Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another, plus a rather different picture gallery from usual.
Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Today the Is occupy the spotlight and they start with a mere 10 out of a possible 80 points so far. The Super 12s stage of the men’s World T20 started today. The first game saw New Zealand thump hosts Australia by 89 runs (a monster margin in aT20), while in the second England won by five wickets over Afghanistan, with 11 balls to spare – a rather disappointing chase after a magnificent effort in the field restricted Afghanistan to 112 all out, headlined by Sam Curran taking 5-10.
THE Is V THE Rs
The Rs dominate the top batting positions – only Asif Iqbal at number five comes close to his opposite number, and ‘Ranji’ played on more difficult batting surfaces than Iqbal. The Is do have small batting advantages at six and seven, though Russell is the better keeper and Robins was a better skipper than Illingworth. The Rs powerful pace bowling unit absolutely obliterates such competition as the Is can offer in that department. The spin department is close – Illingworth outranks Robins, but as against that Rhodes, one of the all time legends of the game definitely outranks Ironmonger. There is simply no way the Is can put a dent in the Rs: Is 0, Rs 5.
THE Is V THE Ss
The Ss powerful batting line up absolutely dominates, arguably winning all 11 slots in that department. Imtiaz outranks Sangakkara as a keeper, the Ss utterly dominate in pace bowling, though the Is to win the spin bowling that can make no difference to the final result: Is 0, Ss 5.
THE Is V THE Ts
The Ts are way ahead on batting – only Imtiaz Ahmed and Illingworth at seven and eight can be said to win their match ups in this department. They also have by far the better keeper, and as usual dominate the pace bowling. Trumble and Tarrant are a decent match for Illingworth and Ironmonger spin wise. There is once again only one possible score: Is 0, Ts 5.
THE Is V THE Us
The opening pairs are closely matched – Ulyett’s runs, made in the very early days of test cricket would equate to only just less than Tamim Iqbal’s average today. The Us win the number four and five slots and the batting elements of no six and seven, though Imtiaz Ahmed wins the keeping laurels, and Iremonger offers more bowling than Umrigar, though not quite so much as Ulyett. The Us have the better new ball pairing, and Underwood outranks Ironmonger, though Ur Rahman hasn’t yet done enough to outrank Illingworth, though he probably will in the end. Neither of these sides are great with the bat, but the Us outgun the Is with the ball: Is 1, Us 4.
THE Is V THE Vs
The opening pairs are closely matched, the Vs own positions three through six, Imtiaz Ahmed outbats Vaas, but Vaas outbowls Iremonger as third seamer. Voce and Van der Bijl are by far the better new ball pairing, Verity outranks Ironmonger, and I would personally rate Vogler ahead of Illingworth, meaning that the Vs utterly dominate the bowling in all departments. Since they are also clearly ahead on batting, and captaincy and keeping skills are about even there can be only one scoreline: Is o, Vs 5.
THE Is PROGRESS REPORT
The Is managed one point of a possible 25 today and are now on 11 out of 105, 9.55% overall.
Today’s picture gallery is something different from usual, and necessitates a disclaimer notice. In James and Sons’ October sale I got two lots very cheaply, a set of stamps celebrating the opening of the Moscow Metro and a set of Stamps marking the 250th anniversary of The Academy of Sciences. Both these sets of stamps, and the set of Moscow Metro I already owned were issued by regimes that I must stress I regard as absolutely appalling. Stalinist Russia was one of the nastiest of all dictatorships, and the laughably misnamed German Democratic Republic was also appalling. I purchased these stamps for their subject matter and in spite of my hatred for the regimes that produced them. For each of the two new lots I show the official auction images and some that I have produced now that the items are in my possession.
Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.
Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Es XI continue to occupy the spotlight, and they start today on 21 of a possible 75 points.
THE Es V THE Qs
The Es dominate the batting, and are also massively superior in pace bowling, having a proper new ball pairing in the form of T Emmett and Elliott, whereas the Qs only front line seamer is a bad third in the seam bowling rankings across the sides. The Qs have a numerical advantage in the slow bowling department, but Ecclestone is probably the best individual slow bowler on either side. I do not think that even on a turning pitch the Qs can close the gulf between them and the Es and accordingly score this one Es 5, Qs 0.
THE Es V THE Rs
The Rs win the first five batting match ups, and while Endean ranks ahead of Robins as a batter, Robins’ all round skills partly compensate for that, and he also comfortably outranks the fairly pedestrian Elgar as a captain. Russell’s batting advantage of over 6.5 per innings over G Evans undoubtedly more than makes up for any slight superiority Evans may have had as a keeper. The Rs are comfortably clear in bowling as well – they have three front line pacers to the Es two, and magnificent though she is Ecclestone cannot be ranked ahead of Rhodes in the pantheon of left arm spinners. I score this one Es 0, Rs 5.
THE Es V THE Ss
The Ss dominate in all departments save wicket keeping – G Evans was undoubtedly a finer keeper than Sangakkara. Es 0, Ss 5.
THE Es V THE Ts
I give the Ts the verdict on opening pairs – Taylor’s marginal disadvantage v J Edrich is compensated for by his greater tally of runs, while Trumper made his runs on much more difficult pitches than Elgar. Additionally I would rate Taylor a better skipper than Elgar. While Tarrant loses the batting element of his match up against Bill Edrich, he offers an extra bowling option. The Ts have an overwhelming advantage in the number 4,5 and 6 positions. Bob Taylor ranks below Evans with the bat, similarly as a keeper. The Ts have far the stronger pace attack, and while Ecclestone just outranks Tarrant as a bowler Trumble has a significant advantage over E Evans. The Ts are well ahead and I score this Es 0, Ts 5.
THE Es V THE Us
The Es win the first three batting slots, the Us win the the next three. Umar Akmal outranks G Evans with the bat but is miles behind him as a keeper. The Es comfortably outrank the Us in the new ball contest, though Ulyett’s presence as a third pace option reduces the gap in this department. Ecclestone against Underwood is a mighty contest, though Ecclestone offers more with the bat. Given that he has done his bowling on 21st century pitches, which offer less to slow bowlers than the 19th century surfaces that E Evans exploited I put Ur Rahman ahead in this match up. Overall the Es should have enough, but it is close: Es 3, Us 2.
THE Es PROGRESS REPORT
The Es have scored 8 of a possible 25 points today, moving them to 29 out of 100 – 29%.
Today’s photo gallery comes from the first part of my return journey from Cumbria. I agreed to be dropped at Penrith station and buy a single from Penrith to Carlisle to get back on track with my return journey. I had a bit of a wait at Carlisle for a train to Newcastle, and as you will see the station there has various points of interest. This gallery takes us to my arrival at Newcastle, where I had a much longer wait as I opted to travel on the train on which I had a reserved seat rather than trying my luck on an earlier service.
Continuing my exploration of the all-time XIs theme with a look at cricketers whose surnames begin with the letter S. This piece spans two and a half centuries, five continents and even mentions one of the great fictional cricketers.
The exploration of the all-time XI theme continues with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter S. This one was very tough, not because of any difficulty finding players of sufficient standard but because there was a lot overlap in terms of the expertise of the very best players, and balancing the side was a challenge that required compromise, of which more later.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Andrew Strauss (Middlesex, England). A fine opening bat, and twice an Ashes winning skipper, though I have not given him that role in this side.
Herbert Sutcliffe (Yorkshire, England). 4,555 test runs at 60.73, 2,741 Ashes runs at 66.85.
*Graeme Smith (South Africa). One of the best captains of the modern era, and a top class left handed batter. He was a regular opener, but I believe he would handle first drop superbly as well.
Steven Smith (Australia). First called up on account of his leg spin bowling, he established himself as Australia’s best test batter since Bradman. After serving a ban for cheating (an incident that ruled him out of any leadership responsibilities) he returned to action with twin tons at Edgbaston in 2019.
+Kumar Sangakkara (Surrey, Sri Lanka). One of two serious candidates for the title of best batter his country has ever produced (Jayawardene being the other), and a good keeper as well. Usually I prefer to select a specialist keeper, rather than use a batter to perform this role, but circumstances dictate this selection.
Garry Sobers (Nottinghamshire, West Indies). The most complete cricketer ever to play the game. Devastating batter, left arm bowler of pace, swing, seam and both finger and wrist spin, gun fielder.
Ben Stokes (Durham, England). Attacking left handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler.
