All Time XIs – The Letter C

Continuing my all-time XIs theme with a look at the letter C.

The temperature here is back to what would be expected of England in July after two days of serious heat. Peterborough, just over an hour to the west of me by bus was one of various UK places to top 40 degrees yesterday, while the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge, south of me, clocked 39.9. Holbeach and Marham, either side of King’s Lynn and closer still, both also had temperatures between 39 and 40. I am continuing my series of all-time XI posts with a look at the letter C.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Shivnarine Chanderpaul (Lancashire, West Indies). The Guyanese super stacker was not a regular opener, but with due respect to his achievements this season I could hardly pick Ben Compton, and nor did any other regular openers beginning with C jump out at me. I reckon he can handle the job, and as you will see going down the order I have a stack of quality players who belong in the middle order.
  2. Colin Cowdrey (Kent, England). Not a full time opener, but he did the job with success during the low scoring 1956 Ashes series. Also, when summoned out as an emergency replacement to the 1974-5 tour as a 42 year old who was short of practice, he stood up to the terrifying pace of Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee as well as any top order English batter (only middle order batters Greig and Knott could be said to fare well with the bat in this series).
  3. *Ian Chappell (Australia). Had an excellent record as a test match number three and was also a shrewd and ruthless skipper, a role I have no hesitation in assigning to him in this XI.
  4. Denis Compton (Middlesex, England). To maintain an average of 50 over a career of 78 test matches which was disrupted by six years of war and a knee injury one has to be class player. Denis Charles Scott Compton was also a prime entertainer. In addition to the batting he was a fine fielder and bowled presentable left arm wrist spin.
  5. Greg Chappell (Somerset, Australia). The first Australian to top 7,000 test runs, one of the safest slip catchers in the game’s history and an occasional bowler of both leg spin and medium pace.
  6. Learie Constantine (Nelson, West Indies). I mention his Lancashire League club, a club he served phenomenally when is his prime because his deeds as a league Pro are an essential part of the package that was Learie Constantine. An attacking batter, a fast bowler (before later turning to medium pace and spin with the odd quicker one interspersed) and one of the greatest of all fielders, he was a true all rounder.
  7. +Hanson Carter (Australia). The Yorkshire born keeper took over behind the stumps from the long serving Jim Kelly and yielded his spot to the legendary Bert Oldfield. He loses little even by comparison to these legends of the stumper’s art.
  8. Rakheem Cornwall (West Indies). Off spinner and useful lower order batter. He is on my own admission the most questionable pick in this side, but I have opted for him to give the bowling attack extra balance.
  9. Patrick Cummins (Australia). Currently the best test match fast bowler in the world, and a better batter than his test average suggests.
  10. Colin Croft (West Indies). Another fast bowler, similar in height and in bowling with his right arm to Cummins, also has a magnificent record, but the two are utterly dissimilar in other ways. He has the best innings figures in test cricket by a WI fast bowler, 8-29. He was also the second after Gary Gilmour to take a six-for in an ODI (6-15). I have positioned him one place above his usual spot in the batting order because there is an even more undisputed no11 to come…
  11. Bhagwath Chandrasekhar (India). One of a quartet of spinners to play for India in the 1970s (Bedi and Prasanna were both also indisputably world class, Venkataraghavan less so). He bowled leg spin at a fairly brisk pace, turning the withering of his right arm by childhood polio into a huge plus for himself. Only one bowler not have played county championship cricket took more FC wickets than Chandra, another leg spinner in Clarrie Grimmett.

This side contains a powerful top five (the only conceivable question mark there being whether Chanderpaul could handle the opening gig), a genuine all rounder, a keeper who can bat and varied quartet of bowlers. Cummins, Croft and Constantine are a fine trio of pacers, and leg spinner Chandrasekhar and off spinner Cornwall constitute a decent spin attack. In support if needed are Compton, G Chappell and Chanderpaul in that order of preference.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Sir Alastair Cook might have had the slot I gave to Chanderpaul, but my feeling having witnessed both is that the Guyanese was the better cricketer. Cook benefitted from being part of an exceedingly strong line up, something Chanderpaul rarely experienced. Another Cook, Jimmy of South Africa, is the ultimate ‘what might have been?’ – his domestic record was outstanding, but bearing in mind another southern African, Graeme Hick, I have to rule him out.

