy cables to the MCC headquarters in London (nb the first complaining cable was sent when Australia were headed for heavy defeat in the third match of the series at Adelaide – no complaints after the opener in Sydney when McCabe made runs in an Aussie defeat, nor after the second at Melbourne when Bradman made a ton in an Aussie win, but only once it was obvious that England were taking a firm grip on the series did the complaining start). Eddie Gilbert may well have been a victim of prejudice – he was aboriginal, and the first player of acknowledged aboriginal descent to don the baggy green was Jason Gillespie in the 1990s.
  11. George Dennett – left arm orthodox spinner. 2,151 first class wickets at 19.82 for the Gloucestershire man, and never an England cap. When he was in his absolute prime in the years running up to world war 1, first Wilfred Rhodes and then Colin Blythe (2,503 first class wickets at 16) were the left arm spinners of choice for England, and with Woolley a regular pick for his batting and also a fine left arm spinner there was simply no vacancy for a second specialist in that role.

This side has a strong top six, a genuine all rounder at seven, a splendid keeper and three excellent specialist bowlers. The pace department is weak, but George Dennett regularly took the new ball for Gloucestershire, and Pepper as a Lancashire League pro must have done so on occasions as well. I might have strengthened the pace bowling department by including Tony Nicholson (879 wickets at 19.76 each for Yorkshire), but I wanted Pepper as captain, and felt that Dennett and Shepherd had irrefutable cases for selection and that I could not afford to drop a batter to accommodate Nicholson.


Time for my usual sign off…

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A damselfly of some description on a leaf

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you can just see the folded wings, pressed right against the long body in these two close ups.

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All Time XIs – Firsts and Onlies

Today’s variation on an all time XI theme looks at firsts and a few onlies, plus a couple of bonus cricket links and a measure of mathematics, and of course photographs.


Welcome to another variation on the all-time XI theme. Today we look at people who were the first to achieve certain landmarks, generally though not exclusively related to test cricket. Our two teams are named in honour of their designated captains and as usual due consideration has been given to the balance of each side.


