All Time XIs – England v West Indies Special

A Saturday Spectacular in the all-time XI cricket series, inspired by a combination of today’s retrolive commentary and the upcoming ‘bio-secure’ test series.

INTRODUCTION

Todau a ‘retrolive’ commentary on the Headingley Test of 2017 between England and the West Indies began, and a week on Thursday the first ‘bio-secure’ test of the post Covid-19 era gets underway between the same two sides. Today’s all time XIs post therefore interrupts our sequence of ‘through the alphabet‘ posts to pit an England XI all of whom had great moments against the West Indies against a West Indies XI all of whom had great moments against England.

ENGLAND

  1. Dennis Amiss – right handed opening batter. In the Kingston test of 1973 England were staring down both barrels as they went into their second innings. They escaped with a draw, and when stumps were drawn at the end of the match Amiss was on career best 262 not out. In 1974 and 1975 a ferocious working over by Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson adversely affected Amiss but he bravely remodelled his stance to better enable him to stand up to the very fast bowlers, and at The Oval in 1976 England were facing a total of 687-8 declared. Amiss produced another double century, but this time the West Indies won the match.
  2. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pace bowler. In the first test of the 1991 series between England and the West Indies, at Headingley, England took a small first innings lead. Curtly Ambrose then served up a storm at the start of the England second innings, taking the first six wickets to fall, with only Ramprakash who exactly matched his first innings 27 having provided Gooch any support. Derek Pringle bravely held out for two hours making 27 of his own, and Gooch shepherded the nine, ten, jack as best he could. England were all out for 252, and Gooch had an unbeaten 154 to his name. The West Indies collapsed in their own second innings and England were victorious. This was by no means Gooch’s highest test score – he made 333 against India in 1990, 210 against New Zealand in 1994, 196 against Australia in 1985 and 183 against New Zealand in 1986 to give a few examples. However, these scores came on flat wickets and against largely modest bowling attacks – of the bowlers involved in those innings only Hadlee (for New Zealand in 1986) and Kapil Dev (for India in 1990) were performers of unquestionably top rank. The Headingley 1991 pitch was a difficult one, and the West Indies bowlers were Marshall, Patterson, Ambrose and Walsh, three of whom were unquestionably great bowlers and the fourth, Patterson, was seriously, blisteringly quick, although a trifle inconsistent.
  3. Alec Stewart – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. In the third test of the 1994 series England needed 194 to win and had an hour to survive in murky light on the penultimate day. By the end of that hour they were 40-8, courtesy of the old firm of Ambrose and Walsh, and the game ended early the following morning with England out for 46, only one run more than their lowest ever total. The next match was at Bridgetown, Barbados (see yesterday’s post for more about that island’s cricketing pedigree) where no visiting side had triumphed since 1935. Stewart, opening with Atherton in that series, proceeded to notch up twin centuries and England rebounded from their humiliation in the third test with victory in the fourth. Given the make up of the West Indies bowling attack picking three recognized openers is a tactic with plenty going for it anyway.
  4. David Gower – left handed batter. When England began their second innings in the final test of the 1981 tour of the West Indies defeat seemed certain. By the end of day four the odds were still in favour of a West Indies victory, but Gower was on 70, and had some good support from Peter Willey. On the final morning Willey fell, and Ian Botham, captaining the side and struggling for form also fell cheaply. Paul Downton joined Gower in the last chance saloon. The resistance held out, and the match was safe by the time Gower took one last single deep into the last hour to move to 154 not out, the highest individual score for England in the series. This innings, occupying eight hours and scored in the teeth of the most lethal fast bowling unit ever assembled (Andy Roberts had just been dropped after going wicketless in the previous match, leaving a foursome of Holding, Garner, Croft and Marshall, the new kid on the block) confirmed Gower’s place among the world’s top batters – his first century had been made against an ordinary New Zealand, his first Ashes century against an under-strength and badly captained Australian side and his 200 not out against India at Edgbaston was scored against a less than stellar attack on a very flat pitch. The next two series between England and the West Indies were both 5-0 to the West Indies, and it was at Headingley in 1988 that England next drew a match against them.
