All Time XIs – The Literary Clash

Today’s all time XI cricket themed post uses fictional characters for its inspiration. Also featured are #NHSPayRise and #BlackLivesMatter.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. Today I pit two XIs whose players share names with characters from fiction against each other.

ROLY JENKINS’ XI

  1. Arthur Morris – left handed opening batter. 46 test matches yielded him 3,533 runs at 46.48, and Don Bradman rated him the best left handed opener he ever saw. King Arthur has been fictionalized by many writers, arguably beginning with Geoffrey of Monmouth. In primary school I read “Swords and Circles” by Rosemary Sutcliff, and almost equally long ago I first read “The Once and Future King” by TH White, but it is particularly Stephen Lawhead’s “Pendragon” series that I wish to flag up.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. I have commented on his success in this specific role before. The literary connection is to Alan Breck Stewart, who features in two of Robert Louis Stephenson’s novels.
  3. Jimmy Sinclair – right handed batter, occasional medium pacer. He registered the first test century for South Africa. His literary alter ego is Sabrina Sinclair, the female lead in Magda Josza’s “Sherlock Holmes and the Femmes Fatales”, the sequel to “The Private Diaries of Doctor Watson”.
  4. Eoin Morgan – left handed batter. England’s current One Day International captain. One of Colleen McCullough’s novels is titled “Morgan’s Run”, and the Morgan in question is Eoin’s literary alter ego for this purpose.
  5. Jamie Dalrymple – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. When he first appeared on the first class scene big things were expected of him, but he ended with a respectable rather than genuinely outstanding record. His alter ego is Carola Dunn’s series character Daisy Dalrymple.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. He was already established as one of England’s finest before 2019, but his deeds that year moved him into the category of all time greats. His literary connection is a slightly convoluted one involving Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”. Unlike Tess, who is a direct descendant of the real D’Urbervilles the villain of the story, Alec D’Urberville owes his surname to his grandfather, Simon Stokes, who changed his name by deed poll and purchased a coat of arms to back it up.
  7. *Roly Jenkins – leg spinner, right handed batter. 386 first class matches brought him 10,073 runs at 22.23 and 1,309 wickets at 23.64. His problem with the bat was a failure to convert fifties to hundreds – he reached 50 on 41 occasions, but only once went on to the hundred. He has a part share in a first class record: in a match between Worcestershire and Scotland the county’s keeper Hugo Yarnold accounted for six Scotland second innings wickets in a row – all stumped! Four of those six stumpings were effected off the bowling of Jenkins. His literary namesake is Tilly Jenkins of Mandy Morton’s “No2 Feline Detective Agency” series of novels. Tilly Jenkins is one of the two detectives in said agency, along with Hetty Bagshaw.
  8. +Godfrey Evans – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He played 95 test matches, scoring 2,439 runs at 20.49, taking 173 catches and making 46 stumpings. While in his 465 first class appearances he scored 14,882 runs at 21.22, took 816 catches and made 250 stumpings. Bradman named him as England wicket keeper in “Bradman’s Best Ashes Teams”. His literary alter ego is ‘Killer’ Evans, villain in “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs”, one of the stories that appears in the collection “The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes”, the fifth and last book of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes short stories.
  9. Percy Jeeves – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter. 50 first class matches brought him 1,204 runs at 16.05 and 199 wickets at 20.03. He took 12 five wicket hauls, with a best of 7-34, and achieved one ten wicket match. He is not merely a namesake of famous fictional character, his performance for Warwickshire v Gloucetsreshire at Cheltenham, witnessed by PG Wodehouse, actually inspired the naming of Jeeves the valet.
  10. Edwin Tyler – left arm orthodox spinner. A one-cap wonder for England, against South Africa at Cape Town in 1896 – he took four wickets at 16.25 in that sole international appearance. His 185 first class appearances brought him 895 wickets at 22.09, with 77 five wicket innings hauls and 22 10 wicket matches. His best innings figures were 10-49, the first all-ten by a Somerset bowler. He gets in on a childhood memory – at primary school one of the books I read was Gene Kemp’s “The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler”.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. 138 first class appearances yielded him 863 wickets at 12.09, with 87 five wicket innings hauls and 28 10 wicket matches. His namesake is of course Mycroft Holmes, elder brother of Sherlock, who appears twice in the original Holmes stories, with a mention in a third (“The Greek Interpreter”, “The Bruce-Partington Plans”, and a walk on role in “The Final Problem”) and many times in pastiche/ new Holmes stories by other authors.