  1. Warren Bardsley – left handed opening batter. He entered the test record books at The Oval in 1909, when he scored 136 and 130, the first time the double feat had been performed in a test match. Ironically, having hit two in one match, in a reverse of the usual bus situation, he would then wait ages for his next Ashes ton, which finally came almost 17 years later, at Lord’s in 1926 when he scored 193 not out in all out total of 389. England on that latter occasion batted the game to a stalemate, as each of their top five passed 50, and they amassed 475-3. The 1909 game at The Oval also ended in draw, which was enough for Australia to keep The Ashes. Bardsley was Australia’s leading scorer of first class centuries at the end of his career, at which time a young chap named Bradman was just beginning to make his presence felt in the batting record books that by the time he had finished would bear his seemingly indelible stamp.
  2. CAG Russell – right handed opening batter. Charles Albert George ‘Jack’ Russell, who I introduced by his initials was no relation of the later wicket keeper Robert Charles ‘Jack’ Russell who has featured elsewhere in this series, though the first ‘Jack’ Russell was the son of a county wicket keeper. At Durban in 1923 he scored 140 and 111, the first Englishman to achieve the double feat and test level, and the only person to date to have done so in their final appearance at that level! He was a casualty of the emergence of Herbert Sutcliffe, who made his test debut the following home season, had a record breaking Ashes tour in 1924-5 (see yesterday’s post) and never looked back. Russell’s test career lasted 10 matches, in which he played 18 innings, two of them not outs and scored 910 runs for an average of 56.87, or 50.56 if you discount the not outs. He passed fifty a total of seven times in those innings and converted five of the seven into hundreds.
  3. George Headley – right handed batter. The great West Indian, referred to by some as ‘the black Bradman’ (though in the Caribbean folk preferred to talk of ‘the white Headley’) was the first ever to score twin centuries in a test match at Lord’s, the home of cricket. He also holds the record for the highest individual score in the 4th innings of a test match, 223 at Kingston in 1930.
  4. Walter Hammond – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast, ace slip catcher. He was the first to score back to back test match double centuries, 251 at Sydney and 200 not out at Melbourne in the second and third matches of the 1928-9 Ashes, and was also the second to do so, when on the way home from the 1932-3 Ashes he scored 227 and 336 not out in New Zealand. He was also the first non-wicket keeper to take 100 catches at test level.
  5. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close catcher. He was the first to play in as many as 50 successive test matches. A combination of the infrequency of tests in his day and World War I meant that the great sequence began in 1909 and did not end until 1928, when he was passed over for the 1928-9 Ashes in favour of Phil Mead.
  6. *Enid Bakewell – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. She was the first player to score a century and record a ten wicket match haul in the same test match. Between 1968 and 1979 she played 12 test matches, scoring 1078 runs at 59.88 and taking 50 wickets at 16.62. I have awarded her the captaincy, and with it her name in the title of the XI.
  7. +Leslie Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He was the first regular wicket keeper to play at least 20 test matches and finish with a batting average of over 40. He scored 120 at Lord’s in 1934, matching left hander Maurice Leyland’s century and helping England to a total of 440, after which a combination of rain juicing up the pitch and the left arm spin of Hedley Verity (15-104 in the match) saw England to their only win in an Ashes match at headquarters in the entire 20th century.
  8. Alan Davidson – left arm pace bowler, left handed lower order batter, brilliant fielder (known as ‘the Claw’ for his ability to grasp catches that tested credulity). At the Gabba in 1960 Davidson became the first cricketer in test history to combine a match aggregate of 100 runs (44 and 80) and 10 wickets (5-135 and 6-87). His endeavours in that game were not quite in vain, but nor did they bring the desired result for his team – the match, for the first time in 83 years of test cricket, finished in an exact tie – WI 453 and 284, Aus 505 and 232. Two direct hit run outs from Joe Solomon, the first to account for Davidson when he seemed to be winning the match for Australia, and the second to bring about the tie were key, and Conrad Hunte produced a tremendous long throw to run out Meckiff when that worthy was going for a third that would have settled the issue in Australia’s favour. Davidson has the lowest average of bowlers to have played post war, taken at least 150 test wickets and finished their careers, his 186 wickets at the highest level costing 20.53 each.
  9. Billy Bates – off spinner, useful lower middle order bat. At Melbourne in 1882-3, en route to helping Ivo Bligh achieve his goal of bringing back ‘The Ashes of English Cricket’, following the 1882 Oval test match and subsequent mock obituary in The Sporting Times, Bates took seven wickets in each innings, while also scoring 55 for England. His bowling performance included the first hat trick by an English bowler in test cricket, the first hat trick by someone who scored 50 in the same test and the first test combination of ten wickets and a fifty. His career was ended early when he lost the use of an eye after being injured at net practice. His 15 tests yielded 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42. He was the first of a remarkable sporting dynasty – his son WE Bates played for Yorkshire and Glamorgan, while grandson Ted Bates was involved with Southampton Football Club in various capacities for upwards of six decades.
  10. Frederick Spofforth – right arm fast bowler (later added variations). Spofforth was the first bowler to take a test match hat trick, the first bowler to take three wickets in four balls at test level and the bowler responsible for the victory that created The Ashes.
  11. Jimmy Matthews – leg spinner. How does a bowler who took a mere 16 test wickets, and never more than four in a test innings get into a team like this? Simple, six of those wickets, his only ones of the match in question, and all captured without the assistance of fielders, came in the form of the only ever incidence of a bowler taking a hat trick in each innings of a test match. His great moment came in the Triangular Tournament of 1912, for Australia against South Africa, at Old Trafford. His victims were Beaumont, Pegler and Ward in the first innings, and Taylor, Schwarz and Ward in the second, giving Ward his place in the record books as the scorer a king pair and hat trick victim in each innings. Ward by the way was a wicket keeper, and he did actually score two test fifties in his career. The modes of dismissal were bowled, LBW, LBW in the first innings and bowled, caught and bowled, caught and bowled in the second.

This team has an excellent top five, two of whom could contribute as bowlers, a great all rounder at six, a splendid keeper batter at seven and four varied bowlers of whom three definitely deserve to be described as great. The bowling has Davidson and Spofforth to take the new ball, Hammond as third seamer if needed, Bakewell, Bates and Matthews to bowl three different varieties of spin and Woolley as seventh bowler – 20 wickets won’t be a problem for this combo.


