All Time XIs – Australia

Continuing the all-time XIs theme with a look at Australia, I use this post to make more explicit some of my thinking about team balance.

INTRODUCTION

After completing my look at the English first class counties yesterday (click here to visit a page from which you can access all 18 of those posts) I am now moving on to the next stage of this series. In this post I am going to attempt to explain more of my thinking about selection. I will begin by presenting an Australian XI of players from my time following cricket, which I am taking as starting from the 1989 Ashes (I saw odd bits from the 1985 series and heard about the 1986-7 series but 1989 was the first I can claim really direct memories of. Before moving on to the team that many of my fellow Poms would be watching from behind the sofa there is one other thing to do…

THE RECEPTION OF MY FIRST 18 POSTS (WITH A NOD TO THE PINCHHITTER)

Yesterday I shared my All Time XIs for the counties on twitter. The feedback was very interesting, and mainly tendered in the right spirit. The PinchHitter, who sends out a daily email to those who sign up for it was today kind enough to include a reference to this endeavour in today’s email, which you can view here. Everyone’s opinions differ, and so long as suggestions are made with constructive intent I will not complain, though I would ask that you suggest who should be left out to accommodate your favoured choices. I am bound in an endeavour of this nature to fail to flag up people who merit attention – tthere are vast numbers of players to be considered when doing something like this.

AUSTRALIA IN MY CRICKET LIFE XI

  1. Matthew Hayden – an attack minded left handed opener who was very successful over a number of years. He had a horrible time in the first four matches of the 2005 Ashes, but bounced back with 138 in the fifth match at The Oval. In Brisbane in 2002 he cashed in on Nasser Hussain’s decision to field first by scoring 197, and then adding another ton in the second innings.
  2. Justin Langer – a different style of left handed opener to Hayden, his most regular partner, Langer was no less effective at the top of the order. His greatest performance was a score of 250 at the MCG. He played in the county championship for Middlesex and Somerset.
  3. Ricky Ponting – a right hander whose natural inclination was to attack but who could also produce a defensive knock at need. Although he had one very poor Ashes series, in 2010-11 his overall record demanded inclusion.
  4. Steve Smith – a right hander, with an even better average (to date), than Ponting. He was tarnished by his involvement in sandpapergate, but his comeback in the 2019 Ashes showed that while he cannot be trusted with a leadership position his skill with the bat remains undminished.
  5. *Allan Border – a left handed middle order bat who was the first to 11,000 test runs, also an occasional left arm spinner who did once win his country a match with his bowling (match figures of 11-96 against the West Indies in 1988). For the first 10 years of his long career he was a mediocre side’s only serious bulwark against defeat, but in the last years of his career he was part of the first of a succession of great Australian teams. The role he played as captain in Australia’s transformation from moderate to world beaters was an essential part of the story of the ‘Green and Golden Age’ and I recognize it as such by naming him captain of this side.
  6. +Adam Gilchrist – attacking left handed middle order bat (opener in limited overs cricket) and high quality wicket keeper. One of the reasons that England won the 2005 Ashes was that they were able to keep him quiet (highest score of the series 49 not out), the only time in his career any side managed that. At Perth in the 2006-7 series, immediately following a victory at Adelaide after England had made 550 in the first innings and then did a collective impression of rabbits in headlights against Warne in the second, he smashed a century off 57 balls, then the second fastest ever test century in terms of balls faced.
  7. Mitchell Johnson – left arm fast bowler and attacking left handed lower middle order bat, also the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ of 21st century test cricket. In the 2010-11 Ashes the ‘Hyde” version predominated, save for one great match at Perth, struggling to such an extent in his other games in that series that he probably scared his own fielders more than the England batters! The ‘Jekyll’ version was on display in the 2013-14 Ashes, when he bowled as quick as anyone in my cricket following lifetime, was also accurate, and scared the daylights out of the England batters, taking 37 wickets in the series and being the single most important reason for the 5-0 scoreline that eventuated.
  8. Shane Warne – leg spinner and attacking right handed lower order bat – one of the two greatest spinners I have seen in action (Muttiah Muralitharan being the other). From the moment that his first ball floated in the air to a position outside leg stump and then spun back to brush Mike Gatting’s off stump at Old Trafford in 1993 he had a hex on England, becoming the first bowler ever to take 100 test wickets in a country other than his own. In the 2005 Ashes, when England regained the urn after 16 years, he took 40 wickets and scored 250 runs in the series. His only blot in the series came at The Oval when he dropped an easy chance offered by Kevin Pietersen, which allowed that worthy to play his greatest ever innings and secure the series. He took over 700 test wickets (the exact figure is open to argument, since some of his credited wickets were taken in an Australia v Rest of The World game, and earlier ROW games organized when South Africa were banished from the test scene are not counted in the records). He also scored more test runs than anyone else who never managed a century, 3,154 of them.
  9. Pat Cummins – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order bat. Injuries hampered his progress (he first appeared on the scene as a 17 year old, but he has still done enough to warrant his inclusion. At the MCG in 2018, when Jasprit Bumrah rendered the Aussies feather-legged with a great display of fast bowling, Cummins took six cheap wickets of his own in India’s second innings, not enough to save his side, who lost both match and series, but enough to demonstrate just how good he was, a fact that he underlined in the 2019 Ashes.
  10. Nathan Lyon – off spinner and right handed tail end bat. One of only three spinners of proven international class that Australia have produced in my time following cricket (Stuart MacGill, a leg spinner, is the third). In the first match of the 2019 Ashes he cashed on Steve Smith’s twin tons by taking 6-49 in the final innings of the game.
  11. Glenn McGrath – right arm fast medium bowler and right handed tail end bat. Australia lost only one Ashes series with McGrath in the ranks, and he was crocked for both of the matches they ,lost in that series. I tend to be a bit wary of right arm fast mediums having seen far too many ineffective members of the species toiling for England over the years but this man’s record demands inclusion. In that 2005 Ashes series he was the player of the match that his side did win – his five cheap wickets after Australia had been dismissed for 190 in the first innings wrenched the initiative back for the Aussies and they never relinquished it. He is at no11 on merit, but even in that department he is a record breaker – more test career runs from no 11 than anyone else.

