All Time XIs – The Letter G

Continuing my all time XIs theme with a skip ahead to the letter G, it being the 174th anniversary of the birth of that letters captain.

Outside it is ferociously hot, as per weather forecast. I have curtains drawn at the front of my bungalow, blinds down at the back and windows open everywhere, and so far that is keeping indoors bearable. I have skipped forward a few letters in my selection of teams with surnames beginning with the same letter because today is the 174th anniversary of the birth of the skipper of the team for whom that letter is G. Coverage of the second women’s ODI between England and South Africa is just underway. Ben Stokes has announced that tomorrow’s ODI in Durham will be his last game in that format – he is still available for selection in T20Is, but his main focus is the team of which he is captain, the test team.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Sunil Gavaskar (Somerset and India). The first to reach the career milestone of 10,000 test runs. His career highlights include an innings of 221 at The Oval in 1979 which almost enabled India to chase down a target of 438 (they were 429-8 when time ran out, having panicked from a high-water mark of 366-1).
  2. Gordon Greenidge (Hampshire, West Indies). The Barbadian was aggressive by nature but possessed the ability to rein in his attacking instincts in the interests of the side. His two double centuries in the 1984 ‘blackwash’ series exemplify the different ways he could approach an innings: at Lords he was brutally destructive, carrying WI to a nine wicket victory with 214* in under five hours at the crease. Later in the series at Old Trafford, with WI needing a long innings Greenidge contributed 223*, batting almost 10 hours to wrench the initiative back for his side.
  3. *WG Grace (Gloucestershire, London County, England). The birthday boy, and this team’s captain. His first first class hundred (out of 126 he was to score – I have no truck with the revisionist stats that give him only 124) came at The Oval in 1866 (224*). His last began on his 56th birthday, in 1904 (166). When he completed 50 FC centuries in 1875 that tally was equal to that of the next 13 leading century makers combined. When he made it 100 FC centuries 20 years later second in the list of century makers was Arthur Shrewsbury with 41 to his name). Add to that the bowling that brought him 2,876 FC wickets at 17.39 each and about 900FC catches and you have a serious all rounder. He was a regular opener, but I do not see him having a problem with first drop.
  4. David Gower (Leicestershire, Hampshire, England). After three right handers we have a left hander. 8,231 test runs at 44.25 show that he had plenty of steel to go with the style he was justly famous for.
  5. Tom Graveney (Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, England). The second leading scorer of FC runs among players who played exclusively after WWII. He was part of an astonishing turn around at The Oval in 1966 – England were 166-7, still over 100 behind the WI first innings total at low water mark. Graveney (165) and keeper Murray (112) began the turn around, which was completed when tail enders Snow and Higgs each hit maiden test fifties, carrying England to 527 all out. WI not surprisingly went down to an innings defeat.
  6. +Adam Gilchrist (Australia). The wicket keeper, and our second left hander, one place above his preferred no seven. The only minor blot on a stellar international record was his horror series in England in 2005.
  7. Jack Gregory (AIF and Australia). It was Plum Warner who suggested to the Australian International Forces team when they were uncertain of who to pick for the last place in their XI to go for Gregory, saying “there never was a Greogry of Sydney who couldn’t play the game”. Plum was spot on, and Jack Gregory developed into a genuine all rounder, attacking left handed batter (once hit a century against South Africa in just 70 minutes at the crease), one half of test cricket’s first great pair of fast bowlers along with Ted McDonald and a superb fielder in the slip and gully regions.
  8. George Geary (Leicestershire and England). A bowler of seemingly inexhaustible stamina (once at Melbourne he bowled 81 overs in a single innings, taking 5-105) and possessed of all the tricks of the medium-fast bowler’s trade and a useful lower order batter to boot. His CV included two Ashes winning moments – in 1926 it was he who bowled Arthur Mailey to seal the victory at The Oval, while at the MCG two and a half years later he hit the winning runs as England scored 332-7 to go 3-0 in the five match series. His best FC bowling performance came for Leicestershire against Glamorgan, when he took all ten wickets for 18 runs, the second cheapest first class all ten ever (Hedley Verity 10-10 v Nottinghamshire being the champion performance in this department).
  9. Joel Garner (Somerset and West Indies). One of the most awkward propositions ever seen on a cricket field – his 6’8″ height, a leap in delivery stride and long arms combined to mean that the ball came down from way up in the air (above the height of more than one test match ground’s sight screens).
  10. Clarrie Grimmett (Australia). He had to cross one international and two state boundaries before establishing himself. He was 33 when he made his test debut, collecting 11 English wickets in the match. He ended with 216 wickets in just 37 test matches, and there were many, including his regular test match bowling partner Bill O’Reilly who thought that 46 year old Grimmett should have been picked for the 1938 tour of England.
  11. Lance Gibbs (Warwickshire and WI). The off spinner was briefly the world record holder for career test wickets, with 309 wickets at that level, breaking the record set by Fred Trueman.

