All Time XIs – The Grand Finale

Bringing the curtain down on an immense series that has taken us through the alphabet, 200+ years of cricket history and every inhabited continent in the world. The XIs are presented in reverse ranking order, with links back to the selectorial posts.

This post concludes our cricketing journey through the alphabet, a couple of centuries of history and every inhabited continent, with a listing of each XI in reverse ranking order from 26th up to first. I have appended extra comments along the way where my thinking may have changed, or where cricketing developments caught up with me during the course of this series, which has been running since late July. Each XI is also accompanied by a link to the relevant selectorial post.

26TH: THE Qs

The challenge for this letter was actually finding 11 players to constitute an XI, and not surprisingly the final result was decidedly ill assorted. They managed just 7 of a possible 125 points.

25TH: THE Zs

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24TH: THE Is

While this XI has no great strength anywhere its biggest weakness was in the seam/ pace bowling department.

23RD: THE Xs

This was an XI which required a lot of chicanery to pull together. Between the creation of this XI and latter stages of the match ups a women’s tournament took place in New Zealand, and one development there was the arrival in the big time of off spinner Xara Jetly, who were I selecting this XI now would replace MaX Waller, who adds very little to the XI.

22ND: THE Us

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21ST: THE Ns

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20TH: THE Ys

The strong middle order, good spin pairing and one high class fast bowler saved this side from complete disaster.

19TH – THE Cs

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18TH: THE Es

A good spin pairing, two pacers with remarkable records and a world class keeper, but not enough batting for comfort and Bill Edrich the best available back up bowler. More here.

17TH: THE Os

The same score as the Es, but the Os get the higher spot as they won the match up between the two sides.

16TH: THE Ds

Good batting, good pace/ seam bowling, good keeper but the Ds fall down on spin bowling and captaincy.

15TH: THE Js

The Js.

14TH: THE Vs

The Vs superb bowling unit did not quite propel them into the top half of the table, as they lost a split tie (both XIs scoring 69 out 125) to…

13TH: THE As

Solid batting, a top keeper and a superbly balanced bowling unit was just enough to get the As into the top half of the table, since they won their match up with the Vs.

12TH: THE Hs

Stellar batting, a great keeper and a sound captain, but not quite enough bowling to get them to the very top. Neil Harvey might replace Hussey in some people’s estimation, and I would probably have served this letter better had I steeled myself to pick an all rounder (probably George Hirst, with his bowling stock in trade being left arm pace) rather than Hendren, but dropping the scorer of the second most FC centuries ever would have been a huge call.

11TH: THE Ps

The Ps, just missing out on the top ten.

10TH – THE Rs

This exemplifies the advantage of having Rhodes available – you can pick him for any one of several roles depending on your needs. Here, Rhodes the specialist spinner was required and therefore I selected him in that capacity, the one in which he both started and finished his career. The Rs.

9TH – THE Bs

In retrospect, given that Barnes could be said to attend to the leg spinners angle of attack with his ‘Barnes ball’, as explicated by Ian Peebles, himself an England leggie, it might have made this team even better to have selected Palwankar Baloo, Bishan Singh Bedi or left arm spinning all rounder Enid Bakewell in place of Benaud (who could instead be put in charge of the commentary team) to increase the variety available in the bowling department. Nevertheless, the Bs are a fine combination, and it says more about the top eight than it does about them that they ended up ninth.


If the Gs can be said to have a defect it is that none of their bowlers are left armed.


The Ts amassed the same number of points (90 out of 125) as the Ks and the Fs, but my tie-splitting procedure ranked them third out of three. Their batting was weakened slightly by the necessity of ensuring that there were relief bowling options available for three specialist quicks who demanded inclusion, a problem resolvable only by turning to the all round talents of Frank Tarrant.


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Strong and well balanced, but the Ls just missed out on a medal.


The Ss are a stellar combination, although Sangakkara would not be considered a top flight keeper and the spin options are limited.


A powerful batting line up and a superbly balanced bowling line up, with Mahmood’s leg cutter meaning that a specialist leg spinner is unlikely to be missed.


A strong batting line up, a wonderfully balanced bowling attack (Wardle’s ability to bowl left arm wrist spin covers the lack of an off spinner), a quality keeper and one of the greatest of all captains. The Ws are worthy champions.

This has been a fun exercise, though challenging in parts (both weak letters where actually completing an XI takes effort and strong letters where in some cases a second or third XI would beat most of the rest of the alphabet, which require extended acknowledgements of players one has overlooked).


