All Time XIs – Through The Alphabet IV

Our all time XIs resume the alphabetic progression seen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Lots of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

For today’s all time XI cricket post we revert to the alphabetic progression that I started on Friday and continued on Saturday and Sunday. No 11 in Sunday’s second XI began with an N, so today’s first XI starts with an opener who begins with O.

HEDLEY VERITY’S XI

  1. Javed Omar – right handed opening batter. His test record looks modest, but he had very little support at the top of the Bangladesh order (his most frequent opening partner, Hannan Sarkar, was once out to the first delivery of each of three successive test matches).
  2. Alviro Petersen – right handed opening batter. A so-so record in test cricket for South Africas, but a regular big scorer in the county championship. His overall FC average is just above 40 runs an innings, good enough to suggest a player of quality.
  3. Willie Quaife – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. A fine and consistent upper order batter for Warwickshire for a very long period, signing off with a hundred in his last match, at the age of 56 years and 4 months, the oldest scorer of first class hundred there has ever been (WG Grace notched his 126th and last on his 56th birthday, going on to 166 in that innings). There were question marks about the legality of his bowling action, and the most famous occasion on which his bowling featured prominently did not end well for Warwickshire – when Hampshire made their astonishing recovery at Edgbaston in 1922 after being rolled for 15 in the first innings he bowled 49 overs, being then 50 years of age, as Hampshire reached 521 at the second attempt. Warwickshire, exhausted from their efforts in the field and dispirited by Hampshire’s Houdini act then collapsed to 158 all out in their own second innings, the match ending in a Hampshire victory by 155 runs at 4:20PM on third and final scheduled day.
  4. Viv Richards – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Had he been able to play all five tests of the 1976 ‘grovel’ series against England Don Bradman’s 974 runs in the 1930 Ashes series would almost certainly have been overtaken. Richards missed the third match of that series through injury, scoring 829 in the other four games. In the final match of the 1985-6 home series v England, with quick runs the order of the day as the Windies pushed for a second successive blackwash of their opponents, Richards smashed a century off 56 balls, at the time the fewest ever to reach that mark in a test match (still third on that list).
  5. Kumar Sangakkara – left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. Only one left handed batter has scored more test career runs than him, Alastair Cook. The biggest partnership for any wicket in first class cricket is the 624 that he and Mahela Jayawardene put on against South Africa.
  6. +Sarah Taylor – right handed batter, wicket keeper. One of the most accomplished keepers the game has ever seen and a fine stroke making batter as well. Mental health issues cut short her career, but she did plenty enough in the time she did play to justify her selection.
  7. George Ulyett – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. An attacking all rounder for Yorkshire and England in the late 19th century. He had a test best score of 149, and test best innings bowling figures of 7-36. In the test match at The Oval in 1882, the second ever on English soil after 1880, he top scored with 26 in the England first innings, and was third out in the second, with the score at 51, and only another 34 needed to win. Grace fell two runs later, having become only the second player in the game to record a 30+ innings, and the middle and lower order froze in the face of Fred ‘the demon’ Spofforth’s unbridled hostility. In the end Peate’s wild heave against Harry Boyle might contact only with fresh air, and the stumps were rattled, leaving England beaten by seven runs. He also had a famous fielding moment in the course of his England career, when he took a catch of a shot that Bonnor, the legendary Aussie hitter had absolutely middled.
  8. *Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner, useful lower order batter. 1,956 first class wickets in less than a full decade at that level, at 14.90 each. 144 test wickets at 24 – when contending with a combination of doped pitches and Bradman’s batting. I have awarded him the captaincy that the mores of his time withheld from him, because I believe he would have been excellent at the job.
  9. Bill Whitty – left arm fast medium bowler. He had an excellent record in the years just prior to World War 1 breaking out. In terms of bowling averages only two Aussie left armers of pace have subsequently had records to compare with his (65 wickets at 21.12 from 14 test appearances), Alan Davidson (186 wickets at 20.53) and Bill Johnston who will be meeting later.
  10. Xara Jetly – off spinner. The young Kiwi is very much a prospect rather than an established player, but her last set of bowling figures recorded on cricinfo were 3-35, and I expect the hear more of her in due course (she is only 18, and has appeared a handful of time for Wellington Women).
  11. Waqar Younis – right arm fast bowler. Has all the ingredients – extra pace, rikght handed as opposed to left, etc, to make an excellent new ball partner for Bill Whitty. His first big moments were in the 1992 test series in England, when the home batters simply could not handle him. He subsequently played county cricket for first Surrey, and then Glamorgan, spearheading the bowling for the latter when they won the championship in 1997. Once in an ODI against England he took the first seven wickets to fall, the first time that had ever been done.