This combination comprises a stellar top five, a wicket keeper capable of delivering a match winning innings and a strong and varied bowling attack – left arm pace (Johnson), right arm pace (Cummins), right arm fast medium (McGrath), leg spin (Warne) and off spin (Lyon) with Border’s left arm spin a sixth option if needed. It also has a tough and resourceful skipper in Border.

BUILDING THIS COMBINATION

Australia in the period concerned have not had a world class all rounder – the nearest approach, Shane Watson, was ravaged by injuries and although he delivered respectable results with the bat his bowling was not good enough to warrant him being classed as an all rounder. I could deal with this problem by selecting Gilchrist as a wicket keeper and assigning him the traditional all rounders slot (one above his preferred place admittedly), which is what got him the nod over Ian Healy, undoubtedly the best pure wicket keeper Australia have had in my time following the game. A more controversial option would have been to borrow Ellyse Perry from the Australian Women’s team and put her at no six. Having opted for Gilchrist the question was then whether I wanted extra batting strength or extra bowling strength, and in view of the batters I could pick from and the need to take 20 wickets to win the match I opted for an extra bowling option – those who have studied my county “All Time XIs” will have noted that I always made sure they had plenty of depth and variety in the bowling department – I want my captains to be able to change the bowling, not just the bowlers. Warne and Lyon picked themselves for the spinners berths, with the coda that if the match was taking place in India Warne would have to be dropped and someone else found as he was expensive in that country (43 per wicket). Australia in this period has had two left arm quick bowlers who merited consideration, Johnson and Mitchell Starc. I opted for Johnson, as Johnson at his best, as seen in the 2013-14 Ashes was simply devastating. McGrath picked himself. For the final bowling slot I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from. I narrowed the field by deciding that I was going to pick a bowler of out and out pace. Brett Lee’s wickets came too expensively, Shaun Tait does not have the weight of achievement. I regard Cummins at his best as a finer bowler than either Josh Hazlewood or James Pattinson, so opted for him.