  5. *Peter May – right handed batter, captain. In the Edgbaston test of 1957 England collapsed badly in their first innings against ‘those two little pals of mine, Ram and Val’ – Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine and were made to follow on. Both openers fell cheaply, and May walked out to play an innings in which England needed him to go big. The third England wicket fell with England still adrift, bringing Colin Cowdrey to the crease. May and Cowdrey who came together near the end of day 3 were still in occupation when then fifth and final day got underway. Cowdrey fell for 154 to end a stand of 411, still an England record for any wicket. By the time May declared to give the West Indies an awkward little session of batting he had been at the crease for ten hours and scored 285 not out, at the time a record for an England captain, beating the 240 scored by Hammond at Lord’s in 1938. Ramadhin had wheeled down 98 overs that second England innings and had just two wickets to show for it – and was never to same force again. The West Indies, having for a long time looked like winning were in the end relieved to come away with a draw, having lost seven wickets in the closing stages of the game. England went on to win the series.
  6. +Leslie Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. In the last series before World War II, in 1939, Ames and Hammond shared a fifth wicket stand of 242, then an England record against all comers, to set up a victory.
  7. Andrew Flintoff – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. He had a couple of magnificent years from 2004 through the summer of 2006, and one of the seemingly endless succession of highlights for him in that period was his highest test score, 167 against the West Indies at Edgbaston in 2006, in an England win.
  8. Angus Fraser – right arm fast medium bowler. He twice took eight wickets in an innings in the Caribbean, including the best ever by an England bowler in that part of the world, 8-53. In 1990 England set off for the Caribbean in what seemed to be a very poor state. The last three series between the two had been 5-0, 5-0 and 4-0 to the Windies, and England had just been thrashed by Australia in the 1989 Ashes. In 1988, which included that 4-0 drubbing by the Windies, 28 players had been called up for England test teams. Then in 1989 against Australia 31 players were named in England test squads and 29 actually took the field for England. The only player to have played every game in both years was David Gower, and he was not picked for the tour of the Caribbean. Greenidge and Haynes started smoothly for the West Indies at Sabina Park, Jamaica, before their partnership was ended by misadventure – a ball was played to Devon Malcolm who fumbled it, which encouraged Greenidge to turn for a second, Malcolm unleashed a bullet throw and there was a run out. Then in a spectacular role reversal the West Indies middle order folded, and having reached 60 before losing a wicket they were all out for 164 and Fraser had 5-28. A big partnership between Allan Lamb and Robin Smith rammed home England’s advantage, and they won the match. Fraser subsequently had injury problems and also suffered like many others from the attitude of Ray ‘In My Day’ Illingworth when he was England supremo.
  9. Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. When England under the captaincy of Michael Vaughan headed to the Caribbean in 2004 Harmison was just beginning to establish himself as a genuinely top class, genuinely fast bowler. That series underlined his improvement, with his personal highlight being a spell of 7-12 as the West Indies were hustled out for a record low of 47. Nb – when talking about bowling figures number of wickets take precedence, and it is only identical wicket hauls that are split by economy, a reflection of the fact that in non-limited overs cricket you need to take 20 wickets to win the match and that in limited overs cricket getting someone out is still the most definitive way to prevent them from scoring, so although on the basis of runs per wicket (1.71 against 6.63) 7-12 is better than 8-53 the fact that Fraser’s haul was eight wickets rather than seven trumps the difference in economy.
  10. Phil Tufnell – left arm orthodox spinner. England came to The Oval in 1991 2-1 down in the series, needing to win the square it which after the disasters of the 1980s would be a very fine result. A century for Robin Smith and few other useful innings got England to 400 in their first innings. Phil Tufnell then got to work with the ball, beginning his spell of destruction with the psychologically crucial wicket of Viv Richards. That huge breakthrough achieved Tufnell took a further five wickets in his spell, at a cost of a mere four runs. His overall innings figures were 6-25, the West Indies were made to follow on, and England won and squared the series. Before this series, series scores between the two teams since 1980, with England first, had been 0-1, 0-2, 0-5, 0-5, 0-4 and 1-2 – a net 1-18 against England.
  11. Charles ‘Father’ Marriott – leg spinner. The Lancashire and Kent leg spinner, who had been playing county cricket since 1920 was called up for the last test of the 1933 series. England batted first and scored 312. The West Indies were all out for 100 in their first innings, Marriott 5-37 (and Nobby Clark the left arm fast bowler 3-16). England enforced the follow on, the West Indies batted better second time round, but not well enough, being all out for 195, Clifford Roach making 56 opening the batting, Marriott taking 6-59, while the fast bowlers Clark, and Stan Nichols of Essex took two each, left arm spinner Langridge bowling seven wicketless overs. Marriott had 11-96 in the match, and was known to be a pure bowler (711 first class wickets at 20.11, 574 first class runs at 4.41), England had won by an innings and 17 runs, but that was the sum total of Marriott’s test career.

