All Time XIs: Ultimate Talents

A look at a selection of record breaking and utterly unique cricketers by way of explaining the unanswerability of the question “who was the greatest ever cricketer”.

This post was provoked by a question I saw posted on twitter yesterday: who was the greatest cricketer of all time. This question is of course unanswerable and to explain why this is so I have assembled a touring party of 17 all of whom were about as good as players of their type can be. All of these players have attributes that mean that the claim that they stand alone in cricket history is unassailable, and I explain why in the course of my look at that them.

FIRST XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. JB Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. ‘The Master’, scorer of more FC runs and more FC centuries than anyone else in the history of the game.
  2. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career. The most dominant player of any era, towering over his contemporaries both literally and metaphorically.
  3. DG Bradman – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. A test batting average of 99.94, maintained over 52 matches at level needs no further comment.
  4. SR Tendulkar – right handed batter, occasional bowler. The only player to have scored 100 centuries across formats in international cricket.
  5. FE Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The only cricketer to tally over 10,000 FC runs, take over 1,000 wickets and hold over 1,000 catches in the course of a first class career.
  6. GS Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most complete cricketer the game has ever seen.
  7. GH Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. Achieved the feat of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches in each of 10 successive seasons, including the only ever instance of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in the same FC season.
  8. +RW Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The most wicket keeping dismissals (1,649 of them – 1,473 catches and 176 stumpings) of anyone in first class cricket history.
  9. W Rhodes – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter. More first class wickets than anyone else in the game’s history, even though there was a phase in his career when he hardly bowled. He also scored almost 40,000 runs in FC cricket.
  10. SF Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. The best wickets per game ratio of anyone to play 20 or more tests – 189 in 27 matches, at 16.43 each = seven wickets per match. Generally regarded as the greatest of all bowlers.
  11. T Richardson – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The fastest to the career landmarks of 1,000 FC wickets (134 matches) and 2,000 (327 matches). From the start of the 1894 season to the end of the 1897 season he took just over 1,000 wickets, a period of wicket taking unique in cricket history.

This is a well balanced XI of awesome power. Now onto…

THE RESERVES

These are my six designated reserves:

  1. H Sutcliffe, right handed opening batter. My reserve opener was the ultimate big game player. His overall FC average was 52.02, his overall test average 60.73 and his overall Ashes average 66.85. As he himself once said to Pelham Warner “ah Mr Warner, I love a dogfight”.
  2. JH Kallis, right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Has a fair claim to be regarded as the best batting all rounder ever to play the game. He didn’t master the full range of skills that Sobers did, hence his place as a reserve rather than in the starting XI.
  3. GA Faulkner, right handed batter, leg spinner. The only cricketer to have finished a career of over 20 test matches with a batting average of over 40 and a bowling average of less than 30.
  4. GL Jessop, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The most consistently fast scorer ever to play the game.
  5. +LEG Ames, right handed batter, wicket keeper. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100FC hundreds, also holds the record for most career stumpings in first class cricket – 418.
  6. GA Lohmann, right arm medium fast bowler, right handed batter. The man with the lowest career bowling average of anyone take 100 test wickets – 10.75.

CONCLUSIONS

This little collection of players fully illustrates why there is no definitive answer to the question I saw on twitter yesterday. I also missed the taker of 800 test wickets (Muralidaran), the only player to score 5,000 test runs and take 400 test wickets (Kapil Dev), the holder of the record test and first class individual scores (Lara), and quite a few others who have and deserve to have legions of fans. If forced to provide a single player as answer to this question I would consider WG Grace to be less far wrong than any other single answer.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Channel Islands 5: A Cricketing Journey to Alderney

Journeying through cricket history and from King’s Lynn to Alderney in honour of John Arlott.

Having reached Alderney in my account of my recent holiday it is now time for a special post in honour of John Arlott, the legendary cricket commentator, who lived his last years on the island. We will travel through considerable space and time in the course this journey.

STOP ONE: CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge, which my route from King’s Lynn to Portsmouth passed through, was the birthplace of Jack Hobbs, ‘The Master’. It also provides a specialist spinner for the XI since after his falling out with Yorkshire, which ended his first class career, Johnny Wardle played minor counties cricket for Cambrigeshire.

STOP TWO: VAUXHALL

The train from Waterloo to Portsmouth passes through but does not stop at Vauxhall, which overlooks The Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club. It is not my purpose to pick an time Surrey XI here (I did that a while back) so I am not actually using this location to pick any players – I am merely noting it.

STOPS 3,4 AND 5: SURBITON, WOKING, GUILDFORD

As with Vauxhall the train passes through Surbiton. Surbiton is not in itself of major relevance, but a line branches off here to Thames Ditton and Hampton Court, and at one time of his life the legendary fast bowler Tom Richardson had a home in Thames Ditton.

Woking, the first stop on the London-Portsmouth route, was home for many years to the Bedser twins, Alec (right arm fast medium, useful lower order batter) and Eric (right handed batter, off spinner).

Guildford, also a scheduled stop on the route, is home to the earliest verifiable reference to the great game of cricket. Testimony regarding the usage of a piece of land, made in 1598 and referring to the childhood of the man testifying, tells us that some form of cricket was being played in Guildford by the 1550s. Surrey still play the odd match at Guildford and one of the more recent of those games featured Kevin Pietersen scoring a double century in the course of which he hit a number of balls into the river Wey which flows past the ground.

STOPS 6-7: GODALMING AND PETERSFIELD

Godalming is home to Charterhouse School, where George Geary (Leics and England) was cricket coach for a time and one of his charges was Peter May. More recently Martin Bicknell (Surrey and England) has been director of cricket there.

Petersfield has a connection that dates to much earlier in cricket’s history: John Small, one of Hambledon’s finest batters in that clubs glory days of the late 18th century, lived there. According to John Nyren in “Cricketers of My Time” Small was a keen skater and enjoyed skating on the surface of Petersfield Pond when that body of water froze over in the winter.

STOP 8: PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth was one of Hampshire’s out grounds when such were regularly used. In 1899 Major Robert Poore smashed Somerset for twin tons there, and then confirmed his liking for west country bowling by scoring a career best 304 in the return match at Taunton (when another army officer, Captain Teddy Wynyard, scored 225, in a sixth wicket stand of 411).

STOP 9: GUERNSEY

Guernsey has not to my knowledge produced any significant cricketers, though it has produced a couple of well known sportspeople: tennis player Heather Watson, at one time British number one, and footballer Matt Le Tissier who played for Southampton for many years. However it did indirectly give me a squad member, because it was there that I consumed bottle of ginger beer whose place of origin was significant:

Bundaberg, where this variety of ginger beer comes from, was the birthplace of Don Tallon, Australian keeper batter named by Bradman as keeper in his all time XI and considered by many of his contemporaries to have been the best ever in that role.

THE TERMINUS: BRAYE ROAD, ALDERNEY

Braye Road is one terminus of the Alderney Railway, once a genuine commercial railway transporting stone from a quarry, now a heritage railway using carriages of 1938 tube stock (I was not able to travel it being there too early in the year for it to be open). It also gave me, by way of a piece of lateral thinking, a final player for my cricket journey:

The cricket significance of this picture lies in the name of the road rather than that of the station: it provides a tenuous link to opening batter Tammy Beaumont.

