All Time XIs – Match Ups (18)

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

Welcome to the next series of match ups in my extended analysis of how the all-time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Ds continue to occupy the spotlight. They come into today with 38 of a possible 80 points.

THE Ds V THE Rs

The Rs have the better opening combo, the Ds win the number three slot, though no 4 has to go the Rs purely on sample size, while nephew ‘Duleep’ beast uncle ‘Ranji’ in the number five slot. D’Oliveira out bats Robins, but Robins’ bowling is more likely to of value than D’Oliveira’s, and additionally the Rs have the better captain. Dujon was the better batter than Russell, the Russell definitely the finer keeper. Roberts, Rabada and Richardson are possibly just short of Davidson, Donald and Daniel as a pace trio, but as against that Rhodes clearly outpoints Dennett (Rhodes the bowler was one of the two, along with Blythe, who was chiefly responsible for Dennett not gaining any test caps). It is very close on batting, but the Rs have a clear advantage in bowling – their attack is better balanced, and they win the spin department by a bigger margin than they lose the pace department. I score this Ds 1.5, Rs 3.5.

THE Ds V THE Ss

The Ss win the batting comfortably, with only Dravid of the Ds top eight definitely outpointing his opposite number . Starc, Steyn and Statham are fractionally behind Davidson, Donald and Daniel as a pace trio, but the Ss back up options, Stokes and Sobers in his quicker incarnations are both ahead of D’Oliveira. Dennett outpoints Sobers the left arm orthodox spinner, but Sobers the left arm wrist spinner and Stevens are both unmatched by anyone from the Ds line up. The Ss thus have a much more powerful batting line up, a marginally inferior pace trio, more spin options and much better back up seam/ pace options. I score this one as Ds 0, Ss 5.

THE Ds V THE Ts

The Ts have the better opening pair, the Ds win the number slot comfortably, the Ts win the number four slot, Thorpe’s inferiority vis a vis Duleepsinhji is lessened by the vastly increased sample size on which his figures are based, and Ross Taylor outbats D’Oliveira, while Tarrant is far ahead of D’Oliveira as a bowler. Dujon beats Bob Taylor with the bat, but Taylor was the finer keeper. Tyson, Trueman and Thomson are at least a match for Davidson, Donald and Daniel, and Trumble outranks Dennett as a spinner. Mark Taylor outranks Dennett as a skipper as well. The Ts are well clear in this contest and I score it Ds 0.5, Ts 4.5.

THE Ds V THE Us

The Ds absolutely boss the batting side of this, have the better keeper, are totally dominant in pace bowling, though outmatched in spin bowling and having the inferior skipper. I score this one Ds 4, Us 1.

THE Ds V THE Vs

The Ds have the better batting, the better keeper and are ahead in the pace bowling department, though by less than the figures make it look – Vaas would fare better as third seamer in a strong attack than he actually did as opening bowler in a moderate one. As against that Verity is clear of Dennett, and Vogler and Vine have no equivalents in the Ds line up, and the Vs have the finer skipper. I score this one Ds 3, Vs 2.

THE Ds PROGRESS REPORT

The Ds have scored nine of a possible 25 points today, meaning that they now have a total of 47 points from a possible 105, 44.76%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 13

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

Welcome to the next installment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Cs still occupy the hot seat, and they are on 14.5 out of of 65 going into today’s match ups.

THE Cs V THE Os

The Cs have an overwhelming advantage in batting, and also have the better captain. Finally, Cummins and Croft are a better pair of opening bowlers than Old and Olivier. However, as against that O’Riordan is certainly a better third seamer than Constantine, and his left arm gives the Os seam attack a point of variation. The Os comfortably win in the spin bowling department, with Odumbe, third ranked spinner for them, clearly better than Cornwall, second ranked spinner for the Cs. Unfortunately for the Os their spin superiority only reduces the margin by which they lose this one: Cs 3.5, Os 1.5.

THE Cs V THE Ps

In theory the Cs have a substantial advantage in the opening position, but that is mitigated by the fact that both the Ps openers are regulars at the top of the order, unlike the C counterparts. Ponting and G Pollock comfortably win their match ups batting wise, and Ponting is not the captain. Chappelli probably does outrank Procter as a captain but not by as much as he would Ponting. G Chappell beats Pietersen in the number five slot. Pant wins the battle of the keepers, Procter is miles clear in the battle of the all rounders.S and P Pollock are outpointed by Croft and Cummins in the new ball stakes, but Parker and Prasanna are the better spin pairing. The Ps win everywhere except one batting slot (G Chappell outpointing Pietersen) and in the matter of the new ball pairing. These are more than compensated for by their overall superiority. Cs 0 Ps 5.

