All Time XIs – The Foreign Born Ashes

With an Anglo-Australian contest as today’s ‘retrolive’ commentary I have made today’s All Time XI cricket post Anglo-Australian.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s ‘all time XI‘ cricket themed post. With a ‘retrolive’ commentary on a game between England and Australia in the background it seemed appropriate to focus on cricket’s most enduring international rivalry.

THE BRIEF

Foreign born for the purposes of this exercise means born outside the country that you represented. The governing body under whose aegis the England team plays is called tne England and Wales Cricket Board, so Welsh born players are not eligible for England in this context. As always, class is not entirely overlooked – some of these players would be considered even without the extra restriction on selection.

FOREIGN BORN ENGLAND XI

  1. Andrew Strauss – left handed opening batter. Few have come across as more quintessentially English than the Middlesex and England opener, but he was born in South Africa.
  2. *Douglas Jardine – right handed batter, captain. He was born in India to Scottish parents. Although he only scored one test century, 127 vs the West Indies at Old Trafford in 1933, he averaged 48 at that level, and as captain has one the four best results ever achieved for England in Australia – Johnny Douglas was in charge for 4-1 win in 1911-12, Percy Chapman for another 4-1 in 1928-9 and Mike Brearley for the 5-1 win in the six match series of 1978-9. None of the others qualify by birth for this team, and only Douglas could be seriously considered as worth his place as a player. In that 1932-3 series he opened the batting on more than one occasion.
  3. Ted Dexter – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He was born in Milan, Italy. In the 1962-3 Ashes, when he was captain he contributed 481 runs at 48.10 to a drawn series which saw the Ashes stay in Aussie hands. His unwillingness to risk outright defeat in the series saw him delay his second innings declaration until lunch on the final day of the final match at Sydney, leaving Australia 241 to get in two sessions, a target that they made no serious attempt to chase since the draw was enough for them to keep the Ashes.
  4. Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji – right handed batter. The first of three Indian princes to turn out for England before their country gained test status, and like the other two he made a century of debut. He also scored a century at the first time of asking down under, on the 1897-8 tour. He averaged 44.95 in his brief test career, a truly remarkable figure for his era (the legendary Victor Trumper, a slightly later contemporary, averaged 39 in his test career).
  5. Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji – right handed batter. Nephew of Ranji, and the second Indian prince to play for England. South African attitudes in 1929 disgracefully caused his test debut to be held back by a year, but he started with 173 on debut at Lord’s in 1930. He had health issues which shortened his career, and prevented him from going on the 1932-3 Ashes tour. His 995 test runs came at an average of 58.53.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Born in Christchurch, New Zealand. Hero of the 2019 World Cup, and later that year the ‘Headingley Heist‘, when he and Jack Leach (a courageous and defiant 1 not out) put on 76 for the final wicket to pinch a game that Australia had under lock and key. He subsequently had a fine series in South Africa.
  7. +Matthew Prior – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Born in South Africa. Better with both bat and gloves than Geraint Jones who has a more exotic birthplace. As with many of his era his finest international moments came on the Ashes tour of 2010-11, when outperformed his opposite number Brad Haddin with the gloves and his regular rapid scores also contributed significantly to England’s triumph.
  8. Gubby Allen – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. He was born in Sydney, Australia. He toured Australia in 1932-3, skippered the 1936-7 side there which went 2-0 up but then lost the last three matches of the series, and his last international venture was to captain the 1947-8 tour to the West Indies, when he was 45 years old, and unsurprisingly failed to recapture past glories, and he may also have played a role in messing up Maurice Tremlett, selected for that tour after one first class season, and persuaded by his captain to seek extra pace, which cost him both his ability to swing the ball and his bowling rhythm.
  9. Ian Peebles – leg spinner. The first of two successive spinners to hail from the Aberdeen area. He suffered from the traditional English distrust of leg spinners, but in the 1930 Ashes he produced a googly that gave him the wicket of Don Bradman.
  10. Kirstie Gordon – left arm orthodox spinner. Born in Huntly, Aberdeenshire. Yes, having sneaked in yesterday by virtue of her surname, the Aberdonian youngster gets in today as Peebles’ envisaged spin twin.
  11. Devon Malcolm – right arm fast bowler, Born Kingston, Jamaica. His highlight was the 9-57 he took against South Africa in 1994. He was among the casualties of the disastrous period in which Ray Illingworth, firmly resident in the past and seemingly positively proud to be out of touch, was supremo of English cricket. Malcilm was chief victim of a disgusting article by Robert Henderson which targetted various non-English born England cricketers, though notably not Allan Lamb or Robin Smith. I have said elsewhere, and now repeat that if someone is good enough they could hail originally from a lunar colony for all that I would care.