The best batter I was unable to accommodate was Martin Crowe (Somerset, New Zealand). I had positive reasons for including Compton and the Chappells (including the captaincy in the case of the most vulnerable of the trio to the Crowe challenge, Ian Chappell) rather than negative reasons for leaving Crowe out. Michael ‘Pup’ Clarke had a fine test record, but not quite the equal of anyone I selected. Another Aussie named Clarke, Belinda, might have got an opening slot. Medium pacer and useful lower order batter Tom Cartwright was the challenger to Cornwall for the number eight slot, and if you prefer relying on one front line spinner I accept that. Albert ‘Tibby’ Cotter, an Australian fast bowler who was killed during WWI was on the fringes, as was West Indian Sylvester Clarke. Neither Lance nor Chris Cairns quite merited a place. I end with the reverse of an honourable mention: Zak Crawley is a current England opener, but few have ever been less deserving of the position – his record is an opener puts him down in the ‘Brearley without the captaincy’ class, and even for Kent he barely averages 30 an innings.

PHOTOGRAPHS

All Time XIs – Playing Cards vs Alliterative

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket themed piece of whimsy pits an XI with connections to playing cards against an XI with alliterative names.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s ‘all time XI‘ cricket themed exercise sees an eleven whose names have an association with playing cards take on an eleven whose first names and surnames begin with the same letter. There are a few extra sections in which I explain various selection difficulties as well.

THE PLAYING CARD XI

Playing cards is a well known way of passing time in the pavilion when not directly involved in the action. Apart from his distaste for ‘taking candy off babies’ one of the explanations offered for Keith Miller’s first baller at Southend in 1948 (the 721 in a day match) is that he was enjoying a winning streak at the card table, which further increased his disinclination to involve himself with the slaughter of the Essex bowling. Mike Brearley once had some stern words to say about card playing in the Middlesex dressing room, creating a brief silence which was punctuated when someone finally piped up “whose deal is it then?”. Finally, at Melbourne in 1982 Australia resumed on the final day needing 37 to win with one wicket left, and Rod Marsh insisted that those in the pavilion should resume what they had been doing in the final session of the previous day, which in the case of Marsh and a handful of others meant playing cards and drinking beer. Marsh’s ‘superstitionship’ as Stephen Potter would have called it proved unavailing, as England did eventually get that last wicket and won by three runs.

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The jack is the lowest ranking picture card in the deck, sometimes referred to as the knave.
  2. Jack Robertson – right handed opening batter. A worthy opening partner for ‘the master’.
  3. Collis King – right handed batter. His most famous innings was played in the final of the 1979 World Cup, when he and Viv Richards took England’s bowlers to the cleaners.
  4. Ryan ten Doeschate – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. The Dutchman had a first class batting average of 46, and in ODIs for the Netherlands he averaged 67. He is the only one who gets in by association with a spot card – courtesy of having ten in his name.
  5. *Jack Mason – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler, excellent captain. He played regularly between 1893 and 1906, after which his work as a solicitor restricted his appearances. He averaged 33 with the bat in first class cricket and took his wickets at 22 runs each. As well as his considerable skill as a player he was a highly rated captain. Frank Woolley, not generally noted for hyperbole, rated him the best captain he ever saw.
  6. Jack Gregory – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ace slip fielder.
  7. John King – left handed batter, left arm medium pacer. He had a fine record for Leicestershire over the years.
  8. +Jack Board – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Good enough to amass nine first class hundreds over the years, with a best of 214, but not a consistently big scorer – he averaged 19.37 in first class cricket, which I believe is the lowest for someone who scored a double century, with Jason Gillespie averaging 19.59 and having a best of 201 not out. However, 851 catches and 355 stumpings are the real reasons for his inclusion.
  9. Bart King – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. 415 first class wickets at 15.66.
  10. Jack Walsh – left arm wrist spinner.
  11. Jack Saunders – left arm medium pace bowler, left arm orthodox spinner. His 14 test matches left him with a batting average of 2.29, but also 79 wickets at 22.73, including an Ashes retaining moment, when he cleaned up Fred Tate at Old Trafford in 1902 to give Australia victory by three runs and put them 2-1 up with one to play, meaning that as Ashes holders they kept possession of the urn.