This team has a fine top five, albeit there is a question mark over Javed Omar, a great wicket keeping all rounder at six, the perfect type of all rounder to be coming at seven, and four well varied bowlers. Waqar Younis and Bill Whitty as mentioned should combine well with the new ball, Ulyett wuld be an excellent third seamer, and Verity’s class as a left arm spinner as unchallengable. His ‘spin twin’, Xara Jetly is admittedly an unknown quantity, but bowling in tandem with Verity could only help her. Quaife’s leg spin is more than adequate for a sixth bowler.

DON BRADMAN’S XI

  1. Hazratullah Zazai – left handed opening batter. Whatever he does he will do at a rapid rate.
  2. Azhar Ali – right handed opening batter. Averages 42 in test cricket, and had some very fine innings for Somerset as their overseas player. He and Zazai don’t need to score bucket loads opening for this team, just enough to set the stage for…
  3. Don Bradman – right handed batter. The greatest batter there has ever been, and number three was his preferred slot.
  4. Denis Compton – right handed batter, occasional left arm wrist spinner. A man who averaged 50 in test cricket, including scores of 145 and 184 against the 1948 invincibles. His record would have been even more amazing but for a long term knee injury.
  5. Basil D’Oliveira – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. Had he been able to make his debut for his native land when in his mid 20s, instead of for his adopted land ten years later he would probably have had a record to put him among the all time greats. As it was, he averaged 40 in test cricket, starting at age 35 and ending at age 41. He also played probably the most important innings ever, the 158 at The Oval in 1968 that underlined his claim to a place in the tour party to South Africa that winter, and that triggered the events that led to the sporting isolation of apartheid South Africa.
  6. Grant Elliott – right handed batter, right arm medium paced bowler. Another cricketer born in South Africa  who sought pastures new, albeit for different reasons. He has played for New Zealand, mainly in limited overs cricket.
  7. +Bruce French – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He was in his prime when the England selection approach was at its most inconsistent – the second half of the 1980s, which saw the England gauntlets spread around Paul Downton, him, Jack Richards and Jack Russell (and probably others I have forgotten).
  8. Joel Garner – right arm fast bowler. His ODI economy rate was just 3.09 runs per over, he also had a magnificent test record, and as a youngster possessed one of the most powerful throwing arms ever seen on a cricket field. He was broad and solid in proportion to his 6’8″ height, which helped to spare him from the kind of stress related injuries that plagued beanpoles such as Bruce Reid. The immense height from which he brought the ball down (approx 10 feet given the length of his arms and the fact that he had a high action) made things extremely tricky for opposing batters, especially at his native Barbados where his arm was coming from above the height of the sight screen.
  9. Bill Hitch – right arm fast below. Over 1,000 first class wickets at 21 a piece, but he was never an England regular such was the bowling strength available in his day. Playing for Surrey meant that a lot of his bowling was done at The Oval, not a ground that tops many bowler’s lists of favourites.
  10. Jack Iverson – right arm wrist spinner. A one place promotion from his usual spot for ‘wrong grip Jake’. I have used the designation right arm wrist spinner because although he bowled with a leg spinner’s action (augmented by flicking the ball with his middle finger) his principal delivery was the off break, which confused opposition batters no end. He was only once collared in first class cricket, when Keith Miller and Arthur Morris realized that getting well down the pitch was the way to play him. He played one test series, and was instrumental in Asutralia winning it, capturing 21 cheap wickets.
  11. Bill Johnston – left arm medium fast bowler, left arm orthodox spinner. Three times in the post World War Two era he was Australia’s leading wicket taker in a series. It was not unknown when conditions warranted it for Johnston to switch straight from spinning the old ball to swinging the new. His 40 test match appearances yielded 160 wickets at 23.91.

This team has an adequate looking opening pair, the incomparable Bradman at three, Compton at four, two fine players at five and six who can fill in as support bowlers, an excellent keeper and a marvellous line up of bowlers. Garner, Hitch and Johnston look an excellent pace trio, while Iverson’s spin would pose a stern test, and if a second spinner is needed Johnston can bowl in his slower style.

AN HONOURABLE MENTION

Some would argue that I should have picked Sobers ahead of Sangakkara, but with virtually all of Sobers’ bowling skills covered by specialists in the persons of Verity and Whitty I felt that Sangakkara’s batting style was more suited to the team’s needs than that of Sobers. It is a very close call.

