All Time XIs – Match Ups (10)

Continuing my analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. Today’s match ups are the last four involving the Bs, and the first with the Cs in the hot seat.

Welcome to the latest in my series of posts analysing how the all time XIs I picked for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. This post sees the completion of the Bs and the first match up with the C team in the hot seat. The Bs come into today with 69 of a possible 105 points. Before I get to the main meat of the post, Heritage Open Day 2022 which was to have been this Sunday has been postponed due to the death of a ludicrously over-privileged old woman. Apaarently the council cannot support the event on Sunday and without their support it cannot be run. Provisionally Sunday 2 October is being looked at the new date – I have already declared my availability for that date.

THE Bs V THE Ws

The Bs are ahead on batting, but the Ws are ahead on bowling. I personally think the Ws have the bowling guns to compensate for the Bs batting advantage and score this one Bs 2, Ws 3.

THE Bs V THE Xs

The Xs lose 10 match ups out of 11 fairly comprehensively. Box, allowing for how difficult batting was in his day, can be considered to win the battle of the keepers, but that will make little difference to the overall outcome – Bs 5, Xs 0.

THE Bs V THE Ys

The Bs are ahead in all areas – even if one accepts that Poonam Yadav is a better leg spinner than Richie Benaud was, the Aussie’s batting compensates for this. Bs 5, Ys 0.

THE Bs V THE Zs

The Bs once again dominate this one, with only Zulqarnain Haider definitely winning his match up. I score this as Bs 5, Zs 0.

THE Bs FINAL ANALYSIS

The Bs scored a further 17 points today, giving them 86 out of 125, or 68.80%. This puts them comfortably ahead of the As, who scored 69, and for the moment first in our ranking table.

THE Cs V THE Ds

The Cs come into this match up with 1.5 points out of a possible 10 from their match ups against the As and the Bs. The Cs have a strong opening combo, albeit both batting out of their very best positions, a good number three who is also a shrewd and resourceful skipper, two unequivocal greats at four and five, a mercurial all rounder at six, a fine keeper, and a decent quartet of bowlers. The Ds lose out in the matter of opening pairs, win the number three slot hands down, but as against that lose on captaincy. Four and five are closely fought, but the greater experience of the C pair gives them the honours. Number six goes to the Ds. Dujon comfortably wins the battle of the keepers, while Davidson beats Cornwall in the number eight slot. Daniel and Donald are a good match for Cummins and Croft in the pace department, and Dennett, possibly the finest bowler never to have played test cricket (he overlapped with Rhodes and Blythe, both even greater left arm spinners), probably has the edge on Chandrasekhar. This is by far the closes contest the Cs have been in, and allowing for Chappelli’s captaincy and the possibility of a turner, where they would have the advantage, I score this one Cs 2, Ds 3. This means that after three match ups the Cs are on 3.5 of a possible 15 points, 23.33%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (6)

Welcome to the latest post in my series analysing how my all time XIs for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. We reached the conclusion of the A XIs match ups yesterday, so now we start with the B XIs. They have 3.5 points in the bank from their encounter with the As (see here).

THE Bs V THE Cs

The Bs dominate the batting, with only G Chappell among the top six outpointing his opposite number, and that by a mere fraction. Added to this is the fact that for reasons explained in the original post about the Cs Chanderpaul and arguably Cowdrey are batting out of position. Carter out bats Bari, but Bari was the finer keeper. Bates and Benaud are unquestionably a finer pair of spinners than Cornwall and Chandrasekhar, and both also possessed batting pedigree, something to which Cornwall has limited claim and Chandrasekhar none. Barnes and Bumrah for my money have the edge on Cummins and Croft as a new ball combination, though the Cs are undoubtedly the faster pair. Botham and Constantine were two mercurial all rounders, capable of match winning performances. I will allow for the possibility of a Constantine special, while rating it odds against, so my final score for this is Bs 4.5, Cs 0.5.

THE Bs V THE Ds

The Bs have an advantage with the bat – only Duleepsinhji, D’Oliveira and Dujon of those whose batting is of major significance win their match ups in this department. Davidson, Daniel and Donald as a pace trio probably beat Barnes, Bumrah and Botham, but as against that the Ds have only one front line spin option, Dennett, to match up against Bates and Benaud. Finally, Bradman was acknowledged to be a superb skipper, whereas Dennett never got any captaincy experience because of the social mores of his time. Although the Ds are far from helpless in this contest, the Bs are obvious favourites and I score it Bs 3, Ds 2.

THE Bs V THE Es

The Bs have a huge advantage in batting, and Botham is definitely a better third pacer than Edrich, though Emmett and Elliott v Barnes and Bumrah is a fine contest, as is Ecclestone and Evans v Benaud and Bates in the spin bowling department. I make this one Bs 4, Es 1.

THE Bs V THE Fs

The Bs boss the batting as usual, though Foakes is the better keeper. The Fs have a greater range of bowling options, with six genuine front line bowlers. I accord them a definite win the pace department, with Ferris, Freeman and Foster clearly a stronger combo than Barnes, Bumrah and Botham. Flowers, Fender and Faulkner give the Fs three front line spin options. The question is whether the Fs extra bowling will compensate for the Bs huge superiority in batting. I don’t think it quite does, but I am not prepared to award the Bs victory here – Bs 2.5, Fs 2.5.

THE Bs V THE Gs

The Bs as usual are ahead on batting, but are clearly behind on bowling – WG is his side’s sixth best bowler. Grimmett and Gibbs are a good match for Bates and Benaud in the spin department, Gregory, Garner and Geary compare nicely with Barnes, Bumrah and Botham. I award this one to the Gs – Bs 2, Gs 3.

INTERIM REPORT ON THE Bs

The Bs are that this stage on 19.5 points out of 30, or 65%. The As were on a mere 14.5 points after their first six match ups, for comparison.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs: Ultimate Talents

A look at a selection of record breaking and utterly unique cricketers by way of explaining the unanswerability of the question “who was the greatest ever cricketer”.

This post was provoked by a question I saw posted on twitter yesterday: who was the greatest cricketer of all time. This question is of course unanswerable and to explain why this is so I have assembled a touring party of 17 all of whom were about as good as players of their type can be. All of these players have attributes that mean that the claim that they stand alone in cricket history is unassailable, and I explain why in the course of my look at that them.

FIRST XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. JB Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. ‘The Master’, scorer of more FC runs and more FC centuries than anyone else in the history of the game.
  2. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career. The most dominant player of any era, towering over his contemporaries both literally and metaphorically.
  3. DG Bradman – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. A test batting average of 99.94, maintained over 52 matches at level needs no further comment.
  4. SR Tendulkar – right handed batter, occasional bowler. The only player to have scored 100 centuries across formats in international cricket.
  5. FE Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The only cricketer to tally over 10,000 FC runs, take over 1,000 wickets and hold over 1,000 catches in the course of a first class career.
  6. GS Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most complete cricketer the game has ever seen.
  7. GH Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. Achieved the feat of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches in each of 10 successive seasons, including the only ever instance of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in the same FC season.
  8. +RW Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The most wicket keeping dismissals (1,649 of them – 1,473 catches and 176 stumpings) of anyone in first class cricket history.
  9. W Rhodes – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter. More first class wickets than anyone else in the game’s history, even though there was a phase in his career when he hardly bowled. He also scored almost 40,000 runs in FC cricket.
  10. SF Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. The best wickets per game ratio of anyone to play 20 or more tests – 189 in 27 matches, at 16.43 each = seven wickets per match. Generally regarded as the greatest of all bowlers.
  11. T Richardson – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The fastest to the career landmarks of 1,000 FC wickets (134 matches) and 2,000 (327 matches). From the start of the 1894 season to the end of the 1897 season he took just over 1,000 wickets, a period of wicket taking unique in cricket history.

