All Time XIs -The ‘Signed Off In Style’ XI

My latest variation on the ‘all time XI’ theme, with a couple of special honourable mentions and a bonus feature on enforcing the follow on.

INTRODUCTION

Yes folks, it is time for another variation on the ‘All Time XI‘ theme. Today the focus is on people who produced particularly special final curtain calls. This is an all Test Match XI, and I follow it with a couple of honourable mentions, and then a piece that touches on a topic that a couple of my XI had more than a little to do with – The Follow On. Scene setting complete it is time to introduce the…

‘SIGNED OFF IN STYLE’ XI

  1. Andrew Sandham – his last test match took place in Kingston, Jamaica in1930. He scored 325 of England’s first innings 849 (both of them records at the time, his innings being the first test score of over 300, relieving Tip Foster with his debut 287 of the record), and then when skipper Calthorpe decided that as it was a ‘timeless’ match he would not enforce the follow on, in spite of having an advantage of 563 on first innings, Sandham scored a further 50 as England scored 272-9 declared. His aggregate of 375 was a record for a test match until Greg Chappell tallied a total of 380 for Australia v New Zealand about half a century later. Sandham (Surrey) was the in many ways the southern equivalent of Percy Holmes – one half of a tremendously successful county opening pair who did not get the opportunities at test level – their county opening partners Herbert Sutcliffe and Jack Hobbs, test cricket’s greatest ever opening pair, getting the nod most of the time, and quite rightly. Nevertheless, Hobbs and Sandham gave their county a century start 66 times in all (as opposed to the 69 by Sutcliffe and Holmes for Yorkshire). Sandham was involved with Surrey in various capacities for over six decades. It was typical in a way of his unobtrusiveness that his hundredth first class hundred came not at one of cricket’s big showpiece venues but at humble Basingstoke. Sandham was 39 at the time of his last test bow, a mere pup compared to his opening partner in that game, 50 year old George Gunn.
  2. Bill Ponsford – the stocky Victorian scored 181 at Leeds in the 4th test of the 1934 Ashes, a game which was drawn due to the weather. With the series tied, the final game at The Oval was decreed to be timeless, and when Australia won the toss and batted they needed to get some serious runs on the board. Helped by Bradman (244) in a second wicket stand of 451, Ponsford produced an innings of 266, the Aussie score when he was finally dislodged reading 574-4. Australia went on to 701, and after declining to enforce a follow on, won the match by 562 runs, as skipper Woodfull regained the urn on his birthday, for the second time in four years. That was Ponsford’s swansong, and he had announced his arrival at the top level eight years and a bit previously with tons in each of his first two test matches, the only person to have both started and finished his career in such fashion. It says something about the nature of Aussie pitches of the period and timeless matches, then in vogue in Australia, that Ponsford averaged 84 in the Sheffield Shield but only 48 in test cricket.
  3. Alec Stewart – as a Surrey native, Stewart had an easy way to take his final test match curtain call in front of a home crowd – retire at the end of a test summer, which is what he did. He treated his home crowd to wonderful farewell century, finishing with a tally of test runs, 8.463, that had an interesting symmetry with the digital representation of his 8th April, 1963 birthdate – 8.4.63! Although I named as wicket keeper in order to fit him into my Surrey all time XI, the truth is that Stewart the specialist batter was about 15 runs an innings better than Stewart the keeper, and as an excellent player of quick bowling who was an uncertain starter against spin, a top order slot makes sense for him.
  4. Greg Chappell – the 6’4″ South Australian (one of a number of distinguished cricketing products of Prince Alfred College, Adelaide dating back to Joe Darling and Clem Hill in the late 19th century) produced a score of 182 in his final test innings against Pakistan in 1984. 14 years earlier, at the WACA, he had scored 108 in his first test match innings, and barring the quibble-cook exception of Andy Ganteaume whose first and last test innings were one and the same, no one else has centuries in their first and last test innings.
  5. *Steve Waugh – being a native of NSW, Steve Waugh was in a position to script the fairy tale ending to his illustrious career – has final test match was the last match of a triumphant Ashes series and took place on his own home ground, the SCG. He supplied the last ingredient needed to complete the recipe – a bravura century brought up off the final ball of a day’s play. The tension in the closing overs of that day, as Waugh got tantalisingly closer and closer to the landmark was really something.
  6. Stanley Jackson – the Yorkshireman was 35 years old (the same age to the day as his opposite number Joe Darling) when he captained England in the 1905 Ashes series. He won all five tosses in that series, England won both the matches that had definite results, and Jackson topped both the batting and bowling averages for the series (70 and 15 respectively). In the final match he contributed 76 with the bat. It would be 76 years before an England all rounder next dominated an Ashes series in such a way – and his golden period came only after he had resigned the captaincy just before he got pushed.
  7. +Alan Knott – the keeper who had declared himself unavailable for tours was brought back at Old Trafford in 1981, and contributed 59 to an England win. Then at The Oval, with England in serious danger of defeat he signed off with a match saving 70, well backed by his skipper Brearley who also scored a fifty. At the time of his retirement he had made more dismissals – 269 (250 catches and 19 stumpings) than any other England wicket keeper. He had also averaged 32.75 with the bat for his country. He subsequently (in my opinion at least) blotted his copybook by going on the first ‘rebel tour’ of apartheid South Africa, but his test farewell was splendid.
  8. Harold Larwood – the bowling star of the 1932-3 Ashes, which also turned out to be his last test series. In the final game he scored 98, before injuring himself while bowling. Skipper Jardine made him complete the over, and then kept him out on the field while Bradman was still batting. When Bradman was out, Larwood was finally allowed to leave the field, so the two greatest antagonists of the series departed the arena at the same moment. I have mentioned his subsequent shameful treatment by the powers that be in other posts.
  9. Jason Gillespie – sent as nightwatchman he scored 201 not out in what turned out to be his last test innings. This ended his career on much higher note than had looked likely when in the 2005 Ashes he bowled largely unthreatening medium pace, paying out over 100 runs per wicket and looking every inch a spent force.
  10. Sydney Barnes – The England ace took seven wickets in each innings of the fourth match of the 1913-4 series in South Africa. That brought his tally for the series to 49, and his overall test tally to 189. He then quarrelled with management over money and refused to play the final game, otherwise, such was his hold over the South Africans that it is likely he would have had 60+ wickets for the series and been the first to reach the landmark of 200 career test wickets (in what would have been only 28 games). Still, one match earlier than ought to have been the case, Barnes had produced an appropriate swansong performance to confirm his status as the greatest bowler the game had ever seen.
  11. Hugh Trumble – in the final innings of his final test match he bowled his team to victory by bagging 7-28, bringing his tally of Ashes scalps to 141, which remained a record for over 77 years until Dennis Lillee overhauled it at Headingley in 1981.