Greville Stevens (Middlesex, England). A leg spinning all rounder whose FC averages were the right way round (29 with the bat, 26 with the ball). This slot caused me more grief than any other – with three gun fast bowlers rounding out the order I wanted a spinner, and with Sobers present, neither a left armer of any description, nor a regular off spinner (similar line of attack to Sobers in his wrist spin guise) would be ideal. There were two candidates within these constraints – this chap, and Paul Strang of Zimbabwe, and the latter paid 36 per wicket at test level and over 30 at FC level.
Mitchell Starc (Australia). One of the fastest bowlers in the world at present, and while his highs are not quite up at Mitchell Johnson 2013-14 levels, his lows are nowhere near the depths of 2010-11 Johnson.
Brian Statham (Lancashire, England). One of Lancashire’s greatest ever fast bowlers, and one of the select few to have an end of his home ground named in his honour (James Anderson, also at Old Trafford, is in this club, as are Barbadians Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall).
Dale Steyn (South Africa). The greatest fast bowler of the immediate post McGrath period, and surely a shoo-in for an all time South Africa XI even given their strength in the pace bowling department.
This XI features a super powerful top six, Stokes with full licence to attack and a powerful quartet of bowlers. The pace attack, with the quick version of Sobers arguably fifth choice in that department (behind Steyn, Starc, Statham and Stokes) is awesome, and Stevens plus Sobers in his slower guises should offer sufficient spin to augment that attack. Sangakkara as keeper violates my usual principal of going for the best keeper, but he was good enough to do the job for Sri Lanka on a regular basis.
A multi-faceted section starting with…
THE NUMBER EIGHT SLOT
There were two off spinners who would have their advocates for these position but missed out for reasons of balance: Harbhajan Singh of India and Graeme Swann of England, who each paid a little over 30 a piece for their test wickets and who were both useful lower order batters.
However, had I been willing to ignore considerations of balance I had a raft of top options to pack out the pace battery: Frederick Spofforth, a legend from the early days of test cricket was probably the pick of those I overlooked, but two present day Indians, Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj would have their advocates as well, Peter Siddle of Australia is a quality practitioner if perhaps a notch below the very top bracket, Amar Singh, part of India;s first ever test side, was also indisputably a great fast bowler. John Snow of England was another great pacer who could have had this slot. Olly Stone, the Norfolk born Warwickshire and England pacer who has been plagued by injuries has the ability, but not the proven track record. Barbadian all rounder Franklyn Stephenson, one of only two cricketers to do the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches in an English season since the reduction of the programme in 1969 (the other, Richard Hadlee, also played for Nottinghamshire) would appeal to some as a number eight.
I was conscious of the merits of all these players when making the call to select Greville Stevens, and my contention is not that he is a better cricketer than them, but that he is a better fit for the team, given the players who already had irrefutable claims for selection.
Bert Sutcliffe, the legendary New Zealand left hander, still holder of the record first class score by a native of that country (385 for Otago vs Canterbury, in a team score of 500 all out, with Canterbury contributing 382 off the bat in their two innings combined), and with a fine test record was a serious candidate for Strauss’ slot as left handed opener.
Among the right handed openers I could find no space for were Andrew Sandham, a member of the 100 first class hundreds club, Virender Sehwag, devastating unless the ball was swinging, when he could look very ordinary, Bobby Simpson of Australia, Michael Slater also of Australia and Alec Stewart of England all had impressive records as right handed opening batters. Arthur Shrewsbury of Nottinghamshire and England, second best 19th century batter behind WG Grace, was another who could have done a fine job in this role. Reg Simpson of Nottinghamshire and England had moments at the top level, including a 156* against Australia which set up a test victory for England, but he was not in the same bracket as the others.
MIDDLE ORDER BATTERS
I start this section by drawing your attention to my all time XI of Smiths, so that I do not have to repeat myself regarding players with that surname. Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan of the West Indies can both count themselves unlucky to have surnames beginning with S – under most other letters they would merit serious consideration. Mahadevan Sathasivam of Sri Lanka has legendary status in his own land, but for a series like this I have to deal in hard facts, so he misses out.
Roy Swetman was a fine keeper in the 1950s, and Herbert Strudwick of Surrey and England made more dismissals in first class cricket than any keepers bar JT Murray of Middlesex and Bob Taylor of Derbyshire, though he often batted number 11, which with Statham and Steyn having ironclad claims for places was problematic.
Darren Stevens’ performances since moving south from Leicestershire to Kent have been outstanding, but he has never played anything other than county cricket.
Maninder Singh of India was a fine bowler, but as a left arm orthodox spinner he overlaps with Sobers, and he was a genuine bunny with the bat. Reggie Schwarz of Middlesex and South Africa missed out, because for all his importance as the guy who learned the googly from its creator Bosanquet and taught it to a number of his South African colleagues he actually used the googly not as part of his bowling armoury but as his stock ball, therefore becoming effectively an off spinner, a less good fit for the XI than a more standard leg spinner. Molly Strano, a consistently successful performer in Australian domestic cricket, and therefore by definition a superb bowler also misses out because she is also an off spinner.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
Lack of sufficiently concrete records for two players prevented me from considering them: Edward ‘Lumpy’ Stevens, a great bowler of the late 18th century and Heathfield Harman Stephenson, whose performance for the All England XI at the Hyde Park Ground in Sheffield led to the coining of the phrase ‘hat trick’. He dismissed three of his opponents with successive deliveries, and the Sheffield crowd were so impressed by this display of bowling virtuosity that they used a hat to collect money for Stephenson and made him a presentation of both hat and money.
A FICTIONAL TALENT
Tom Spedegue, hero of a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, in which he pioneers a new type of delivery which descends on the batter from the clouds “Spedegue’s Dropper” and shatters that season’s visiting Australians by taking 15 wickets in what turns out to be his first and only test would certainly have added variety to the attack had he been real.
WHITE BALL TALENTS
Had been selecting with limited overs cricket in mind Navjot Singh Sidhu and Sanju Samson would both have been close to inclusion.
Will Smeed, scorer of the first individual century in The Hundred, is an obvious talent for the future. Glenton Stuurman (pronounced like ‘Steerman’), a young South African quick bowler is very promising, though he has a huge amount to do to come close to dislodging his compatriot Steyn. Sophia Smale, a 17 year old left arm orthodox spinner has announced herself with a couple of fine performances in the Hundred.
Our cricketing journey through the letter S, spanning two and a half centuries and many continents, is at an end, and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…
I take on the near impossible task of selecting an all time test XI. Also some more photographs for you.
Let me start by saying that this task, suggested on twitter by Adam Sutherland, is the sort of thing Alexa might come up with if asked for an example of an insoluble problem. The embarrassment of riches at one’s disposal is such that I would expect no two people to arrive at the same answer. Nevertheless it is fun to do, and I am going to offer my answer. Feel free to list your alternatives, or if you dare, a completely different XI of your own to take on mine in a five match series in the comments.
There are lots of candidates for an opening pair. In my case I resolve the issue by selecting an opening pair who were the best in test history and who I therefore pick as a package: Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, with their average partnership of 87.81 at that level.
Number three, with all due respect to such masterly practitioners as Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting is one of the two nailed on certainties for a place in this XI: the one and only Donald Bradman, who I also name as captain of the side. An average of over 30 runs an innings more than any of the competition does not allow for argument.
Number four has many contenders, but having named three right handers I wanted a left hander, and the best record among such batters is held by Graeme Pollock, with an average of 60.97 (Brian Charles Lara is the other contender, but too many of his really big scores came in either defeats or draws).
Number five goes to Sachin Tendulkar. Again there were many possibilities, but I accept the word of Don Bradman, who recognized something of himself in the way Tendulkar batted (a resemblance also acknowledged by Lady Bradman when consulted), and there can be no higher praise.
Now we need an all-rounder, and this is the other utterly undisputable slot other than no3: the most complete cricketer there has ever been, Garfield St Aubrun Sobers. He scored 8,032 test runs at 57.78, took 235 wickets, bowling virtually every type of delivery known to left arm bowlers (he was originally selected as a left arm orthodox spinner, batting no9) and he was also one of the greatest fielders the game ever saw.
For the wicket keeper, although I do not normally approve of compromising at all on keeping skills I rate Adam Gilchrist’s batting at no seven so highly that I am selecting him for the role.
