All Time XIs – County Stalwarts vs Tried & Untrusted

A variation on the All Time XIs theme in which I create a squad of top county players who never got the England call and a squad of guys who got more England calls than their achievements merited.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to a variation on the all-time XIs theme (don’t forget that all 18 of my first class county posts can be viewed from here). In this post I create two XIs, one consisting of successful county players who for various reasons never got the call from the England selectors, and the second made up of people whose records suggest that they played more test cricket than they deserved (and in all cases enough matches to form a definite opinion). I examine the merits of my two combinations and assess the likely outcome of the match. I start with…

THE COUNTY STALWARTS

  1. Alan Jones (Glamorgan) – 36,049 first class runs, 56 centuries and no test caps. He batted left handed and was an occasional off spin bowler.
  2. John Langridge (Sussex) – 34,378 first class runs including 76 centuries. He was also a good enough fielder to pouch 788 catches in his 574 first class appearances. 
  3. Edgar Oldroyd (Yorkshire) – 15,925 first class runs including 36 centuries. A consistent and reliable no 3 in one of Yorkshire’s many very strong periods. He may well hold the record for time spent padded up ready to bat since the usual opening pair for Yorkshire in his day, Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes shared no fewer than 74 century opening stands, 69 of them for the county. His grand-daughter Eleanor is now a well a known commentator and broadcaster. He was a right hand bat and an occasional bowler of right arm medium pace and off spin.
  4. Percy Perrin (Essex) – 29,709 runs in first class cricket, including 66 centuries. An irony of his career is that although he was never picked for England as a player he did become a selector and ultimately chairman of selectors. He was a right hand bat.
  5. Tony Cottey (Glamorgan) – 14,567 first class runs including 35 centuries. The diminutive Cottey (officially 5’4″) also had the knack of scoring his runs when they were most needed. He was a right handed batter who liked to attack (I saw him make a wonderful century at Swansea which was made to look even better by the way Messrs Hayhurst and Bowler scratched around for Somerset the following day – so torturous was the former’s 96 that I was feeling sufficiently uncharitable as to be relieved when he missed out on his century – justice was done, when Robert Croft spun through the Somerset second innings and Glamorgan took a well earned victory). He also occasionally bowled off breaks.
  6. Ernie Robson (Somerset) – 12,620 first class runs, 1147 first class wickets taken with his swing bowling. He was 25 when his first class career began in 1895, and 53 when he finished in 1923. He was still troubling opposition batters to the end, and settled one match in that final season by walloping a maximum in the last possible over. Sir Jack Hobbs rated him one of the most difficult bowlers he faced.
  7. Bill East (Northamptonshire) – 4,012 first class runs and 499 wickets. A right handed middle order batter and medium pace bowler, he was one of the two people chiefly responsible along with George Thompson for his county gaining first class status. He was already 33 years old by the time this happened in 1905, but played on until the outbreak of war in 1914.
  8. Don Shepherd (Glamorgan) – 2218 wickets at 21.32, more than anyone lese who never played test cricket, 5,696 first class runs. He bowled off cutters rather than true spin.
  9. +David Hunter (Yorkshire) – more first class dismissals than any other keeper not to gain international recognition.
  10. Tom Wass (Nottinghamshire) – 1,666 wickets in 312 first class matches at 20.46 each. He could bowl fast medium or leg spin.
  11. *George Dennett (Gloucestershire) – 2,151 wickets at 19.82 each. He was unlucky to be a contemporary of Rhodes and Blythe (Kent), two of the greatest left arm spinners in history. Against Northamptonshire in 1907 he had one of the most astonishing match performances not to be crowned with victory (see also William Mycroft, in my Derbyshire post). After Gloucestershire had struggled to 60 in their first innings (Jessop 22), Northants were dismissed for 12 (Dennett 8-9, Jessop 2-3), Gloucestershire then scored 88 second time around (Jessop 24) and Northamptonshire fared slightly better in their second dig, reaching 40-7 (Dennett 7-12), and the general reckoning is that had there been time for even one more Dennett over the game would have been done, but Northants were saved by rain, and Dennett, with 15-21 in the match, had to settle for a draw. Bizarrely, given the combined Northants effort of 52-17, the only player in the game to bag ’em was Dennett himself.