This XI has a splendid top five, including a tough and resourceful skipper, an all-rounder at six, a splendid keeper/batter at seven and four front line bowlers of varying types.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I am limiting these to two, who I think demand explanation, although one was a first class rather than a test farewell. I start with…

SIR ALASTAIR’S SWANSONG

In 2006 Alastair Nicholas Cook announced himself at test level by scoring a fifty and a century versus India. 12 years and 12,500 test runs later the Essex left hander signed off by scoring a fifty in the first innings and a century in the second at The Oval – against India, for a neat dual symmetry. So why have I not included him? Well, my XI includes a top three who were all regular openers, the performances of Sandham and Ponsford in their sign off matches (remember the name of the XI) commanded inclusion, and in spite of the fact that a left handed batter would have been useful I could not place Cook’s sign off effort above Stewart’s home ground century. Also I could not miss the opportunity to include Stewart in his optimal role as a specialist batter. Finally, I wanted a stroke maker to follow my opening pair. Additionally I was slightly disappointed by the timing of Cook’s announcement of his plan to retire. England were struggling to find folk to open in test matches as the summer of 2018 drew its close, with Stoneman already having been found wanting and Jennings blatantly obviously being in the process of being found wanting. I envisaged, as I wrote in a post at that time, Cook staying on for one last tilt at the oldest enemy in 2019, and helping to usher through two new openers, Burns (who had made an irrefutable case for selection by then) and another (my suggestion, to alleviate concern over having two openers with no international experience, was that England should indulge in a spot of lateral thinking and invite Tammy Beaumont to take her place alongside the men). Thus, while I concede that there is a strong case for Cook having a top three place in this XI, I conclude (a bit like the umpire in a festival match who responded to an appeal against WG Grace by saying “close, but not close enough for a festival match”) that it is not quite strong enough, especially with the most likely drop being Stewart.