SELECTING OUR XI

In terms of the players I have linked to specific locations we have:

Jack Hobbs, Johnny Wardle (Cambridge), Tom Richardson (Surbiton/ Thames Ditton), Alec and Eric Bedser (Woking), Kevin Pietersen (Guildford), Peter May, George Geary, Martin Bicknell (Godalming), John Small (Petersfield), Major Robert Poore (Portsmouth), Don Tallon (Guernsey, by subterfuge), Tammy Beaumont (Alderney, by cunning use of a street sign). These are 13 players, from whom 11 must be selected. My XI in batting order is:

  1. Jack Hobbs
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. John Small
  4. Peter May
  5. Kevin Pietersen
  6. Eric Bedser
  7. +Don Tallon
  8. George Geary
  9. Alec Bedser
  10. *Johnny Wardle
  11. Tom Richardson

This XI is well balanced, with good batting depth. The bowling has a genuine speedster in Richardson, two high quality fast medium/ medium fast bowlers in Geary and A Bedser, a great left arm spinner in Wardle and off spin back up from E Bedser, with Hobbs’ medium pace as sixth bowling option. I end this post with a view of Fort Clonque:

An All Time XI All From Different Countries

A variation on the all-time XI, this time requiring every player to come from a different country. Also some photographs.

I have one other thing to mention besides my main topic, which is a revisit to the All Time XI theme which I have explored here many times, especially during the period immediately after Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic.

THE BRIEF

This is to be an All Time XI with every selected player coming from different countries. It is to be a team that will pose a formidable threat in any and all conditions, so variety is essential. There are some players (Bradman and Sobers e.g) whose preeminence is such that they have to be their country’s representative, and in the case of some of the minor nations who are represented they had only one player wh0 could even be considered. This in turn limited who could be picked from other countries where the field was theoretically wider.

THE TEAM INCLUDING 12TH

  1. Jack Hobbs (England, right handed opening batter and occasional medium pacer). “The Master”, scorer of 61,237 FC runs including 197 centuries, scorer of 12 Ashes centuries. The oldest ever test centurion, the last of his centuries at that level coming at Melbourne in 1929 by when he was 46 years old. My English representative is highly likely to be one half of a pair that gets the innings off to a strong start.
  2. Sunil Gavaskar (India, right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer). He was the first to reach the milestone of 10,000 test runs. He had an excellent technique and seemingly limitless patience. One would absolutely ideally prefer one of the openers to be left handed but I can’t see many new ball bowlers queuing up for a crack at this opening pair!
  3. Don Bradman (Australia, right handed batter, occasional leg spinner). The greatest batter ever to have played the game (his test average of 99.94 puts him almost 40 runs an innings ahead of the next best, his FC average of 95.14 puts him 24 an innings ahead of the next best at that level). He is also vice captain of the team.
  4. Graeme Pollock (South Africa, left handed batter, occasional leg spinner). The best test average of any left hander to have played 20 or more test matches, 60.97 per innings.
  5. Garry Sobers (West Indies, left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket). Quite simply the most complete player the game has yet seen and one whose absence from this XI I could never countenance.
  6. +Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh, right handed batter, wicket keeper). One of the great stalwarts of Bangladesh cricket, an excellent keeper and a gritty middle order batter whose test record would almost certainly be even more impressive than it actually is had he been part of a stronger side.
  7. *Imran Khan (Pakistan, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler). Has a strong case to be regarded as the greatest genuine all rounder in test history (batting average 37, bowling average 22), and a great captain as well (he is designated skipper of this side, and one of very few who could possibly see Bradman named vice captain rather than captain).
  8. Rashid Khan (Afghanistan, leg spinner and useful right handed lower order batter). This one was fairly inevitable – I need a wide range of top class bowling options, and a leg spinner of undisputed world class who hails from a minor nation is pretty much indispensable in that regard.
  9. ‘Bart’ King (USA, right arm fast bowler, useful right handed lower order batter). The original ‘King of Swing’, taker of over 400 FC wickets at 15 a piece, and good enough with the bat to average 20.
  10. Richard Hadlee (New Zealand, right arm fast bowler, useful left handed lower order batter). With genuine respect to today’s Kiwi side, comfortably the strongest they have ever been able to field, he remains his country’s greatest ever cricketer.
  11. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka, off spinner, right handed tail end batter). 800 test wickets, taken at a rate of six per game. At The Oval in 1998, on a pitch that was quite hard and quite dry but basically blameless he claimed 16 English wickets in the match (7-155 in the first innings, and then after SL had taken a lead of 150, spearheaded by Jayasuriya scoring a double hundred, 9-65 in the second English innings).
  12. Andy Flower (Zimbabwe, left handed batter, wicket keeper, occasional off spinner). This man covers as many bases as possible as 12th – while I would not relish him coming in for any of the front line bowlers given that he is very much a part timer, and Sobers and Bradman can both be considered impossible to cover for anyway he won’t massively weaken the side even in a worst-case scenario.

RESULTS AND PROSPECTS

I start this little section by looking at the bowling, as it is that department that separates winners and also-rans. A pace bowling unit of Richard Hadlee, ‘Bart’ King and Imran Khan is awesome by any reckoning, and if there is definitely nothing for spinners, there is Sobers in his faster incarnations as fourth seamer. If spinners are called for, Rashid Khan and Muttiah Muralitharan are two of the all time greats, and offer a contrast, being leg spinner and off spinner respectively, and Sobers can bowl left arm orthodox and left arm wrist spin support. Thus there are bowling options available to meet every eventuality, and this side can be very confidently expected to take 20 wickets in any conditions.

The batting features a pair of openers who are highly likely to give the innings a strong start, a trio of fast and heavy scoring batters at 3, 4 and 5, a keeper who scores lots of runs at six, a genuine all rounder at seven, and three bowlers who can genuinely bat as well. Murali is the only bunny in a very deep batting order.

A number of the players in this XI, most notably Hobbs, Bradman and Sobers are rated among the the finest fielders ever to have played the game, and there are no carthorses anywhere, so they will give a good account of themselves in this department as well.

Finally, with Imran Khan as captain and Don Bradman as vice captain and Hobbs also there to be consulted this team has tactical acumen to burn and is highly unlikely to be outmatched in that area.

Thus this team seems to tick every box, and I would confidently expect it to dispose of any opposition put in front of it.

THE STEAM HOUSE CAFE

The STEAM House Cafe on King’s Lynn High Street is a cafe-style safe space for people with mental health issues, and I was there yesterday as part of a group from NAS West Norfolk. We and they are hoping to be able to organize something there specifically for autistic people.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

A brief summary of the XI.

Selecting An All Time Test XI

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.

THE TEAM

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.

Thus in batting order we have:

JB Hobbs
H Sutcliffe
*DG Bradman
RG Pollock
SR Tendulkar
G St A Sobers
+AC Gilchrist
Wasim Akram
MD Marshall
SF Barnes
M 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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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…

An XI Of Players Whom Age Did Not Wither

A team of players who performed great deeds when in the veteran stages of their careers.