This team has a respectable batting order, and a strong bowling line up, with Mycroft and Jeeves likely to share the new ball, Stokes third seamer, Jenkins and Tyler as front line spinners and Dalrymple as sixth bowler.

PETER MAY’S XI

  1. Bobby Abel– right handed opening batter. 13 test match appearances yielded him 744 runs at 37.20, with two centuries and a best of 132 not out. In all first class cricket he scored 33,128 runs at 35.46, with 74 centuries, including the Surrey individual record 357 not out. His literary namesake is Abel Whittle who appears in Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge.”
  2. Vince Wells – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer. He once scored three double centuries in the same season for Leicestershire, but typically his England call up did not occur during this purple patch, but a little later in his career. He ended with 9,314 first class runs at 32.79 and 302 wickets at 26.22. He owes his place here to being a namesake of Daisy Wells, president of the Wells & Wong Detective Society from Robin Stevens’ “Murder Most Unladlylike” series.
  3. *Peter May – right handed batter, captain. In a difficult decade for batting, the 1950s, he averaged 46.77 in test cricket, captaining his country 41 times along the way. His literary namesake is John May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, the May of Christopher Fowler’s “Bryant and May” series of novels. Another May, John’s grand-daughter April, also appears in those books.
  4. Willie Watson – left handed batter. The only person to have played in a football world cup and for England in test cricket. His most famous innings was his five and three quarter hour century at Lord’s in 1953 which helped England to a draw, the full value of which was brought home at The Oval in the final match of the series when England’s victory secured them the Ashes for the first time since surrendering them in 1934. In his 468 first class matches he scored 25,670 runs at 39.86 with a best of 257. He is of course namesake of Dr John H Watson, narrator of the original Holmes stories.
  5. Toby Colbeck – right handed batter. He played 32 first class matches between 1905 and 1913-4, in which he scored 1,368 runs at 24.87, with three centuries, and a best of 175 not out. I would not normally select someone with a record of this nature, even given the allowances that can be made for him, but I was willing to stretch a point to be able to include a namesake of Inspector Robert Colbeck, aka The Railway Detective, star of a series of novels by Edward Marston. I have given these books coverage elsewhere on this blog (here, here and here).
  6. Vic Wilson – left handed batter, brilliant close fielder. 502 first class matches brought him 21,650 runs at 31.33 and also 549 catches in the field. He was the first professional to be officially appointed as captain of Yorkshire. His literary alter ego is Daniel Wilson, one of the two stars of Jim Eldridge’s ‘Museums’ series of murder mysteries (“Murder at the Fitzwilliam Museum”, “Murder at the Ashmolean”, “Murder at the British Museum”, and one that I have yet to read, ‘Murder at the Manchester Museum’) – the other being Abigail Fenton.
  7. +Jock Cameron – wicket keeper, right handed batter. 26 test appearances brought him 1,239 runs at 30.21, with 39 catches and 12 stumpings. In all first class cricket he made 107 appearances, scoring 5,396 runs at 37.47, and took 155 catches and made 69 stumpings. He once took 30 in an over from the great Hedley Verity, an onslaught that got the bowler some ‘Yorkshire brand sympathy’ from keeper Arthur Wood “tha’s got ‘im in two minds Hedley, he doan’t know whether t’hit thee for fower or six.” His position in this line up is by way of a nod to Cassandra ‘CJ’ Cameron, hero of Matthew Reilly’s “The Great Zoo of China”, with an acknowledgement also to the journalistic couple Pete and Alison Cameron in “Ice Station” by the same author.
  8. Johnnie Clay – off spinner, useful lower order batter. He played for Glamorgan when they were promoted to first class status in 1921, and was still in the team when they won their first county championship in 1948! He played 373 first class matches, taking 1,317 wickets at 19.76 each with 105 five wicket innings hauls and 28 10 wicket matches, and scored 7,186 runs at 15.45, with two first class hundreds. His literary analogue is John Clay, villain of “The Red Headed League”, who also appears in “Sherlock Holmes and the Femmes Fatales” as partner of Sabrina Sinclair’s sister, in Hugh Ashton’s novel “The Darlington Substitution”, and also one of Ashton’s collections of short stories, presented as an autobiography.
  9. Frank Holmes Tyson – right arm fast bowler. A meteor who blazed through the cricketing skies in the 1950s, he played 17 test matches, taking 76 wickets at 18.56 and being the star of the 1954-5 Ashes, and also scoring 230 runs at 10.95. He played 244 first class matches in all, taking 767 wickets at 20.89 and scoring 4,103 runs at 17.09. I have given his full name including middle name, because of course it is that middle name of Holmes that gets him in here.
  10. Joel Garner – right arm fast bowler. A magnificent servant of Barbados, Somerset and the West Indies down the years. 58 test match appearances saw him capture 259 wickets at 20.97 and score 672 runs at 12.44. His total first class record was 214 matches, 881 wickets at 18.53 and 2,964 runs at 16.74. His literary namesake is Paul D Garner, from Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”.
  11. Shannon Gabriel – right arm fast bowler. 45 test matches have yielded him 133 wickets at 30.63, with a best of 8-62. In all first class cricket he has played 103 matches, taking 289 wickets at 29.67. His literary alter ego is Gabriel Oak, the shepherd in Thomas Hardy’s “Far From The Madding Crowd”