  1. Arthur Morris – left handed opening batter. The first ever to score twin centuries on first class debut. Against Gloucestershire in 1948 he accepted responsibility for ensuring that off spinner Tom Goddard did not get an England call up, and proceeded to belt 290 in five hours, leaving Goddard nursing a very sick looking bowling analysis, and well and truly out of test contention. I have written about elsewhere.
  2. George Gunn – right handed opening batter. The Accidental Test Tourist – he was in Australia on health grounds when he got the emergency call up to join England’s ranks during the 1907-8 Ashes, the first time an English tour party had adopted such an approach. He responded by scoring 119 and 74.
  3. Lawrence Rowe – right handed batter. The first to score a double century and a century on test debut, 214 and 100 not out vs New Zealand. He subsequently took a triple century off England as well, but eye problems truncated his career.
  4. Tip Foster – the first to score a double century on test debut, the only person to captain England at cricket and football. I have covered him elsewhere.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, every kind of left arm bowler known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The first to hit six sixes in an over in first class cricket. I have written about him elsewhere.
  6. Basil D’Oliveira – right handed bat, right arm medium fast bowler. The first non-white South African to play test cricket. As mentioned in my South Africa post he had to move countries to be able to achieve this, and was lucky to find backers to help him do so. The 158 he scored against Australia at The Oval immediately before the selectors of that winter’s tour party to South Africa sat down to deliberate took his test record to 972 runs at 48.60, an average bettered only by Barrington among those then playing for England. The subsequent ramifications of his non-selection and then selection as replacement for someone picked as a bowler shook the sporting world, and ultimately led to South Africa being isolated from world cricket for over 20 years.
  7. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler, ace slipper. Ian Botham was the first male test cricketer to score a hundred and take a ten wicket match haul, against India in 1979. He was also the first to combine a century with a five wicket innings haul on more than two occasions (v New Zealand at Christchurch, 103, 30, 5 first innings wickets, three second innings wickets, v Pakistan at Lord’s, 108 and 8-34, the first century and eight-for combo at that level, v India in 1979 – 114, 6-58, 7-48, v Australia at Headingley 6-95, 50, 149 not out, one second innings wicket and v New Zealand on the 1983-4 tour, 138 and 5-59, before New Zealand were inspired by Martin Crowe’s maiden test hundred to save the game with a fighting second innings display), and the first to the career triple double at test level (3,000 runs and 300 wickets, achieved in his 72nd match).
  8. +Jack Blackham – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The first keeper to regularly do without a long stop, and the first keeper to score twin fifties in a test match.
  9. *Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order bat. First bowler to take 100 test wickets in a country other than his own – he reached the mark for matches in England in 2005. He is the leading wicket taker in Anglo-Australian tests and second to Muralitharan in the all-time list. He is the designated captain of this XI.
  10. Jim Laker – off spinner. Only one bowler in first class history has taken more than 17 wickets in a first class match, and he did in an Ashes test. James Charles Laker took 19-90 (9-37, followed by 10-53) at Old Trafford in 1956 to retain the Ashes for England. In a tour match for Surrey against Australia on a good Oval pitch he took 10-88 from 46 overs in the first innings of the match, settling for 2-42 at the second attempt, when his spinning partner Tony Lock took 7-49, Surrey becoming the first county to beat the Aussies since 1912. England made 459 in the first innings of the Manchester match, Peter Richardson and David Sheppard (then bishop of Woolwich, later bishop of Liverpool) making centuries, Sheppard’s 113 being the highest individual innings of the series. Australia then sank for 84, before determined resistance by Colin McDonald (89 in 337 minutes, highest Aussie score of the series) saw them to 205 second time round. Four front line spinners operated in this match, and three of them (Ian Johnson, Richie Benaud and Tony Lock) had combined match figures of 7-380 (an average of 54.43 per wicket). In 1950 Laker had taken 8-2 for England v The Rest at Bradford as The Rest limped to 27 all out. In 1954 he was involved in one cricket’s most remarkable fixtures, when Surrey sealed their third straight County Championship (a sequence they would extend to seven under first Surridge, five of them, and then Peter May, two more). Worcestershire were rolled for 25 in their first innings, and Surrey had reached 92-3 when Surridge decided that he fancied another go at Worcestershire that evening and declared! Not bothering with conventional new ball bowling he threw the cherry straight to his spin twins, who each produced an unplayable ball before the close. The following morning Worcetsreshire were blown away for 40, to lose by an innings and 27 runs. Laker, not required in the first innings rout of Worcestershire, took a hat trick in the second. That aggregate of 157 runs for 23 wickets remains the lowest ever for a completed County Championship game, and the victory that Surridge conjured out of nothing was as mentioned enough to secure that year’s title for Surrey.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. The first Indian fast bowler to rattle Australia in their own backyard. His 6-33 in Australia’s first innings at the MCG in 2018 effectively settled the destination of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Neither of the two great quicks of the 1930s, Amar Singh and Mahomed Nissar ever got to pit their wits against Australia, and basically between them and Bumrah India never had a really fast bowler of top quality.