THE CONTEST

This is a close call – the advantage the Bradman gives his own XI is to an extent negated by the presence of Verity, the one bowler he acknowledged facing as an equal in the opposition. Also, bearing in mind 1932-3, if Younis were to strike early with the new ball I would be tempted to set a 7-2 legside field for him and see how Bradman stands up to a barrage – possibly deploying Ulyett from the other end, also with a packed legside field as well. I would just about favour Verity’s XI to emerge victorious, and if the match was being played on an uncovered pitch I would make them distinct favourites, because they are better equipped to take advantage of a rain affected surface than Bradman’s XI, and Bradman himself rarely succeeded with the bat on such surfaces.

PHOTOGRAPHS

We end with my usual sign off:

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Caterpillar on anettle 1
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Caterpillar on a nettle 2
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Caterpillar no nettle 3
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The aerial view of the indivdual nettle plant selected by this caterpillar.

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TTA IV
The teams in tabuilated form.

All Time XIs – The Scribes Battle

Another variation on the ‘All Time XIs’ theme, this time featuring top cricketers who were or became top cricket writers. Where would your money be on the outcome of the battle for the ‘Cardus-Haigh’ Trophy?

INTRODUCTION

My latest variation on the ‘All Time XIs‘ theme looks at players who turned writer. Before introducing my chosen players I will explain my envisaged scenario to set the scene.

THE SCRIBES BATTLE – THE CONTEST FOR THE CARDUS – HAIGH TROPHY

My teams comprise people who made their names as high level players and who also wrote about the game. In each case I my cricket library contains at least one full book authored or co-authored by the chosen player. The Cardus – Haigh Trophy name honours two of my favourite cricket writers who did not play at a high level – Neville Cardus, a useful off spinner in club cricket, but never a first class cricketer, and Gideon Haigh, a rather less useful club off spinner. Thus, I have two teams to introduce, and I think I can guarantee that this would be a contest not to miss…

THE SCRIBES TEAMS

First up in our contest for the Cardus-Haigh Trophy I give you…

DOUGLAS JARDINE’S XI

  1. Jack Fingleton – opening batter and excellent writer. His author credits include “Brightly Fades The Don”, “Brown and Company” and “Four Chukkas to Australia” among others. His cricketing achievements included four successive test centuries.
  2. *Douglas Jardine – captain, and although not a regular opening bat, he did do the job at test level on occasions. His writing credit is for “In Quest Of The Ashes”, his own account of the 1932-3 tour of Australia when he was England captain. He was always adamantly of the opinion that runs could be scored against the method he devised, and when in 1933 the West Indies, via Manny Martindale and Learie Constantine, turned his own tactics on him he gave a convincing defence of his own case by scoring his one and only test century (127).
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed bat, left arm orthodox spinner, author of “King of Games”. He has already featured in my Kent all time XI and in my Record Setters XI.
  4. Walter Hammond – right handed bat, slip ace, occasional right arm fast medium and author of two highly entertaining books, “Cricket: My Destiny and “Cricket: My World”. Had he not made an ill-advised test comeback after World War II he would have finished with 6,883 test runs at 61.75, and had the highest average of any England batter to play 20 or more test matches. As it was he became the first to reach the landmark of 7,000 test runs and finished with 7,249 at 58.45.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed bat, left arm wrist spinner, author of “Playing for England” and “Compton on Cricketers”, co-author with Bill Edrich of “Cricket and All That”. He features in my Middlesex and Record Setters XIs.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed bat, right arm fast bowler, author of “On Fire”. The X-factor all rounder features in my Durham All Time XI. There is no bespectacled left arm spinner for him to bat with in the closing stages this time.
  7. +Rodney Marsh – wicket keeper, left handed bat, author “The Inside Edge”.
  8. Alec Bedser – right arm fast medium, right handed bat, author of “Cricket Choice” and “Twin Ambitions”. He also features in my Surrey All Time XI.
  9. Bill O’Reilly – leg spinner, right handed bat, author of “Cricket Task Force” and “The Bradman Era”. 
  10. Brian Statham – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat, author of “Spell At The Top”. He features in my Lancashire All Time XI, and should be an excellent foil to…
  11. Bob Willis – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat, author “Captai n’s Diary: Australia 1982-3”, “Captain’s Diary: New Zealand 1983-4” and “Six Of The Best”. He features in my All Time Warwickshire XI.

