All Time XIs – The Janus Contest

Today’s all time XI cricket post faces Janus-like in two directions simultaneously, towards the past and the future of this great game.

INTRODUCTION

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

  1. *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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. +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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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).
  10. 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.
  11. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. *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.
  7. +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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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).
  11. 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.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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?

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

IMG_1506 (2)IMG_1507 (2)IMG_1508 (2)IMG_1509 (2)IMG_1510 (2)IMG_1511 (2)IMG_1512 (2)IMG_1513 (2)IMG_1514 (2)IMG_1515 (2)IMG_1515 (3)IMG_1516 (2)IMG_1516 (3)IMG_1517 (2)IMG_1517 (3)IMG_1518 (2)IMG_1519 (2)IMG_1523 (2)IMG_1525 (2)IMG_1526 (2)IMG_1527 (2)IMG_1528 (2)IMG_1529 (2)IMG_1530 (2)IMG_1531 (2)IMG_1532 (2)IMG_1533 (2)Janus

All Time XIs – T20 Clash

In today’s variation on the all-time XI theme we look at T20 cricket, with a team of former greats all of whom would have been well suited to that format pitted against a team of the best actual T20 players.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s variation on the ‘all time XI‘ theme looks at the game’s shortest regular format, T20 (one innings each of 20 overs per side), and I pit a team who were in their prime before top level limited overs cricket was played against a team of T20 experts.

T20 PLAYING CONDITIONS

At least five bowlers must be used, and no bowler may bowl more than four overs in a T20 innings. For the first six overs no more than two fielders may be stationed more than 30 metres from the bat, and thereafter no more than five. This format has been very successful since its top level introduction in 2003, with T20 tournaments flourishing all round the world. Having briefly set the scene it is time to meet our teams starting with…

THE PRET20 FRANCHISE XI

  1. Garry Sobers – left handed bat, every kind of left arm bowling known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete cricketer ever to play the game, he was an absolute must for this side.
  2. Gilbert Jessop – right handed bat, right arm fast bowler and brilliant fielder. Even if his batting was his only recommendation the most consistently fast scorer the game has ever known would have been a ‘shoo-in’. Add his intelligent bowling and fielding that was estimated as being worth 30 an innings to his team and, from a century before the format was used at top level you have the blueprint for the perfect T20 exponent.
  3. *WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of various styles, fine close catcher. My chosen captain.
  4. Frank Woolley – left handed bat, left arm orthodox spin bowler, brilliant close catcher.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed bat, left arm wrist spinner, fine fielder.
  6. +Leslie Ames – right handed bat, wicket keeper. He won the Lawrence trophy for the fastest hundred of the season twice in the first three years of its existence. He was one of the Kent batters who combined to chase down 219 in two hours, with no fielding restrictions in place.
  7. Bill Lockwood – right handed bat, right arm fast bowler. He was one of the pioneers of the ‘slower ball’, a type of delivery that is especially useful in T20, and it is for that reason that I have included him here.
  8. Jim Laker – off spinner and right handed lower order bat.
  9. Alfred Shaw – right arm medium/ slow bowler, lower order bat. The Nottinghamshire man bowled more overs in first class cricket than he conceded runs. He paid just 12 a piece for his first class wickets. He once said that “length and variation of pace are the secrets of successful bowling”, and though he would probably get hit occasionally I think his method would work beautifully in T20.
  10. Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner, useful lower order batter. His match against Nottinghamshire in 1932 provides a vignette of his bowling skills – in the first Notts innings on a pitch not assisting him he operated as a stock bowler taking 2-64 in 41 overs. In their second innings, after an overnight thunderstorm had gingered up the pitch he took 10-10 in 19.4 overs, with 16 maidens, still the cheapest ‘all ten’ in first class history. He was noted for being especially skilled at varying his pace to suit the conditions, and even in T20 it is hard to imagine anyone ‘collaring’ him.
  11. David Harris – right arm fast bowler. Hambledon’s finest, who once sent a spell of 170 deliveries from which one solitary single was garnered by the opposition. I have argued elsewhere (see the Eccentrics post in this series) that proper styles of underarm bowling such as his, and the lobs of Simpson-Hayward mentioned in that post, as opposed to Trevor Chappell style grubbers should be legal. The grubber can be covered under today’s legislation with the single addition that a ball rolled along the deck is considered to have bounced an infinite number of times and will therefore be called no-ball.