For my remaining bowlers I go for Wasim Akram at no8, left arm fast and capable of generating prodigious swing. No9 is Malcolm Marshall, for me the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling. No10 is Sydney Barnes, 189 wickets in just 27 tests (seven per game) at 16.43 a piece. I round out the order with the off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
Barnes’ principle weapon was a leg break at fast medium pace, so I felt that the off spinner Muralitharan as opposed to a leg spinner (Warne, O’Reilly, Grimmett and Kumble being the principle contenders) gave the attack more variation. Wasim Akram’s place as left arm paceman could have gone to Alan Davidson or Mitchell Johnson without appreciably weakening the side, and there are a plethora of right arm quicks for whom cogent cases could be made. Barnes’ extraordinary record made him the third clearest selection in the entire XI.
Just before my usual sign off, a link to the piece I produced OTD last year as part of my ‘all time XIs’ series: Leicestershire. Now for those photos…
Today in ‘all time XI’ land we have a contest between London and the North.
Welcome to today’s variation on an ‘all time XI‘ theme. Today features a battle between London and The North. I grew up in London, but have some northern ancestry and lived for a period in Barnsley, while I now live in Norfolk, so I consider myself decently equipped to handle this one.
THE BRIEF IN MORE DETAIL
For the purposes of of this post London means players from either Middlesex or Surrey. I am well aware that among the first class counties Kent and Essex also overlap with London. The Northern XI is drawn exclusively from Yorkshire and Lancashire, although there is an honourable mention for a Durham player. I have not included overseas players at all. Do check out my county XIshere.
LONDON ALL TIME XI
Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The man with more first class runs and more first class hundreds than anyone else who ever played the game (I go with the traditional figures of 61,237 runs and 197 hundreds). This is all the more remarkable, because having been born in Cambridge he had to serve out a two year qualification period before making his Surrey debut, and he also lost four years to Wiorld War 1. He ultimately became Sir Jack Hobbs, the first professional games player of any description to be knighted.
John Edrich– left handed opening batter. Another scorer of over 100 first class hundreds.
Bill Edrich – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. A cousin of John. His test career got off to a slow start, but when he did manage a big score at that level it was seriously big – 219 versus South Africa at Durban, when England were baulked of victory by the weather and the necessity to return to Cape Town to get their boat home – they were 654-5 chasing 696 when time in what was supposed by a ‘timeless’ test match ran out.
Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. Only Don Bradman reached the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds in fewer innings than Compton’s 552.
Patsy Hendren – right handed batter, brilliant fielder. The second largest tally of first class hundreds, 170, and the third largest ever tally of first class tuns, 57,611, and he did all that while never forgetting that cricket was a game to be enjoyed. He took full advantage of playing for Middlesex – a record 75 of his first class hundreds were scored at ‘the home of cricket’.
+Alec Stewart – right handed batter, wicket keeper. The man who scored more test runs than anyone else in the 1990s.
*Percy Fender – right handed batter, leg spinner, captain. Exactly the right kind of player to be coming in at no7 in a very strong side, and an excellent captain.
Jim Laker– off spinner. He was apparently capable of putting so many revs on the ball that it would hum in the air on its way to the batter.
George Lohmann – right arm medium pace bowler. His test wickets came at 10.75 each, and a rate of one per 34 balls. He was joint quickest to 100 test wickets (17 matches, a record he shares with ‘Terror’ Turner).
Tom Richardson – right arm fast bowler. The man who would walk from his home in Mitcham to The Oval carrying his cricket bag, bowl plenty of overs in the day and then walk back similarly encumbered. He nearly did a ‘Bob Willis’ at Old Trafford in 1896, when ‘Ranji’ had scored 154 to set the old enemy a victory target of 125 after England had been made to follow on. Richardson took 6-76 bowling unchanged, and Australia were relieved in the end to get home by three wickets.
This team has a super strong top five, a batter keeper at six, an all rounder who was also a very shrewd captain at seven and four well varied bowlers. Bill Edrich as third seamer can hardly be described as a weakness, given that he did on occasion take the new ball for his country, while Laker, Lock and Fender represent a fine spin trio.
Len Hutton – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. His record looks even more extraordinary when you consider that he lost six years to World War Two, and a training accident during that conflict left him with one arm shorter than the other.
Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. He averaged 52.02 in first class cricket, 60.73 in test cricket and 66.85 in Ashes cricket, bearing out his famous comment “Ah Mr Warner, I love a dogfight.” His career was affected at both ends by war – World War 1 delayed his entry into first class cricket until he was 24 years old, while World War II finished his career – and in that last season of 1939 he had become the oldest player ever to carry his bat through a first class innings, so without the interruption he may well have carried on at first class level.
Johnny Tyldesley– right handed batter. In the first decade of the 20th century only two professionals were selected for England purely on the strength of their batting, David Denton and Johnny Tyldesley. Tyldesley’s record was outstanding for a player of his era, and he was noted for his skill on bad wickets. He was also notably nimble footed, it being not unknown for him to deploy his favourite cut shot against balls pitched in line with middle stump.
Eddie Paynter– left handed batter. He was baulked by the strength of Lancashire’s batting in his early years, but when he did reach the top he made it count, averaging 59.23 in test cricket, which included double centuries against Australia and South Africa.
Joe Root– right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Note that I have not named him as captain because of his batting record while in that role, which is noticeably less good than his record before he became captain. It is his batting that I want, the same batting that saw him reach 3,000 test runs quicker than any other England batter.
George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm pace bowler. This one caused me considerable thought, but his record was so good that, notwithstanding the roars of rage this decision will generate from folk based west of the Pennines I decided it had to be him. His 1906 feat of scoring 2,385 runs and taking 208 wickets in first class matches, echoed in miniature by his performance in the game against Somerset at Bath when he scored 111 and 117 not out and took six first innings wickets and five more in the second was a truly outstanding demonstration of skill and stamina – an equivalent in today’s much shorter first class season would be someone scoring 1,000 runs and taking 100 wickets in first class games, not an impossibility but certainly a feat that would be estraordinary, although anyone good enough to pull it off would very likely either be involved with England or spend some part of the season playing franchise T20 cricket somewhere else in the world.
Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed lower middle order batter. He had a magnificent record until an eye injury brought a premature end to his career.
*Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner. I have named him as captain, a role he never filled on the cricket field due to the prejudices of the era in which he lived, but which I believe he would have done splendidly. He did ultimately become a captain in a very different field – it was as Captain Verity of the Green Howards that he was fatally wounded in World War II. In less than a full decade of first class cricket prior to that he had captured 1,956 wickets at 14.90 each.
Sydney Francis Barnes– right arm fast medium bowler. The man who took 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each just has to feature.
+David Hunter – wicket keeper. He was the keeper in the first truly great Yorkshire side, the one that dominated the early years of the 20th century, being champions five times in its first decade, including going unbeaten twice in 1900 and 1908.
This team has a formidable top five, one of the greatest of all allrounders, four excellent bowlers and a star keeper. There is a lack of leg spin, but otherwise all departments are well covered.
I am going to cover these in order by playing role:
Opening batters – South: At least three other Surrey openers, Hayward, Sandham and Abel had outstanding records, while Andrew Strauss and Jack Robertson of Middlesex might also have their advocates.
Opening batters – North: Percy Holmes of Yorkshire might be considered to recreate the great pairing of him and Herbert Sutcliffe, while Louis Hall and Jack Brown had fine records in an earlier era. Among Lancastrians, Cyril Washbrook and Mike Atherton were the two nost obvious candidates.
Nos 3-5 – South: strong cases could be made for Ken Barrington and Peter May here, although bringing either in for Bill Edrich would change the balance of the side, and it is hard to envisage dropping Compton or Hendren. If told that I must accommodate Barrington on account of his test average of 58.67 I would do so by dropping John Edrich, and moving Bill up to open, a job he sometimes did in tests, slotting Barrington in at no3. Mike Gatting and Mark Ramprakash both had fine county records, but neither did enough at test level – Gatting averaged 35.55, and Ramprakash less than 30. ‘Young Jack’ Hearne might have got in on all-round talent. If Ollie Pope continues his career the way he has started it he will in due time command a place.
Nos 3-5 North: Ernest Tyldesley of Lancashire scored over 100 hundreds, David Denton of Yorkshire warranted consideration, while more recently the Lancastrians Neil Fairbrother and John Craw;ey would have their advocates. Jonny Bairstow would have his advocates as well,and I might have created an extra slot by selecting him as keeper if I had full confidence in his glove work. Brian Close would also have his advocates.
The all-rounder South: I have already mentioned ‘young Jack’, and Bernard Bosanquet was another candidate, as was Greville Stevens.