This team has a strong top four, Colbeck at five, Wilson a respectable six, a keeper who can really bat and four fine bowlers. There is a shortage of spin options, with only Clay available in that department, but Tyson, Garner and Gabriel look a fearsome trio of quick bowlers (I suggest Tyson and Garner with the new ball, Gabriel on when Tyson needs a breather).

THE CONTEST

Both squads have strengths and weaknesses. I think that the presence of the genuine all rounder in Ben Stokes just tips the odds in favour Roly Jenkins’ XI but I would expect it to be close.

NHS POSTER COURTESY OF 38 DEGREES

A little while back I signed up to get a free poster from 38 degrees calling for NHS workers to be given a pay rise, and it arrived in today’s post and is now on display in my front window. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been through a very serious illness, and my experiences then have served only to underline the extent to which I value our NHS (see the posts you find following this link), and it is long past time they received a pay rise. Their efforts during this pandemic have been amazing.

IMG_0659 (2)
The window I chose, the most prominent I have.
IMG_0660 (2)
A close up of the poster.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Maureen Fitzsimmons has produced an excellent twitter thread on what the #BlackLivesMatter protests have accomplished thus far, the beginning of which is screenshotted below – click to view full thread:

Fitzsimmons

IMG_0616 (2)IMG_0617 (2)IMG_0618 (2)IMG_0619 (2)IMG_0620 (2)IMG_0621 (2)IMG_0622 (2)IMG_0623 (2)IMG_0625 (2)IMG_0626 (2)IMG_0627 (2)IMG_0628 (2)IMG_0629 (2)IMG_0630 (2)IMG_0631 (2)IMG_0632 (2)IMG_0634 (2)IMG_0636 (2)IMG_0637 (2)IMG_0638 (2)IMG_0640 (2)IMG_0641 (2)IMG_0642 (2)IMG_0643 (2)IMG_0644 (2)IMG_0645 (2)IMG_0646 (2)IMG_0647 (2)IMG_0648 (2)IMG_0649 (2)IMG_0650 (2)IMG_0652 (2)IMG_0654 (2)IMG_0655 (2)IMG_0656 (2)IMG_0657 (2)IMG_0658 (2)

Literary Clash
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – England

Today is international day in my ‘all-time XIs’ cricket series, and it is England in the spotlight. I also have a mini-section offering solidarity to #BlackLivesMatter.

INTRODUCTION

Today is a Monday, which means that it is international day in my ‘all time XIs’ cricket series. The international set up in the spotlight today is England.