HEDLEY VERITY’S LAST BURST

In August 1939, as the warmongers mobilized, Hedley Verity played in Yorkshire’s last championship fixture of the year at Hove. In one final spell of left arm spin wizardry he captured seven Sussex wickets at a personal cost of nine runs. Four years later Captain Verity of the Green Howards was hit by sniper fire as he led his men towards a strategically important farmhouse on Sicily. He was moved to a military hospital at Caserta but died of his wounds at the age of 38. Although his story is a poignant one, and an extra spinning option would have appealed to me, I decided that it would be out of keeping to an include him in an XI picked for their test match sign offs. It is more than likely that had he survived the war Verity would have carried on playing, and I suspect that had been in the test side at Headingley in 1948 Australia would not have been able to chase down 404 on a wicket that was taking spin. It is even possible, without allowing him to break his great forebear Wilfred Rhodes’ record for being the oldest to play test cricket to imagine a 51 year old Verity being Laker’s spin twin in the 1956 Ashes rather than Tony Lock. His 1,956 wickets at 14.90 in less than a full decade of first class cricket show him to have been a very great bowler indeed, which is backed up by Bradman’s acknowledgement of precisely one bowler he faced as an equal: Hedley Verity.

TO ENFORCE OR NOT TO ENFORCE,
THAT IS THE QUESTION

This is a thorny question, and I tackle it here because of the presence in my XI of Sandham, who played in a match that was drawn after a refusal to enforce, Ponsford who played in several matches where the follow on was not enforced with varying degrees of success and Jackson who played a role in the enforcement of the follow on becoming voluntary.

A POTTED HISTORY OF FOLLOW ON REGULATIONS

While the margin required to enforce the follow on changed over the years, being as low as 80 at one point and climbing by stages to 150, until the 1890s it was compulsory to enforce it. Then there was a Varsity match in which Stanley Jackson (son of Lord Allerton, and never anyone’s idea of a rebel) deliberately orchestrated the giving away of eight runs so that his opponents would not follow on. It backfired – set 330 in the final innings the dark blues chased them down, but the lawmakers got the message after years of tampering with required margins that what people wanted was the right to choose.

