Today I pick an England XI each of whom have their place or places in the record books. Several excellent candidates missed out because I could only accommodate 11 players, but I think my XI has a good mix of quirkiness and class.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Herbert Sutcliffe (right handed opening batter). Not just an England record, an all comers record: the only player to have played 20 or more test matches and never had a batting average below 60 at that level. I have previously mentioned how the progression of his averages shows him to have been the ultimate big game player.
Alastair Cook (left handed opening batter). His feat of scoring a 50 and a century on test debut and finishing his career in the same way 12 years later is one of multiple ways in which he qualifies: England’s leading run scorer, England’s leading century maker, scorer of more runs from number two than any other England player.
Walter Hammond (right handed batter, ace slip fielder, right arm medium fast bowler). More runs from number three than any other England batter, most runs in a series for England (905 at 113.125 in the 1928-9 Ashes), unique sequence of over 700 runs in the space of four test innings (101 and 75* in the last test of the 1932-3 Ashes, 227 and 336* in the two innings he played in New Zealand on the way home from that tour), twice scorer of back to back test double centuries (251 and 200 in the 1928-9 Ashes as well as the NZ runfest already detailed).
Joe Root (right handed batter, occasional off spinner). Leading run scorer among current England batters, by a long way, leading career aggregate for any England right hander.
Eddie Paynter (left handed batter). Has the best average of any left hander to have played 20 or more test matches for England – 59.23. His record includes double centuries against Australia and South Africa, but his most famous innings was 83 at Brisbane in the 1932-3 Ashes when he defied nurses advice and rose from his sick bed to bail England out of a crisis.
+Les Ames (right handed batter, wicket keeper). Uniquely in this line up, because I required a keeper who was also a top class batter, I have used first class records to get him – more career stumpings than anyone else in history, three of the four “keeper’s doubles” (1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in first clas matches in the same season) stand to his credit.
*Aubrey Smith (right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter, captain). The only player to captain England in his only test, and since England won the match comfortably a rare England skipper with a 100% winning record in the job.
Jim Laker (off spinner, right handed lower order batter). Most wickets in an Ashes series (46 in 1956, a haul that included a first class record 19 in the match at Old Trafford).
Syd Barnes (right arm fast medium, right handed lower order batter). 189 wickets in just 27 tests for an average of seven per match. Two thirds of those wickets came overseas – 77 in 13 matches in Australia and 49 in just four matches in South Africa (in the last series before WWI).
James Anderson (right arm fast medium, left handed lower order batter). England’s all time leading wicket taker, closing on 700 test scalps.
Charles ‘Father’ Marriott (leg spinner, right handed tail end batter). 11 wickets in his only test appearance, the most by any one cap wonder. One of the select club of players to have taken more first class wickets than he scored runs.
This XI contains a very powerful top six, and although Smith and Laker are both probably a place too high in the order both could handle a bat – the latter had a test best of 63. Also a bowling attack that has Anderson, Barnes and Smith as front line seam/swing/pace options plus Hammond as fourth seamer if needed and Marriott and Laker as a contrasting spin pairing is not going to need as many runs behind it as some attacks would.
There are quite a few of these, so I am going to divide them up into categories.
Opening batters: Len Hutton (test record score for England, 364 at The Oval in 1938), Jack Hobbs (a record 12 centuries for England against Australia), John Edrich (highest score by an England left hander, 310* v NZ) and Graham Gooch (most runs by an batter in a single test match – 456 (333 and 123 v India at Lord’s in 1990) are all definite candidates, and some would also include WG Grace, the only player to twice hold the England record score (152 and 170, both v Australia, at The Oval in 1880 and 1886).
Middle order batters: RE Foster (highest ever score by a debutant and still the highest for England in Australia, 287 at Sydney in 1903), and the only player to captain England men’s teams at cricket and football and KS Ranjitsinhji (150+ scores on debut in two countries – 154* at Old Trafford in 1896 and 175 at Sydney in 1897) are the most obvious.
All rounders: Ian Botham reached the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in an all comers record 21 matches, and 2,000 and 200 in 42 matches before falling away later in his career. Billy Bates took England’s first hat trick, part of a performance that saw him become the first ever to score a 50 and take 10 wickets in the same test match.
Pace bowlers: George Lohmann has the cheapest career average of any bowler to have taken 100 or more test wickets – 10.75. Frank Tyson is the only post WWII England bowler to finish a test career of more than 10 matches with a bowling average below 20 – 18.56. Kent left arm quick Fred ‘Nutty’ Martin still has the record for most wickets by an England debutant – 12.
Other bowlers: Derek Underwood took the most test wickets of any England bowler of below medium pace – 297 with his left arm slow medium. Graham Swann was the leading career wicket taker among England off spinners.
A combined Surrey/ Hampshire XI for the ages and a substantial photo gallery.
With the match I am following between Surrey and Hampshire heading for a great finish I pick a combined Surrey/ Hampshire XI for the ages. Because I want to showcase both counties I have shown a little bias towards players associated with both. My XIs for each county individually can be seen here and here.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Jack Hobbs (Surrey, right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer). The Master has an irrefutable case for selection.
John Edrich (Surrey, left handed opening batter). Those who remember my original Hampshire XI (or who have followed the link in the introductory paragraph to check it out) will have noted that the opening slots were the toughest to fill for that county, whereas I was spoiled for choice in this area when it came to Surrey. Only Yorkshire, with Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton, and possibly Gloucestershire with WG Grace in their historic ranks would be able to claim this slot in a combined XI with Surrey.
CB Fry (Hampshire, right handed top order batter). When I originally selected my county all time XIs I assigned him to Sussex, but after Sussex he spent a few years with Hampshire, and since his FC career began at Surrey and he was born in southwest London I felt it appropriate to include him here.
Phil Mead (Hampshire, left handed batter). He failed to impress Surrey, and moved south to Hampshire in consequence. He ended his career as the fourth leading scorer of both FC runs and hundreds, and the leading scorer of both for any one team.
Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire and Surrey, right handed batter, occasional off spinner). Had an outstanding record, though his departure from Hampshire was as acrimonious as his earlier departure from Nottinghamshire had been. The fact that he had associations with both counties got him the nod over Peter May who also had a formidable record.
+Ben Foakes (Surrey, wicket keeper, right handed batter). A shoo-in for this slot – a superb keeper and a genuine front line batter.
*Percy Fender (Surrey, leg spinner, right handed batter). His approach to batting would make him an ideal choice for number seven in an XI of this nature and he was a fine bowler and a very astute captain.