ENGLAND IN MY TIME

  1. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. England’s all time leading scorer of test runs and test centuries.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. His average for England in this specific role (he played many roles in his long and distinguished career) was 45, excellent for his era. I have opted for him out of my available options because as a right hander of fundamentally attacking inclinations he complements Cook perfectly.
  3. *Michael Vaughan – right handed batter, occasional off spinner, captain. The captaincy did somewhat negatively affect his batting output, as it has done a lot of incumbents, but he was such a good captain that I am prepared to accept that.
  4. Joe Root – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. A magnificent batter, but wasted as captain, a role which is negatively affecting his output.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. There were two choices for the left handed specialist middle order batter, Gower or Graham Thorpe, and I opted for Gower.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Ian Botham’s pomp occurred before I had got seriously into cricket, so I could not honestly include him in this XI, which left me two choices for the all-rounder, Flintoff or Stokes, and I regarded Stokes as the better option.
  7. +Matthew Prior – right handed batter, wicket keeper. This is a thorny one, which I shall be going into more detail on later on. Suffice to say for the present that this is not a selection I am entirely happy with.
  8. Graeme Swann – off spinner, useful lower order batter. The best spinner England have had in my lifetime (although the future in that department looks bright).
  9. Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler. One of the most exciting talents I have ever seen.
  10. Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. Rated number one in the world at his absolute peak.
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium. England’s all time leading test wicket taker.

This team has a decent balance, although there is only one genuine spin option – until very recently England struggled in that department. The batting in strong, and Stokes’ bowling workload should be kept reasonably light with Harmison, Archer, Anderson and Swann also there.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I will split these into playing roles:

  • Opening batters – besides my actual choices there were three outstanding candidates for the positions, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Graham Gooch.
  • Nos 3-5 – the main candidates among those I did not pick were Graham Thorpe, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen. I expect Ollie Pope to force his way in in the next few years.
  • The all-rounder – Flintoff was the only other serious candidate. I saw many ‘all rounders’ who were in truth not up to the job with either bat or ball.
  • The wicketkeeper – Ben Foakes should be England’s current keeper, and if he was he would have been in this team. Jack Russell was a fine keeper who was poorly treated by the selectors of his day. I also considered registering my unhappiness with the behaviour of the current England selectors over the keeping position by naming Sarah Taylor, a magnificent keeper for the England Women’s team.
  • Spinners – None of slow left armers Tufnell, Panesar, Giles or as yet Leach have a record to quite merit selection, nor does leg spinner Rashid. There are various young spinners who may feature in a few years time.
  • Fast bowlers. Mark Wood was in the mix and might have displaced Harmison. Simon Jones was another to merit consideration.

ENGLAND ALL TIME

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. Among the greatest ever to have played the game.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. Averaged 60.73 in test cricket, and 66.85 in the cauldron of The Ashes. Also formed the greatest opening partnership ever seen in test cricket with Hobbs (average stand 87).
  3. *WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career, captain. His test average of 32.29 looks modest, but was achieved between 1880 and 1899, when batting averages were lower, and he was already 32 by the time he made his debut in the first test on English soil in 1880. His record as test captain was excellent – eight wins in 13 matches in that role, another reason for his selection. He usually opened, and I see value in having three recognized openers at the top of the order.
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler. 85 test matches, 7,249 runs at 58.45. Had he not returned to top level action after World War II, when into his forties, he would have had 6,883 test runs at 61.75.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed batter, occasional left arm wrist spinner. He averaged over 50 in test cricket in spite of losing six years of his prime to World War II.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
  7. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. For about the first five years of his career he was an authentic great, and he still had great moments after that for a few more years, although he went on long after his decline had become obvious. He completed the test career double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in 21 matches, 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in 42, maintaining the pace, and then slowed down, reaching the triple double in his 72nd test, while by the end of his career after another 30 matches he had over 5,000 runs, but was still short of 400 wickets.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, useful lower order batter. An eye injury ended his test career after just 15 matches, but 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42 were testament to his effectiveness. He was the first England bowler to take a test hat trick, in a match in which he took seven wickets in each innings and scored a 50.
  9. Fred Trueman – right arm fast bowler.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each. 77 of those wickets came in 13 matches in Australia.
  11. +Herbert Strudwick – wicket keeper. His career was disrupted by World War 1. 28 test matches between 1910 and 1926 saw him take 61 catches and execute 12 stumpings, while his 674 first class appearances saw him achieve 1,495 dismissals.