The all-rounder North: Andrew Flintoff was an obvious candidate, and I did consider shelving the issue of transpennine rivalry by giving Ben Stokes of Durham the nod – he may yet make an already strong case irrefutable.
Spinners – South: No other Surrey spinners rank wiht the two I chose, although Pat Pocock was a fine cricketer. Fred Titmus, Philippe Edmonds, John Emburey and Phil Tufnell would all have their advocates on the Middlesex side.
Spinners – North: Ted Peate, Bobby Peel, Wilfred Rhodes and Johnny Wardle of Yorkshire were all possibles for the left arm spinner role, as was Johnny Briggs of Lancashire. For off spinners, Ted Wainwright, Bob Appleyard, Ray Illingworth and Roy Tattersall had fine records, although Wainwright had a disastrous tour of Australia in 1897-8.
Pace bowlers South: Alec Bedser is the most obvious miss, but Gubby Allen also had a fine record, and Maurice Allom took a hat trick on test debut, although his overall record was not that great. Martin Bicknell had a superb county record and was unlucky not to get more chances for England. Bill Lockwood, who was also a useful batter, appears to have been the first to develop a slower ball as a variation, and by all accounts it was devilishly difficult to spot. Neville Knox’s pace was legendary but he only had two really good seasons, in 1906 and 1907.
Pace bowlers North: Jimmy Anderson is the most obvious miss, but his huge tally of test wickets is down to longevity and the frequency with which test matches now take place more than to any special brilliance that he possesses. Brian Statham was a great bowler, but with Trueman and Barnes making irrefutable cases for selection there was no way to get him in without changing the balance of the side. Such luminaries as Schofield Haigh, George Macaulay and Bill Bowes, all magnificent bowlers, have to make do with honourable mentions, as to the two greatest Yorkshire quicks of the 19th century, Tom Emmett and George Freeman (209 wickets at 9.94 in first class matches). George ‘Happy Jack’ Ulyett was another early great, who could also have been considered as an all rounder.
The Keepers – South: Had I been going to select a specialist keeper for the South rather than rely on Stewart there were two obvious choices, John Murray and Herbert Strudwick, with some 3,000 dismissals in first class cricket between them.
The Keepers – North: apart from Jonny Bairstow, already mentioned for his batting, George Pinder, Joe Hunter (brother of David), Arthur Dolphin, Arthur Wood, Jimmy Binks and David Bairstow all had fine records for Yorkshire, while George Duckworth and Warren Hegg of Lancashire were both fine keepers.
There will doubtless be many more names that occur to readers, and do feel free to weigh in with comments.
The contest for what I shall jokingly call the ‘Watford Gap Trophy’ would be an absolute classic. I rate the London XI as stronger in batting, though not by much, but reckon that the Northern XI is somewhat better equipped in the bowling department. I cannot pick a winner here.
Having set up a fruity London vs The North contest, introduced the players and provided a detailed honourable mentions section it is time for my usual sign off…
A team of players whose surnames start early in the alphabet against a team of players whose names start late in the alphabet, plus an important petition.
Welcome to my latest variation on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. Today after a couple of overseas posts we return to home territory, but featuring cricketers from four different centuries. The dividing line between these teams is the centre of the alphabet – our first team have surnames that begin with a letter from early in the alphabet while our second mutatis mutandis have surnames beginning with letters from late in the alphabet.While limiting myself to home players for this post I have aimed to embrace a wide range of types of player with the prime focus on entertainment.
BEGINNING OF THE ALPHABET XI
Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. ‘The Master’ is a good place to start any XI – 61,237 first class runs with 197 centuries at that level.
Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter. A wonderful timer of a cricket ball, probably the smallest player on either side in this contest, but with a proven ability to score big – and quick – she once reached a ton against South Africa off just 47 balls.
James Aylward – left handed batter. One of three 18th century cricketers in this XI, in 1777, a mere eight years after the first record century in any cricket match, he scored 167 versus England, batting through two whole days in the process. He is the ‘sticker’ of this team, surrounded by more aggressive talents.
William ‘Silver Billy’ Beldham – right handed batter. At a time when such scores were very rare he amassed three first class centuries. His special glory so we are told was the cut shot. He was exceptionally long lived, being born in 1766 and not dying until 1862 – in his childhood canals were the new big thing in transportation, and he missed out by a mere six months on living to see the opening of the world’s first underground railway.
Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. He averaged 50 with the bat over the course of 78 test matches, and he scored his runs fast. According to the man himself in “Playing for England” he developed his left arm wrist spin as a second string to his bow because he was impressed by the Aussie ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith, and because he noticed during the 1946-7 Ashes tour how many of the Aussies had second strings to their bow and thought that he should develop one.
George Hirst– right handed batter, left arm pace bowler, brilliant fielder. One of the greatest all rounders ever to play the game. He achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class games on 14 occasions, 11 of them in successive years. Having topped 2,000 to go with over a hundred wickets in both 1904 and 1905 he then achieved the double double in 1906 – 2,385 runs and 208 wickets in first class matches (in the 21st century a non-pandemic hit English season involves 14 first class games, so anyone doing the 1,000 run, 100 wicket double would achieve a feat of similar standing, while 500 runs and 50 wickets would be a jolly impressive all round effort). In the Oval 1902 match in which Jessop blazed his 75 minute century Hirst took the first five Aussie wickets in the first innings and scored 101 for once out in the match (43 and 58 not out to see England home). He also stands alone in first class cricket history thus far in achieving the double double match feat of centuries in both of his own team’s innings and five wicket hauls in both of his opponents innings (Yorkshire v Somerset 1906).
+Leslie Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The only recognized keeper to have tallied a hundred first class hundreds.
Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed lower middle order batter. The first ever to combine a fifty with a ten wicket match haul in a test match. His 15 appearances at that level brought him 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42. His career was ended prematurely by an eye injury. If we were to assume that without that injury he could have kept going until 40, very fair by the standards of the time, that would mean that he could have played in the 1888, 1890, 1893 and 1896 home series against Australia, the 1891-2 and 1894-5 away series against the same opposition and in a couple of the early series in South Africa, which brings him close to 40 test matches, and if he maintained similar output an aggregate of 1,749 runs and 133 wickets. If we accept that nowadays he would be pay half as much again for his wickets, we must also allow that that applies to all bowlers and that he would also score half as many runs again, so an approximate conversion of his averages in to today’s terms sees him average 41 with bat and 24.63 with the ball – a handy person to be coming in at no8!
Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium. Possibly the greatest of all bowlers. At Melbourne in the 1911-12 Ashes when Johnny Douglas won the toss and inserted Australia early wickets were needed to back that decision up, and Barnes in his opening burst accounted for the entire Australian top four for a single between them. Australia recovered from this blitz to tally 184, but as at Adelaide 99 years later, the damage had been done on the first morning, and England were in control of the match throughout.
Sophie Ecclestone – left arm orthodox spinner. She has already enjoyed considerable success in her fledgling career, with a best ODI bowling performance of 4-14 and a T20I bowling performance of 4-13 among her highlights. In total across international formats she has 93 wickets for 1793 runs, an average of 19.28 per wicket, and she only turned 21 less than a fortnight ago.
David Harris – right arm fast (underarm). The first great bowler, so highly prized that late in his career when gout was causing him horrendous problems an armchair would be brought out on to the field so that he could sit down when not actually bowling! If you look at early scorecards (early to mid 18th century) you will see that catches were not generally credited to the bowler, and the single person most responsible for changing that was Harris, who sought extra bounce with the precise intention of inducing batters to yield up catches. All you bowlers of today who rely on slip cordons, bat-pad catchers, short legs, silly mid-ons etc take note of the man who pioneered bowling to induce catches and be grateful that catches are credited to you. I have argued elsewhere for the re-legalization of under arm bowling both of Harris’ type and of under arm spinners such as Simpson-Hayward. The Greg/Trevor Chappell type of ‘grubber’ can be simply dealt with now that balls that bounce more than once are automatically called no-ball – simply add a coda that for the purposes of this law a ball that rolls along the deck shall be considered to have bounced an infinite number of times and is therefore a no ball.
This team has a splendid top five, one of the greatest of all all rounders, a keeper batter up there with the best in history and a wonderfully varied foursome of bowlers. Barnes, Harris and Hirst represent an excellent trio of pacers, Bates and Ecclestone are two high class spin options. There is no fronnt line leg spinner, but Barnes’ greatest weapon was a leg break delivered at fast medium pace, and there is Compton with his left arm trickery as well should a sixth bowler be needed. I would expect this team to take a lot of beating.