Malcolm Marshall (Hampshire, right arm fast bowler, right handed batter). Even at test level as he was almost good enough with the bat to be considered an all rounder, and Hampshire treated him as such. Probably the greatest fast bowler of the great age of West Indies fast bowling, and an obvious choice for the overseas slot.
Jim Laker (Surrey, off spinner, right handed batter). Possibly the greatest of all off spinners. His peak came in 1956 with 46 Ashes wickets at 9.60 in the five test series and an all-ten for Surrey v The Australians in a tour match.
Derek Shackleton (Hampshire, right arm medium fast, right handed batter). Only one bowler ever took at least 100 first class wickets in each of 20 successive seasons, and that bowler was Derek Shackleton. Only Wilfred Rhodes who achieved the feat 23 times in his extraordinary career has managed 100 wickets for the season more often than Shackleton. He played the inaugural season of the John Player League, and with in the year of his 45th birthday managed to bowl 80 overs for just 168 runs in this 40 overs per side tournament.
Tom Richardson (right arm fast bowler, right handed batter). Between the start of the 1894 season and the end of the 1897 season the fast bowler claimed 1,005 wickets, including a then season’s record tally of 290. The 88 wickets he claimed in 14 test appearances provide the proof that he could do it against the best opposition around.
This side has a formidably powerful batting line up, a great keeper and a very strong and well balanced bowling attack – there wouldn’t be many runs available against Marshall, Richardson, Shackleton, Laker and Fender on any surface.
I refer folks to my honourable mentions sections for each individual county for full detail, and add the following:
Ken Barrington, Robin Smith and Peter May were the unluckiest of the batters who I picked for their individual county XIs but not this one, with Graham Thorpe also worth a mention here.
No keeper for either county could challenge Foakes.
Among the seamers two giants of the game with the forename Alec were the biggest misses: Bedser of Surrey and Kennedy of Hampshire. Bill Lockwood and George Lohmann, both Surrey, were also huge names to leave out.
For the spinners two left armers, Tony Lock (Surrey) and Stuart Boyes (Hampshire) were the big misses. Laker was a lock for the off spinners place, and in view of my desire to have Fender captain and the fact that the best leg spinner to have played for either county, Shane Warne, was an overseas player and could not displace Marshall no leg spinner could be accommodated.
A look at the best England men’s cricketers of the immediate post war era and a large photo gallery.
I continue my look at the England men’s cricket team through the ages with a look at the immediate postwar era. I have chosen 1962 as the endpoint because the 1963 season was notable on two grounds: it was the first season in which players were not divided between amateurs and professionals (or “Gentlemen” and “Players”) and it also saw the first staging of the first professional limited overs tournament, the Gillette Cup, and from these beginnings limited overs cricket, and subsequently very limited overs cricket in the form of T20 would come to play an ever increasing role in professional cricket.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
*Leonard Hutton (right handed opening batter, captain). In 1938 at Trent Bridge Walter Hammond became the first officially appointed England captain to have played cricket as a professional. In the very first England XI he led out on to the field was the man who would become the first to be appointed official England captain while still playing as a professional, Leonard Hutton. Hutton was comfortably England’s best batter of the immediate postwar years (the only remotely credible challenger, Denis Compton, actually wrote in one of hs books that Hutton was the greater batter of the two). What makes Hutton’s performances between 1946 and 1955, which stand among the greatest of anyone in the game’s history in any case, even more extraordinary is that as well as having lost six years of cricketing development to the war he had suffered a training accident which left him with one arm shorter than the other.
Cyril Washbrook (right handed opening batter). The best of Hutton’s various opening partners. In 1956 after Hutton had retired, Washbrook, then a 41 year old selector, was chosen for the third test of the series against Australia and scored a crucial 98, paving the way for further successful recalls for David Sheppard (4th test, century from number three) then Bishop of Woolwich and Compton (5th test, having had his right kneecap surgically removed and fought his way back to fitness, 94).
Colin Cowdrey (right handed batter, ace slip fielder, occasional leg spinner). The first cricketer to earn 100 test caps and by the end of his career scorer of 22 test centuries, at the time a joint England record with Hammond.
Denis Compton (right handed batter, occasional left arm wrist spinner). Even with a long term knee injury, ultimately necessitating the removal of the kneecap he achieved some outstanding performances for England, including a century in each innings at Adelaide in the 1946-7 Ashes, four centuries against the visiting South Africans in 1947, two against Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles and a 278 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 1954.
Peter May (right handed batter). In test cricket’s slowest scoring decade this naturally aggressive batter averaged 46.77, including a 285 not out that effectively terminated Sonny Ramadhin as an effective bowling force (Ramadhin ended up toiling through 98 overs in that innings, as West Indies, having led by 288 on first innings ended up clinging on for a draw with seven wickets down in their second innings).
Trevor Bailey (right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler). A genuine all rounder.
+Godfrey Evans (wicket keeper, right handed batter). One of the greatest keepers of all time and a good enough batter to have scored two test centuries.
Jim Laker (off spinner, right handed lower order batter). 193 wickets at 21 a piece in 46 test appearances. In 1956 he claimed 46 wickets in the Ashes series at 9.6 a piece, including the best match haul in first class history, 19-90 at Old Trafford (9-37 in the first innings, 10-53 second time round).
Johnny Wardle (left arm orthodox spinner, left arm wrist spinner, left handed lower order batter). 102 test wickets at 20.39. He was often passed over in favour of Tony Lock, and his career came to a premature end after he expressed forceful opinions about Yorkshire’s choice of captain in 1958. His robust late order hitting was also of value to England more than once.
Fred Trueman (right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). The first bowler of any type to claim as many as 300 test scalps, 307 in 67 matches.
Brian Statham (right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter). 252 test scalps at 24 a piece, most of them bowling from the less favourable end as either Trueman or Frank Tyson (in the 1954-5 Ashes) had first choice of which end to bowl from.
This XI has a powerful top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a legendary keeper, two of the greatest spinners of all time and two great fast bowlers who were moreover a regular combination at test level.
I start this section with two name checks as the players concerned deserve more than a standard honourable mention:
A fine right handed batter and a useful right arm fast medium bowler. However I could only accommodate him in one of two ways: play him as an opener in place of Washbrook, or class him as an all rounder and give him Bailey’s slot, and neither of those seemed right to me.
For the first few years after the war he carried England’s bowling almost single handed, and at the time of his retirement he was test cricket’s leading wicket taker with 236 scalps. However I wanted two spinners, and considered the claims of the fast bowlers Trueman and Statham to be unanswerable, so I could not accommodate him.
OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Although Ken Barrington and Ted Dexter both played for England during this period I considered them to belong more properly to the next. No other keeper of this period was close to Evans with the gloves, though the more determined members of the “look at the batting first” school of thought might opt for James M Parks (his father James H Parks, a batting all rounder, also played for Sussex and England), a quality batter, but several classes below Evans with the gloves.
The brilliant but meteoric Frank Tyson might have had a fast bowling slot. Tony Lock’s bowling action for most of his England career was to put politely of dubious legality, and he could bowl only finger spin, whereas Wardle could also bowl wrist spin. Leg spinner Doug Wright could be devastating on his day (he claimed a record seven first class hat tricks), but when things weren’t going his way he was often very expensive. I end this section with one of cricket’s ultimate ‘might have beens’: Maurice Tremlett of Somerset (father of Tim, grandfather of Chris) who had a dream first class debut, claiming eight wickets in the match and then playing a splendid cameo innings to see his side over the line by one wicket against the team who would be that season’s champions, Middlesex. Unfortunately he fell victim to well meaning coaches who tried to turn a fast-medium who liked to give the ball a wallop into a genuine fast bowler and succeeded in destroying his confidence and interest in bowling, and within a few years he was playing for Somerset as an exciting middle order batter who was occasionally used as a partnership breaker with the ball.
11 of the greatest test matches that I know about only at second hand – I may have watched highlights of them, read about them or both of the foregoing, but I did not witness them live.
This is a follow up to my earlier post about great test matches I did get to witness. These are matches I have read about and/or witnessed highlights of but did not get to follow live at the time. The matches are listed ibn chronological rather than ranking order, and to set the tone there is match not of test status as an hors d’oeuvre.
MCC V AUSTRALIA, LORD’S 1878 – A WARNING SHOT
The Australians had had a rough start to their tour of England in what was a very wet summer. When they arrived at Lord’s to take on the MCC few gave them much of a chance. MCC were fielding a very respectable side, with the mighty WG Grace to the fore. MCC batted first, and Frank Allan, a graceful left armer dubbed ‘bowler of the century’ in the run up to the tour shared the new ball with Harry Boyle, a medium pacer of exceptional accuracy. WG Grace hit the first ball of the match for four, but was out to the second. Another wicket fell one run later, but then Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby and Arthur Ridley shared what turn out to be the largest partnership of the match. The moment that tilted this game towards being a historic one was when Frederick Robert Spofforth was called upon to bowl in place of Allan. Spofforth destroyed the MCC middle and lower order with sheer pace, a high water mark of 27-2 becoming 33 all out. Spofforth had taken 6-4 for the innings. The Nottinghamshire pair of Alfred Shaw (right arm slow/ medium) and Fred Morley (left arm fast) took the new ball for MCC. Australia fared little better than the home side, limping to 41 all out, with Shaw following the general pattern of his career by bowling considerably more overs than he conceded runs. For the second MCC innings Spofforth was given the new ball alongside Boyle, and MCC were rolled for a paltry 19, Boyle taking 6-3 and Spofforth 4-16. Charles Bannerman fell early in the fourth innings, but Billy Midwinter and Tom Horan saw Australia to a nine wicket win. The match was over on the same day it started, the thick end of a century before games with that intention would become a regular thing in top level cricket, and the aggregate of 105 runs remains the smallest ever for an FC match with a definite result. This tour did not feature any test matches, but the next visit by Australia in 1880 did, England winning a hastily organized match in September of that year by five wickets.
ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA, THE OVAL 1882: ASHES BORN
Unlike its predecessor in 1880 this match was planned when the tour itinerary was created. Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby captained England, a mistake, espeically given that Spofforth, the leading Australian bowler, had a hex on him (if they weren’t yet prepared to appoint WG Grace who would have been the best choice then Lord Harris would have done). Rather than Hornby, EM Grace should have been the other opener for England (as he was in 1880, when he and WG put on 91 together in the first innings). However, all seemed rosy when Australia were dispatched for 63 in their first innings, and England responded with 101, Yorkshireman George Ulyett top scoring with 26. Hugh Massie now played a crucial innings for Australia, scoring 55 of the first 66 runs in their second innings and propelling them into credit with only one wicket down. Once he was out there was little more to the Australian innings, though Murdoch batted through such of it as there was to finish on 29* in a score of 122. The single most significant moment of the innings was the dismissal of Sammy Jones, who left his crease to pat down the pitch with the ball not officially dead. Grace, fielding at point, ran him out, a move which provoked Spofforth to absolute fury. While England were preparing to chase 85 to win Spofforth was telling his team mates “this thing can be done”. Grace and Hornby put on 15 for the first wicket, but then Hornby and Richard Barlow, also of Lancashire, were both out at that score. Grace and Ulyett shared a fine partnership, but Ulyett was dislodged with the score at 51, and two runs later, Grace, only the second player in the game to record a score of above 30, was dislodged for 32, making it 53-4. It was at this juncture that things turned against England. Lyttelton and Lucas, paralysed by nerves, could barely score, and skipper Hornby started panicking and messed with his batting order. When Lyttelton was dismissed to make it 66-5 the panic really set in, Hornby holding CT Studd, scorer of two centuries against the Aussies that season, back in the order until the eighth wicket fell. Billy Barnes was dismissed shortly after Studd’s arrival to make it 75-9, and Peate had three balls to survive from Harry Boyle before the end of the over. He scored two off the first of these, but a wild swing at the second met fresh air, while the ball clattered against his stumps. England 77 all out, and beaten by seven runs. Studd, with his two centuries against the Aussies earlier that season, was 0* (0), not the least ridiculous feature of this ridiculous match.
AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND, SCG 1894: 586 BATTING FIRST…
England were captained by Andrew Stoddart, Australia had entrusted veteran wicket keeper Blackham (who had played the first test match of all in 1877) with the captaincy. Blackham won the toss and batted. Tom Richardson the great Surrey fast bowler claimed three early wickets, but the then George Giffen and Frank Iredale joined forces. Their stand, apparently helped by some clumsy keeping on the part of Leslie Gay, yielded 171 runs, and then after Iredale’s dismissal Syd Gregory joined the fray, adding a further 139 with Giffen before the latter fell for 161 just before the end of day one. Australia closed on 346-5. On day two Syd Gregory completed a double century, only the second ever achieved in test cricket, and with Blackham scoring a test best 74 Australia reached 586.