This is a well balanced XI of awesome power. Now onto…

THE RESERVES

These are my six designated reserves:

  1. H Sutcliffe, right handed opening batter. My reserve opener was the ultimate big game player. His overall FC average was 52.02, his overall test average 60.73 and his overall Ashes average 66.85. As he himself once said to Pelham Warner “ah Mr Warner, I love a dogfight”.
  2. JH Kallis, right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Has a fair claim to be regarded as the best batting all rounder ever to play the game. He didn’t master the full range of skills that Sobers did, hence his place as a reserve rather than in the starting XI.
  3. GA Faulkner, right handed batter, leg spinner. The only cricketer to have finished a career of over 20 test matches with a batting average of over 40 and a bowling average of less than 30.
  4. GL Jessop, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The most consistently fast scorer ever to play the game.
  5. +LEG Ames, right handed batter, wicket keeper. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100FC hundreds, also holds the record for most career stumpings in first class cricket – 418.
  6. GA Lohmann, right arm medium fast bowler, right handed batter. The man with the lowest career bowling average of anyone take 100 test wickets – 10.75.

CONCLUSIONS

This little collection of players fully illustrates why there is no definitive answer to the question I saw on twitter yesterday. I also missed the taker of 800 test wickets (Muralidaran), the only player to score 5,000 test runs and take 400 test wickets (Kapil Dev), the holder of the record test and first class individual scores (Lara), and quite a few others who have and deserve to have legions of fans. If forced to provide a single player as answer to this question I would consider WG Grace to be less far wrong than any other single answer.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

An All Time XI All From Different Countries

A variation on the all-time XI, this time requiring every player to come from a different country. Also some photographs.

I have one other thing to mention besides my main topic, which is a revisit to the All Time XI theme which I have explored here many times, especially during the period immediately after Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic.

THE BRIEF

This is to be an All Time XI with every selected player coming from different countries. It is to be a team that will pose a formidable threat in any and all conditions, so variety is essential. There are some players (Bradman and Sobers e.g) whose preeminence is such that they have to be their country’s representative, and in the case of some of the minor nations who are represented they had only one player wh0 could even be considered. This in turn limited who could be picked from other countries where the field was theoretically wider.

THE TEAM INCLUDING 12TH

  1. Jack Hobbs (England, right handed opening batter and occasional medium pacer). “The Master”, scorer of 61,237 FC runs including 197 centuries, scorer of 12 Ashes centuries. The oldest ever test centurion, the last of his centuries at that level coming at Melbourne in 1929 by when he was 46 years old. My English representative is highly likely to be one half of a pair that gets the innings off to a strong start.
  2. Sunil Gavaskar (India, right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer). He was the first to reach the milestone of 10,000 test runs. He had an excellent technique and seemingly limitless patience. One would absolutely ideally prefer one of the openers to be left handed but I can’t see many new ball bowlers queuing up for a crack at this opening pair!
  3. Don Bradman (Australia, right handed batter, occasional leg spinner). The greatest batter ever to have played the game (his test average of 99.94 puts him almost 40 runs an innings ahead of the next best, his FC average of 95.14 puts him 24 an innings ahead of the next best at that level). He is also vice captain of the team.
  4. Graeme Pollock (South Africa, left handed batter, occasional leg spinner). The best test average of any left hander to have played 20 or more test matches, 60.97 per innings.
  5. Garry Sobers (West Indies, left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket). Quite simply the most complete player the game has yet seen and one whose absence from this XI I could never countenance.
  6. +Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh, right handed batter, wicket keeper). One of the great stalwarts of Bangladesh cricket, an excellent keeper and a gritty middle order batter whose test record would almost certainly be even more impressive than it actually is had he been part of a stronger side.
  7. *Imran Khan (Pakistan, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler). Has a strong case to be regarded as the greatest genuine all rounder in test history (batting average 37, bowling average 22), and a great captain as well (he is designated skipper of this side, and one of very few who could possibly see Bradman named vice captain rather than captain).
  8. Rashid Khan (Afghanistan, leg spinner and useful right handed lower order batter). This one was fairly inevitable – I need a wide range of top class bowling options, and a leg spinner of undisputed world class who hails from a minor nation is pretty much indispensable in that regard.
  9. ‘Bart’ King (USA, right arm fast bowler, useful right handed lower order batter). The original ‘King of Swing’, taker of over 400 FC wickets at 15 a piece, and good enough with the bat to average 20.
  10. Richard Hadlee (New Zealand, right arm fast bowler, useful left handed lower order batter). With genuine respect to today’s Kiwi side, comfortably the strongest they have ever been able to field, he remains his country’s greatest ever cricketer.
  11. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka, off spinner, right handed tail end batter). 800 test wickets, taken at a rate of six per game. At The Oval in 1998, on a pitch that was quite hard and quite dry but basically blameless he claimed 16 English wickets in the match (7-155 in the first innings, and then after SL had taken a lead of 150, spearheaded by Jayasuriya scoring a double hundred, 9-65 in the second English innings).
  12. Andy Flower (Zimbabwe, left handed batter, wicket keeper, occasional off spinner). This man covers as many bases as possible as 12th – while I would not relish him coming in for any of the front line bowlers given that he is very much a part timer, and Sobers and Bradman can both be considered impossible to cover for anyway he won’t massively weaken the side even in a worst-case scenario.

RESULTS AND PROSPECTS

I start this little section by looking at the bowling, as it is that department that separates winners and also-rans. A pace bowling unit of Richard Hadlee, ‘Bart’ King and Imran Khan is awesome by any reckoning, and if there is definitely nothing for spinners, there is Sobers in his faster incarnations as fourth seamer. If spinners are called for, Rashid Khan and Muttiah Muralitharan are two of the all time greats, and offer a contrast, being leg spinner and off spinner respectively, and Sobers can bowl left arm orthodox and left arm wrist spin support. Thus there are bowling options available to meet every eventuality, and this side can be very confidently expected to take 20 wickets in any conditions.

The batting features a pair of openers who are highly likely to give the innings a strong start, a trio of fast and heavy scoring batters at 3, 4 and 5, a keeper who scores lots of runs at six, a genuine all rounder at seven, and three bowlers who can genuinely bat as well. Murali is the only bunny in a very deep batting order.

A number of the players in this XI, most notably Hobbs, Bradman and Sobers are rated among the the finest fielders ever to have played the game, and there are no carthorses anywhere, so they will give a good account of themselves in this department as well.

Finally, with Imran Khan as captain and Don Bradman as vice captain and Hobbs also there to be consulted this team has tactical acumen to burn and is highly unlikely to be outmatched in that area.

Thus this team seems to tick every box, and I would confidently expect it to dispose of any opposition put in front of it.

THE STEAM HOUSE CAFE

The STEAM House Cafe on King’s Lynn High Street is a cafe-style safe space for people with mental health issues, and I was there yesterday as part of a group from NAS West Norfolk. We and they are hoping to be able to organize something there specifically for autistic people.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

A brief summary of the XI.

Selecting An All Time Test XI

I take on the near impossible task of selecting an all time test XI. Also some more photographs for you.

