Welcome to the final post in this All Time XIs cricket series – as I start typing it the test match at the Ageas bowl is about to get underway following weather delays. England have won the toss and chosen to bat, in view the correct decision grey skies notwithstanding. This post takes its name from the Roman god Janus because it faces two ways – a look at cricket’s past in the form of a team selected for a combination of entertainment value and class, and a look to the future with a team largely comprising up and coming players, with the topical exception of the captain.
TS ENTERTAINMENT XI
- *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career. ‘The Doctor’ just had to be the captain of this side, with his outstanding approach and his attack minded approach. One quote “I never like defensive strokes – you can only get three for them.” Against Kent in the match after becoming the first to 100 first class centuries he made 257 as Gloucestershire replied to Kent’s 470 with 443 of their own. Kent then slumped to 78 all out in their second innings, and Gloucs needed 106 in an hour and a quarter to win, and Grace was on 73 not out when they got there just in time, having been on the field fior the entire match, and with his 47th birthday less than two months away.
- Victor Trumper – right handed opening batter. At Old Trafford in 1902 he scored a century in the morning session of day 1. In a wet season he amassed 2,570 first class runs for the touring Australians, including 11 centuries.
- Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. The only non-keeper to take 1,000 first class catches. At Lord’s in 1921 in the face of Gregory and McDonald against whom his colleagues could offer no resistance he scored 95 and 93. His highest first class score, 305 not out in a tour match on the 1911-2 trip to Australia, came from number three.
- Charles Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He scored centuries in the second, third and fourth matches of the 1926 Ashes, the second of the three, at Leeds coming before lunch on day 1. In 1921 he scored 345 in 232 minutes against Nottinghamshire, reaching 300 in 198 minutes.
- Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete player ever to play the game, and the most automatic of selections for a team of this nature.
- +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Twice winner of the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season, three times he achieved the keeper’s season double of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals (only John Murray of Middlesex, who did so once, achieved the feat in all the rest of cricket history). He executed 418 first class stumpings, an all time record.
- Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. The ultimate in x-factor players. 53 first class centuries and only once did he bat for over three hours in a single innings.
- Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. 16 test matches, 50 wickets at 16 each and a batting average of 27. He was the first England bowler to take a test hat trick, as part of a match performance in which he took 14 wickets and scored 55 in England’s only innings.
- Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. The ‘Typhoon’, producer of possibly the fastest bowling ever seen, during the 1954-5 Ashes tour when he bowled England to victory after they had been stuffed in the opener at the Gabba (that series remains the last Ashes series down under won by a side who lost at the Gabba).
- Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. Probably the greatest bowler ever seen. His signature weapon, ‘the Barnes ball’ was a leg break at fast medium pace, the nearest subsequent approach to which was Alec Bedser’s speciality. Incidentally it was from this no10 slot that he played his most important innings, the 38 not out that saw England to victory at the MCG in 1907, when they lost their eight wicket still 73 adrift, and their ninth still needing 39. Arthur Fielder of Kent was the no11 who assisted Barnes in that final partnership. In Barnes’ last test series, when he took 49 South African wickets in four matches before missing the fifth after a dispute, he took 17-159 in the match at Port Elizabeth, not a venue generally regarded fondly by bowlers.
- William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. 138 first class matches, 863 wickets at 12.09, including a 17 wicket haul in a losing cause against Hampshire in 1876 (the crucial innings was played by one Reginald Hargreaves, who later married Alice Pleasance Liddell, aka the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland”). He may have inspired the name of Mycroft Holmes (Doyle was fine cricketer as well as being a fanatical follower of the game, and Mycroft and brother Thomas played for Derbyshire as fast bowler and keeper, while Frank Shacklock and Mordecai Sherwin, from whose surnames one can get Sherlock played the same roles for Nottinghamshire), and in this XI he has a team mate with the middle name Holmes (Frank Holmes Tyson).
This team has an excellent top six, the ultimate in x-factor no 7s and four very fine and varied bowlers. Tyson, Barnes, Mycroft, Bates, Woolley, Sobers, Grace, Jessop and Macartney provide a wealth of bowling options. Do you open with Mycroft and Barnes and have Tyson come on first change, do you open with Tyson and Barnes and bring Mycroft on first change, or do you attempt to persuade Barnes to accept coming on first change so that you can open up with Tyson and Mycroft?
HONOURABLE MENTIONS AND SEGUE
Of course I have a stack load of regrets about players I could not accommodate, and many of you will have ideas of your own, but my principal regrets are:
- Could not find a place for Denis Compton’s batting and left arm wrist spin bowling.
- No place for Keith Miller.
