All Time XIs – The Letter L

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.

PRESS COVERAGE OF WNAG

Your Local Paper have produced an article about the Beer Festival at Stewart House raising funds for the West Norfolk Autism Group.

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

  1. Bill Lawry (Australia). A dour left handed opener, his test record speaks for itself.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. *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.
  6. 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.
  7. +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.
  8. Ray Lindwall (Australia). One of the greatest of all fast bowlers and a handy enough lower order batter to have scored two test centuries.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our look at the letter L is at an end and it remains only to produce my usual sign off…

A Concatenation of Cricket

A look at each of BBL10, AusvInd and SLvENG (preview), including a mention of Claire Polosak’s history making involvement at the SCG, plus a link to a superb thread about Kohli, Smith and Williamson and my usual sign off.

There is a massive amount of cricket going on the moment, with the Big Bash League in full swing, Australia locked in battle with India in the test arena and England engaged in an intra-squad tussle as a warm-up match before their test series in Sri Lanka gets underway. This post will therefore be a long one.

AUSTRALIA V INDIA

Australia managed for the first time in the series to get a respectable first innings score on the board. However, they have plenty of cause for concern nevertheless. 338 is not commanding on a decent batting pitch, and 284 of those runs came from just three players: Smith 131, Labuschagne 91 and debutant Pucovski with 62. India were 96-2 by the end of the second day, and it should develop into a fine game. Ravi Jadeja, whose selection some were questioning, bagged four wickets with his left arm spin and also made an extraordinary run out when he had one stump to aim at from 45 metres, and hit it. Inexcusably, no Indian fielder had got into a position to back the throw up, so it was hit or bust for Jadeja, and he hit. Much of day 1 was lost to rain, which is why the run aggregate looks small for two days play. This match is also significant for the fact that the 4th umpire is Claire Polosak, the first female to officiate in a men’s test match. At the age of 32, she has many years left in which to rise further up the officiating pecking order.

THE BIG BASH LEAGUE

There has been some excellent action in the Big Bash League lately. Today’s game between the Strikers and the Renegades was one of the best games of the tournament, the Renegades getting home with one ball to spare. Renegades also won the Bash Boost point, gaining the full four points. However, even with the rather generous qualifying arrangements in this tournament (the top five go through to the knockout stage, and only eight teams are involved), Renegades remain seven points adrift of a qualifying slot with only five games to play. All of the other seven teams have realistic chances of continuing their involvement. Personally, for an eight team, single group, tournament I would allow just three teams to advance, and incentivize top finishers by arranging the mini-knockout as follows: the group winners go straight into the final, while second place take on third place in an eliminator, with second place rewarded for their own greater success in the group by being given home advantage for that match. With five teams qualifying you do not have to do that well to get through (even Renegades, though rank outsiders, are not completely out of contention yet, and the best they can finish with from their 14 games is won seven, lost seven, an exactly even record, and not one that IMO should have a chance of being rewarded with qualification).

There have been some very individualistic talents on display in the BBL, which set me thinking about a team of players who were uncompromising in doing things their own way. This was my chosen selection:

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types, captain. Before his emergence batting was very specialized, batters concentrating on either playing off the back or front foot, and in some cases specializing in one particular stroke. He demonstrated that it was possible for a batter to play a complete game, scoring off both front and back foot, and making use of a wide range of stroked to do so. He was so successful in doing things his way that he single-handedly altered the course of cricket history, setting the game on a course it would follow pretty much unaltered for a century.
  2. George Gunn – right handed opening batter. No one ever knew quite what he would do – he might come down the pitch in a fast bowler’s first over, or he might eschew stroke making altogether.
  3. Ted Dexter – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He was often accused of losing concentration because he often got out between 70 and 100. CLR James however was of the opinion that what happened was that when a hundred appeared on the horizon Dexter started concentrating, rather than just playing his natural game.
  4. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. It is in keeping with Compton’s general approach that when he decided to develop his bowling he opted for the least frequently used of all bowling styles, left arm wrist spin. On one famous occasion he overbalanced while playing his stroke, brought has bat round in a sweep as he was falling and still collected four runs.
  5. Viv Richards – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. At Old Trafford in 1984 Derek Pringle, following the received wisdom of the day, attempted to tie Richards, going well, but with only lower order batters for support, down with a low full toss. Most batters of the time would have been happy with a single, and delighted had they got the ball away for four. Richards whipped it over mid wicket for six. Richards at the end of that innings had 189 not out in a score of 272-9, an ODI individual scoring record that remained his until Saeed Anwar topped it with 194, some years later. A demoralised England never looked like getting close to chasing those runs down.
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most outrageously gifted cricketer of them all, he started as a left arm spinner batting low in the order, became one of the greatest of all batters. He also taught himself to bowl fast, and while playing Lancashire League cricket he learned to swing the ball under the leaden skies that are a feature of that part of the world.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ‘gun’ fielder. The fastest scoring batter in the game’s history, a useful bowler and a brilliant fielder.
  8. +Alan Knott – wicket keeper, right handed batter. As a batter he was highly effective in a very unorthodox way. Similarly, his keeping, among the best the game has ever seen, was marked by an absolute unconcern for appearance, so long as it worked. He would tape the top of his keeping pads to his trousers to make sure that they could not flap and thereby possibly incommode him.
  9. Cecil Parkin – right arm ‘all sorts’ bowler. He had a penchant for bowling six different types of ball per over. When it wasn’t his day this made setting a field for him difficult, but when it was his day he was well nigh unplayable.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. That designation tells about 1% of the story. His signature weapon was a leg break delivered at fast medium pace. The nearest any other bowler came to rediscovering this delivery was Alec Bedser immediately after World War II. When Barnes was bowling, it did not much matter who the captain was – Barnes was in control, and everyone, fielders and batters alike knew it.
  11. Jack Iverson – right arm wrist spinner. An unusual designation to use, appropriately since he was a mighty unusual bowler. He bowled with a leg spinner’s action, but sent down off breaks. His extraordinary life and career are covered splendidly in Gideon Haigh’s “Mystery Spinner”.