This team has a solid batting line up, with everyone down to Bart King at no 9 capable of significant contributions. The bowling, with Bart King and Jack Gregory taking the new ball, pace back up available from Mason, John King, Saunders in his quicker style and at a pinch ten Doeschate, and Walsh and Saunders offering different styles of left arm spin also looks impressive.

NEAR MISSES AND EXCLUSIONS

Jack Brown of Yorkshire was an excellent opening batter, and I was close to including him. Two players known as ‘Jack’ who I had to disqualify on grounds that it should be considered a nickname and not genuinely connected to their first names were Clifton James Richards of Surrey and Robert Charles Russell of Gloucestershire. Another great wicket keeper who missed out was Jack Blackham Australia’s first test wicket keeper. Surrey’s 21 year old batter who bowls a bit Will Jacks does not yet have a record of sufficient substance to merit inclusion, but there is certainly talent there, and his time may well come. Doubtless readers will have examples of their own.

THE ALLITERATIVE XI

Now it is time to defy that famously contradictory ‘commandment’: Always assiduously avoid all alliteration…

  1. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. 8,900 test runs at 42.38
  2. Gordon Greenidge – right handed opening batter. 7,558 test runs at 44.72. These two could have become a regular opening pair, because the Barbados born Greenidge was educated in Reading, and might have chosen to throw his lot in with England rather than the West Indies.
  3. Richie Richardson – right handed batter. 5,949 test runs at 44.39. At the height of his career he was ranked no 1 batter in the world.
  4. Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. 7,227 test runs at 62.84 to date, an average that if he maintains it will see him second to Bradman among those who have played 20 or more tests.
  5. Colin Cowdrey – right handed batter. 7,624 test runs at 44.06. He played 114 test matches in all, and was the first to play a three figure number of such games.
  6. Mushtaq Mohammad – right handed batter, leg spinner. 3,643 test runs at 39.17, 79 wickets at 29.22.
  7. Sydney Smith – left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. Born in the West Indies, he played most of his career for Northamptonshire. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball in first class cricket, missing out the career double of 10,000 runs and 1,000 wickets by 45 wickets.
  8. *Frank Foster – left arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. He averaged 26.61 with the bat and 20.75 with the ball in first class cricket, and he took an average of 4.5 wickets per match.
  9. +Robert Charles ‘Jack’ Russell – wicket keeper, left handed batter. A very handy person to be coming at no 9, but it is his 1,192 first class catches and 128 stumpings that get him the nod.
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 test wickets in his 133 appearances at that level – an average of six wickets per game.
  11. Colin Croft – right arm fast bowler. With Garner, Holding, Roberts and the young Malcolm Marshall as colleagues he was part of the meanest fast bowling machine ever assembled by any side in the history of cricket.

This team has an excellent top five, three genuine all rounders, a keeper who is by no means a ‘bunny’ with the bat and two master bowlers at 10 and 11. The bowling, with Croft and Frank Foster sharing the new ball, and Murali, Sydney Smith and Mushtaq Mohammad to bowl varieties of spin looks strong and well balanced. An extra quick would be nice, but accommodating them would be tricky.

SPECIAL MENTION: PETER POLLOCK

The best alliteratively named fast bowler after Croft is Peter Pollock of South Africa. Croft played 27 test matches and took 125 wickets at 23.30 at that level. Pollock played 28 test matches and took 116 wickets at 24.18. The only two players I could drop to accommodate Pollock would be Richie Richardson or Colin Cowdrey.