Turning attention to the batting, Langer and Hayden were a regular opening pair, and I did not consider either Mark Taylor or David Warner who both have great records to have done enough to warrant breaking an established pairing. Border got the no 5 slot and the captaincy because of his great record as both batter and captain and the fact that Ponting and Smith whose claims were irrefutable are both right handers. If I revisit this post in a few years I fully expect Marnus Labuschagne to be in the mix – he has made an incredible start to his test career. Adam Voges averaged 61.87 in his 20 test matches, but his career only spanned a year and a half, and a lot of the opposition he faced was weak – and in the heat of Ashes battle he failed to deliver, scoring only two fifties and no century in the series, which is in itself sufficient reason not to deem him worthy of a place. He never played in an Ashes match, the ultimate cauldron for English and Australian test cricketers, and so that average not withstanding cannot truly be considered a great of the game. The Waugh twins both had amazing test records, especially Steve, but such has been Australia’s strength in the period concerned that they cannot be accommodated.

TURNING THIS INTO AN ALL TIME XI

For me Smith and Border of the front five hold their places. Ponting would be a shoo-in for the no3 slot in almost any other team one could imagine, but for true if cruel reason that he is only the second best Australia have had in that position he loses out, with Donald Bradman (6,996 test runs at 99.94) getting the no 3 slot. At no six we now have a genuine all rounder, Keith Miller (George Giffen, once dubbed “the WG Grace of Australia”, Monty Noble and Warwick Armstrong also had superb records), with Gilchrist retaining the gloves and now dropping to no 7. There is a colossal range of bowling options, out of which I go for Alan Davidson (186 test wickets at 20.53 and a handy man to have coming in at no 8), Hugh Trumble, an off spinner whose tally of 141 Ashes wickets was a record over 70 years, and who twice performed the hat trick in test matches at the MCG, in “Jessop’s Match” at The Oval in 1902 he scored 71 runs without being dismissed and bowled unchanged through both England innings, collecting 12 wickets, comes in at no 9, Clarrie Grimmett the New Zealand born leg spinner who captured 216 wickets in just 37 test matches gets the no 10 slot and Glenn McGrath retains his no 11 slot. This team has a stellar top five, an all-rounder at six, a fine wicket keeper and explosive batter at no 7 and a very varied and potent line up of bowlers. Why Grimmett ahead of Warne? Grimmett in both test and first class cricket (he took more wickets in the latter form than anyone else who never played county championship cricket) averaged a wicket per match more than Warne.

At the top of the batting order I have replaced Hayden and Langer with Arthur Morris, a left handed opener who Bradman rated the best such that he ever saw and Victor Trumper, right handed batting hero of the early 20th century. In 1902 at Old Trafford, when England needed to keep things tight on the first morning until the run ups dried sufficiently for Bill Lockwood to be able to bowl Trumper reached his century before lunch, and since Australia won that game by just three runs this was a clearly defined match winner.

Australia has had a string of top class glove men down the years – Blackham who played in each of the first 17 test matches, Bert Oldfield, Don Tallon, Wally Grout, Rodney Marsh and Ian Healy are some of the best who appeared at test level, but none of them offer as much as Gilchrist does with the bat.

There are an absolute stack of legendary bowlers who have missed out, likewise batters – I will not attempt a listing these, but everyone who wants to is welcome to mention their own favourites.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This has been a very challenging exercise, but also a very enjoyable one. As for my All Time Aussie XI, not only would I not expect anyone else to agree with all my picks, I might well pick different players next time – there are a stack of players one could pick and be sure of. The one from my cricket following life (remember that start point of the 1989 Ashes) has fewer options, but again, it is probable that with the options available even in that period, no one else would pick the same XI that I have. If you plan to suggest changes please indicate who your choices should replace, and please consider the balance of the side when making your choices.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our little look at the oldest enemy is over, and it remains only for my usual sign off…

Aussies
My two teams tabulated for ease of consumption.