England were all out for 325 in their first innings, Albert Ward top scoring with 75. They were made to follow on, and when the sixth wicket went down at 296, with the lead still only 35 Australia still looked well place. However, Francis Ford and Johnny Briggs put on 89 together for the seventh wicket, and even the tail made contributions. England mustered 437 in this second innings, setting Australia 177 to win. Jack Lyons began breezily, hitting 25 in 15 minutes at the crease, but after he and Harry Trott were both out, Giffen opted to play safe, making sure he was still there for the following morning (tests in Australia were played to a finish in those days). Australia close on 113-2, needing just 64 the following morning, Darling 44*, Giffen 30*. Overnight it rained (pitches were uncovered in those days, and overnight rain, followed by strong Australian sun the following morning created what was known as a ‘sticky dog’), though England’s trump card in such circumstances, left arm spinner Bobby Peel, did not hear the rain following, as he had given the match up for lost and drowned his sorrows in emphatic fashion. The Australians certainly did realize that it had rained. Peel and fellow left arm spinner Johnny Briggs gradually tightened the screw on Australia, and the ninth wicket went down with Australia still 15 short. Blackham was last man in, nursing a cracked thumb, and the other remaining batter, Charlie McLeod did his best to protect the injured keeper, ultimately Blackham prodded a catch back to Peel and England had won by 10 runs, with Peel having innings figures of 6-67.
OLD TRAFFORD 1902 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA
A spat between chairman of selectors (Lord Hawke, Yorkshire) and captain (Archie MacLaren, Lancashire) led to an odd looking England side. MacLaren wanted Schofield Haigh, but Hawke would not release him. MacLaren in a fit of pique at this left another Yorkshireman, George Hirst, out on the morning of the match, handing a debut to 35 year old Fred Tate of Sussex.
Australia batted first, and by lunch they were 173-1 with Victor Trumper having reached three figures, the first ever to do so on the first morning of a test match. Post lunch England did better, but a rapid partnership between middle order left handers Clem Hill and Joe Darling (73 in 45 minutes) helped Australia to reach 299. England began poorly, but a big stand between FS Jackson and Len Braund, plus some further lower order support for Jackson (128) got England to 262. Australia in their second innings were 10-3 and should have been 16-4, but MacLaren had high-handedly refused to move Lionel Palairet, a fellow amateur, from square leg to the right hander to square leg to the left hander, sending Fred Tate (who fielded close to the bat for Sussex) out there instead. Tate dropped a chance offered by Darling, and the partnership added 46 further runs. Thereafter it was a procession and Australia mustered just 86 second time round, setting England 124 to win. At 92-3 England appeared to be cruising home, but then a collapse set in. When keeper Dick Lilley was brilliantly caught by Clem Hill, who ran 30 yards round the boundary and threw himself full length to make the catch, it was 116-9 and Fred Tate joined Wilfred Rhodes. Tate snicked a boundary off Jack Saunders to open his account, but then Saunders’ next ball kept fiendishly low and bowled the unfortunate Tate to give Australia victory by three runs.
THE OVAL 1902 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA: A REVERSAL
George Hirst and Gilbert Jessop returned for England after missing the match described above. Australia batted first and tallied 324, Hugh Trumble top scoring with64* and Monty Noble making 52. Trumble then turned to his more publicized ability, bowling unchanged through the England first innings, taking 8-65. England avoided the follow on only thanks to Hirst who scored 43 out of the last 54 runs of the innings. Australia at the second time of asking were all out for 121, setting England 263, which looked a massive total in those circumstances. It was looking even further distant by the time Saunders (four wickets) and Trumble (one) had reduced England to 48-5. At this point Gilbert Jessop joined FS Jackson and the match began to turn. Jackson fell for 49 with the score at 157, and George Hirst joined Jessop. This pair added 30 together in just eight minutes, Jessop completing three figures in 75 minutes and off his 76th ball, both still England records, though the latter has seemed under constant threat lately. Jessop fell for 104, making it 187-7, and still 76 needed from the last three wickets. However, Bill Lockwood stayed with Hirst while 27 of those were scored, and keeper Dick Lilley helped add a further 34, meaning that when fellow Yorkshireman Rhodes joined Hirst in the middle 15 were needed with one wicket standing. England inched their way towards the target, and finally Rhodes hit the winning single off Trumble. Trumble had scored 71 undefeated runs with the bat and captured 12 wickets, Hirst had 101 runs for once out and a first innings five-for but this is always called “Jessop’s Match”. Lionel Palairet gained two England caps – the Old Trafford and Oval tests of 1902.
MCG1907 – AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND – NEARLY A TIE
This was a match which swing back and forth but seemed settled in Australia’s favour when England were 209-8 in the final innings, needing 73 more to win. Joe Humphries was ninth out, with 39 still needed for the win, to an LBW which added fuel to the flames of a controversy – England had had several rough LBWs in that match, George Gunn being furious about the two given against him. Arthur Fielder, a fast bowler, but as he was to show both here and a little later for Kent when sharing a last wicket stand of 235 with Woolley no mug with the bat, joined Barnes in the middle. The last wicket pair chipped away at the target and eventually levelled the scores. Barnes then went for a winning run that Fielder was unsure about. Had the fielder, Gerry Hazlitt, kept his head and lobbed to the keeper test cricket would have seen its first ever tied match. As it was, Hazlitt panicked and shied wildly at the stumps, missing and allowing the completion of the winning run.
MCG 1928 – AUSTRALIA A ENGLAND – ASHES HELD
England had comfortably won the first two matches of the series, but although Hammond had already entered the record books by becoming the first to score two consecutive test double hundreds, with 200 in the first England innings, it looked long odds against a third win in a row when England set off in pursuit of a victory target of 332 on a pitch that had become so spiteful that opening batter Jack Hobbs reckoned it would be all over by the tea interval. As it turned out Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, the other opener, were still both in residence by said interval, and midway through the evening, with the great pair still together Hobbs made a vital intervention, sending a message to the dressing room that if either opener fell that evening Jardine should be promoted to number three as his defence was more reliable than Hammond’s. Hobbs was the one to go, for 49 out of an opening stand of 105, and Jardine duly survived the remainder of the evening and England returned the following morning still only one down. Jardine contributed a crucial 33, Herbert Sutcliffe went on to 135, and although England had a bit of a stutter late on, George Geary, who had claimed the final wicket of the 1926 Ashes, smashed a four through mid-on to seal a three wicket win and with it retention of The Ashes.
OLD TRAFFORD 1956 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA
Good pitch which one side handled badly or spinners paradise made to order? England batting first ran up 459 in rapid time. Although Australia’s two recognized spinners, leg spinner Benaud and off spinner Ian Johnson claimed six scalps between them, they also leaked 274 runs while doing so.