This team has a very solid top five, two all rounders at six and seven, three specialist bowlers and a superb wicket keeper. Now it is time to move on to…

TRIED AND UNTRUSTED

  1. Keaton Jennings (Durham and Lancashire) – even a fine tour of Sri Lanka, for which many would not have picked him, only boosted his average to 25.19 from 17 test matches. The left hander was named in the tour party for Sri Lanka this year before coronavirus caused that tour to be put on the back burner. Presumably when test cricket resumes England’s top three will be Burns, Sibley and Crawley, so it seems reasonable to presume that he has played his last game as an England opener.
  2. Mark Stoneman (Durham and Surrey) – this may get me excommunicated in the northeast, but while entitled to your own opinions, you do not get to pick your own facts, and the harsh facts here are that having had 11 test matches Stoneman averages 27.68, with a best of 60 (having been given three lives along the way), not the stuff of which test openers are made.
  3. Joe Denly (Kent) – some will see this inclusion as harsh, even draconian, and I freely concede that Denly has done a useful job as a stopgap no 3 in a difficult period. However, once again, you do not get to pick your own facts, and Denly averages precisely 30 from his 14 test match appearances (26 innings), which is not the stuff of which proper test match no 3s are made. The England selectors snookered themselves by failing to prepare for Cook’s retirement, an eventuality which Polyphemus could have seen coming even after Odysseus had finished with him and persisting with Jennings for far too long after he had been exposed as not being of test class, and were also handicapped by a major falling away in Bairstow’s red ball contribution, but with Burns, Sibley and Crawley now established it seems that Denly can safely be regarded as a former test cricketer.
  4. Mark Ramprakash (Middlesex, Surrey) – 52 test match appearances, a measly two centuries and an average of 27.32 constitute a massive underachievement by the last cricketer to reach the career milestone of 100 first class hundreds. Many found the fact of his failure at the highest level hard to accept, and as late as 2009 there were voices calling for his selection when England needed a new batter for the final match of that year’s Ashes series at The Oval. Fortunately, 21st century England selections have in general been more sensible than those of the 1980s and 1990s (not a high bar!) and quite correctly Jonathan Trott as ‘next cab in the rank’ got the nod.
  5. Graham Roope (Surrey) – an average of 30.71 from his 21 tests (compare with fellow 1970s picks Steele – average 42.06 from eight test matches – and Radley – avergae 48.10 from eight test matches – who both played fewer games), highest score 77. On the credit side of the ledger that 77 did come against the Aussies, as England made 538 in their second innings at The Oval in 1975 to save the game.
  6. Geoff Miller (Derbyshire, Essex) – actually one place lower than he often batted for England. 34 test matches yielded him 1,213 runs at 25.80 (HS 98 not out), and 60 wickets at 30.98. The bowling average sounds almost respectable, but there is a strong “anti-mitigating” factor – that wicket taking rate of less than two per match, which simply does not permit him to be regarded as a front line bowler.
  7. David Capel (Northamptonshire) – One of the many who suffered from attempts to fill a Botham shaped hole that was opening in England’s ranks during the second half of the 1980s. 15 test matches brought him 374 runs at 15.58 and 21 wickets at 50.66.
  8. +Geraint Jones (Kent) – yes, he played his part in the 2005 Ashes triumph, but his less than polished wicket keeping was excused on grounds of what he could do with the bat, and average of 23.91 from 34 test matches is nothing special. He has a place in the ‘exotic birthplaces’ squad, having been born in Papua New Guinea.
  9. *Derek Pringle (Essex) – to me, and I suspect many other English cricket followers of my generation, this man is the living embodiment of the antithesis of an all rounder. I was actually surprised to note that his 30 test appearances yielded a batting average of 15.10 and a bowling average of 35.97 – I expected even worse. However, when I first saw him play in 1986 he came in at no 6, and was being touted as an all rounder. His bowling is also subject to the ‘anti-mitigation factor’ that he only took 70 wickets in those 30 test matches – 2.3 per match, approximately half the wicket taking rate required from a front line bowler. Additionally he was not the most mobile of fielders and had a dreadful throw (in fact usually bowling the ball in rather than producing a proper throw). The award of the captaincy to him reflects his status as to me the ultimate in being “tried and not trusted”.
  10. Ian Salisbury (Sussex, Surrey) – leg spinner who bowled at least as many bad ‘uns as he did good ‘uns. His 15 test appearances netted him 20 wickets at 76.95, and at a time when test scoring rates were generally lower than they are now he went at 3.70 an over. I considered the left arm slow bowler (not spinner – if he ever got one to turn I did not see it) Richard Illingworth (Worcestershire), but the latter had the sole merit of accuracy, which means that while not generally penetrative his bowling average remained at least semi-respectable.
  11. Peter Martin (Lancashire) – a classic example of a type of player I saw far too much of in the 1980s and 1990s, the guy who experiences some success bowling a bit quicker than medium for his county but looks innocuous at a higher level. A bowling average of 34.11 from eight test matches may not sound terrible, but the ‘anti-mitigation factor’ comes into play – he only took 17 wickets, just over two per game in those matches. Had he had 34 wickets at 34 I would have said that at least he demonstrated an ability to take wickets, and maybe the average would come down in future, but with 17 in eight matches there was not even that straw to grasp at.