This post, which revisits all-time XIs territory was inspired by a discussion on radio 5 live about people delivering as veterans. Here therefore is a team composed entirely of players who enjoyed great success during their veteran years.

THE VETERANS XI

  1. Warren Bardsley – left handed opening batter. At the age of 42 he carried his bat through Australia’s first innings at Lord’s in 1926, still the oldest to achieve that feat at test level. His previous test centuries, twin tons at The Oval, had come 17 years previously, a record lapse between test centuries.
  2. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The Master was 46 when he scored the last of his test centuries, at Melbourne during the 1928-9 Ashes, still the oldest ever to reach three figures at that level (at first class level the palm goes to Billy Quaife of Warwickshire who signed off with a ton in his last first class knock at the age of 56 and 4 months).
  3. Charlie Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. At the age of 40, in the second, third and fourth matches of the 1926 Ashes he peeled of centuries, including reaching one during the morning session of the first day after a wicket had fallen to the first ball of the match at Headingley.
  4. *Misbah-ul-Haq – right handed batter, captain. More test centuries after the age of 40 than anyone else. One of those centuries as a veteran was the quickest in terms of balls faced in test history.
  5. Michael Hussey – left handed batter. He had to wait until he was into his 30s for a test call up, and made full use of it when it finally came. In the 2010-11 Ashes he performed a series-long ‘Casabianca on the burning deck’ act, not quite enough to save his side, but mightily impressive for a veteran.
  6. Imran Khan – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. One of the greatest of all all rounders he came out of retirement to lead his country to World Cup glory in 1992. He was the other possible captain, had I not awarded that distinction to Misbah-ul-Haq.
  7. Richard Hadlee – right arm fast bowler, left handed batter. He just seemed to get better as his career went on. He is to date the only person to have played test cricket after being knighted for cricket reasons (the Hon Sir FS Jackson’s knighthood was bestowed for other reasons, while Sir TC O’Brien was a baronet with the honorific inherited). This team’s number 10 may well join him in this club if he does not consider our honours system irretrievably tainted by some of the recent beneficiaries.
  8. +Bob Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. After spending many years as Alan Knott’s understudy at test level it was in the veteran stage of his career that he became officially England’s first choice keeper. He turned 40 during the Headingley test of 1981, and his career still had three years to run at the top level.
  9. Sydney Francis Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. His greatest test moments were the 1911-2 Ashes (34 wickets, at the age of 38), the 1912 triangular tournament and the 1913-4 tour of South Africa, when at the age of 41 he took 49 wickets in the first four test matches before a quarrel over Ts and Cs led to him missing the final match. He paid just over 10 runs a piece for those last 49 wickets, ending his career with 189 wickets in 27 matches at the highest level, seven per game, which is far more than anyone else to have played a double figure number of test matches (Lohmann, just over six, with 112 wickets in 18 tests is number two on that list). These wickets cost him just 16.43 a piece, and although he played no first class cricket after World War 1, he had professional contracts in various leagues right up to the outbreak of World War 2, meaning that for 44 years of his adult life there was someone willing to pay him to play cricket.
  10. James Anderson – right arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. He has taken more wickets in tests since turning 30 than anyone else in the game’s history, and his wickets in 2021 are currently costing him just 10 a piece.
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. The Dunedin born leggie had not only to move countries, but then cross two state boundaries to find regular first class cricket. As a result, he was already 33 when called up for his first test match. Even starting that late he took 216 wickets in 37 test appearances, and although he was then 46, many, including his old friend and bowling partner Bill O’Reilly, would have taken to him to England for the 1938 Ashes.

This team has a left/right handed opening combination, three excellent batters one of whom is a left hander in the next three slots, a genuine all rounder at six, a bowling all rounder at seven, one of the greatest of all keepers and three ace bowlers to round out the XI. The bowling is awesome, with Hadlee, Khan and Anderson a formidable pace trio, Barnes the greatest of all bowlers, and two front line spinners in Grimmett and Macartney.

PHOTOGRAPS

My usual sign off, with the addition of an infographic:

All Time XIs – Double Letters

An addition to my ‘All Time XIs’ series, this time taking double letters as its theme.

The role of players with a double o in their names for England in recent times got me thinking about a team of players who all featured that combo, and I then started thinking about other names with double letters in, resulting in a new post for my All Time XIs series.

THE DOUBLE O XI

  1. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer. Scorer of 8,900 test runs, and player of the best test innings I have ever personally witnessed – 154 not out in an innings tally of 252 vs West Indies at Headingley in 1991, with Ambrose running riot on a pig of a pitch.
  2. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter, scorer of more test runs than any other left hander – 12,475 of them in all.
  3. David Boon – right handed batter, started as an opener, but moved down to no3 to enable the formation of the right-left Marsh-Taylor combination and enjoyed tremendous success in that latter position.
  4. Joe Root – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Arguably England’s finest batter of the 21st century, Cook’s achievements notwithstanding.
  5. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The only player to have the treble of 10,000 first class runs, 1,000 first class wickets and 1,000 first class catches, and indeed the only person to have taken 1,000 catches as other than a wicket keeper. In first class cricket he averaged 40 with the bat and 19 with the ball, and his bowling won at least one test match for England. I am sufficiently impressed by his tactical thoughts, as expressed in “King of Games” to name him as captain even though as a professional of that era he never had the job.
  6. Major Booth – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Major was his given name (he was named in honour of a respected Salvation Army figure), not a rank. He would certainly have played many times for England but for the first World War (he lost his life during the battle of the Somme). In the late stages of the 1914 season he and Alonzo Drake, another cut off in his prime by the outbreak of war, bowled unchanged together through four successive first class innings.
  7. +Josephine Dooley – wicket keeper, right handed batter. One of the successes of the most recent edition of the Women’s Big Bash League.
  8. Bill Lockwood – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. He was one of the first fast bowlers to develop a really effective slower ball.
  9. Harold Larwood – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. The list of visiting fast bowlers to have blitzed the Aussies in their own backyard is a short one, and the Notts express features prominently on it.
  10. Fazal Mahmood – right arm fast medium bowler. Pakistan’s first authentically great bowler, he took 12 wickets in their first ever test victory at The Oval in 1954. He was known as a master of bowling cutters, often wreaking havoc on the matting pitches which were standard in his homeland at the time.
  11. Poonam Yadav – leg spinner. The tiny Indian causes huge problems with her craftily flighted slow leg breaks. The greatest demonstration of her ability to change the course of a match came in the most recent World T20 when Australia seemed to be coasting as she began her spell and were obviously beaten by the time she had finished.

This team contains a strong top five, an all rounder at six in Booth, a keeper who can bat at seven and four great bowlers with plenty of variation. Woolley is an excellent second spin option with his left armers, and Gooch and Root might also contribute with the ball.