AWESOMELY ALLITERATIVE ASSOCIATES

Cecil Charles Coles Case, known as ‘Box’, obviously wins the alliterativeness stakes hands down, but he was a specialist batter who averaged only 22, so I could not include him. Robert Richard Relf, a Sussex bowler of fast medium pace and good enough batter that his career averages were the right way round (28.41 with the bat, 27.49 with the ball) was very close to inclusion, but Foster’s clear superiority as a bowler and the fact the he bowled left arm got him the nod.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

There were huge numbers of possibilities. William Maldon Woodfull was a fine opening batter for Australia, but was generally called Bill. Conversely Billy Bates, the England off spinning all rounder was actually Willie in full, and hence he appears in records as W Bates. John Jameson had a fine record for Warwickshire but was a distinct cut below the very highest class. Paul Parker was a magnificent fielder but did not quite have the batting record to justify a place. Two Aussie keepers, Ben Barnett and Richie Robinson might have had Russell’s place, as might Ben Brown of Sussex or the Indians Parthiv Patel and Deep Dasgupta, but I felt it would be harsh to rule him out of two XIs on the same day. A hard hitting middle order batter and sometimes effective purveyor of medium pace who might have his advocates is the Aussie Mitchell Marsh. George Geary’s CV includes two Ashes winning moments, as he took the last wicket to fall at The Oval in 1926, and belted the four through mid on that won the match at Melbourne in 1928-9 to put England 3-0 up with only two matches to play. Chris Cairns the Kiwi all rounder would have his advocates as well. Two fine fast bowlers of the 19th century, John ‘Foghorn’ Jackson and Martin McIntyre, both with Nottingham connections, were also among the possibles. Finally, 23 year old George Garton has shown some promise as a left arm fast bowler, but his record needs considerable improvement before he can be considered. Two players named Willie Watson, the Yorkshire and England left handed batter and the Kiwi right arm medium pacer might have their advocates, while another Yorkie, Tom Taylor enjoyed some success in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Mulvantrai Himmatlal ‘Vinoo’ Mankad was a possibility for the place I gave to Sydney Smith, and Bishan Bedi was a great left arm orthodox spinner. Pakistani batter Wajahatullah Wasti one scored twin tons in a test match, but his overall record did not quite merit inclusion.

THE CONTEST

The only thing I can say for sure about this contest, which in honour of a great writer about the game I shall describe as being for the ‘Raymond Robertson-Glasgow Trophy’ is that it would be an absolute humdinger.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time now for my usual sign off…

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PC v A
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – Kent

My ‘All Time XIs’ series continues with a look at Kent.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we look at Kent, and although there will no controversies to match one of my omissions from yesterday’s Lancashire side, this one has also had its challenges.

