All Time XIs – The Letter E

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

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

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

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

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

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Middlesex

Continuing my all-time XIs series with Middlesex.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my All Time XIs series. We move on to our eighth county (a feat that even a modern day overseas mercenary might find difficult!), Middlesex. On the All Time XI theme, the fulltoss blog has just served up a very interesting XI of bizarre test debut stories – please do have a gander. After I have gone through my chosen XI I am going to include another section in this post explaining the particular challenges that this assignment has posed.

MIDDLESEX ALL TIME XI

  1. *Andrew Strauss – left handed opening batter and captain. He was alone in scoring two inividual hundreds in the 2005 Ashes, won the Compton-Miller trophy for his batting and captaincy in the 2009 Ashes (highlighted by a first innings 161 at Lord’s to put England in command of that match) and then captained England to a first Ashes win in Australia since 1986-7 (and first overseas Ashes win under a captain not to answer to Mike since Ray Illingworth’s 1970-1 triumph!). In 2011 his captaincy career reached its apogee when he led England to a convincing series win over India that propelled them to the top of the world test rankings, a mere 12 years after defeat against New Zealand had consigned them to bottom of the pile.
  2. Jack Robertson – An underrated opener whose 331 not out vs Derbyshire remains the highest ever individual score for Middlesex. In the 1947 season when Bill Edrich and Denis Compton made all the headlines he scored 12 centuries of his own, and it was often a solid start from him that they were cashing in on.
  3. Bill Edrich – one of five members of his family (three of his brothers, plus cousin John – see my Surrey team) to play first class cricket, an excellent no 3 bat and a superb fielder and a very useful bowler of right arm fast medium (on one occasion during the 1948 Ashes he shared the new ball for England with Alec Bedser). His first really big score at the highest level came the match that killed the notion of timeless tests stone dead, at Durban at the end of 1938-9 tour of South Africa, when he contributed 219 to an England score that reached 654-5 in pursuit of a victory target of 696 before the rain came down and the match had to be abandoned as a draw for fear of England missing their boat home. His career was split into two portions by World War II, during which he served in the RAF.
  4. Denis Compton – for much of his career he combined cricket for Middlesex and England with football for Arsenal, though he was not quite a double international – he played for England in wartime matches which were not given full international status. He was forever forgetting things, including on one memorable occasion his bat – he borrowed a spare from a team mate and scored 158 with it. In 1947 he scored 3,816 first class runs, with 18 centuries. During the 1948-9 tour of South Africa he scored 300 not out in 181 minutes at Benoni, the fastest ever first class triple hundred (Charlie Macartney for Australia v Nottinghamshire in 1921 reached 300 in 198 minutes on his way to a score of 345 in 232 minutes). 5,800 test runs at 50 shows how good he was. He reached the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds in his 552nd innings, quicker than anyone else save Don Bradman who got there in just 295 innings. In addition to his batting he bowled left arm wrist spin and was an excellent fielder. Don Bradman paid Compton the tribute of selecting him at number three, the equivalent position to the Don’s own in the Australian XI in his all time England XI, which you can read about in Roland Perry’s “Bradman’s Best Ashes Teams”.
  5. Patsy Hendren – the third leading first class run scorer of all time with 57,611 (behind Hobbs – 61,237 if you are a traditionalist, 61,760 if you are a revisionist – and Woolley, 58,969) and the second leading centurion of all time with 170 (Hobbs 197 if you are traditionalist, 199 if you are a revisionist). He was also a brilliant fielder and a practical joker. During the 1928-9 Ashes he was involved in a famous exchange with Douglas Jardine. Jardine was getting the bird from Aussie spectators and Hendren said to him “they don’t seem to like you very much, Mr Jardine”, to which Jardine responded “it is ****ing mutual” – playwright Ben Travers was party to the exchange and mentioned it in his book “94 Declared”.
  6. Bernard Bosanquet – the creator of the googly and a hard hitting middle order batter. Under today’s laws the googly may well have been still born, its first victim Sam Coe being done by one which bounced four times before hitting the stumps and would therefore have been called no-ball today (worse still for Coe he was on 98 at the time). Bosanquet scored over 11,000 first class runs in his career.
  7. +John Murray – only one wicketkeeper has ever made more career dismissals than Murray, Bob Taylor of Derbyshire and England. Murray was also a very useful bat. In the Oval test match of 1966 England were 166-7 when he arrived at the crease to join Tom Graveney (see my Gloucestershire piece). Graveney made 165, Murray 112 an to add insult to already considerable injury nos 10 and 11, Ken Higgs and John Snow then weighed in with half centuries of their own to boost the final total to 527. Unsurprisingly deflated by this the West Indies subsequently went down to an innings defeat, some consolation for England at the end of the series in which they had been thoroughly outplayed.
  8. Fred Titmus – a long serving off spinner and useful lower order bat, he had an excellent tour of Australia in 1962-3. He made his first class debut in 1949, and his career only ended in 1982.
  9. Gubby Allen – a fast bowler who was also a capable bat – he scored a test century against New Zealand, helping to turn 190-7 into 436 all out. He holds the record innings figures for a Middlesex bowler – 10-40 against Lancashire. His career figures were limited by the fact that he was that rare thing, a genuine amateur who played at the top level and worked for a living in a non-cricket related job, hence the fact that he played less than 150 times for Middlesex in the course of a 29 year span.
  10. Jack Hearne – the fourth leading wicket taker in first class history, with 3,061 scalps. He bowled medium-fast, took nine wickets in a first class innings on no fewer than eight occasions. In 1899 at Headingley he took what may be regarded as the best of all test match hat tricks, Clem Hill, Syd Gregory and Monty Noble, two specialist batters and an all-rounder.
  11. Wayne Daniel – the West Indies had so many great fast bowlers when he was in his prime that he got little opportunity at test level, but his record as an overseas player for Middlesex was excellent. He was also very popular with his team mates – Mike Brearley in “The Art of Captaincy” writes about him in glowing terms.