FOLLOW ON HAPPENINGS

Three test matches have been won by a side following on – Sydney 1894, when enforcing was compulsory, Headingley 1981 and Kolkata 2001. The Sydney match, in which no decision over whether to enforce could have been made anyway, was largely lost on the fifth evening, when Giffen decided to block until the close, keeping wickets in hand for the morrow. Australia ended that day 113-2, needing just 64 for more to win. It rained overnight, though Bobby Peel, who seems to have had a Flintoffesque capacity for unwinding at the end of a day’s play apparently did not hear it. The combination of overnight rain (remember, uncovered pitches in those days) and a hot Sydney sun turned the pitch seriously nasty, and Australia fell to the wiles of Peel and Briggs, losing eight wickets for 36 runs (Darling, the other not out overnight batter, began with some big hitting, but was caught in the deep with the score at 130, and thereafter it was a complete procession). Additionally, during the England second innings the Aussies lost a bit of discipline in the field – both Francis Ford (48) and Johnny Briggs (42) offered easy chances that went begging. At Headingley in 1981 Ian Botham and Graham Dilley did not initially believe they could make a contest of it, and England’s great revival began as a slogfest. Australia had some undistinguished moments in the field, but the crucial period of play happened just before lunch on the final day. Australia were 56-1 with the interval not long away, when Willis was given a go from the Kirkstall Lane end to save his career. In the last stages of the morning play Trevor Chappell could not get out of the way of a bouncer and gave an easy catch, Kim Hughes and Graham Yallop fell to fine catches by Botham and Gatting respectively, and at lunch Australia were 58-4, and suddenly thinking about defeat as a real possibility. Even if Australia had scored no runs at all in that last period before lunch it is hard to imagine that a lunch score of 56-1 could have given them collywobbles to quite the same extent. The third match, which I mentioned in yesterday’s post, was turned on its head by an amazing partnership between Dravid and Laxman, and is the only one of the three where you can seriously argue that the decision to enforce the follow-on contributed to the defeat. At the end of the first day at Headingley, when Australia were 203-3, Brearley opined that a side could be bowled out for 90 on that surface, and it may well have been the case had Australia gone in again that something along those lines happened – third innings collapses are not unknown by any means (Australia once lost a test match after not enforcing when they were rolled for 99 in the third innings and South Africa successfully chased over 300, and Essex in 1904 and Warwickshire in 1982 to name but two can tell their own tales of horrendous third innings folds), and with a draw out of the question England may well have chased a target of just over 300. In the ‘timeless match’ that marked the end of Sandham’s test career England skipper Calthorpe declined to enforce the follow on, and the West Indies were 408-5 (Headley 223) chasing 836 when rain and England’s departure plans scuppered the match. Six years earlier Calthorpe had been involved in a credulity straining comeback, when Hampshire collapsed for 15 in their first innings, Calthorpe enforced the follow on and Hampshire made 521 second time round and emerged victorious by 155 runs. However, we have the word of Warwickshire keeper Tiger Smith that autocratic secretary RV Ryder had sent Calthorpe a message saying that the committee were meeting the following day and would like to see some cricket, and Calthorpe obediently put on some part time bowlers to ensure that there was not an early finish. In other words, this was another match in which the decision to enforce was not itself key to the outcome. Finally, we come to the last ever timeless test, at Durban in early 1939. South Africa batted first, made 530, England were out for 316, South Africa, scorning to enforce the follow on, scored a further 481, leaving England 696 to get. England, helped by a long defensive innings from Paul Gibb (140 in nine hours) and a double century from Bill Edrich (who had never previously scored a test 50) had reached 654-5, a mere 42 short of their goal, when rain and England’s departure plans intervened, and 11 days after its commencement the match was officially confirmed as a draw. Had the match, as originally intended, been played to its conclusion, there seems little doubt that England would have scored those last 42 runs, and claimed the victory. One man who was utterly convinced that South Africa’s failure to enforce the follow on was a blunder was England skipper Hammond, who was no fan of timeless matches (and for the record, neither am I). Hammond felt that after that 316 all out in their first innings England were demoralized, and that a follow on would have seen South Africa comfortably home.

My opinion on enforcing the follow on is that there are a few circumstances in which I might countenance not enforcing it, to whit:

  • It is the last (five day) test of a series, and your side is a match to the good. While I would consider it stolid, if not downright negative, I would understand the reasoning behind declining to enforce and aiming instead to pile up a colossal lead.
  • It is the final round of the County Championship, and your team, at the top of the table, are playing the team in second place, and a draw will see you champions, while a defeat would see the opposition take the title. Again, while I would not go so far as to support a decision to to enforce, I would understand the reasoning behind it.
  • Notwithstanding a couple of counter examples already mentioned, in a timeless match I could understand why it might seem imperative to rest your bowlers by going in again.

However, even making due allowance for these specific situations, my firm opinion remains: if you have the opportunity to go for the quick kill by enforcing the follow on you should be very strongly inclined to take it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Another ‘All Time XI’ has paraded its skills on this blog, a couple of magnificent cricketers have been given well merited honourable mentions and an answer has been offered to the question of whether or not to enforce the follow, and all that remains is my usual sign off…

TNOs
This comes from the twitter account of Olivier Hernandez.

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Signed Off In Style
The XI in tabulated form with abbreviated comments.

All Time XIs – Nottinghamshire

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we look at Nottinghamshire. There is at least one omission that will seem huge to some eyes, but as I explain in the section immediately after I have presented my chosen XI it is actually not.