This side has a strong top five, an x-factor all rounder at six, an excellent keeper batter and four well varied bowlers. Malcolm and Allen, with Stokes as third seamer and Dexter if needed in that department backed by the contrasting Aberdonian spin pair of Peebles (right arm wrist spin) and Gordon (left arm finger spin) looks a fornidable unit.

AUSTRALIA FOREIGN BORN XI

  1. Charles Bannerman – right handed opening batter. Born in Woolwich, Kent. In the first test match of all he became the very first cricketer to score a century against the land of his birth – 165 in an all out total of 245. He suffered a hand injury in the process, but even without him for the remaining three innings of the match the Aussies won by 45 runs.
  2. Archie Jackson – right handed opening batter. Born in Rutherglen, Scotland. He made his debut at the age of 19, in the second match of the 1928-9 Ashes, and scored 164 first up. Sadly tuberculosis hit, and four years later at the age of 23 he died.
  3. Kepler Wessels – left handed batter. Born in South Africa. The only person to have scored 1,000 or more test runs for each of two countries, after playing for Australia he returned to his native South Africa and played for them after their readmission to the test arena.
  4. Bransby Cooper – right handed batter. He was born in what was then Dacca, India and is now Dhaka, Bangladesh. He subsequently spent time in England, sharing an opening stand of 283 with WG Grace along the way, before heading for Australia for whom he played in the inaugural test match.
  5. Tom Horan – right handed batter. Born in Cork, Ireland – which means that as a participant in the first test of all back in 1877 he was the first Irish born test cricketer. He subsequently became a highly respected writer about the game, using the pen name Felix (he may not have been familiar with Nicholas Wanostrocht, who had earlier used the name Felix – the world was in many ways a much bigger place then than it is now).
  6. Melanie Jones – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. Born in Barnstaple, Devon. I have selected her in preference to the Gloucestershir born Billy Midwinter, as I felt that the first test match of all was already over represented.
  7. +Hanson Carter – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Born in Haliffax, Yorkshire – yes, had he been prepared to abandon his test career, as the rules of the time dictated he would have been eligible by birth to play for Yorkshire, thereby beating the likes of Bevan and Lehamnn by some eighty years. He succeeded the long serving Jim Kelly as Australia’s keeper, and barring missing the 1912 tour due to a dispute with the board he kept the gloves until the emergence of Bertie Oldfield in the 1920s.
  8. Brendon Julian – left arm fast medium bowler, useful right handed lower order bat. Born in Hamilton, New Zealand.
  9. William Cooper – leg spinner. Born at Maidstone, Kent. He played two test matches in the early 1880s, and di not fare badly. The reason his career was so short was that he had an encounter with WG Grace that virtually finished him as a bowler.
  10. Tony Dell – left arm fast medium bowler. Born at Lymington, Hampshire. He appeared in one test in the 1970-1 Ashes, the last English born male to don the baggy green (he did so before Melanie Jones was even born). He did not fare especially well, and one suspects that his involvement in home Ashes loss counted against him when it came to subsequent selection meetings.
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner. Born in Dunedin, New Zealand. He crossed the Tasman to better his cricketing fortunes, and then crossed two state boundaries in his new country before establishing himself as a first class cricketer with South Australia. He was the first bowler to reach 200 test wickets, capturing 216 in 37 appearances at that level.