KENT ALL TIME XI

  1. Bill Ashdown – an attack minded opening bat. He holds the record for the highest individual Kent score, 332, made in just over a day against Essex at Brentwood. Kent were 623-2 at the close of the first day, Ashdown 300 not out, and declared at 803-4 and then bowled Essex out twice to win by an innings and 192 runs. His medium pace bowling was also sometimes of use to the team. He and Sussex pro Bert Wensley once teamed up to defeat a village XI in a reprise of an event that happened a century previously. The original match came about because the landlord of the village pub grew so incensed with the boasting of its team the he told them he would find two players who could beat them without team mates. He came back with two of the best players of the day, and they duly beat the village team. A century later the event was recreated with Ashdown and Wensley taking on the villagers, and the result was the same, a victory for the pros. In the field Ashdown and Wensley alternated between bowling and keeping wicket, meaning that there were just two gaps in the field – the off side and the on side! Andrew Ward’s “Cricket’s Strangest Matches” features this game.
  2. Arthur Fagg – in 1938 at Colchester he scored 244 and 202 not out in the same match, the only time in first class history that anyone has hit two double centuries in a game. Once his playing days were done he became an umpire.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter who scored 58,969 first class runs including 145 centuries, 2,066 wickets with his left arm spin at less than 20 a piece and 1,018 catches, the most in first class history by anyone who did not keep wicket. He was an integral part of Kent’s first four county championships. He was picked in every England team for a 19 year period (1909-28) – a run which today would give anyone achieving it about 250 test appearances as opposed to his final total of 64. In 1921 at Lord’s when everyone else was being blown away by Gregory and McDonald he scored 95 and 93. In the 1924-5 Ashes he and his county colleague Freeman shared a ninth wicket stand of 128 in ultimately losing cause. His greatest test with the ball was at The Oval in 1912 in the match that settled the Triangular Tournament (an experiment which was ruined by the weather, the weakness of the third team, South Africa, and the fact the the Aussies were hit by a serious dispute) in England’s favour. In that match Woolley had combined figures of 10-49. His volume of cricket related memoir “King of Games” is an excellent read, and I would also recommend Ian Peebles‘ “Woolley: The Pride of Kent”. It is partly on ground of the tactical thoughts expounded in “King of Games” that I have awarded Woolley the captaincy, a post that due to the class-based obsession with amateur captains that prevailed in his day he never actually held.
  4. Colin Cowdrey – a right handed batter who made a record six tours of Australia, the last of them at the age of 42 when he answered an SOS call and replaced his intended festive season with a trip out to attempt to counter Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. At the time his career ended his 114 test match appearances were an all comers record and his tally of 7,624 runs at that level was an England record, while his 22 centuries were a joint record with Wally Hammond. He was part of a family that currently stands alone in having produced four successive generations of first class cricketers (his father Ernest played a handful of games, two of his sons Graham and Chris were stalwarts of Kent in the 1980s and 1990s and his grandson Fabian played for Kent and now commentates on Kent games for local radio. The Tremletts with Maurice, Tim and Chris and the Headleys with George, Ron and Dean have each had three successive generations of first class cricketers and may yet get a fourth.
  5. Fuller Pilch – rated as the best batter of his era. He also featured in a dismissal that suggests a somewhat overly lively pitch – in the Gentlemen vs Players match of 1837 his dismissal reads ‘hat knocked on wicket’. He is one of two players from this era in my Kent team. He was noted for using a bat with a long blade and a short handle.
  6. +Leslie Ames – the only recognized wicketkeeper ever to score a hundred first class hundreds. The ‘wicket keeper’s double’ of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in the same season was achieved three times in history, and two of those were by Ames. In 1929 he pouched 78 catches and executed 49 stumpings, for a total of 127 dismissals. He won the Walter Lawrence trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season twice in the first three years of its existence, and his career high score of 295 took a mere three and a half hours. His test best of 149 came against the West Indies at Sabina Park in 1929-30, when Andrew Sandham scored 325, skipper Calthorpe was overly doctrinaire about not enforcing the follow on in a timeless match (England led by 563 on first innings!) and two days of rain and the necessity of England catching their boat home caused this timeless match to be drawn, with the West Indies 408-5 needing a further 428 to win (yes – they were set 836).
  7. Alfred Mynn – a fast bowling all rounder from the same era as Pilch. He was known as ‘The Lion of Kent’, and would appear in both his physical build and his approach to the game to have been the Freddie Flintoff of the 1830s and 40s.
  8. Arthur Fielder – right arm fast bowler, and useful lower order batter. He once scored 112 not out from no 11, as he and Frank Woolley added 235 for the last wicket.
  9. Tich Freeman – a diminutive (5’2″) leg spinner who made use of his extreme lack of height by releasing the ball upwards so that it spent most of its journey towards the batter above their eyeline. He stands second in the all time list of first class wicket takers with 3,776. In the 1928 season he collected 304 wickets, and he also holds second and third place if the list of season wicket hauls with 298 and 295. He stands alone in having taken all 10 wickets in a first class innings on three separate occasions. He took 386 five wicket innings hauls in his astonishing career and bagged 10 in a match 140 times.
  10. Colin Blythe – a left arm spinner who was killed during World War One, but not before he had taken a lot of wickets very cheaply. Against Northamptonshire in 1907 he took 17-48 in the match, and according to Woolley, writing in “The King of Games” he came within touching distance of getting all twenty in that match. As Woolley describes it, Blythe took all 10 in the first innings, and had the first seven in the second innings, before Vials, the last remaining Northants batter of any substance offered a return catch, which would have left Blythe a couple of absolute rabbits to polish off to claim an ‘all twenty’. Blythe dropped the catch and was apparently so discomposed by doing so that he was unable to refocus on his bowling, and the Kent captain had reluctantly to put another bowler on to finish it. He took 2,503 first class wickets at 16, and his 100 test wickets came in 19 games at that level.
  11. Fred Martin – a left arm fast bowler who took over 900 wickets for Kent at 19 a piece. He was selected for England at The Oval in 1890, and recorded 6-50 in the first innings and 6-52 in the second, still a match record for an England debutant.