Not one of my largest photo galleries, but I hope you enjoy it…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 60

Continuing my extended analysis of how my all time XIs fare against one another.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how my all time XIs fare against one another. Today the Rs, with 74 out of 115 points, finish their time in the spotlight and The Ss, with 72 of a possible 90 points banked from the matches in which they are alphabetically second take their place in the hot seat.


The Rs have the better opening pair, the Ys win the batting match ups and three and four, the Rs win at number five and win the batting element of the match up at six, while Yardley as prospective third seamer is massively behind Tom Richardson. The batting match up at number seven is close, but Russell was definitely the better keeper. Rabada and Roberts outrank U Yadav and W Younis as a new ball pairing. Rhodes outranks Young as a left arm orthodox spinner, but Yadav outranks Robins as a leg spinner. The Rs are ahead in batting, way ahead in seam/ pace bowling, have the better keeper. In captaincy and spin bowling it is about level, so I see only one possible scoreline: Rs 5, Ys 0.


The Rs win all the top five match ups, Zulch and Zulqarnain Haider win the batting match ups at six and seven, but Zulch does not offer a bowling option and Russell was a finer keeper than Zulqarnain Haider. Zondeki and Zaheer Khan are massively behind Roberts, Rabada and Richardson. Rhodes comfortably outranks Zia Ur Rehman. Robins v Zahir Khan is closer, but not enough to alter the scoreline: Rs 5, Zs 0.


The Rs have scored 84 out of 125 points, 67.2% overall.


The Ss have the better opening pair – while Trumper would undoubtedly have averaged more playing in Sutcliffe’s era I do not think the difference is enough to close the gap. G Smith wins the batting element of the match up at number three, but Tarrant offers a bowling option that outweighs the slower incarnations of Sobers. The Ss win the batting match ups at five, six, seven, eight and nine, and while Bob Taylor massively outranks Sangakkara as a keeper, the quick version of Sobers, and Stokes, are two bowling options with no comparator available in the ranks of the Ts. Trumble definitely outranks Stevens as a bowler, and the Ts pace trio are quicker than the Ss, though there is not much in the overall comparison and the Ss as documented have back up options as well. Both sides are well captained. The Ss win comfortably on batting, win on seam/ pace bowling and lose on keeping and spin bowling, and I will allow the latter to prevent a whitewash: Ss 4, Ts 1.


A tale of almost total dominance by the Ss. Underwood outranks Sobers in his slower incarnations as a bowler, and Ur Rahman might outrank Stevens as bowler, but the Ss are miles ahead on batting and pace/ seam bowling, ahead on keeping and level on captaincy. I think the extreme strength of the Ss batting, especially bearing in mind Sutcliffe’s tendency to come good in difficult circumstances will prevent the Us from being able to do much even on a turner and accordingly score this Ss 5, Us 0.


The Ss dominate the batting, winning every match up down to number nine. The Vs have the better keeper, and both sides will be well captained. Verity outranks the slower incarnations of Sobers as a bowling option, and Vogler considerably outranks Stevens as a bowler. The pace attacks are both excellent, though the Ss have a couple of bonus options in that area: Stokes and the quicker version of Sobers. I think the Ss deep batting and stronger pace attack are enough to win this for them, but the Vs are no pushovers even for a powerful side: Ss 3, Vs 2.


The Ss have scored 12 points today, moving them up to 84 points out of 105, exactly 80% so far.


My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 59

Continuing my extended analysis of how my all time XIs fare against one another plus some of my regular photographs,

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how my all time XIs fare against one another. Today sees the Rs in the spotlight, with 59 points out of 90 banked thus far.


The Rs have the better opening pair, though by less than the raw figures suggest. They also win the batting match up at number three, although Tarrant was a greater bowler than Robins. The Ts win the batting match up at 4,5 and 6, but Russell beats Taylor with the bat, and both were stellar keepers. The Rs win on pace bowling, but the Ts win on spin bowling, Rhodes outranking Trumble by less than Tarrant outranks Robins. This is a close contest, but I just give it tp the Ts: Rs 2, Ts 3.


The Rs boss the first four batting match ups, narrowly lose at number five and heavily lose the batting element of number six. Umar Akmal wins the batting match up at seven, but Russell massively wins the keeping element of the contest. The Rs dominate the pace/ seam bowling element, the spin bowling is close, and the Rs have the better captain, The Rs have a clear advantage but not enough for a whitewash: Rs 4, Us 1.