This team has a powerful top five, the most destructive keeper-batter ever, a genuine all rounder, a bowling all rounder (Geary), and three great specialist bowlers. Garner, Gregory and Geary represent an excellent pace/seam trio, Grimmett the leg spinner and Gibbs the off spinner represent a fine combination in that department, and of course there is WG as an extra bowling option.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Graham Gooch cannot be accommodated, with three regular openers already there (backdated punishment for going on the first of the rebel tours of SA!). Larry Gomes (test average 39) and Mike Gatting (35.55) are a both a touch short of the necessary class. Lewis Gregory is a fine all round cricketer for Somerset, but not a serious rival to his namesake Jack. Lewis Goldsworthy may challenge for batting/ left arm spin slot in years to come, but having only just registered his maiden first class century his case remains to be made. Alf Gover was a fine fast bowler, and in later years a highly respected coach (although the coaching school he established in Wandsworth numbers at least one ghastly failure – I attended sessions there in my childhood and never developed so much as a hint of skill as a player) but hardly a serious rival to Garner. George Gunn was another I regretted not being able to fit in. Shannon Gabriel was another fast bowler to come up short. Anshuman Gaekwad was another test batter with a respectable rather than outstanding record. Had I been selecting with white ball in mind Ruturaj Gayakwad would have had a strong case. In ten years time Shubman Gill may be considered a shoo-in, but he does not yet have the weight of proven achievement to dislodge any of my choices.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Left Handed Ashes

Today’s twist on the ‘all time XI’ theme hands the stage over to the ‘southpaws’, while there is a solution to yesterday’s mathematical teaser and a first audition for some of the potential stars of the aspi.blog 2021 wall calendar.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest twist on the all-time XI cricket theme. Today we set up an all left handed Ashes contest.

THE BRIEF

I followed two rules in my selection of these teams: obviously I was only pick players of quality, and I required that their main speciality be performed left handed. After I have introduced the teams I will explain a number of cases where this latter requirement made itself felt. Some of my selected bowlers did bat right handed, but in none of the cases concerned would the player have been selected purely as a batter. The Times, then the UK’s official ‘paper of record’ rather than the Murdoch rag we know it as today, carried an article calling for the elimination of left handers from top level cricket in the 1920s, and it is only very recently that left handed batters stopped being regarded as exotic and an exception to the rule.

ENGLAND LEFT HANDED XI

  1. Andrew Strauss – left handed opening batter. Centuries at the first time of asking against three different countries, and only a dreadful call by Nasser Hussain prevented him from scoring twin tons on test debut. He won the Compton-Miller trophy in the 2009 Ashes, his 161 in the Lord’s match of that series setting England up for their first triumph over Australia there since 1934.
  2. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. England’s all time leading scorer of test runs and test hundreds. See ‘The Away Ashes‘, ‘Essex‘ and ‘Functional Left Handers v Elegant Right Handers‘ earlier in this series for more on him.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. He has featured regularly through this series, making his first appearance when Kent were under the microscope. I have named in as captain, a role he never actually held, in spite of the presence of three actual captains in the ranks – I have reservations about the captaincy of Strauss, Cook and Gower and believe that Woolley would have been good at the job.
  4. Eddie Paynter – left handed batter. The little chap from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire had the highest average of any England left hander to have played enough matches to qualify – 59.23 per innings. He scored test double centuries against Australia and South Africa.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. He averaged 44.25 from 117 test appearances. He scored two test double centuries, both at Edgbaston. His maiden Ashes century came at Perth in 1978, while Boycott was at the other end en route to a 77 that included an all run four but no boundaries. In his last visit to Australia he played an innings of 123 that Don Bradman rated as one of five best innings he ever saw played in that country. His first appearance in this series of posts came when I looked at Leicestershire.
  6. Maurice Leyland – left handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. England’s Ashes record partnership for any wicket is the 382 he and Len Hutton put on together at The Oval in 1938. Cricinfo describes his bowling as slow left arm orthodox, but Bill Bowes who was a Yorkshire and England team mate of his stated in the chapter on Jardine that he contributed to “Cricket: The Great Captains” that Leyland bowled ‘chinamen’ and I will go with the primary source, in this case Bowes.
  7. +Jack Russell – left handed batter, wicket keeper. He appeared in the second post in this series, when Gloucestershire were the subject.
  8. Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed lower order batter. 1956 first class wickets at 14.90. His test average was 24 per wicket, due to the presence in opposition ranks of Don Bradman. Bradman himself held Verity in considerable esteem.
  9. Bill Voce – left arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. Larwood’s sidekick on the 1932-3 Ashes tour, he also made the 1936-7 trip, and a third visit down under in 1946-7 by when he was past his best.
  10. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. No bowler of below medium pace has more test wickets for England than his 297. His main weapon was cut rather than conventional spin, and his chief variation was a ball fired through at genuine speed (he started as a fast bowler before slowing down). On batting friendly pitches he was accurate enough to avoid being collared, and on a surface that he could exploit he earned his nickname ‘Deadly’ with some astonishing sets of figures, including a 7-11 at Folkestone as late as 1986, at the age of 42.
  11. Nobby Clark – left arm fast, left handed genuine no11. There were two other options for my left arm out and out speedster, Fred Morley of Nottinghamshire and William Mycroft of Derbyshire, but the last named never got to play test cricket, and Morley only when he was past his absolute best. Thus the Northamptonshire man gets the nod.

This team has an excellent top six, a great keeper and four varied specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Clark and Voce to share the new ball and various types of craft and guile from Underwood, Verity, Woolley and Leyland also looks impressive.

RULED OUT

Ben Stokes bats left handed, but his right arm fast bowling cannot be dismissed as a secondary part of his game, since he would not be selected without it. The ‘Kirkheaton twins’, George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes both batted right handed, and as with Stokes’ bowling their contributions in this department cannot be dismissed. Similarly Frank Foster, a fine left arm quick for Warwickshire and England, batted right handed, and since his career highlights include a triple century he too had to be ruled out. Stan Nichols of Essex, like Stokes, batted left handed, but his right arm fast bowling was a huge factor in his selection for both county and country. While sharp eyed observers will have noted that Verity, Voce and Underwood all scored first class centuries none were ever selected specifically for their batting.