This team has a splendid top four, three all rounders of differing types, a top of the range keeper and three fine specialist bowlers. Bumrah would share the new ball with either Botham or Sobers, with the other third seamer, while the spin options are provided by Warne, Laker and Sobers, and there is medium pace back up if required available from D’Oliveira.


These are two strong and formidably well balanced sides. Obviously, with all due respect to the only person ever to bag a hat trick in each innings of a test match the Warne XI have an advantage in the leg spin department. However, Bates vs Laker is a good match up, while Sobers’ talents are counterbalanced by those of Davidson, Bakewell and Woolley. The Warne XI have an edge in the pace bowling department, but not much of one. There is also no doubt in my mind that the Bakewell XI have greater strength and depth in batting. I reckon this one goes down to the wire and I cannot even attempt to call a winner.


The pinchhitter has produced an excellent post today, looking back 17 years ago to the highest successful run chase in test history, when the West Indies chased down 418 in Antigua.

The full toss blog have a post up comparing Strauss’ 2011 England with Vaughan’s 2005 England – and coming as far as I am concerned to the right conclusion as to which was the better unit.


Another one from

Fish Fiction

Your task is to use the above information to identify the smallest fish – and if you enjoy the task establish a complete ranking order of the five fish.


Today’s teams have put in their appearance, I have served up a couple of bonus cricket links and a mathematical teaser, so I now hand over to you for your comments with my usual sign off…

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The first of two particularly satsifying starling pics

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Mars mapping, from Dava Sobel’s “Planets”

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Firsts and Onlies
The teams in tabulated form.



All Time XIs – The ‘What Might Have Been’ XI

Another variation on the ‘all time XIs’ theme as we look at what might have been.


I continue my ‘All Time XIs‘ series in the hope that age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite variety. Today the spotlight is on players who for whatever reason did not get to entirely fulfill their potential. Some of the players in this XI had very good records but may in different circumstances have become all time greats of the game, one, the no11, might be said to be in under slightly false pretences, but as you will discover there can be no arguing about his place in the batting order!