THE ANY DOUBLE LETTER XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – Right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer. The Master, scorer of 197 first class centuries in total, 12 of them in Ashes tests. He achieved all that in spite of losing four years of his cricketing prime to World War 1.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. First class average 52.02, test average 60.73, Ashes average 66.85. When the going got tough, he got going. He formed the most successful opening pairing in test history with Hobbs, their average opening stand being 87.81.
  3. Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. The South African averaged 60.97 before his country’s international isolation ended his test career. I opted for his left handed stroke play in preference to having a third right handed opener in Hutton occupy this slot.
  4. Walter Hammond – right handed batter, occasional medium-fast bowler. 7,249 runs in 85 test matches at 58.45, and that average only ended up below 60 because he returned to test action after World War Two, when into his forties.
  5. Everton Weekes – right handed batter. He had a similar average to Hammond in test cricket.
  6. *Frank Worrell – right handed batter, occasional left arm medium-fast bowler, captain. He averaged 49.48 in test cricket, and was one the most successful captains ever, taking the West Indies from also rans which they had been for their entire history to that point to being champions by the time he finished.
  7. +Alan Knott – wicket keeper, right handed batter. One of the game of cricket’s most noted eccentrics, and also one of the greatest keepers ever to don the gauntlets. He also averaged 32.75 with the bat, and tended to score big runs when the team most needed them.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. Arguably the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling.
  9. Dennis Lillee – right arm fast bowler. The Aussie was for some years test cricket’s all time leading wicket taker, and his 164 Ashes wickets is a tally surpassed in the history of those contests only by Shane Warne who finished just short of 200.
  10. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner. The New Zealand born Aussie who having moved country to better his cricketing prospects had to then cross two state boundaries before establishing himself in first class cricket at the third time, and did not make his test debut until the age of 33 still became the first bowler ever to take 200 test wickets, capturing 216 from 37 test appearances – nearly six per game at the highest level. His Aussie team mate Bill O’Reilly, who was second choice for this spot, was adamant that Grimmett, then 46, should have been selected for the 1938 tour of England.
  11. Mujeeb-ur-Rahman – off spinner. A bit of a gamble on this one – left armer George Dennett with 2,151 first class wickets at less than 20 a piece could easily have been named for this spot, but the young Afghan off spinner has impressed most times he has had the ball in his hand of late.

This team features a very strong top six, one of the all time great keepers, and four great bowlers. I consider that Hammond and Worrell between them make up for the lack of a genuine all rounder. There are too many honourable mentions to name, but before moving on to the next section I would just like to say that if you have someone who you think I have missed please indicate which of my selections should be dropped to make way for them.

OFF THE FIELD

Clive Lloyd, a near miss for a batting place in the ‘any double letter’ team can be match referee, a role he also filled with distinction. In the commentary box we can have Alison Mitchell, Lizzy Ammon, Dan Norcross and Simon Mann, with expert summarisers Mark Wood (not too far off a bowling spot in the double o XI) and Isabelle Westbury (Middlesex and Holland).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off:

An East Anglian XI In Honour of John Edrich

An XI with East Anglian connections in honour of John Edrich.

As I write this the Melbourne Stars are closing in on victory over the Sydney Sixers, while India enjoyed a good opening day at the MCG, dismissing Australia for 195 and reaching 36-1 in response, Shubman Gill impressing on debut with 28 not out overnight. Most of the players in the XI I present are Norfolk born, as John Edrich was, although there is one Cambridge born player and two brothers (out of three who had first class experience) who were born in Suffolk, while the captain was born in Yorkshire but played for Cambridgeshire after falling out with his native county.

EAST ANGLIAN XI

  1. John Edrich – left handed opening batter. Almost 40,000 first class runs at an average of 45, 103 first class hundreds, a test triple century (a knock that included 52 fours and five sixes) and the highest individual score in the first ever ODI back in 1971.
  2. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer, brilliant cover fielder. The Master – 61,237 first class runs including 197 centuries. 3,636 runs including 12 centuries in Ashes matches. Born in Cambridge.
  3. Bill Edrich – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Older cousin of John Edrich and one of four brothers who all turned out at first class level. He lost six of his prime cricketing years to World War Two, in which he distinguished himself as a flying ace but still amassed 85 first class centuries.
  4. Fuller Pilch – right handed batter, rated by contemporary observers as the best of his era (the 1830s and 40s). Also sufferer of a bizarre dismissal for the Players against the Gentlemen in 1837 – the line in the scorebook reads “hat knocked on wicket”. The Players won a very low scoring match by an innings.
  5. Peter Parfitt – right handed batter, brilliant fielder, occasional off spinner. He once took four catches in a test innings, against Australia in 1972.
  6. Michael Falcon – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. His averages are just the right way round.
  7. +Eric Edrich – right handed batter, wicket keeper. 53 dismissals in 38 first class appearances.
  8. *Johnny Wardle – left arm orthodox spinner, left arm wrist spinner, useful lower order batter. Born in Ardsley, just outside Barnsley in South Yorkshire. After a distinguished career for his native county and for England (102 test wickets at 20.39) he fell out with the Yorkshire authorities and ultimately played minor counties cricket for Cambridgeshire (Yorkshire in their vindictiveness ensured that no other first class county would touch him). His claim on a place is somewhat tenuous but I needed a quality spin bowler somewhere in the side, so I decided to stretch a point and include him.
  9. Desmond Rought-Rought – right arm fast medium bowler, took his first class wickets at 28 a piece. Born at Brandon in Suffolk.
  10. Rodney Rought-Rought – fast medium bowler, cannot ascertain which arm he used – am hoping it is left for the sake of variety. Brother of Desmond and also born at Brandon.
  11. Olly Stone – right arm fast bowler. In this side, with the two Rought-Roughts, Falcon and Edrich able to bowl seam there would no excuse for using him in other than short spells at top pace.

ANALYSING THE XI

This team has a solid batting line up, one bowler of genuine pace, various fast-medium bowlers and one of the finest spinners of them all. It would give a good account of itself in most conditions. The Sydney Sixers somehow turned their game against the Melbourne Stars around and won by one wicket with one ball to spare, taking all four points.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Rest Of The World v Asia

An international clash of the titans today, as the Rest of the World take on Asia in our ‘all time XIs’ cricket post.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s all time XIs cricket post follows the usual Monday theme of going international. Today we pit the Rest of the World against Asia. I am, as usual in this series, thinking principally in terms of long form cricket, although of course this contest could not (or at least should not) officially be given test status.