THE END OF THE ALPHABET XI
Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. He went through his entire test career with an average in excess of 60 – it ended at 60.73. He was often reckoned to be one of fortune’s favourites, but that was at least partly because when he did benefit from a slice of luck he made it count. For example, at Sydney in the opening match of the 1932-3 Ashes series he was on 43 when he chopped a ball from Bill O’Reilly into his stumps without dislodging a bail – and thus reprieved he went on to a test best 194, setting England up for a ten wicket win (Australia dodged the nnings defeat by the narrowest possible margin, leaving England a single to get in the fourth innings, duly scored by Sutcliffe).
Arthur Shrewsbury – right handed opening batter. He was rated second only to WG Grace in his era. In those days the tea interval was not a regular part of the game, and on resuming his innings after lunch he would ask the dressing room attendant to bring him a cup of tea at four o’clock, so confident was he that he would still be batting by then. He briefly held the highest test innings score by an Englishman, 164 at Lord’s in 1886 which set his side up for an innings victory – two matches later at The Oval Grace reclaimed the record which had been his 152 in 1880 with a score of 170, made out of 216 while he was at the wicket.
*Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. Once, when Kent were chasing 219 in two hours for a victory, his partner suggested that he should try to hit fewer sixes as it took time for the ball to come back from the crowd! Kent won that match, due in no small part to Woolley. At Lord’s in 1921 when Gregory and McDonald were laying waste to the rest of England’s batting he scored 95 and 93.
Eddie Paynter – left handed batter. He averaged 59.23 in test cricket, with double centuries against both Australia and South Africa along the way. He was 28 by the time he broke into the Lancashire team, and World War II brought his career to a close. He it was who officially settled the destiny of the 1932-3 Ashes, hitting the six that won the 4th match of that series giving England an unassailable 3-1 lead (they won the fifth match as well, that one also ending with a six, this time struck by Wally Hammond). None of England’s huge scorers are more frequently overlooked than the little fella from Oswaldtwistle.
Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The reverse combo to George Hirst, and definitely somewhat more batter than bowler – my intention in this side is that when called on to bowl it will be in short, sharp bursts.
George Osbaldeston – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler (under arm). Another explosive all rounder, the fastest bowler of his day.
+Sarah Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. One of the two finest English keepers I have seen live (Ben Foakes is the other) and a magnificent stroke making batter. Mental health issues brought her career to a premature close. Across the international formats she scored 6,535 runs at 33.17, took 128 catches and executed 102 stumpings – most of those latter eye-blink swift leg side efforts.
Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. One of the quickest ever – I suspect that not even the keeper I have chosen would be making many stumpings off his bowling!
Bill Voce – left arm fast medium bowler. An excellent foil to an outright speedster at the other end.
Linsey Smith – left arm orthodox spinner. One of a phalanx of young spinners currently involved with the England Women’s side – as well as Ecclestone and Aberdonian SLAer Kirstie Gordon there are several leg spinners, including Sophia Dunkley and Sarah Glenn, with Helen Fenby on the periphery. Thus far Smith has only been required in T20Is, but she takes her wickets in that form of the game at a bargain basement 14 a piece.
Douglas Wright – leg spinner. A leg spinner with a 15 yard run up, and whose armoury included a bouncer to ensure that there was no automatic going on to the front foot against him. The problem was, that especially if the fielders were not having one of their better days, the human world was too fallible a place for his kind of bowling – far too often he simply beat everyone and everything all ends up. When things went his way they could do so in spades – he took a record seven first class hat tricks. He is not quite the only specialist spinner to have had an accredited bouncer – Philippe-Henri Edmonds could also bowl one when the mood took him.
This team has a powerful top four, two explosive all rounders, one of the finest of all keeper batters and a strong and varied quartet of specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Tyson and Voce sharing the new ball, Osbaldeston and Stokes offering pace back up and spin twins Smith and Wright also looks impressive
This contest, for what I shall call the ‘Bakewell – Nichols Trophy’, in honour of two fine all rounders, Stan Nichols, a left handed batter and right arm fast bowler and Enid Bakewell, who batted right handed and bowled slow left arm would be an absolute belter. It is mighty hard to pick a winner, but I think that Barnes just gives the side from the beginning of the alphabet the edge, and I would suggest that a five match series would finish 3-2 to the team from the beginning of the alphabet.
LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS
There is a petition currently running calling on the government of Botswana not to legalize elephant hunting. Please click on the screenshot below to sign and share:
Above is the picture accompanying the tweet that drew my attention to this petition.
Now, with the teams introduced and an important link shared it is time for my usual sign off:
Today’s variation on the all-time XI theme is a paradoxical one – it features two teams of players whose finest hours occurred in enemy territory.
Welcome to the latest installment in my ‘all time XIs‘ series. Today we look at players who enjoyed their finest hours when doing battle in enemy territory, with The Away Ashes. Before getting to the main body of this post however, there is a matter to be attended to, in my usual ‘reverse tabloid’ style so that it cannot be missed:
In yesterday’s South Africa post I failed to mention Dale Steyn when looking at players from my lifetime. I still stick to my chosen pair of specialist speedsters Kagiso Rabada and Allan Donald, but I should have included Steyn in the honourable mentions as a candidate for one of those spots. My apologies to Mr Steyn for the oversight.
THE AWAY ASHES – ENGLAND
Just before I start going through the players, a quick warning about an easy trap that people might fall into: that these players greatest achievements came away from home does not imply that they were not also successful at home – the majority of my choices had their successes at home as well.
Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. The Yorkshireman scored 734 runs at 81.67 with four centuries in the 1924-5 series, which his side still lost 4-1. At the time both the runs aggregate and the century tally were records for a single series. In 1928-9 he played the single most crucial innings of the series when his 135, begun on a vicious sticky, underpinned England’s successful chase of 332 which put them into an invulnerable 3-0 with two matches to play lead. In 1932-3 he was joint leading run scorer of the series, with 440 at 55.00, something of an underachievement by his own stellar standards in Ashes cricket (overall average 66.85) as England ran out out 4-1 winners. That was third and last trip down under meaning that even after that 1924-5 series England had won nine and lost six in Australia with him in the side (1-4, 4-1, 4-1). His home Ashes highlights included a match and Ashes winning 161 at The Oval in 1926, and the same score at the same ground in a different outcome four years later.
Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. A career that spanned 12 years, saw him score over 12,000 test runs and set an all time record for consecutive test match appearances naturally included many highlights. However, one particular achievement shone out more brightly than anything else he did over the period: his 766 runs at 127.67 in the 2010-11 Ashes as England won down under for the first time in 24 years. In total in that series he spent just over 36 hours at the crease, 15 of them in his two innings at The Gabba, when his second innings 235 not out prevented England from going 1-0 down. His 148 at Adelaide, alongside Pietersen’s test best 227 enabled England to fully capitalise on a fantastic start to that match – Australia, having won the toss and batted lost their first three wickets on the opening day for two runs, two to slip catches off Anderson and a run out. In the final game at Sydney, with England 2-1 up he batted 488 minutes scoring 189, setting England up for a monster total after which Australia’s batting folded to give England a 3-1 series victory. At Melbourne in 2017 on a strip devoid of any hint of life he produced his final major Ashes knock, 244 not out, the highest ever Ashes score by someone carrying their bat through a completed innings.
Douglas Jardine – right handed batter. He made two tours of Australia, in 1928-9 and 1932-3, and England won both series 4-1, the second under his captaincy. In the fourth match of the 1928-9 series at Adelaide he made his highest Ashes score, 98, sharing a third wicket stand of 262 with Hammond (177 not out), which put England in total control of the match. Though he did not manage any really major scores as captain in the 1932-3 series he did on some occasions soak up considerable amounts of time, putting more miles into the legs of the Aussie bowlers.
Walter Hammond – right handed batter, occasional medium pacer, expert slip fielder. In his first Ashes series, in 1928-9, he announced his presence in cricket’s oldest international rivalry by scoring 905 runs at 113.125, including the first ever incidence of successive test double centuries, 251 at Sydney in the second game and then 200 not out in the first innings of the third match at Melbourne, before then hitting 119 and 177 not out in the fourth match at Adelaide. In 1932-3 he was joint top scorer for the series with 440 runs at 55.00, including the first half a record sequence – in the final match he hit 101 and 75 not out, and then in New Zealand he thumped 227 and 336 not out, the only four innings test sequence to top 700 runs. In 1936-37 he scored 231 not out in the second match of the series, but was overshadowed by Bradman for the rest of the series. He unwisely agreed to skipper England in a ‘goodwill’ tour of Australia in 1946-7, by when he was 43 years old and unable to summon up former glories, averaging only 21 in the series. Of his three home Ashes series 1930 and 1934 were both failures, while 1938 was a success.
