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.

 

All Time XIs – All Rounders v Specialists

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket post pits all rounders against specialists.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. Today an XI noted for all round talents take on an XI largely made up of specialists (although I have allowed them one all rounder).

THE ALL ROUNDERS

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career. He tallied 54,896 runs at 39.55 in first class cricket and took 2,876 first class wickets at 17.92 each. I note two things in defence of his batting average: he played on poor wickets for much of his career, and that career was very long, and went on well past his cricketing prime. In the decade of the 1870s, when he was at his zenith he averaged 49 with the bat, while no one else who played consistently over the course of that decade averaged over 25. If we accept that he would have paid for his wickets and averaged more with the bat playing on good pitches and allow 50% inflation for the effects of the change in pitches then his career figures become a batting average of 59.42 and a bowling average of 26.88.
  2. Wilfred Rhodes – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. His career figures were 39.807 runs and 4,187 wickets, at averages of 30 and 16 respectively, but his career had several distinct periods: he started as pure bowler, batting no 10 or 11, then he moved up into the middle order for a few seasons, batting habitually at 6 or 7, and doing the double regularly (seven successive seasons), then he moved up to the top of the batting order, and on the 1911-2 Ashes tour he was England’s number two in every way – number two in the order, and second to Hobbs in the batting averages. Then, after World War 1, with Yorkshire needing more bowling he picked up his bowling arts, dropped into the middle order (no 5 initially, and moved down as years passed), and he again did the double in the first seven post war seasons. In 1926, now batting at no 8, he returned to the England team at the age of 49 for the Ashes decider at The Oval, and took 4-44 in the second innings. Then came the final stage of his career, when eyesight problems, which eventually became complete blindness late in his life, caused his batting to decline and he played as an out and out rabbit with the bat who was still worth his place as a batter. He went on the 1929-30 tour of the West Indies, playing for his country for the last time at the age of 52 years 165 days, the oldest ever to play test cricket for any country. In 1930 Hedley Verity began his Yorkshire career, and at the end of that season, at the age of 53, Rhodes retired from first class cricket to leave the stage clear for the younger man. A A Thomson wrote a two part book about the ‘Kirkheaton twins’, titled simply “Hirst and Rhodes”.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, close fielder. 58,969 first class runs at 40.75, 2,068 wickets at 19.85 and 1,018 catches (the only player ever to achieve this treble, and indeed the only outfielder ever to take 1,000 first class catches. The 1906 Wisden said of Woolley after his debut season that “it is doubtful whether he is robust enough to enjoy a really long career.” He only lasted 32 years, up to the end of the 1937 season!
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, ace slip fielder. 50,551 first class runs at 56.10, 732 wickets at 30.58, 820 catches. He lost two seasons of his early career, one to bureaucratic malice (Lord Harris, a stickler on matters of qualification, and dedicated to Kent, noted Hammond’s Dover birthplace, and that school – Cirencester Grammar – did not technically count as residence, and caused this hiatus), and one to a mysterious illness picked up in the Caribbean, and six seasons of his later career to World War II, so his figures might have been ever more remarkable.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, fine fielder. 28,314 first class runs at 54.87, 1,043 wickets at 27.74, 407 catches. The most complete all rounder the game has ever seen. Like Rhodes he started his career as a left arm spinner who did not really bat. Unlike Rhodes having climbed up the order he never went right back down, although he was moved down from three to six when his captain Frank Worrell noted that he and Rohan Kanhai were not combining very well and split them up.