This XI is strong in batting, everyone other than Ames would be capable of contributing with the ball, and the bowling is staggeringly rich in variety as well. Their designated fielding substitute can be Sydney Copley, who while on the Notts groundstaff took an astonishing catch as sub in the 1930 test match there to dismiss Stan McCabe (who unlike another Aussie top order batter dismissed by a sub in more recent times did not give vent to a string of obscenities on his way back to the pavilion), breaking a threatening partnership. Now we we turn to…

T20 ERA FRANCHISE XI

  1. Chris Gayle – left handed opening bat, occasional off spinner. The ‘Universe Boss’ has to open the innings for this team, his record in this format being simply astonishing. As a very tall left handed bat he forms a perfect contrast to the person I have chosen to open with him…
  2. Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening bat of diminutive stature but possessed of a full range of strokes, good footwork and incredible timing. Her many highlights include a 47 ball hundred against South Africa. Additionally, I consider that the completeness of the contrast between her and Gayle would pose a huge challenge to opposition bowlers. Yesterday’s post featured a video clip showing her in action – please go back and watch it.
  3. *Virat Kohli – right handed batter. The best all format batter currently in world cricket – Steve Smith is better at test cricket, and Chris Gayle is better at T20.
  4. Glenn Maxwell – right handed batter, off spinner. A man with an incredible record in limited overs cricket, and had I failed to select him I probably wouldn’t have needed radio equipment to hear the howls of protest from Australia.
  5. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The x-factor all rounder.
  6. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper. His career started before the establishment of top level T20, but he did play the format before he finished.
  7. Rashid Khan – right arm leg spinner, lower order batter. The Afghan has a phenomenal record in limited overs cricket, and has had some successes in his few forays into long form cricket as well. Save for being brutalized by Eoin Morgan in the 2019 world cup he has had few bad days.
  8. R Ashwin – off spinner, lower order bat. An excellent limited overs record. Also, the possibility for what would be the cricket incident to end all cricket incidents were he to (as he has done to others) ‘Mankad’ WG Grace!
  9. Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. He went in a few months from people questioning whether England should pick him to being an essential part of a world cup winning outfit.
  10. Chris Jordan – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order bat, brilliant fielder. One of the most effective bowlers at mixing the pace up and sowing confusion that way, his fielding is so good as to practically be worth picking him even if you don’t plan to use his bowling.
  11. Lasith Malinga – right arm fast bowler. The Sri Lankan slinger would be especially dangerous in the ‘death overs’.

This team has depth in batting, with only Malinga absolutely ruled out of making a significant contribution in that department, and a splendid range of bowling options to choose from. As a designated fielding sub I give them (who else?) the one and only Gary Pratt. I apologize for the player names not being formatted as links to their cricinfo profiles – that site is currently malfunctioning – hope normal service will soon be resumed.

THE CONTEST AND AN EXPLANATION

This would be a heck of a contest, with I think the PreT20 team just about favourites, but any of these 22 players could be the match winner.

Until this post my all-time XIs have all been picked with long form cricket in mind. The reason I changed that today was because of the following tweet from the folks at cricinfo:

They were asking specifically about T20 and their options were Gayle or Kohli, and I voted for Gayle, but as I explained, it is actually a very poor comparison, since Gayle’s bowling gives him a second string that wins it for him at T20 (and at that format, and only that format, he is of more value even purely as a batter than Kohli). I decided to use this blog post to address their question at greater length than can be managed in a tweet, meaning that post I was mentally planning for today will feature tomorrow instead (yes, when sufficiently provoked even an autistic person can make rapid changes to their plans). Note that while I have named Gayle as one half of the ultimate example of a contrasting opening pair I have also named Kohli as no 3 and skipper.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Just a few of links before signing off. First, the pinchhitter has again mentioned me in today’s offering, which I urge you to read. Second, to bring to the cricket part of this post to a close, a quiz in The Guardian.

Finally, a mathematical teaser adapted from a problem I solved on brilliant.org this morning (I considered their version waaay too easy, since they had made it multiple choice):

Measurement

 

Finally, after a good sized chunk of cricket and a measure of mathematics it is time for my regular sign off:

P1320271 (2)P1320272 (2)P1320273 (2)P1320274 (2)P1320275 (2)P1320279 (2)P1320283 (2)P1320284 (2)

P1320288 (2)
The first squirrel I have seen recently.

P1320289 (2)P1320290 (2)P1320290 (3)P1320292 (2)P1320293 (2)P1320293 (3)P1320294 (2)P1320295 (2)P1320296 (2)P1320297 (2)P1320298 (2)P1320299 (2)P1320300 (2)P1320301 (2)P1320302 (2)P1320304 (2)P1320305 (2)P1320306 (2)P1320307 (2)P1320308 (2)T20 Clash

 

 

All Time XIs – Blockers vs Hitters

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

INTRODUCTION

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

THE BLOCKERS XI

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

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

THE HITTERS XI

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

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

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CONTEST AND HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

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

P1310929 (2)P1310930 (2)P1310931 (2)P1310937 (2)P1310939 (2)P1310940 (2)P1310941 (2)P1310944 (2)P1310946 (2)

P1310948 (2)
A cat on the prowl outside my front window.
Blockers v Hitters
The teams in tabulated form with abridged comments.