The Rs win every batting match up down to number five, the Vs win the batting element of number six, Vogler wins the bowling match up against Robins but Russell comfortably wins the keeping homours. Russell also wins the batting element of the match up at number seven, while Vaas is outranked as a bowler by Roberts but by less than figures suggest – Vaas would fare better in this attack than he did in the attacks of which he was actually part, and he is one of two left arm pacers for the Vs. Rhodes v Verity is truly titanic clash of left arm spinners. Voce and Van der Bijl are about level with Rabada and Richardson. The Rs are stronger in batting, better captained, have the better keeper. Pace/ seam bowling is too close to call, and the Vs win the spin bowling. I think the Rs are just winning this: Rs 3, Vs 2.


The Rs have the better opening pair, but the Ws win every other match up down to number six, though Russell is the better keeper, while Warne massively outranks Robins as a leg spinner. The pace/ seam element is close, but Bill Whitty’s left arm gives the Ws an edge there. Rhodes probably ranks as the greatest left arm finger spinner in this match, but the Ws have two such bowlers, and additionally a top class left arm wrist spin option – Wardle could bowl this at least as well as he bowled finger spin, whereas the Rs best third spin option would be Joe Root, a part timer. Additionally Ws have a bonus bowling option in Worrell. I think Ws are comfortably clear, but it won’t be a whitewash: Rs 1, Ws 4.


The Rs are totally dominant in batting and pace/ seam bowling, and though the Xs have more spinners the Rs have better spinners. The Rs also have the better captain, and both sides have great keepers. There can be only one scoreline: Rs 5, Xs 0.


The Rs have scored 15 points out of 25 today, putting themselves on 74 points out of 115 overall, 64.35% overall.


My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 51

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I picked for each letter of the alphabet fare against on another

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Ns are in the spotlight today, with 19 of a possible 80 points scored so far.


The Rs dominate the top batting positions. In positions 1,2,3 and 5 they win comfortably, Root at number four is officially a few runs an innings less good than Dudley Nourse, but he had less support than did Nourse, and his record has been established over many more games. Robins is outmatched by Noble as a player, but their captaincy is of similar (very high) standing. Nixon possibly outbats Russell but is indisputably the lesser keeper. Rabada, Richardson and Roberts are definitely a superior pace trio to that possessed by the Ns, while Rhodes absolutely blows Nadeem out of the water as a left arm spinner. The Rs are thus ahead on batting, bowling and keeping, and level on captaincy, allowing for only one scoreline: Ns 0, Rs 5.


This is a real thrash job, with the Ss totally dominant in batting and fast bowling, Sobers in his slow incarnations and Stevens little if any inferior to Noble and Nadeem as a spin combination. Stokes is clearly preferable to Nichols, good as he was, as a sixth bowling option. Nixon outranks Sangakkara as keeper, but that cannot alter the scoreline: Ns 0, Ss 5.


Other than Nurse at number three outranking Tarrant in that department the Ts win all the batting match ups in the top six, most of them with some comfort (Trumper beats Nazar by more than the difference in averages suggests as he played on more difficult surfaces than Nazar). Nixon clearly rates above Bob Taylor with the bat, but the latter was by far the finer keeper. Trumble outranks Noble as off spinner, and Tarrant massively outranks Nadeem as a bowler. The Ts also have the better pace trio, though this is slightly offset by the presence of Nichols as a fourth pace bowling option for the Ns. Once again, the Ns are further out of their depth than were 1989 England when the Aussies came calling: Ns 0, Ts 5.


Neither side have a great opening pair, though Ulyett’s average on Victorian era pitches makes him at least a match for Nazar on the pitches he batted on. Ulyett also has to rate as a better fast bowler than Nichols and Nawaz, though the Ns have the two best fast bowlers, Nortje and Ntini in their ranks. Nurse outranks Imam-ul-Haq, Dudley Nourse just outranks Inzamam-ul-Haq, while Misbah=ul-Haq makes up the difference by outclassing Dave Nourse. Umrigar rates above Noble as a batter, but offers little bowling. Umar Akmal outranks Nixon as a batter, but Nixon was far the superior keeper. The Ns have the better fast bowling, but Underwood massively outranks Nadeem and would also put Ur Rahman above Noble. It is close in batting, the Ns have a small advantage in pace bowling, the Us a bigger one in spin bowling. The Ns have the finer skipper and the finer keeper. I think the Us just have enough and score this one Ns 2, Us 3.