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. Arthur Shrewsbury – when WG Grace (see my Gloucestershire team) became the first batter to record 100 first class hundreds he was second on the list of century makers with 41 to his credit. WG at a time when his primacy was unchallenged was asked who he rated next best among batters and responded “Give me Arthur”. In 1886 at Lord’s he took 164 off the Aussies to set England up for an innings victory, and at the time his score was the highest for England in a test match (WG Grace reclaimed the record that this took from him two matches later at The Oval with 170). Shrewsbury’s Nottinghamshire team mate Alfred Shaw, probably the most miserly bowler of all time, asked that he be buried 22 yards from Shrewsbury so that he could send him a few balls – and their graves are actually 27 yards apart, allowing space for Shaw’s standard five yard run up. For much of Shrewsbury’s playing career there was no such thing as a tea break, and it is said that if he was not out at lunchtime he would instruct the dressing room attendant to bring a cup of tea out to the middle at 4PM, such was his confidence that he would still be batting by then.
  2. George Gunn – a man who positively relished taking on the quicks. In 1907-8 when he was in Australia not as part of the official tour party but initially for the good of his health he was drafted into the test side in desperation and proceeded to score 119 and 74. He was also on the 1911-12 tour as part of the chosen party. In 1929-30 when England contested a test series in the West Indies for the first time Gunn at the age of 50 formed one half of test cricket’s oldest ever opening partnership along with the comparative pup 39 year old Andy Sandham (an honourable mention in my Surrey piece). In the 1929 English season he had celebrated turning 50 by being one half of a unique occurrence – he scored 183 for Nottinghamshire and his son George Vernon Gunn made precisely 100 in the same innings. A local amateur of no huge skill once determined to take Gunn on in a single wicket match, suggesting a £100 stake. Gunn was reluctant at first, but eventually succumbed to repeated importunings, although insisting that the stake be reduced to £5. They played during successive evenings – Gunn batted first and by the end of the first evening was 300 not out. At the end of the second evening Gunn had reached 620 not out and the amateur suggested that a declaration might be in order. Gunn refused but as a concession allowed the amateur to bowl at the heavy roller, six feet wide, instead of a regulation set of stumps. Half way through the third evening Gunn had reached 777 and the amateur finally decided that he had had enough and left Gunn to his triumph.
  3. William Gunn – elder brother of George (there was a third brother, John, who also played for Notts and indeed England as well, plus George’s son GV, but as far as I can establish, although she was born in Nottingham, contemporary England Women’s star Jenny Gunn is not related to this Gunn family), regularly no 3 for Notts and England. He scored 225 for The Players against the visiting Australians on one occasion, and in a Non-smokers v Smokers match he and Shrewsbury shared a stand of over 300 as the non-smokers made 803 (qualifications for these matches were not that rigorously checked – on another occasion Bonnor, the big hitting Aussie, made a century for the non-smokers – and was subsequently seen strolling round the boundary puffing on a cigar). William Gunn in addition to his playing career was the original Gunn of “Gunn and Moore” the bat makers, and at a time when many professionals died in poverty, sometimes destitution, he left an estate worth over £100,000. There is a book about the Gunns, “The Bridge Battery”, by Basil Haynes and John Lucas.
  4. Richard Daft – in the 1870s he was considered the next best batter in the country to WG Grace.
  5. Joe Hardstaff Jr – played for Nottinghamshire and England in the 1930s and 1940s. He contributed an undefeated 169 to England’s 903-7 declared at The Oval in 1938, while in 1946 he scored a double century against India.
  6. Garry Sobers – aggressive left handed batter, with a test average of 57.78, left arm bowler of absolutely everything (he began his career as slow left arm orthodox bowler, adding first wrist spin and then also adding pace and swing. He was at one time as incisive as anyone with the new ball. He was also excellent in the field.
  7. Wilfred Flowers – an off spinning all rounder from the late 19th century whose record demands inclusion.In first class cricket he averaged 20 with the bat and 15 with the ball.
  8. +Chris Read – a wonderful wicket keeper and a useful attacking middle order batter, he was badly treated by the England selectors and should have played more test cricket than he actually did. He made 1,109 dismissals in his first class career.
  9. Harold Larwood – the list of English fast bowlers who have blitzed the Aussies in their own back yard is a short one (Frank Tyson in 1954-5 and John Snow in 1970-1 are the only post Larwood examples I can think of, and while Tom Richardson (see my Surrey piece) was clearly magnificent in the 1894-5 series his gargantuan efforts hardly constitute a blitzing of his opponents), and he is on it. His treatment after that 1932-3 series, when he should have been seen as the conquering hero, was utterly shameful as the English powers that be caved to Aussie whinging, and he never again played test cricket after the end of that series, though he continued for Nottinghamshire until 1938. As late as 1936 he produced a spell in which took six wickets for one run.
  10. Tom Wass – a bowler of right arm fast medium and leg spin. On one occasion an over zealous gate keeper did not want to let his wife into the ground and Wass dealt with him by saying “if that beggar don’t get in then this beggar don’t play”. 1,666 first class wickets at 20.46, 159 five wicket hauls and 45 10 wicket matches are testimony to his effectiveness.
  11. Fred Morley – left arm fast bowler who was in his pomp in the 1870s. He paid a mere 13 a piece for his wickets. He died at the tragically young age of 33, or he would probably have had many more wickets even than he did. He was the most genuine of genuine number 11s. In his day the roller at his home ground, Trent Bridge, was horse drawn, and it is said that the horse learned to recognize Morley and when it saw him walking out to bat it would place itself between the shafts of the roller ready for the work it knew would not be long delayed (Bert Ironmonger, the Aussie slow left-armer who was the second oldest of all test cricketers, playing his last game at the age 51, is the subject of another classic ‘incompetent no 11’ story – a phone call came through to the ground he was playing at, and it was Mrs Ironmonger wanting to speak to her husband, “sorry, he has just gone into bat” came the response, to which Mrs Ironmonger said “I’ll hang on then”!).