THE Cs V THE Qs

The Qs are massively outpointed in batting, keeping and fast bowling. Their advantage in the spin bowling department is not enough to make a dent in their inferiority elsewhere. Cs 5, Qs 0.

THE Cs V THE Rs

The Rs have the better opening pair, especially given that both of theirs are regular openers. Richards also wins the batting match up vs Chappelli. Root and Compton looks a very close contest, but Compton had more support than Root, who was often holding a dysfunctional order together, so I give that one to the Rs as well. G Chappell outpoints Ranji but not by as much as their figures make it look – Ranji played at a time when batting was a lot more difficult than it was in G Chappell’s pomp. Robins wins the battle of the all rounders, and is little if any inferior to Chappelli as a skipper. The Rs win the fast bowling comfortably – Croft and Cummins may outpoint whichever two of Roberts, Rabada and Richardson take the new ball, but the third of that trio is miles clear of Constantine. Robins and Chandrasekhar are closely matched as leg spinners. Rhodes comfortably outpoints Cornwall – far more so than a comparison of their overall records shows, since Rhodes the specialist spinner, the role I have given him in this XI, was one of the greatest of all time. Quite simply there is no set of circumstances in which I can envisage the Cs getting the better of the Rs: Cs 0, Rs 5.

The Ss have by far the better opening pair – especially given that both of theirs were regular openers. Graeme Smith wins the number three contest and draws the captaincy of element of his match up with Chappelli. Steven Smith beats Compton. Sangakkara wins his batting match up over G Chappell, though he loses the keeping match against Carter. Using Sangakkara as keeper enables the selection of Sobers and Stokes at six and seven. Sobers has no match up in the Cs XI, and Stokes beats Constanine massively on batting and just loses on bowling. Starc and Steyn are outpointed in the battle of the new ball bowlers by Cummins and Croft, but Statham is a far better bowler than Constantine, and the Ss have Sobers in his faster incarnations and Stokes as extra back up options in the seam department. Stevens is a close match for Chandrasekhar with the ball and better with the bat, while Sobers in his slower incarnations is at least as good as Cornwall. This is a complete non-contest: Cs 0, Ss 5.

THE Cs PROGRESS UPDATE

The Cs have scored 8.5 out of 25 points today moving them on to 23 of a possible 90 points, 25.56%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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 V THE Rs

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 Bs V THE Ss

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 V THE Ts

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 V THE Us

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 V THE Vs

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 PROGRESS

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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 – Match Ups (4)

This is the fourth post in my series analysing how the all time XIs I picked for each letter stack up against each other. We are working through the As at this stage, and this post starts with them on 38.5 out of a possible 75 points.

THE As V THE Qs

The As dominate in batting, keeping and fast bowling. The Qs big hope is with their spinners, but although they have a numerical advantage in this department, they cannot honestly be said to be indisputably superior even here. Score: As 5 Qs 0.

THE As V THE Rs

The Rs win all of the top four batting match ups, narrowly lose out at number five, and lose no six handsomely on the batting front but win it on the bowling front. Ames outdoes Russell with the bat, but Russell was far the superior keeper. Roberts, Rabada and Richardson should fare decently with the ball vis-a-vis Akram, Ambrose and Anderson. Rhodes, selected as a specialist left arm spinner, the role in which he both started and finished his extraordinary career, is without doubt the best spinner in either line up. The teams are very well matched, but the Rs have an advantage in batting, and Rhodes the specialist bowler had a big reputation for keeping his head in tight finishes, most notably at The Oval in 1902, when he helped his ‘Kirkheaton twin’ George Hirst to score the last 15 needed to secure a famous one wicket win in “Jessop’s match”. Thus I score this one As 2, Rs 3.

THE As V THE Ss

The Ss have a substantial advantage in the top six batting slots, Ames edges Stokes at seven, Stevens matches Akram in that department, Starc is just behind Ashwin as a batter. Ames outdoes Sangakkara as a keeper, but using him in that role gives the Ss greater bowling depth than the As – Starc, Statham and Steyn are pretty close to Akram, Ambrose and Anderson as a pace trio and are backed by Sobers in his quicker incarnations and Stokes in that department. Stevens and Sobers in his slower incarnations are not as potent as Al Hasan and Ashwin, but the gap is not a large one. We are not in whitewash territory here, but the Ss have a very significant advantage over the As: As 1 Ss 4.