- Tyson was one of three choices for that slot – Harold Larwood, who also terrorized the Aussies in their own backyard and Charles Kortright of Essex were both in my thoughts.
- Bill O’Reilly, Doug Wright, Derek Underwood, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar and Jack Iverson were all highly individualistic bowlers I would have loved to be able to accommodate.
Having attended to the past it is now time for…
TS FUTURE STARS XI
- Prithvi Shaw – right handed opening batter. Has a remarkable record for someone so young, and will surely be a superstar before too many more years have passed. India would not want to break up the Sharma/ Agarwal opening pair an earlier than necessary, but perhaps they could accommodate Shaw by playing him at 3, with Kohli at four.
- Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter. His South African tour pretty much established him in the England side, especially his first test century. The restart of test cricket has not been good for him – in the brief passages of play that the weather has allowed he has been dismissed for a duck, but he will be back scoring runs again before long.
- Shreyas Iyer – right handed batter. He has a magnificent record in all forms of cricket that he has played, and that will surely continue when he gets his chance at test level.
- Daniel Lawrence – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He played at no 4 in last week’s warm up game at The Ageas Bowl and made 58 in the first innings, and was then not called on to bat in the second. He was then left out of the test squad, with Denly being chosen for the batting spot vacated by Joe Root being on paternity leave. His time will surely come soon.
- James Bracey – left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He made 85 in that warm up game at the Ageas Bowl, and again was overlooked for the test match. He has done some work on his wicket keeping, but regards himself primarily as a batter, and that is the role I see him playing for England when he gets the call up.
- *Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain. The one member of this side who is indisputably established at the very highest level, and in a nod to what is happening at the Ageas Bowl I have named as captain.
- +Ben Foakes – wicket keeper, right handed batter. England’s best (and worst treated) current wicket keeper. Among 21st century keepers his only rival with the gloves is the now retired Sarah Taylor, and he averages over 40 for those few tests he has been selected for. Bairstow is no longer able to perform in red ball cricket, and Buttler is barely even a competent keeper, and has never had a good red ball batting record, and yet it is this latter named individual who is currently taking the place behind the stumps that should be Foakes’. Stokes is an established test cricket, while Foakes should be but is not yet.
- Lewis Goldsworthy – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter. He had a good under-19 world cup, and I expect to see him notable first class performances from him before too much longer. He may yet develop into a genuine all rounder, but at the moment he is definitely more bowler than batter, hence his positioning at no eight in this order.
- Rashid Khan – leg spinner, useful lower order batter. Four test matches have yielded him 23 wickets at 21.08, a magnificent start at that level, and he has a phenomenal record in limited overs cricket. He has also already racked up a test 50 with his lower order batting. I look forward to seeing him establish himself as one of the greats of the game.
- Oliver Edward Robinson – right arm medium fast bowler, useful lower order batter. I use his full name because there is a young wicket keeper from Kent, Oliver Graham Robinson, who is on the fringes of the England set up. He takes his wickets at 22 each in first class cricket, and bowled well in the warm up match at the Ageas Bowl. Whether he has sufficient pace to trouble top level batters remains to be seen, but he should get his opportunity before too long. Yes, one has to pick for the present, but the future should also be considered, and England are due to go to Australia for their 2021-2 season, by when James Anderson will be 39 years of age, probably too old to spearhead the attack out there (the last England new ball bowler to succeed out there at that sort of age was Syd Barnes on the 1911-2 tour).
- Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. He has played 14 test matches, the second most of anyone in this side, in which he has taken 68 wickets at 20, including shaking the Aussies up in their own backyard in the 2018-9 Border – Gavaskar Trophy. I hope to hear more of him in the not too distant future – talents of this type can only be good for the game.
This team has a fine top five, the x-factor player of the current era at six, the best current keeper and a beautifully balanced selection of bowlers. Bumrah, Robinson and Stokes look a fine pace trio, and Goldsworthy and Khan should combine well as spin twins.
Pakistan left arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi has made an impressive start to his career, and would be my first reserve quick should one or other of Bumrah or Robinson be unavailable. Hamidullah Qadri was the other English success story of the u-19 world cup, although at the moment he would have to be considered as at best third in the senior off spinning queue behind Bess and Virdi, though in red ball cricket he is certainly ahead of Ali in my pecking order. Finally, a suggestion of a type that might be regarded as akin to heresy in certain quarters, all rounder Amelia Kerr has had success with both bat and leg spin for the New Zealand Women, is still only 18, and the Kiwis do not have a long queue of spin bowling options – will they take a chance on giving a female the opportunity to play alongside the men?
My usual sign off…