REST OF THE WORLD

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, scorer of 12 centuries in Ashes cricket,a tally only beaten by Don Bradman with 19. He was one half of no less than four of the greatest opening partnerships in the history of cricket, at county level with Hayward and then Sandham, and at test level with Rhodes and then Sutcliffe.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opener. His case for selection for a contest of this nature is even more watertight than was his actual case for England selection. He got better the tougher the competition – averaging 52 in all first class cricket, 60.73 in test cricket and 66.85 in Ashes cricket. He and Hobbs had an average opening stand of 87, 15 times topping the hundred. At The Oval in 1926 they put on 172 in England’s second innings, beginning on a very spiteful pitch, with Hobbs falling for exactly 100 to end the partnership (the first time he had made a test century on his home ground), while Sutcliffe went on to 161 and to put England in an invincible position. At Melbourne in the third match of the 1928-9 series he and Hobbs started the final innings with England set to make 332, and many people reckoning that on the rain damaged pitch they had to contend with that the innings would not even last a full session. Actually, the pair were still in residence by the tea interval, and part way through the evening session Hobbs sent a message to the pavilion that if a wicket fell that night Jardine rather than Hammond should come in at no3. Hobbs finally fell for 49 to make to 105-1, and Jardine duly came in, and he and Sutcliffe were still together at close of play. The following day the surface was easier, and although England suffered a mini clatter of wickets, including Sutcliffe for 135, with victory in sight, George Geary ultimately settled the issue by hitting a ball through mid on for four with three wickets still standing.  Sutcliffe’s 100th first class hundred was scored when Yorkshire were after quick runs for a declaration, and he duly attacked from the get go, clobbering eight sixes on his way to the landmark.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter, captain. To follow the greatest opening pair the game has ever seen we have the greatest batter of them all, the man who averaged 99.94 in test cricket. He scored 974 runs (a record for any test series) in the 1930 Ashes, at 139.14, but perhaps his most remarkable display of high scoring given the circumstances came in the last three matches of the 1936-7 series. England won both of the opening games, and the weather played havoc with the third, England declaring their first innings at 76-9 to get Australia back in while the pitch was still vicious. Bradman countered by sending in tailenders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith, and then when O’Reilly was out before the close, another specialist bowler, Frank Ward. As a result of this the score when Bradman emerged to join regular opener Fingleton was 97-5, and the pitch had largely eased. Bradmand and Fingleton put on 346 together, and then McCabe joined Bradman. Bradman in that innings made 270, the most ever by someone coming in at no7 in a test innings, and England, set 689 to win, were duly beaten by a huge margin. Bradman then made another double ton in the fourth match, which Australia won to make it 2-2. In the final game Bradman was dropped early in his innings, scored 169, and Australia duly won again, becoming the first and to date only side to win a five match series after losing the first two matches thereof.
  4. Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. He averaged 60.97, a figure exceeded among those to have finished careers that included 20 or more test matches only by Bradman and Adam Voges, the latter named benefitting from playing most of his test cricket against weak opposition, and coming a cropper in his only Ashes series.
  5. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, occasional off spinner, ace slip fielder. When he led England out at Trent Bridge at the start of the 1938 Ashes he made history – he was the first person to have been a professional and also to be appointed an official England captain. A directorship at the Marsham Tyre Company had enabled him to turn amateur, which also saw him become the first and only player to captain the Players against the Gentlemen and the Gentlemen against the Players. In that team that he led out at Trent Bridge was the man who would get to lead his team out without turning amateur, Leonard Hutton. By the time of the outbreak of World War II he had scored 6,883 test runs at 61.75, but a comeback post war which never really worked out for him, and ended with a disastrous 1946-7 Ashes (168 runs in the series at 21.00).
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most complete player ever to have played the game.
  7. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper. The most destructive keeper/ batter there has ever been, he completely rewrote the requirements for keeper/ batters. The search for the keeper who is also a destructive batter has led to some bizarre decisions – the current England camp’s obsession with Buttler, barely even a competent keeper and someone who has failed to transfer his white ball form to the red ball game is an example of people being led up a blind alley by this thinking (though arguably it is only England’s second worst selection blooper for the upcoming resumption of test cricket behind the selection of Denly at four, which amounts to a v-sign being flashed at Lawrence and Bracey, compilers of the only two major scores of the warm up match). It is nowadays unthinkable that a Bert Strudwick, who habitually batted no11, would be selected as a test wicket keeper, and even Bob Taylor, another brilliant wicket keeper who was not a proper front line batter would have a hard time convincing national selectors to pick him – just look at the treatment Ben Foakes has had from the England selectors.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. For my money the greatest fast bowler of the West Indies’ golden age.
  9. Michael Holding – right arm fast bowler. His 14-149 in the match on flat Oval wicket in 1976 is probably enough on its own to justify his inclusion, but he produced many other stellar performances. At Bridgetown, Barbados in 1981 he made use of a super-fast pitch to bowl probably the most intimidating opening over any test match has ever seen – the England opener, by then a veteran of over 100 test appearances, was beaten all ends up by four deliveries, got bat on one and had his off stump uprooted by the final ball of the over.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. His wicket taking rate of seven per match is out on its own among bowlers who played 20 or more test matches. At Melbourne in 1911-2 Johnny Douglas won the toss for England and put Australia in, a decision that needed early wickets to justify it. Barnes soon had the Aussie top four back in the hutch, for a single between them, and with a couple more wickets also falling early in the game Australia were at one point 38-6 in their first innings. They recovered to reach the semi-respectability of 184, but England remained in total control and ran out winners by eight wickets. Wilfred Rhodes, who went on that tour as a specialist batter, having started his career as a specialist bowler, was asked many years later about Barnes and just how good he was and said simply “the best of them today are half as good as Barnie wor.”
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner. The Dunedin born leggie first crossed the Tasman in search of cricketing fulfilment, and then crossed two state boundaries in his new country, before eventually breaking into the South Australia side, and then, at the age of 33 into the test side. He took 11 wickets on test debut, and went on to finish with 216 wickets in 37 matches, a wicket taking rate of just short of six per match, putting him ahead of his mate Bill O’Reilly and significantly ahead of Shane Warne.

This team features a stellar batting line up, two out and out quicks, probably the greatest bowler of them all, the craft and guile of Grimmett, and of course the most complete player ever to play the game in Sobers. Barnes, Holding, Marshall, Grimmett and Sobers, with Hammond as sixth bowler represents a mighty fine range of bowling options.

SOME OF THOSE WHO MISSED OUT

Everyone will have their own ideas about possible selections, but here are some of my own additional thoughts:

  • Opening batters – I went for the greatest opening partnership of all time. Thinking in partnership terms their only serious rivals are Greenidge/ Haynes and Hayden/ Langer. WG Grace, especially given his all round skills, Victor Trumper, Len Hutton, Arthur Morris, Barry Richards and Chris Gayle might all have been considered on their individual methods.
  • No3 – this position was non-negotiable, ‘the Don’ standing high above all other contenders.
  • Nos 4 and 5 – Steve Smith was ruled out on grounds other than technical ones. Brian Lara and Allan Border had fine records as left handed batters, but I considered Pollock to have an even stronger case – all available evidence suggests that when the curtain came down on that incarnation of his country as a test playing nation he was still getting better. Among right handers Viv Richards, Kane Williamson and Steve Waugh all have serious cases for consideration, but Hammond has his slip fielding and his potential value as a support bowler on his side as well as his phenomenal batting record.
  • No6 – non-negotiable. Sobers’ range of cricketing talents make him not so much a star as a galaxy – or at the very least a constellation.
  • The keeper – Gilchrist gets it because of his batting, but many from Jack Blackham, the so-called ‘prince of wicket keepers’ who kept for Australia in the inaugural test match through to Ben Foakes of today would be worth a place as glovemen.
  • The fast bowlers – too many potential candidates to list. I regret that left arm fast bowler William Mycroft was in his pomp before test cricket was a thing, and similarly the brilliant USian Bart King was not quite brilliant enough to propel hbis country to test status. Two other 19th century legends, Charlie Turner and George Lohmann could have had the spot I gave to Barnes.
  • The spinners – I ruled out selecting a specialist left arm spinner, because I already had Sobers to attend to that department, I considered off spinners Billy Bates and Jim Laker, while O’Reilly and Warne were obvious rivals to Grimmett, but I think the obstacles Grimmett had to clear before even having a chance to prove himself get him the nod.