AUSTRALIA LEFT HANDED XI

  1. Matthew Hayden – left handed opening batter.
  2. Arthur Morris – left handed opening batter. See the ‘Arthurians vs the Bills‘ ost for more detail about him.
  3. Joe Darling – left handed batter. His first major innings came at school. When he was selected to play for Prince Alfred College in their annual grudge match against St Peter’s College he lashed 252 not out, which remains the highest individual score in the history of the fixture. During the 1897-8 Ashes he became the first batter ever to hit three centuries in the same series. He was also the first the reach a test century by hitting a six, which in his day meant sending the ball clean out of the ground.
  4. Neil Harvey – left handed batter, brilliant fielder. 6,149 test runs at 48 an innings, including 19 centuries.
  5. *Allan Border – left handed batter, captain. Border took of the captaincy of an Australian side that had forgotten how to win,and by the time he passed the job on to Mark Taylor the side he was leaving were established at the top of the game. He scored over 11,000 test runs at 50.56. Losing the 1986-7 Ashes to an England who had played 11 test matches without victory since The Oval in 1985 was a bitter pill for Border, but in 1989 he finally captained his team to an Ashes victory, a feat he then repeated twice before retiring.
  6. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper. He preferred no 7, but I have put him at six for reasons that will soon become clear. See my T20 post for more on him.
  7. Alan Davidson – left handed batter, left arm fast medium. The all rounder of the side (see yesterday’s post).
  8. Mitchell Johnson – left arm fast, left handed lower middle order bat. See my Australia post for more on him.
  9. Jack Ferris – left arm medium fast. Regular partner of Charles ‘Terror’ Turner. He also featured in my ‘Cricketing United Nations‘ post.
  10. Chuck Fleetwood-Smith – left arm wrist spinner. A brilliant but erratic bowler, sadly best known for his 1-298 on Bosser Martin’s 1938 Oval featherbed. Australia went into that match with an ill equipped and poorly balanced bowling attack – the only genuine pace bowler in the party, Ernie McCormick, was having terrible trouble with no balls and did not play in the game, neither did Frank Ward, bizarrely selected for the tour in preference to Clarrie Grimmett. Mervyn Waite, allegedly played for his bowling skills, did take his only test wicket in that match, but his new ball partner for the game was Stan McCabe, a brilliant batter but nobody’s idea of a test match opening bowler. The truth about a bowler of the Fleetwood-Smith type is that to play them you need five frontline bowlers available to you so that you have an out if things don’t go to plan.
  11. Bert Ironmonger – left arm orthodox spinner. The second oldest ever to play test cricket, being 51 years old when he took his final bow at that level. He featured in my ‘Workers’ post.

This team has a superb front five, the best batter-keeper Australia have ever had and a well varied line up of bowlers, with likely new ball pair Johnson and Davidson having medium paced back up from Ferris, finger spin from Ironmonger and wrist spine from Fleetwood-Smith. Border might also take a turn at the bowling crease with his variety of left arm spin.

RULED OUT

The biggest rule out was Jack Gregory, a splendid all rounder in the early 1920s, who batted left handed, but bowled right arm fast (and he would never have been picked as a specialist batter). Charles Macartney, ‘the governor general’, did win a test match with his left arm tweakers, but it was his batting that got him selected and he did that with his right hand.

THE CONTEST

Unlike in rather too many real life Ashes series both sides look strong and well balanced. However, I think that England just have the edge – especially if they win the toss and bat first (which is the decision that Woolley would be likely to make – read his thoughts on this in the relevant section of “King of Games”), since Underwood, Verity and Woolley on a wearing pitch would be a well nigh unplayable combination.

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

I included this from brilliant.org in yesterday’s post:

The question was which is the smallest fish. The answer is Thursday’s fish is the smallest. Clue 1 tells us that Saturday’s fish is the average size of the two previous day’s fishes, clue two that Thursday’s fish was smaller than Wednesday’s. Clue three tells that Saturday is the smallest fish to be larger than Wednesday’s. Clue four tells us that Sunday’s fish is between Friday’s and Saturday’s in size. All of this when fully reasoned out tells that the actual ranking order of fish from biggest downward is Friday, Sunday, Saturday, Wednesday, Thursday, so the smallest fish is Thursday’s.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced today’s XI, answered yesterday’s teasers, so now it is time for my usual sign off, with a twist. I have only a very few new photos ready to use, so before I display them I am going to share the photos that I am currently considering for inclusion in the aspi.blog 2021 wall calendar (a tradition that will be entering its fifth year).

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This water vole poking its head of its hole is a definite – taken in October 2019

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One of these three hedgehog pics, again from later 2019 will be there as well.

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One of these five brimstone bitterfly pics will probably feature.

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This is one of the starling possibilities.

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One of these three shieldbug pics is a possibility

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I like this one.

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One of these two goldfinch pics will be there.

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these four starlings mar get in…

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…as may one of these last two pics but not both.

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I await your views on these and other possible calendar pictures with interest, and finish with these…

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The fuchsia is really flourishing.

Left Handed Ashes
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Leicestershire

Continuing my ‘all-time XIs’ series with Leicestershire, including a little challenge – can you find a more economical player to player linked chain that spans the whole of test cricket’s 143 year history than the one I have included while covering George Geary?