  6. +Les Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. 37,248 runs in first class cricket at 43.51, 703 catches and 418 stumpings. The only wicket keeper ever to score 100 first class hundreds.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ace fielder. 26,698 first class runs at 32.63, 873 wickets at 22.79, 407 catches. A contemporary assessment of his fielding had it worth 20-30 runs per innings. He scored 53 first class innings, five of them doubles, with a best of 286, and only once in his career did he spend over three hours at the crease. For most of his career a ball had to go right out of the ground to score six, otherwise his record would have been even more extraordinary. He was once involved in a partnership of 66 to which he contributed…66 – the highest such partnership in first class cricket history. 
  8. George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. 36,356 first class runs at 34.13, 2,742 wickets at 18.73. In each of 1904 and 1905 he achieved the 2,000 runs, 100 wickets double, only previously achieved by WG Grace, Charles Townsend and Gilbert Jessop, though matched in 1905 by the Aussie Warwick Armstrong, and then in 1906 he became the only player ever to the ‘double double’, scoring 2,385 runs and taking 208 wickets in first class matches. Every season from 1903-13 inclusive he scored at least 1,000 runs and took at least 100 wickets in first class matches. He went on to be a successful coach, first at Harrow, then for Yorkshire. He was at the Yorkshire nets when Trueman had his first bowl there, and when others were fretting over the youngster’s wildness Hirst said coolly “just imagine what he will do when he teach him to bowl straight”, correctly realizing that pace cannot be taught but accuracy can.
  9. Maurice Tate – right arm fast medium, right handed batter. 2,784 first class wickets at 18.16, 21,616 first class runs at 25.04. Other than Hirst’s 1906 ‘double double’ only two cricketers have ever combined a season tally of 1,000 first class runs with 200 wickets, and he is one of them. He relied on swing and cut, being the first bowler to make really devastating use of the sea fret at Hove – usually the flatness of the pitches there emasculated bowlers.
  10. Albert Trott – right arm slow bowler, right handed batter. 1,674 first class wickets at 21.09, 10,696 runs at 19.48. The first of only two members of this team to have averages the wrong way round. In 1899 and 1901 he combined over 200 wickets with over 1,000 runs in first class matches. However, his decline was rapid thereafter as an obsession with repeating his 1899 feat of hitting a ball over the Lord’s pavilion negatively affected his batting and his bowling lost its fizz, and somewhere along the line he completely lost the fast yorker that was such a devastating weapon in his armoury. His first misfortune occurred when after making a sensational start to his test career he was not picked for the 1896 tour of England, and made his own way to that country, ultimately signing for Middlesex. He seemed to have put the disappointment behind him by the time another Aussie side visited in 1899, but then came that shot of Monty Noble, and its subsequent effect on his batting.
  11. Peter Smith – leg spinner, right handed batter. 1,697 wickets at 26.55 , 10,142 runs at 17.95 in first class cricket. He achieved the season’s double for the first time in 1947, and it was in that season that he had his greatest batting moment. In the game before his big day out he had batted at no 10 and bagged a pair, so he had seemingly little cause for complaint at being made no 11 for the game against Derbyshire. The ninth Essex wicket fell at 199 and he walked out to join Frank Vigar. By the time he was out the score had risen to 417, and his share of that stand of 218 was 163, with five sixes and 23 fours, the highest first class score ever made by a no 11.