*Percy Chapman – left handed batter, occasional slow bowler, superlative close fielder, captain. Chapman was asked to captain England at The Oval in 1926 after the first four matches of the series had been drawn and the selectors had concluded that Arthur Carr was not the man for the job. He led them to victory and The Ashes. In 1928-9 he was made captain of the tour party and led England to a 4-1 triumph. His own batting contributions were minimal, but his captaincy attracted universal praise. He was a casualty of Bradman’s explosive vengeance in 1930, dropped from the captaincy after Lord’s that year, where the Don scored 254 (ended by Chapman holding a near miraculous catch – Bradman was to confirm that the ball had gone precisely where he intended to hit it and that he had not believed the catch was possible) in a total of 729-6 declared, and even though Chapman hit a defiant 121 in England’s second innings they went down by seven wickets.
Bernard Bosanquet – right handed batter, leg spinner. The pioneer of the googly took his new weapon with him to Australia as part of Warner’s 1903-4 Ashes party, and played a major role in the winning of that series, including taking his best ever test figures of 8-107 in an innings.
+Jack Richards – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Kept on the 1986-7 tour, when England won the series down under, scored 133 at Perth in second test thereof.
Harold Larwood – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. Two ashes tours, 1928-9 and 1932-3, and two 4-1 series wins in Australia, in the second of which he was the undoubted star.
Farmer White– left arm orthodox spinner. His accuracy and stamina were vital to England’s 1928-9 triumph – he bowled 542 overs in the five matches of that series. In the Adelaide match of that series his total figures across the two innings were 124.5 overs, 37 maidens, 256 runs, 13 wickets.
Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. If fast bowlers ever came quicker than the 1932-3 version of Larwood, then the 1954-5 version of Tyson was one of the few to do so. England lost the first match of that series at The Gabba by an innings and plenty, Tyson taking 1-160. However, he also listened to and acted on some shrewd advice from former fast bowler Alf Gover, shortened his overly long run considerably to conserve on energy in the Australian heat, and in matches 2,3 and 4 of that series was simply too hot for the Aussies to handle, being the key ingredient in a turnaround that saw 0-1 and likely loss of the urn become 3-1 and retention of the urn.
Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium. Archie MacLaren selected Barnes for the 1901-2 tour of Australia after a being impressed by him in the nets. Barnes won the first match of that series for his side, bagged another five for in the second, but was then rendered hors de combat by injury, an Australia ran out 4-1 winners. Barnes missed the 1903-4 series which England won. The 1907-8 tour party was poorly chosen and lost badly, but Barnes played a key role in the one test that England won in that series – his 38 not out in the final innings guided England home when they needed 73 from their last two wickets. His greatest Ashes moments came in the 1911-12 tour, when England won 4-1, and he took 34 wickets, backed him left arm pace bowler Frank Foster with 32, while the batting was dominated the opening pair of Jack Hobbs and Wilfred Rhodes. In all Barnes took 77 wickets in 13 test matches in Australia, as compared to 29 wickets in home Ashes matches.
This team has a magnificent looking opening pair, two good and one great batter in the 3-5 slots, an all rounder, a keeper who can bat and four splendid bowlers. The bowling has blitz men Larwood and Tyson, the extraordinary Barnes, and two contrasting spin options in White and Bosanquet, plus Hammond as a possible sixth bowler.
THE AWAY ASHES: AUSTRALIA
Mark Taylor – left handed opening batter, fine slip fielder. Taylor had a fine record at the top of the Aussie order, was the second in a sequence of long serving Aussie captains after Border, and probably ranked third of the four (Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting followed Taylor) as a captain – my own reckoning makes the four skippers who spanned the ‘green and golden age’ rank as follows as captains: Border (unarguable – he taught an Australia who had forgotten the art exactly how to win and guided them from also-rans to top dogs), Waugh (who made a dominant side even better), Taylor (who consolidated Border’s work and kept Australia at the top) and Ponting (who inherited the captaincy of a team of champions and left a collection of ‘also rans’ for his successor). His greatest moments as a batter were in England in 1989 when he cashed in on the organization of what turned out to be the last of the rebel tours and general selectorial incompetence by the English to score 839 runs in the series, a record for any Aussie not named Bradman. Eight years later England was the scene of a display of massive character from Taylor, who was going through a run of dreadful form with the bat ans was under fire from his detractors. Australia were rolled in the first innings of the series at Edgbaston for 118, and had looked like not even managing 100 for large parts of the innings, and England spearheaded by Hussain with a double hundred and Thorpe with a century built a huge lead. Taylor opened the Australian second innings knowing that a second failure in the match could easily see the axe descend on him, and proceeded to chisel out a determined century, which could not save the match for his side, but did save his career. Australia bounced back to win the series, although England gained another victory in the final match at The Oval.
Bill Ponsford – right handed opening batter. In 1934 the chunky opener achieved the rare feat of finishing with a better series batting average than Don Bradman. Ponsford averaged 94.83 for that series, while Bradman had to settle for a figure of 94.75. In the fourth match of the series at Leeds he scored 181, sharing a 4th wicket partnership of 388 with Bradman (304). Then, at The Oval in a match played to a finish because the series was not settled, as was tradition in England at the time (all test matches in Australia were played to a finish back then), he scored 266 in the first innings, sharing a second wicket stand of 451 with Bradman (244). Australia won the test match by 562 runs and regained the Ashes, the victory coming, as it had four years previously, on skipper Woodfull’s birthday. Ponsford retired from the game at the end of that series, the only player to date to score hundreds in his first two tests and hundreds in his last two tests.
*Don Bradman – right handed batter. He played in four of the five tests of the 1928-9 Ashes, scoring one century for a badly beaten side. In 1930 he came to England, with a number of critics predicting that he would fail there. He reached his thousand first class runs for the season before May was done, the first non-English player to do so (and he would repeat the feat in 1938, the only player to achieve it twice), and he began his test performances comparatively quietly, with 131 in the second innings of the first match at Trent Bridge, when Australia were beaten. In the second at Lord’s he hit 254 in the first innings, and was one of the three Aussies dismissed in the second as they chased down 76. At Headingley in the third match he hit 334, 309 of them on the first day. After a quiet match in Manchester it was time for the final match of the series at The Oval, where in the tour match v Surrey he had scored 252 not out in a tally of 379-5 in a rain ruined affair. He racked up 232 this time round in a score of 695 as Australia won by a huge margin. In all in that series Bradman played eight innings, one of them a not out, and amassed 974 runs at 139.14. In 1934 he averaged 94.75, and in 1938 it was over a hundred again, helped by unbeaten centuries is the Trent Bridge runfest that opened the series (seven individual centuries and over 1,500 runs for less than 30 wickets in the game) and in the low scoring game at Headingley that saw Australia retain the Ashes. In 1948 he was outscored by opener Arthur Morris, but helped by 173 not out at his favourite Headingley he had a higher average for the series.
Billy Murdoch– right handed batter, sometimes wicket keeper. Twice in his test career he scored over 150, 153 not out at The Oval in 1880 in an ultimately losing cause (England after largely dominating the game had an attack of collywobbles in the final innings, contriving to surrender five wickets while chasing down 57) and 211 in a drawn game at the same ground four years later, the first double century in test cricket, and the second in the sequence of record individual scores at that level that in full reads: 165 by Bannerman at Melbourne in 1877, 211 by Murdoch at The Oval in 1884, 287 by Foster at Sydney in 1903-4, 325 by Sandham at Kingston in 1930, 334 by Bradman at Headingley in 1930, 336 not out by Hammond at Christchurch in 1933, 364 by Hutton at The Oval in 1938, 365 not out by Sobers at Kinsgton in 1957, 375 by Lara at Antigua in 1994, 380 by Hayden at Perth in 2000 and 400 not out by Lara at Antigua in 2004.
Charlie Macartney– right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. Macartney started his career as a blocker and ended it as one of the most highly regarded stroke makers of all time. In 1926 he became the first ever to score centuries in three successive test matches, although the weather saw it that all ended in draws.