This team features a respectable top six, an excellent keeper in Carter, and four bowlers one of whom is a bona fide great. Two left arm pacers and two leg spinners is not great in terms of balance, but they should be able to take the wickets.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I regretted not being able to find a place for the Tokyo born Natalie Sciver, but while I am not shy of arguing the vase for females not even I would attempt to make the case that she could seriously be considered for selection in place of Ben Stokes. South African born Robin Smith and Kevin Pietersen had strong cases for inclusion, but I could not put them ahead of the two Indian princes, and Dexter’s bowling gave him an edge. Irish born skipper of the 1907-8 Ashes party Freddie Fane did not have the record to merit inclusion, nor did the only clan chieftain ever to play test cricket, Francis Alexander MacKinnon, the MacKinnon of MacKinnon, 35th Chief of Clan MacKinnon. Paul Terry, born in Germany, had a rfespectable record for Hampshire but his only test experience was not a happy one. Some would have advocated a wicket keeping slot for Kiwi born Luke Ronchi, but he never played test cricket for Australia, and I reckon Carter was definitely his superior with the gloves. The first player of West Indian descent to play test cricket did so for Australia in the 1880s, but hsi record was very modest. Finally, although they had exotic (in cricketing terms) ancestry all of Albert Hartkopf, Hans Ebeling and Shelley Nitschke were born in Australia.

THE CONTEST

The contest for what I shall call the ‘Midwinter Trophy’, honouring the only person to play on both sides in Anglo-Australian tests would be worth watching, as any Ashes contest would, but I think this is one variant where the Poms definitely start as firm favourites!

PHOTOGRAPHS

The scene has been set and the teams introduced to do battle for the ‘Midwinter Trophy. It is now time for my usual sign off…

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The first four pictures were taken with what is now my reserve camera.

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From here on the pics were taken with my new camera.
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Some of these shots appear twice, once cropped, and then cropped and edited.

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This is the first of five pics from the same original..
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…an edit of the foregoing
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One of the birds
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The other bird…
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The head of the third bird in the original (all of it that was visible – this one was perhaps an overambitious piece of editing.

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Two flying gulls…
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…and the edited version.
Foreign born Ashes
The teams inĀ  tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Non-Cricketing Birthplaces

My latest variation on the ‘All Time XI’ theme – an XI of cricketers with non cricketing birthplaces, which I then use for a little look at birthplace in cricket, mentioning a couple of current interesting cases.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest variation on the ‘All Time XI theme. Today our XI are linked by born in ‘non-cricketing’ countries – which is to say countries not generally associated with the game, since the ICC, the sport’s global governing body has over 100 members and affiliates. After introducing the XI I will share some of my own thoughts on the relevance or otherwise of birthplaces. I will look at a couple of current cases in detail. Before moving in to the main body of this post I would like to thank the pinchhitter (latest post here), who you can also visit on twitter @LePinchHitter for including links to a number of my recent posts in their own efforts.