This team has an excellent top five, statistically the best batter keeper there has ever been, the ultimate x-factor player in Jessop and a fine foursome who are there principally as bowlers. Counting Sobers as three options because of his multiplicity of styles there are 12 front line bowling options in this team.

THE SPECIALISTS

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. 61,237 first class runs at 50.65. Both this tally of first class runs and his 197 centuries are first class records, and he lost four years of his cricketing prime to World War 1. His entry into first class cricket was also slightly delayed because he was a native of Cambridge and had to qualify by residence for Surrey (after someone at Chelmsford apparently binned his letter asking for a trial without having read it).
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. 50,670 first class runs at 52.02. The only player to score at least 2,000 first class runs in every inter-war season. He and Jack Hobbs were statistically the most productive of all test opening partnerships, the average opening stand between them being 87.81 per wicket, including 15 century opening stands.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter. 28,067 runs at 95.14 in first class cricket. In his 338 innings he reached 50 186 times and went on to the century on 117 of those occasions, an average of a century per 2.78 innings, a figure not remotely approached by anyone else who played enough innings to qualify for assessment. 37 times he topped 200, an all time first class record, and on six of those occasions he scored over 300, the only player have more than four such first class scores (Hammond and Ponsford joint 2nd).
  4. Phil Mead – left handed batter. 55,061 runs at 47.67. His Hampshire tallies of 48,809 runs and 138 centuries are both records for any single first class team. He was originally associated with Surrey, and considered to be mainly a bowler, but moved to Hampshire and ended up as one of the heaviest scoring batters of all time.
  5. Patsy Hendren – right handed batter. 57,611 runs at 50.80. The third leading first class run scorer of all time, and second leading centurion with 170. He did all of this while having a reputation for being a great joker and prankster, just to show that one can be a highly successful player while remembering that it should be fun.
  6. Keith Miller – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. 14,183 first class runs at 48.90, 497 wickets at 22.30. Another who always realized that it should be fun. He served as an RAAF pilot in World War Two which led to his famous response to a question about pressure “There is no pressure in cricket – pressure is being in a Mosquito with two Messerschmidts up your arse.”
  7. +Bob Taylor – wicket keeper. He took 1,473 first class catches and executed 176 stumpings, totalling the most dismissals ever achieved by any keeper in first class cricket (two London based cricketers, John Murray and Herbert Strudwick are 2 and 3 on the list). Until he finally scored his maiden first class hundred near the end of his career he was in a club of two with Tony Lock – players who had over 10,000 first class runs, but no first class hundred (Lock’s highest score was 89 not out).
  8. Alec Kennedy – right arm medium fast bowler. 2,874 first class wickets at 21.23. He was seventh in the all-time list of first class wicket takers, and the only one of those seven not to be in Philippe-Henri Edmonds’ “100 Greatest Bowlers”. For many years he and Jack Newman (see yesterday’s post) carried the Hampshire bowling, until left arm spinner Stuart Boyes came along to lighten their workload a bit.
  9. Jack Hearne – right arm medium fast bowler. 3,061 first class wickets at 17.75 each. Number four in the list of all time wicket takers, a haul that included nine in an innings no fewer than eight separate times.
  10. Tich Freeman – leg spinner. 3,776 first class wickets at 18.42, taken in 550 first class games. Second on the all-time list of wicket takers behind Rhodes. Remarkably a combination of World War 1 and the strength of Kent’s bowling in his youth meant that by the time he turned 30 he had captured precisely 29 first class wickets. He took 200 or more wickets in each of eight successive seasons, including the only ever instance of 300 (304 in 1928).
  11. Charlie Parker – left arm orthodox spinner. 3,278 first class wickets at 19.46. The third leading wicket taker in first class cricket. Six times in first class cricket he achieved the hat trick, most remarkably in his benefit match when he hit the stumps five times in succession but the second was called no-ball.

This team has a stellar top five, a great all rounder, a great wicket keeper and four excellent and varied bowlers. The bowling with Kennedy, Hearne, Freeman and Parker with Miller as fifth option also looks highly impressive.

HONOURABLE MENTION

Every single batter to have scored over 50,000 first class runs is present in one or other of my teams, and numbers 1,2,3,4,6 and 7 of the all time leading wicket takers are also represented. No 5 in that list is Tom Goddard, the Gloucestershire off spinner who took 2,979 first class wickets at 19.84. For reasons of balance I had to select Kennedy, otherwise my only recognized pace options would have been Hearne and Miller, which is a bit too rich even for my blood.

THE CONTEST

This would be an absolute cracker of a contest. From no 3-11 inclusive the all-rounders team has a combined batting average of 280.95, while for different reasons it is hard to quantify Grace and Rhodes as openers. It would seem likely given their records when they were at their best as openers that these two would contribute sufficiently to make a team total of 400 more likely than not. The top six of the specialists team have a combined average of 344 in first class cricket, so nos 6-11 would have to come up with 50-60 between them to equalize things on this assessment. Without Bradman the specialists would have no chance whatsoever, with him it looks very even. I will call the trophy for this contest the ‘Martin – Stokes Trophy’, honouring two New Zealand born cricketers, one of the great specialists, that purest of pure bowlers Chris Martin, and a great all rounder in Ben Stokes.

AFTERWORD

For all that I would expect my side of all rounders to give a good account of themselves I most emphatically do not recommend selecting a fistful of all rounders in general. Especially I would warn of the curse of the ‘bits and pieces’ cricketer – the player who can bat a bit and bowl a bit but is not good enough at either to warrant selection. In general someone should only be picked if they merit selection as a specialist – and if they have a second string to their bow so much the better. The other problem that I did not highlight in connection with the all rounders side is that teams that bat literally all the way down often end up struggling because folk in such teams tend to develop the feeling that it is not likely to matter much if they do get out. I have memories seared in to me of England teams in the 1980s and 1990s picking bowlers who could bat a bit, and ending up neither able to score commanding totals nor to bowl the opposition out.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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All Rounders v Specialists
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – London vs The North

Today in ‘all time XI’ land we have a contest between London and the North.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s variation on an ‘all time XI‘ theme. Today features a battle between London and The North. I grew up in London, but have some northern ancestry and lived for a period in Barnsley, while I now live in Norfolk, so I consider myself decently equipped to handle this one.