This team contains a solid top five, the greatest of all all rounders at no 6, a second fine all rounder at 7, a top of the range wicket keeper and three specialist bowlers of widely varying types.

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE PRESENT & FUTURE

Stuart Broad did not qualify for two reasons. Firstly, his wickets cost 27 a piece, which is respectable but not by any means bargain basement. Secondly, as a right arm fast medium (kindly do not attempt to persuade me that he counts as fast, he does not) his effectiveness is heavily dependent on conditions and therefore very variable.Graeme  Swann was a very fine spinner of the recent past, but the inescapable fact is that his first class wickets cost 32 a piece, twice as much as those of Wilf Flowers, and while I would accept that Flowers would pay more today and Swann would have paid less in Flowers’ day I do not accept that the difference would be enough to close the gap that yawns between them. Joe Clarke is a highly talented young batter who may yet go on to become great, but he is very much not the finished article yet. Billy Root has shown some signs of skill but has a way to go to get close to big brother Joe (see my Yorkshire piece). Liam Patterson-White is a left arm spinner who if handled properly should have a huge future ahead of him, and if I revisit this series in a decade or so it is quite possible that he like Zak Crawley and Oliver Graham Robinson who I mentioned in yesterday’s piece about Kent will demand consideration by then.

OTHER OMISSIONS

First of all, I deal with…

OVERSEAS PLAYERS

There were four of these other than Sobers who obviously demanded attention. Bruce Dooland immediately before Sobers was an Australian all-rounder (right hand bat, leg spin) who performed wonders for Nottinghamshire, but he is hardly in the same bracket as Sobers. Clive Rice was more a batter who bowled than a genuine all rounder but he could bowl decidedly quick when in the mood. He was not as good a wielder of the willow as Sobers and his bowling did not have the same range. Closest to displacing Sobers as overseas pick was Sir Richard Hadlee, a right arm fast bowler and attacking left hand bat in the lower middle order. Had he not been a Kiwi he would have been an absolute shoo-in, but I am restricting myself to one overseas player per team, and with the presence of Larwood and Morley I felt that Sobers brought more that I did not already have available to the table. Franklyn Stephenson had one sensational season in 1990, when he did the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, the only player other than Hadlee to do so since 1969 (for those who consider that the limitation of English first class seasons to 14 games now makes this impossible, WG Grace achieved this double in the space of the last 11 games of his 1874 season – and people who are over-inclined to use the word “impossible” in the context of cricket often end up with egg on their faces), and he finished that season with a match in which he scored twin centuries and took four first innings wickets and seven second innings wickets, the most dominant four-innings match display since George Hirst’s twin centuries and twin five wicket hauls for Yorkshire against Somerset in 1906), but overall he did not do enough to warrant consideration.