This team has a top five who can confidently be expected not to score heavily enough, three varying types of ‘anti-all rounder’, an unreliable wicket keeper and two specialist bowlers neither of whom are likely to take wickets and one of whom will very probably get smacked around – quite like a late 1980s and 1990s England team in fact! I also reckon that skipper Pringle will make plenty of wrong decisions.

THE VERDICT

Our team of good county players who never got the test nod looks a well balanced combination, with just about every base covered. The ‘tried and untrusted’ team looks a rabble. I would expect the team of non-internationals to win by a huge margin – the ‘contest’ would probably make the 2006-7 Ashes look like a nailbiter!

Remember that this exercise is just a bit of fun, and if disputing some of my picks remember that while you are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts.

PHOTOGRAPHS

We have completed our journey through the “County Stalwart” and “Tried and Untrusted” XIs, and all that is left for me is to supply my usual sign off (and field the comments when they come)…

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The next four pictures are from my little bit of garden.

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Uncapped v Overcapped
The two teams in tabulated form.

 

 

 

Tammy Beaumont and Women Playing Alongside Men

A radical suggestion for dealing with the England men’s teams top order batting woes…

INTRODUCTION

Having introduced my new series about cricketers in my last post I now move on to an opening batter who provides a springboard for plenty of other ideas.

VALE ATQUE AVE

The 2015 English cricket season started with the news of the dropping and subsequent international retirement of Charlotte Edwards after a long and illustrious career (she features later in this series). Who was going to fill the monster sized vacancy that her departure left at the top of the England women’s batting order? 

The first England women’s squad post the dropping and retirement of Edwards featured an opening pair of Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield. Beaumont immediately began making big runs in her new role at the top of the order, and remarkably a fairly seamless transition from one era to the next took place.

OPENING WOES IN THE MENS TEAM

Meanwhile in the ranks of the England men’s team a gaping hole was emerging at the top of the batting order. Alastair Cook, so long an absolute rock in that position, seemed to have gone into irreversible decline and none of those selected to partner him looked remotely good enough. Mark Stoneman went after a sequence of test matches that brought him four 5o plus scores but never saw him get as far as 60 (and he had several lives in the course of his top score of 59). He was replaced by Keaton Jennings who has scored two test hundreds but who is also looking at an average of 25.86 after 16 test matches (at least 15 runs per innings light for a specialist batter at that level). 

When Cook announced that he was retiring from international cricket the problem became greater still. Rory Burns of Surrey was an obvious candidate for one slot at the top of the order, having scored far more runs than anyone else in the English season. For the the other England faced a difficult decision between the following:

  1. Stick with the underachieving Jennings and hope for miracles.
  2. Revert to Stoneman with even less chance of success
  3. Bring in a second brand new opener and hope that (at least) one of the newbies hits their straps right from the start.
  4. Faced with an assortment of unappealing options as listed above go for someone who has been making stacks of international runs at the top of the order and give Tammy Beaumont her chance to play alongside the men.

In the event England took option one, and one big score for him in Sri Lanka apart it has not worked out either for them or for Jennings. In the test match currently under way at St Lucia England are doing well, but they have not had many top order runs to work with, although Burns batted a long time in the first innings. In the first two tests of this series England were roundly defeated, and the less said about their batting efforts, the better. 

COULD A WOMAN PLAY ALONGSIDE THE MEN?

The short answer is yes. I would not expect a female fast bowler to be able to hold their own as power is so important in this department, but in batting, fielding, wicketkeeping and slow bowling, where there is less of a premium on pure power I see no reason why a female could not hold their own with the men, and my suggestion relates specifically to an opening batter. 

If some new opener makes a succession of centuries in the early part of the English season , thereby forcing themselves on the selectors my current thinking may be modified, but at the moment I remain convinced that the best solution to the England Mens team’s opening woes is to give Beaumont her chance and see what happens.