THE As V THE Ts

The As are stronger overall in positions 1,2 and 3 in the order, but the Ts are ahead in positions 4,5 and 6. Ames out bats Taylor, but is comfortably out kept by the latter. The As also have the extra batting depth lent by Akram and Ashwin’s capabilities in that department. Tyson, Trueman and Thomson are the quickest pace trio to feature in this series, with the Yorkshireman ranking third quickest of them. Trumble beats Ashwin in the battle of the off spinners, and Tarrant’s left arm slow medium is demonstrably more potent than Al Hasan’s left arm orthodox spin. It is Tarrant’s presence, both adding an extra variation to the attack, and ensuring that three speedsters will be able to get some rest between spells of bowling that turns what would be a close contest in to a decisive win for the Ts. It is not quite impossible to see the As getting the better of the Ts in any circumstances, but it is hard, and I score it: As 0.5, Ts 4.5.

THE As V THE Us

The As have a clear advantage here. I reckon that in a five match series Underwood will have at least one field day for the Us, which means I score this one As 4 Us 1.

THE STATE OF PROGRESS

The As have taken 12.5 out of 25, exactly 50% from today’s match ups, which gives them a tally so far, with five of their match ups to go of 51 points out of 100, 51%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

All Time XIs – The Letter S

Continuing my exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at cricketers whose surnames begin with the letter S. This piece spans two and a half centuries, five continents and even mentions one of the great fictional cricketers.

The exploration of the all-time XI theme continues with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter S. This one was very tough, not because of any difficulty finding players of sufficient standard but because there was a lot overlap in terms of the expertise of the very best players, and balancing the side was a challenge that required compromise, of which more later.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Andrew Strauss (Middlesex, England). A fine opening bat, and twice an Ashes winning skipper, though I have not given him that role in this side.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe (Yorkshire, England). 4,555 test runs at 60.73, 2,741 Ashes runs at 66.85.
  3. *Graeme Smith (South Africa). One of the best captains of the modern era, and a top class left handed batter. He was a regular opener, but I believe he would handle first drop superbly as well.
  4. Steven Smith (Australia). First called up on account of his leg spin bowling, he established himself as Australia’s best test batter since Bradman. After serving a ban for cheating (an incident that ruled him out of any leadership responsibilities) he returned to action with twin tons at Edgbaston in 2019.
  5. +Kumar Sangakkara (Surrey, Sri Lanka). One of two serious candidates for the title of best batter his country has ever produced (Jayawardene being the other), and a good keeper as well. Usually I prefer to select a specialist keeper, rather than use a batter to perform this role, but circumstances dictate this selection.
  6. Garry Sobers (Nottinghamshire, West Indies). The most complete cricketer ever to play the game. Devastating batter, left arm bowler of pace, swing, seam and both finger and wrist spin, gun fielder.
  7. Ben Stokes (Durham, England). Attacking left handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler.
  8. Greville Stevens (Middlesex, England). A leg spinning all rounder whose FC averages were the right way round (29 with the bat, 26 with the ball). This slot caused me more grief than any other – with three gun fast bowlers rounding out the order I wanted a spinner, and with Sobers present, neither a left armer of any description, nor a regular off spinner (similar line of attack to Sobers in his wrist spin guise) would be ideal. There were two candidates within these constraints – this chap, and Paul Strang of Zimbabwe, and the latter paid 36 per wicket at test level and over 30 at FC level.
  9. Mitchell Starc (Australia). One of the fastest bowlers in the world at present, and while his highs are not quite up at Mitchell Johnson 2013-14 levels, his lows are nowhere near the depths of 2010-11 Johnson.
  10. Brian Statham (Lancashire, England). One of Lancashire’s greatest ever fast bowlers, and one of the select few to have an end of his home ground named in his honour (James Anderson, also at Old Trafford, is in this club, as are Barbadians Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall).
  11. Dale Steyn (South Africa). The greatest fast bowler of the immediate post McGrath period, and surely a shoo-in for an all time South Africa XI even given their strength in the pace bowling department.

This XI features a super powerful top six, Stokes with full licence to attack and a powerful quartet of bowlers. The pace attack, with the quick version of Sobers arguably fifth choice in that department (behind Steyn, Starc, Statham and Stokes) is awesome, and Stevens plus Sobers in his slower guises should offer sufficient spin to augment that attack. Sangakkara as keeper violates my usual principal of going for the best keeper, but he was good enough to do the job for Sri Lanka on a regular basis.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

A multi-faceted section starting with…

THE NUMBER EIGHT SLOT

There were two off spinners who would have their advocates for these position but missed out for reasons of balance: Harbhajan Singh of India and Graeme Swann of England, who each paid a little over 30 a piece for their test wickets and who were both useful lower order batters.