THE BRIEF IN MORE DETAIL

For the purposes of of this post London means players from either Middlesex or Surrey. I am well aware that among the first class counties Kent and Essex also overlap with London. The Northern XI is drawn exclusively from Yorkshire and Lancashire, although there is an honourable mention for a Durham player. I have not included overseas players at all. Do check out my county XIs here.

LONDON ALL TIME XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The man with more first class runs and more first class hundreds than anyone else who ever played the game (I go with the traditional figures of 61,237 runs and 197 hundreds). This is all the more remarkable, because having been born in Cambridge he had to serve out a two year qualification period before making his Surrey debut, and he also lost four years to Wiorld War 1. He ultimately became Sir Jack Hobbs, the first professional games player of any description to be knighted.
  2. John Edrich– left handed opening batter. Another scorer of over 100 first class hundreds.
  3. Bill Edrich – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. A cousin of John. His test career got off to a slow start, but when he did manage a big score at that level it was seriously big – 219 versus South Africa at Durban, when England were baulked of victory by the weather and the necessity to return to Cape Town to get their boat home – they were 654-5 chasing 696 when time in what was supposed by a ‘timeless’ test match ran out.
  4. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. Only Don Bradman reached the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds in fewer innings than Compton’s 552.
  5. Patsy Hendren – right handed batter, brilliant fielder. The second largest tally of first class hundreds, 170, and the third largest ever tally of first class tuns, 57,611, and he did all that while never forgetting that cricket was a game to be enjoyed. He took full advantage of playing for Middlesex – a record 75 of his first class hundreds were scored at ‘the home of cricket’.
  6. +Alec Stewart – right handed batter, wicket keeper. The man who scored more test runs than anyone else in the 1990s.
  7. *Percy Fender – right handed batter, leg spinner, captain. Exactly the right kind of player to be coming in at no7 in a very strong side, and an excellent captain.
  8. Jim Laker – off spinner. He was apparently capable of putting so many revs on the ball that it would hum in the air on its way to the batter.
  9. Tony Lock – left arm orthodox spinner.
  10. George Lohmann – right arm medium pace bowler. His test wickets came at 10.75 each, and a rate of one per 34 balls. He was joint quickest to 100 test wickets (17 matches, a record he shares with ‘Terror’ Turner).
  11. Tom Richardson – right arm fast bowler. The man who would walk from his home in Mitcham to The Oval carrying his cricket bag, bowl plenty of overs in the day and then walk back similarly encumbered. He nearly did a ‘Bob Willis’ at Old Trafford in 1896, when ‘Ranji’ had scored 154 to set the old enemy a victory target of 125 after England had been made to follow on. Richardson took 6-76 bowling unchanged, and Australia were relieved in the end to get home by three wickets.

This team has a super strong top five, a batter keeper at six, an all rounder who was also a very shrewd captain at seven and four well varied bowlers. Bill Edrich as third seamer can hardly be described as a weakness, given that he did on occasion take the new ball for his country, while Laker, Lock and Fender represent a fine spin trio.