Harry Graham – right handed batter. He scored a century on test debut at Lord’s in 1893.
+Graham Manou – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A rare Aussie ‘one cap wonder’, that appearance coming in England in 2009.
Shane Warne– leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Only one person has ever captured 100 test wickets in a country other than their own: Shane Keith Warne, who reached the landmark in England in 2005, in the course of the only Ashes series in which he finished on the losing side. He announced his presence in Ashes contests with the ‘Gatting ball’ at Old Trafford in 1993, his first delivery in an Ashes match, which drifted in the air to land well wide of leg stump and then spun back so sharply that it brushed the outside of the off stump just enough to dislodge the bail, to the stupefaction of the batter. Robin Smith who since making his own debut four years earlier had built a hugely impressive record was made to look a novice in that series, and Alec Stewart, deployed in the middle order in that series, fine player of fast bowlers that he was, never looked anything close to comfortable against Warne either. Even in the 2005 triumph Warne retained full mastery over the England batting, collecting 40 wickets in the series.
Bob Massie – right arm fast medium bowler. Australia, captained by Ian Chappell, brought a largely young and unknown side to England in 1972. The first match was lost to Ashes holders England, and then the sides reconvened at Lord’s. Massie took 8-84 in England’s first innings 272, a sensational debut effort. Australia, with a century from Greg Chappell to help them led by 36, and skipper Ian Chappell gathered his team together and said he wanted a wicket before that deficit was knocked off, well rather as with Bill Bowes and his leg side field for Vic Richardson in 1932, ‘Chapelli’ did not get one, he got five! England recovered somewhat from that catastrophic beginning to their second innings, but only enough to reach 116, Massie 8-53 to give him 16-137 on debut. A victory target of 81 did not unduly trouble Australia, opener Keith Stackpole taking the opportunity to record an unbeaten half century. That was over half of Massie’s tally of test wickets. In the end England retained the Ashes, courtesy of a victory at Headingley, although Australia levelled the series by winning the final game at The Oval, both Chappells notching first innings centuries.
Charles Turner – right arm medium fast bowler. A rare example of an Aussie great who never won an Ashes series – it was his misfortune to be in his prime at a time when his only reliable bowling support came from Jack Ferris, and Australia were riven by dissension. During one of his tours (1886, I think), there was an occasion when the train carriage in which the Aussie team had been travelling was marked by blood spatters! Nevertheless, he was an even more difficult proposition in England than back at home.
Terry Alderman – right arm medium fast bowler. Meet the man who should have been the first bowler to 100 test wickets in a country other than this own (although a case could actually be made on Barnes’ behalf, since had been picked for the 1903-4 tour he would surely have done it in Australia). Terence Michael Alderman took an Australian ashes series record 42 wickets in a losing cause in the 1981 series. Eight years later he took 41 in a winning cause (both these series were of six matches, whereas the England ashes record, Laker’s 46 in 1956 came in a five match series), to bring his tally in England to 83 in 12 matches. Terry Alderman should have been part of the 1985 tour party as well, but he foolishly went on a rebel tour to apartheid South Africa instead, which netted him a three year ban from international cricket. The 1989 haul included a sequence of four successive innings in which he trapped opener Graham Gooch LBW, with the Essex man’s highest score in that little patch of torment being 13. Alderman may actually have contributed to the 1985 Ashes as well, since he was for a time a Kent team mate of Richard Ellison, who as a bowler of a similar type probably benefitted from the presence of an international practitioner. In the last two matches of that series Ellison captured 17 wickets, including the prize scalp of Border in three of the four innings.
This team has a decent top six, a splendid keeper, and four excellent and varied specialist bowlers (and Macartney had a 10 wicket haul in a test match with his left arm spin as well).
This looks an absolute ripper of a contest. Perhaps the trick would be to stage it on neutral territory, though not India, as that would spike Warne’s guns, so that both sides could treat as an away contest and thereby bring the best out of themselves.
ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’S PROBLEM
Yesterday’s post included the following teaser:
The available answers were 9, 15, 21 and 27.
The correct answer is nine, the speed of ball nine after collision being 511 m/s.
A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS
The scene has been set for the ‘Away Ashes’, with our players introduced and explained, yesterday’s teaser has been answered, but just before signing off there are some links to share, from the Guardian, where actor Rory Kinnear has a tribute to his sister who has just died of covid-19, in which he takes the “died with it, not of it” brigade sternly to task. Please read and share. A site which I discovered today, doodlemaths, has a number of posts about “Mathematicians who changed the world“, the example which drew me in, and which I offer as an introduction being about Florence Nightingale. Now it is finally time for my usual sign off…
This is the fourth all-time XI post I have done (Surrey, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire were the first three). I have an ancestral connection to Yorkshire, and I lived in Barnsley for six years. As you would expect of the county that has by far the most outright championships (32 at the present time), there is a positive embarrassment of riches to choose from.
YORKSHIRE ALL TIME XI
Herbert Sutcliffe – a big occasion player, as witnessed by the progression of his averages (overall FC 52.02, overall test 60.73, Ashes 66.85), he also overlapped for a few years at first class level and rather longer at club level (both were raised in Pudsey) with the person I have chosen as the other opener. He could claim that both World Wars affected his career since the first prevented his entry into first class cricket until he was 24, and the second led to his retirement from the game (and his 1939 performances were not those of a man preparing to lay aside his bat for the last time, though resuming after a six season layoff when past the age of 50 was obviously not going to happen). He tallied over 50,000 first class runs in total with 149 centuries.
Leonard Hutton – a man who averaged 56.7 in test cricket and was also hugely productive in first class cricket, in spite of missing six of what would have been prime development years to World War II, from which he emerged with one arm shorter than the other due a training accident. In 1953 as captain he regained the Ashes which had been in Australian hands since Woodfull’s 1934 triumph, and eighteen months later he led England to victory down under.
David Denton – in the first decade of the 20th century only one Yorkshire cricketer gained England selection purely on the strength of batting skill, and that person was David Denton. He was known as ‘lucky’ Denton because he seemed to benefit from plenty of dropped chances but there are two counters to that, firstly there is Napoleon’s “give me a lucky general rather than a good one”, and secondly people noticed him benefitting from dropped chances for the very simple reason that he made it count when such occurred.
Maurice Leyland – a left handed bat and a bowler of ‘chinamen’, he scored heavily for both Yorkshire and England.
Joe Root – the current England test captain, and a bat of proven world class, though his off spin would not see much use in this team, and you will note that I have not named as captain of this team.
George Hirst – rated by his long time county captain Lord Hawke as the greatest of all county cricketers, he batted right handed and bowled left-arm pace. He achieved the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches 14 times, 10 of them in successive seasons. In each of 1904 and 1905 he had over 2,000 runs and 100 wickets, and in 1906 uniquely he had over 2,000 runs and 200 wickets. He was also noted for his fielding at mid-off.
*Wilfred Rhodes– the other of the ‘Kirkheaton twins’, a right handed bat and slow left arm bowler with over 4,000 first class wickets and almost 40,000 first class runs in his career, the longest ever test career in time terms (31 and a half years between his first and last appearances) his astonishing career linked the era of Grace with that of Bradman. I have named as captain because although being a humble professional he never officially had the job I believe he would have been excellent at it- when asked about Percy Chapman as England captain Rhodes said “‘ee wor a good ‘un – he allus did what me an’ Jack telt him”.
Tom Emmett – a left arm pace bowler who took his wickets very economically and was a good enough wielder of the willow to have a first class hundred at a time when they were not easy to come by. He accounted for W G Grace 36 times (as well as Gloucs v Yorks, there were fixtures such as North v South, Gentlemen vs Players etc, so top cricketers came up against one another frequently) and was highly rated by ‘The Doctor’.
Fred Trueman – “T’finest bloody fast bowler that ever drew breath” at least in his own oft stated opinion, and it was close enough to true for the exaggeration to be pardonable. He was the first to take 300 test wickets, and in a 20 year first class career he bowled an average of 800 overs per year. He could also handle a bat and was a good fielder.
Schofield Haigh – a right arm quick medium/ off cutter bowler and lower order bat who sometimes made useful contributions. He often bowled devastatingly in tandem with Hirst and/or Rhodes.
+David Hunter – the only non-international in the XI, he made 1,200 dismissals as Yorkshire wicket keeper, and with the depth of the batting in this side I felt it right to go for the best wicket keeper irrespective of batting ability.