The Ns have a small advantage in batting strength and in captaincy. Keeping is too close to call, but the Vs are better in bowling – Verity and Vogler are the two best spinners in this match up, Vine probably outranks Nadeem for fourth spot in that category, and the Vs pace trio outrank the Ns by more than enough to render Nichols irrelevant – Vaas’ record is better than Nawaz as it stands, but he would fare even better as third seamer in a strong attack than he did IRL as opening bowler in a weak one. I am not going to call this one a whitewash, but the Vs are significantly clear: Ns 1, Vs 4.


The Ns have scored 3 of a possible 25 points today, and are now on 22 out of 105, 20.86% overall.


All Time XIs – Match Ups 37

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another, plus a rather different picture gallery from usual.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Today the Is occupy the spotlight and they start with a mere 10 out of a possible 80 points so far. The Super 12s stage of the men’s World T20 started today. The first game saw New Zealand thump hosts Australia by 89 runs (a monster margin in aT20), while in the second England won by five wickets over Afghanistan, with 11 balls to spare – a rather disappointing chase after a magnificent effort in the field restricted Afghanistan to 112 all out, headlined by Sam Curran taking 5-10.


The Rs dominate the top batting positions – only Asif Iqbal at number five comes close to his opposite number, and ‘Ranji’ played on more difficult batting surfaces than Iqbal. The Is do have small batting advantages at six and seven, though Russell is the better keeper and Robins was a better skipper than Illingworth. The Rs powerful pace bowling unit absolutely obliterates such competition as the Is can offer in that department. The spin department is close – Illingworth outranks Robins, but as against that Rhodes, one of the all time legends of the game definitely outranks Ironmonger. There is simply no way the Is can put a dent in the Rs: Is 0, Rs 5.


The Ss powerful batting line up absolutely dominates, arguably winning all 11 slots in that department. Imtiaz outranks Sangakkara as a keeper, the Ss utterly dominate in pace bowling, though the Is to win the spin bowling that can make no difference to the final result: Is 0, Ss 5.


The Ts are way ahead on batting – only Imtiaz Ahmed and Illingworth at seven and eight can be said to win their match ups in this department. They also have by far the better keeper, and as usual dominate the pace bowling. Trumble and Tarrant are a decent match for Illingworth and Ironmonger spin wise. There is once again only one possible score: Is 0, Ts 5.


The opening pairs are closely matched – Ulyett’s runs, made in the very early days of test cricket would equate to only just less than Tamim Iqbal’s average today. The Us win the number four and five slots and the batting elements of no six and seven, though Imtiaz Ahmed wins the keeping laurels, and Iremonger offers more bowling than Umrigar, though not quite so much as Ulyett. The Us have the better new ball pairing, and Underwood outranks Ironmonger, though Ur Rahman hasn’t yet done enough to outrank Illingworth, though he probably will in the end. Neither of these sides are great with the bat, but the Us outgun the Is with the ball: Is 1, Us 4.


The opening pairs are closely matched, the Vs own positions three through six, Imtiaz Ahmed outbats Vaas, but Vaas outbowls Iremonger as third seamer. Voce and Van der Bijl are by far the better new ball pairing, Verity outranks Ironmonger, and I would personally rate Vogler ahead of Illingworth, meaning that the Vs utterly dominate the bowling in all departments. Since they are also clearly ahead on batting, and captaincy and keeping skills are about even there can be only one scoreline: Is o, Vs 5.


The Is managed one point of a possible 25 today and are now on 11 out of 105, 9.55% overall.


Today’s picture gallery is something different from usual, and necessitates a disclaimer notice. In James and Sons’ October sale I got two lots very cheaply, a set of stamps celebrating the opening of the Moscow Metro and a set of Stamps marking the 250th anniversary of The Academy of Sciences. Both these sets of stamps, and the set of Moscow Metro I already owned were issued by regimes that I must stress I regard as absolutely appalling. Stalinist Russia was one of the nastiest of all dictatorships, and the laughably misnamed German Democratic Republic was also appalling. I purchased these stamps for their subject matter and in spite of my hatred for the regimes that produced them. For each of the two new lots I show the official auction images and some that I have produced now that the items are in my possession.

We start with the Scientists:

Now the Moscow Metro stuff…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 26

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another, and of course a photo gallery.

Welcome to the latest stage of my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Today the Fs are in the spotlight, and they start with 51 of a possible 75 points.


The Fs dominate in all departments, with only Quinton de Kock theoretically winning his match up against CB Fry, and that comes with the caveat that Fry played on uncovered pitches and was known for his skill on bad surfaces. This is an obvious Fs 5, Qs 0.