THOMAS SQUAD FOR 1ST ASHES MATCH

I have misgivings about someone who is almost 33 starting a test career from fresh, but Joe Denly’s 69 in St Lucia would seem to have earned him an extended run, so it is on that basis that he features in my squad for the first Ashes Match. I will list the names, and then append some explanations:

  1. I Beaumont
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Joe Denly
  4. Joe Root*
  5. Joss Buttler
  6. Ben Foakes+
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Sam Curran
  9. Adil Rashid
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Mark Wood
  12. James Anderson
  13. Olly Stone

I have named 13 because the exact make up the bowling unit will depend on the nature of the pitch and the conditions. I regard Anderson, Wood and Stone as essential for the seam attack (two outright quicks, and England’s all-time leading wicket taker), with Leach and Rashid in that order of precedence as spin options should conditions warrant it, and Curran as a fourth front-line seamer (possibly batting at 7 in place of Stokes) should conditions warrant that option. Bairstow at no 3, as a specialist batter, is also an option but would seem shockingly inconsistent given the Denly has produced a significant score in St Lucia, which is why he is not there in my list.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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A recent acquisition, which has also featured on my London Transport themed website.

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England 3 South Africa 1

My thoughts on the recently concluded series between England and South Africa mens teams, plus some photographs from work.

INTRODUCTION

On Monday I listened to what turned out to be the final day of the test series between England and South Africa (Tuesday would have been available had South Africa taken the game that far but they never really looked like doing so). In this post I look back at the match and the series.

THIS MATCH

England batted first and made at least 50 more than they should have done in the circumstances, getting to 360. When the ninth England wicket fell South Africa turned to the “clever ruse” of dropping the field back to allow the major batter (Jonny Bairstow on this occasion) to take singles so that they could bowl at the no11. This is a dubious tactic in any case, but South Africa’s execution of it was downright bad – on a number of occasions Bairstow took twos early in the over, which should never happen when this tactic is in play. I can think of no occasion on which it can be demonstrated that a side fared worse by attacking at both ends than they would be adopting this tactic, whereas I offer the following examples of times where adopting it caused problems:

  • Perth 1978 – Australia eight down for not many facing and England total of over 300, Mike Brearley gives Peter Toohey with 50 to his name singles so as to attack Geoff Dymock. The ninth wicket pair stage a very irritating partnership. In the end England’s superior skill and professionalism tell (Australia were depleted by the Packer affair and Graham Yallop proved to be a very poor captain). My source for this story is Brearley himself in “The Art of Captaincy”.
  • Melbourne 1982 – The ninth Australian wicket in their second innings falls with them still needing 74 for victory. England allow Border singles so they can attack Thomson, the no 11. Australia get to within a boundary hit of victory before Thomson flashes at a wide one from Botham and is caught by Miller with an assist from Tavare.
  • Sydney 2010 – Pakistan have bossed the game against Australia, leading by over 200 on first innings, and Australia are only 80 to the good with two second innings wickets standing going into the 4th morning. Pakistan decline to attack Hussey, and Siddle plays a straight bat the relatively few deliveries he has to face. In the end Pakistan need 176 to win, which is far more than they were expecting. The pressure is too much for an inexperienced batting line up, especially once Mohamed Yousuf has compounded his failure as captain by falling to a very poor shot to leave his side 57-4. Australia end up winning by almost 40 runs.

South Africa’s response, if it can be so described, was to scrape together 226 for a deficit of 136. A fine innings by Moeen Ali in the second England innings takes England to a lead of 379. Dean Elgar fell cheaply to start the South African second innings, and by the lunch interval Heino Kuhn and Temba Bavuma had also been accounted for. Amla and Duplessis resisted stoutly for a time, but the dismissal of Amla sparked a collapse, with no one else making a significant contribution as 163-3 at the high point of the innings subsided to 202 all out. Moeen Ali took five of the wickets to finish with 25 for the series alongside over 250 runs for the series (the first time this double has been achieved in a series of fewer than five matches). Moeen Ali was player of the match, and also player of the series for his all-round efforts.

THE SERIES AS A WHOLE

Barring the aberration at Trent Bridge this was a series that England dominated, and 3-1 is a fair reflection of that fact. Lord’s (it is named after Thomas Lord of Thirsk, so Lord’s is technically correct) saw the only really huge first innings tally of the series, and from that point on England were always going to win that match. I wrote in some detail about the Trent Bridge debacle at the time. At The Oval (these days there is always a sponsor’s name attached but I refuse to mention them whoever they may be) England made a respectable first innings total and South Africa crumbled, while this final match at Old Trafford went along similar lines. 

THE PLAYERS

I am going to finish the text element of this post by looking at both sets of players, starting with South Africa.