OPENING BATTERS

William Scotton was too much the out and out stonewaller for my liking. He was part of a rare happening at The Oval in 1886, when such was the difference in approach between him and WG Grace that the scoreboard at one stage showed No 1 134 and No 2 34. Walter Keeton, Freddie Stocks, Reg Simpson and Brian Bolus all had their moments at the top of the order, without the enduring success of Shrewsbury and the Gunns. In the 1980s Chris Broad and Tim Robinson were both chosen to open for England, and each had one magnificent Ashes series, Robinson at home in 1985, Broad in 1986-7, but neither did enough overall as far as I am concerned, and Robinson was certainly found out in no uncertain terms by the West Indies.

THE MIDDLE ORDER

I regretted not being able to find a place for Derek Randall, but I had reasons for all of my inclusions. Wilf Payton, Joe Hardstaff Sr and John Gunn (who also bowled medium pace), would all have their advocates as well.

WICKET KEEPERS

Nottinghamshire does not quite offer the embarrassment of riches in this department that some other counties do, but other than my choice of Read there are four who would definitely have their advocates: Fred Wyld, Mordecai Sherwin, Ben Lilley (who did the job when Larwood and Voce were in their pomp) and Bruce French who was an England pick at times in the 1980s.

BOWLERS

Sam Redgate was the first Nottinghamshire bowler to make a real impression, and he was followed by John Jackson. Alfred Shaw, over 2,000 wickets at 12 a piece was unlucky to miss out, while his name sake Jemmy Shaw, a left arm medium pacer of similar vintage also had a fine record. It was Jemmy Shaw who summed up what many at that time probably felt in similar circumstances when tossed the ball to have a go against a well set WG Grace: “there’s no point bowling good ‘uns now, it’s just a case of I puts where I pleases and he puts it where he pleases”. William Barnes was an England all-rounder for a time, and once arrived for a match late and rather obviously the worse for wear and still had a hundred on the board by lunchtime. Rebuked over his tardiness by the committee he responded by asking them “how many of you ever scored a hundred, drunk or sober?”. Finally, there was Larwood’s partner in crime Bill Voce. Voce was less quick than Larwood, and probably less quick than Morley who I selected as my left arm pace option, and while not by any means an expensive wicket taker, he did pay 23 a time for his scalps, which puts him in the respectable rather than truly outstanding class. Once many years after their careers were done Voce visited Larwood in Australia where the latter had settled, and while they were drinking together a breeze blew through a window behind Larwood, prompting Voce to say “Harold, after all these years you’ve still got the wind at your back”, a comment that Gus Fraser (an honourable mention in my Middlesex piece) would probably have appreciated.

AFTERWORD

Although the County Championship was not put on an official footing until 1890, various cricketing publications named what they called “champion counties” before then, and in the last 25 years before that watershed in 1890 Nottinghamshire were so named on ten occasions. This is why there are so many 19th century names in my selections for this county – Nottinghamshire were strong then, and barring odd intervals have not been particularly so. The current Nottinghamshire would but for Covid-19 be preparing for a season in the second division of the championship after a quite ghastly season in 2019. Doubtless some readers will have their own ideas about players who I could have included, and I welcome such comments with the proviso that they show due consideration for the balance of the side and that there is some indication of who your suggestions would replace.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Our little journey through Nottinghamshire cricket is at an end, but just before my usual sign off I have a couple of important links to share, to posts by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK:

  1. Answering the Question: ‘How are you going to pay for it’? – a very clear and straightforward answer to this question, and one that everybody should read.
  2. Writing off NHS debt of 134 billion is a charade. What is required instead is the renationalisation of the NHS: nothing less will doanother hugely important piece, and one that again I urge you to read.

We end as usual with some pictures…

Test of Time
The John Lazenby book that I mentioned in my Kent and Lancashire pieces.

Test of Time back cover

Tour map
The map showing the route of the 1897-8 Ashes tour.

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Virtual interaction with NAS West Norfolk for Autism Awareness Month – this shows me donating £1 as I prepare to eat my lunch (just for the record the wine went back in the fridge with a plate covering the glass, and I will drink it with supper this evening). On the top page the spiral bound notebook are four of my all-time XIs – Warwickshire, Lancashire, Kent and Nottinghamshire.

 

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…

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