Jim Laker, England’s off spinner, took the first two Aussie wickets, before Lock claimed the third, which opened the floodgates for Laker, who polished off the Aussie first innings with a spell of 7-8, giving him 9-37 in total. Regular rain interruptions and a fine defensive effort by Aussie opener Colin McDonald took the game into the final day. Eventually, with the second ball of his 52nd over, Laker trapped Maddocks LBW and Australia were all out for 205, beaten by an innings and 170 runs. Laker had all ten Aussie second innings wickets for 53, still the cheapest all ten in test cricket, and 19-90 in the match. The three other front line spinners had combined match figures of 7-380, an average of 54.29 per wicket, and earlier in the season, in the first innings of the match on a good Oval pitch Laker had recorded figures 10-88 from 46 overs against the Australians for Surrey. In all 58 of Laker’s first 100 Fc wickets of 1956 were Aussies, 46 in the Ashes series and 12 for Surrey in that tour match.
BRISBANE 1960 – AUSTRALIA V WEST INDIES
52 years after Gerry Hazlitt had failed to make the most of an opportunity to secure test cricket’s first tie Joe Solomon showed how to keep his head under pressure, executing two direct hit run outs in less than 15 minutes, first to dismiss Davidson (80), thereby giving his side a chance to save themselves, and then to seal the tie. Alan Davidson bestrode this match like a colossus, taking 5-135 in West Indies first innings 453, then scoring 44 of Australia’s reply of 505, then taking 6-87 as West Indies managed 284 second time round and finally scoring that 80 which so nearly won the match for Australia.
HEADINGLEY 1981 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA
This is proper script rejection stuff – not only did England record only the second ever victory by a side made to follow on, but one of the players who was key to achieving that result was not originally selected for the game and the other had been asked (albeit at most semi-seriously) if he wanted to play, having just stood down as captain (moments before he would have been sacked from that role). Australia scored 401-9 declared batting first, which was far more than they should have scored on that surface. John Dyson scored a very slow century, Kim Hughes made 89 and Graham Yallop 58, while Botham, recently resigned from the captaincy, claimed 6-95, his first five wicket haul since before taking up the reins of captaincy. England were 87-5 when Botham went in for his first innings, and a rapid 50 from him was the only highlight of their 174 all out. In the second innings they plummeted to 41-4 before Boycott and Willey added 64 for the fifth wicket. At 133 Boycott was pinned LBW, and two runs later keeper Bob Taylor departed. That brought Graham Dilley in to join Botham, and in 80 minutes the eighth wicket pair added 117, Dilley recording a maiden test 50, and Botham being well past his second 50 of the match. Chris Old helped the ninth wicket to raise a further 67, Botham racing past the 100 mark (87 balls to get there). Willis stayed long enough for a further 37 to accrue. England had totalled 356, a lead of 129, and Botham had scored 149*. The final morning was just underway. Approaching the lunch interval Australia were 56-1 and seemingly cruising towards their target of 130, when Bob Willis was put on to bowl at the Kirkstall Lane end. The first victim of one of the greatest spells of fast bowling in test history was Trevor Chappell, who in truth resembled a test match number three in name only, fending a bouncer through to Bob Taylor. Then came back to back wickets right on the stroke of lunch, Hughes well caught by Botham in the slips and Yallop superbly taken at short leg by Gatting. At lunch Australia were 58-4, and suddenly realizing that match wasn’t over just yet, while England went into lunch on a high. Old got one through Border’s defences early in the afternoon and it was 65-5. Dyson, who had one boundary off Willis post lunch took an a short ball from him and succeeded only in gloving it to the keeper to make it 68-6. Rod Marsh, the Aussie keeper, who had made a light-hearted bet on England when Ladbrokes were offering 500-1, took on another short ball from Willis, and Dilley at deep fine leg judged the catch superbly, being less than a foot inside the boundary when he completed it. That was 74-7, and one run later Lawson fell to mkae it 75-8. There was one final twist, as Lillee, who like Marsh had placed a bet on England at 500-1, helped Bright add 35 for the ninth wicket in four overs. Lillee then mistimed a drive at Willis and Gatting just managed to complete the catch, having to run in and dive forward to do so. Alderman came in at number 11, and was reprieved twice in one Botham over as Old at third slip put down catches. Willis summoned up enough energy for one final over, and with the first ball thereof he ripped a perfect yorker through Bright’s defences and Australia were all out for 111m giving England victory by 18 runs.
CHENNAI 1986: INDIA V AUSTRALIA – A TIE
Australia in the early to mid 1980s were a struggling outfit, but in this particular match they did a lot right, though not quite enough to win it. Dean Jones, in part due a vicious taunt from skipper Border, batted himself into a hospital bed, scoring 210 in eight hours at the crease on the first two days of the match, after which he had to put on a saline drip. Towards the end of the fifth day it looked like India were odds to complete their chase of 348, but Greg Matthews refused to give up, and eventually, with the scores level he trapped Maninder Singh LBW to secure test cricket’s second ever tie.
KOLKATA 2001: INDIA V AUSTRALIA – A VERY VERY SPECIAL TEST MATCH
Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s were well nigh invincible, and the first two innings of this match did not suggest anything other than business as usual for Steve Waugh and his men, as they forced India to follow on. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid then produced a historic partnership, with Laxman going to a then Indian individual record test score of 281 and Dravid making 180. India declared their second innings at 657-7, setting Australia 384 to win. Australia, unsurprisingly dispirited, collapsed to 212 all out and defeat by 171 runs, the third (and to date) last test defeat suffered by a side enforcing the follow on. Australia have rarely chosen to enforce the follow on since then, preferring to build stupendous leads and then look to dismiss their opponents a second time. Myself I would still need a good reason to suggest not enforcing.
Time for my usual sign off (the gallery is smaller than usual – there is not as much to see in foul weather)…
Bringing the curtain down on an immense series that has taken us through the alphabet, 200+ years of cricket history and every inhabited continent in the world. The XIs are presented in reverse ranking order, with links back to the selectorial posts.
This post concludes our cricketing journey through the alphabet, a couple of centuries of history and every inhabited continent, with a listing of each XI in reverse ranking order from 26th up to first. I have appended extra comments along the way where my thinking may have changed, or where cricketing developments caught up with me during the course of this series, which has been running since late July. Each XI is also accompanied by a link to the relevant selectorial post.
26TH: THE Qs
The challenge for this letter was actually finding 11 players to constitute an XI, and not surprisingly the final result was decidedly ill assorted. They managed just 7 of a possible 125 points.
While this XI has no great strength anywhere its biggest weakness was in the seam/ pace bowling department.