ASIA

  1. Sunil Gavaskar – right handed opening batter. The first ever to score 10,000 test runs, and the first to score as many as 30 test centuries. He made 13 of those centuries against the West Indies, a dominant cricketing force for much of his career.
  2. Hanif Mohammad – right handed opening batter. He played the longest ever test innings, 337 against the West Indies in 970 minutes at the crease. His side had folded for 106 in their first dig, and made to follow on, saved the game by posting 657-8 second time around. That 551 runs difference between 1st and second innings scores is an all time test record, and is equalled at first class level by Middlesex (83 and 634 in a match in the 1980s) and Barbados (175 and 726-7 declared). The other side of his game was seen for Karachi against Bahawalpur when he scored 499 in just over ten hours at the crease, then a world first class record (ended by a run out, depending on which you believe either going for the 500th, or, believing himself to be on 498, seeking to farm the bowling for the following morning.
  3. Rahul Dravid – right handed batter. More test runs than any other number three. When he really got settled in one got the impression that nothing short of an earthquake would dislodge him.
  4. Virat Kohli – right handed batter. A man who averages over 50 in all three international formats and has scored big runs against all opponents.
  5. Sachin Tendulkar – right handed batter. The only player ever to have scored 100 centuries in international matches (Kohli is currently on 70, and may conceivably match Tendulkar’s achievement).
  6. +Kumar Sangakkara – left handed batter, wicket keeper. Until Alastair Cook went past him he had more test runs to his credit than any other left hander. I have chosen him as wicket keeper to be able to pick a full range of bowlers.
  7. *Imran Khan – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain. Statistically, with credit balance of 14 between his batting and bowling averages he ended as the most successful of the four great test all rounders of the 1980s. He was also one of the very few captains able to unify a Pakistan dressing room.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed batter. Has a fair claim to be regarded as the best left arm quick bowler ever to play test cricket, and a mighty useful player to have coming at no8.
  9. Anil Kumble – leg spinner, useful lower order batter. The third leading wicket taker in test history, although Jimmy Anderson is officially still in the hunt to get past him. One of only two bowlers to have taken all ten in a test innings.
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 test wickets from 133 appearances at that level, an all time record tally.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. He is in the early stages of what should be an illustrious career. He already has on his CV an achievement few fast bowlers can point to – shaking the Aussie up in their own backyard, which he did in the 2018-9 series for the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

This side has a stellar top five, a keeper who is also a world class batter at six, a genuine all rounder at seven and four excellent varied bowlers. A pace attack of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Jasprit Bumrah looks decidedly fruity, and spin twins Muralitharan and Kumble will be formidable on any surface.

SO.ME OF THOSE WHO MISSED OUT

  • Opening batters – the current Indian opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal might well have warranted selection as a partnership, while Saeed Anwar, Sanath Jayasuriya (who would also have offered an extra bowling option) and Vijay Merchant all had cases for individual inclusion.
  • No3 – I considered that Dravid had no serious rivals for this slot, but I acknowledge the successes of Zaheer Abbas in the role.
  • Nos 4-5 – Javed Miandad, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mahela Jayawardene, Aravinda De Silva and Mushtaq Mohammad could all have a case made for them.
  • The keeper – among keepers who also count as front line batters, and therefore do not significantly alter the balance of the side Mushfiqur Rahim and Rishabh Pant had cases, while Syed Kirmani, Wriddhiman Saha and Wasim Bari all had cases for being picked as specialist glove men.
  • The All rounder – non-negotiable, especially given his claims on the captaincy (sorry, Kapil).
  • Spinners – If I revisit this post in a few years Rashid Khan, the Afghan leg spinner, may well have displaced Anil Kumble (like Kumble he is also a handy lower order batter), while Sandeep Lamichhane of Nepal may also be making a strong case, especially if he can get a contract to play county cricket and build up his long form record, and Zahir Khan, another Afghan who bowls left arm wrist spin (not to be confused, as Gulu Ezekiel did on twitter yesterday, with Zaheer Khan the left arm pace bowler for India) may also be making a case for himself. Had Palwankar Baloo had the opportunity at test level he may well have had an excellent record with his left arm orthodox spin, but just as I felt unable to pick William Mycroft for the ROW because he never played test cricket, so I cannot pick Baloo here. The great Indian spin quartet of the 1970s, Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan, all have cases for selection, especially the highly individual Chandrasekhar. Ravindra Jadeja’s all round skills fell only just short of making a case for him, and R Ashwin would also have his advocates. Saqlain Mushtaq, off spin, Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed (both leg spin) all warrant consideration.
  • The pace bowlers. I picked Bumrah on a hunch, although he is in the early stages of his career, and of course technically his place should have gone to Waqar Younis. Shoaib Akhtar would also have his advocates, but he was very inconsistent, and that ‘100mph delivery’ did not actually cause the batter a great deal of trouble. Two early Indians, Amar Singh and Mahomed Nissar both had fine records at a time when bowling quick on the subcontinent was a cause of heartbreak. Fazal Mahmood who bowled Pakistan to their first ever test victory at The Oval in 1954 might have been selected as an analogue for Barnes in the ROW side, and there may be those who would want to see Sarfraz Nawaz selected. Finally, about ten years ago I would have been betting that Mohammad Amir, then an 18 year old left arm fast bowler, would be among the game’s all time greats before long. Sadly he was drawn into a web of corruption, served a five year suspension from the game, and although still a fine bowler has now decided to concentrate purely on limited overs cricket, so has to be filed under ‘what might have been’. The other two players involved in that scandal, Mohammad Asif, a fast medium bowler, and Salman Butt, opening batter and captain, were both in the respectable rather than outstanding class and would never been eligible even had they not got themselves banned.

THE CONTEST

The contest, for what I shall call the ‘Hutton-Baloo’ trophy, acknowledging two of those who missed out on selection, would be a splendid one. The ROW probably just about start as favourites, but Asia do have an amazing bowling attack, and with Akram at eight and Kumble at nine their batting is deeper than that of the ROW, though lacks the eye-watering strength of the ROW’s top batting.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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The Bankhouse, venue for my first meal out in four months.

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An excellent use of a Beck style diagram.

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A red admiral.

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Socially responsible signage.