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of “All Time XIs”. Today we will look at Leicestershire. However, before getting into the main body of today’s post I have a small additional thing to do…

INTRODUCING MY MOTHER’S BLOG

Yes, my mother has started blogging. Her first post, about the camellias that grow near her home in Cornwall can be viewed here – and I urge to you do so, and to offer her comments and support.

LEICESTERSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. Cecil John Burditt Wood – an opener who had limited support from the rest of his batting order. He holds two batting records to this day: most times anyone has carried their bat through a completed first class innings (17 – two ahead of joint second place WG Grace of Gloucestershire and Dick Barlow of Lancashire), and the unique double feat of carrying his bat for centuries in both innings of a match, which he did against Yorkshire – 117 not out in the first dig and 107 not out in the second, and his team still lost by nine wickets. At the end of that match George Hirst paid him a Yorkshire tribute – “next time master Wood, we’ll get a gun and shoot you out”.
  2. Les Berry – another opener who could never count on much support from lower down the order (Leicestershire have not historically been a strong county, and they are not currently bucking that trend).
  3. John Steele – a solid right handed batter and capable purveyor of left arm spin.
  4. David Gower – a left handed batter of the type for whom words such as elegant and graceful were invented. Unlike those above him in this order he did get the chance to prove himself at the very highest level, and 8,231 test runs at 44.25 is an eminently respectable record. His greatest series was the 1985 Ashes when he scored 732 runs, including scores of 166 at Trent Bridge, 215 at Edgbaston and 157 at The Oval. Five years after that he scored another 157 at The Oval to save a match against India. Another notable effort was his 154 not out in eight hours to save the 1981 test match at Sabina Park, Jamaica (England would lose their next ten test matches against the West Indies). A combination of narrow-mindedness, inflexibility and possibly (on the part of then captain Graham Gooch – see my Essex piece) envy from the England setup brought his international career to a premature close, which led to his retirement from the first class game. Immediately after his final departure England had an unqualified disastrous tour of the subcontinent. Gower, who had scored 200 not out against India at Edgbaston in 1979, could scarcely have fared worse than most of the England batters who were selected. In addition to his batting Gower was, until a shoulder condition affected him, a superb fielder.
  5. James Whitaker – a heavy scoring batter in his day (he was a county team mate of Gower for some years) who only got one England cap – England selection practices in the 1980s and 1990s were inconsistent at best and downright scandalous at worst, and the teams that emerged as a result of such practices tended to have very ordinary records as one might expect. Whitaker eventually became part of the 21st century England management structure and did well as a national selector. Although not completely eradicated, England selections in the 21st century have featured many fewer “WTF? moments” than used to be the case in the 1980s and 1990s, when they were almost the rule rather than the exception.
  6. *Ewart Astill – an offspinning all-rounder who did the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets eight times in the course of the 1920s. Although he never got to perform the role due to the class based obsession with amateur skippers that prevailed in his day I have named in captain as I believe that he would have been good at the job.
  7. +Paul Nixon – an excellent wicket keeper over many years, and a useful batter as well.
  8. George Geary – a right arm medium-fast bowler who could bowl a good leg cutter, possessed immense reserves of stamina (in one test innings at Melbourne on the 1928-9 Ashes tour he had figures of 5-105 from 81 overs – yes you read that right, 81 overs in a single innings) and was also a useful lower order batter and a capable fielder. His CV includes two Ashes winning moments – at the Oval in 1926 he clean bowled Arthur Mailey to win the match and the Ashes, and at Melbourne in 1929 he smote a four through mid on the get England to their victory target of 332, which won them that match and out them invincibly 3-0 up in the series. Also, he features in what I believe (though feel free to comment if you reckon you can outdo me on this one) to be the most economical player to player chain spanning the whole of test cricket’s 143 year history. My rules are these: everyone in the chain must have played test cricket, and there must be a verifiable link between any two successive members of the chain. My chain runs as follows: Billy Midwinter who played for Australia in the inaugural test match in 1877 was also a county team mate of WG Grace who played for England in the first test match on English soil in 1880, WG in his last test match was a team mate of Wilfred Rhodes, who in 1926 was a team mate of George Geary, who in retirement coached at Charterhouse where one of his charges was Peter May (Surrey), who after his own distinguished career was done became a selector and was chair of the panel that picked Chris Broad (Nottinghamshire), whose son Stuart is now an England regular, making Stuart Broad, the current player, the seventh link in the chain. There are several other ways to link Grace to people who played in the inaugural test match, but no way to link Rhodes directly to any of them. Geary has the second cheapest ever first class ‘all ten’ to his name – 10-18 against Glamorgan, bettered only by Hedley Verity’s 10-10 for Yorkshire vs Nottinghamshire.
  9. David Millns – the last person to have worked at a coalface before becoming a professional cricketer, a right arm fast bowler, he was also a useful lower order bat (left handed). Injury problems meant that he never got to represent England. After his retirement he became an umpire and has done well at that job too. People who have been following this series will have already noted that I am sparing in my use of the term ‘all rounder’. This is because getting into following cricket when I did meant that with Ian Botham (Somerset) going into decline I witnessed a time when England were absolutely desperate for all rounders, and many people who were not good enough to warrant the label (in many cases inadequate in both departments) were touted as all rounders in an effort to fill the Beefy shaped hole in England’s ranks. In reaction against this I will only describe someone as an all-rounder if I genuinely believe that they would have warranted selection based on either part of their skill set. In this side in addition to Astill who was a genuine all rounder there are three players who have useful secondary skills that are not enough for them to be described as all rounders, at least in my book: John Steele, George Geary and Millns.
  10. Jack Walsh – an Australian left arm wrist spinner, and my overseas pick. He holds a several Leicestershire bowling records, and gives this side a bit of variety.
  11. Haydon Smith – a right arm fast bowler, who had some great moments in partnership with Geary, including a spell of consistent success in which they bowled together unchanged through four straight opposing innings none of which totalled as much as 80. On one occasion he let Harold Larwood have a bouncer, and when it was his turn to bat he had to face Larwood. Smith edged one of Larwood’s expresses into the slips where it was scooped up on the half volley. Smith instantly turned for the pavilion, and when the fielder tried to say that he had not caught it (a fine piece of honesty), Smith, who had a stutter, said “Yes you f-f-f-f-ucking well did” and continued his walk back to the pavilion – lesson learned about dishing out bouncers when you are genuine no 11 yourself methinks.