However, had I been willing to ignore considerations of balance I had a raft of top options to pack out the pace battery: Frederick Spofforth, a legend from the early days of test cricket was probably the pick of those I overlooked, but two present day Indians, Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj would have their advocates as well, Peter Siddle of Australia is a quality practitioner if perhaps a notch below the very top bracket, Amar Singh, part of India;s first ever test side, was also indisputably a great fast bowler. John Snow of England was another great pacer who could have had this slot. Olly Stone, the Norfolk born Warwickshire and England pacer who has been plagued by injuries has the ability, but not the proven track record. Barbadian all rounder Franklyn Stephenson, one of only two cricketers to do the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches in an English season since the reduction of the programme in 1969 (the other, Richard Hadlee, also played for Nottinghamshire) would appeal to some as a number eight.

I was conscious of the merits of all these players when making the call to select Greville Stevens, and my contention is not that he is a better cricketer than them, but that he is a better fit for the team, given the players who already had irrefutable claims for selection.

OPENING BATTERS

Bert Sutcliffe, the legendary New Zealand left hander, still holder of the record first class score by a native of that country (385 for Otago vs Canterbury, in a team score of 500 all out, with Canterbury contributing 382 off the bat in their two innings combined), and with a fine test record was a serious candidate for Strauss’ slot as left handed opener.

Among the right handed openers I could find no space for were Andrew Sandham, a member of the 100 first class hundreds club, Virender Sehwag, devastating unless the ball was swinging, when he could look very ordinary, Bobby Simpson of Australia, Michael Slater also of Australia and Alec Stewart of England all had impressive records as right handed opening batters. Arthur Shrewsbury of Nottinghamshire and England, second best 19th century batter behind WG Grace, was another who could have done a fine job in this role. Reg Simpson of Nottinghamshire and England had moments at the top level, including a 156* against Australia which set up a test victory for England, but he was not in the same bracket as the others.

MIDDLE ORDER BATTERS

I start this section by drawing your attention to my all time XI of Smiths, so that I do not have to repeat myself regarding players with that surname. Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan of the West Indies can both count themselves unlucky to have surnames beginning with S – under most other letters they would merit serious consideration. Mahadevan Sathasivam of Sri Lanka has legendary status in his own land, but for a series like this I have to deal in hard facts, so he misses out.

WICKET KEEPERS

Roy Swetman was a fine keeper in the 1950s, and Herbert Strudwick of Surrey and England made more dismissals in first class cricket than any keepers bar JT Murray of Middlesex and Bob Taylor of Derbyshire, though he often batted number 11, which with Statham and Steyn having ironclad claims for places was problematic.

ALL ROUNDERS

Darren Stevens’ performances since moving south from Leicestershire to Kent have been outstanding, but he has never played anything other than county cricket.

SPINNERS

Maninder Singh of India was a fine bowler, but as a left arm orthodox spinner he overlaps with Sobers, and he was a genuine bunny with the bat. Reggie Schwarz of Middlesex and South Africa missed out, because for all his importance as the guy who learned the googly from its creator Bosanquet and taught it to a number of his South African colleagues he actually used the googly not as part of his bowling armoury but as his stock ball, therefore becoming effectively an off spinner, a less good fit for the XI than a more standard leg spinner. Molly Strano, a consistently successful performer in Australian domestic cricket, and therefore by definition a superb bowler also misses out because she is also an off spinner.

BLASTS FROM THE PAST

Lack of sufficiently concrete records for two players prevented me from considering them: Edward ‘Lumpy’ Stevens, a great bowler of the late 18th century and Heathfield Harman Stephenson, whose performance for the All England XI at the Hyde Park Ground in Sheffield led to the coining of the phrase ‘hat trick’. He dismissed three of his opponents with successive deliveries, and the Sheffield crowd were so impressed by this display of bowling virtuosity that they used a hat to collect money for Stephenson and made him a presentation of both hat and money.

A FICTIONAL TALENT

Tom Spedegue, hero of a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, in which he pioneers a new type of delivery which descends on the batter from the clouds “Spedegue’s Dropper” and shatters that season’s visiting Australians by taking 15 wickets in what turns out to be his first and only test would certainly have added variety to the attack had he been real.

WHITE BALL TALENTS

Had been selecting with limited overs cricket in mind Navjot Singh Sidhu and Sanju Samson would both have been close to inclusion.

FUTURE TALENTS

Will Smeed, scorer of the first individual century in The Hundred, is an obvious talent for the future. Glenton Stuurman (pronounced like ‘Steerman’), a young South African quick bowler is very promising, though he has a huge amount to do to come close to dislodging his compatriot Steyn. Sophia Smale, a 17 year old left arm orthodox spinner has announced herself with a couple of fine performances in the Hundred.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our cricketing journey through the letter S, spanning two and a half centuries and many continents, is at an end, and it remains only to apply the 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.

