I continue my exploration of the all time XI theme with a look at players whose surnames begin with the letter F.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- Roy Fredericks (West Indies). Somewhat overshadowed by the later deeds of the greatest opening combo WI have ever produced, Greenidge and Haynes, Fredericks was nevertheless a player of the highest class. His most famous test knock was an innings of 169 against Australia at the WACA in Perth, not generally a happy hunting ground for visiting players. He was also only the second player to score a century in a men’s ODI after Dennis Amiss.
- Charles Burgess Fry (Sussex, England). His mastery of the art of batting is all the more astonishing given that cricket was just one area in which he excelled. He once scored a six successive first class centuries, a feat equalled by Bradman and Procter but unsurpassed to this day. Although he did score test centuries possibly his greatest innings at that level was the 79 he scored on a horrible pitch at The Oval in 1912, which put England in an unassailable position and secured both the match and the first and only triangular tournament for England.
- Andrew Flower (Essex, Zimbabwe). Without doubt the best test match batter his country has ever produced, he was also an adequate wicket keeper and an occasional off spinner, neither of which roles he will be called on to perform in this side.
- Keith Fletcher (Essex, England). At the time of his retirement he had scored more FC runs for Essex than any other player, though Graham Gooch broke that record.
- Aubrey Faulkner (South Africa). Only one person to have played 20 or more test matches can claim the double feat at that level of averaging over 40 with the bat and under 30 with the ball: Faulkner, who averaged 40.79 with the bat and took 85 wickets at 26.58 each.
- +Ben Foakes (Essex, Surrey, England). The best keeper of the 21st century, with the possible exception of Sarah Taylor of the England women’s side and a good batter. In this side there are three batters of serious substance to follow him, and only one genuine bunny.
- *Percy Fender (Surrey, England). As I stated in my Surrey piece his aggression makes him an ideal person to bat at seven in a very strong line up. A good leg spinner, a brilliant fielder and a shrewd captain (unlike the England selectors of his day I have given him this role in the side).
- Frank Foster (Warwickshire, England). His career was terminated early by a motorcycle accident, but he had done enough, including joining forces with Sydney Barnes in the 1911-12 Ashes to form the most potent opening bowling pair seen to that point in test cricket to justify his selection here. He was also a fine middle order batter, indeed the first Warwickshire player ever to record a triple century.
- Wilfred Flowers (Nottinghamshire, England). With two all rounders in the side whose bowling speciality was leg spin I wanted someone to spin the ball the other way, and Flowers, a bowling all rounder who bowled off spin fitted the bill nicely.
- George Freeman (Yorkshire). 288 wickets in 44 first class matches at less than 10 runs a piece earn him his place in this XI. He played as an amateur, hence the small number of appearances he made at FC level, earning his living as an auctioneer.
- Jack Ferris (Australia, England). The left armer had an astonishing record in his brief test career, and his FC record over a much bigger sample size also stacks up very well. His “England” appearance came on a privately organized visit to South Africa, where the match that team played against an SA XI was classed as test match somewhat later.
This side has a very strong batting line up, with Flowers at number nine having done the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches on five separate occasions. The bowling, with Ferris, Freeman and Foster to bowl varieties of seam, and Flowers, Faulkner and Fender available as front line spin options has both depth and variety. There is a very shrewd captain in Fender, and a keeper who will accept every chance going in the form of Foakes.
I am going to start this section with subsection dedicated to the most glaring omission:
ALFRED PERCY ‘TICH’ FREEMAN
The second leading wicket taker in first class history, only bowler to have claimed 300 FC wickets in a single season, only bowler to take all ten wickets in a first class innings three times. Considered purely on this basis he should be sho0-in, but two factors mitigated against his inclusion: he was a specialist leg spinner, and with Faulkner and Fender both having ironclad cases for inclusion I wanted a third spinner who did something different, also while he was destroyer of small fry his record against the stronger counties, and at test level, was no more than respectable, and this was an additional strike against him.
Reginald Erskine ‘Tip’ Foster scored 287 on test debut, but only topped 50 at that level once thereafter, so record breaker though he was he doesn’t qualify. Arthur Fagg, until recently the only player to score two double hundreds in a first class match, might have had an opening slot, but Fredericks’ left handedness plus the fact that he delivered at the highest level and Fagg did not swung that position his way. Some Aussies might root for Aaron Finch, and if I was picking a limited overs side he would be a sh00-in, but I make my judgements based on long-form cricket, and Finch’s numbers don’t stack up there. Francis Ford, an attacking left hander of the late 19th century did not have a good enough test record to merit inclusion. Neil Fairbrother never quite delivered at international level as he did for Lancashire.
James Foster of Essex and England was a magnificent keeper, and scurvily treated by the England selectors of his day, but in the old saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and to select him in this side would be to wrong Ben Foakes. The only other keeper of note to have a surname beginning with F, Bruce French, was not in the same class as Foster or Foakes in either department.
Other than ‘Tich’ Freeman with whom I started this section, the best known bowler I have omitted is Gus Fraser, who had a fine test record, but who I could not in honesty place above any of Ferris, George Freeman or Frank Foster. A combination of injuries, selectorial caprice and a decision to join a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa robbed Neil Foster of the kind of record that would have earned him a place alongside his namesake Frank. If I had been going to risk picking a female pace bowler I would have gone for Cathryn Fitzpatrick, the Aussie who was by some way the quickest female bowler of her generation. Left arm wrist spinner ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith was just too expensive to claim a place. West Indian quick George Francis was past his best by the time they gained test status. Paul Franks had a fine career for Nottinghamshire but never did anything of note at international level.
Duncan Fletcher might have been the second Zimbabwean to feature in this XI, but he finished before his country gained test status, so will have to settle for being head coach of this XI, a job he performed with distinction for England. Aussie James Faulkner would be well in the running were I selecting a limited overs side, but his long form record is not quite good enough.
Now that our look at cricketers whose surnames begin with F is at an end it remains only to offer up my usual sign off…