23RD: THE Xs
This was an XI which required a lot of chicanery to pull together. Between the creation of this XI and latter stages of the match ups a women’s tournament took place in New Zealand, and one development there was the arrival in the big time of off spinner Xara Jetly, who were I selecting this XI now would replace MaX Waller, who adds very little to the XI.
The Vs superb bowling unit did not quite propel them into the top half of the table, as they lost a split tie (both XIs scoring 69 out 125) to…
13TH: THE As
Solid batting, a top keeper and a superbly balanced bowling unit was just enough to get the As into the top half of the table, since they won their match up with the Vs.
12TH: THE Hs
Stellar batting, a great keeper and a sound captain, but not quite enough bowling to get them to the very top. Neil Harvey might replace Hussey in some people’s estimation, and I would probably have served this letter better had I steeled myself to pick an all rounder (probably George Hirst, with his bowling stock in trade being left arm pace) rather than Hendren, but dropping the scorer of the second most FC centuries ever would have been a huge call.
This exemplifies the advantage of having Rhodes available – you can pick him for any one of several roles depending on your needs. Here, Rhodes the specialist spinner was required and therefore I selected him in that capacity, the one in which he both started and finished his career. The Rs.
9TH – THE Bs
In retrospect, given that Barnes could be said to attend to the leg spinners angle of attack with his ‘Barnes ball’, as explicated by Ian Peebles, himself an England leggie, it might have made this team even better to have selected Palwankar Baloo, Bishan Singh Bedi or left arm spinning all rounder Enid Bakewell in place of Benaud (who could instead be put in charge of the commentary team) to increase the variety available in the bowling department. Nevertheless, the Bs are a fine combination, and it says more about the top eight than it does about them that they ended up ninth.
8TH: THE Gs
If the Gs can be said to have a defect it is that none of their bowlers are left armed.
7TH: THE Ts
The Ts amassed the same number of points (90 out of 125) as the Ks and the Fs, but my tie-splitting procedure ranked them third out of three. Their batting was weakened slightly by the necessity of ensuring that there were relief bowling options available for three specialist quicks who demanded inclusion, a problem resolvable only by turning to the all round talents of Frank Tarrant.
Strong and well balanced, but the Ls just missed out on a medal.
3RD: THE Ss
The Ss are a stellar combination, although Sangakkara would not be considered a top flight keeper and the spin options are limited.
2ND: THE Ms
A powerful batting line up and a superbly balanced bowling line up, with Mahmood’s leg cutter meaning that a specialist leg spinner is unlikely to be missed.
FIRST: THE Ws
A strong batting line up, a wonderfully balanced bowling attack (Wardle’s ability to bowl left arm wrist spin covers the lack of an off spinner), a quality keeper and one of the greatest of all captains. The Ws are worthy champions.
This has been a fun exercise, though challenging in parts (both weak letters where actually completing an XI takes effort and strong letters where in some cases a second or third XI would beat most of the rest of the alphabet, which require extended acknowledgements of players one has overlooked).
Not one of my largest photo galleries, but I hope you enjoy it…
Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.
Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. Today the Ls enter the spotlight, with 40.5 of a possible 55 points banked from the teams who are alphabetically ahead of them.
THE Ls V THE Ms
Considered purely an averages the Ls have the better opening pair, but 1) Labuschagne is batting out of position, 2)Morris and Merchant both played on uncovered pitches, Labuschagne didn’t, 3)Merchant’s test average is reduced by the fact that his career at that level was so very spread out – he played 10 test matches, spread over 18 years, with a world war in the middle, and in FC cricket where he played on a much more regular basis he averaged 71, second only to Bradman. In view of all of these considerations I give the Ms the better opening pair. The Ls have much the better number three, but Macartney compensates by offering a bowling option. Number four goes to the Ms, as does number five, though Lloyd rates above Miller as a captain. Miller wins the number six slot batting wise, and is of similar standard with the ball to Lindwall. Marsh comfortably wins the battle of the keepers. Both sides have superb new ball pairs, Laker and Murali are two titans of off spin bowling, while I think Langridge offers the Ls more variation than Mahmood does the Ms. I think the key here is Macartney, and for that reason I score this Ls 1.5, Ms 3.5
THE Ls V THE Ns
The Ls dominate everywhere except at number four batting wise. They also have the better keeper, a better pace attack and a better spin combination, while it is about even on captaincy. I see no way for the Ns to offer any sort of a challenge and score this one Ls 5, Ns 0.
THE Ls V THE Os
The Ls dominate, though the Os do boast the better keeper, and they have a more varied bowling unit. Still, this cannot be seen as other than exceedingly one sided: Ls 5, Os 0.
THE Ls V THE Ps
The Ls, the caveat about Labuschagne’s position notwithstanding, have the better opening pair, number three is a clash of cricketing titans, the Ps win the number four slot hands down and are marginally ahead at number five. Pant wins the batting element of his match up, though Langley was the finer keeper. Procter wins his batting match up, and probably rates close to Lindwall as a bowler. Lillee and Lohmann outrank S and P Pollock, and while Parker was a finer spinner than Langridge, Laker outranks Prasanna. I make the Ps a little stronger in batting, and the Ls stronger in bowling, and thus give the Ls the verdict: Ls 3, Ps 2.
THE Ls V THE Qs
Here the Ls absolutely dominate. The have the better batting by far, the better captain by far, the better keeper, they are utterly dominant in the pace bowling department, and though they have only two spin options to the Qs three those are the two best spinners on either side, thus there can be only one result: Ls 5, Qs 0.
THE Ls PROGRESS
The Ls have scored 19.5 out of 25 today, which moves them on to 60 out of 80, 75% so far.
This photo gallery comprises pictures taken between Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where I attended this morning for glaucoma tests. I compromised on the journey, using the bus on the way in but walking all the way home, hence the fact that the first pic is in hospital grounds.
Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I picked for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Gs are now in the spotlight.
Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against another. Today the Gs take centre stage, with 20 of a possible 30 points banked against the teams who are alphabetically ahead of them.
THE Gs V THE Hs
The Hs are one of the few teams to have a better opening pair than the Gs. George Headley is also the better number three, though not by as much as raw figures suggest – Grace was already 32 when he made his test debut and almost 51 by the end of his test career, and an average of 32 in that era is worth about 48 in later times when surfaces were by and large better for batting than in the Victorian era. Grace also outranks Hutton as a skipper. Hammond and M Hussey clearly outpoint Gower and Graveney. Gilchrist and Hendren is a draw batting wise, but the presence of Gilchrist at six indicates where the Gs strengths lie – their range of bowling options. Healy loses his batting match up against Gregory but wins the keeping match up against Gilchrist. Hadlee and Holding are a better new ball combo than Garner and Geary, but Gregory is a much better third seamer than Hammond who would play that role for the Hs. The Gs are clear of the Hs in the spin department, having the two best spinners in these squads. The Hs are stronger in batting and keeping, about even in fast bowling, behind in captaincy and way adrift in spin bowling. I don’t think that the Hs one definite advantage, in batting, will make up for the greater depth and variety of the Gs bowling (any attack in which Grace ranks sixth is exceptionally strong) and I also expect Grace’s superior captaincy to make itself felt. This is a titanic contest which I have the Gs shading – Gs 3, Hs 2.