Let me start by saying that this task, suggested on twitter by Adam Sutherland, is the sort of thing Alexa might come up with if asked for an example of an insoluble problem. The embarrassment of riches at one’s disposal is such that I would expect no two people to arrive at the same answer. Nevertheless it is fun to do, and I am going to offer my answer. Feel free to list your alternatives, or if you dare, a completely different XI of your own to take on mine in a five match series in the comments.

THE TEAM

There are lots of candidates for an opening pair. In my case I resolve the issue by selecting an opening pair who were the best in test history and who I therefore pick as a package: Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, with their average partnership of 87.81 at that level.

Number three, with all due respect to such masterly practitioners as Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting is one of the two nailed on certainties for a place in this XI: the one and only Donald Bradman, who I also name as captain of the side. An average of over 30 runs an innings more than any of the competition does not allow for argument.

Number four has many contenders, but having named three right handers I wanted a left hander, and the best record among such batters is held by Graeme Pollock, with an average of 60.97 (Brian Charles Lara is the other contender, but too many of his really big scores came in either defeats or draws).

Number five goes to Sachin Tendulkar. Again there were many possibilities, but I accept the word of Don Bradman, who recognized something of himself in the way Tendulkar batted (a resemblance also acknowledged by Lady Bradman when consulted), and there can be no higher praise.

Now we need an all-rounder, and this is the other utterly undisputable slot other than no3: the most complete cricketer there has ever been, Garfield St Aubrun Sobers. He scored 8,032 test runs at 57.78, took 235 wickets, bowling virtually every type of delivery known to left arm bowlers (he was originally selected as a left arm orthodox spinner, batting no9) and he was also one of the greatest fielders the game ever saw.

For the wicket keeper, although I do not normally approve of compromising at all on keeping skills I rate Adam Gilchrist’s batting at no seven so highly that I am selecting him for the role.

For my remaining bowlers I go for Wasim Akram at no8, left arm fast and capable of generating prodigious swing. No9 is Malcolm Marshall, for me the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling. No10 is Sydney Barnes, 189 wickets in just 27 tests (seven per game) at 16.43 a piece. I round out the order with the off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

Thus in batting order we have:

JB Hobbs
H Sutcliffe
*DG Bradman
RG Pollock
SR Tendulkar
G St A Sobers
+AC Gilchrist
Wasim Akram
MD Marshall
SF Barnes
M Muralitharan

Barnes’ principle weapon was a leg break at fast medium pace, so I felt that the off spinner Muralitharan as opposed to a leg spinner (Warne, O’Reilly, Grimmett and Kumble being the principle contenders) gave the attack more variation. Wasim Akram’s place as left arm paceman could have gone to Alan Davidson or Mitchell Johnson without appreciably weakening the side, and there are a plethora of right arm quicks for whom cogent cases could be made. Barnes’ extraordinary record made him the third clearest selection in the entire XI.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before my usual sign off, a link to the piece I produced OTD last year as part of my ‘all time XIs’ series: Leicestershire. Now for those photos…

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 – All Rounders v Specialists

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket post pits all rounders against specialists.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. Today an XI noted for all round talents take on an XI largely made up of specialists (although I have allowed them one all rounder).

THE ALL ROUNDERS

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career. He tallied 54,896 runs at 39.55 in first class cricket and took 2,876 first class wickets at 17.92 each. I note two things in defence of his batting average: he played on poor wickets for much of his career, and that career was very long, and went on well past his cricketing prime. In the decade of the 1870s, when he was at his zenith he averaged 49 with the bat, while no one else who played consistently over the course of that decade averaged over 25. If we accept that he would have paid for his wickets and averaged more with the bat playing on good pitches and allow 50% inflation for the effects of the change in pitches then his career figures become a batting average of 59.42 and a bowling average of 26.88.
  2. Wilfred Rhodes – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. His career figures were 39.807 runs and 4,187 wickets, at averages of 30 and 16 respectively, but his career had several distinct periods: he started as pure bowler, batting no 10 or 11, then he moved up into the middle order for a few seasons, batting habitually at 6 or 7, and doing the double regularly (seven successive seasons), then he moved up to the top of the batting order, and on the 1911-2 Ashes tour he was England’s number two in every way – number two in the order, and second to Hobbs in the batting averages. Then, after World War 1, with Yorkshire needing more bowling he picked up his bowling arts, dropped into the middle order (no 5 initially, and moved down as years passed), and he again did the double in the first seven post war seasons. In 1926, now batting at no 8, he returned to the England team at the age of 49 for the Ashes decider at The Oval, and took 4-44 in the second innings. Then came the final stage of his career, when eyesight problems, which eventually became complete blindness late in his life, caused his batting to decline and he played as an out and out rabbit with the bat who was still worth his place as a batter. He went on the 1929-30 tour of the West Indies, playing for his country for the last time at the age of 52 years 165 days, the oldest ever to play test cricket for any country. In 1930 Hedley Verity began his Yorkshire career, and at the end of that season, at the age of 53, Rhodes retired from first class cricket to leave the stage clear for the younger man. A A Thomson wrote a two part book about the ‘Kirkheaton twins’, titled simply “Hirst and Rhodes”.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, close fielder. 58,969 first class runs at 40.75, 2,068 wickets at 19.85 and 1,018 catches (the only player ever to achieve this treble, and indeed the only outfielder ever to take 1,000 first class catches. The 1906 Wisden said of Woolley after his debut season that “it is doubtful whether he is robust enough to enjoy a really long career.” He only lasted 32 years, up to the end of the 1937 season!
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, ace slip fielder. 50,551 first class runs at 56.10, 732 wickets at 30.58, 820 catches. He lost two seasons of his early career, one to bureaucratic malice (Lord Harris, a stickler on matters of qualification, and dedicated to Kent, noted Hammond’s Dover birthplace, and that school – Cirencester Grammar – did not technically count as residence, and caused this hiatus), and one to a mysterious illness picked up in the Caribbean, and six seasons of his later career to World War II, so his figures might have been ever more remarkable.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, fine fielder. 28,314 first class runs at 54.87, 1,043 wickets at 27.74, 407 catches. The most complete all rounder the game has ever seen. Like Rhodes he started his career as a left arm spinner who did not really bat. Unlike Rhodes having climbed up the order he never went right back down, although he was moved down from three to six when his captain Frank Worrell noted that he and Rohan Kanhai were not combining very well and split them up.
  6. +Les Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. 37,248 runs in first class cricket at 43.51, 703 catches and 418 stumpings. The only wicket keeper ever to score 100 first class hundreds.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ace fielder. 26,698 first class runs at 32.63, 873 wickets at 22.79, 407 catches. A contemporary assessment of his fielding had it worth 20-30 runs per innings. He scored 53 first class innings, five of them doubles, with a best of 286, and only once in his career did he spend over three hours at the crease. For most of his career a ball had to go right out of the ground to score six, otherwise his record would have been even more extraordinary. He was once involved in a partnership of 66 to which he contributed…66 – the highest such partnership in first class cricket history. 
  8. George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. 36,356 first class runs at 34.13, 2,742 wickets at 18.73. In each of 1904 and 1905 he achieved the 2,000 runs, 100 wickets double, only previously achieved by WG Grace, Charles Townsend and Gilbert Jessop, though matched in 1905 by the Aussie Warwick Armstrong, and then in 1906 he became the only player ever to the ‘double double’, scoring 2,385 runs and taking 208 wickets in first class matches. Every season from 1903-13 inclusive he scored at least 1,000 runs and took at least 100 wickets in first class matches. He went on to be a successful coach, first at Harrow, then for Yorkshire. He was at the Yorkshire nets when Trueman had his first bowl there, and when others were fretting over the youngster’s wildness Hirst said coolly “just imagine what he will do when he teach him to bowl straight”, correctly realizing that pace cannot be taught but accuracy can.
  9. Maurice Tate – right arm fast medium, right handed batter. 2,784 first class wickets at 18.16, 21,616 first class runs at 25.04. Other than Hirst’s 1906 ‘double double’ only two cricketers have ever combined a season tally of 1,000 first class runs with 200 wickets, and he is one of them. He relied on swing and cut, being the first bowler to make really devastating use of the sea fret at Hove – usually the flatness of the pitches there emasculated bowlers.
  10. Albert Trott – right arm slow bowler, right handed batter. 1,674 first class wickets at 21.09, 10,696 runs at 19.48. The first of only two members of this team to have averages the wrong way round. In 1899 and 1901 he combined over 200 wickets with over 1,000 runs in first class matches. However, his decline was rapid thereafter as an obsession with repeating his 1899 feat of hitting a ball over the Lord’s pavilion negatively affected his batting and his bowling lost its fizz, and somewhere along the line he completely lost the fast yorker that was such a devastating weapon in his armoury. His first misfortune occurred when after making a sensational start to his test career he was not picked for the 1896 tour of England, and made his own way to that country, ultimately signing for Middlesex. He seemed to have put the disappointment behind him by the time another Aussie side visited in 1899, but then came that shot of Monty Noble, and its subsequent effect on his batting.
  11. Peter Smith – leg spinner, right handed batter. 1,697 wickets at 26.55 , 10,142 runs at 17.95 in first class cricket. He achieved the season’s double for the first time in 1947, and it was in that season that he had his greatest batting moment. In the game before his big day out he had batted at no 10 and bagged a pair, so he had seemingly little cause for complaint at being made no 11 for the game against Derbyshire. The ninth Essex wicket fell at 199 and he walked out to join Frank Vigar. By the time he was out the score had risen to 417, and his share of that stand of 218 was 163, with five sixes and 23 fours, the highest first class score ever made by a no 11.

