A team of players who performed great deeds when in the veteran stages of their careers.
This post, which revisits all-time XIs territory was inspired by a discussion on radio 5 live about people delivering as veterans. Here therefore is a team composed entirely of players who enjoyed great success during their veteran years.
THE VETERANS XI
Warren Bardsley – left handed opening batter. At the age of 42 he carried his bat through Australia’s first innings at Lord’s in 1926, still the oldest to achieve that feat at test level. His previous test centuries, twin tons at The Oval, had come 17 years previously, a record lapse between test centuries.
Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The Master was 46 when he scored the last of his test centuries, at Melbourne during the 1928-9 Ashes, still the oldest ever to reach three figures at that level (at first class level the palm goes to Billy Quaife of Warwickshire who signed off with a ton in his last first class knock at the age of 56 and 4 months).
Charlie Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. At the age of 40, in the second, third and fourth matches of the 1926 Ashes he peeled of centuries, including reaching one during the morning session of the first day after a wicket had fallen to the first ball of the match at Headingley.
*Misbah-ul-Haq – right handed batter, captain. More test centuries after the age of 40 than anyone else. One of those centuries as a veteran was the quickest in terms of balls faced in test history.
Michael Hussey – left handed batter. He had to wait until he was into his 30s for a test call up, and made full use of it when it finally came. In the 2010-11 Ashes he performed a series-long ‘Casabianca on the burning deck’ act, not quite enough to save his side, but mightily impressive for a veteran.
Imran Khan – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. One of the greatest of all all rounders he came out of retirement to lead his country to World Cup glory in 1992. He was the other possible captain, had I not awarded that distinction to Misbah-ul-Haq.
Richard Hadlee – right arm fast bowler, left handed batter. He just seemed to get better as his career went on. He is to date the only person to have played test cricket after being knighted for cricket reasons (the Hon Sir FS Jackson’s knighthood was bestowed for other reasons, while Sir TC O’Brien was a baronet with the honorific inherited). This team’s number 10 may well join him in this club if he does not consider our honours system irretrievably tainted by some of the recent beneficiaries.
+Bob Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. After spending many years as Alan Knott’s understudy at test level it was in the veteran stage of his career that he became officially England’s first choice keeper. He turned 40 during the Headingley test of 1981, and his career still had three years to run at the top level.
Sydney Francis Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. His greatest test moments were the 1911-2 Ashes (34 wickets, at the age of 38), the 1912 triangular tournament and the 1913-4 tour of South Africa, when at the age of 41 he took 49 wickets in the first four test matches before a quarrel over Ts and Cs led to him missing the final match. He paid just over 10 runs a piece for those last 49 wickets, ending his career with 189 wickets in 27 matches at the highest level, seven per game, which is far more than anyone else to have played a double figure number of test matches (Lohmann, just over six, with 112 wickets in 18 tests is number two on that list). These wickets cost him just 16.43 a piece, and although he played no first class cricket after World War 1, he had professional contracts in various leagues right up to the outbreak of World War 2, meaning that for 44 years of his adult life there was someone willing to pay him to play cricket.
James Anderson – right arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. He has taken more wickets in tests since turning 30 than anyone else in the game’s history, and his wickets in 2021 are currently costing him just 10 a piece.
Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. The Dunedin born leggie had not only to move countries, but then cross two state boundaries to find regular first class cricket. As a result, he was already 33 when called up for his first test match. Even starting that late he took 216 wickets in 37 test appearances, and although he was then 46, many, including his old friend and bowling partner Bill O’Reilly, would have taken to him to England for the 1938 Ashes.
This team has a left/right handed opening combination, three excellent batters one of whom is a left hander in the next three slots, a genuine all rounder at six, a bowling all rounder at seven, one of the greatest of all keepers and three ace bowlers to round out the XI. The bowling is awesome, with Hadlee, Khan and Anderson a formidable pace trio, Barnes the greatest of all bowlers, and two front line spinners in Grimmett and Macartney.
My usual sign off, with the addition of an infographic:
Another variation on the ‘All Time XI’ theme, featuring an XI of Staffordshire born players from which I lead into some suggestions for reforming the County Championship.
