Since there will be no cricket, or any other sport come to that, for a while I am going to fill the void by playing selector for a few all-time squads. Since I grew up in south London I will start with Surrey.
MY SURREY XI EXPLAINED
- Jack Hobbs – more first class runs and more first class hundreds than anyone else, also still has the England record for Ashes runs – 3,636 of them, including another record, 12 centuries in those matches. He was also a more than handy bowler of medium pace and a brilliant fielder at cover point. His claim to an opening slot is unanswerable.
- John Edrich – the left hander was one of three strong contenders for this slot, and both of the other two, Andrew Sandham and Tom Hayward, actually did open the innings with Hobbs, but although I see the value of picking an existing partnership, Edrich’s left handedness creates an extra problem for the fielding side to contend with, and for me that is the crucial factor.
- Ken Barrington – finding big run scorers associated with Surrey is not difficult, but what sets Barrington apart (and no 3 is has natural position) is that he was even more of a heavy scorer at test level (average 58.67).
- Graham Thorpe – that rara avis an English middle order batter from the 1990s with a record to boast about. A century on debut against Australia and an average in the mid 40s maintained through precisely 100 test caps tells its own story about his consistency.
- Peter May – In what was an overall low scoring decade (the 1950s) he maintained a test average of 46.77, and was also highly prolific for his county.
- +Alec Stewart – in spite of the fact that doing so loses some of the brilliance of Stewart the batter I name him as keeper for the sake of the balance of the side. The leading scorer of test runs in the 1990s, and a very able keeper. Given the top five he would very likely be coming in with free rein to play his strokes.
- *Percy Fender – a fine all-rounder, a highly respected captain who many felt should have had the England job and precisely the right kind of person to be batting no 7 in a strong team – he holds the record (35 minutes) for the fastest century against genuinely first class bowling.#
- Alec Bedser – a man who in the period immediately after World War two was not just the spearhead, but pretty much the entire spear of England’s bowling attack, and the first to take 200 wickets for England.
- Jim Laker – probably the finest of all orthodox offspinners, and for Surrey he was frequently more successful away than at home (in each of seasons 1955, 1956 and 1957 this applied to name but three).
- Tony Lock – the other half of the great spin pairing of the 1950s, a slow left-armer.
- Tom Richardson – a fast bowler who took more wickets for Surrey than any other bowler in their history. His 1,000th first class wicket came in his 134th first class match, and his 2,000th in his 327th.
This team consists of an awesome top five, a batter-keeper at six, an all-rounder and four frontline bowlers. There are two left handers among the top batters, and the bowling contains the new ball pair of Richardson and Bedser, an offspinner, a slow left armer and a leg spinner (Fender), plus Hobbs’ medium pace if required. I have not included an overseas player, but if mandated to do so I would bring in Waqar Younis in place of Richardson.
George Lohmann (definitely in an all-time Surrey tour party as cover for Bedser), Martin Bicknell, Bill Lockwood and Alf Gover all merit consideration as bowlers, while other than the openers I could not accommodate Douglas Jardine and Eric Bedser were two of the better batters to miss out. Mark Ramprakash did not come into my calculations because his record at the highest level was ordinary, and the bulk of his runs for Surrey came while they were in division 2 and not up against the strongest bowling attacks.