This team has an excellent top five, statistically the best batter keeper there has ever been, the ultimate x-factor player in Jessop and a fine foursome who are there principally as bowlers. Counting Sobers as three options because of his multiplicity of styles there are 12 front line bowling options in this team.

THE SPECIALISTS

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. 61,237 first class runs at 50.65. Both this tally of first class runs and his 197 centuries are first class records, and he lost four years of his cricketing prime to World War 1. His entry into first class cricket was also slightly delayed because he was a native of Cambridge and had to qualify by residence for Surrey (after someone at Chelmsford apparently binned his letter asking for a trial without having read it).
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. 50,670 first class runs at 52.02. The only player to score at least 2,000 first class runs in every inter-war season. He and Jack Hobbs were statistically the most productive of all test opening partnerships, the average opening stand between them being 87.81 per wicket, including 15 century opening stands.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter. 28,067 runs at 95.14 in first class cricket. In his 338 innings he reached 50 186 times and went on to the century on 117 of those occasions, an average of a century per 2.78 innings, a figure not remotely approached by anyone else who played enough innings to qualify for assessment. 37 times he topped 200, an all time first class record, and on six of those occasions he scored over 300, the only player have more than four such first class scores (Hammond and Ponsford joint 2nd).
  4. Phil Mead – left handed batter. 55,061 runs at 47.67. His Hampshire tallies of 48,809 runs and 138 centuries are both records for any single first class team. He was originally associated with Surrey, and considered to be mainly a bowler, but moved to Hampshire and ended up as one of the heaviest scoring batters of all time.
  5. Patsy Hendren – right handed batter. 57,611 runs at 50.80. The third leading first class run scorer of all time, and second leading centurion with 170. He did all of this while having a reputation for being a great joker and prankster, just to show that one can be a highly successful player while remembering that it should be fun.
  6. Keith Miller – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. 14,183 first class runs at 48.90, 497 wickets at 22.30. Another who always realized that it should be fun. He served as an RAAF pilot in World War Two which led to his famous response to a question about pressure “There is no pressure in cricket – pressure is being in a Mosquito with two Messerschmidts up your arse.”
  7. +Bob Taylor – wicket keeper. He took 1,473 first class catches and executed 176 stumpings, totalling the most dismissals ever achieved by any keeper in first class cricket (two London based cricketers, John Murray and Herbert Strudwick are 2 and 3 on the list). Until he finally scored his maiden first class hundred near the end of his career he was in a club of two with Tony Lock – players who had over 10,000 first class runs, but no first class hundred (Lock’s highest score was 89 not out).
  8. Alec Kennedy – right arm medium fast bowler. 2,874 first class wickets at 21.23. He was seventh in the all-time list of first class wicket takers, and the only one of those seven not to be in Philippe-Henri Edmonds’ “100 Greatest Bowlers”. For many years he and Jack Newman (see yesterday’s post) carried the Hampshire bowling, until left arm spinner Stuart Boyes came along to lighten their workload a bit.
  9. Jack Hearne – right arm medium fast bowler. 3,061 first class wickets at 17.75 each. Number four in the list of all time wicket takers, a haul that included nine in an innings no fewer than eight separate times.
  10. Tich Freeman – leg spinner. 3,776 first class wickets at 18.42, taken in 550 first class games. Second on the all-time list of wicket takers behind Rhodes. Remarkably a combination of World War 1 and the strength of Kent’s bowling in his youth meant that by the time he turned 30 he had captured precisely 29 first class wickets. He took 200 or more wickets in each of eight successive seasons, including the only ever instance of 300 (304 in 1928).
  11. Charlie Parker – left arm orthodox spinner. 3,278 first class wickets at 19.46. The third leading wicket taker in first class cricket. Six times in first class cricket he achieved the hat trick, most remarkably in his benefit match when he hit the stumps five times in succession but the second was called no-ball.

This team has a stellar top five, a great all rounder, a great wicket keeper and four excellent and varied bowlers. The bowling with Kennedy, Hearne, Freeman and Parker with Miller as fifth option also looks highly impressive.

HONOURABLE MENTION

Every single batter to have scored over 50,000 first class runs is present in one or other of my teams, and numbers 1,2,3,4,6 and 7 of the all time leading wicket takers are also represented. No 5 in that list is Tom Goddard, the Gloucestershire off spinner who took 2,979 first class wickets at 19.84. For reasons of balance I had to select Kennedy, otherwise my only recognized pace options would have been Hearne and Miller, which is a bit too rich even for my blood.

THE CONTEST

This would be an absolute cracker of a contest. From no 3-11 inclusive the all-rounders team has a combined batting average of 280.95, while for different reasons it is hard to quantify Grace and Rhodes as openers. It would seem likely given their records when they were at their best as openers that these two would contribute sufficiently to make a team total of 400 more likely than not. The top six of the specialists team have a combined average of 344 in first class cricket, so nos 6-11 would have to come up with 50-60 between them to equalize things on this assessment. Without Bradman the specialists would have no chance whatsoever, with him it looks very even. I will call the trophy for this contest the ‘Martin – Stokes Trophy’, honouring two New Zealand born cricketers, one of the great specialists, that purest of pure bowlers Chris Martin, and a great all rounder in Ben Stokes.