AN ALL LEFT HANDED XI

An XI of southpaws for World Left Handers Day. Plus of course some photographs.

Today is World Left Handers Day, so I put together an XI of players who did everything cricket wise left handed. This means a lot of famous names are missing because they performed one discipline right handed. My chosen wicket keeper bowled six deliveries in a professional career that spans 470 matches across formats to date, and I have been unable to establish for sure which hand he bowled them with.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya: left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner. In 1996 he was the MVP at the World Cup. Two years later at The Oval he scored 213 in Sri Lanka’s first innings, the highest individual score of the match.
  2. Warren Bardsley: left handed opening batter. The gritty Aussie scored over 2,000 test runs at an average above 40. He was the first to score twin centuries in a test match, at The Oval in 1909. In first class cricket he tallied 17,000 runs at 49 including 53 centuries. He scored 29 of those 53 centuries in England, proving that he was definitely not a ‘home track bully’.
  3. Frank Woolley: left handed batting, left arm orthodox spinner. The only person to have achieved the career treble of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches in first class cricket.
  4. *Allan Border: left handed batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner, captain. Another gritty Aussie, he was the first to the milestone of 11,000 test runs, having been the second after SM Gavaskar to reach 10,000. The first and greatest of four long serving Aussie captains with magnificent winning records to appear in my lifetime – he passed the baton to Mark Taylor, who was succeeded by Steve Waugh and then Ricky Ponting, who oversaw a regression back towards the mean in his last years in the job.
  5. Garry Sobers: left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. Fortunately the most complete cricketer ever to have played the game did everything cricket wise left handed, and is therefore a shoo-in for this team.
  6. John H King: left handed batter, left arm medium pace bowler. A stalwart all rounder for Leicestershire he suffered from ‘unfashionable county syndrome’ to the extent that in spite of a highly impressive record at FC level he was a one cap wonder for England.
  7. +Quinton de Kock: left handed batter, wicket keeper. He has a magnificent record in all formats of the game.
  8. Alan Davidson: left arm fast medium bowler (also occasional orthodox spin), left handed lower middle order batter. 186 test wickets at 20.53 secure his place in this side.
  9. Wasim Akram: left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. Fast tracked into his national side when then captain Imran Khan saw him bowling in the nets and liked what he saw he established himself as one of the greatest of left arm pace bowlers and a more than useful batter.
  10. Chaminda Vaas: left arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. The Sri Lankan never had pace bowling support of the same class at the other end (indeed for most of his career the only other bowler of unquestioned top class in the side was the off spinner, Muralitharan) but still established a fine test record.
  11. Shaheen Shah Afridi: left arm fast bowler, left arm lower order batter. The young Pakistani has already established a remarkable record in his brief career to date, and I expect many more highlights before his time at the top is done.

Below is a condensed version of the above in graphic form:

EVALUATION OF RESOURCES

The side has a strong and deep batting order – Wasim Akram at nine would satisfy even England’s selectors as to depth, while Jayasuriya, Bardsley, Woolley, Border, Sobers and de Kock are all bona fide greats, and King, the all rounder, would probably have averaged 40 had he played on today’s pitches, though he would also have paid more for his wickets. The bowling resources are awesome, with Afridi, Akram, Davidson, Sobers and King to provide pace/ swing/ seam bowling, and Woolley, Jayasuriya and Sobers able to provide top quality spin. Sobers is the only wrist spin option, but there are very few left arm wrist spinners with commanding records. The depth of spin available means that Border, with a 10 wicket haul in a test match to his credit, would almost certainly never get a bowl. This southpaw squad would take a lot of beating.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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 – Rest Of The World v Asia

An international clash of the titans today, as the Rest of the World take on Asia in our ‘all time XIs’ cricket post.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s all time XIs cricket post follows the usual Monday theme of going international. Today we pit the Rest of the World against Asia. I am, as usual in this series, thinking principally in terms of long form cricket, although of course this contest could not (or at least should not) officially be given test status.