THE NON-CRICKETING BIRTHPLACE XI

  1. Paul Terry – right handed opening bat, born Osnabruck, Germany, 16,427 first class runs at 36.66. He played for Hampshire and briefly England. Even by 1980s standards his treatment by the England selectors was utterly disgraceful – he was pitched in at the deep end against the 1984 West Indies who were en route to a ‘blackwash’ of their hapless hosts (whether the 1980 or 1984 fast foursome was the more awesome combo is discussion topic for another post – in terms of pitching a debutant in against them it is a bit like asking whether a punch from Muhammad Ali or Jack Dempsey would do more damage), got horrifically injured and was callously cast aside, never to be heard from again at international level.
  2. Archie Jackson – right handed opening bat, born Rutherglen, Scotland, 4,383 first class runs at 45.65. I covered this man in the ‘what might have been XI‘. Although it has been the birthplace of some talented cricketers down the years, Scotland is not widely thought of as a cricket hot spot.
  3. Ted Dexter – right handed bat, right arm fast medium bowler, born Milan, Italy, 21,150 first class runs at 40.75, 419 first class wickets at 29.92. A swashbuckling no 3, a fine fielder and his bowling is by no means negligible. You can find out more about him in my Sussex post.
  4. George Headley – right handed bat, born Colon, Panama, 9,921 first class runs at 69.86 (he averaged 60.83 in test cricket, with 15 fifty plus scores, of which he converted ten into centuries, a conversion rate ahead of everyone other than Bradman. Also the progenitor of a cricketing dynasty that at the time of writing spans three generations (son Ron and grandson Dean) and two test teams (the West Indies and England), and may yet go to on to join the Cowdreys (all five players shown are of the same family) in producing a fourth successive generation of first class cricketers.
  5. Mike Denness – right hand bat, born Ayr, Scotland, 25,886 first class runs at 33.48. A fine batter for Kent and later Essex, his test average was actually six runs per innings higher than his first class, in spite of a horror run in the 1974-5 Ashes which induced him to drop himself as captain.
  6. Natalie Sciver – right hand bat, right arm medium, born Tokyo, Japan, 3,538 international runs at 31.87 and 104 international wickets at 23.23. A genuine all-rounder, her wickets tally looks low because of her internationals have been limited over and T20s. She is also an outstanding fielder. She also has a shot anmed after, the ‘Natmeg’ where the ball is played under the batter’s leg (descriptions of the ‘draw’, a shot favoured by some 19th century batters suggest she may not have been quite such a pioneer as this suggests, but there is no doubting the stroke’s value).
  7. *Freddie Brown – right hand bat, leg spin and occasional right arm medium, born Lima, Peru, 13,325 first class runs at 27.36, 1,221 first c;ass wickets at 26.21. He played county cricket for Surrey and Northamptonshire. After being part of the 1932-3 Ashes winning party but not playing a test match on tour, he next went on tour when he captained the 1950-1 Ashes tour party (the tour is sympathetically chronicled by Bill O’Reilly in “Cricket Taskforce” and Jack Fingleton in “Brown and Company”, two excellent reads both penned by Aussies). Brown’s team went down 4-1, dogged by injuries and ill luck, but his efforts as captain (third choice – George Mann and Norman Yardley were both offered the job but already had commitments they could not renege on) were universally appreciated. It was on that tour that with an already ill equipped bowling unit hit by injuries he turned to medium pace in an attempt to plug a gaping hole and did not fare badly. I reckon that with the combination I am giving him he would be both a good and a winning captain.
  8. +Geraint Jones – Wicket keeper and right hand bat, born in Papua New Guinea, 9,037 first class runs at 32.45, 599 first class catches and 36 first class stumpings. I mentioned him briefly in my Kent post, and also gave him a place in my ‘Tried and Untrusted‘ XI.
  9. John Barton ‘Bart’ King – right arm fast bowler and right hand bat, born Philadelphia, USA, 415 first class wickets (in 65 appearances at that level) at 15.66, 2,134 first class runs at 21.34. The original ‘King of swing’ – the first bowler to deliberately use swing as a weapon. Various first class counties tried to persuade him to settle there and play for them, including one county who tried an ‘out of the box’ approach – they offered to set him up with a wealthy widow who was a fan of the club if he would come and play for them. The very first international game of cricket was between the USA and Canada in 1844, while the first documented tour to leave English shores in 1859 was also to North America, and the first of WG Grace’s three overseas trips (in 1872-3) was to Canada and the USA. At one time the possibility was entertained of the USA joining England, Australia and South Africa as a test playing nation. Philadelphia was the strongest cricketing outpost in those parts, with the Newhall family also boasting impressive records. It would seem likely that King developed the technique of swinging the ball from baseball (as the slightly later Australian Frank Laver did, with remarkable effects in the test arena). The game of course did not build on these promising beginnings in that part of the world, although maybe with Liam Plunkett heading that way it will experience a rebirth there.
  10. Ole Mortensen, right arm fast medium bowler, right hand batter, born Vejle, Jutland, 434 first class wickets at 23.88, 709 runs at 8.97. Part of a Derbyshire bowling unit of considerable effectiveness, but one that was also decried by nativists (yes, USians, we have them too, although not usually in high office) because as well as him it featured Devon Malcolm, born in Jamaica, and Alan Warner who was actually born in this country but who was often assumed by those who judge on physical appearance not to have been.
  11. Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right hand bat, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, 923 first class wickets at 21.38, 2,213 first class runs at 9.13. Peebles did play a few games for England, and numbered Bradman among his test victims, but was largely victim of endemic English mistrust of wrist spinners. He had a distinguished county career with Middlesex. After his playing days were done he turned to writing and achieved arguably even greater success there, with “Woolley: Pride of Kent”, “Batter’s Castle”, “Spinner’s Yarn”, “The Fight For The Ashes 1958-9” and “Batters Castle” among his considerable and very readable output, which also includes a chapter on Pelham Warner in “Cricket: The Great Captains”. I would expect him to turn out a splendid chronicle of this team’s endeavours!