Special Post: Oval and Vauxhall

A piece principally about Ashes moments at the Oval cricket ground, with an introductory mention of the history of the two stations that serve it.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my series “London Station by Station”. I hope you will enjoy this post and that some of you will be encouraged to share it.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE GAS HOLDERS

I am treating these two stations together because they are at opposite ends of the Oval cricket ground. Oval was one of the original six stations of the City and South London Railway, the world’s first deep-level tube railway, which opened in 1890. Vauxhall only opened as an underground station in 1971, part of the newest section of the Victoria line, but is also a main-line railway station and would have opened in that capacity long before Oval.

Today is the Saturday of the Oval test, by tradition the last of the summer. At the moment things are not looking rosy for England, but more spectacular turnarounds have been achieved (bowled at for 15 in 1st dig and won by 155 runs a day and a half later – Hampshire v Warwickshire 1922, 523-4D in 1st dig and beaten by ten wickets two days later – Warwickshire v Lancashire 1982 to give but two examples). The Oval in it’s long and illustrious history has seen some of test cricket’s greatest moments:

1880: 1st test match on English soil – England won by five wickets, Billy Murdoch of Australia won a sovereign from ‘W G’ by topping his 152 in the first innings by a single run.

1882: the original ‘Ashes’ match – the term came from a joke obituary penned after this game by Reginald Shirley Brooks. Australia won by 7 runs, England needing a mere 85 to secure the victory were mown down by Fred Spofforth for 77.

1886: A triumph for England, with W G Grace running up 170, at the time the highest test score by an England batsman. Immediately before the fall of the first England wicket the scoreboard nicely indicated the difference in approach between Grace and his opening partner William Scotton (Notts): Batsman no 1: 134           Batsman no 2: 34

1902: Jessop’s Match – England needing 263 in the final innings were 48-5 and in the last-chance saloon with the tables being mopped when Jessop arrived at the crease. He scored 104 in 77 minutes, and so inspired the remainder of the English batsmen, that with those two cool Yorkshiremen, Hirst and Rhodes together at the death England sneaked home by one wicket.

1926: England’s first post World ward I Ashes win, secured by the batting of Sutcliffe (161) and Hobbs (100) and the bowling of young firebrand Larwood and old sage Rhodes – yes the very same Rhodes who was there at the death 24 years earlier.

1938: The biggest margin of victory in test history – England win by an innings and 579. Australia batted without opener Jack Fingleton and even more crucially no 3 Don Bradman in either innings (it was only confirmation that the latter would not be batting that induced England skipper Hammond to declare at 903-7)

1948: Donald Bradman’s farewell to test cricket – a single boundary would have guaranteed him a three figure batting average, but he failed to pick Eric Hollies’ googly, collecting a second-ball duck and finishing wit a final average of 99.94 – still almost 40 runs an innings better than the next best.

1953: England reclaim the Ashes they lost in 1934 with Denis Compton making the winning hit.

1968: A South-African born batsman scores a crucial 158, and then when it looks like England might be baulked by the weather secures a crucial breakthrough with the ball, exposing the Australian tail to the combination of Derek Underwood and a rain affected pitch. This as not sufficient to earn Basil D’Oliveira an immediate place on that winter’s tour of his native land, and the subsequent behaviour of the South African government when he is named as a replacement for Tom Cartwright (offically injured, unoffically unwilling to tour South Africa) sets off a chain of events that will leave South Africa in the sporting wilderness for almost quarter of a century.

1975: Australia 532-9D, England 191 – England in the mire … but a fighting effort all the way down the line in the second innings, Bob Woolmer leading the way with 149 sees England make 538 in the second innings and Australia have to settle for the draw (enough for them to win the series 1-0).

1985: England need only a draw to retain the Ashes, and a second-wicket stand of 351 between Graham Gooch (196) and David Gower (157) gives them a position of dominance they never relinquish, although a collapse, so typical of England in the 1980s and 90s sees that high-water mark of 371-1 turn into 464 all out. Australia’s final surrender is tame indeed, all out for 241 and 129 to lose by an innings and 94, with only Greg Ritchie’s 1st innings 64 worthy of any credit.

2005: For the second time in Oval history an innings of 158 by a South-African born batsman will be crucial to the outcome of the match, and unlike in 1968, the series. This innings would see Kevin Peter Pietersen, considered by many at the start of this match as there for a good time rather than a long time, finish the series as its leading run scorer.

2009: A brilliant combined bowling effort from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann sees Australia all out for 160 after being 72-0 in their first innings, a debut century from Jonathan Trott knocks a few more nails into the coffin, and four more wickets for Swann in the second innings, backed by the other bowlers and by Andrew Flintoff’s last great moment in test cricket – the unassisted run out of Ricky Ponting (not accompanied by the verbal fireworks of Trent Bridge 2005 on this occasion!).

The above was all written without consulting books, but for those who wish to know more about test cricket at this iconic venue, there is a book dedicated to that subject by David Mortimer.

As usual I conclude this post with some map pics…

DSCN4600 DSCN4602