Pandemic continues to stop play, and in an attempt to help fill the gap I continue to come up with variations on my ‘All Time XIs‘ theme. Today we have a two part post. The first part of the post presents an XI made up entirely of players born in Staffordshire (who have never enjoyed first class status). The second part of the post makes some suggestions for reform of the County Championship which will doubtless engender reactions ranging all the way from endorsement to people reaching for pins and waxen images.
BORN IN STAFFORDSHIRE XI
John Steele – we met this right handed opener and occasional purveyor of left arm spin when I did my post about Leicestershire.
*Danielle Wyatt – current star of the England Women’s team, an attack minded opener who also bowls off spin. She has centuries in both T20Is and ODIs to her credit,though she has yet to be given her chance in a test match (the women play far too few of these contests). I have taken a punt by naming her as captain of this XI, but it is my belief that she would do the job well – and I would bet money that a game with her as captain would be worth watching.
Kim Barnett – attack minded batter and occasional leg spinner, who enjoyed a distinguished career with Derbyshire before moving to Gloucestershire. I would hope that some flexibility would be shown of the batting positions of him and David Steele – in general of Wyatt was out first I would want him in next, while if John Steele fell first I would send brother David in to replace him at the crease, the plan being where circumstances permit to avoid having both blockers or both hitters together.
Frank Sugg – a right handed bat who played first for Derbyshire, and then having discovered that he had been born in Smethwick (Cricinfo lists him as born in Ilkeston and lists him as having also played for Lancashire, but the Derbyshire chapter in the book “County Champions” says otherwise, and I go with them).
Brian Crump – an all rounder who played for Northants, batting right handed and bowling right arm medium pace and off spin.His 221 first class matches yielded 8,789 runs and 914 wickets.
+Bob Taylor – a wicket keeper and right handed bat, with more first class dismissals to his credit than any other.
Dominic Cork– a right arm medium fast bowler and aggressive lowe order bat. He took 7-43 in the second innings of his England debut at Lord’s in 1995, and the highlights of his somewhat chequered international career also include a hat trick. He also suffered from the desperation of people involved with English cricket at the time to find all rounders – his undoubted skill with the ball and his moments as a lower order batter were blown out of all proportion (the then 20 year old me was guilty of allowing the wish to be the father of the thought in this case – mea culpa). He played for Derbyshire, Lancashire andHampshire in county cricket.
Sydney Barnes – yes , the one and only SF Barnes (see my Lancashire post, and the ‘Underappreciate Ashes’), probably the greatest bowler the game ever saw. He played a few games for Warwickshire in 1894-5 and a couple of full seasons at Lancashire in the early 1900s, but mainly plied his trade in the northern Leagues and for his native Staffordshire. Incidentally, while he did not a lot when he turned our for Warwickshire, they also did have a problem in the 1890s with recognizing talent when they saw it – the Warwickshire yearbook of 1897 contains the memorable phrase “it was not possible to offer a contract to W Rhodes of Huddersfield” – and yes it was the one and only Wilfred they were referring to – a genuine rival to Essex’s failure to respond to Jack Hobbs’ letter to them requesting a trial! Incidentally the then NSW selectors nearly perpetrated a miss to rival even these because some of them were in doubt as to whether it was worth forking out for a return rail fare for the lad so that they could have a closer look at a certain DG Bradman!
Jason Brown – off spinner who took part in an England tour to Sri Lanka in 2001. He did not break into the team on that tour, and subsequently a combination of injuries and the rise of Monty Panesar blocked further chances for international recognition.
Eric Hollies – leg spinner, and the most genuine of genuine number 11s.
This team features a solid front five, an all rounder, a record breaking keeper who tended to score his runs when they were most needed and four varied bowlers, two of whom, Cork and Barnes had the capacity to weigh in with useful runs. It is certainly an impressive collection of talent for what has never been a first class county.