REST OF THE WORLD

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, scorer of 12 centuries in Ashes cricket,a tally only beaten by Don Bradman with 19. He was one half of no less than four of the greatest opening partnerships in the history of cricket, at county level with Hayward and then Sandham, and at test level with Rhodes and then Sutcliffe.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opener. His case for selection for a contest of this nature is even more watertight than was his actual case for England selection. He got better the tougher the competition – averaging 52 in all first class cricket, 60.73 in test cricket and 66.85 in Ashes cricket. He and Hobbs had an average opening stand of 87, 15 times topping the hundred. At The Oval in 1926 they put on 172 in England’s second innings, beginning on a very spiteful pitch, with Hobbs falling for exactly 100 to end the partnership (the first time he had made a test century on his home ground), while Sutcliffe went on to 161 and to put England in an invincible position. At Melbourne in the third match of the 1928-9 series he and Hobbs started the final innings with England set to make 332, and many people reckoning that on the rain damaged pitch they had to contend with that the innings would not even last a full session. Actually, the pair were still in residence by the tea interval, and part way through the evening session Hobbs sent a message to the pavilion that if a wicket fell that night Jardine rather than Hammond should come in at no3. Hobbs finally fell for 49 to make to 105-1, and Jardine duly came in, and he and Sutcliffe were still together at close of play. The following day the surface was easier, and although England suffered a mini clatter of wickets, including Sutcliffe for 135, with victory in sight, George Geary ultimately settled the issue by hitting a ball through mid on for four with three wickets still standing.  Sutcliffe’s 100th first class hundred was scored when Yorkshire were after quick runs for a declaration, and he duly attacked from the get go, clobbering eight sixes on his way to the landmark.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter, captain. To follow the greatest opening pair the game has ever seen we have the greatest batter of them all, the man who averaged 99.94 in test cricket. He scored 974 runs (a record for any test series) in the 1930 Ashes, at 139.14, but perhaps his most remarkable display of high scoring given the circumstances came in the last three matches of the 1936-7 series. England won both of the opening games, and the weather played havoc with the third, England declaring their first innings at 76-9 to get Australia back in while the pitch was still vicious. Bradman countered by sending in tailenders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith, and then when O’Reilly was out before the close, another specialist bowler, Frank Ward. As a result of this the score when Bradman emerged to join regular opener Fingleton was 97-5, and the pitch had largely eased. Bradmand and Fingleton put on 346 together, and then McCabe joined Bradman. Bradman in that innings made 270, the most ever by someone coming in at no7 in a test innings, and England, set 689 to win, were duly beaten by a huge margin. Bradman then made another double ton in the fourth match, which Australia won to make it 2-2. In the final game Bradman was dropped early in his innings, scored 169, and Australia duly won again, becoming the first and to date only side to win a five match series after losing the first two matches thereof.
  4. Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. He averaged 60.97, a figure exceeded among those to have finished careers that included 20 or more test matches only by Bradman and Adam Voges, the latter named benefitting from playing most of his test cricket against weak opposition, and coming a cropper in his only Ashes series.
  5. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, occasional off spinner, ace slip fielder. When he led England out at Trent Bridge at the start of the 1938 Ashes he made history – he was the first person to have been a professional and also to be appointed an official England captain. A directorship at the Marsham Tyre Company had enabled him to turn amateur, which also saw him become the first and only player to captain the Players against the Gentlemen and the Gentlemen against the Players. In that team that he led out at Trent Bridge was the man who would get to lead his team out without turning amateur, Leonard Hutton. By the time of the outbreak of World War II he had scored 6,883 test runs at 61.75, but a comeback post war which never really worked out for him, and ended with a disastrous 1946-7 Ashes (168 runs in the series at 21.00).
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most complete player ever to have played the game.
  7. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper. The most destructive keeper/ batter there has ever been, he completely rewrote the requirements for keeper/ batters. The search for the keeper who is also a destructive batter has led to some bizarre decisions – the current England camp’s obsession with Buttler, barely even a competent keeper and someone who has failed to transfer his white ball form to the red ball game is an example of people being led up a blind alley by this thinking (though arguably it is only England’s second worst selection blooper for the upcoming resumption of test cricket behind the selection of Denly at four, which amounts to a v-sign being flashed at Lawrence and Bracey, compilers of the only two major scores of the warm up match). It is nowadays unthinkable that a Bert Strudwick, who habitually batted no11, would be selected as a test wicket keeper, and even Bob Taylor, another brilliant wicket keeper who was not a proper front line batter would have a hard time convincing national selectors to pick him – just look at the treatment Ben Foakes has had from the England selectors.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. For my money the greatest fast bowler of the West Indies’ golden age.
  9. Michael Holding – right arm fast bowler. His 14-149 in the match on flat Oval wicket in 1976 is probably enough on its own to justify his inclusion, but he produced many other stellar performances. At Bridgetown, Barbados in 1981 he made use of a super-fast pitch to bowl probably the most intimidating opening over any test match has ever seen – the England opener, by then a veteran of over 100 test appearances, was beaten all ends up by four deliveries, got bat on one and had his off stump uprooted by the final ball of the over.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. His wicket taking rate of seven per match is out on its own among bowlers who played 20 or more test matches. At Melbourne in 1911-2 Johnny Douglas won the toss for England and put Australia in, a decision that needed early wickets to justify it. Barnes soon had the Aussie top four back in the hutch, for a single between them, and with a couple more wickets also falling early in the game Australia were at one point 38-6 in their first innings. They recovered to reach the semi-respectability of 184, but England remained in total control and ran out winners by eight wickets. Wilfred Rhodes, who went on that tour as a specialist batter, having started his career as a specialist bowler, was asked many years later about Barnes and just how good he was and said simply “the best of them today are half as good as Barnie wor.”
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner. The Dunedin born leggie first crossed the Tasman in search of cricketing fulfilment, and then crossed two state boundaries in his new country, before eventually breaking into the South Australia side, and then, at the age of 33 into the test side. He took 11 wickets on test debut, and went on to finish with 216 wickets in 37 matches, a wicket taking rate of just short of six per match, putting him ahead of his mate Bill O’Reilly and significantly ahead of Shane Warne.