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100 Cricketers – The Seventh XI Numbers 3,4 and 5

The latest in my “100 cricketers” series, featuring numbers 3,4 and 5 in my seventh XI. Also contains some of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my “100 cricketers” series, delayed as it has been by cirucmstances (see here for more details). The introductory post to this series can be found here, the post in which I introduce the seventh XI here, and the most recent post in the series here

RICKY PONTING

13,378 test runs at 51.85 and 13,704 ODI runs at 42.03 are testament to Ricky Ponting’s outstanding quality as a batter. His first ashes hundred came as long ago as 1997, when he scored 127 at Headingley in a match in which England were absolutely marmalised. At Old Trafford in 2005 his 156 saved Australia when they looked certain to lose and go 2-1 down in the series, although the way in which Ponting and team then celebrated that result miade it clear who was now on top, and although there were some nervy moments are Trent Bridge in particular, and also on the final day at The Oval the position never really changed in that series. A crushing revenge was eaxcted in 2006-7, featuring huge scores in the first two matches from Ponting himself, but in 2009 he did little as England again won the series, and in Australia in 2010-11 he had his worst ever series as a batter, with his only score of anything approaching substance being 51 not out at The Gabba when the match had long since been settled as a draw (England 517-1 declared in the second innings). At The MCG after Australia had mustered a beggarly 98 on the opening day he suffered a horrendous on-field meltdown during the England innings over an umpiring decision that was clearly a correct call in any case. This incidcent ended up costing him an amount of money that would have meant nothing to him and no ban of any description. When he took over from Steve Waugh and still had some of the great players who had helped Australia dominate world cricket for a decade he fared well as captain, but as they departed the scene and replacements had to be found cracks appeared that he was able to do nothing. The 2010-11 Ashes was the nadir for Ponting the captain, with two innings defeats on his watch ensuring that England retained the ashes, and his stand-in (he was injured) at Sydney, Michael Clarke oversaw a third loss by an innings to ensure that the series scoreline was a fair reflection of the balance of power. This, and a few other things, such as the Gary Pratt incident at Trent Bridge (when after being run out Ponting made a prat of himself over the fact that it was a sub who had accounted for him) in 2005 and his decision not to go for an eminently chaseable looking 330 off 84 overs at Adelaide in 2009 (I was there and was fully expecting a decent finish), are why although he commands a place in one of XIs for his batting (and how!) I do not even consider him for captaincy honours and have sought to make the position crystal clear by going to the extent of naming a vice-captain for this XI as I have not for others. Here is the Pratt incident:

HASHIM AMLA

9,282 test runs at 46.64 and 7,910 ODI runs at 49.74, the former aggregate including the only international triple century by a South African are impressive testament to both his skill and his appetite for batting. A solid rather than spectacular player, he gives us a nicely balanced top four, with Haynes and himself as stickers and Greenidge and Ponting more inclined to attack. 

HEATHER KNIGHT – VICE CAPTAIN

She has only played in six test matches (358 runs at 32.54, with a highest score of 157, made when England badly needed it, and 1 wicket for 40 runs), but she has a very respectable ODI record (92 matches, 2,503 runs at 37,35, HS 106, and 44 wickets at 25.02 with a best of 5-26). It is her batting that earns her selection, but her bowling is a legimate sixth option for this XI. Once I had decided that for this XI I was going to name a vice-captain the only question was which way round it would be between her and Imran Khan, who we will look at in the next post in this series. Heather Knight had a tough act to follow in Charlotte Edwards (see this post for more details) and has done a magnificent job, including leading her team to a world cup triumph (something England’s men have yet to achieve) and achieving many other fine victories, but I think that Imran, also a world-cup winning captain had the tougher task in having to bind together a Pakistan team who were riven by factions, and so I have made him captain and Heather Knight vice-captain.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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A couple of bird pics to start.