This side has a solid looking opening pair, an excellent trio at 3,4 and 5, all of whom can also contribute with the ball, an x-factor all rounder at six, a brilliant keeper  and four splendid bowlers. It lacks an off spinner, but has every other base covered, and of course has a ruthless skipper at the helm. It is now time to meet their opponents…

IAN CHAPPELL’S XI

  1. Len Hutton – right handed opening bat, author of “Fifty Years In Cricket”. One hald of the opening pair in my Yorkshire All Time XI (with my namesake, Herbert Sutcliffe), and scorer of 6.971 test runs at 56.67.
  2. *Ian Chappell – right handed bat, captain, author of “Chapelli Laughs Again” and “Chapelli Has The Last Laugh”. He usually batted three rather than opening, but I have moved him up one, because as you will see I have a rather stronger claimant to the no3 slot in this XI.
  3. Don Bradman – right handed bat, author of among others “Farewell to Cricket”. Quite simply the greatest batter of all time, and here given an opportunity to match wits once more with the only opposition captain who could claim with any justification to have got the better of him.
  4. Tom Graveney – right handed bat, author of “The Ten Greatest Test Teams”. He features in my Gloucestershire All Time XI, and had I not named there I would have done so for Worcestershire, the other county he played for. The first half of a supremely elegant middle order duo, with…
  5. David Gower – left handed bat, author of “Anyone for Cricket” (jointly with Bob Taylor), “On The Rack”, and an autobiography. 8,231 runs in test cricket at 44.25, he would need to me on his mettle in this contest as Jardine would without doubt keep two gullies in place for him owing to his tendency to fish at balls outside off stump. However I reckon that he would relish the contest. He features in my Leicestershire All Time XI and later played for Hampshire.
  6. Monty Noble – right hand bat, right arm medium and/or off spin, author of “Gilligan’s Men”, an account of the 1924-5 Ashes tour.
  7. +Bob Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed bat and co-author with Gower of “Anyone For Cricket?”. He has previously featured in my Derbyshire All Time XI and in the Staffordshire Born piece.
  8. Richard Hadlee – right arm fast bowler, left handed bat, author of “Rhythm and Swing”. He featured in my Record Setters XI and got an honourable mention in the Nottinghamshire piece.
  9. Ashley Mallett – right arm off spinner, right handed bat, gully specialist fielder, author of “Victor Trumper: The Illustrated Biography”.
  10. John Snow – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat, author of “Cricket Rebel”. He features in my Sussex All Time XI. In 1970-1 he blitzed the Aussies who had Ian Chappell in their ranks (captain for the final match after the deposition of Bill Lawry) in their own backyard. This time ‘Chapelli’ would be captaining Snow.
  11. Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right handed bat, author of “Batters Castle”, “Spinners Yarn”, “Woolley: Pride of Kent” and “The Fight For The Ashes 1958-9”. He featured in my Non-Cricketing Birthplaces XI.

This team has an opening pair who should combine well, the greatest batter of them all at no3, a supremely elegant combo at 4 and 5, a tough all rounder at six, a superb wicket keeper and four excellent bowling options. The presence of Hadlee and Snow gives them means to counter a barrage should Willis, Statham and Stokes provide one, something that the 1932-3 Aussies deprived themselves of (had Fingleton, Chapelli’s grandfather Vic Richardson, or Bill O’Reilly been given HOa say I suspect that at least two out of Laurie Nash, Jack Scott, Eddie Gilbert and ‘Bull’ Alexander would have been picked as part of the Aussie attack, and Jardine would not have had such on overwhelming advantage in fast bowling firepower).

HOW THE CONTEST WOULD WORK AND MY PREDICTION FOR THE OUTCOME

I envisage 10 5-day matches, five in England at Edgbaston, Lord’s, Headingley, Trent Bridge and The Oval, and five in Australia at Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. If after 10 matches the score is level, I would have the teams reconvene for a timeless match to settle the issue, to played at a neutral venue (Cape Town, Kolkata or Bridgetown would all be possibilities). Should that match be tied, then tie splitting option one would be for the trophy to go the team that took most wickets over the 11 matches played, and if that does not split them, then, and only then, would we resort to ‘super overs’ to find a winner (hope you’re still fit by then Mr Stokes!). In addition the main trophy, there would of course be player of the match and player of the series awards, and a special “Grace-Murdoch” medal (named after two of the early Ashes ‘heroes’) along similar lines to the “Compton-Miller” medal.

The umpires would need to be chosen carefully, and the only match referee who would even have a chance of handling this would be Clive Lloyd.

Notwithstanding the presence of Bradman in Ian Chappell’s XI I make Douglas Jardine’s XI slight favourites – and more than slight favourites if it gets so close that all the tie-splitting procedures are needed – assuming Stokes is still fit only one of these sides could win a ‘super over’ contest!