This team has a very strong top five, two magnificent all rounders at six and seven, a superb keeper and three excellent and varied bowlers. Although he would have share the new ball with Trueman, there is an argument for regarding Barnes, based on descriptions of his method as effectively a leg spinner, which is why I did not select a second front line spinner (Compton is also available as back up).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

It is impossible to cover everyone who would have claims advanced on their behalf, but I shall mention some of the more obvious omissions:

  • Opening batters – I had positive reasons, based on their records, and their amazing success as an opening pair for going for Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and the only other England opener for whom I would consider breaking this pair up is Len Hutton, who was also an all-time great.
  • Nos 3-5 – Eddie Paynter (test average 59.23), Ken Barrington (58.67) and KS Duleepsinhji (58.52) had the highest averages of anyone I omitted, and Paynter in particular as a left handed batter was unfortunate. Peter May who averaged 46 batting in a difficult decade for run scoring (the 1950s) would also have his advocates. Frank Woolley, Patsy Hendren, Phil Mead and KS Rinjitsinhji all also had fine test records, while Colin Cowdrey’s longevity at the highest level was remarkable, and Ted Dexter would also have his advocates.
  • The all-rounders – Andrew Flintoff had a a few magnificent years (2004, 2005, first part of 2006) and had occasional moments either side of that golden period, but cannot displace Botham on any rational assessment. George Hirst, Trevor Bailey and Tony Greig all did good things for England over the years without having records to merit serious consideration.
  • Keepers – England have had some excellent ones, including the three contrasting Kent characters Ames, Evans and Knott, Bob Taylor and JT Murray.
  • Spinners – Jim Laker would have been the conventional selection as an off spinner, There have been a plethora of quality left arm spinners down the years: Johnny Briggs, Bobby Peel, Wilfred Rhodes, Colin Blythe, Roy Kilner, Hedley Verity, Johnny Wardle, Tony Lock and Phil Edmonds of the conventional type, plus the left arm slow-medium of Derek Underwood. Also three bowlers of that type who barely believable given their first class records have a single cap between them: George Dennett, Alonzo Drake and Charlie Parker. There have been fewer leg spinners with really good England records, but Tich Freeman, Ian Peebles and Doug Wright might all have their advocates.
  • Pace bowlers – too many of these to name. I am aware that I have not selected a left arm quick, and the best options in that department among those who got to play for England would be Fred Morley, Frank Foster or Bill Voce, while William Mycroft was at his peak just too early (he took his wickets at 12.09 each in first class cricket).

If naming another five players to make up a standard sized touring party I would choose Paynter and Woolley as reserve batters, Ames officially as reserve keeper, noting that he could also be played as a batter, and noting Woolley’s skill as an left arm orthodox spinner, Lohmann (right arm medium fast, 112 wickets at 10.75 in 18 test matches) and Underwood as my reserve bowlers.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

This links section is to declare my solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and especially to support the activists who toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Had Covid-19 not caused a change of plan for them, soprano Charlotte Hoather and her fiancee, pianist George Todica would have been married this weekend. Instead they settled for giving a wonderful concert from their balcony, posted by Charlotte on her blog yesterday.

Finally it is time for my usual sign off…

IMG_0581 (2)IMG_0583 (2)IMG_0584 (2)IMG_0586 (2)IMG_0587 (2)IMG_0588 (2)IMG_0589 (2)IMG_0590 (2)IMG_0591 (2)IMG_0594 (2)IMG_0595 (2)IMG_0597 (2)IMG_0598 (2)IMG_0599 (2)IMG_0602 (2)IMG_0603 (2)IMG_0604 (2)IMG_0605 (2)IMG_0606 (2)IMG_0607 (2)IMG_0608 (2)IMG_0609 (2)IMG_0611 (2)IMG_0612 (2)

IMG_0613 (2)
This picture, and the next five after it are of a little bird that I spotted for the first time yesterday and captured on camera. My bird book does not offer a conclusive answer, so I post it here to invite comment.

IMG_0613 (3)IMG_0613 (4)IMG_0613 (5)IMG_0613 (6)IMG_0613 (7)IMG_0614 (2)IMG_0615 (2)

England
The teams in tabulated form.