All Time XIs – Staffordshire Born (Plus Bonus Feature)

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.


  1. John Steele – we met this right handed opener and occasional purveyor of left arm spin when I did my post about Leicestershire.
  2. *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.
  3. David Steele – brother of John, and like him and adhesive right handed batter and an occasional bowler of left arm spin. We met him in my Northamptonshire post, and also in my ‘Underappreciated Ashes‘ post.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. +Bob Taylor – a wicket keeper and right handed bat, with more first class dismissals to his credit than any other.
  8. 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 and Hampshire in county cricket.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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.


I am going to start this section by presenting some suggestions which I will expand on:

County Reforms

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 Hobbs who 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…

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Three shots from the garden.
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This aeroplane stood out against the otherwise pristine blue sky.

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The muntjac again, this time enjoying the afternoon sun.

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A shot emphasising how small the muntjac is.

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Staffordshire Born
The XI in batting order.


The Penultimate ODI Between England and Pakistan

A look at the ODI between England and Pakistan and the County Championship, a few other things including plenty of photographs.


The current round of County Championship matches are approaching their conclusions (some being already finished), and the ODI between England and Pakistan is at the halfway stage. This post looks at what is going on, starting with…


England won the toss and put Pakistan in. Pakistan have just finished their 50 overs on 340-7. This might look a good total, but England at this ground have recently scored 481 versus Australia and 444-3 against Pakistan, and that 340 is the lowest total of the series to date. Thus I expect England to chase these down trivially easily, just as they did when facing 358 a few days ago (they got home with over five overs to spare). Babar Azam made a hundred for Pakistan, but was slow by modern day standards, being only just better than a run a ball. There were four wickets for Tom Curran, albeit at a cost of 75 runs from his 10 overs. Now we move on to…


This is what is going on in the County Championship…

  • Kent v YorkshireYorkshire 210 and 469, Kent 296 and 207-9.
    A massive second innings by Yorkshire turned the tables on Kent, and the only question now is whether Yorkshire can get the wicket they need before time runs out. I fully expect them to do so. Ballance made 159 in that Yorkshire innings. The Kent second innings has been a tale of batting failure, with Bell-Drummond top scoring with 41. Ben Coad has 5-48 so far.
  • Nottinghamshire v Essex finished yesterday.
  • Surrey v SomersetSurrey 380 and 255-8, Somerset 398 – Match Drawn.
    A combination of bad weather and decent batting by Surrey saved the defending champions in a match dominated by Lewis Gregory who must now be firmly on England’s Test team radar. Somerset did not try George Bartlett’s offbreaks even though Jack Leach had three second wickets with his slow left arm. Burns made 78 in the Surrey second innings and Will Jacks 54.
  • Warwickshire v Hampshire Hampshire 354 and 302-5 declared, Warwickshire 233 and 109, Hampshire won by 314 runs.
    Hampshire made early inroads into the Warwickshire second innings yesterday evening and comfortably finished the job today. Only youngster Robert Yates topped 20 in a dismal second innings effort by Warwickshire. The wickets were shared around the Hampshire bowlers.
  • Glamorgan v GloucestershireGlamorgan 250 and 481-8 declared, Gloucestershire 463 and 103-5 – Gloucestershire need a further 166 with five wickets standing and 16.4 overs remaining.
    This looks like a marvellous recovery by Glamorgan thwarted by their unwillingness to risk defeat, which has led them to an overcautious declaration leaving insufficient time to get the wickets. Glamorgan’s recovery after being made to follow on was built on a partnership of 231 between Nicholas Selman (150) and Labuschagne (137), following an opening stand of 133 between Selman and Hemphrey (58). The fifth Gloucestershire wicket has just gone down, giving Glamorgan s shot at victory, although the draw is still favourite. Offspinner Kieran Bull has two wickets in this fourth innings.
  • Middlesex v LeicestershireMiddlesex 349 and 223, Leicestershire 268 and 226-5, Leicestershire need 79 runs with five wickets standing.
    It is raining in London at the moment, which may baulk the fans of what should be a fine finish. Ackerman is 70 not out for Leicestershire.
  • Lancashire v NorthamptonshireNorthamptonshire 230 and 200, Lamncashire 415 and 17-0, Lancashire won by 10 wickets.
    Lancashire claimed the extra half-hour to attempt to finish this yesterday, but could not quite do so. However, they finished the job this morning. Gleeson picked up his second five-for of the match in the Northants second innings.
  • Worcestershire v DurhamDurham 273 and 197, Worcestershire 390 and 84-5, Worcestershire won by five wickets.
    A fighting 47 from Liam Trevaskis was the only contribution of note to a poor second innings by Durham. Josh Tongue five wickets and Joe Leach three. Worcestershire managed to lose five wickets in knocking off a tiny target, all to Chris Rushworth.