This team is a solid opening pair, including a left handed bat in Strauss, a powerful engine room at nos 3-5, a hard hitting all rounder at six, an excellent keeper/ batter at seven and four varied bowlers to round out the order. The bowling has two purveyors of out and out speed in Allen and Daniel (with Edrich’s fast-medium also available at need), a crafty medium-fast operator in Hearne, an off spinner in Titmus, Bosanquet’s wrist spin and Compton’s left arm wrist spin, an attack that boasts both depth and variety.

DIFFICULTIES AND CONTROVERSIES

Middlesex have produced many great names down the years, and a vast number of Middlesex names are well known, because until quite recently playing a lot of your matches at Lord’s gave you a huge advantage in terms of being seen by suitably influential people. This side was difficult to select because doing so meant leaving out huge numbers of players all of whom will have their advocates. I would hope that my comments immediately below the selections would explain my thinking, especially as regards balancing the side to contain both depth and variety with both bat and ball.

I am now going to look down the order at some of those who missed out – please be aware that I had positive reasons for including those I did, not negative reasons for leaving people out.

OPENERS

Andrew Stoddart (a great captain as well), Pelham Warner and Mike Brearley would all have merited consideration for one of these berths, as would Desmond Haynes had I not already decided that the overseas player should be a bowler.

NOS 3-5

My three selections all had absolutely commanding cases for inclusion – it tells you how strong Middlesex have been in this department that there was no room for long time England stalwart Mike Gatting.

NO 6

The traditional all rounder’s berth, and there were a wealth of options to fill it. Vyell Walker, ‘Young’ Jack Hearne (to distinguish him from ‘Old’ Jack, picked as a specialist bowler), Greville Stevens, Aussie exiles Albert Trott and Frank Tarrant,  and Walter Robins were just six of the names who could have been considered. I awarded the palm to Bosanquet for his innovative qualities.

THE KEEPER

Again, Middlesex have been well served in this department, with Hylton Phillipson, Gregor MacGregor and Paul Downton having also represented their country down the years.

THE BOWLERS

Vintcent Van Der Bijl would have his advocates for the overseas player/ fast bowler role that I gave to Wayne Daniel, and he would be equally as deserving. Among the spinners who missed out were John Emburey, Phil Edmonds and Phil Tufnell. Among quicker home grown bowlers Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones, Angus Fraser, Norman Cowans and John Price would all have their advocates, and I would not argue against them, merely for my own choices. I end this section by saying: if you want to suggest people for inclusion, be they those I have highlighted or others, by all means do so, but consider the balance of the selected team, and tell me which of my choices should be dropped to make way for yours.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes folks, we’ve reached the end of today’s journey, and it is time for my usual sign off…

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