THE Gs V THE Is
The Gs boss the batting, winning every match up in that department down to number seven. Wicket keeping honours are shared, with Gilchrist much the better batter. While acknowledging that Illingworth was a fine skipper I rate Grace ahead of him in that capacity. The Gs utterly dominate in pace bowling, and have the better spin attack though by less of a margin. This can have only one outcome: Gs 5, Is 0.
THE Gs V THE Js
The Gs have the better opening pair without doubt. As I indicated in the match up with the Hs Grace’s average equates to about 48 in more recent times, including the era when D Jones batted, and he started his test career at an older age than would be ideal, so I give the Gs the number three slot as well. The Js win the number four and five slots, and FS Jackson and Grace is a clash of the titans captaincy wise. Gilchrist wins the batting element of the keepers match up though by less than the raw figures suggest, while A Jones is clear as keeper. Gregory outpoints Jessop. The Gs comfortably win the spin bowling – Gibbs rates above Jupp, and Grimmett is miles clear of Jayasuriya, and not even the spin element of Johnston’s bowling can close the gap. Pace bowling is close – the Js trio are 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the averages, with the Gs 1st, 5th and 6th. I think the Gs top order will make a better fist of handling the left arm rockets from Mitchell Johnson than the Js do of handling the awkward problem in £D geometry posed by Garner’s extreme height. If it reverse swings at any point S Jones would be particularly dangerous. I think the Gs are winning this with a degree of comfort and score it Gs 4, Js 1.
THE Gs V THE Ks
The Gs definitely have the better opening pair. I also give them the number three slot for reasons already explained, while Grace v I Khan is another clash of the titans captaincy wise. The Ks win the number four and five slots, though Gower’s left handedness (improving the balance of the batting order) and the more difficult conditions in which Graveney batted reduce the margins of superiority. Gilchrist is streets clear of Kirmani with the bat, but the Indian was the finer keeper. Imran Khan beats Gregory in both departments. Personally although neither got play test cricket (King was a USian – the best player that country has ever produced, while Kortright was in his prime during a very strong era for English cricket) I rate the Ks two specialist fast bowlers ahead of Garner and Geary, and also award King the number eight batting match up. The Gs spinners are better balance, being an off spinner and a leg spinner, which I think is enough to give them that department. I cannot pick a winner of this one: Gs 2.5, Ks 2.5.
THE Gs V THE Ls
I think the Gs have the better opening combo (Labuschagne is playing out of position for the Ls), but the Ls win the number three slot (albeit by much less than the raw figures suggest). The Ls also win the number four and five slots. Gilchrist comfortably wins the keepers match up against Langley, the Ls have the better pace trio, but the Gs have the better spinners, Grimmett outperforming James Langridge more than Laker outperforms Gibbs. I just give this one to the Gs – Gs 3, Ls 2.
THE Gs SO FAR
The Gs have scored 17.5 out of 25 today, putting them on 37.5 out of 55 so far, 68.18% at the moment.
Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.
Welcome to the latest instalment in my analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Today the Fs are the in the spotlight, and they start the day with 35 out of a possible 50 points.
THE Fs V THE Ls
The Ls are stronger in batting, winning all of the top six slots in this department, though the Fs win in positions 7-9 inclusive. The Ls also win the spin bowling department, with Laker and Langridge clearly the two best spinners in the contest. The Fs have an advantage in pace bowling, especially given that all three of the Ls pacers bowled right handed. This is close but I think the Ls have enough of an advantage to win: Fs 2, Ls 3.
THE Fs V THE Ms
The Ms outdo the Fs on batting and on pace bowling, and also have the best spinner on show, although the Fs have more depth in this department. The Fs will not go down without a fight, but they are outgunned: Fs 1, Ms 4.
THE Fs V THE Ns
The Fs have better batting than the Ns, a better keeper, better fast bowlers and better spinners: Fs 5, Ns 0.
THE Fs V THE Os
The Fs dominate in all departments: Fs 5, Os 0.
THE Fs V THE Ps
The Ps are stronger in batting than the Fs, but the Fs have the better bowling unit, and I expect this latter to be the telling factor. The Fs also have the better keeper. Fs 3, Ps 2.
THE Fs PROGRESS REPORT
The Fs have scored 16 out of 25 points today, moving them on to 51 points of out 75, 68% overall.
Continuing my analysis of how my all-time XIs for each letter of the alphabet stack up against each other.
I am continuing my analysis of how my all-time XIs for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. The Bs XI are currently in the hot seat, and come into today on 19.5 points out of a possible 30.
THE Bs V THE Hs
The Bs are ahead on batting, with only Hussey of the top five out batting his counterpart from the the Bs XI, but Hendren and Healy are both better with the bat than their opposite numbers. Healy wins the clash of the keepers. While Hadlee and Holding are close to Barnes and Bumrah as a prospective new ball pairing, Botham has to be preferred as third seamer to Hammond. Bates and Benaud are at least the equal as spinners of Harmer and Herath. I score this one Bs 3.5, Hs 1.5.
THE Bs V THE Is
This is a monster mismatch – only Imtiaz Ahmed with the bat beats his opposite number. Shoriful Islam and Anthony Ireland are hopelessly outclassed as a new ball pairing by Barnes and Bumrah, while Illingworth loses to fellow Yorkie Bates in the off spinning all rounders clash – adjusting their figures for improved pitches by the time Illingworth was playing, Bates is equivalent to an Illingworth era or later player averaging 40 with the bat and 25 with the ball, so he comfortably beats Illingworth in both departments. Ironmonger beats Benaud as a bowler, though he was of zero value with the bat. Quite simply there are no circumstances in which the Is can be envisaged troubling the Bs and I score this Bs 5, Is 0.
THE Bs V THE Js
This looks like a mismatch but 1) The Js have an extra front line bowling option compared to the Bs, 2)A Jones is a much better bat than the figures from her few test appearances suggest and is a superb keeper, 3) Jessop was the ultimayte x-factor player. Johnston, S Jones, Johnson and Jessop give the Js a clear edge in the seam bowling department, Jupp is good match for Bates, and though Benaud beats Jayasuriya with the ball, the Sri Lankan is well clear with the bat. The Bs advantage with the bat will probably tell in their favour, but this is much closer than it appears it first sight and I score it Bs 3, Js 2.