I have received my first European Election publicity – a leaflet from the English Democrats which I tore into tiny pieces and put in the recycling (they are absolute b**t**ds), and this from the Green Party:

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It being a dull day today weather wise I have spent some of this afternoon mounting stamps for display:

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My usual sign off…

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England v Pakistan ODI Interestingly Poised

A look at today’s cricket action and a lot of photographs.


Today’s ODI between England and Pakistan is just past the half way stage. There are also fixtures under way in the county championship. This post looks at all the action.


First the ODI:

England v Pakistan at Bristol – Pakistan 358-9 from 50 overs, Eng 46-0 after 7 overs.
Pakistan have put up a good total, but not one that is by any means out of England’s reach. Imam-ul-Haq with 151 was the principal contributor. Chris Woakes took 4-67, a superb performance in the circumstances. I reckon England will chase these down. 

With the close of play approaching on day 1 this is what is happening in the County Championship:


My usual sign off…

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There are apparently three Koi Carp in this pond – and according to my informant various people have been trying to catch and keep them. I managed to photograph two of them during this visit.

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The Ninth XI – Two Unlucky County Stalwarts

The latest in my “100 cricketers” series, featuring two county stalwarts who I considewr unlucky not have had higher honours, Tony Cottey and Colin Metson. Also features some thoughts on the first round of county championship matches of 2019 including a “Five to Follow” feature that I shall be revisiting.


Welcome to the latest post in my “100 cricketers” series. In the spotlight today are two of my most controversial selections. Before getting into the main meat of the “100 cricketers” part of the post I am going to look back briefly at the first round of County Championship matches in the 2019 season. The introductory post to the whole series can be found here, the post in which I introduce the ninth XI here and the most recent post in the series here.


Six matches were played, four had definite reults and two were drawn (see yesterday’s post for more details). Here I am going to pick out what I consider points of interest from each game and pick out five players who I shall be looking out for through the season.

  • Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire – Nottinghamshire 408 and 329-5 declared, Yorkshire 291 and 277-2, match drawn
    The second innings batting efforts of Root and Ballance for Yorkshire notwithstanding this match was dominated by the performance of Nottinghamshire’s Joe Clarke (112 and 97 not out). In the end the pitch won this contest comfortably, but Nottinghamshire were right to give themselves a whole day to attempt to bowl Yorkshire out a second time, even though Clarke was close to his second hundred of the match – the team counts for more than the individual. Neither of these sides impressed me overall, and with Joe Clarke clearly a probably for England selection in the near future Nottinghamshire in particular are likely to find this season a long, tough one.
  • Somerset v Kent – Somerset 171 and 243 beat Kent 209 and 131 by 74 runs
    Listening to the commentary on the closing stages of this match was a privelege and pleasure – the tension was palpable as Somerset pushed for victory and Kent did their best to resist. The first day was lost to the weather, and Kent had the better of both the next two days. 21 year old George Bartlett, helped by veteran Jack Brooks in a substantial last wicket stand gave Somerset something to defend on the final morning, and Lewis Gregory did most of the rest. It is great news for Somerset that they are off to a winning start, and the fact that they have never won the champtionship inclines me as a natural supporter of the underdog to root for them somewhat, but they will need runs from the top order if they are to maintain their good start – the middle and lower order cannot rescue you every time. Kent seem likely to struggle – facing a target of 206 in this match they responded to being under serious pressure for the first time in the contest by slumping to 48-6 from which position it was only a matter of time.
  • Hampshire v EssexHampshire 525-8 declared beat Essex 164 and 274 by an innings and 88 runs.
    An injury prevented Adam Wheater from batting in either innings for Essex, but this cannot be dressed up as anything other than a thorough thrashing for them. Sam Northeast had the star performance of the game with 169 in the Hampshire innings. West Indian Fidel Edwards and South African Kolpak player Kyle Abbott bowled well for Hampshire. Hampshire seem likely to fare well, while Essex along with Nottinghamshire and Kent seem booked for a struggle to avoid relegation.
  • Sussex v LeicestershireLeicestershire 252 and 232-3 beat Sussex 173 and 308 by 7 wickets
    Full credit to Leicestershire for what was in the end a comfortable win. The feature performance of the game came from young Sussex opener Philip Salt who made 80 in his team’s second innings. Neither of these teams showed enough for me to venture predictions regarding their promotion chances, although Leicestershire having got away to a winning start have more to be happy about than Sussex.
  • Northamptonshire v  Middlesex – Northants 445 and 10-0, Middlesex 271 and 317-4 declared – match drawn
    Northants did the right thing enforcing the follow-on and attempting to squeeze out a victory, but Middlesex got themselves out of trouble, largely thanks to their captain Dawid Malan (160 not out). All the evidence from this match suggests that these sides have batting aplenty but lack strength in bowling, and that is likely to mean a tough season – by and large to win a first class match you need to capture 20 wickets.
  • Derbyshire v Durham – Derbyshire 197 and 334 beat Durham 171 and 235 by 125 runs.
    A comfortable win for Derbyshire, and good news for those of us (including me) who think that Durham’s decision to give the captaincy to Cameron Bancroft of ‘sandpapergate’ infamy was an appalling one. Until and unless Durham repent and find someone else to captain I for one will be rooting for their opponents every time. I expect as well as hope that this will be a difficult season for Durham, while Derbyshire may yet do well. Now it is time for…


Most of my five nominations are speculative in nature, in some cases very speculative, and I go through them from least to most speculative. 

  • Joe Clarke (Nottinghamshire) – I will be very surprised if he is not an England player before the end of this season. At the moment his record stands at 4,174 first class runs at 40.92, with 14 centuries and that 97 not out in the second innings in 112 visits to the crease, and he is still only 22. He was obviously a class apart from any of his team mates in the match against Yorkshire. 
  • Lewis Gregory (Somerset) – There will soon be vacancies for pace bowlers in the England team, and the 26 year-old has 217 first-class wickets at 27.31 from his 75 matches, with a best of 6-47. He is also not the worst lower order batter, with an average of 20.57. After his team dug themselves out of a big hole against Kent he bowled thgem to victory with 5-18. 
  • Philip Salt (Sussex) – The 22 year-old had a couple of headline making innings last year, and has 80 against Leicestershire in the first match of this season may well have impressed some in high places. I would like to see him score a few more centuries before he is seriously considered, but England do have problems at the top of their order at the moment, which can only be good news for a youngster who is scoring runs up top at present. I do not expect him feature at international level this season, but a really strong showing might earn him a winter tour spot, and would be surprised if he does not play for England somewhere along the line.
  • George Bartlett (Somerset) – He holds the record innings score for an England under 19 player abroad with 179. He is now 21, and started this season in a match that he had not expected to be playing in by scoring a crucial 63 to help give his side something to bowl at, and it proved to be enough. His off-spin has hardly been used in first-class cricket, but he may possibly develop it in time. He needs an extended run in the first team and some big scores to be seriously considered for England, but the way he responded to his team being put under severe pressure in the match against Kent augurs well for the future – he clearly has the right temperament.
  • Liam Trevaskis (Durham) – This one is a complete flyer on my part, picked with eyes focussed fully on the future. The 19 year old slow left-armer played just his second first class match against Derbyshire, had match figures of 1-59 and contributed 42 runs for once out in a losing cause. April is not usually a kind month to spinners of any kind, so even one wicket represents an achievement, and his second innings 27 not out, when most of his team mates surrendered tamely showed character as well. I will be in the sort of position Neville Cardus found himself in about Victor Trumper – Cardus used to pray that Trumper would score a century in an Australian total of 137 all out! I fo not pray being an atheist, but will be hoping that Trevaskis gets among the wickets and runs but that his team Durham get beaten.