AFTERWORD

For all that I would expect my side of all rounders to give a good account of themselves I most emphatically do not recommend selecting a fistful of all rounders in general. Especially I would warn of the curse of the ‘bits and pieces’ cricketer – the player who can bat a bit and bowl a bit but is not good enough at either to warrant selection. In general someone should only be picked if they merit selection as a specialist – and if they have a second string to their bow so much the better. The other problem that I did not highlight in connection with the all rounders side is that teams that bat literally all the way down often end up struggling because folk in such teams tend to develop the feeling that it is not likely to matter much if they do get out. I have memories seared in to me of England teams in the 1980s and 1990s picking bowlers who could bat a bit, and ending up neither able to score commanding totals nor to bowl the opposition out.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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All Rounders v Specialists
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – The Away Ashes

Today’s variation on the all-time XI theme is a paradoxical one – it features two teams of players whose finest hours occurred in enemy territory.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my ‘all time XIs‘ series. Today we look at players who enjoyed their finest hours when doing battle in enemy territory, with The Away Ashes. Before getting to the main body of this post however, there is a matter to be attended to, in my usual ‘reverse tabloid’ style so that it cannot be missed:

CORRECTION/ APOLOGY

In yesterday’s South Africa post I failed to mention Dale Steyn when looking at players from my lifetime. I still stick to my chosen pair of specialist speedsters Kagiso Rabada and Allan Donald, but I should have included Steyn in the honourable mentions as a candidate for one of those spots. My apologies to Mr Steyn for the oversight.

THE AWAY ASHES – ENGLAND

Just before I start going through the players, a quick warning about an easy trap that people might fall into: that these players greatest achievements came away from home does not imply that they were not also successful at home – the majority of my choices had their successes at home as well.

  1. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. The Yorkshireman scored 734 runs at 81.67 with four centuries in the 1924-5 series, which his side still lost 4-1. At the time both the runs aggregate and the century tally were records for a single series. In 1928-9 he played the single most crucial innings of the series when his 135, begun on a vicious sticky, underpinned England’s successful chase of 332 which put them into an invulnerable 3-0 with two matches to play lead. In 1932-3 he was joint leading run scorer of the series, with 440 at 55.00, something of an underachievement by his own stellar standards in Ashes cricket (overall average 66.85) as England ran out out 4-1 winners. That was third and last trip down under meaning that even after that 1924-5 series England had won nine and lost six in Australia with him in the side (1-4, 4-1, 4-1). His home Ashes highlights included a match and Ashes winning 161 at The Oval in 1926, and the same score at the same ground in a different outcome four years later.
  2. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. A career that spanned 12 years, saw him score over 12,000 test runs and set an all time record for consecutive test match appearances naturally included many highlights. However, one particular achievement shone out more brightly than anything else he did over the period: his 766 runs at 127.67 in the 2010-11 Ashes as England won down under for the first time in 24 years. In total in that series he spent just over 36 hours at the crease, 15 of them in his two innings at The Gabba, when his second innings 235 not out prevented England from going 1-0 down. His 148 at Adelaide, alongside Pietersen’s test best 227 enabled England to fully capitalise on a fantastic start to that match – Australia, having won the toss and batted lost their first three wickets on the opening day for two runs, two to slip catches off Anderson and a run out. In the final game at Sydney, with England 2-1 up he batted 488 minutes scoring 189, setting England up for a monster total after which Australia’s batting folded to give England a 3-1 series victory. At Melbourne in 2017 on a strip devoid of any hint of life he produced his final major Ashes knock, 244 not out, the highest ever Ashes score by someone carrying their bat through a completed innings.
  3. Douglas Jardine – right handed batter. He made two tours of Australia, in 1928-9 and 1932-3, and England won both series 4-1, the second under his captaincy. In the fourth match of the 1928-9 series at Adelaide he made his highest Ashes score, 98, sharing a third wicket stand of 262 with Hammond (177 not out), which put England in total control of the match. Though he did not manage any really major scores as captain in the 1932-3 series he did on some occasions soak up considerable amounts of time, putting more miles into the legs of the Aussie bowlers.
  4. Walter Hammond – right handed batter, occasional medium pacer, expert slip fielder. In his first Ashes series, in 1928-9, he announced his presence in cricket’s oldest international rivalry by scoring 905 runs at 113.125, including the first ever incidence of successive test double centuries, 251 at Sydney in the second game and then 200 not out in the first innings of the third match at Melbourne, before then hitting 119 and 177 not out in the fourth match at Adelaide. In 1932-3 he was joint top scorer for the series with 440 runs at 55.00, including the first half a record sequence – in the final match he hit 101 and 75 not out, and then in New Zealand he thumped 227 and 336 not out, the only four innings test sequence to top 700 runs. In 1936-37 he scored 231 not out in the second match of the series, but was overshadowed by Bradman for the rest of the series. He unwisely agreed to skipper England in a ‘goodwill’ tour of Australia in 1946-7, by when he was 43 years old and unable to summon up former glories, averaging only 21 in the series. Of his three home Ashes series 1930 and 1934 were both failures, while 1938 was a success.
  5. *Percy Chapman – left handed batter, occasional slow bowler, superlative close fielder, captain. Chapman was asked to captain England at The Oval in 1926 after the first four matches of the series had been drawn and the selectors had concluded that Arthur Carr was not the man for the job. He led them to victory and The Ashes. In 1928-9 he was made captain of the tour party and led England to a 4-1 triumph. His own batting contributions were minimal, but his captaincy attracted universal praise. He was a casualty of Bradman’s explosive vengeance in 1930, dropped from the captaincy after Lord’s that year, where the Don scored 254 (ended by Chapman holding a near miraculous catch – Bradman was to confirm that the ball had gone precisely where he intended to hit it and that he had not believed the catch was possible) in a total of 729-6 declared, and even though Chapman hit a defiant 121 in England’s second innings they went down by seven wickets.
  6. Bernard Bosanquet – right handed batter, leg spinner. The pioneer of the googly took his new weapon with him to Australia as part of Warner’s 1903-4 Ashes party, and played a major role in the winning of that series, including taking his best ever test figures of 8-107 in an innings.
  7. +Jack Richards – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Kept on the 1986-7 tour, when England won the series down under, scored 133 at Perth in second test thereof.
  8. Harold Larwood – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. Two ashes tours, 1928-9 and 1932-3, and two 4-1 series wins in Australia, in the second of which he was the undoubted star.
  9. Farmer White – left arm orthodox spinner. His accuracy and stamina were vital to England’s 1928-9 triumph – he bowled 542 overs in the five matches of that series. In the Adelaide match of that series his total figures across the two innings were 124.5 overs, 37 maidens, 256 runs, 13 wickets.
  10. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. If fast bowlers ever came quicker than the 1932-3 version of Larwood, then the 1954-5 version of Tyson was one of the few to do so. England lost the first match of that series at The Gabba by an innings and plenty, Tyson taking 1-160. However, he also listened to and acted on some shrewd advice from former fast bowler Alf Gover, shortened his overly long run considerably to conserve on energy in the Australian heat, and in matches 2,3 and 4 of that series was simply too hot for the Aussies to handle, being the key ingredient in a turnaround that saw 0-1 and likely loss of the urn become 3-1 and retention of the urn.
  11. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium. Archie MacLaren selected Barnes for the 1901-2 tour of Australia after a being impressed by him in the nets. Barnes won the first match of that series for his side, bagged another five for in the second, but was then rendered hors de combat by injury, an Australia ran out 4-1 winners. Barnes missed the 1903-4 series which England won. The 1907-8 tour party was poorly chosen and lost badly, but Barnes played a key role in the one test that England won in that series – his 38 not out in the final innings guided England home when they needed 73 from their last two wickets. His greatest Ashes moments came in the 1911-12 tour, when England won 4-1, and he took 34 wickets, backed him left arm pace bowler Frank Foster with 32, while the batting was dominated the opening pair of Jack Hobbs and Wilfred Rhodes. In all Barnes took 77 wickets in 13 test matches in Australia, as compared to 29 wickets in home Ashes matches.