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This was a misfire that I decided was rescuable (I cannot remember what, if anything, I was trying to photograph)
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This is the first of a series of pictures from “Croucher”, Gerald Brodribb’s biography of Gilbert Jessop)

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The remaining pictures come from Simon Rae’s biography of W G Grace.

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100 Cricketers – The Second XI Opening Pair

Continuing my “100 cricketers” series with the opening pair from my second XI.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my “100 cricketers” series. We are starting on the second XI (as explained in my introductory post to the series I have organised my 100 cricketers in nine XIs with a stand alone at the end to round out the 100), with the opening batters (the whole second XI can be seen here).

CHRIS GAYLE

So far the most successful batter that T20 cricket has ever seen, he also has a fine record in other forms of the game, including having two test match triple centuries to his credit. I saw him play a magnificent innings at the Adelaide Oval, watching from what became my regular spot at that ground, the bleachers in front of the Chappell Stand. On that occasion he scored 167 not out, which left Australia with a target of 330 of 81 overs (4.07 on over). The pitch still appeared to be totally benign, and only two of the West Indies bowlers, Kemar Roach who was regularly hitting the 150KPH mark on the speed gun and Sulieman Benn with his left arm spin had looked capable of posing a serious threat. With this is mind I was hoping for a really good finish, because I did not reckon that Australia being 1-0 to the good in a three match series gave them an excuse for putting up the shutters when they had an opportunity to go for the kill.

Unfortunately Ricky Ponting assessed the situation differently and decided that no attmept would be made on what should have been a very tempting target. Most frustratingly of all, once the match had been condemned to an inevitable draw by Australia’s refusal to go for the target a couple of their batters did play some strokes near the end, showing what might have been.

Although it is his batting that earns Chris Gayle his place in my 100 cricketers he has also had occasional moments of success with his offspin bowling. 

SMRITI MANDHANA

Mandhana burst on to the scene in the 2017 Women’s World Cup, helping India to reach the final, before Anya Shrubsole’s incredible bowling, which saw her become the first female to feature on the front cover of Wisden won that match for England. In the very first match of that tournament, again between England and India Mandhana had made a spectacular 86, well supported by her opening partner Punam Raut and India had run out deserved winners. Still only 22, she is now captain of India and scoring lots of runs (although not earlier today – see my previous post).

Like Chris Gayle she bats left handed and takes a very attacking approach to the game. However she is small, while he is very tall and solidly built, so there are plenty of contrasts as well as similarities  between this pair of opening batters.

COMING UP

My next post in this series will feature the all-rounders from this second XI and then I will cover the remaining specialist batters and finally the bowlers, introducing the third XI in that post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are some of my pictures, all taken this morning:

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I was well positioned while listening to the cricket this morning to take some photographs of this facsimile 1907 railway map.

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A Classic Test Match

some thoughts about the recent test match between England and the West Indies, declarations and umpires.

INTRODUCTION

This post is devoted the second test match of the current England versus West Indies series, which ended at about 6:45PM on Tuesday. 

THE EARLY EXCHANGES

England batted first and reached 258 only because Ben Stokes (100) and Joe Root (59) were reprieved early in their innings by bad West Indies fielding. Kraigg Brathwaite (134) and Shai Hope (147) were the cornerstones of a the West Indies response, which eventually reached 427, a lead of 169. In the second England innings no-one reached three figures but there were solid efforts all the way down the line, and at 490-8 Joe Root decided to declare and give the West Indies a little session of batting just before the close of the fourth day. 

THE FINAL INNINGS

The West Indies made it to the close of the fourth day without losing a wicket. Brathwaite made 95 in this second innings, coming within five of becoming the first batsman ever to score twin centuries in a first-class match at Headingley (and this was the 534th such fixture at the ground), a feat that was finally achieved by player of the match Shai Hope, who also received support from Roston Chase (30) and Jermaine Blackwood (a rapid 41 in the closing stages) who ended up 118 not out, and appropriately enough scored the winning runs. 