POSSIBLE REFORMS TO THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
I am going to start this section by presenting some suggestions which I will expand on:
To expand on the above points:
1) The bonus point system as it currently stands offers up to five batting points and three bowling points to each team, awarded only during the first 110 overs of each team’s first innings. The batting bonus points are awarded when the score reaches 200, 250, 300, 350, and if it happens inside 110 overs 400, while the bowling points are awarded for taking 3, 6 and 9 wickets, so long as those milestones are reached within the 110 overs. This comes on top of 16 points for a win and 5 points for a draw. The 110 over limit is designed to encourage teams to try to score reasonably quick in their first dig and to bowl for wickets, but the truth is that few teams manage to claim a full haul of batting points, and occasions on which full bowling points are not garnered are fairly rare. It can lead to situations where teams do things that they would not normally even be thinking about (a prime example being the farce involving a prearranged declaration that Middlesex and Yorkshire perpetrated when they knew that an outright win for either of them would give that side the championship at the expense of Somerset, who were top having completed their programme). Yorkshire deliberately bowled badly on that occasion to allow Middlesex to get far enough ahead for the intended declaration. I have no objection (not in the slightest) to genuine declarations, and to batting sides trying to put themselves in position to do so by attacking bowling that it is intended to make life difficult for them, but I despise the notion of deliberately giving the opposition runs to keep a game alive – why were neither of the contending sides prepared to go the aggressive route without relying on co-operation from the other? My 5-1 ratio of points for a win and a draw may be an insufficient margin, but a draw should have some reward attached to it – to anyone telling me that there is no such thing as a good draw, I would a) tell them not to talk nonsense (publishable version) and b) mention a few of the classics such as Old Trafford 2005 and Brisbane 2010.
2) On pitch preparation: whatever the official guidelines say, pitches that offer turn early in the game get viewed more harshly than pitches which assist seamers, which in turn are generally viewed more harshly than shirtfronts. This is in my opinion is wrongheaded – the game is more fun when spinners are involved, so pitches that allow that should be encouraged, while given that conditions in April and September mean that a preponderance of green pitches is always likely at those times, and that there is good chance of seamers getting overcast skies to help them further. Shirtfronts produce games that are utterly uninteresting, boosting the averages of various batters, but not really helping even them – batters who fare well on flat tracks are frequently exposed when the pitch does a bit, because they get away with things on flat tracks which would see them dismissed on livelier surfaces. So, I would almost never punish a team for having a pitch the offered spinners overmuch, would not be harsh on greentops in April and September, but would punish anyone who produced one in mid season, as then it would clearly be deliberate, and I would be down like a ton of bricks on anyone producing a shirtfront.
3)Over rates – this one is a problem that blights test cricket more than county cricket, but I have known some late finishes when listening to commentaries of county games, and I believe that my scheme should be rolled out at that level before then being extended to test level. There might be a few early matches in which extras, swelled by penalty runs, threatened to score at a Bradmanesque rate, but I am pretty sure that it would not take long for the message to sink in.
4)The first part of this post demonstrated just one minor county that has produced serious talent, and they are not alone – Norfolk have provided the Edriches (all six of the English Edriches are members of the same family) and a few others over the years, Berkshire boasts among its products the Bedsers (EA and AV),Peter May, Ken Barrington, Tom Dollery and in the women’s game Claire Taylor the batter (as opposed to Clare Taylor, the Yorkshire medium pacer) and other minor counties have similar stories, and it is my belief that there should be more movement between minor and first class county status – first class counties should have to prove that they merit that status and failure to do so should mean being temporarily supplanted by a minor county. The introduction of promotion and relegation into the county championship was just one of a raft of changes made at that time which had a telling effect on England’s fortunes (remember folks, England were bottom of the test rankings in 1999, and while there have been a few dips in the 21 years since then they have never seriously threatened to occupy that place again). Jack Hobbswho I mentioned earlier, and Tom Hayward, his great Surrey predecessor, and the man who persuaded Surrey to give him a chance (and there were those at the time who did not approve) were both natives of Cambridgeshire.
I would like to see more County Championship action at the height of the season and less at the extreme ends thereof as well.
Well that is today’s exhibit from the Museum of All Time XIs revealed, and it now remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…
Continuing my series of “All Time XIs” with Derbyshire. We are approaching not the end, but the end of the beginning of this series, as I have just one more first class county to do.