This team has a magnificent looking opening pair, two good and one great batter in the 3-5 slots, an all rounder, a keeper who can bat and four splendid bowlers. The bowling has blitz men Larwood and Tyson, the extraordinary Barnes, and two contrasting spin options in White and Bosanquet, plus Hammond as a possible sixth bowler.

THE AWAY ASHES: AUSTRALIA

  1. Mark Taylor – left handed opening batter, fine slip fielder. Taylor had a fine record at the top of the Aussie order, was the second in a sequence of long serving Aussie captains after Border, and probably ranked third of the four (Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting followed Taylor) as a captain – my own reckoning makes the four skippers who spanned the ‘green and golden age’ rank as follows as captains: Border (unarguable – he taught an Australia who had forgotten the art exactly how to win and guided them from also-rans to top dogs), Waugh (who made a dominant side even better), Taylor (who consolidated Border’s work and kept Australia at the top) and Ponting (who inherited the captaincy of a team of champions and left a collection of ‘also rans’ for his successor). His greatest moments as a batter were in England in 1989 when he cashed in on the organization of what turned out to be the last of the rebel tours and general selectorial incompetence by the English to score 839 runs in the series, a record for any Aussie not named Bradman. Eight years later England was the scene of a display of massive character from Taylor, who was going through a run of dreadful form with the bat ans was under fire from his detractors. Australia were rolled in the first innings of the series at Edgbaston for 118, and had looked like not even managing 100 for large parts of the innings, and England spearheaded by Hussain with a double hundred and Thorpe with a century built a huge lead. Taylor opened the Australian second innings knowing that a second failure in the match could easily see the axe descend on him, and proceeded to chisel out a determined century, which could not save the match for his side, but did save his career. Australia bounced back to win the series, although England gained another victory in the final match at The Oval.
  2. Bill Ponsford – right handed opening batter. In 1934 the chunky opener achieved the rare feat of finishing with a better series batting average than Don Bradman. Ponsford averaged 94.83 for that series, while Bradman had to settle for a figure of 94.75. In the fourth match of the series at Leeds he scored 181, sharing a 4th wicket partnership of 388 with Bradman (304). Then, at The Oval in a match played to a finish because the series was not settled, as was tradition in England at the time (all test matches in Australia were played to a finish back then), he scored 266 in the first innings, sharing a second wicket stand of 451 with Bradman (244). Australia won the test match by 562 runs and regained the Ashes, the victory coming, as it had four years previously, on skipper Woodfull’s birthday. Ponsford retired from the game at the end of that series, the only player to date to score hundreds in his first two tests and hundreds in his last two tests.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter. He played in four of the five tests of the 1928-9 Ashes, scoring one century for a badly beaten side. In 1930 he came to England, with a number of critics predicting that he would fail there. He reached his thousand first class runs for the season before May was done, the first non-English player to do so (and he would repeat the feat in 1938, the only player to achieve it twice), and he began his test performances comparatively quietly, with 131 in the second innings of the first match at Trent Bridge, when Australia were beaten. In the second at Lord’s he hit 254 in the first innings, and was one of the three Aussies dismissed in the second as they chased down 76. At Headingley in the third match he hit 334, 309 of them on the first day. After a quiet match in Manchester it was time for the final match of the series at The Oval, where in the tour match v Surrey he had scored 252 not out in a tally of 379-5 in a rain ruined affair. He racked up 232 this time round in a score of 695 as Australia won by a huge margin. In all in that series Bradman played eight innings, one of them a not out, and amassed 974 runs at 139.14. In 1934 he averaged 94.75, and in 1938 it was over a hundred again, helped by unbeaten centuries is the Trent Bridge runfest that opened the series (seven individual centuries and over 1,500 runs for less than 30 wickets in the game) and in the low scoring game at Headingley that saw Australia retain the Ashes. In 1948 he was outscored by opener Arthur Morris, but helped by 173 not out at his favourite Headingley he had a higher average for the series.
  4. Billy Murdoch – right handed batter, sometimes wicket keeper. Twice in his test career he scored over 150, 153 not out at The Oval in 1880 in an ultimately losing cause (England after largely dominating the game had an attack of collywobbles in the final innings, contriving to surrender five wickets while chasing down 57) and 211 in a drawn game at the same ground four years later, the first double century in test cricket, and the second in the sequence of record individual scores at that level that in full reads: 165 by Bannerman at Melbourne in 1877, 211 by Murdoch at The Oval in 1884, 287 by Foster at Sydney in 1903-4, 325 by Sandham at Kingston in 1930, 334 by Bradman at Headingley in 1930, 336 not out by Hammond at Christchurch in 1933, 364 by Hutton at The Oval in 1938, 365 not out by Sobers at Kinsgton in 1957, 375 by Lara at Antigua in 1994, 380 by Hayden at Perth in 2000 and 400 not out by Lara at Antigua in 2004.
  5. Charlie Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. Macartney started his career as a blocker and ended it as one of the most highly regarded stroke makers of all time. In 1926 he became the first ever to score centuries in three successive test matches, although the weather saw it that all ended in draws.
  6. Harry Graham – right handed batter. He scored a century on test debut at Lord’s in 1893.
  7. +Graham Manou – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A rare Aussie ‘one cap wonder’, that appearance coming in England in 2009.
  8. Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Only one person has ever captured 100 test wickets in a country other than their own: Shane Keith Warne, who reached the landmark in England in 2005, in the course of the only Ashes series in which he finished on the losing side. He announced his presence in Ashes contests with the ‘Gatting ball’ at Old Trafford in 1993, his first delivery in an Ashes match, which drifted in the air to land well wide of leg stump and then spun back so sharply that it brushed the outside of the off stump just enough to dislodge the bail, to the stupefaction of the batter. Robin Smith who since making his own debut four years earlier had built a hugely impressive record was made to look a novice in that series, and Alec Stewart, deployed in the middle order in that series, fine player of fast bowlers that he was, never looked anything close to comfortable against Warne either. Even in the 2005 triumph Warne retained full mastery over the England batting, collecting 40 wickets in the series.
  9. Bob Massie – right arm fast medium bowler. Australia, captained by Ian Chappell, brought a largely young and unknown side to England in 1972. The first match was lost to Ashes holders England, and then the sides reconvened at Lord’s. Massie took 8-84 in England’s first innings 272, a sensational debut effort. Australia, with a century from Greg Chappell to help them led by 36, and skipper Ian Chappell gathered his team together and said he wanted a wicket before that deficit was knocked off, well rather as with Bill Bowes and his leg side field for Vic Richardson in 1932, ‘Chapelli’ did not get one, he got five! England recovered somewhat from that catastrophic beginning to their second innings, but only enough to reach 116, Massie 8-53 to give him 16-137 on debut. A victory target of 81 did not unduly trouble Australia, opener Keith Stackpole taking the opportunity to record an unbeaten half century. That was over half of Massie’s tally of test wickets. In the end England retained the Ashes, courtesy of a victory at Headingley, although Australia levelled the series by winning the final game at The Oval, both Chappells notching first innings centuries.
  10. Charles Turner – right arm medium fast bowler. A rare example of an Aussie great who never won an Ashes series – it was his misfortune to be in his prime at a time when his only reliable bowling support came from Jack Ferris, and Australia were riven by dissension. During one of his tours (1886, I think), there was an occasion when the train carriage in which the Aussie team had been travelling was marked by blood spatters! Nevertheless, he was an even more difficult proposition in England than back at home.
  11. Terry Alderman – right arm medium fast bowler. Meet the man who should have been the first bowler to 100 test wickets in a country other than this own (although a case could actually be made on Barnes’ behalf, since had been picked for the 1903-4 tour he would surely have done it in Australia). Terence Michael Alderman took an Australian ashes series record 42 wickets in a losing cause in the 1981 series. Eight years later he took 41 in a winning cause (both these series were of six matches, whereas the England ashes record, Laker’s 46 in 1956 came in a five match series), to bring his tally in England to 83 in 12 matches. Terry Alderman should have been part of the 1985 tour party as well, but he foolishly went on a rebel tour to apartheid South Africa instead, which netted him a three year ban from international cricket. The 1989 haul included a sequence of four successive innings in which he trapped opener Graham Gooch LBW, with the Essex man’s highest score in that little patch of torment being 13. Alderman may actually have contributed to the 1985 Ashes as well, since he was for a time a Kent team mate of Richard Ellison, who as a bowler of a similar type probably benefitted from the presence of an international practitioner. In the last two matches of that series Ellison captured 17 wickets, including the prize scalp of Border in three of the four innings.