  1. Basil D’Oliveira – 44 test matches which yielded 2,484 runs at 40.06, almost 20,000 runs in first class cricket, the bulk of them for Worcestershire, so what is he doing here, especially given that he was not a regular opener? Well due the being born in South Africa and not being white he would not have had a professional cricket career at all but for the intervention of John Arlott, who got him to England, where he started as a league pro, before graduating to first class and then test cricket. He was already past 30 by the time he made his first class debut, and 35 when he broke into the England team in 1966. His test career continued until 1972, and his first class career until 1979. The accounts that survive of his performances in ‘coloured only’ cricket in South Africa and the history of most successful cricket careers suggest that his record would have been hugely better than it actually was had he started playing first class cricket in his teens or early twenties and then progressed to test cricket by his early to mid twenties (there is an excellent book titled “Basil D’Oliveira”, by Peter Oborne, about him). His inclusion is a tribute to the many non-white South Africans from Krom Hendricks in the 1890s onward who were denied the opportunity of establishing careers in their chosen sport, a group who I consider far more deserving of sympathy than the privileged whites who were prevented from playing test cricket by their country’s period of sporting isolation. I fully accept that opening the batting was not his regular role, but a) someone had to go there, and b) I wanted to give him maximum prominence.
  2. Archie Jackson – a contemporary of Sir Donald Bradman, and many observers rated him the finer batter of the two at the time. At the age of 19 he opened the innings against England on test debut and scored 164. Unfortunately he was struck down by tuberculosis, and a mere four years after this golden debut he died. Pelham Warner, in Australia managing the 1932-3 Ashes tour party, spoke at his memorial service. The Scottish born Aussie finished with 474 runs at 47.40 from his eight test matches, and 4,383 first class runs at 45.65, but it could have been so much better had he enjoyed good health. He did not make yesterday’s ‘underappreciated Ashes‘ Aussie XI because if they could have done so the selectors would have picked him for every match, and it would have been unfair in the extreme to have selected him for that XI.
  3. Norman Callaway – one first class match (in late 1914), one innings, 207 runs average 207.00 at that level. He was one of the many killed in the carnage that was World War 1. Had he lived it would seem likely that international honours awaited him but…
  4. David Sales – at the age of 17 he scored 210 not out on first class debut. Unfortunately, this went unnoticed by the England selectors, and so apparently did a subsequent triple century and a 276 not out. England developed a strong and settled middle order just as he was hitting what should have been his cricketing prime, and he never got to play at the highest level. His county record (for Northamptonshire – did I hear someone utter the dread phrase “unfashionable county”?) was 14,140 runs at 39.27 and many who have performed far less well than that have been picked to bat for England. His record makes him a 21st century analogue to Edgar Oldroyd from my ‘County Stalwarts‘ XI of a couple of days ago.
  5. Fred Grace – 6,906 first class runs at 25.02, a record bearing comparison with any of his contemporaries barring his brother WG Grace, 329 wickets at 20.06, a useful record for someone whose primary role was with the willow, and 171 catches (and three stumpings as an emergency keeper along the way). In 1880, he played in the first test match contested on English soil, a game he had played a role in bringing about. The full story can be read in Simon Rae’s magisterial biography of WG Grace. The bare bones are that following a crowd riot on England’s previous visit down under the Aussies were in seriously bad odour with the English powers that be, and the majority of their 1880 programme therefore ended up in consisting of a series of ‘odds matches’ (a 19th century phenomenon in which one side had more players than the other) against low grade opposition spiced with a few good players. One of these hired guns was Fred Grace, and he convinced his brother that the Aussies were worth playing, so Gloucestershire gave them a game (as did Derbyshire, and Yorkshire played them twice), and Grace got to work on various people to arrange for a test match to happen. One of his administrative allies in the cause was Charles Alcock, simultaneously the first ever secretary of the Football Association and secretary of Surrey County Cricket Club. It was with the latter hat on that Alcock concluded that not only should there be a test, it should be at The Oval. Eventually, in early September, the match took place. Fred bagged a pair, and did little with the ball, but had there been a ‘champagne moment’ in 1880 he would have won it for his catch to dismiss the big hitter George Bonnor: the batters were well into their third run by the time he completed the catch, and Fred Gale used a chain to measure the distance from Bonnor’s wicket to where the catch was held, and it came out at 110 yards (just over 100 metres). Less than two weeks later Fred Grace was dead after a chill turned into a lung infection. It is likely that had he lived he would have been a regular England player through the 1880s and possibly beyond (after all WG, the senior by over two years, played his last England game in 1899) – as Graham Gooch can confirm it is quite possible to bounce back from a pair on debut. This is one instance of a ‘one cap wonder’ where the selectors are definitely blameless – you can’t pick someone who has died (although watching and listening to England in the late 1980s and early 1990s one sometimes wondered whether corpses could have done a whole lot worse than some of the players).
  6. Major Booth – Major was his given name, not a rank (in honour of a respected Salvation Army leader), but he did die in battle, on the Somme. Before the outbreak of war he had played 162 first class matches, scoring 4,753 runs at 23.29, with a best of 210 not out, and using his right arm medium fast to take 603 wickets at 19.82. He played twice for England, scoring 46 runs at 23.00 and taking 7 wickets at 18.57 each. Had he survived the war he would surely have been an England regular for at least a decade thereafter.