This team comprises a top three who are definitely capable of giving the innings a solid foundation, two high quality middle order batters, one left handed and one right handed, a genuine all rounder, a wicketkeeper who can bat, a medium-fast bowler who can bow a dangerous leg cutter, a left arm wrist spinner and two purveyors of out and out pace in Millns and Smith. With Geary and Millns both capable of providing useful batting support the order looks quite solid (which would be a bit of a novelty for Leicestershire!).

OMISSIONS

Maurice Hallam and Barry Dudleston were both fine opening batters, and when Darren Maddy’s career started I thought he was going to become an England regular, but he did not kick on. Willie Watson, Chris Balderstone, Sam Coe, Ben Smith, Clive Inman and Peter Marner all did good things for Leicestershire, although Inman and Marner were both told to go elsewhere by Ray Illingworth because he felt that with them around the team could not function as such. Illingworth himself could have had the role that I gave to Astill, but he was noted for under bowling himself as captain (Brearley mentions this in “The Art of Captaincy”) and does not strike me as having been quite so complete a player as Astill. The wicket keeping position was not contested in my book – although Roger Tolchard was named as reserve keeper in a few England tour parties that was largely a way a smuggling in an extra batter rather than a tribute to his keeping. Dick Pougher (pronounced ‘puffer’) was an early Leicestershire fast bowler who was part of the MCC bowling attack that routed an Australian XI for 18, the lowest score ever recorded by a team with that designation, while Jonathan Agnew, Les Taylor and Alan Mullally all got picked for England, but none were convincing at the highest level (although the first named of course has first dibs on a commentary gig, while the last named would have given extra variety as a left arm bowler). Harry Gurney, a left arm fast bowler who started with Leicestershire before decamping to Nottinghamshire, would have increased the variety of bowling available to this side, but though an England career seemed likely at one stage he is actually not quite in the front rank even of current performers. I have been restricting myself to one overseas player, and felt it important not to play fast and loose when dealing with a county in whose dressing room Afrikaans was once the first language. That meant that having chosen Walsh for the variety he provides I had to overlook one great and one high quality fast bowler, Andy Roberts and Winston Benjamin, and also one of the most talented batters ever to emerge from The Land of the Long White Cloud, Stewie Dempster (he did actually play briefly for his native land, so I felt that I could not regard him as a forerunner to Ben Stokes).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes, we have finished our look at Leicestershire, and it remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…

Test cricket chain
A jpg showing my player to player linked chain that covers the whole span of test history. Can you do better?

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Today has been a warm and sunny day, and I took the opportunity of spending an hour or so in my garden (though I am tightly restricted at present due to my medical history I am one of the fortunate ones whose home, small though it is, comes with a private garden, which means that I can get outside when the weather allows).

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100 Cricketers – Gower, Cook and Pietersen

INTRODUCTION

I launched this series with an introduction a while back and devoted a stand-alone post to Tammy Beaumont. Now after a some delays I continue with the remaining specialist batters from my first XI. I will deal with them in chronological order, starting with…

DAVID GOWER

I saw the last day of test cricket in the English season of 1990 live at The Oval. England were battling to save the game and thereby secure a series win, and the not out batsmen overnight were Mike Atherton and David Gower. Atherton did not last long that morning, but Gower batted magnificently through the day, finishing on 157 not out. John Morris kept him company for a good while but failed to reveal the stroke play that had earned him what was to a brief chance at international level. Allan Lamb then made a half century to ensure that no embarrassments could happen. Robin Smith had time to play one cut shot before the end. However, all of these players, and indeed the Indian bowling attack, were merely supporting cast for a day that belonged to Gower. 

There would be only two more years of Gower at international level before he was passed over for a tour of India (an unqualified disaster for England, although Graeme Hick and Chris Lewis each had moments in the sun during that series) and announced his international retirement. 

In the course of his test career David Gower scored over 8,000 runs at an average of  44, and he scored them in all circumstances and against all opponents. At Perth in 1978 while Geoffrey Boycott was taking 454 minutes to score 77 (one all-run four, but no boundary hits) Gower scored his maiden Ashes century. At Edgbaston in 1979 he took 200 not out off India. At Jamaica in 1981 he secured a draw for England by defying possibly the most fearsome pace quartet ever seen in cricket history (Garner, Croft, Marshall, Holding) for eight hours and an undefeated 154 – England would wait seven more years and ten straight defeats before they next shared the honours with the West Indies. In the 1985 Ashes he made three scores in excess of 150, two of which contributed to innings victories by England. Even in the 1990-1 Ashes down under, when England were crushed by an Australian side that knew itself to be the best in the world he made two centuries in the series.