My team features a strong top five, two genuine all rounders, a keeper who can bat and three superb specialist bowlers. The bowling has five front liners plus Dexter, with spin options in Peebles and Brown, so that won’t let it down. The keeping, with Jones having the gloves is not of the very highest standards, and someone would have to make it clear to Jones that he is expected to stand up not just for the spinners but also for Sciver (some of whose wickets have come by means of stumpings) and possibly even Dexter.

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE (IR)RELEVANCE OF BIRTHPLACE

I am far more concerned about the quality of a cricketer than where they are born. If you can hire a top player do so regardless of their origins. What I object to is the use of second string foreign born players who qualify as ‘English’ on a technicality while having neither the intention nor the skill to play for England. Apart from anything else it has a record of proven failure – Leicestershire, one of the most notorious followers of this policy have been stone last five times in the last ten seasons. If somebody is good enough they might hail from a lunar colony (read Andy Weir’s “Artemis” for one version of how such a thing might work – come to think of it I could imagine Jazz Bashara faring pretty well as a crafty spinner!) for all that it matters. That said, there are a couple of current cases I am going to touch on…

SIMON HARMER

After playing five tests for his native South Africa with some success, Harmer, not thinking he was getting picked regularly enough decamped for this country, and a contract with Essex. He has been wonderful for Essex, a fact that I have acknowledged by naming him in my ‘All Time Essex’ XI, and that this year’s Wisden has acknowledged by naming him as one of the ‘five cricketers of the year’. He has now been based in this country for long enough to qualify by residence, and of course that means that thoughts are turning in some circles to whether to pick him for England. My answer is in the negative, not from lack of respect for Mr Harmer, nor from any worry over someone representing two countries – has happened before and probably will again, but because with Bess looking established in the off spinner’s spot for England and young Virdi doing brilliantly at Surrey I believe it would be a retrograde step and a slap in the face for the two players I have just named to select Harmer at this juncture. I will finish this subsection by re-emphasising that this is not anti Harmer in any way – both his play and his on-field conduct have been impreccable, it is about the best interests of England looking forward, which I consider to lie in developing and encouraging the young spinning talent that we have. That leads on to…

DUANNE OLIVIER

This young quick bowler made waves in his native South Africa, and like Harmer has actually played for them at international level, but he has now decided to make a life and a career for himself in England, and good luck to him. In a few years from now he will qualify for England, and the question will be whether to pick him or not. My answer will depend on the situation regarding English fast bowling at that time – if picking him means blocking the career development of a home grown talent then the answer should be “no”, but if the fast bowling situation is less rosy then there would be a serious case for picking him.

OVERSEAS AND ‘KOLPAK’ TYPE PLAYERS

On overseas players my feeling is straightforward: if you can get one of genuinely top class standard go for it, but don’t sign any old overseas player just for the sake of having one. With the ‘Kolpak’ types I would ask myself two questions: first, are they of top class or possessing the obvious potential to become top class?, second, am I sure that they offering me something that the players I already have cannot provide? If the answer to either of the foregoing is a no, then don;t do it, and if the answer to the first of the two questions is only a ‘maybe’ I would be strongly disinclined to proceed.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our look at cricketers with non-cricketing birth places is done, and it now remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…

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The only flower that is fully out on my fuchsia – but there are a couple of other buds clearly visible.

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In among the gravel borders of my garden, a small sea shell.

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A collared dove among the greenery (only the giant pigeons of which there are far too many count as ‘aves non grata’)

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Non-cricketing birthplaces
The team in tabulated form.