This side has a strong top six, a player who at his best was an x-factor all rounder, and four well varied bowlers. Harmison, Fraser, Flintoff, Marriott and Tufnell is an attack should be useful in all conditions.

THE WEST INDIES

  1. Gordon Greenidge – right handed opening batter. On the most difficult pitch of the 1976 ‘grovel’ series he made twin centuries, the first of them being 61% of his team’s innings total. His two double centuries in 1984 are also worthy of mention.
  2. *Frank Worrell – right handed batter, left arm medium fast bowler, occasional left arm orthodox spinner, captain. In 1957 he carried his bat through an innings, finishing with 191 not out. In 1963 he was captain, and the series was regarded as one of the greatest ever played.
  3. George Headley – right handed batter. A man who averaged 60.83 in test cricket clearly had highlights against every opponent. However, the particular performance that gets him in here came in the 1939 series, when he became the first batter ever to score twin centuries in a Lord’s test.
  4. Viv Richards – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Was his 232 in the opening match of the 1976 series better than his 291 at The Oval in the final match thereof, were they both trumped by the first test century to be recorded at St John’s Antigua in 1981 or were all other efforts trumped by his 56-ball century at Antigua five years later? That is even before we consider ODIs (138 not out in the 1979 World Cup Final, 189 not – then an ODI record individual score – in an innings total of 272-9 at Old Trafford in 1984). These details provide some indication of why even in 1991 when he was well past his prime his wicket which started Phil Tufnell on his merry way was so psychologically important.
  5. Shai Hope – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. When England and the West Indies convened at Headingley in 2017 533 first class matches had been played at the ground and nobody had ever scored twin tons there, even though some mighty fine batters called the place home, e.g. Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton. The person who finally entered the record books by achieving that feat, and did it in a test match to boot, was Shai Hope. Three years on those remain his only two test centuries at test level, a remarkable quirk.
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. He had a stack of extraordinary performances against all opposition, as befits the most complete player the game has yet seen. The particular match I have picked on to include him here featured the West Indies deep in trouble when their fifth second innings wicket went down and Sobers being joined at the crease by David Holford, primarily a leg spinner. The pair put on an undefeated 274 together for the sixth wickets, Sobers 163 not out, Holford 105 not out, and England ended up being glad to escape with a draw after losing a few second innings wickets.
  7. +Jeff Dujon – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Although the West Indies largely dominated the 1988 series (4-0, and the drawn first match owed more to the weather than to the stoutness of England’s resistance), but there was one occasion therein when they hit trouble – 53-5 in their first innings, and Dujon, with support from Logie rescued them – the sixth wicket stand was worth 130, and got the West Indies back into the match.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler. At Headingley in 1984 he sustained a broken arm, a rare case in that era of a West Indian being on the receiving end of an injury. When the ninth West Indian wicket fell Gomes was on 96, and so Marshall went in to bat one-handed to see his team mate to a century. Then, to English consternation, he proceeded to take the new ball. He proceeded to rip through the second England innings with career best figures of 7-53, displacing the 63 and 36 scored by Tennyson batting one-handed against Australia with Gregory and McDonald as the greatest test performance by a cricketer playing with one usable hand.
  9. Michael Holding – right arm fast bowler. In August 1976 England was baking in a heatwave, the pitch at The Oval was absolutely flat and lifeless and the outfield was almost grassless due to the drought. The West Indies piled up 687-8 declared, but even their bowlers could get little out of the pitch, with one exception. Michael Anthony Holding took 8-92 in England’s first innings, the best innings figures at that time by a West Indian fast bowler (a spinner, Jack Noriega, had taken nine wickets in a test innings for them). The West Indies declined enforce the follow-on, giving their bowlers a breather. A declaration¬† at 182-0 left England needing to match their first innings 435 to win. This time round Holding took 6-57 to give him 14-149 in the match and his side victory and a 3-0 series scoreline.
  10. Curtly Ambrose – right arm fast bowler. I have already mentioned his bowling at Headingley in 1991 and at Trinidad in 1994 (the 46 all out game), but before that he had settled the 1990 series in the West Indies by destroying England in the last two test matches thereof. England had won the opener (see under Fraser), the second, scheduled for Guyana, had been washed out without a ball being bowled, and a combination of more bad weather and some scandalous (and unchecked, never mind punished) time wasting by Desmond Haynes as stand-in captain had condemned the third match at Trinidad to another draw, in spite of Malcolm picking up ten wickets in a test match (6-77 in one innings) for the first time in his career. However, in the final two tests, Ambrose was simply unstoppable, his figures including an 8-45 in one innings. England’s best resistance in those¬† matches came from pugnacious wicket keeper Jack Russell who produced a day-long rearguard in one of them.
  11. Alf Valentine – left arm orthodox spinner. He made his test debut in the 1950 series and proceeded to capture the first eight England wickets to fall, only to be denied absolute immortality to Berry and Hollies, two of the game’s greatest ‘ferrets’. The feat still remains a record, and helped the West Indies to their first win on English soil, as he and as spin twin Sonny Ramadhin weaved their webs around England’s batters. England did not properly counter this duo until the 1957 series and the May-Cowdrey partnerhsip at Edgbaston.