This team features a stellar batting line up, two out and out quicks, probably the greatest bowler of them all, the craft and guile of Grimmett, and of course the most complete player ever to play the game in Sobers. Barnes, Holding, Marshall, Grimmett and Sobers, with Hammond as sixth bowler represents a mighty fine range of bowling options.

SOME OF THOSE WHO MISSED OUT

Everyone will have their own ideas about possible selections, but here are some of my own additional thoughts:

  • Opening batters – I went for the greatest opening partnership of all time. Thinking in partnership terms their only serious rivals are Greenidge/ Haynes and Hayden/ Langer. WG Grace, especially given his all round skills, Victor Trumper, Len Hutton, Arthur Morris, Barry Richards and Chris Gayle might all have been considered on their individual methods.
  • No3 – this position was non-negotiable, ‘the Don’ standing high above all other contenders.
  • Nos 4 and 5 – Steve Smith was ruled out on grounds other than technical ones. Brian Lara and Allan Border had fine records as left handed batters, but I considered Pollock to have an even stronger case – all available evidence suggests that when the curtain came down on that incarnation of his country as a test playing nation he was still getting better. Among right handers Viv Richards, Kane Williamson and Steve Waugh all have serious cases for consideration, but Hammond has his slip fielding and his potential value as a support bowler on his side as well as his phenomenal batting record.
  • No6 – non-negotiable. Sobers’ range of cricketing talents make him not so much a star as a galaxy – or at the very least a constellation.
  • The keeper – Gilchrist gets it because of his batting, but many from Jack Blackham, the so-called ‘prince of wicket keepers’ who kept for Australia in the inaugural test match through to Ben Foakes of today would be worth a place as glovemen.
  • The fast bowlers – too many potential candidates to list. I regret that left arm fast bowler William Mycroft was in his pomp before test cricket was a thing, and similarly the brilliant USian Bart King was not quite brilliant enough to propel hbis country to test status. Two other 19th century legends, Charlie Turner and George Lohmann could have had the spot I gave to Barnes.
  • The spinners – I ruled out selecting a specialist left arm spinner, because I already had Sobers to attend to that department, I considered off spinners Billy Bates and Jim Laker, while O’Reilly and Warne were obvious rivals to Grimmett, but I think the obstacles Grimmett had to clear before even having a chance to prove himself get him the nod.

ASIA

  1. Sunil Gavaskar – right handed opening batter. The first ever to score 10,000 test runs, and the first to score as many as 30 test centuries. He made 13 of those centuries against the West Indies, a dominant cricketing force for much of his career.
  2. Hanif Mohammad – right handed opening batter. He played the longest ever test innings, 337 against the West Indies in 970 minutes at the crease. His side had folded for 106 in their first dig, and made to follow on, saved the game by posting 657-8 second time around. That 551 runs difference between 1st and second innings scores is an all time test record, and is equalled at first class level by Middlesex (83 and 634 in a match in the 1980s) and Barbados (175 and 726-7 declared). The other side of his game was seen for Karachi against Bahawalpur when he scored 499 in just over ten hours at the crease, then a world first class record (ended by a run out, depending on which you believe either going for the 500th, or, believing himself to be on 498, seeking to farm the bowling for the following morning.
  3. Rahul Dravid – right handed batter. More test runs than any other number three. When he really got settled in one got the impression that nothing short of an earthquake would dislodge him.
  4. Virat Kohli – right handed batter. A man who averages over 50 in all three international formats and has scored big runs against all opponents.
  5. Sachin Tendulkar – right handed batter. The only player ever to have scored 100 centuries in international matches (Kohli is currently on 70, and may conceivably match Tendulkar’s achievement).
  6. +Kumar Sangakkara – left handed batter, wicket keeper. Until Alastair Cook went past him he had more test runs to his credit than any other left hander. I have chosen him as wicket keeper to be able to pick a full range of bowlers.
  7. *Imran Khan – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain. Statistically, with credit balance of 14 between his batting and bowling averages he ended as the most successful of the four great test all rounders of the 1980s. He was also one of the very few captains able to unify a Pakistan dressing room.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed batter. Has a fair claim to be regarded as the best left arm quick bowler ever to play test cricket, and a mighty useful player to have coming at no8.
  9. Anil Kumble – leg spinner, useful lower order batter. The third leading wicket taker in test history, although Jimmy Anderson is officially still in the hunt to get past him. One of only two bowlers to have taken all ten in a test innings.
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 test wickets from 133 appearances at that level, an all time record tally.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. He is in the early stages of what should be an illustrious career. He already has on his CV an achievement few fast bowlers can point to – shaking the Aussie up in their own backyard, which he did in the 2018-9 series for the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