These choices give me a team with a strong top five, a wicketkeeper who made big runs at a rapid pace at no 6, a fast bowling all-rounder at 7 and four bowlers of widely varying type. The bowling resources this side has include a left arm fast bowler, two right arm fast bowlers, a leg spinner and two slow left armers, plus Ashdown’s occasional medium pace if needed.  The next section will look to the present and future, and then I will look at some of the other players I have missed out.

KENT PRESENT AND FUTURE

This section deals with three current Kent players who part of the England setup and a fourth who may well become so. Joe Denly, a stop gap selection at no 3 in the test team, has produced a string of consistent performances since taking on the role. I suspect that when play resumes again post Covid-19 he will be displaced as England will go with Sibley, Burns, Crawley as their top three. Zak Crawley was elevated to international level without having what most would consider any considerable weight of achievement ad domestic level in the bank but has unquestionably thrived at the top level, and I suspect that if I revisit this series in ten years or so he will be challenging Ashdown or Fagg for one of those openers slots. Sam Billings is part of the England limited overs setup, but unlikely to feature in test selections. His wicket keeping will not be factor, given Kent’s illustrious history in that department, but were I selecting with white ball cricket in mind he would definitely be a candidate. Finally, Oliver Graham Robinson (as opposed to Sussex medium pacer and useful lower order batter Oliver Edward Robinson – please guys could you allow yourselves to be referred to by your middle names?) is a 21 year old wicket keeper who would appear to have a colossal future ahead of him (here’s hoping that the selectors treat him better than they have Ben Foakes), and even allowing for Kent’s historic riches in this department he may force his way into consideration in time.

OTHER CANDIDATES

Had I not been determined to include the “Lion of Kent” the number seven slot, and the captaincy that I actually awarded to Frank Woolley would have gone to Jack Mason, the subject of John Lazenby’s “Test of Time”, and also mentioned in many other cricket books, including Woolley’s “King of Games”.

There were a number of candidates for the opener’s slots: Wally Hardinge, Mark Benson (a one cap wonder for England in 1986 – 21 and 30 in a drawn game against India), David Fulton (ignored by the England selectors, even in the season in which he notched his 1,000 runs by mid June) and Robert Key being just four who merited consideration. In the middle of the order Kenneth Hutchings, Percy Chapman and Geoffrey Legge would all have their adherents. Among the bowlers to miss out were Doug Wright, who took more first class hat tricks, seven in total, than anyone else in cricket history, Derek Underwood whose left arm slow medium could not quite displace Blythe in my thinking and Bill Bradley, a right arm fast bowler who could have had the slot I gave to Fielder. I genuinely could not think of a Kent offspinner who I could even consider (yes folks, I am well aware that James Tredwell was an England pick at one time, but he was no one’s idea of a great bowler!).

The wicket keeping issue was a knotty (or should that be Knotty?) one, as Kent have had a stack of great practitioners down the years – Fred Huish, John Hubble, Godfrey Evans and Alan Knott most notably, but also in more recent times Geraint Jones has done the job for England and I have already mentioned the emerging talent of Oliver Graham Robinson. However, to select any of these legendary practitioners and play Ames as a specialist batter would have been to deprive myself of a desperately needed slot in the team, hence giving the gloves to Ames.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes, a journey that has taken us through nearly 200 years of cricket in the hop county (during any period of which you could if so inclined have partaken of Shepherd Neame’s finest!) is now at an end it is time for my usual sign off…

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