Welcome the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today the focus is on Derbyshire, alphabetically the first of the 18 first class counties. Those who have been following this series in detail will realize that this is the 17th county to be looked at so far. Tomorrow’s post about Durham will not be the end of the series, merely the end of the beginning, an occasion I shall mark by creating a page with links to all 18 county posts (I already have several more posts mentally mapped out. Before getting to the main meat of this post I wish to start with…
BIG UP TO THE FULLTOSS BLOG
The Fulltoss blog, which I follow avidly and recommend you to do likewise, have been given an honourable mention in Wisden Cricketers Almanack (see yesterday’s Sussex post for more about the both the name Wisden and the origin of the publication), for which they deserve the heartiest of congratulations. Check out this recent fulltoss post inviting readers to nominate the greatest innings they have ever seen.
DERBYSHIRE ALL TIME XI
Stan Worthington – an opening batter of the 1920s and 1930s, who appeared briefly for England. He managed a test hundred, which in Derbyshire terms places him in elite company.
Kim Barnett – a Derbyshire stalwart for many years who gained a few England caps and did not do altogether badly at that level. He was also known to bowl serviceable leg spin. At the end of his long career he fell out with Derbyshire and decamped to Gloucestershire.
Charles Ollivierre – one of the first Caribbean born cricketers (preceded in that regard by Lord Harris of Kent and a contemporary of Pelham Warner of Middlesex, both of whom were born in that part of the world and captained England) to appear in county cricket. He hailed from the island of St Vincent, and first came to England with a touring West Indian team in 1900 (WI gained test status only in 1928) and then settled in Derbyshire, who found him a clerical job while he was qualifying by residence. In the 1904 match against Essexat Chesterfield in which Percy Perrin made 343 not out in ultimately losing cause Ollivierre scored 229 and 92 not out for Derbyshire. Technically he does not count as an overseas player, but since I have not selected an official overseas player you can regard him as such if you insist.
Albert Alderman – a consistent and reliable batter at a time when Derbyshire were especially weak in this department.
George Davidson – for a long time he held the record individual score for the county with 274, which innings was moreover his maiden first class hundred. Also a useful bowler of medium pace but unlikely to be needed in that regard by this team.
*Arthur Morton – a tough, determined batter who bowled both medium pace and off spin, the latter of which would be more required in this side. He often made his runs when they at a premium. At Chesterfield in 1914 against Yorkshire he and his team were caught on a rain affected pitch, and of the 68 that they managed to scrape up precisely 50 came from the bat of Morton. The last eight Derbyshire wickets crashed for just four runs, and the last six without addition in the space of just eight balls (Alonzo Drake finished one over by taking four wickets in four balls, and then another rather better known left arm spinner, Rhodes, took the remaining two in the next four balls). I have named his as captain of this side.
+Bob Taylor – more first class dismissals (1,473 catches and 176 stumpings) than any other wicket keeper in the game’s history. His batting is often denigrated, but a six hour 97 at Adelaide on the 1978-9 tour that put England in control of both match and Ashes series indicates that not only could he do it, he could do it when the team really needed it. In 1986 when England’s chosen wicketkeeper, Bruce Frenchof Nottinghamshire, suffered a freak injury, Taylor, then 45 and retired for two years, left a glad-handing role in a hospitality tent to don the gloves as substitute until a proper replacement (Bobby Parks of Hampshire being the choice) could get to the ground.
Billy Bestwick – right arm fast bowler and lower order batter. He was in his mid forties when he took all ten Glamorgan wickets in an innings. He was the father of the father-and-son pair of Bestwicks who opened the bowling against the Warwickshire pair of Willie and Bernard Quaife, also father and son. In the 1904 Chesterfield match mentioned in connection with Ollivierre it was he with assistance from Arnold Warren who destroyed the Essex second innings. He had some turbulent times (including a brush with a manslaughter conviction after a pub brawl) but his skill and stamina were both undoubted.
Les Jackson – right arm fast bowler, with an amazing first class record (1,733 wickets at 17 a piece between 1947 and 1963) whose test appearances were limited to two, largely one suspects because the establishment deemed him insufficiently willing to tug his forelock at appropriate moments (in those beggarly two games he collected 7 wickets at 22).
William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler of immense stamina, who had a magnificent record in the 1870s. I shall have more to say about him in the next section of this post. There is also a theory that Conan Doyle, a huge cricket fan, and indeed a fine player, who once dismissed WG Grace (albeit that worthy already had a ton to his name) named Mycroft Holmes in honour of William and his brother Thomas, a wicket keeper, while the other brother Sherlock was a fusion of the Notts pair Sherwin and Shacklock, likewise a fast bowler and keeper.