Two honourable mentions: Johnny Wardle, a master of all forms of left arm spin, but lack of space combined with the presence of Sobers and Compton induced me to not pick him. Derek Underwood’s unique left arm slow/medium bowling was something I would have liked to feature, but not at the expense of Parkin or Iverson who were the only two I could have dropped for him.

ENGLAND IN SRI LANKA

Today England started an intra-squad warm up match, over two days, with each side to bat for fifty overs in the 1st innings and then events to take their course. We have learned little new from today: Ollie Pope, who will not be playing in the test as he is not fully recovered from an injury, bats better with one good shoulder than most of his colleagues with two, which is no great surprise, and the ultimate ‘dog bites man’ story, James Anderson can take wickets anywhere. There was one genuine positive though, Jack Leach relocating form and confidence. The delivery with which he accounted for Ben Foakes was a beauty. This is the XI I would be picking for the first test, limiting my supplementary notes to the controversial selections:

  1. Dominic Sibley
  2. Zak Crawley
  3. James Bracey (with India and Australia being England’s next confirmed opponents and the only others on the menu for this year, New Zealand, now at no1 in the test rankings after thrashing the daylights out of Pakistan, it makes sense to use absences among the seniors to get some new players in against these relatively easy opponents, and I hate the notion of going full-on retrograde by picking Bairstow). He is better suited to no3 than my other envisaged batting newcomer.
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Dan Lawrence – my other envisaged batting debutant.
  6. +Ben Foakes – a recall for England’s best keeper, against opponents he has played well against before, resting Buttler for the big challenges ahead (I want five bowling options in Sri Lanka, which means I cannot accommodate both Buttler and Foakes, and especially after what has happened with Rishabh Pant in Sydney I am not prepared to do without the best available keeper).
  7. Chris Woakes – my chosen all-rounder.
  8. Sam Curran – a three-way battle for this slot, but in view of the risk I have taken with my selections at 9,10 and 11, and the fact that there is little likelihood of a Sri Lankan pitch inspiring an out and out speedster I have opted for Curran’s left arm to add variety, and for his batting skills, rather than go for Wood or Stone for speed.
  9. Jack Leach – the left arm spinner is in form, and it is about time that England started giving genuine spinners some encouragement.
  10. James Anderson – the evergreen Lancastrian looks sharp and ready, and the other veteran, Stuart Broad, has a very poor record in Sri Lanka, so with space IMO for only one of the two I have gone for the man with 600 test wickets.
  11. Matt Parkinson – today after I had advocated for him on twitter I was told by someone that “he is a white ball bowler”. While it is true that he is principally known for his limited overs bowling, a first class bowling average of 25.22, three five wicket innings hauls and one ten wicket match does not bear out the flat statement above – he can certainly handle a red ball.

This team is a little light on batting, with Foakes at six and Woakes at seven, but Sri Lanka do not have a great bowling unit – they have just been harshly dealt with by South Africa. The bowling offers great variety, with Curran and Anderson to share the new ball, Woakes as a third pace bowling option and two contrasting front line spinners, with Root’s occasional tweakers as a sixth option if needed.

A SPLENDID THREAD

This twitter thread about the batting of that great trio Kohli, Smith and Williamson was created by allthingscricket, and I recommend you read it in full by clicking here. Screenshot below:

The start of allthingscricket’s thread about the great trio.

A PETITON & PHOTOGRAPHS

Before my usual sign off, I have a petition to share. This one is open only to UK residents, as it is on the official UK government petition site. It calls for students to be excused some of this year’s tuition fees, as they are not getting what they pay for, since they are quite correctly not able to be at University at present. Click here to sign and share. Screenshot below:

Now it is time for my usual sign off…