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

The ‘Cardus-Haigh’ Trophy for the battle of the cricket scribes and the two XIs to compete for it have taken their bows, but before I apply my usual sign off I have a couple of links to share (the honourable mentions are just too numerous to even attempt):

  • The pinchhitter has again honoured me with a mention in today’s offering, which I highly recommend.
  • Van Badham has a piece in The Guardian (Cardus wrote for it in it’s great days as The Manchester Guardian, under the control of legendary owner-editor CP Scott) giving awards to all the worst responders to coronavirus (small but unsurprising spoiler, the overall grand champion currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).
  • Finally, courtesy of brilliant.org, a little mathematical teaser (my current, personal record, problem solving streak there now runs to one day more than Dennis Lillee’s career tally of test wickets) – see screenshot and four available answers below. In my next post I will provide both my own (mathematical equivalent to Grace’s run out of Sammy Jones, as I freely admit) and a more authentic solution in my next post.
    Brilliant Challenge
    The four answers offered by the setter are 94, 96, 98 and 100. Over to you.

Now it is time for my usual sign off:

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A couple of illustrations photographed from Hammond’s “Cricket: My World”

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Scribes XIs
The XIs in tabulated form with abridged comments.

All Time XIs – Record Setters XI

My latest variation on the all-time XI theme, a USian thread about protecting one’s family, introducing my father’s blog and the inevitable photographs.

INTRODUCTION

It is time for another variation on the ‘All Time XI‘ theme. Today I introduce you to a squad of record setters. While most of them had extraordinary careers, the records I have chosen to highlight were usually established over a few matches or a season, with one and a bit exceptions. As usual with one of my XIs I have been selecting it as a team as well as a collection of individuals, so it encapsulates a broad range of talents.

THE RECORD SETTERS XI

  1. *WG Grace – I have selected him for two extraordinary purple patches, not his overall career record, although that too is extraordinary. In his last 11 matches of the 1874 season, at the start of which no one had ever achieved the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches, he achieved that double. These 11 matches, capping an already fine season, included a spectacular burst of six games in which he scored a century and took 10 or more wickets five times, managing a 10 wicket haul in the other game but only one run. Before this the dual feat had been accomplished only seven times, four of them by WG himself. In August 1876 he scored 839 runs in three successive first class knocks – 344 for MCC v Kent, 177 for Gloucestershire v Nottinghamshire and 318 not out for Gloucestershire v Yorkshire.
  2. Tom Hayward – the Cambridgeshire born Surrey opener achieved a feat the to this day remains his alone – he scored twin centuries in each of two successive first class games, all four centuries being scored in the space of a week.
  3. Frank Woolley – the Kent left handed all rounder is the only one who is selected for a record achieved over the duration of a career – he alone achieved the career ‘treble’ of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches in first class cricket. He is joint record holder (with his captain in this XI, WG Grace) of the record number of 1,000 run seasons, 28. He achieved the ‘batting all rounders double of 2,000 runs and 100 wickets in a first class season on four occasions, which is also a record.
  4. Denis Compton – the Middlesex ace holds the record aggregate for first class runs in a seaon and first class centuries in a season, 3,816 and 18 respectively, both set in 1947. He also scored the fastest ever first class triple century, 181 minutes in Benoni.
  5. James Horace Parks – the Sussex batting all rounder is given his full name because his son, also a James Parks, played for Sussex as a middle order batter and sometimes wicket keeper. In 1937 he achieved a feat that is likely to remain his alone by combing 3,000 runs (3,003) with 100 wickets (101) in the first class season. His grandson Bobby kept wicket for Hampshire in the 1980s, but as yet there has been no sign of a fourth generation of first class cricketing Parkses to draw them level with the Cowdreys.
  6. George Hirst – the Yorkshire all rounder has a unique season double to his credit – in 1906 he scored 2,385 first class runs and captured 208 first class wickets, the only 2,000 run, 200 wicket double ever achieved in a first class season. Against Somerset at Bath that season he had a match that was a microcosm of his season – centuries in both of this sides innings and five-fors in both of the opposition teams innings, a unique match ‘quadruple’.
  7. +Leslie Ames – the ‘wicket keeper’s double’ of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in first class matches for the season has been achieved four times in first class history, and the first three occasions were all by the Kent man, including in 1929 a record season haul for a keeper of 128 dismissals (79 caught, 49 stumped). 
  8. Richard Hadlee – in 1969 the English first class season was drastically reduced to make room for the John Player League, a 40 overs per side competition (part of the definition of a first class game is that must run to at least three days, which is why Alastair Cook’s 2005 double century against the Aussies does not feature in his first class record – that was a two day game), and further changes since then have continued to reduce the number of first class fixtures played. The first of only two players to achieve the 1,000 runs, 100 wickets double for a season post 1969 was the Kiwi right arm fast bowler and left handed attacking batter, an overseas stalwart for Nottinghamshire over many years, in 1984. He planned his campaign that year with a thoroughness that would have left most generals blushing, assessing exactly what he reckoned he needed to do and which opponents he could do it against, and it worked out more or less according to his script. He wrote a book, “At The Double”, which came out in 1985 and detailed his extraordinary assault on the history books. Hadlee also has the best test innings figures ever recorded by a fast bowler, 9-52 against Australia, in the first test series that New Zealand ever won against their trans-Tasman rivals (the eighth Aussie dissmissed in that innings, Geoff ‘Henry’ Lawson, attempted to attack spinner Vaughan Brown and succeeded only in offering a dolly catch, which Hadlee, a possible all ten not withstanding, coolly accepted).
  9. Charles ‘The Terror’ Turner – the Aussie took 283 first class wickets on the 1884 tour of England, a record for any tourist anywhere, and in 1887-8 became the first and only bowler to take 100 first class wickets in an Australian season. 
  10. Tich Freeman – the 5’2″ Kent leg spinner took 304 first class wickets in the 1928 season, the all time record (he also has numbers 2,3 and 5 on the list, and six of the 13 occasions on which a bowler has taken 250 first class wickets in a season were his. Freeman also stands alone in achieving three first class ‘all tens’.
  11. Tom Richardson – the Surrey fast bowler, who took more wickets in a season than any other of his pace – 290 in 1894 was his best haul.