  7. *Albert Trott – 375 first class matches, 10,696 runs at 19.48 and 1,674 wickets at 21.09. Five test matches yielded 228 runs at 38.00 and 26 wickets at 15.00. Yet these figures tell a bare fraction of the story. In 1894-5 Trott played two games for his native Australia, starting with 110 runs without being dismissed and second innings bowling figures of 8-43. In his second game at Sydney he made 85 but did not get to bowl. When the 1896 tour party to England was announced, with his brother Harry as captain he was not in it, a decision that seems inexcusable. He travelled to England anyway, became a professional (with Middlesex), and initially built up a superb record in his new home country, including twice scoring 1,000 runs and taking 200 wickets in a first class season. Then in 1899, playing against that year’s Aussies (having earlier played in South Africa for his adopted country), he hit a ball from Monty Noble over the Lord’s pavilion (it struck a chimney pot and fell down the back of the building). That blow was actually the start of trouble for Trott – he could not resist attempting to repeat it and his batting declined as he turned into a slogger. His bowling also lost its fizz over the years, although he recaptured it at an ill timed moment in 1907, when he ruined his own benefit match by first taking four wickets in four balls and then moments later performing another hat trick to terminate the Somerset resistance. Thereafter his decline was rapid, and in 1914 he joined the sadly long list of cricket suicides, leaving his meagre possessions (a wardrobe and four £1 notes) to his landlady. Had he been selected for that 1896 tour party he may have established a career as one of test cricket’s greatest ever all rounders, and he not hit his historic blow against Monty Noble in 1899 his batting may have continued to flourish.
  8. Alonzo Drake – a contemporary of Booth, our no 6, he was a left handed middle order bat and a left arm spinner. 157 first class matches yielded 4,816 runs at 21.69 and 480 wickets at 18.03. 85 of those wickets came in his last two months of first class cricket in 1914, including 10-35, the first ‘all ten’ by a Yorkshire bowler, against Somerset. In his case ill health precluded his going off to fight, but that same ill health also ensured that by the time first class cricket resumed in 1919 he was no longer there to participate – he died of heart failure in February 1919. The war surely robbed him of an England career, and had he lived long enough, he would still have been only 36 by the time of the 1920-1 tour of Australia.
  9. Maurice Tremlett – after a first class debut (for Somerset) that a novelist would hardly have dared to script for their hero – eight wickets in the match including a spell of 5-8 in the second innings, and that against the team who would be that season’s County Champions, and a heroic little innings at the death to secure his side a one wicket victory this should have been the rise of a new star in cricket’s firmament. At the end of that season he was taken on a tour of the West Indies, where began efforts to turn him into a genuine quick bowler, rather than the fast medium who could swing the ball that he was. An ill advised addition of four paces to his run up in an effort to generate more momentum, well meaning but ultimately destructive advice about the position of his shoulders, hips and feet all contributed to a loss of rhythm, form, confidence and the ability to swing the ball. Within a few years of that glorious debut he was concentrating on his batting and only being used as an occasional partnership breaker with the ball. One would like to say that lessons have been learned, but Jimmy Anderson (Lancashire and England) was nearly ruined in precisely the same fashion six decades later, though he fortunately was able to revert to his natural method and has ended up as England’s leading test wicket taker. Tremlett finished his career with 389 first class appearances which yielded 16,038 runs at 25.37 and 351 wickets at 30.70, while his three test caps on that West Indies tour yielded 20 runs at 6.66 and 4 wickets at 56.50. Had he been handled properly, and encouraged to make the best of the talents he actually had, instead of falling victim to well meaning attempts to remodel him into the genuine fast bowling article he may well have become a top quality test match performer with the ball, contributing useful runs from the lower order into the bargain. Instead he ended up an average batter who bowled a bit and for a period one of the better county captains.
  10. Bob Appleyard – 200 wickets in his first full season of first class cricket (for Yorkshire) bowling a mixture of medium pace and off spin. Then he was hit by tuberculosis, and took some years to recover, though he did eventually do so unlike Jackson. He ended up playing 152 first class matches, in which he took 708 wickets at 15.48 and scored 776 runs at 8.52, thus avoiding being a member of the ‘more wickets than runs’ club. He played nine times for England, never experiencing defeat at that level, and taking 31 wickets at 17.87 and scoring 51 runs at 17.00. His first class record was remarkable, but just imagine if his health had allowed him to play for twenty years or more (quite feasible for a bowler of his type). There is a short biography of him titled “No Coward Soul” by Stephen Chalke, which I recommend.
  11. +Seymour Clark – an eccentric and whimsical final choice, as befits a wicket keeper (are you reading this Mr Russell?), and anyway after some of the other stories a bit of light relief seems in order. He played five times for Somerset at the start of the 1930s, taking eight catches, going to the crease nine times and amassing…zero runs! He did have a few not outs by the way.  Although I freely concede that it is unlikely that his batting would have developed much given more time there have been players who have built reasonable records after shocking starts – Arthur Morton of Derbyshire commenced his first class batting career with four consecutive blobs and ended with over 10,000 first class runs to his credit, while Marvan Atapattu (Sri Lanka) did not exactly hit the ground running in test cricket but ended with an eminently respectable record.