The Rs are better in the top five slots, though a larger sample size and the small difference between averages certainly squares the Fredericks/ Rogers match up. Additionally Faulkner offers a bowling option, which none of the Rs top five do to the same extent. Fender outranks Robins as a player while both were superb captains, Foakes is clear of Russell with the bat and of similarly stratospheric standards with the gloves. Freeman, Ferris and Foster have to be rated ahead of Roberts, Rabada and Richardson as a pace combo, though Rhodes far outranks Flowers as a finger spinner. As against that on a turning surface the Rs could only deploy front line spin from one end, their best back up spin options being Richards and Root, both part timers, whereas the Fs have the wrist spinning talents of Fender and Faulkner at their disposal. I give the Fs a comfortable margin of superiority here: Fs 4, Rs 1.


The Ss have a massive batting superiority, though the Fs are ahead in bowling, especially in the spin department, where Stevens and the slow bowling incarnation of Sobers are well behind the Flowers/ Fender/ Faulkner trio. Foakes is far the better keeper, and Fender outranks G Smith as a skipper. The Ss will give a good account of themselves, but the Fs have the better bowling guns and will win: Fs 3, Ss 2.


The Ts have the better opening pair, and also win the numbers 4,5 and 6 slots with the bat. Tarrant is ahead of Faulkner with the ball, and any advantage Bob Taylor has behind the stumps is accounted for by Foakes’ better batting. Also I rate Fender ahead of ‘Tubs’ as a skipper, though the Aussie was a worthy successor to Border in that role. Trumble comfortably outranks Flowers as an off spinner, but his position at number eight is telling as to which side had greater batting depth. The Ts pace trio are much quicker than the Fs, but the Fs are more varied, and overall a better combination. The Ts would win on turning surfaces but not elsewhere: Fs 3, Ts 2.


The Fs are stronger in the top three batting slots, lose batting wise in positions 4 and 5, though Faulkner’s bowling mitigates that. Umrigar gives the Us extra batting strength, but he was a bit part bowler, ranking comfortably below either Faulkner or Fender. Fender outranks Misbah ul Haq as skipper. Umar Akmal outbats Foakes, but is simply not in his league as a keeper. The ordinary Umar Gul and unproven Umran Malik, plus Ulyett the bowler are way adrift of Ferris, Freeman and Foster as a pace trio. Underwood and Ur Rahman are probably better than any pairing from Flowers, Fender and Faulkner, but there are only two of them, with the expensive Umrigar third spin option. I think the Fs have a clear but not whitewash advantage here: Fs 4, Us 1.


The Fs have accrued 19 of a possible 25 points today and are now on 70 out of 100, 70% exactly.


My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (9)

Continuing my extended analysis of how my all time XIs for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.

I continue my series of posts analysing how my all time XIs for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Bs XI are still in the hot seat, and they come into this series of match ups on 55 points out of 80.


The Bs are massively ahead on batting. They also have the better new ball pairing, but whoever out of Roberts or Richardson ends up first change is a better third pacer than Botham. Benaud outdoes Robins, but Rhodes is a match for Bates. Though the Rs do have an advantage in bowling it is a small one and does not make up for the gulf in batting. Bs 3.5, Rs 1.5.


The Ss are only definitively behind the Bs in one batting slot – the number three position. Sangakkara as keeper and Sobers’ constellation of talents mean that other than number three the only position for which batting skill is noted that the Bs win is at number nine, where Benaud outdoes Starc. Though Barnes and Bumrah are the best new ball combination available to either side Starc far outdoes Botham as a bowler, and his left handedness gives his side an extra variation. Stokes and Sobers in his quicker guise are decidedly useful back up seamers as well, while Sobers in his slower guises and Stevens will be a good spinning combination, albeit not the equal of Benaud and Bates. The Ss XI have a clear but not utterly overwhelming advantage: Bs 1.5, Ss 3.5.


The Bs have an advantage in batting, but the Ts have the fastest pace combo of any letter, with Tyson and Trueman matching Barnes and Bumrah for potency with the new ball and Thomson a better third pacer than Botham. Frank Tarrant and Hugh Trumble are certainly at least as potent as Benaud and Bates – Bates may have an advantage over Trumble, but Tarrant has the edge on Benaud. I think the Ts just about have the bowling guns to negate the Bs advantage with the bat. Bs 2, Ts 3.