This team has a decent top six, a splendid keeper, and four excellent and varied specialist bowlers (and Macartney had a 10 wicket haul in a test match with his left arm spin as well).

THE CONTEST

This looks an absolute ripper of a contest. Perhaps the trick would be to stage it on neutral territory, though not India, as that would spike Warne’s guns, so that both sides could treat as an away contest and thereby bring the best out of themselves.

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’S PROBLEM

Yesterday’s post included the following teaser:

Brilliant

The available answers were 9, 15, 21 and 27.

The correct answer is nine, the speed of ball nine after collision being 511 m/s.

A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

The scene has been set for the ‘Away Ashes’, with our players introduced and explained, yesterday’s teaser has been answered, but just before signing off there are some links to share, from the Guardian, where actor Rory Kinnear has a tribute to his sister who has just died of covid-19, in which he takes the “died with it, not of it” brigade sternly to task. Please read and share. A site which I discovered today, doodlemaths, has a number of posts about “Mathematicians who changed the world“, the example which drew me in, and which I offer as an introduction being about Florence Nightingale. Now it is finally time for my usual sign off…

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Goldfinch (two pics)

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Four starlings all perfectly positioned for the camera at one time.

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A double-page spread illustration in Dava Sobel’s “Planets”

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Away Ashes
The teams, in tabulated form with abridged comments.

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 – Blockers vs Hitters

Another variation on the ‘all time XIs’ theme, this time pitting blockers against hitters.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on the ‘All Time XIs‘ theme. Today I present two XIs, one made of players noted for blocking with both bat and ball, and to take them on a much more explosive combination. We start with…

THE BLOCKERS XI

  1. Gary Kirsten – left handed opening batter. He once scored 275 in 14 hours at the crease v England. After a distinguished career for South Africa he became a coach, in which role he has also enjoyed considerable success. 
  2. Hanif Mohammad – right handed opening bat, holder of the record for the longest test innings ever played, a 970 minute marathon in which he accrued 337, at the time of its compilation the third highest ever test score behind Sobers and Hutton.
  3. Rahul Dravid – right handed bat. He was referred to as ‘The Wall’ in his playing days, a moniker that explains his inclusion.
  4. Shivnarine Chanderpaul – left handed bat, occasional leg spinner. Holder of various records for longest periods of time between dismissals – four times in his test career he went more than 1,000 minutes between dismissals. He is also, with due respect to Graeme Smith of South Africa, exhibit A in the case against the proposition that left handed batters are naturally more elegant than their right handed counterparts.
  5. Jimmy Adams – left handed bat, occasional slow left arm orthodox, occasional wicket keeper. His approach to batting got him dubbed ‘Jimmy Padams’.
  6. Trevor Bailey – right handed bat, right arm fast medium. Famous for saving the Lord’s test match of 1953 in company with Willie Watson, his 71 in four hours on that occasion was comparatively sprightly next to his effort in the second innings at The Gabba in 1958. He took 357 minutes to reach the slowest fifty in the history of first class cricket, ultimately scoring 68 in 458 minutes at the crease. Jack Fingleton in his book about that Ashes tour, “Four Chukkas to Australia”, notes that of the 428 deliveries Bailey faced in this blockathon no fewer than 388 were dots. Bailey’s innings was cast into even grimmer light by the performance of Aussie debutant Norman O’Neill who in the final innings of that match scored 71 not out in under two and a half hours to carry his team to victory. Jimmy Burke in that Aussie chase was unbeaten on 28 from 252 minutes at the crease, but as again noted by Fingleton, he was playing for his partners, giving them the strike whenever possible, whereas Bailey hogged the bowling, reducing his team mates, who numbered Graveney and Cowdrey among others to the same level of strokeless impotence as himself.
  7. +Jack Russell – wicket keeper, left handed bat. He played second fiddle to Mike Atherton in a famous escape act at Johannesburg, being 29 not out after over four hours at the end of it. He performed other notable acts of batting defiance, including a determined century against Australia at Old Trafford which dragged England back from 59-6 and a gallant effort to save a match in the Caribbean, in which he batted most of the final day for 55
  8. Bapu Nadkarni – slow left arm orthodox bowler, left hand bat. He conceded just 1.67 runs per over through his career, and against Pakistan once had 0-23 from 32 overs. His greatest blocking spell came against England when he had figures of 0-5 from 32 overs!
  9. Joel Garner – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat. A notoriously parsimonious bowler, though in fairness he did take over 250 wickets in his 59 test matches as well.
  10. *Alfred Shaw – right arm medium pace, right hand bat. The man who bowled more overs (albeit four ball overs in his day) than he conceded runs in his first class career. He once took 7-7 in 41 overs.
  11. Hugh Tayfield – off spinner, right hand bat, once bowled 137 successive dot balls, including 16 successive eight-ball maidens. He was also South Africa’s leading test wicket taker from their first period as a test nation.