This teams contains a strong looking top five, two of whom could also lend a hand with the ball, three genuine all rounders in Booth, Trott and Drake, a swing bowler in Tremlett and Appleyard’s two methods, plus a keeper. Even in this purely whimsical example of selecting an XI I have produced a well balanced side (although D’Oliveira as opener is an unorthodox choice), and one that I would expect to be able to give a good account of itself. As always, there was an embarrassment of riches to choose from. I will limit the honourable mentions here to two (though you are welcome to weigh in with your own): Arthur Edward Jeune Collins who scored 628 not out, then the highest innings ever recorded in any class of cricket, in a house match at Clifton College and did not go on to make a name for himself and Amar Singh, the first great fast bowler to come out of India, and a worthy spiritual forebear of current ace Jasprit Bumrah, who died young having had few opportunities outside his native land, but not before he had captured 506 wickets at 18.35 in 92 first class games.


Well, that is the ‘what might have been’ XI in all its glory – feel free to post your own suggestions, or if you are really up for a challenge to create your own ‘what might have been XI’, and all that now remains is my usual sign off…

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Two very welcome visitors yesterday eveing, this jay (six pics)…

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…and this muntjac (14 pictures), whcih put in an appearance during the twilight hours

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swooping black headed gulls.

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What Might Have Been XI
The XI with abridged comments.

All Time XIs – Worcestershire

Continuing my series of all time XIs with Worcestershire.


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


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

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


Here are a few of my latest…

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The first jay of 2020 (two pics)

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

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100 Cricketers – Third XI Bowlers and Introducing the Fourth XI

Continuing my “100 cricketers” series with the bowlers from my third XI and an introduction to the 4th XI. Also features mentions of Afghanistan v Ireland and Sri Lanka Women v England Women plus some of my won photographs.


Welcome to the next post in my “100 cricketers” series. The introductory post to the series can be found here, the post that introduces the third XI here , and the most recent post in the series here. Before getting into the main body of the post there are a couple of bits of business to attend to:


Afgghanistan look in control of this one, having taken a first innings lead of 142 (314 to 172) and taken an early wicket in the Ireland second innings (Ireland are 22-1 for at the close of day two of a possible five). However, plenty may happen yet – with two days of Headingley 1981 to go England were 220 behind with one second innings wicket down, and in the first half of the fourth day they continued to nosedive, plunging to 135-7, still 92 short of avoiding the innings defeat, before Botham, Dilley, Old and Willis staged a fightback leaving Australia 130 to win. At 56-1 in the chase Australia were still heavy favourites, but then Willis was switched to bowl downhill with the wind behind him, three quick wickets meant that by lunch the score was 58-4, and the first time in four and a bit days Australia were a bit nervy, while England’s confidence was surging. England won by 18 runs. Having acknowledged the possibilitiy of a turnaround it has to be said that Afghanistan remain heavy favourites to record their first test victory. An current scorecard can be viewed here.


England women dominated this, and the rain intervention came too late to affect the result. Having scored 331 from their 50 overs, Natalie Sciver top scoring with 93, Amy Jones making 79, skipper Heather Knight 61 and Danielle Wyatt scoring 47 off just 26 balls at the end England then knocked the top off the Sri Lankan batting in brutal fashion, reducing them to 21-5 and then 46-7 (Chamari Atapattu, who has featured in this series of mine, contributing 30 of those. The 8th wicket pair saved some face, without ever threatening to get their side back into the contest by adding 88. The rain reduced Sri Lanka’s allocation of overs to 40, but because they were seven down after 35 when it came their required total was not much reduced as they had few resources (the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method, DLS for short, is complicated but works better than any other rain rule that has been devised – reserve days tend to mean action taking place in empty or near empty grounds, while other attempts at adjusting for rain interventions have led to some very strange happenings (a South African target of 22 off 18 balls once became 22 off 1 ball due to the rain rule that was in place). Kathryn Brunt’s three wickets with the new ball took her tally in all forms of international cricket to within one of 250 (144 in ODIs, 66 in T20Is and 39 in tests. A full scorecard for this match can be seen hereNow for the main business of the post, starting with…