There are two features that I am going to make specific comments about, starting with…

JOE ROOT’S DECLARATION

For all that the end result was not what he would have wanted I still say, as I said on twitter at the time, and again a day later when the result was imminent, that this was a good declaration, and that Root was entirely right to go for victory. I remember (though few others will as it was not actually a pafrticularly good match) the Australia v West Indies test match at Adelaide in 2009 when the West Indies were one match down in the series after being soundly defeated at the ‘Gabbatoir’ (a nickname for the Woolloongabba stadium in Brisbane, also known as the Gabba) based on what often happens to visiting teams there) but declined to declare, batting on into the final day. Australia faced a target of 330 off 81, and skipper Ponting decided to settle for the draw rather than going after this target. By the end of the day there were not many people left in the ground (I know whereof I write – I was one of the few who did stay right to the end). I condemn Ponting for this decision to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead in the series rathwer than trying to make it 2-0, as also I condemn the decision of Ryan Ten Doeschate today to extend the Essex second innings into the final afternoon rather than make a serious attempt to win the match by declaring at or even before lunch. PS when I wrote this paragraph I did not realise that Somerset’s “resistance” would be quite so utterly spineless – it now looks like Essex may get their victory after all.

While I do not quite as far as the legendary Sammy Woods (who played for Somerset in the lat 19th and early 20th centuries) who once responded to an enquiry about whether his team might have played for a draw in a game they ended up losing responded with “draws…they’re for bathing in” but I do not hold the draw in high regard and would much prefer a team take risks in the attempt to win than see them play safely for the draw. In the special case of a team being one match to the good going into the final match of a series I would condone a more cautious approach being taken, although Kevin Pietersen’s magnificent series clinching innings at The Oval in 2005 was hardly cautious!

To finish this section: Joe Root was justified in declaring when he did (as was David Gower at Lord’s in 1984 when the result was even more embarrassing for England, courtesy of a magnificent 214 not out from Gordon Greenidge), and this result stands to the credit of the West Indies batting, especially that of Brathwaite and Hope and not to the debit of Root’s declaration. 

SOME SENSIBLE UMPIRING

According to the strict letter of the law play in a purely day game cannot continue if the floodlights are providing more light than the natural light. I congratulate the umpires in this match for not acting with Emeritus Professor of Biosophistry like pedantry and curtailing play due to the light, thus depriving the West Indies of their well-earned victory. There seems little doubt that the light was bad enough to have warranted taking the players off, but the umpires realised given the match situation was such that the players should be kept out there. 

Here are a couple of links relating to this test match:

LOOKING AHEAD

The final match of this series should be good, and almost certainly will feature a moment of history as James Anderson goes into it with 497 test wickets to his credit. Then England have the task of taking on Australia in Australia. This is a seriously tough task, but I think that this England squad can do it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As always I end this post with some of my own photographs:

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Special Post: Oval and Vauxhall

A piece principally about Ashes moments at the Oval cricket ground, with an introductory mention of the history of the two stations that serve it.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my series “London Station by Station”. I hope you will enjoy this post and that some of you will be encouraged to share it.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE GAS HOLDERS

I am treating these two stations together because they are at opposite ends of the Oval cricket ground. Oval was one of the original six stations of the City and South London Railway, the world’s first deep-level tube railway, which opened in 1890. Vauxhall only opened as an underground station in 1971, part of the newest section of the Victoria line, but is also a main-line railway station and would have opened in that capacity long before Oval.

Today is the Saturday of the Oval test, by tradition the last of the summer. At the moment things are not looking rosy for England, but more spectacular turnarounds have been achieved (bowled at for 15 in 1st dig and won by 155 runs a day and a half later – Hampshire v Warwickshire 1922, 523-4D in 1st dig and beaten by ten wickets two days later – Warwickshire v Lancashire 1982 to give but two examples). The Oval in it’s long and illustrious history has seen some of test cricket’s greatest moments:

1880: 1st test match on English soil – England won by five wickets, Billy Murdoch of Australia won a sovereign from ‘W G’ by topping his 152 in the first innings by a single run.

