Today is International Left Handers day, so this post includes a bonus feature – I lead off with an all time XI of left handers. A list of honourable mentions for such an XI would be incredibly long, so I shall not include it. After parading my chosen left handers the focus of the bulk of the blog post is on cricketers whose surnames begin with the letter B.
LEFT HANDERS XI IN BATTING ORDER
- *Graeme Smith (South Africa). A steely left handed opening batter, and the obvious choice to captain this XI – a role he performed superbly for South Africa.
- Alastair Cook (Essex, England). The opener is England’s all time leading scorer of test runs (though likely to be overhauled by Joe Root in the not too distant future).
- Brian Lara (Warwickshire, West Indies). The holder of world record individual scores at both test and first class level, a joint feat achieved only once before in cricket history, by Don Bradman for the two and a half years that his 334 was the world test record score. Also the only player to have twice held the world test record score, and one of only two along with Bill Ponsford to have two first class quadruple centuries.
- Graeme Pollock (South Africa). Possibly the greatest batter ever produced by his country. When the curtain came down on the first period of SA being a test nation he was left with an average of 60.97.
- Frank Woolley (Kent, England). The only player to achieve the first class career treble of 10,000+ runs (58,969 in his case), 1,000+ FC wickets (2,066) and 1,000+ FC catches (1,018). Capable of match winning performances with both bat and ball (as a left arm orthodox spinner), and one the finest fielders ever to play the game.
- Garry Sobers (Nottinghamshire, West Indies). The most complete player to have played the game. One of the greatest batters of all time, a bowler of fast, medium or slow pace (both orthodox and wrist spin) and a brilliant fielder.
- +Adam Gilchrist (Australia). A top quality keeper, and a destructive middle order batter.
- Wasim Akram (Lancashire, Pakistan). Fast bowler, attacking batter.
- Alan Davidson (Australia). Fast medium bowler, occasional spinner, useful lower order batter and fielder of such brilliance that he earned the nickname ‘the claw’.
- Mitchell Johnson (Australia). One of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game and a useful lower order batter. On his day he was simply unplayable.
- Hedley Verity (Yorkshire, England). A left arm spinner and a useful lower order batter (indeed he was once pressed into service as an emergency opener in a test match and did well). On surfaces that didn’t help him he was very economical and never allowed batters to feel at ease. On surfaces that did help him he was a destroyer. Yorkshire’s match against Nottinghamshire in 1932 illustrated both sides of Verity the bowler – in Nottinghamshire first innings he took 2-64 from 41 overs, in their second, when he had a rain=affected pitch to exploit he recorded figures of 19.4-16-10-10 – the cheapest all ten in FC history.
This XI has an awesomely strong batting line up, and a bowling attack of Akram, Johnson, Davidson, Verity, Sobers and Woolley is both strong and varied.
SURNAMES BEGINNING WITH P IN BATTING ORDER
We move on to the main meat of the post, an all time XI of players whose surnames begin with P.
- Alviro Petersen (Glamorgan, South Africa). A solid right handed opener.
- Bill Ponsford (Australia). One of only two players to twice top 400 in FC matches. He scored centuries in his first two test matches and in his last two.
- Ricky Ponting (Australia). One of the two best number three batters of the modern era alongside Rahul Dravid. He was also an excellent slip fielder, and a long serving captain, though his record in that department was tarnished by the fact that oversaw three failed Ashes campaigns – the only other three time Ashes losing skipper in 140 years being Archie MacLaren of England (1901-2 in Australia, 1902 in England, 1909 in England), hence my not giving him the role in this side.
- Graeme Pollock (South Africa). One of the greatest of all left handed batters (see the left handers XI earlier in this post).
- Kevin Pietersen (Nottinghamshire, Hampshire, Surrey, England). A batter of undoubted greatness, though problematic in the dressing room to the extent that his first two counties were both glad to see the back of him. He top scored in both innings of his test debut, ended that series with the second most important innings of 158 to be played by a South African born batter at The Oval. His test best was 227 at the Adelaide Oval in the 2010-11 Ashes.
- +Rishabh Pant (India). Attacking left handed batter, quality keeper. Probably his greatest moment came at the Gabba when he played a match and series winning innings for an injury-hit India.
- *Mike Procter (Gloucestershire, South Africa). One of the finest all rounders ever – a genuinely fast bowler, an attacking middle order batter and a shrewd captain to boot – I have given him that role in this side.
- Shaun Pollock (Warwickshire, South Africa). An exceptionally accurate right arm fast medium bowler and a useful lower order batter. He is also my chosen vice captain for this side in preference to either Ponting or Pietersen.
- Peter Pollock (South Africa). A right arm fast bowler, spearhead of the South African attack during the last few years of their first period as a test nation.
- Charlie Parker (Gloucestershire, England). The third leading wicket taker in FC history with 3,278 scalps at that level, but only one England cap.
- Erapalli Prasanna (India). An off sinner who took 189 test wicketsin the 1970s.
This side has one good and one great opener, a superb engine room at 3-5, a keeper batter, a genuine all rounder, and four great bowlers. In Procter and Peter Pollock the side has two genuinely fast bowlers, with Shaun Pollock’s fast medium to back them up. Parker and Prasanna are an excellent pair of contrasting spinners.
Eddie Paynter has a higher test average than anyone I have overlooked at 59.23, but his test career was quite brief, and his average is over a run an innings less than that of Graeme Pollock. Cheteshwar Pujara is the next most notable omission, but no way can he be selected ahead of Ponting at number three, and his efforts when India recently used him as an ersatz opener were not very impressive.
The two Nawabs of Pataudi to play test cricket (the last two to have that title) were both fine batters, but not quite good enough to break into this powerful XI.
Roy Park of Australia never got the opportunity to prove himself at test level – his batting career for his country lasted exactly one ball. Ashwell Prince of South Africa might have his advocates as well.
Ellyse Perry is unlucky to have a surname beginning with P – there are many other letters where I would be delighted to be able to choose a player of her class, but she just misses out.
JH Parks of Sussex was a fine county all rounder, but hardly a challenger to Procter. JM Parks was a batter/ keeper for both Sussex and England, but for my money Pant is better in both departments than Parks was, and even if Parks’ batting shades it I would go for the better keeper (a walkover win for Pant).
Dattu Phadkar of India was good middle order batter an enough of a bowler to take the new ball for his country (although this is partly a reflection of India’s shortage of quick bowlers in his playing days), but could hardly displace Procter.
Liam Patterson-White, an all rounder who bowls left arm spin, may be challenging for inclusion in a few years time, as might leg spinner Matt Parkinson, but as yet they are potentials rather than actuals.
Three seriously quick bowlers who missed out were Patrick Patterson (WI) whose time at the top was short, Len Pascoe (Australia), who also didn’t have great depth of achievement and Pushpakumara of Sri Lanka, whose record was very modest for all his pace.
Time for my usual sign-off…