The Bs boss the top batting, with only Inzamam Ul-Haq and Misbah Ul-Haq within ten runs an innings of their opposite numbers in the first five positions. Umrigar outbats Botham, but is much less of a bowler. Similar Umar Akmal outbats Bari, but is nowhere near him as a keeper. Umar Gul has an ordinary bowling record, Umran Malik has earthshaking potential but little actual experience, leaving Ulyett the pick of their fast bowlers. Underwood rates ahead of Benaud as a bowler, and Ur Rahman looks about even with Bates, though again, as with Umran Malik, he lacks experience. The presence of Ulyett and Umrigar does mean that the Us have six bowling options to the Bs five, but I don’t think that can save them, although they might just have a field day if Underwood and Ur Rahman with Umrigar as back up get to work on a raging bunsen. Bs 4 Us 1.


The Bs have their usual huge advantage with the bat, but the Vs are stronger in bowling. While Barnes and Bumrah have to be considered to outrank Voce and Van der Bijl as a new ball pair, Vaas is ahead of Botham as third seamer, and probably by more than the figures show – he would almost certainly fare better as third seamer in a strong attack than he did as opening bowler in a moderate one. Vogler beats Benaud as a leg spinner, while Verity and Bates look on a par, although Verity’s test figures were achieved in a decade of doped pitches and Bradman’s batting. Verity’s advantage over Bates is clear if you compare their FC figures. I do not think that the Vs can make up for their deficit in the batting department, but I would expect a good contest: Bs 3, Vs 2.


The Bs scored 14 out of 25 points in today’s match ups, moving them on to 69 of a possible 105 points, 65.72% overall. The As by comparison were on 54 points at this stage of their match ups.


My usual sign off…

I have separated some of my photographs off from the rest because I know that some of my readers are arachnophobic. If you are among them skip the last few photos…

All Time XIs – Northamptonshire

Continuing my ‘all time XIs’ series with a look at Northamptonshire.


Welcome to the latest post in my series of All Time XIs. Today we look at Northamptonshire. This post features two more players who will be in the ‘what might have been?’ XI  (see my Somerset post for more) when I create it, and two more who had I not decided that what they actually did was sufficient to get them into this XI might have been eligible.