A David Gower innings would stick in the memory. It never looked like he had really hit a ball until you saw it speeding to the boundary. It was precisley because he was so very good that his dismissals often looked absolutely terrible – how could such a player produce a shot like that?

KEVIN PIETERSEN

Fast forward 15 years to 2005 but stay at The Oval, and again a final day of the test match season started with England needing to secure a draw to win the series. This was an Ashes series, and since 1989 when a combination of injuries and a rebel tour to Apartheid South Africa saw England surrender the Ashes (only the weather prevented Australia from making history by winning all six matches in a six match series) the urn had been firmly in Australian possession. Kevin Pietersen (three fifties but as yet no century in his debut series) was dropped early in this innings by Shane Warne (who had a magnificent series overall), but England were definitely struggling at lunch time. 

Post lunch Pietersen decided that attack was the only form of defence and went after the bowlingn to spectacular effect. Paul Collingwood for an hour and Ashley Giles for two and a half hours played crucial supporting roles. By the time Pietersen was out for 158 England were well and truly safe.

Pietersen went on to play many more fine innings for England, although his career eventually ended in somewhat controversial circumstances, but if he had never scored another run after that day in 2005 he would have done enough to ensure imperishable fame. No one who witnessed that innings will ever forget it.

ALASTAIR COOK

England’s all-time leading run scorer, whose career started with a fifty and century against India in 2006 and ended in the same fashion 12 years later. In between times it included the most successful visit to Australia by anyone named Cook since Captain James of that ilk was in his prime. Having saved the first match at Brisbane with 235 not out he then contributed 148 at Adelaide, Pietersen making 227 and finally ensured that England would win the series by scoring 189 at Sydney. In total the series brought him 766 runs, second only for an English batter in Australia to Hammond’s 905 in the 1928-9 series.

As well as making big runs all the way through his career Cook also managed to be fit and available every time England needed him, a remarkable feat of longevity and endurance when so much cricket is being played. 

LOOKING AHEAD

Having covered the specialist batters from my first XI I will next be considering the all-rounders, including the wicketkeeper.

A Classic Test Match

some thoughts about the recent test match between England and the West Indies, declarations and umpires.

INTRODUCTION

This post is devoted the second test match of the current England versus West Indies series, which ended at about 6:45PM on Tuesday. 

THE EARLY EXCHANGES

England batted first and reached 258 only because Ben Stokes (100) and Joe Root (59) were reprieved early in their innings by bad West Indies fielding. Kraigg Brathwaite (134) and Shai Hope (147) were the cornerstones of a the West Indies response, which eventually reached 427, a lead of 169. In the second England innings no-one reached three figures but there were solid efforts all the way down the line, and at 490-8 Joe Root decided to declare and give the West Indies a little session of batting just before the close of the fourth day. 

THE FINAL INNINGS

The West Indies made it to the close of the fourth day without losing a wicket. Brathwaite made 95 in this second innings, coming within five of becoming the first batsman ever to score twin centuries in a first-class match at Headingley (and this was the 534th such fixture at the ground), a feat that was finally achieved by player of the match Shai Hope, who also received support from Roston Chase (30) and Jermaine Blackwood (a rapid 41 in the closing stages) who ended up 118 not out, and appropriately enough scored the winning runs. 

There are two features that I am going to make specific comments about, starting with…

JOE ROOT’S DECLARATION

For all that the end result was not what he would have wanted I still say, as I said on twitter at the time, and again a day later when the result was imminent, that this was a good declaration, and that Root was entirely right to go for victory. I remember (though few others will as it was not actually a pafrticularly good match) the Australia v West Indies test match at Adelaide in 2009 when the West Indies were one match down in the series after being soundly defeated at the ‘Gabbatoir’ (a nickname for the Woolloongabba stadium in Brisbane, also known as the Gabba) based on what often happens to visiting teams there) but declined to declare, batting on into the final day. Australia faced a target of 330 off 81, and skipper Ponting decided to settle for the draw rather than going after this target. By the end of the day there were not many people left in the ground (I know whereof I write – I was one of the few who did stay right to the end). I condemn Ponting for this decision to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead in the series rathwer than trying to make it 2-0, as also I condemn the decision of Ryan Ten Doeschate today to extend the Essex second innings into the final afternoon rather than make a serious attempt to win the match by declaring at or even before lunch. PS when I wrote this paragraph I did not realise that Somerset’s “resistance” would be quite so utterly spineless – it now looks like Essex may get their victory after all.

While I do not quite as far as the legendary Sammy Woods (who played for Somerset in the lat 19th and early 20th centuries) who once responded to an enquiry about whether his team might have played for a draw in a game they ended up losing responded with “draws…they’re for bathing in” but I do not hold the draw in high regard and would much prefer a team take risks in the attempt to win than see them play safely for the draw. In the special case of a team being one match to the good going into the final match of a series I would condone a more cautious approach being taken, although Kevin Pietersen’s magnificent series clinching innings at The Oval in 2005 was hardly cautious!

To finish this section: Joe Root was justified in declaring when he did (as was David Gower at Lord’s in 1984 when the result was even more embarrassing for England, courtesy of a magnificent 214 not out from Gordon Greenidge), and this result stands to the credit of the West Indies batting, especially that of Brathwaite and Hope and not to the debit of Root’s declaration. 