IMG_1454 (2)ROW v Asia

All Time XIs – Left Hand v Right Hand

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket post sees a team of left handers take on a team of right handers.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s ‘all time XI‘ cricket themed post. Today we have a team who did everything right handed against a team who did everything left handed, and a guessing game – based on some of my explanations can you work out what tomorrow’s post will be?*

THE LEFT HANDED XI

  1. Arthur Morris – left handed opening batter, very occasional left arm wrist spin. Rated by Bradman as the best left handed opener he ever saw. Morris the bowler was in action when Compton hit the four that won the 1953 Ashes.
  2. Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner.
  4. Martin Donnelly – left handed batter, very occasional left arm orthodox spinner. He averaged 52.90 in his very brief test career, including 206 v England at Lord’s in 1949.
  5. *Allan Border – left handed batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner, captain. The guy who if the first three wickets fall quickly will dig the team out of the hole, while also being capable of playing very aggressively if circumstances warrant. 
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most complete all rounder ever to play the game. His 254 for Rest of the World v Australia in the series that replaced the 1971-2 Australia v South Africa series was rated by Bradman as the best innings he ever saw played in Australia.
  7. +Steven Davies – wicket keeper, left handed batter. Once seen as England material he did not quite kick on. He has never bowled a ball of any kind in senior first team cricket.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. An ideal number eight, who meets all the qualification criteria for this XI.
  9. Mitchell Johnson – left arm fast bowler, useful left handed lower order batter. A cricketing version of the ‘little girl with the curl’ – when he was good he was very good indeed, when he was bad (e.g Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in the 2010-11 Ashes) he was awful. Having listened to a number of them I consider his good times to be good enough to warrant his inclusion.
  10. Johnny Wardle – left arm orthodox spinner, left arm wrist spinner, left handed lower order batter. 102 test wickets at 20.39, in spite of often missing out to make way for Tony Lock, and his career ending early due to a fall out with authority.
  11. Fred Morley – left arm fast bowler, left handed genuine number 11 batter. Took his first class wickets at 13 a piece, and his four test appearances netted him 16 wickets at 18.50 (he died at the age of 33, in 1884, hence the brevity of his test career).

This team has an excellent batting line up, and with Wasim Akram, Mitchell Johnson and Fred Morley to bowl fast and Sobers as fourth seamer, plus Wardle, Woolley, Sobers and Jayasuriya as front line spin options the bowling is none too shabby either.

NOT QUALIFIED

Among the specialist batters who did not qualify were Graeme Pollock, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Alastair Cook who all bowled their few deliveries with their right hands. Adam Gilchrist, keeper and left handed batter, bowled only a few balls in his career, but he did so with his right hand, officially described as ‘off spin’. Two of the greatest of left arm orthodox spinners batted right handed, Wilfred Rhodes and Hedley Verity, while the crafty left arm slow medium of Derek Underwood was paired with rather less crafty right handed batting. Left arm fast bowler William Mycroft, who took his first class wickets even more cheaply than Morley, and was a similarly genuine no11, did his batting right handed, and so did not qualify. This little list contains a clue to tomorrow’s post.

RIGHT HANDED XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter, very occasional right arm medium pacer.
  3. *Donald Bradman – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner, captain. The greatest batter of them all, to build on the foundation laid by the greatest of all opening pairs.
  4. George Headley – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Averaged 60.83 in test cricket, converting 10 of his 15 50+ scores at that level into hundreds.
  5. Walter Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, ace fielder. Averaged 58.45 in test cricket, topping 200 seven times at that level, including twice hitting two in succession – 251 at Sydney and then 200 not out at Melbourne in 1928-9 and 227 and 336 not out in New Zealand on the way home from the 1932-3 Ashes.
  6. WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of varying styles through his career.
  7. +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper, very occasional leg spinner. Statistically the greatest of all wicket keeping all rounders, and ticks all the qualifying boxes for this team.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, useful right handed lower order batter.
  9. Shane Warne – leg spinner, useful right handed lower batter.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. 189 wickets in just 27 test matches, 77 of them in 13 games down under.
  11. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner, right handed tail end batter. 800 wickets in 133 test matches – an average of six per game.

This team contains a super strong top six, a great wicket keeping all rounder and four all time great bowlers. Hammond is not the worst as a fifth bowler, particularly behind that foursome, while Grace is also a genuine all rounder, and even Hobbs might take wickets with his medium pace. Because there have historically been many more pure right handers than pure left handers, people turning out not to be qualified is less of an issue for this team.

THE CONTEST

The Right Handed XI is stronger in batting, but not quite so formidably armed in the bowling department, although still mighty strong. Overall I would expect the right handers to win, but certainly would not entirely rule out the left handers.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced my two teams for today’s contest, set you a guessing game re tomorrow, and now just before signing off I have a couple of superb twitter threads to share:

My usual sign off…

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LH v RH
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Ones That Got Away

Today we look at players whose careers caused them to make major moves.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another ‘all time XI‘ cricket post. Today our we look at players whose talents were overlooked somewhere along the line, but who came through. We have an XI mainly comprising players who made it big after their first county overlooked them, with an overseas player to boost them and an XI of players who moved countries to make it. A little bit of good news – when TMS live coverage, as opposed to the ‘retrolive’ I am currently enjoying, resumes, it will be without the obnoxious Boycott.

THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY – COUNTY

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler. While his mentor and fellow Cambridge native Tom Hayward was lobbying Surrey on his behalf the man himself wrote to Essex requesting a trial. The letter was ignored, but thankfully Surrey listened to Hayward. 61,237 first class runs at 50.65 and 197 centuries rather emphatically demonstrates which county got this one right!
  2. *Wilfred Rhodes – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. There is an entry in the Warwickshire year book for 1897 which reads “unfortunately it was not possible to offer a contract to W Rhodes of Huddersfield.” In that same year of 1897 Bobby Peel, the incumbent Yorkshire left arm spinner, disgraced himself and saw his first class career brought to a sudden close. Rhodes was given his chance for his native county, took 13 wickets in the match first time out for them and never looked back. He and Hobbs opened together for England just before World War 1, and on one occasion against the old enemy they put on 323 together to launch the innings, Hobbs first out for 178, Rhodes second out, with the score at 425, for 179.
  3. Charles Burgess Fry – right handed batter. Having grown up in southwest London, albeit attending boarding school in Derbyshire (Repton, where he competed for sporting honours with the Palairet brothers, Lionel who subsequently opened for Somerset and Richard, assistant manager of the 1932-3 Ashes tour party) he began his county career for Surrey. Unfortunately for him and Surrey he took a slightly too obvious shine to the wife of then skipper Kingsmill Key, leading to his departure from the county, and the start of his association with Sussex.
  4. Phil Mead – left handed batter. He began his career with Surrey, where he was considered to be mainly a bowler, and they let him go. He signed for Hampshire, and ended his career with the 4th highest career aggregate of first class runs (55,061) and also 4th highest ever tally of centuries (153) ever assembled.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. When Leicestershire made enquiries about speaking to a talented teenage left hander his native Kent raised no objections, and David Ivon Gower headed for the east midlands. A few years later at the age of 21 he was making his England debut and announcing his presence at the highest level by hitting his first ball at that level for four and going on to score 58. Later that year he scored his maiden test century, and then that winter his maiden Ashes century, ultimately becoming only the second England batter to reach 8,000 test runs. When he decided to leave Leicestershire, he considered two options, Kent and Hampshire, and for the second time it was Kent who missed out, as he signed for Hampshire.
  6. Len Braund – right handed batter, leg spinner. Like Phil Mead he failed to make a sufficient impression on the folk at The Oval. He headed for Somerset, and after an incident in which he was selected for a game at Lord’s before having served his residential qualifiying period he went on to a distinguished career for both Somerset and England.
  7. +Ben Foakes – wicket keeper, right handed batter. To be unwilling to drop the veteran James Foster to make way for a talented youngster is understandable, but allowing said youngster to fly the coop altogether is less so. Foakes signed for Surrey, and has subsequently played for England, a position that many think should be his as a matter of course, rather than merely for a handful of appearances.
  8. Albert Trott – right arm slow bowler, right handed batter. Overlooked for the 1896 tour of England after a sensational start to his test career (and the captain of that party was his brother Harry) he made his own way to Blighty and signed for Middlesex. In 1899 and 1901 he combined a haul of over 200 first class wickets with a tally of over 1,000 first class runs (an equivalent in today’s shorter FC season would be 100 wickets and 500 runs). He and Wilfred Rhodes were together when the Players completed a dramatic chase of 501 in under seven hours to beat the Gentlemen at Lord’s in 1900.
  9. Jim Laker – off spinner. When Surrey made enquiries about signing a young spinner from Bradford no one up north thought to raise an objection. James Charles Laker duly became a Surrey cricketer, and went on to become the greatest off spinner of the era, and possibly the greatest England ever had, with all due respect to Mr Swann.
  10. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. Lancashire failed to impressed by a young quick bowler, and he headed for pastures new, in this case Northamptonshire. In the next few years Lancashire would discover just what a rick they had made, as Frank Holmes Tyson blazed across the cricketing skies like a meteor. In a final irony Tyson’s greatest cricketing moments came in partnership with Brian Statham of Lancashire.
  11. Derek Shackleton – right arm medium pacer. A reverse of Phil Mead, who was overlooked at The Oval because his bowling was not up to standard. Shackleton was viewed in his native north (he was born and raised in Todmorden) as a batter, his bowling rarely used. He moved south to Hampshire, and after a brief and unsuccessful dalliance with leg spin he reverted to his natural medium pace, and in 1949 achieved his first season haul of 100 first class wickets, a feat he would repeat for every season until 1968, 20 successive seasons in total, ending his career with the eighth highest total of first class wickets ever recorded.