There are a stack of players who could have merited inclusion but for the limit of 11. Among the openers Louis Hall, Jack Brown and Percy Holmes (partner of Herbert Sutcliffe in 74 century opening stands, 69 of them for Yorkshire) could all have been considered, while Brian Close would have his advocates in the middle order, as would various others. Off spinning all rounders Ted Wainwright and Billy Bates could have had a place, and there are a number of slow left armers who could have been given the nod – any of Ted Peate, Bobby Peel, Hedley Verity, Johnny Wardle or Alonzo Drake. Among the faster bowlers for whom no space could be found were George Freeman, Emmett’s regular opening partner for a few years, who took his first-class wickets at less than 10 a piece, George Macaulay, Emmott Robinson, Darren Gough and Chris Silverwood, all of whom might have their advocates. Similarly I could have given the gloves to Arthur Dolphin, Arthur Wood (“always wor a good man for a crisis” when coming in at 770-6 at the Oval in 1938), Jimmy Binks, David Bairstow or Jonny Bairstow. One big name who I refuse to call unlucky to miss out is Geoffrey Boycott – I pick teams to win, not to draw, and Yorkshire’s record in the two seasons in which Boycs averaged over 100 is testimony to the problems his approach created in that regard. Undoubtedly he has the best career record of anyone I have neglected to pick for one of these teams, but too often his runs were not made in a winning cause. I try to balance my sides as well as possible, and in the one I chose I have five top of the range batters, two of the greatest all-rounders to ever play the game, three great and contrasting bowlers and a super gloveman. The bowling options include two different types of left arm pace (Emmett and Hirst), right arm pace (Trueman), right arm medium fast (Haigh), left arm spin (Rhodes), left arm wrist spin (Leyland) and at a push off spin in the person of Root and right arm leg spin courtesy of Hutton. Also, if I am going to err in selecting a side it will be in the direction of stronger bowling rather than stronger batting – you will note that both two actual overseas players I have picked in previous posts and the potential one that I mentioned in the Surrey post are all bowlers. There are examples of teams with less than stellar batting but excellent bowling being big winners – Yorkshire in several of their most outstanding periods, Surrey in the 1950s and a few others, but there are few examples of the converse. Sussex in the the first decade of the 20th century had a powerful batting line up, with Fry and Ranjitsinhji among the all time greats and Joe Vine are top drawer opening partner for Fry plus a few other useful contributors, but they never came close to being champions because they did not have the bowling to press home the advantage that batting should have given them.
The latest in my “100 cricketers” series, looking at the opening pair from my seventh XI. Also contains some of my photographs.
Welcome to the latest addition to my “100 cricketers” series. In this post the focus is on the opening batters from our seventh XI. The introductory post to the series can be found here, and the most recent post in it, in which I introduce the seventh XI, can be found here.
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL OPENING PAIR OF MODERN TIMES
My openers in this XI played as an opening pair for many years. In total they opened the batting together in 148 test match innings, putting on 6.482 runs for an average partnership of 47.31. The partnership who in terms of weight of run scoring stand alone at the top of the all-time openers list are England’s Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe who opened 38 test match innings, with their partnerships tallying 3,249 runs for an average opening stand of 87.81. For another point of comparison, where Greenidge and Haynes shared 16 century opening stands in 148 partnerships, Hobbs and Sutcliffe managed 15 in 38 innings. Hobbs also had an earlier England opening partnership with Wilfred Rhodes which averaged more than 60 runs a time. Cricinfo has an interesting article about successful opening pairs here.
Many years as an overseas player with Hampshire helped Greenidge to become the West Indies all-time leading first-class run scorer, although he did not quite make it 100 first-class hundreds (he finished with 92). In test cricket he scored 7,558 runs at 44.72. In the 1984 series in England which the West Indies won 5-0 he scored two double centuries, 223 at Manchester and 214 not out at Lord’s to take his team to a nine wicket win on the fifth day. He was noted for being particularly dangerous when limping, as then he would only be interested in boundaries.
He also had a long county career, with Middlesex in his case. His test career yielded 7,487 runs at 42.29. He was also very successful in ODIs, tallying 8,648 runs at 41.37 in that form of the game. In test matches he often adopted the anchor role, allowing the flamboyant strokemakers elsewhere in the order to play around him. This opening ppair would, as they often did in their day, set the innings up well for the middle order, and we will be seeing nos 3,4 and 5 in the next post in this series.
Continuing my “100 cricketers” series with the opening batters from my sixth XI. Also features some of my photographs.
Welcome to the latest installment in my “100 cricketers” series, in which the focus is on the opening batters from my sixth XI. The introductory post to the whole series can be found here, the post in which I introduce the sixth XI is here and the most recent post here. Before getting into the main meat of my post there is one little thing to do.
DRAW IN DUBAI
In the end rain intervened in Dubai to consign the “champion county” match between MCC and Surrey to a draw. The MCC will have been relieved as at one point they were four wickets down in their second innings and only nine runs to the good. Surrey played this match like the champions they are, and were better in all departments save spin bowling (it was unfortunately not difficult to see why Freddie van den Bergh pays almost 45 a piece for his first class wickets, while Scott Borthwick who snared a couple is principally a batter. With due respect to Olly Pope for his 251 (his quality was already well known before this game) the biggest single positive for Surrey from a match that contained many was the performance of first-class debutant Jamie Smith, excellent behind the stumps and a quite magnificent first effort with the bat, starting with his side in a spot of bother at 144-4 and ending with them in complete control – expect to hear a lot more of this young man, and on bigger stages than this. All in all these four days have been an excellent curtain-raiser for the 2019 English season, and I look forward to the season proper with considerable anticipation. I would not expect anyone to be given an Ashes series as their first international assignment unless they were doing absolutely sensationally, but there could certainly be some new faces in the winter touring parties. Time now for the main business of this post starting with…
6,973 test runs at 40.07, with a best od 340 v India at Colombo, 98 test wickets at 34.34 with his slow left-arm and a decent fielder. His ODI figures were 13,430 runs at 32.36 and 323 wickets at 36.75, economy rate 4.78 (he played no fewer than 445 of these games). He was past his best by the time T20s became a thing but his T20 record from 31 appearances was 629 runs at 23.29, with a scoring rate of 129.15 per 100 balls and 19 wickets at 24 a piece with an economy rate of 7.37.
His finest hours came in the 1996 world cup, when he was the player of the tournament, explosive as an opening batter, taking advantage of the fielding restrictions that applied at that time. The key to Sri Lanka’s success with these tactics was that Jayasuriya and his opening partner Kaluwitherana were both batters of genuine quality – England tried using offspinner and useful lower-order batter Neil Smithin this role with no success, Zimbabwe once promoted legspinner Paul Strangonly to see him record a 17 ball duck and Pakistan tried the effect of promoting younf all-rounder Abdul Razzaq without achieving the desired effect. His 82 off 44 balls which showed England the exit door of that tournament after they had posted an inadequate 235-7 in their innings (England were shocking in that tournament, reaching the quarter-final only because they had two associate nations in their group, who they were just about good enough to beat) was in the nature of a mercy killing, providing a quick end rather than slow torture.
His 213 in the one-off test of 1998 at The Oval ensured that Muralitharan got a decent rest between bowling stints, and helped his side to a comfortable win.
Sanath Jayasuriya was for a few years the most exciting opening batter in world cricket, and for many years after that remained a redoubtable competitor who could influence a game with contributions in any or all departments. We now move on to his opening partner in this XI…
In the years after Sunil Gavaskar and before Virender Sehwag most of the players selected to open the batting for India were distinctly unmemorable and had records that were less than awe-inspiring. The exception was Navjot Singh Sidhu, who should have played a lot more than the 51 test matches he actually got (3,202 runs at 42.13). He also played 136 ODIs, scoring 4,413 runs at 37.08. He had finished before T20 started, but with his aggressive approach to batting he would probably have fared well at that form of the game as well. When England visited India in 1992-3 he used his feet against the spinners with devastating effect – both the aging John Emburey, recently restored after his second ban for going on a rebel tour to South Africa, and the erratic legspinner Ian Salisburycopped fearful punishment.
Given his fine record one has to wonder why he was not picked more often at international level. He was an eccentric character and this may well have counted against him, as it has down the years with a few others.
NEXT IN THIS SERIES
The next post in this series will look at the remaining specialist batters in my sixth XI, before I finish the account of this XI with the two all-rounders, and introduce my seventh XI.