SOME SENSIBLE UMPIRING

According to the strict letter of the law play in a purely day game cannot continue if the floodlights are providing more light than the natural light. I congratulate the umpires in this match for not acting with Emeritus Professor of Biosophistry like pedantry and curtailing play due to the light, thus depriving the West Indies of their well-earned victory. There seems little doubt that the light was bad enough to have warranted taking the players off, but the umpires realised given the match situation was such that the players should be kept out there. 

Here are a couple of links relating to this test match:

LOOKING AHEAD

The final match of this series should be good, and almost certainly will feature a moment of history as James Anderson goes into it with 497 test wickets to his credit. Then England have the task of taking on Australia in Australia. This is a seriously tough task, but I think that this England squad can do it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As always I end this post with some of my own photographs:

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Australia 2-0 Up In ODI Series

A mention of yesterday;s ODI, leading to an account of a controversial dismissal and some stories about other controversial dismissals. Some good pictures. Finally, some interesting and important links.

INTRODUCTION

As well as my title piece I have some links and some photographs to share.

AUSTRALIAN VICTORY MARRED BY CONTROVERSIAL DISMISSAL

Let me start by saying straight that the dismissal in question had no effect on the outcome of the match – Australia were already in control by then and thoroughly deserved their victory. England one the toss, put Australia in, and Australia ran up 309 from the 49 overs that the match was reduced to.

OBSTRUCTING THE FIELD

Ben Stokes was given out to one cricket’s most obscure modes of dismissal: Obstructing the Field. He deflected with his hand a ball that would have hit his stumps and run him out.  I quote from my copy of The Laws of Cricket the paragraph explaining the relevant law:

1. Out Obstructing the field

Either batsman is out Obstructing the field  if he wilfully obstructs the or distracts the opposing side by word or action. It shall be regarded as obstruction if either batsman wilfully, and without the consent of the fielding side, strikes the ball with his bat or person, other than a hand not holding the bat, after the ball has touched a fielder.

The emphases in the body text of the above quote are mine – in the space of time that it took for  the incident to occur it is hard to see how Stokes could have wilfully obstructed the field – and also the hand that struck the ball was not holding the bat and is therefore specifically exempted by the above. Steven Smith, the Australian captain earned few friends by allowing the appeal and dismissal to stand, and even fewer by the arrogant, unthinking post-match interview in which he refused to even countenance the possibility that he might have been wrong.

Of course controversies are nothing new when it comes to clashes between crickets oldest international foes – the first great controversy over a dismissal in an England – Australia match was the one in 1882 that led to the creation of the Ashes, when W.G.Grace ran out Sammy Jones after the latter had left his crease to pat down a divot. Fred Spofforth was particularly incensed, and proceeded to vent his anger by running through the England second innings to win the match. The first post World War II Ashes match featured very controversial moment when Bradman, then on 28 and having looked very unconvincing, sent a ball shoulder-high to Jack Ikin at second slip, and was given not out after England initially thought they had no need to appeal (normally for a high and clear catch you don’t). England’s captain Walter Hammond gave Bradman a pithy summary of his thoughts, saying “A fine bloody way to start a series”. Bradman went on to 187 and Australia to an innings victory. Other more recent cases of controversy include the Dyson run out that was not given at Sydney in the 1982-83 series (when the batsman was so far out of his ground that he was not even in the frame when the wicket was broken), the Wayne Phillips dismissal at Edgbaston in 1985 that ended all hope of Australia saving that match (caught by Gower after he had chopped a ball on to Allan Lamb’s boot and it rebounded up and across to the skipper) and the Ponting dismissal at Trent Bridge in 2005 and that worthy’s subsequent verbal firework display.

PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERLUDE

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LINKS

I have quite a few links to share today, and they divide into three sections…

SCIENCE AND NATURE

Five pieces here:

  1. Cosmos Up have produced one of their quirky compilations, in this case “10 facts about Mars your probably didn’t know
  2. The remaining pieces in this section all come courtesy of whyevolutionistrue, starting with this light-hearted “Saturday Hili Dialogue
  3. Next, this piece about a very brave woman who saved a fox from bloodthirsty, law-breaking hunters.
  4. Next, Lawrence Krauss exposing the xenophobia inherent in religion.
  5. Finally, this one, in which a chimpanzee takes out a drone.

AUTISM RELATED

Again, five links here…

  1. A new find via twitter, and a site I wish to encourage is nextstepacademy (I acknowledge that they are not strictly autism related, but that is where the connection arose).
  2. A report provided by the National Autistic Society on Special Educational Needs.
  3. A very promising looking site called interactingwithautism
  4. From perfectltyfadeddelusions, a new blog that I thoroughly recommend, comes this reblog of a post by an autistic person.

Also on the sharing theme, and accompanied by a pic to make things clearer for you, CricketNews have for the second time in quite a brief period shared something from an autistic blogger.
CL shared

GENERAL POLITICS

A total of six links in this section:

  • I begin with a link to what is in actuality a report of a theft committed brazenly and in broad daylight by a Jobcentre security guard. Having read the post, from samedifference, I have already stated in their comments section the “security guard” who thought it was alright ro behave in this manner needs to be arrested and charged. If I was handling the case, I would run him down to the Police Station, and tell him that either he yields up the phone so that I can be returned to its owner or he goes to court and when he is convicted, as on such ironclad evidence he would have to be, a custodial sentence will be called for. PLEASE READ AND SHARE THE FULL POST
  • julijuxtaposed takes on Scam-eron’s leadership attributes in this post.
  • Next courtesy of the Mirror comes this about David Cameron coming under pressure to abolish the bedroom tax, even from his own side. This piece contains a poll asking readers whether the bedroom tax should be abolished, and when I voted the records showed 92% had got the answer right and only 8% had clicked the no button!
  • perfectlyfadeddelusions are back, with this piece about WRAG workshops being a waste of time.
  • dwpexamination have produced this piece about who are being labelled as extremists (Anti-fracking protesters as a group and Caroline Lucas by name were mentioned in this context).
  • Finally, in an effort to finish on high note, this piece from Tina Savage, already widely shared on social media, about why she chose to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Special Post: Oval and Vauxhall