Dean Elgar – a tough competitor whose second innings 136 at The Oval when all around him were surrendering was a stand out performance. 

Heino Kuhn – resembles a test-class opener about as closely as Liam Dawson resembles a test-class all-rounder. The only surprise out his dismissal during the morning session fo what turned into the final day of the series was that it did not come sooner.

Hashim Amla – a magnificent batter now nearing the end of his illustrious career. This was not a great series for him but his fighting 83 in the final innings was a splendid effort.

Quinton De Kock – fine wicketkeeper and on his day a very destructive batter, but was miscast in the key number four role where was too often coming in with the team reeling from early blows. He was moved down for the final match of the series, but this was his equivalent of Adam Gilchrist’s 2005 in England – batting wise a series to forget.

Faf Du Plessis – it continues to be debatable whether he is worth a place as a batter, but the team play much better under his captaincy than when he is not present. 

Temba Bavuma – a very reliable batter. He needs to develop ways of keeping the scoreboard ticking – at the moment it takes him a very long time to score his runs.

Theunis De Bruyn – anonymous in this series, he did nothing significant with the bat and his bowling was not much used.

Chris Morris – occasional moments with his hard-hitting batting but his bowling was very expensive.

Vernon Philander – a great cricketer, but like Alan Davidson and Chris Old before him he is somewhat of a hypochondriac. He did not contribute fully to this series.

Keshav Maharaj – South Africa’s leading wicket taker of the series. 

Kagiso Rabada – A fine fast bowler who bowled well in this series and at times did enough with the bat to have embarrassed some of bhis supposed betters in that department.

Morne Morkel – A solid series – it was not South Africa’s bowlers who were chiefly responsible for their defeat in this series.

Duanne Olivier – more will certainly be seen of this young fast bowler.

Now for England…

Alastair Cook – continues to steadily ascend the test run scoring lists – in the course of this series he went past Allan Border’s aggregate. His effort on the truncated first day at The Oval put England in control of that game, a position consolidated by Ben Stokes’ century.

Keaton Jennings – surely he has run out chances after a series in which his highest individual score was 48 and during which he never looked convincing. 

Gary Ballance – given a chance to re-establish himself in the side because he scores so many in domestic cricket he failed, and looked out of place. He was deservedly one of the casualties of the Trent Bridge debacle.

Tom Westley – a solid start to his test career. He looks like he belongs in the test arena and I expect to see a lot more of him.

Joe Root – his first series as test captain, and with a 3-1 series win and himself being leading run scorer on either side for the series it was a splendid start. 

Dawid Malan – came in to the side after the loss at Trent Bridge and has not yet done much.

Jonny Bairstow – an excellent series with both bat and gloves.

Ben Stokes – regular contributor of runs, wickets and catches. Like the man I will be dealing with next he is that rarity, a genuine all-rounder.

Moeen Ali – deservedly named player of the series, he was outstanding with bat and ball. 

Liam Dawson – my comments about Heino Kuhn suggest that I do not rate Mr Dawson, and that impression is correct. He has neither the batting nor the bowling to be of use in test match cricket. If conditions warrant two spinners pick a real spinner, and if they don’t Moeen Ali will be the sole spinner.

Toby Roland-Jones – he started his test career firing with both barrels – a five-for including the top four in the opposition batting order, and has done well in both his matches so far. 

Stuart Broad – a good series for the big fast bowler. 

Mark Wood – two matches in the series, total figures 1-197 – ’nuff said.

James Anderson – 20 wickets in the series at 14 each. At the age of 35 he remains arguably the finest user of a new ball in world cricket. The authorities at his home ground of Old Trafford have recently paid him the compliment of naming one of their bowling ends in his honour – and he responded by taking four cheap wickets from that end at the first time of asking. I reckon he still has a couple of good years left in him which would enable him to sign off with a home world cup followed by a home Ashes series.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I always like to include photographs in my posts, and although I have none relating to cricket, here are a few from yesterday at work (these will be going under the hammer on August 30th, our second end of August auction, with a sale happening at our shop on Friday August 25th – more on this in a later post):

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Lot 1403 – there is a little wallet incorporated in the inside back cover of the book to store the map when folded.

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Lot 1415 – the largest railway map I have ever seen – and it has stout front and back panels so that when folded it looks a bit like a book.

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A stamp on the back of one the ordinary panels.
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The front panel
1415-d
The back panel
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Lot 1422 – A more modern and much smaller railway map, with promotional material on the reverse (four images)

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Lot 1428 – Some south Wales railway history.