The Blockers XI is a well balanced side, with Garner, Shaw and Bailey to bowl seam, contrasting spin options in Tayfield and Nadkarni, good batting depth and even a respectable mix of left and right handers. It is now time to meet…

THE HITTERS XI

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening bat, slow left arm orthodox bowler. A scorer of a test match triple century among other fine innings at that level, he was also the star of the 1996 World Cup, which his country, Sri Lanka, won. In the quarter final of that tournament, against an England side who had only made it that far because they had two non test-playing countries in their group he made an insufficient total of 235-7 look positively puny by slamming 82 off 44 balls.
  2. Victor Trumper – right handed opening bat. The first ever to score 100 before lunch on the opening day of a test match (at Old Trafford in 1902, facing an England side who had set themselves to “keep Victor quiet before lunch”, reckoning that once the run up area dried sufficiently for him to use that Bill Lockwood would be deadly). He averaged over 40 runs per hour through his career, and in the course of that 1902 tour he amassed 11 centuries in all. Ashley Mallett, the former test match off spinner, is the author of a biography of him, and account of the 1902 tour titled “Victor Trumper and the 1902 Australians” by Lionel H Brown is also well worth a read.
  3. *Donald Bradman – right handed batter. The finest batter the world had ever seen. At Leeds in 1930 he had 100 on the board by lunch, 220 by tea and then slowed down a little in the final session to end the day 309 not out, going on to 334 on the second morning. His 452 not out for NSW vs Queensland, at the time the highest score in first class history and still the highest ever made in a team’s second innings, came in just 415 minutes. His record score for his second state, South Australia, 369 against Tasmania, came in just four and half hours.
  4. Graeme Pollock – left handed bat noted for extremely fast scoring.
  5. Viv Richards – right handed bat, occasional off spinner. The ‘Master Blaster’ scored what was then the fastest ever test century in terms of balls received, 56, and remains no 2 on that list at his home ground at St Johns, Antigua in 1986. England were the victims, as they had been of his 138 in the 1979 world cup final, his two double centuries in the 1976 test series and his then ODI record score of 189 not out in 1984. His highest first class score, a then Somerset record 322, came in less than a full day’s play against Warwickshire (RH Moore for Hampshire, Eddie Paynter for Lancashire and ‘Duleep’ for Sussex are others to have managed this in a County Championship match.
  6. +Adam Gilchrist – wicket keeper and left handed bat. The fastest Ashes century ever in terms of balls received, 57, at the WACA in 2006. Among his many other blistering efforts was a 149 in a World Cup Final innings reduced by the weather to 38 overs.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed bat, right arm fast bowler.  The fastest scorer in the history of the game, with no fewer than 11 of his 53 first class centuries taking less than an hour to complete. He holds joint second and fourth place in the list of fastest first class double hundreds, 120 and 130 minutes respectively, and his 191 in 90 minutes at Hastings would have been at least 213 under post 1910 rules (for most of his career a ball had to go out of the ground to count six, not just to clear the ropes before bouncing as now). His 40 minute century against Yorkshire remains the second quickest ever in first class cricket in non-contrived circumstances (efforts when the bowling side are deliberately giving away runs to set up a declaration are nowadays quite rightly reduced to footnotes). I recommend “The Croucher”, a biography of him by Gerald Brodribb.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed batter. His highest test score, and the highest ever by a number eight, 257, included 11 sixes, and that was not out of keeping with his approach to batting. His left arm pace bowling netted 414 test wickets at 23.62.
  9. Shane Warne – leg spinner, right hand bat. More test runs than any other non-centurion, with 3,154 of them, and his inclination was very much to attack, as it was with his bowling, and of course it is his708 test wickets at 25.41 that get him into this team.
  10. Michael Holding – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. He once played an innings of 59 against England that included five maximums, but it is of course as ‘Whispering Death’, taker of 249 test wickets at 23.68 in his 60 test matches that he is included.
  11. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner and right handed batter. He scored his test runs at 72 per hundred balls, and 174 of his 1,261 test career runs came in sixes, but it is of course his 800 test wickets at 22.72 in 133 appearances that earn him his place.

This team boasts a magnificent top five, the greatest keeper/batter the game has ever seen, the ideal number 7 in Jessop and four guys selected primarily as bowlers who are as varied as they are formidable. Wasim Akram and Michael Holding look every inch a deadly new ball pair, with Jessop a more than handy third pace option, while an aggregate of 1,508 wickets from 278 matches suggests that my selected spin twins can do the job. Additionally, with Wasim bowling left arm and Holding right arm the pace attack has an extra level of variation. Finally, Jayasuriya’s left arm spin is not an entirely negligible quantity.

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CONTEST AND HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Obviously the matches would have to be timeless to prevent the blockers from being able to settle for a draw. For my on field umpires I choose Ray Julian to restrict the output of Jimmy ‘Padams’ and Kumar Dharmasena with his two World Cup finals worth of experience. The TV Replay umpire can be Aleem Dar. The hitters will probably have to bowl a lot of overs, but they have the wherewithal to do so, and they are not going to be short of runs. In a five match series, with all games to be played out I would expect the hitters to emerge comfortable winners, estimated margin 4-1.

For the hitters, among the many contenders to miss out were:

Left handed openers: Saeed Anwar – not quite the equal of Jayasuriya as a fast scorer, and also Jayasuriya gives me an extra bowling option. Chris Gayle, two test triple centuries, more T20 centuries than anyone else (22 of them), but his off spin is not as useful as Jayasuriya’s slow left arm to this team.

Right handed openers: Virender Sehwag – to be able to score 300 in a day in test cricket is remarkable, but I could not drop Trumper even for Sehwag, though this was a very close call. Rohit Sharma, with a 264 in an ODI to his credit and a good start as a test match opener was also in with a shout.

In the middle order: Charlie Macartney, another member of the ‘hundred before lunch on day 1 of a test match’ club and a left arm spinner was close, while the biggest miss by far was Sir Garry Sobers, who I was close to giving Graeme Pollock’s no four slot. Kevin Pietersen would also have his advocates, but would they really drop the ‘master blaster’ to make way for him?

Among the all rounders: Stokes may command a place if he continues on his current trajectory, Botham was an alternative to Jessop for the no 7 slot, but I felt that leaving ‘the croucher’ out of a ‘hitters XI’ to not be an option. Flintoff of course was also a huge hitter, but not a serious rival to Jessop or Botham. Arthur Wellard, the Somerset fast medium bowler who clubbed over 500 maximums in his first class career was another who I regretted not being able to find a place for. There are many others who will have their advocates. Another intriguing possibility, could I have countenanced dropping Jessop would have been to give the no7 slot to the most complete all round cricketer among current top level players: Ellyse Perry. If I could imagine a team called the ‘Hitters XI’ without Jessop I think that giving Perry his no 7 slot would be my choice.

I wanted an awesome foursome of bowlers who all approached their batting as aggressively as they did their bowling, and although I am open to suggestions I do not think that element of the team could be improved upon.

The blockers had some big misses as well. I could only select two openers of course, which meant no place for such masters of the blockers art as Alastair Cook, Geoffrey Boycott, Dick Barlow (the Barlow of ‘my Hornby and my Barlow long ago”) and Alick Bannerman. ‘The Wall’ had an inalienable claim to the no 3 slot, which meant no place for William Scotton or Chris Tavare. Bailey kept out his fellow Essex all-rounder Johnny Douglas (“Johnny Won’t Hit Today, from his initials JWHT) and the first of the great Aussie gum chewers, Ken ‘slasher’ Mackay. In the wicket keeper’s slot I might have had Brendon Kuruppu, scorer of one of the most drab and featureless double hundreds ever compiled. Jason Gillespie’s monumental effort in what turned out to be his final test knock was close to earning him a place among the bowlers. Alfred Shaw’s Aussie counterpart Harry Boyle might also have had a bowling slot.

PHOTOGRAPHS

The stage has been set for the clash between the blockers and the hitters, which of course, especially with me doing the selecting, the hitter are bound to emerge victorious from, and all that remains is my usual sign off…

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A cat on the prowl outside my front window.

Blockers v Hitters
The teams in tabulated form with abridged comments.