A piece principally about Ashes moments at the Oval cricket ground, with an introductory mention of the history of the two stations that serve it.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my series “London Station by Station”. I hope you will enjoy this post and that some of you will be encouraged to share it.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE GAS HOLDERS

I am treating these two stations together because they are at opposite ends of the Oval cricket ground. Oval was one of the original six stations of the City and South London Railway, the world’s first deep-level tube railway, which opened in 1890. Vauxhall only opened as an underground station in 1971, part of the newest section of the Victoria line, but is also a main-line railway station and would have opened in that capacity long before Oval.

Today is the Saturday of the Oval test, by tradition the last of the summer. At the moment things are not looking rosy for England, but more spectacular turnarounds have been achieved (bowled at for 15 in 1st dig and won by 155 runs a day and a half later – Hampshire v Warwickshire 1922, 523-4D in 1st dig and beaten by ten wickets two days later – Warwickshire v Lancashire 1982 to give but two examples). The Oval in it’s long and illustrious history has seen some of test cricket’s greatest moments:

1880: 1st test match on English soil – England won by five wickets, Billy Murdoch of Australia won a sovereign from ‘W G’ by topping his 152 in the first innings by a single run.

1882: the original ‘Ashes’ match – the term came from a joke obituary penned after this game by Reginald Shirley Brooks. Australia won by 7 runs, England needing a mere 85 to secure the victory were mown down by Fred Spofforth for 77.

1886: A triumph for England, with W G Grace running up 170, at the time the highest test score by an England batsman. Immediately before the fall of the first England wicket the scoreboard nicely indicated the difference in approach between Grace and his opening partner William Scotton (Notts): Batsman no 1: 134           Batsman no 2: 34

1902: Jessop’s Match – England needing 263 in the final innings were 48-5 and in the last-chance saloon with the tables being mopped when Jessop arrived at the crease. He scored 104 in 77 minutes, and so inspired the remainder of the English batsmen, that with those two cool Yorkshiremen, Hirst and Rhodes together at the death England sneaked home by one wicket.

1926: England’s first post World ward I Ashes win, secured by the batting of Sutcliffe (161) and Hobbs (100) and the bowling of young firebrand Larwood and old sage Rhodes – yes the very same Rhodes who was there at the death 24 years earlier.

1938: The biggest margin of victory in test history – England win by an innings and 579. Australia batted without opener Jack Fingleton and even more crucially no 3 Don Bradman in either innings (it was only confirmation that the latter would not be batting that induced England skipper Hammond to declare at 903-7)

1948: Donald Bradman’s farewell to test cricket – a single boundary would have guaranteed him a three figure batting average, but he failed to pick Eric Hollies’ googly, collecting a second-ball duck and finishing wit a final average of 99.94 – still almost 40 runs an innings better than the next best.

1953: England reclaim the Ashes they lost in 1934 with Denis Compton making the winning hit.

1968: A South-African born batsman scores a crucial 158, and then when it looks like England might be baulked by the weather secures a crucial breakthrough with the ball, exposing the Australian tail to the combination of Derek Underwood and a rain affected pitch. This as not sufficient to earn Basil D’Oliveira an immediate place on that winter’s tour of his native land, and the subsequent behaviour of the South African government when he is named as a replacement for Tom Cartwright (offically injured, unoffically unwilling to tour South Africa) sets off a chain of events that will leave South Africa in the sporting wilderness for almost quarter of a century.

1975: Australia 532-9D, England 191 – England in the mire … but a fighting effort all the way down the line in the second innings, Bob Woolmer leading the way with 149 sees England make 538 in the second innings and Australia have to settle for the draw (enough for them to win the series 1-0).

1985: England need only a draw to retain the Ashes, and a second-wicket stand of 351 between Graham Gooch (196) and David Gower (157) gives them a position of dominance they never relinquish, although a collapse, so typical of England in the 1980s and 90s sees that high-water mark of 371-1 turn into 464 all out. Australia’s final surrender is tame indeed, all out for 241 and 129 to lose by an innings and 94, with only Greg Ritchie’s 1st innings 64 worthy of any credit.

2005: For the second time in Oval history an innings of 158 by a South-African born batsman will be crucial to the outcome of the match, and unlike in 1968, the series. This innings would see Kevin Peter Pietersen, considered by many at the start of this match as there for a good time rather than a long time, finish the series as its leading run scorer.

2009: A brilliant combined bowling effort from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann sees Australia all out for 160 after being 72-0 in their first innings, a debut century from Jonathan Trott knocks a few more nails into the coffin, and four more wickets for Swann in the second innings, backed by the other bowlers and by Andrew Flintoff’s last great moment in test cricket – the unassisted run out of Ricky Ponting (not accompanied by the verbal fireworks of Trent Bridge 2005 on this occasion!).

The above was all written without consulting books, but for those who wish to know more about test cricket at this iconic venue, there is a book dedicated to that subject by David Mortimer.

As usual I conclude this post with some map pics…

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