THE NORTH

  1. Len Hutton – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. His record looks even more extraordinary when you consider that he lost six years to World War Two, and a training accident during that conflict left him with one arm shorter than the other.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. He averaged 52.02 in first class cricket, 60.73 in test cricket and 66.85 in Ashes cricket, bearing out his famous comment “Ah Mr Warner, I love a dogfight.” His career was affected at both ends by war – World War 1 delayed his entry into first class cricket until he was 24 years old, while World War II finished his career – and in that last season of 1939 he had become the oldest player ever to carry his bat through a first class innings, so without the interruption he may well have carried on at first class level.
  3. Johnny Tyldesley – right handed batter. In the first decade of the 20th century only two professionals were selected for England purely on the strength of their batting, David Denton and Johnny Tyldesley. Tyldesley’s record was outstanding for a player of his era, and he was noted for his skill on bad wickets. He was also notably nimble footed, it being not unknown for him to deploy his favourite cut shot against balls pitched in line with middle stump.
  4. Eddie Paynter – left handed batter. He was baulked by the strength of Lancashire’s batting in his early years, but when he did reach the top he made it count, averaging 59.23 in test cricket, which included double centuries against Australia and South Africa.
  5. Joe Root – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Note that I have not named him as captain because of his batting record while in that role, which is noticeably less good than his record before he became captain. It is his batting that I want, the same batting that saw him reach 3,000 test runs quicker than any other England batter.
  6. George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm pace bowler. This one caused me considerable thought, but his record was so good that, notwithstanding the roars of rage this decision will generate from folk based west of the Pennines I decided it had to be him. His 1906 feat of scoring 2,385 runs and taking 208 wickets in first class matches, echoed in miniature by his performance in the game against Somerset at Bath when he scored 111 and 117 not out and took six first innings wickets and five more in the second was a truly outstanding demonstration of skill and stamina – an equivalent in today’s much shorter first class season would be someone scoring 1,000 runs and taking 100 wickets in first class games, not an impossibility but certainly a feat that would be estraordinary, although anyone good enough to pull it off would very likely either be involved with England or spend some part of the season playing franchise T20 cricket somewhere else in the world.
  7. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed lower middle order batter. He had a magnificent record until an eye injury brought a premature end to his career.
  8. Freddie Trueman – right arm fast bowler. No further comment needed.
  9. *Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner. I have named him as captain, a role he never filled on the cricket field due to the prejudices of the era in which he lived, but which I believe he would have done splendidly. He did ultimately become a captain in a very different field – it was as Captain Verity of the Green Howards that he was fatally wounded in World War II. In less than a full decade of first class cricket prior to that he had captured 1,956 wickets at 14.90 each.
  10. Sydney Francis Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. The man who took 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each just has to feature.
  11. +David Hunter – wicket keeper. He was the keeper in the first truly great Yorkshire side, the one that dominated the early years of the 20th century, being champions five times in its first decade, including going unbeaten twice in 1900 and 1908.

This team has a formidable top five, one of the greatest of all allrounders, four excellent bowlers and a star keeper. There is a lack of leg spin, but otherwise all departments are well covered.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I am going to cover these in order by playing role:

  • Opening batters – South: At least three other Surrey openers, Hayward, Sandham and Abel had outstanding records, while Andrew Strauss and Jack Robertson of Middlesex might also have their advocates.
  • Opening batters – North: Percy Holmes of Yorkshire might be considered to recreate the great pairing of him and Herbert Sutcliffe, while Louis Hall and Jack Brown had fine records in an earlier era. Among Lancastrians, Cyril Washbrook and Mike Atherton were the two nost obvious candidates.
  • Nos 3-5 – South: strong cases could be made for Ken Barrington and Peter May here, although bringing either in for Bill Edrich would change the balance of the side, and it is hard to envisage dropping Compton or Hendren. If told that I must accommodate Barrington on account of his test average of  58.67 I would do so by dropping John Edrich, and moving Bill up to open, a job he sometimes did in tests, slotting Barrington in at no3. Mike Gatting and Mark Ramprakash both had fine county records, but neither did enough at test level – Gatting averaged 35.55, and Ramprakash less than 30. ‘Young Jack’ Hearne might have got in on all-round talent. If Ollie Pope continues his career the way he has started it he will in due time command a place.
  • Nos 3-5 North: Ernest Tyldesley of Lancashire scored over 100 hundreds, David Denton of Yorkshire warranted consideration, while more recently the Lancastrians Neil Fairbrother and John Craw;ey would have their advocates. Jonny Bairstow would have his advocates as well,and I might have created an extra slot by selecting him as keeper if I had full confidence in his glove work. Brian Close would also have his advocates.
  • The all-rounder South: I have already mentioned ‘young Jack’, and Bernard Bosanquet was another candidate, as was Greville Stevens.
  • The all-rounder North: Andrew Flintoff was an obvious candidate, and I did consider shelving the issue of transpennine rivalry by giving Ben Stokes of Durham the nod – he may yet make an already strong case irrefutable.
  • Spinners – South: No other Surrey spinners rank wiht the two I chose, although Pat Pocock was a fine cricketer. Fred Titmus, Philippe Edmonds, John Emburey and Phil Tufnell would all have their advocates on the Middlesex side.
  • Spinners – North: Ted Peate, Bobby Peel, Wilfred Rhodes and Johnny Wardle of Yorkshire were all possibles for the left arm spinner role, as was Johnny Briggs of Lancashire. For off spinners, Ted Wainwright, Bob Appleyard, Ray Illingworth and Roy Tattersall had fine records, although Wainwright had a disastrous tour of Australia in 1897-8.
  • Pace bowlers South: Alec Bedser is the most obvious miss, but Gubby Allen also had a fine record, and Maurice Allom took a hat trick on test debut, although his overall record was not that great. Martin Bicknell had a superb county record and was unlucky not to get more chances for England. Bill Lockwood, who was also a useful batter, appears to have been the first to develop a slower ball as a variation, and by all accounts it was devilishly difficult to spot. Neville Knox’s pace was legendary but he only had two really good seasons, in 1906 and 1907.
  • Pace bowlers North: Jimmy Anderson is the most obvious miss, but his huge tally of test wickets is down to longevity and the frequency with which test matches now take place more than to any special brilliance that he possesses. Brian Statham was a great bowler, but with Trueman and Barnes making irrefutable cases for selection there was no way to get him in without changing the balance of the side. Such luminaries as Schofield Haigh, George Macaulay and Bill Bowes, all magnificent bowlers, have to make do with honourable mentions, as to the two greatest Yorkshire quicks of the 19th century, Tom Emmett and George Freeman (209 wickets at 9.94 in first class matches). George ‘Happy Jack’ Ulyett was another early great, who could also have been considered as an all rounder.
  • The Keepers – South: Had I been going to select a specialist keeper for the South rather than rely on Stewart there were two obvious choices, John Murray and Herbert Strudwick, with some 3,000 dismissals in first class cricket between them.
  • The Keepers – North: apart from Jonny Bairstow, already mentioned for his batting, George Pinder, Joe Hunter (brother of David), Arthur Dolphin, Arthur Wood, Jimmy Binks and David Bairstow all had fine records for Yorkshire, while George Duckworth and Warren Hegg of Lancashire were both fine keepers.