THE Bs V THE Ks
The Bs have their usual advantage in the top batting slots, with only Kallis beating his opposite number in that department. However, Khan wins the battle of the all rounders, Kirmani rates above Bari with both bat and gloves. King, Kortright and Khan represent a fearsome pace trio, with Kallis a decidedly useful fourth seamer. Although them both being leg spinners is less than ideal there is enough of a contrast in bowling styles between R Khan and Kumble to mitigate that, and they are a good match for Bates and Benaud. Here I think the Ks bowling depth will swing it for them: Bs 2, Ks 3.
THE Bs V THE Ls
Once again the Bs dominate the top batting positions, but Langridge wins the battle of the allrounders, Langley and Bari are level pegging. In bowling Lindwall, Lillee and Lohmann outpoint Barnes, Bumrah and Botham – even if you rate Barnes and Bumrah one and two in the pacers department, Lillee, the third best of the Ls on statistics is far clear of Botham as a bowler. Laker and Langridge are about level with Bates and Benaud. I do not see the Bs batting advantage saving them here, and I score a close contest as Bs 2, Ls 3.
THE Bs PROGRESS UPDATE
The Bs have scored 15.5 out of 25 in these five match ups and are therefore up to 35 points out of 55, a score of 63.63%. The As were on 28 at this same stage of their progress.
A couple of pieces of news and a continuation of my exploration of the All Time XIs theme with a team whose surnames all begin with L.
Before I get to the main meat of this blog post – another variation on the all time XIs theme I have a couple of pieces of news to share.
HERITAGE OPEN DAY
Yesterday I got the news of my stewarding commitment for Heritage Open Day (Sunday 11th September), and I regard it as a plum posting: the Red Mount Chapel, between 10AM and noon. I have visited this remarkable place a number of times, including during last year’s Heritage Open Day.
Now we move on to the main meat of the post, a look at the greatest cricketers to have surnames beginning with the letter L.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Bill Lawry (Australia). A dour left handed opener, his test record speaks for itself.
Marnus Labuschagne (Glamorgan, Australia). One of the best contemporary test match batters in the world. He generally bats at three, but I am moving up one place to open due to the number high quality batters I have to accommodate and the fact that there are not many regular openers of quality who had surnames beginning with L.
Brian Lara (Warwickshire, West Indies). The only person to twice hold the world record individual score in test cricket and one of only two (Bradman being the other) to simultaneously hold the world FC and test record individual scores.
VVS Laxman (India). A monumental 281 vs Australia in 2001 helped set up only the third instance of a team coming back from being made to follow on to win a test match. He was part of a massively strong middle order, playing alongside Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly in their prime.
*Clive Lloyd (Lancashire, West Indies). A shoo-in for the captaincy of this side, as one of the two greatest West Indian skippers ever (Frank Worrell being the other). 110 test matches yielded him 7,515 runs, and he quite often only had to bat once because of the immense strength of his West Indies side.
James Langridge (Sussex, England). A left arm spin bowling all rounder, his international opportunities were limited by him being a contemporary of Hedley Verity who had first dibs on the left arm spinner’s spot. Nonetheless his test averages were the right way round, while in the course of his long first class career he averaged 35 with the bat and 21 with the ball.
+Gil Langley (Australia). One of the many great wicket keepers produced by Australia over the years. He was the first keeper to make as many as nine dismissals in a single test match, a feat later equalled by Rodney Marsh and bettered by Jack Russell.
Ray Lindwall (Australia). One of the greatest of all fast bowlers and a handy enough lower order batter to have scored two test centuries.
George Lohmann (Surrey, England). The cheapest wicket taking average of anyone to have claimed 100+ test wickets – 110 at 10.75 each, also by far the quickest strike rate of any taker of 100+ wickets at that level – one every 34 balls.
Jim Laker (Surrey, Essex, England). For my money the greatest off spinner ever to play the game. 193 wickets in 46 test matches, at 21 a piece. His absolute peak was the 1956 Ashes when he took 46 wickets at 9.60 a piece in the series, including a test AND FC record match analysis of 19-90 at Old Trafford. In the tour match for Surrey v Australia he took 10-88 in the first innings of the match, bowling 46 overs on that occasion. His most shattering single piece of bowling came at Bradford in 1950 when playing for England against The Rest he took 8-2 (one of the singles being a gift to Eric Bedser) as The Rest collapsed to 27 all out.
Dennis Lillee (Northamptonshire, Australia). A former holder of the record for most career test wickets – 355 in 71 test matches. He was at least two great bowlers – a fire and brimstone quick in his younger days, and a superbly accurate fast-medium bowler late in his career.
This team has a strong top five, albeit one of them batting out of position, a great all rounder, a great keeper and four great and well varied bowlers. Two genuine quicks in Lindwall and Lillee, a very crafty medium pacer in Lohmann, Laker’s off spin and Langridge’s left arm spin represents a strong and superbly balanced bowling attack.
I considered two specialist openers in addition to Lawry. John Langridge, brother of James, scored 76 first class hundreds and tallied over 34,000 FC runs but never gained an England cap. The other possibility, as a rebuke to Cricket South Africa for their treatment of her, was Lizelle Lee, hounded into international retirement by her board. However, although I recognize that there is an element of a gamble in playing a regular number three as an opener I would challenge any who insist on selecting one of these openers to say who out of Lara, Laxman and Lloyd you will drop to accommodate Labuschagne in his preferred number three slot.
Another fine middle order batter who had to miss out was the little West Indian battler Gus Logie.
The choice of James Langridge as all rounder meant that two high quality left arm spinners missed out: Tony Lock and Jack Leach. Left arm wrist spinner Jake Lintott may well merit consideration for this XI in a few years time, but he has played very little long form cricket as yet.
The best quick bowlers to miss out were Bill Lockwood and Harold Larwood. Lockwood was one of the pioneers of the slower ball, but as fine a cricketer as he was he could not dislodge Lindwall. Harold Larwood had one great test series (the 1932-3 Ashes when he claimed 33 wickets), but otherwise a fairly ordinary international career, and could hardly therefore be seen as a challenger to the consistent excellence of Lindwall and Lillee. Brett Lee was quick but somewhat erratic, reflected in his slightly high test bowling average. Geoff Lawson had a patchy career and was not worth serious consideration.
Our look at the letter L is at an end and it remains only to produce my usual sign off…