This is a beautifully balanced XI, with depth in batting (even Turner and Freeman had records that included test fifties), a bowling attack that is rich in both numbers and variety, with speedsters Richardson and Hadlee being backed an off spin/ cut bowler in Turner, a leggie in Freeman, a left arm orthodox spinner (Woolley), a left arm unorthodox spinner (Compton) plus Hirst’s left arm pace and swing and the far from negligible bowling offerings of Grace and Parks, and Hayward’s medium pace sometimes had its moments – only Ames would definitely not get a turn at the bowling crease (though even that could be arranged – WG deputized as keeper in test matches on occasions, once enabling the official glove man, the Hon Alffred Lyttelton to collect 4-19 bowling lobs!).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Within my brief (record setting, but over a few matches or a season, rather than a career, with an exception made for Woolley), the most obvious miss was Jim Laker, the Surrey off spinner who holds the record for most wickets in a first class game (19-90 v Australia at Old Trafford in 1956), while, as mentioned by Woolley in “King of Games”, had things gone a bit differently when Kent played Northamptonshire in 1907 Blythe would have had an unassailable case for inclusion with the only ‘all twenty’ in first class history to his credit. Maurice Tate and Albert Trott each had seasons in which they scored 1,000 first class runs and took 200 first class wickets. Don Bradman holds the record average for an English first class season, 115.66 in 1938. Geoffrey Boycott twice averaged over 100 for a full English season, but in both cases his side fell down the table (nine whole places to a then historic low of 13th in 1971), while Hirst’s annus mirabilis saw Yorkshire finish second to Kent, the single run by which they lost to Gloucestershire being the biggest small margin in cricket’s history until the final of the 2019 Men’s World Cup. Brian Lara holds the world record individual scores in both test and first class cricket, but both of those scores, and his earlier 375 v England in 1994 came in drawn games which never really looked like being anything else. Syd Barnes’ 49 wickets in the series against South Africa in 1913-4, missing the last game after a dispute over terms and conditions, was an extraordinary feat. George Giffen’s match for South Australia v Victoria in which he scored 271 not out, and then took 7-70 amd 9-96 nearly earned him a place.

I end this section by reminding folks that I am selecting XIs, not full squads or even tour parties, and that I endeavour to ensure that each side has a good balance to it, both of which need to be borne in mind when suggesting changes.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Another XI has trodden the aspi.blog boards, but before signing off in my usual fashion I have a couple of other things to do. First, Gabrielle Blair has posted a wonderful twitter thread on the theme of “protecting one’s family”, taking aim at the obsession some of compatriots have with guns, which she then turned into a blog post on her site, designmom. I urge to read it.

Second, in a couple of my recent posts I have drawn attention to my mother’s new blog (see here and here), well now it is my father’s turn. He has set up a blog called morethanalittlefoxed, in which he writes about books. He has begun an A-Z series, and as a starter I offer you his D entry, “D is for Frances Isabella Duberly” (he has reached the letter E, but shrewd wordpressers will realize that by picking out the D I have given visitors three posts that are no more than two clicks away – ‘previous post’ and ‘next post’ being available when they exist.