  1. Fred Bakewell – his career was ended early by a car crash, but he had still done enough to prove his greatness. The eight test matches he managed to play before his career ending crash yielded him a batting average of 45, including a ton against Australia.
  2. Colin Milburn – an attacking opener, who like Bakewell suffered a career ending car crash (in his case he lost an eye). Also like Bakewell he had already achieved enough to prove his greatness. His county captain Keith Andrew, worried about his alcohol consumption, once suggested that he drink halves instead of pints. Not long after this they were in the bar and Andrew asked Milburn what he wanted, and the opener unerringly responded “two halves please skipper”.
  3. David Steele – brother of John, who features in my Leicestershire post, an adhesive right handed batter and sometimes useful as a slow left arm bowler. Tony Greig as England captain wanted someone difficult to dislodge to be brought into the team which had just lost the opening test match of the 1975 series by an innings and 85 runs, costing Mike Denness the captaincy, and Steele’s was the name that kept recurring when he asked about this. Greig, thus fortified insisted on Steele being selected and the then 33 year old and already white haired batter responded with 365 runs in six innings – 50 and 45 on debut at Lord’s, 73 and 92 at Headingley and 39 and 66 at The Oval, and England had the better of draws in the first two of those matches and saved the third as well. His performances so captured the public imagination that he was named as 1975 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, only the second time that honour had gone the way of a cricketer, after Jim Laker (see my Surrey post) in 1956. Since Steele’s year three further cricketers have received the honour – Ian Botham (Somerset, 1981), Andrew Flintoff (Lancashire, 2005) and Ben Stokes in 2019. In the 1976 series against the West Indies he scored his one and only test century, but was dropped for the tour of India because people did not believe he would be able to handle their spinners. By the start of the 1977 season Greig’ s name was mud because of his association with Kerry Packer and Steele was never recalled, but his eight test matches yielded him an average of 42.06 without any not outs to boost the figure.
  4. Raman Subba Row – moving north from Surrey he flourished at Northants, becoming the first batter ever to score 300 in an innings for the county, and representing England with distinction before retiring at the age of only 29.
  5. Dennis Brookes – he came south from Yorkshire as a 17 year old and did not take long to convince the county of his merits. As so often with people who play for unfashionable counties he was badly treated by the England selectors, being a one cap wonder at that level.
  6. *Sydney Smith – a West Indian all-rounder who batted in the middle order and bowled left arm spin. He qualified for the county in 1909, only four years after they had gained first class status, and fell just 45 wickets short of the career double of 10,000 runs and 1,000 wickets. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball. I have also chosen to award him the captaincy.
  7. Vallance Jupp – moving north from Sussex, once he had served out his residential qualifying period he achieved a period of sustained all round success matched in the game’s history only by George Hirst of Yorkshire, doing the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets eight times in a row (Hirst’s great run extended to 10 seasons in a row, while the other ‘Kirkheaton twin’, Rhodes, twice achieved the feat seven successive times at different stages of his extraordinary career). He gained just eight test caps, and his averages at that level were the wrong way round, 17 with the bat and 22 with the ball, but in first class cricket he averaged 29 with the bat and 23 with the ball.
  8. George Thompson – one of two all rounders (Bill East being the other) who was largely responsible for Northamptonshire gaining first class status in 1905. However, while East was never more than a solid county pro (a status which in itself put him streets ahead of most of his team mates), Thompson, who bowled right arm fast medium, became his county’s first ever England player. On the 1909-10 tour of South Africa when only Hobbs (series average 67) really mastered the combination of matting pitches and googly bowlers, Thompson was third in the batting averages with 33 per time, a fraction of a run an innings below Rhodes. In his six test matches he averaged 30 with the bat and 27 with the ball, while his first class figures were 22.10 with the bat and 18.89 with the ball.
  9. +Keith Andrew – the presence of the three all-rounders above (and yes, all three merit that term, even for one who in general uses it as sparingly as I do) enables me to have no qualms about selecting the best wicket keeper, and Andrew, who at one time combined the captaincy with his keeping duties was that. Due to the fact that his career overlapped with the likes of Godfrey Evans (Kent), John Murray (Middlesex) and Sussex’s Jim Parks whose batting put him into the frame he was only twice selected for his country, but his 388 domestic appearances yielded 722 catches and 181 stumpings.
  10. Frank Tyson – a right arm fast bowler, who,  like Larwood (Nottinghamshire) he managed to blitz the Aussies in their own backyard. He moved south from his native Lancashire, was picked by Hutton for the 1954-5 Ashes more or less as a bolt from the blue – at a press conference before the series commenced Hutton said “no we haven’t got mooch boolin’ – there’s a chap called Tyson but you won’t ‘ave heard of him because he’s ‘ardly played”. Tyson played huge roles in the winning of the second, third and fourth tests of that series. How quick was he? Well, Geoffrey Boycott once asked Richie Benaud what Tyson did with the ball, and Benaud said “didn’t need to do anything, Geoffrey”, Boycott double took with “That quick?” and Richie confirmed “That quick.”. Trevor Bailey (Essex) who played in that series as an all-rounder reckoned that the step up in pace from his fast medium to Statham (genuinely fast), was the same as the step up from Statham to Tyson. Finally, John Woodcock who covered cricket for The Times when it was a real newspaper as opposed to the Murdoch rag it has become, saw Tyson at his fastest in 1954-5 and Patrick Patterson’s famously fast spell at Sabina Park in 1986. Woodcock reckoned that the two spells he saw 31 years apart were equally quick with the difference that Tyson pitched it up as regularly as Patterson banged it in short.
  11. Nobby Clark – left arm fast bowler. In the 1930s he was probably the next quickest thing to Larwood. He only got to play eight test matches and his bowling average at that level was 28 per wicket, but his 1,208 first class wickets at 21.49 each tell a different tale from his sporadic England appearances.

This team has an excellent top five, three genuine all rounders, a superb keeper and two of the fastest bowlers you could wish to see. The bowling attack, with Clark and Tyson a ferocious new ball proposition, Thompson a high class fast medium, front line spinners (of different types) Smith and Jupp and Steele as a back up option looks both strong and well varied (there is no leg spinner, but that is the only major bowling type not represented). A regular theme of these exercises has been giving my putative captains the opportunity not just to change the bowler, but to change the bowling. Being English and starting to follow cricket when I did has meant that I have witnessed far too many bowling ‘attacks’ that consist either mainly or worse still wholly of right arm fast medium practitioners for my liking, and this is reflected in my own selection policy.


Much as I respect Monty Panesar, Sydney Smith’s irrefutable case for inclusion as all-rounder meant that there could not be room for someone who could offer nothing other than left arm spin. Allan Lamb, an attacking middle order bat whose test career began superbly before falling away, was another who I enjoyed watching but could not fit in.