This team has a stellar top four, a record breaker at five, the most complete player in the game’s history at six, an excellent keeper who can bat and fine quartet of bowlers. The choice of Valentine as specialist spinner means there is a little overlap in skills with Sobers, who numbered left arm orthodox spin among his bowling styles. Marshall, Holding and Ambrose, with Sobers left arm as fourth pace option and Worrell also available looks a superb pace attack, while Valentine’s finger spin and Sobers’ wrist spin should be sufficient in that department.

OTHER CONTENDERS

There are of course many, but I will mention just some of the more obvious. Andy Sandham scored the first ever test match triple century at Sabina Park in 1930, but that match, supposedly ‘timeless’ ended in a draw because England had to go home, taking some of the gloss off the innings. Fred Trueman had a fabulous series against the West Indies in 1963, including a career best test match haul of 12-119 at Edgbaston. Among the all rounders I felt that Greig’s presence would fire the West Indies up too much, so his 13 wicket match haul at Trinidad did not get him in, Ian Botham’s record against the West Indies was very ordinary (one innings haul of 8-103 at Lord’s in 1984, but even that came in a losing cause, and a highest score against them of 81) and Stokes has not had one of his greatest performances against them as yet (the ‘bio-secure’ series may well change that). Brian Lara twice made world test record scores against England (375 in 1994, 400 not out in 2004, both at St Johns, Antigua), but both were accumulated on flat wickets in high scoring, stale, draws, and the latter, as was that case with his 501 not out for Warwickshire v Durham, was definitely an example of the individual counting for more than the team. Courtney Walsh had a magnificent series in England in 2000, at the age of 38, but lack of support from the rest of his team caused it to be in a losing cause, so, with regret, I was not able to pick him. Sonny Ramadhin, Valentine’s spin twin, missed out because of the history making nature of Valentine’s debut. Finally, Ellis ‘Puss’ Achong caused cricket’s terminology to expand when he dismissed Walter Robins, and the chagrined all rounder said as he headed back to the pavilion “fancy being bowled by a chinaman”, which is why that type of delivery is now called a chinaman.

THE CONTEST

This has all the makings of an absolute cracker. The odds definitely favour the West Indies, especially as Worrell has to be considered a better captain than May, but it should be a good contest.

PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEASER

As a lead in to my regular sign off, here is a teaser from brilliant.org:

Exponent

Solution in tomorrow’s post.

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Eng v WI special
The teams in tabulated form.