Finally it is time for the usual sign off…

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I was delighted to see this bird through my window this morning – my photographic opportunities are limited to what I see through my front window and what I can get while out in the back garden when weather permits.

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A large and surprisingly co-operative fly

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Even with a telescopic zoom lens capturing a goldfinch when looking upwards, with the sun in a less than ideal position and over a distance of approximately 50 metres is not the most straightforward of tasks.

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I spotted this stone while walking laps of my garden.

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An insect crawls on my book..
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…and here it is on the forefinger of my left hand.
Record Setters XI
The XI in tabulated form with abridged comments.

All Time XIs – Middlesex

Continuing my all-time XIs series with Middlesex.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my All Time XIs series. We move on to our eighth county (a feat that even a modern day overseas mercenary might find difficult!), Middlesex. On the All Time XI theme, the fulltoss blog has just served up a very interesting XI of bizarre test debut stories – please do have a gander. After I have gone through my chosen XI I am going to include another section in this post explaining the particular challenges that this assignment has posed.

MIDDLESEX ALL TIME XI

  1. *Andrew Strauss – left handed opening batter and captain. He was alone in scoring two inividual hundreds in the 2005 Ashes, won the Compton-Miller trophy for his batting and captaincy in the 2009 Ashes (highlighted by a first innings 161 at Lord’s to put England in command of that match) and then captained England to a first Ashes win in Australia since 1986-7 (and first overseas Ashes win under a captain not to answer to Mike since Ray Illingworth’s 1970-1 triumph!). In 2011 his captaincy career reached its apogee when he led England to a convincing series win over India that propelled them to the top of the world test rankings, a mere 12 years after defeat against New Zealand had consigned them to bottom of the pile.
  2. Jack Robertson – An underrated opener whose 331 not out vs Derbyshire remains the highest ever individual score for Middlesex. In the 1947 season when Bill Edrich and Denis Compton made all the headlines he scored 12 centuries of his own, and it was often a solid start from him that they were cashing in on.
  3. Bill Edrich – one of five members of his family (three of his brothers, plus cousin John – see my Surrey team) to play first class cricket, an excellent no 3 bat and a superb fielder and a very useful bowler of right arm fast medium (on one occasion during the 1948 Ashes he shared the new ball for England with Alec Bedser). His first really big score at the highest level came the match that killed the notion of timeless tests stone dead, at Durban at the end of 1938-9 tour of South Africa, when he contributed 219 to an England score that reached 654-5 in pursuit of a victory target of 696 before the rain came down and the match had to be abandoned as a draw for fear of England missing their boat home. His career was split into two portions by World War II, during which he served in the RAF.
  4. Denis Compton – for much of his career he combined cricket for Middlesex and England with football for Arsenal, though he was not quite a double international – he played for England in wartime matches which were not given full international status. He was forever forgetting things, including on one memorable occasion his bat – he borrowed a spare from a team mate and scored 158 with it. In 1947 he scored 3,816 first class runs, with 18 centuries. During the 1948-9 tour of South Africa he scored 300 not out in 181 minutes at Benoni, the fastest ever first class triple hundred (Charlie Macartney for Australia v Nottinghamshire in 1921 reached 300 in 198 minutes on his way to a score of 345 in 232 minutes). 5,800 test runs at 50 shows how good he was. He reached the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds in his 552nd innings, quicker than anyone else save Don Bradman who got there in just 295 innings. In addition to his batting he bowled left arm wrist spin and was an excellent fielder. Don Bradman paid Compton the tribute of selecting him at number three, the equivalent position to the Don’s own in the Australian XI in his all time England XI, which you can read about in Roland Perry’s “Bradman’s Best Ashes Teams”.
  5. Patsy Hendren – the third leading first class run scorer of all time with 57,611 (behind Hobbs – 61,237 if you are a traditionalist, 61,760 if you are a revisionist – and Woolley, 58,969) and the second leading centurion of all time with 170 (Hobbs 197 if you are traditionalist, 199 if you are a revisionist). He was also a brilliant fielder and a practical joker. During the 1928-9 Ashes he was involved in a famous exchange with Douglas Jardine. Jardine was getting the bird from Aussie spectators and Hendren said to him “they don’t seem to like you very much, Mr Jardine”, to which Jardine responded “it is ****ing mutual” – playwright Ben Travers was party to the exchange and mentioned it in his book “94 Declared”.
  6. Bernard Bosanquet – the creator of the googly and a hard hitting middle order batter. Under today’s laws the googly may well have been still born, its first victim Sam Coe being done by one which bounced four times before hitting the stumps and would therefore have been called no-ball today (worse still for Coe he was on 98 at the time). Bosanquet scored over 11,000 first class runs in his career.
  7. +John Murray – only one wicketkeeper has ever made more career dismissals than Murray, Bob Taylor of Derbyshire and England. Murray was also a very useful bat. In the Oval test match of 1966 England were 166-7 when he arrived at the crease to join Tom Graveney (see my Gloucestershire piece). Graveney made 165, Murray 112 an to add insult to already considerable injury nos 10 and 11, Ken Higgs and John Snow then weighed in with half centuries of their own to boost the final total to 527. Unsurprisingly deflated by this the West Indies subsequently went down to an innings defeat, some consolation for England at the end of the series in which they had been thoroughly outplayed.
  8. Fred Titmus – a long serving off spinner and useful lower order bat, he had an excellent tour of Australia in 1962-3. He made his first class debut in 1949, and his career only ended in 1982.
  9. Gubby Allen – a fast bowler who was also a capable bat – he scored a test century against New Zealand, helping to turn 190-7 into 436 all out. He holds the record innings figures for a Middlesex bowler – 10-40 against Lancashire. His career figures were limited by the fact that he was that rare thing, a genuine amateur who played at the top level and worked for a living in a non-cricket related job, hence the fact that he played less than 150 times for Middlesex in the course of a 29 year span.
  10. Jack Hearne – the fourth leading wicket taker in first class history, with 3,061 scalps. He bowled medium-fast, took nine wickets in a first class innings on no fewer than eight occasions. In 1899 at Headingley he took what may be regarded as the best of all test match hat tricks, Clem Hill, Syd Gregory and Monty Noble, two specialist batters and an all-rounder.
  11. Wayne Daniel – the West Indies had so many great fast bowlers when he was in his prime that he got little opportunity at test level, but his record as an overseas player for Middlesex was excellent. He was also very popular with his team mates – Mike Brearley in “The Art of Captaincy” writes about him in glowing terms.