Now on to the “100 cricketers” part of this post, starting with…


277 first class appearances brought him 14,567 runs at 36.69, with 31 centuries and a best score of 203. I saw him live when Glamorgan took on Somerset at the St Helens Ground in Swansea in 1995 (for the record I was sitting at the town end of the ground, looking straight down the wicket towards to sea). Glamorgan were three down for about 80 when he came out to bat, and could have found themselves in trouble on what was a decent pitch. Cottey, with his team needing runs, reached a century in almost exactly three hours, being out for 115 in just under 200 minutes. It was a superb innings, and the only chance he offered was the one that was finally taken to end it. Glamorgan reached just over 300. Somerset headed this, but not by a signifcant amount, as Andy Hayhurst snailed his way to 96 in almost six hours on the second day, and the second top score came from Peter Bowler (73), not exactly known for entertainment value either. Somerset paid for their slow scoring on day 2, when Robert Croft spun through them in their second innings on day 4 (6-78 in the innings). The performance that made it all possible for Glamorgan though was Cottey’s on the first day when he took the match by the scruff of the neck with that innings – from that time on Glamorgan were right in the game. 

Given some of the people who did get selected for England in the 1990s and given England’s record at that time (which varied between poor and downright dreadful depending on the year) I feel that Tony Cottey, a battler who tended to score his runs, as on the occasion I have mentioned, when they were most needed, was unlucky to miss out, and I had no hesitation in naming him in my 100 cricketers.


232 first class matches yielded him 4,,032 runs at 17.43 with a best score of 96 and saw him take 561 catches and effect 51 stumpings. He was at his best just as selectors were starting to look first and foremost and what keepers did with the bat and put their keeping skills in second place. Although he was undeniably a modest practitioner with the bat Metson did tend to score such runs as he made when they were most needed (earlier in the 1995 season mentioned above it was he, together with left-arm slow bowler Neil Kendrick, who rescued Glamorgan from 140-8 on a green top against Sussex, getting them up to 212, which was sufficient for a first innings lead, although the game ended up a draw due to the weather). As a keeper he was excellent, making very few if any mistakes. Most of the wicketkeepers I have named in the course of this series of posts have been genuinely front line batters as well, but I wanted to feature a specialist keeper as well, and my thoughts turned naturally to the perenially unlucky Colin Metson, who saw a succession of inferior practitioners selected on the basis of supposed batting skills that most of them failed to deliver on at the highest level.


I have three more posts lined up for ninth XI and a stand alone post to complete the hundred (have a guess if you dare at who will feature in that one), in which I will also publish the entire list in one place – that last post will tie the whole series together. I will then have to decide on a new project for this blog to replace the “100 cricketers” series. The “Five to Follow” named in this post will feature again through the cricket season as I look at their performances. That leaves me one more thing to complete this post…


Yes, we are at the end of another post, and for those who have made it all the way, here is my usual sign off…