1882: the original ‘Ashes’ match – the term came from a joke obituary penned after this game by Reginald Shirley Brooks. Australia won by 7 runs, England needing a mere 85 to secure the victory were mown down by Fred Spofforth for 77.

1886: A triumph for England, with W G Grace running up 170, at the time the highest test score by an England batsman. Immediately before the fall of the first England wicket the scoreboard nicely indicated the difference in approach between Grace and his opening partner William Scotton (Notts): Batsman no 1: 134           Batsman no 2: 34

1902: Jessop’s Match – England needing 263 in the final innings were 48-5 and in the last-chance saloon with the tables being mopped when Jessop arrived at the crease. He scored 104 in 77 minutes, and so inspired the remainder of the English batsmen, that with those two cool Yorkshiremen, Hirst and Rhodes together at the death England sneaked home by one wicket.

1926: England’s first post World ward I Ashes win, secured by the batting of Sutcliffe (161) and Hobbs (100) and the bowling of young firebrand Larwood and old sage Rhodes – yes the very same Rhodes who was there at the death 24 years earlier.

1938: The biggest margin of victory in test history – England win by an innings and 579. Australia batted without opener Jack Fingleton and even more crucially no 3 Don Bradman in either innings (it was only confirmation that the latter would not be batting that induced England skipper Hammond to declare at 903-7)

1948: Donald Bradman’s farewell to test cricket – a single boundary would have guaranteed him a three figure batting average, but he failed to pick Eric Hollies’ googly, collecting a second-ball duck and finishing wit a final average of 99.94 – still almost 40 runs an innings better than the next best.

1953: England reclaim the Ashes they lost in 1934 with Denis Compton making the winning hit.

1968: A South-African born batsman scores a crucial 158, and then when it looks like England might be baulked by the weather secures a crucial breakthrough with the ball, exposing the Australian tail to the combination of Derek Underwood and a rain affected pitch. This as not sufficient to earn Basil D’Oliveira an immediate place on that winter’s tour of his native land, and the subsequent behaviour of the South African government when he is named as a replacement for Tom Cartwright (offically injured, unoffically unwilling to tour South Africa) sets off a chain of events that will leave South Africa in the sporting wilderness for almost quarter of a century.

1975: Australia 532-9D, England 191 – England in the mire … but a fighting effort all the way down the line in the second innings, Bob Woolmer leading the way with 149 sees England make 538 in the second innings and Australia have to settle for the draw (enough for them to win the series 1-0).

1985: England need only a draw to retain the Ashes, and a second-wicket stand of 351 between Graham Gooch (196) and David Gower (157) gives them a position of dominance they never relinquish, although a collapse, so typical of England in the 1980s and 90s sees that high-water mark of 371-1 turn into 464 all out. Australia’s final surrender is tame indeed, all out for 241 and 129 to lose by an innings and 94, with only Greg Ritchie’s 1st innings 64 worthy of any credit.

2005: For the second time in Oval history an innings of 158 by a South-African born batsman will be crucial to the outcome of the match, and unlike in 1968, the series. This innings would see Kevin Peter Pietersen, considered by many at the start of this match as there for a good time rather than a long time, finish the series as its leading run scorer.

2009: A brilliant combined bowling effort from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann sees Australia all out for 160 after being 72-0 in their first innings, a debut century from Jonathan Trott knocks a few more nails into the coffin, and four more wickets for Swann in the second innings, backed by the other bowlers and by Andrew Flintoff’s last great moment in test cricket – the unassisted run out of Ricky Ponting (not accompanied by the verbal fireworks of Trent Bridge 2005 on this occasion!).

The above was all written without consulting books, but for those who wish to know more about test cricket at this iconic venue, there is a book dedicated to that subject by David Mortimer.

As usual I conclude this post with some map pics…

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