This team is a solid opening pair, including a left handed bat in Strauss, a powerful engine room at nos 3-5, a hard hitting all rounder at six, an excellent keeper/ batter at seven and four varied bowlers to round out the order. The bowling has two purveyors of out and out speed in Allen and Daniel (with Edrich’s fast-medium also available at need), a crafty medium-fast operator in Hearne, an off spinner in Titmus, Bosanquet’s wrist spin and Compton’s left arm wrist spin, an attack that boasts both depth and variety.

DIFFICULTIES AND CONTROVERSIES

Middlesex have produced many great names down the years, and a vast number of Middlesex names are well known, because until quite recently playing a lot of your matches at Lord’s gave you a huge advantage in terms of being seen by suitably influential people. This side was difficult to select because doing so meant leaving out huge numbers of players all of whom will have their advocates. I would hope that my comments immediately below the selections would explain my thinking, especially as regards balancing the side to contain both depth and variety with both bat and ball.

I am now going to look down the order at some of those who missed out – please be aware that I had positive reasons for including those I did, not negative reasons for leaving people out.

OPENERS

Andrew Stoddart (a great captain as well), Pelham Warner and Mike Brearley would all have merited consideration for one of these berths, as would Desmond Haynes had I not already decided that the overseas player should be a bowler.

NOS 3-5

My three selections all had absolutely commanding cases for inclusion – it tells you how strong Middlesex have been in this department that there was no room for long time England stalwart Mike Gatting.

NO 6

The traditional all rounder’s berth, and there were a wealth of options to fill it. Vyell Walker, ‘Young’ Jack Hearne (to distinguish him from ‘Old’ Jack, picked as a specialist bowler), Greville Stevens, Aussie exiles Albert Trott and Frank Tarrant,  and Walter Robins were just six of the names who could have been considered. I awarded the palm to Bosanquet for his innovative qualities.

THE KEEPER

Again, Middlesex have been well served in this department, with Hylton Phillipson, Gregor MacGregor and Paul Downton having also represented their country down the years.

THE BOWLERS

Vintcent Van Der Bijl would have his advocates for the overseas player/ fast bowler role that I gave to Wayne Daniel, and he would be equally as deserving. Among the spinners who missed out were John Emburey, Phil Edmonds and Phil Tufnell. Among quicker home grown bowlers Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones, Angus Fraser, Norman Cowans and John Price would all have their advocates, and I would not argue against them, merely for my own choices. I end this section by saying: if you want to suggest people for inclusion, be they those I have highlighted or others, by all means do so, but consider the balance of the selected team, and tell me which of my choices should be dropped to make way for yours.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes folks, we’ve reached the end of today’s journey, and it is time for my usual sign off…

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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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