Tommy Mitchell – leg spinner, he was a bit part player in Jardine’s 1932-3 Ashes winning tour party, but his county record was excellent, and the guy he could not displace as England’s number one spinner was Hedley Verity, a man whose test wickets cost 24 in spite of the inflationary effects on the bowling average of being opposed toBradman, while his first class wickets cost 14.9 a piece.
This team has a solid top six, with a genuine all rounder in Morton and three others (Barnett, Worthington and Davidson) who could bowl usefully, the most prolific wicket keeper of all time and four specialist bowlers who are well varied and of high quality. The spin bowling is a little thin, with only Mitchell and Morton genuinely recognized in that department, while the question with the pacers was always who would be unlucky, this has historically been Derbyshire’s only really strong department.
HAMPSHIRE V DERBYSHIRE 1876 – EVERYTHING BUT A MATCHWINNER
This match, chapter two in Patrick Murphy’s “Fifty Incredible Cricket Matches”, my copy of which has not survived the ravages of time, but of which I have reasonably clear memories stands out as one the game’s great hard luck stories. William Mycroft captured 17 wickets with his own bowling, held a catch and took part in the biggest stand of the Derbyshire first innings. Yet at the end, Hampshire, courtesy of one Reginald Hargreaves (35 not out at the death) sneaked home by one wicket. Few can have so dominated a match that their team ended up losing. In those days there was a mechanism referred to as ‘switching ends’, by which a bowler was allowed by two consecutive overs on occasion (but never three), which explains why Mycroft bowled so many overs, as shown in the report and scorecard from the relevant pages of my “Wisden Cricket Anthology: 1864-1900”) appended in photographic form.
A brief footnote: Hargreaves, the batting hero (or villain), also has a curious literary connection – he married Alice Pleasance Liddell, otherwise known as the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through The Looking Glass”.
Starting with those of fairly recent times, fast bowler Devon Malcolm (who later appeared for Leicestershire and Northamptonshire) was unlucky to miss out, given that he has a test match nine for to his credit. Fast medium bowler and useful lower order batter Dominic Cork might be considered unlucky, but Morton was a more complete player. Off spinning “all rounder” Geoff Miller, a contemporary of Bob Taylor’s, was actually not good enough in either department to merit a place (although he later did a good job as national selector). Mike Hendrick, a high class operator on the quick side of medium was overly worried about being hit and therefore tended no to pitch the ball up enough to get the wickets he should have done – he never managed a test five-for, which his best known England captain, Brearley, attributed to this failing (in “The Art of Captaincy” and his various Ashes accounts). There was an absolute stack of pace bowlers who had good records – Arnold Warren, George Pope, Bill Copson and Cliff Gladwinbeing the four most obvious. Danish express Ole Mortensen might also be thought unlucky in certain circles. Leg spinner Garnet Lee came close, but Mitchell was definitely superior. As far as I am aware, although I am open to correction, Derbyshire have never had a high class left arm spinner. Billyand Harry Storer both had solid records for the county, and but for Taylor’s achievements in that department Billy could have been nominated for the keeping role. Peter Bowler was a useful but dull batter (he later played for Somerset), and a candidate along with Kent specialist fast bowler Arthur Fielder for the “Oxymoron XI” if I can find nine others who did not do what their name suggests, however the fact that he topped 150 three times in a single season is not quite enough to warrant inclusion.
In view of the selection of Ollivierre I opted to eschew an official overseas player. Had I named one the honour would have gone to Michael Holding, aka “Whispering Death”, who would have replaced Les Jackson, and batted at no 8 above Billy Bestwick. Eddie Barlow was a tough all-rounder who many would have considered for the overseas player role, and the captaincy.
Performing this exercise with Derbyshire as the subject has been tough for the reverse of the usual reasons. The general problem one encounters when doing this is just where the truest gold is located in amongst a positive embarrassment of riches, but with the signal exception of pace bowling options the problem here is the reverse one of actually finding anyone good enough.
Our look at Derbyshire is complete, and all that is left is my usual sign off…