This side has a stellar top five, a keeper who is also a world class batter at six, a genuine all rounder at seven and four excellent varied bowlers. A pace attack of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Jasprit Bumrah looks decidedly fruity, and spin twins Muralitharan and Kumble will be formidable on any surface.

SO.ME OF THOSE WHO MISSED OUT

  • Opening batters – the current Indian opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal might well have warranted selection as a partnership, while Saeed Anwar, Sanath Jayasuriya (who would also have offered an extra bowling option) and Vijay Merchant all had cases for individual inclusion.
  • No3 – I considered that Dravid had no serious rivals for this slot, but I acknowledge the successes of Zaheer Abbas in the role.
  • Nos 4-5 – Javed Miandad, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mahela Jayawardene, Aravinda De Silva and Mushtaq Mohammad could all have a case made for them.
  • The keeper – among keepers who also count as front line batters, and therefore do not significantly alter the balance of the side Mushfiqur Rahim and Rishabh Pant had cases, while Syed Kirmani, Wriddhiman Saha and Wasim Bari all had cases for being picked as specialist glove men.
  • The All rounder – non-negotiable, especially given his claims on the captaincy (sorry, Kapil).
  • Spinners – If I revisit this post in a few years Rashid Khan, the Afghan leg spinner, may well have displaced Anil Kumble (like Kumble he is also a handy lower order batter), while Sandeep Lamichhane of Nepal may also be making a strong case, especially if he can get a contract to play county cricket and build up his long form record, and Zahir Khan, another Afghan who bowls left arm wrist spin (not to be confused, as Gulu Ezekiel did on twitter yesterday, with Zaheer Khan the left arm pace bowler for India) may also be making a case for himself. Had Palwankar Baloo had the opportunity at test level he may well have had an excellent record with his left arm orthodox spin, but just as I felt unable to pick William Mycroft for the ROW because he never played test cricket, so I cannot pick Baloo here. The great Indian spin quartet of the 1970s, Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan, all have cases for selection, especially the highly individual Chandrasekhar. Ravindra Jadeja’s all round skills fell only just short of making a case for him, and R Ashwin would also have his advocates. Saqlain Mushtaq, off spin, Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed (both leg spin) all warrant consideration.
  • The pace bowlers. I picked Bumrah on a hunch, although he is in the early stages of his career, and of course technically his place should have gone to Waqar Younis. Shoaib Akhtar would also have his advocates, but he was very inconsistent, and that ‘100mph delivery’ did not actually cause the batter a great deal of trouble. Two early Indians, Amar Singh and Mahomed Nissar both had fine records at a time when bowling quick on the subcontinent was a cause of heartbreak. Fazal Mahmood who bowled Pakistan to their first ever test victory at The Oval in 1954 might have been selected as an analogue for Barnes in the ROW side, and there may be those who would want to see Sarfraz Nawaz selected. Finally, about ten years ago I would have been betting that Mohammad Amir, then an 18 year old left arm fast bowler, would be among the game’s all time greats before long. Sadly he was drawn into a web of corruption, served a five year suspension from the game, and although still a fine bowler has now decided to concentrate purely on limited overs cricket, so has to be filed under ‘what might have been’. The other two players involved in that scandal, Mohammad Asif, a fast medium bowler, and Salman Butt, opening batter and captain, were both in the respectable rather than outstanding class and would never been eligible even had they not got themselves banned.

THE CONTEST

The contest, for what I shall call the ‘Hutton-Baloo’ trophy, acknowledging two of those who missed out on selection, would be a splendid one. The ROW probably just about start as favourites, but Asia do have an amazing bowling attack, and with Akram at eight and Kumble at nine their batting is deeper than that of the ROW, though lacks the eye-watering strength of the ROW’s top batting.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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The Bankhouse, venue for my first meal out in four months.

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An excellent use of a Beck style diagram.

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A red admiral.

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Socially responsible signage.

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