There will doubtless be many more names that occur to readers, and do feel free to weigh in with comments.

THE CONTEST

The contest for what I shall jokingly call the ‘Watford Gap Trophy’ would be an absolute classic. I rate the London XI as stronger in batting, though not by much, but reckon that the Northern XI is somewhat better equipped in the bowling department. I cannot pick a winner here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Having set up a fruity London vs The North contest, introduced the players and provided a detailed honourable mentions section it is time for my usual sign off…

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London vs North
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs -Beginning v End of Alphabet

A team of players whose surnames start early in the alphabet against a team of players whose names start late in the alphabet, plus an important petition.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest variation on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. Today after a couple of overseas posts we return to home territory, but featuring cricketers from four different centuries. The dividing line between these teams is the centre of the alphabet – our first team have surnames that begin with a letter from early in the alphabet while our second mutatis mutandis have surnames beginning with letters from late in the alphabet.While limiting myself to home players for this post I have aimed to embrace a wide range of types of player with the prime focus on entertainment.

BEGINNING OF THE ALPHABET XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. ‘The Master’ is a good place to start any XI – 61,237 first class runs with 197 centuries at that level.
  2. Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter. A wonderful timer of a cricket ball, probably the smallest player on either side in this contest, but with a proven ability to score big – and quick – she once reached a ton against South Africa off just 47 balls.
  3. James Aylward – left handed batter. One of three 18th century cricketers in this XI, in 1777, a mere eight years after the first record century in any cricket match, he scored 167 versus England, batting through two whole days in the process. He is the ‘sticker’ of this team, surrounded by more aggressive talents.
  4. William ‘Silver Billy’ Beldham – right handed batter. At a time when such scores were very rare he amassed three first class centuries. His special glory so we are told was the cut shot. He was exceptionally long lived, being born in 1766 and not dying until 1862 – in his childhood canals were the new big thing in transportation, and he missed out by a mere six months on living to see the opening of the world’s first underground railway.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. He averaged 50 with the bat over the course of 78 test matches, and he scored his runs fast. According to the man himself in “Playing for England” he developed his left arm wrist spin as a second string to his bow because he was impressed by the Aussie ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith, and because he noticed during the 1946-7 Ashes tour how many of the Aussies had second strings to their bow and thought that he should develop one.
  6. George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm pace bowler, brilliant fielder. One of the greatest all rounders ever to play the game. He achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class games on 14 occasions, 11 of them in successive years. Having topped 2,000 to go with over a hundred wickets in both 1904 and 1905 he then achieved the double double in 1906 – 2,385 runs and 208 wickets in first class matches (in the 21st century a non-pandemic hit English season involves 14 first class games, so anyone doing the 1,000 run, 100 wicket double would achieve a feat of similar standing, while 500 runs and 50 wickets would be a jolly impressive all round effort). In the Oval 1902 match in which Jessop blazed his 75 minute century Hirst took the first five Aussie wickets in the first innings and scored 101 for once out in the match (43 and 58 not out to see England home). He also stands alone in first class cricket history thus far in achieving the double double match feat of centuries in both of his own team’s innings and five wicket hauls in both of his opponents innings (Yorkshire v Somerset 1906).
  7. +Leslie Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The only recognized keeper to have tallied a hundred first class hundreds.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed lower middle order batter. The first ever to combine a fifty with a ten wicket match haul in a test match. His 15 appearances at that level brought him 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42. His career was ended prematurely by an eye injury. If we were to assume that without that injury he could have kept going until 40, very fair by the standards of the time, that would mean that he could have played in the 1888, 1890, 1893 and 1896 home series against Australia, the 1891-2 and 1894-5 away series against the same opposition and in a couple of the early series in South Africa, which brings him close to 40 test matches, and if he maintained similar output an aggregate of 1,749 runs and 133 wickets. If we accept that nowadays he would be pay half as much again for his wickets, we must also allow that that applies to all bowlers and that he would also score half as many runs again, so an approximate conversion of his averages in to today’s terms sees him average 41 with bat and 24.63 with the ball – a handy person to be coming in at no8!
  9. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium. Possibly the greatest of all bowlers. At Melbourne in the 1911-12 Ashes when Johnny Douglas won the toss and inserted Australia early wickets were needed to back that decision up, and Barnes in his opening burst accounted for the entire Australian top four for a single between them. Australia recovered from this blitz to tally 184, but as at Adelaide 99 years later, the damage had been done on the first morning, and England were in control of the match throughout.
  10. Sophie Ecclestone – left arm orthodox spinner. She has already enjoyed considerable success in her fledgling career, with a best ODI bowling performance of 4-14 and a T20I bowling performance of 4-13 among her highlights. In total across international formats she has 93 wickets for 1793 runs, an average of 19.28 per wicket, and she only turned 21 less than a fortnight ago.
  11. David Harris – right arm fast (underarm). The first great bowler, so highly prized that late in his career when gout was causing him horrendous problems an armchair would be brought out on to the field so that he could sit down when not actually bowling! If you look at early scorecards (early to mid 18th century) you will see that catches were not generally credited to the bowler, and the single person most responsible for changing that was Harris, who sought extra bounce with the precise intention of inducing batters to yield up catches. All you bowlers of today who rely on slip cordons, bat-pad catchers, short legs, silly mid-ons etc take note of the man who pioneered bowling to induce catches and be grateful that catches are credited to you. I have argued elsewhere for the re-legalization of under arm bowling both of Harris’ type and of under arm spinners such as Simpson-Hayward. The Greg/Trevor Chappell type of ‘grubber’ can be simply dealt with now that balls that bounce more than once are automatically called no-ball – simply add a coda that for the purposes of this law a ball that rolls along the deck shall be considered to have bounced an infinite number of times and is therefore a no ball.

This team has a splendid top five, one of the greatest of all all rounders, a keeper batter up there with the best in history and a wonderfully varied foursome of bowlers. Barnes, Harris and Hirst represent an excellent trio of pacers, Bates and Ecclestone are two high class spin options. There is no fronnt line leg spinner, but Barnes’ greatest weapon was a leg break delivered at fast medium pace, and there is Compton with his left arm trickery as well should a sixth bowler be needed. I would expect this team to take a lot of beating.