The bowling will mainly be shared between two fast bowlers and two spinners in this XI, though one or other of A B De Villers or Steve Waugh might get called on to act os third seamer in extremis, while the fact that Virender Sehwag bowls offspin, as compared to the legspin of Ashwin and the left-arm spin of Jadeja may bring him in to the equation in certain conditions. I believe that if one had them together, both at their peak my chosen new ball pair are good enough not to need a third seamer to back them up. We start, taking in them chronological rather than batting order with…


By the time South Africa were welcomed back to the official test match fold after the dismantling of Apartheid, with a historic first encounter against the West Indies Allan Donald was not quite as greased lightning quick as he was in his early days, but was still a bowler of genuine pace and the highest class. He could still serve up something decidedly nasty when riled, as Mike Atherton once discovered when he stood his ground and was given not out having gloved a ball to the keeper (he later gave to the glove to Donald with an autograph neatly covering the offending red mark). Although his entry into test cricket was somewhat delayed he had time enough to play 72 matches in which he took 330 wickets (at the time of his retirement a record by a long way for a South African). While I am not completely unsympathetic to those whose careers were disrupted, or in some cases entirely thwarted by South Africa’s period of isolation I am a great deal more sympathetic by those, going back to Krom Hendricks as long ago is the 1890s, who were denied any possibility of a career in cricket due to the colour of their skin. Basil Lewis D’Oliveira got to show some of what he could do, for Worcestershire and England, finally appearing on the international scene in 1966 at the age of 35 (given how impressive his actual record is one can only wonder what he might have achieved had he been able to play at the highest level in his mid-twenties, the period when a cricketer is usually at their peak).

My choice of opening bowling partner for Donald is made on merit, but my also be seen as a recognition of those were denied any such thing in their own time…


37 test matches so far have netted him 176 wickets at 21.77 a piece (both the average, and the wickets per game ratio of 4.76 mark him as a bowler of the highest class). He played a leading role of the right kind in the controversial fairly recent series between South Africa and Australia (the one in which messrs Bancroft, Smith and Warner played leading roles of absolutely the wrong kind). He is still only 23 years old, so if his body holds up he could have another 15 years bowling for his country (James Anderson is still going strong with his 37th birthday on the horizon, and Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh remained the West Indies finest bowlers at that age) and set a record for South African bowler that would take a lot of beating. Certainly he is well worth his nomination is one half of an all South African new ball pairing.


Bearing in mind that I have off-spin available in the person of Virender Sehwag I opted for a leg-spinner and a left arm spinner as my front line spinners. The pair I have gone for regularly play together and function well as a partnership (it was for this reason that in his all-time XI Sir Donald Bradman opted for Bill OReilly and Clarrie Grimmett as his spin twins, leaving out Shane Warne (see this post earlier in my own series) so as not to break up to the partnerhsip). 


192 test wickets at 23.68, 1485 runs at 32.28 (from 41 matches so far) and he is one of the best fielders in the world as well. This is a truly outstanding player, worth his place for his bowling, possibly would even be worth picking as a specialist fielder if he did nothing else to the required standard, and is a more than competent batter. I suspect that following on the initial onslaught of Donald and Rabada and backed up by his mate Ashwin he would bowl even more effectively in this combination than he has for India, but for his selection to work that does not have to be so.


65 Tests have netted him 342 wickets at 25.43, and he is even more of a destroyer in limited overs cricket. Although his batting is not generally highly regarded he has been used as an opener in the Indian Premier League where his ability to get the innings away to a flyer is at a premium. On any pitch offering assistance to spinners he is deadly, and I have never yet found an example of him being collared even on the flattest of tracks (even when England beat India 4-1 in 2018 on pitches and in conditions that did not suit Ashwin or any other spinner he always commanded respect).


Ready for the continuation of this series here is my 4th XI in batting order:

  1. *Charlotte Edwards
  2. Herschelle Gibbs
  3. Suzie Bates
  4. Brian Lara
  5. V V S Laxman
  6. Sophie Devine
  7. +Adam Gilchrist
  8. Shaun Pollock
  9. Sophie Ecclestone
  10. Rashid Khan
  11. Jasprit Bumrah


For those of you have made it through to the end of this post here are some of my photographs:

All of this pictures were taken this afternoon while I went out a very short walk.




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.


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.


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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