I was listening to a test match (not a great one, this moment is all I remember from it!) when I heard the tones of Christopher Martin-Jenkins announcing a potentially important moment in the history of English cricket. A 17 year old had just scored 210 on debut for Northamptonshire. His name was David Sales, and it seemed certain that this performance would get him fast tracked into the England set up. Unfortunately, I failed to allow for the conservatism of those in high places in English cricket. David Sales not only did not get fast tracked, he was destined never to play for his country, and although he enjoyed some good moments at county level, including scoring a triple century and a 276 not out he has to settle for a place in the ‘what might have been XI’. The highest score made by a first class debutant is 240 by Eric Marx, whose career never really developed. Sam Loxton, scorer of 232 in his debut innings, did go on to represent Australia with some distinction. Saddest of all the tall scoring debut stories is that of Norman Callaway, who played one Sheffield Shield match in the 1914-15 season, scored 207 in his only innings and then went off to fight in World War One where he was among the many killed in action. In one of those parallel universes that physicists talk about will be a David Sales who got fast tracked into the England set up and became a stalwart of his country’s middle order.

My other ‘what might have beener’ with a Northants connection is Jason Brown, an off spinner who was named in the 2001 touring party to Sri Lanka, got picked for only one warm up game on that trip and then returned to county cricket never to be heard from again.


Among the top order batters who I could not find places for were Wayne Larkins, Geoff Cook and Alan Fordham who all had fine records. Charles Pool, Russell Warren and Riki Wessels (now on his third county, Worcestershire, after a spell at Nottinghamshire) were all good middle order players, and the last two named might have attracted the attention of someone who wanted a batter/keeper rather than a top class gloveman. David Ripley was a fine keeper and useful lower middle order bat who was unlucky never to gain England recognition. The Willeys, Peter and David missed out for different reasons, Peter because his batting record is not quite weighty enough to warrant selection on his own, and his off spin was not a front line option, and David because his red ball record, always my chief concern, is not good enough. Freddie Brown, an attacking middle order bat and leg spin bowler, did not have the weight of achievement to merit inclusion, his captaincy of the 1950-1 Ashes party coming only after two others had declined and because the obsession with amateur skippers had not yet died, though it was on life support by then (he will feature in the ‘exotic birthplaces’ XI, since Lima, Peru is pretty hard to top in that regard). Harry Kelleher, a fast bowler of the 1950s, did not have the kind of consistent success to merit serious consideration, although he once rattled the Aussies in a tour match by firing out three of their top four with the new ball. Paul Taylor bowled his variety of left arm pace well enough to play for England briefly, but at that level he never looked remotely good enough.

Finally we come to the overseas players. My usual preference for the nominee being a bowler ruled out two quality Aussies, ‘Buck‘ Rogers and ‘Mr Cricket’ himself, aka Mike Hussey. Bishan Singh Bedi was a classical slow left arm bowler but did not also offer runs as Smith did. Anil Kumble would have given me a leg spin option, but would also have lengthened the tail, since to fit him in I would have had to pick Panesar instead of Smith. George Tribe, an Aussie who specialized in left arm wrist spin was also a possible, but offered less batting wise than Smith. Finally, Curtly Ambrose was a magnificent cricketer, but again there was no way to accommodate him without altering the balance of the side. I could have argued that as someone whose native land did not yet play test cricket Smith does not really count as an overseas player and allowed myself one of the above as well, but decided that one overseas player means one overseas player.

As with Leicestershire who I covered yesterday Northamptonshire is also associated with a top quality commentator, in this case Alison Mitchell.

Northamptonshire only became a first class county in 1905, have never been County Champions, though they were second in 1912 and have spent far more of their history near the wrong end of things than near the top. In 1907 they were bowled out for 12 by Gloucestershire (Dennett 8-9, Jessop 2-3) and reduced to 40-7 in their second innings (Dennett 7-12) before rain intervened to save them. In 1908 against Yorkshire they were put out for 27 and 15, to lose by an innings and 326 runs (although on that occasion George Thompson was injured and unable to bat, whereas when Border were dismissed for 16 and 18 by Natal they had a full complement of 11 batting for them). They were winless in all of 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938 and won only once in 1939. However, if you believe I have missed someone do feel free to comment.


It is now time for my usual sign off…

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Seven shots of the moon in a late evening sky edited in various ways….

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The fuchsia in my gardne…

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…with thus far one bud.