THE END OF THE ALPHABET XI

  1. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. He went through his entire test career with an average in excess of 60 – it ended at 60.73. He was often reckoned to be one of fortune’s favourites, but that was at least partly because when he did benefit from a slice of luck he made it count. For example, at Sydney in the opening match of the 1932-3 Ashes series he was on 43 when he chopped a ball from Bill O’Reilly into his stumps without dislodging a bail – and thus reprieved he went on to a test best 194, setting England up for a ten wicket win (Australia dodged the nnings defeat by the narrowest possible margin, leaving England a single to get in the fourth innings, duly scored by Sutcliffe).
  2. Arthur Shrewsbury – right handed opening batter. He was rated second only to WG Grace in his era. In those days the tea interval was not a regular part of the game, and on resuming his innings after lunch he would ask the dressing room attendant to bring him a cup of tea at four o’clock, so confident was he that he would still be batting by then. He briefly held the highest test innings score by an Englishman, 164 at Lord’s in 1886 which set his side up for an innings victory – two matches later at The Oval Grace reclaimed the record which had been his 152 in 1880 with a score of 170, made out of 216 while he was at the wicket.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. Once, when Kent were chasing 219 in two hours for a victory, his partner suggested that he should try to hit fewer sixes as it took time for the ball to come back from the crowd! Kent won that match, due in no small part to Woolley. At Lord’s in 1921 when Gregory and McDonald were laying waste to the rest of England’s batting he scored 95 and 93.
  4. Eddie Paynter – left handed batter. He averaged 59.23 in test cricket, with double centuries against both Australia and South Africa along the way. He was 28 by the time he broke into the Lancashire team, and World War II brought his career to a close. He it was who officially settled the destiny of the 1932-3 Ashes, hitting the six that won the 4th match of that series giving England an unassailable 3-1 lead (they won the fifth match as well, that one also ending with a six, this time struck by Wally Hammond). None of England’s huge scorers are more frequently overlooked than the little fella from Oswaldtwistle.
  5. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The reverse combo to George Hirst, and definitely somewhat more batter than bowler – my intention in this side is that when called on to bowl it will be in short, sharp bursts.
  6. George Osbaldeston – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler (under arm). Another explosive all rounder, the fastest bowler of his day.
  7. +Sarah Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. One of the two finest English keepers I have seen live (Ben Foakes is the other) and a magnificent stroke making batter. Mental health issues brought her career to a premature close. Across the international formats she scored 6,535 runs at 33.17, took 128 catches and executed 102 stumpings – most of those latter eye-blink swift leg side efforts.
  8. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. One of the quickest ever – I suspect that not even the keeper I have chosen would be making many stumpings off his bowling!
  9. Bill Voce – left arm fast medium bowler. An excellent foil to an outright speedster at the other end.
  10. Linsey Smith – left arm orthodox spinner. One of a phalanx of young spinners currently involved with the England Women’s side – as well as Ecclestone and Aberdonian SLAer Kirstie Gordon there are several leg spinners, including Sophia Dunkley and Sarah Glenn, with Helen Fenby on the periphery. Thus far Smith has only been required in T20Is, but she takes her wickets in that form of the game at a bargain basement 14 a piece.
  11. Douglas Wright – leg spinner. A leg spinner with a 15 yard run up, and whose armoury included a bouncer to ensure that there was no automatic going on to the front foot against him. The problem was, that especially if the fielders were not having  one of their better days, the human world was too fallible a place for his kind of bowling – far too often he simply beat everyone and everything all ends up. When things went his way they could do so in spades – he took a record seven first class hat tricks. He is not quite the only specialist spinner to have had an accredited bouncer – Philippe-Henri Edmonds could also bowl one when the mood took him.

This team has a powerful top four, two explosive all rounders, one of the finest of all keeper batters and a strong and varied quartet of specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Tyson and Voce sharing the new ball, Osbaldeston and Stokes offering pace back up and spin twins Smith and Wright also looks impressive

THE CONTEST

This contest, for what I shall call the ‘Bakewell – Nichols Trophy’, in honour of two fine all rounders, Stan Nichols, a left handed batter and right arm fast bowler and Enid Bakewell, who batted right handed and bowled slow left arm would be an absolute belter. It is mighty hard to pick a winner, but I think that Barnes just gives the side from the beginning of the alphabet the edge, and I would suggest that a five match series would finish 3-2 to the team from the beginning of the alphabet.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

There is a petition currently running calling on the government of Botswana not to legalize elephant hunting. Please click on the screenshot below to sign and share:

Botswana

Petition Pic

Above is the picture accompanying the tweet that drew my attention to this petition.

Now, with the teams introduced and an important link shared it is time for my usual sign off:

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A tiny bug crawling over the page of my copy of Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True”

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Alphabet
The teams in tabulated form.