This team has a fine top five, a genuine all rounder in Braund, a great keeper who can certainly bat and a great quartet of bowlers. Tyson and Shackleton would probably combine well as an opening pair, and Trott, Laker, Braund and Rhodes are an excellent looking slow attack.

INTERNATIONAL ESCAPEES XI

  1. Roger Twose – left handed opening batter, occasional medium pace bowler. He played well for Warwickshire but was never able to attract the attention of the England selectors. So when the opportunity to play for New Zealand arose he accepted gratefully. His test record was modest but he did superbly in ODIs.
  2. Roy Marshall – right handed opening batter. When he first appeared on the scene there were those who thought he would be a match for the ‘three Ws’ who dominated Caribbean batting at the time. In the event he signed for Hampshire, and scored stacks of runs for them, his test promise remaining unfulfilled.
  3. Stewie Dempster – right handed batter. A brief but spectacular career for New Zealand, which saw him average 65.72 in 10 test matches ended when he signed for Leicestershire, who he served well for a long period.
  4. Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Believing that his talents were going unrecognized in his native South Africa he moved to England. With an English mother the qualifying period was less for him than if he had had no connection to England, but still long enough for him to burn his bridges at one county (Nottinghamshire), and it was only after a move to Hampshire that he played for his new country. He top scored in both innings of his debut test, albeit in a losing cause, and at the end of that series played the innings that ensured that England would regain The Ashes. He went on to average just a bit below 50 in test cricket.
  5. Basil D’Oliveira – right handed batter, right arm medium pace bowler. The colour of his skin condemned him to second class status in his native South Africa, but he managed to escape, helped by John Arlott. By the time he was called up for England he was 35 years old, but he still averaged over 40 in test cricket, playing his last match at that level as a 41 year old. The events surrounding the aborted 1968-9 tour of South Africa finally forced people to take notice of the way South Africa conducted itself, and a visit by Bradman in 1971 in which he met with South African leader Vorster and was shocked by the latter’s behaviour and attitudes led to the final banishment of apartheid South Africa, although Ali Bacher and others made misguided efforts on their behalf by doing things like organizing rebel tours, it was only after the abolition of apartheid that South Africa were readmitted.
  6. Sydney Smith – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He was born in the West Indies, long before they became a test nation. He got to show what he could do in front of wider audience because he qualified by residence for Northamptonshire. He did the double in his first season for them, and enjoyed a most distinguished career for them.
  7. +Sammy Guillen – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He was picked for his native West Indies for a tour of New Zealand, stayed there and ended up playing for them later in his career.
  8. Simon Harmer – off spinner, useful lower order batter. After playing five tests for South Africa he decided to sign for Essex as a ‘Kolpak’, and has rendered them colossal service. He is now qualified by residence for England, but the rise of Dominic Bess, the fact that Amar Virdi is clearly knocking on the door, the presence of spinners of other type such as Leach and Parkinson, and the more distant but visible prospects of the likes of Liam Patterson-White and the all round talents of Lewis Goldsworthy mean that at least as far as I am concerned it would be a retrograde step for him to be selected for England at this stage. This is not intended as a reflection on Harmer, a denigration of his qualities, or least of all a suggestion that people who have started elsewhere should not play for another country. It is his misfortune that he has qualified at the same time as England after a fallow few years have started to develop some serious spinning talent.
  9. Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler. The Barbadian born fast bowler, inspired by Chris Jordan, decided to try his luck in England. Having qualified by residence for his new country he played a crucial role in its triumph in the 2019 World Cup, including being chosen the bowl the ‘super over’ that settled the final. He subsequently had some great moments in the test arena, and will be part of England’s plans for some years to come.
  10. Neil Wagner – left arm fast medium bowler (mainly bouncers). Another who left South Africa to find fulfillment elsewhere, in his case in New Zealand. He has had considerable success for New Zealand.
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner. He had cause for reckoning that he had to move if he was going to make the most of himself as a cricketer – as it happened he was already 38 by the time his native New Zealand gained test status, and in spite of treading a winding road that involved trying his luck in NSW and Victoria before finally breaking through for South Australia, he had been playing test cricket for over five years for his new country. His test career ended when he was not selected for the 1938 tour of England, but he played on in first class cricket until World War Two caused Australian first class cricket to be suspended in 1941.

This team has a good top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a fine keeper and four well varied bowlers. Archer and Wagner should combine well with the new ball, and D’Oliveira and Twose can provide seam back up, while Grimmett, Harmer and Smith are a fine trio of spinners.

THE CONTEST

The contest, for what I shall call the ‘Learie Constantine Trophy’ would be a good one. I certainly could not forecast a winner.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced the concept and the teams, but just before bringing th curtain down I have an excellent video from Alex Collins about the importance of conservation:

Time for my usual sign off…

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The first time I have ever seen a swan on the patch of grass outside my bungalow. They are much more aquatic in nature than ducks, and walk very inelegantly.

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Ones That Got Away
The teams in tabulated form.