A nod to cricket’s most famous pairs of twins as an XI of Mark/Steves takes on an XI of Alec/Erics. Plus a mathematical teaser.
Today’s all time XIcricket post honours cricket’s two most famous pairs of twins by pitting an XI whose names all feature Mark or Steve, or a variation thereof against an XI whose names all contain either Eric or Alec (or variations thereof).
THE MARK/STEVE XI
Mark Taylor – left handed opening batter. He announced his presence at the highest level by scoring 839 runs in the 1989 Ashes, the most in a series by any Aussie not named Bradman.
Stephen Moore– right handed opening batter. The Johannesburg born Worcestershire man was a little unlucky to miss out on international recognition in the course of his long career. He finished with a first class average of 36.
*Stephen Fleming – left handed batter, captain. Over 7,000 test runs at an average of just over 40 for the Kiwi. The only small question mark is that his conversion rate of 50s into 100s was very poor. I have named as captain in acknowledgement of his skilled handling of a New Zealand outfit that contained few stars.
Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. One of the best batters ever seen, for all the unorthodoxies and unattractiveness of his method.
Steve Waugh – right handed batter, occasional medium pacer. Averaged over 50 in test cricket. He like Taylor really hit the headlines in the 1989 Ashes – he made two unbeaten 150+ scores in the first two matches, and at one stage, immediately before his second dismissal of the series his average for that series stood at 418. His most remarkable performance came later, in a match at Old Trafford in which 21 of the 22 players failed to make a major score between them and he chiselled out twin centuries.
Mark Waugh– right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Very different from his twin brother, but also had a marvellous record at the highest level.
+Steven Davies – wicket keeper, left handed batter. At one time he seemed nailed on for a long and distinguished England career, but it did not eventuate. He is a better red ball player than white ball, but the England selectors picked him only in white ball games, and thereby failed to see the best of him.
Greville Stevens – leg spinner, right handed batter. The only player in either team to have been slipped in by use of the surname. It was the only way I could give this side a front line spinning option, and Stevens had a significantly better bowling record than the other option, Vic Marks, with the added benefit that as a leg spinner he combines somewhat better with the next best spin option in the side, Mark Waugh, than Marks. Stevens played before limited overs cricket at the highest level was a thing, so the comparable parts of their records are: Marks six tests, batting average 27.66, bowling average 44.00, 342 first class games, batting average 30.29, bowling average 33.28 and Stevens 10 tests, batting average 15.47, bowling average 32.40, 243 first class games, batting average 29.56, bowling average 26.84. Stephens took 684 first class wickets at a rate 2.80 per game, Marks 859 at 2.52 per game, so on wickets per game Stevens was marginally more effective as well.
Mark Wood– right arm fast bowler. The first of two genuinely fast bowlers to feature in this XI, a current England regular.
Mark Davies – right arm medium fast bowler. He was plagued by injuries, otherwise he would have been an England regular. The 109 first class games he played when not crocked brought him 315 wickets at 22.42 each.
Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. A third successive Durham quick, one who was ranked number one the world in 2004, and also played a starring role in the 2005 Ashes.
This team has a good top six, a keeper who can bat and four fine bowlers. There is a shortage of spin options, but overall it looks a useful side.
Glamorgan fast medium man Steve Watkin and Middlesex quick Steve Finn were close to selection for bowling spots, while two other notable wicket keeping Steves were messrs Rhodes and Marsh (for all that he played test cricket Steve Rixon was not a notable wicket keeper). Mark Butcher was close to a batting slot, but the team was strong in that area. Mark Adair of Ireland may in due course claim his place as an all rounder but he is not there yet. Finally, although he was not close to selection, some might think that Mark Lawson of Yorkshire could have solved the spin bowling issue – the trouble with that being that he paid over 40 runs a piece for his first class wickets.
THE ALEC/ERIC XI
Eric Rowan – right handed opening batter. A fine test record, including what was at the time the highest individual score by a South African, 236, a mark which stood until Graeme Pollock scored his 274 v Australia.
Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. He averaged 45 for England in this specific role, and the combination of him and the combative Rowan looks like a strong start to the innings.
Alec Bowell– right handed batter. A stalwart for Hampshire in the 1920s, regularly batting in this position.
*Alex Blackwell– right handed batter, captain. A fine batter and captain of the Australian women’s team a few years ago, and not inappropriately for this post, one half of a pair of cricketing twins.
Alexander Webbe – right handed batter, occasional right arm fast bowler. A stylish batter of the 1870s.
Eric Bedser – right handed batter, right arm off spinner.
Alec Kennedy– right arm fast medium, right handed batter. The seventh leading first class wicket taker of all time (2,874 of them), and good enough with the willow to have done the double (1,000 first class runs and 100 wickets in a first class season) eight times in his long career.
Alec Bedser – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter.
+Eric Petrie – wicket keeper. A superb keeper, though a rather limited batter, the Kiwi gets in here because I need Stewart’s batting unencumbered by keeping duties.
Alex Hartley – left arm orthodox spinner. Part of England women’s 2017 World Cup winning squad.
Eric Hollies – leg spinner. Has the biggest negative balance between runs scored in first class cricket and wickets taken (-650 – 1,673 runs, 2,323 wickets) in history. He was the bowler in the most famous commentary moment of them all: “…Bradman bowled Hollies nought…”, which left the Don with 6,996 runs at 99.94 in test cricket.
This team has a decent top six, with Eric Bedser just about rating as an all rounder, a great keeper, and four excellent and well varied front line bowlers. It lacks genuine pace, but Bedser and Kennedy would be a fine new ball pairing, while the spin trio of Hollies, Hartley and Eric Bedser have the great merit as a combination that each does something different (LS, SLA, OS).
The Mark/Steve combination definitely looks the stronger, although a discreet hint to the groundsman to prepare a ‘bunsen’ would help to make it more of a contest!
A MATHEMATICAL CHALLENGE
This problem, set today on brilliant.org, has generated a large amount of controversy there due to the interpretation made by some of one part of the question. Click on tghe screenshot below to see it in it’s original setting:
On brilliant there is a statement of clarification as a sop to all of those who reasoned it out correctly but then misinterpreted the final part of the question, and there are multiple choice answers available. I think making it multi-choice makes it too easy, and I want to see if any of my readers make the mistake quite a number of solvers on brilliant apparently did – explanation tomorrow.
Just a few photographs today = the weather took an unpleasant turn yesterday afternoon and is only now showing signs of becoming pleasant again.
My latest variation on the ‘all time XI’ theme looks at bizarre dismissals. There is also a correction in my usual ‘reverse tabloid’ fashion and some thoughts about laws of the game that are connected to my theme.
It is time for another variation on the ‘All Time XI‘ theme. Today we have an XI who have all suffered bizarre dismissals. I will follow this up with a look at some of the more unusual ways of getting out and at a few other aspects of the laws. However, before I get into the body of the post I have one other duty to perform…
In my previous post when I introduced the ‘Signed Off In Style XI‘ I made an error with significant consequences. Alec Stewart did not score a century in his final test match – the innings I was thinking had been played earlier. He did finish in front of his own home crowd, and with a tally of runs to match the digital form of his birth date, but his score in that final innings was a mere 38. This being the case, especially bearing in mind the shortage of left handed batters in the XI, his slot should have gone to Alastair Cook, rather than the Essex man having to make do with a special honourable mention. My apologies to Sir Alastair as the one who suffered from a rare lapse of memory on my part. Note that I have followed my usual ‘reverse tabloid’ policy when it comes to making a correction!
THE ‘BIZARRE DISMISSALS’ XI
Sir Leonard Hutton – the Yorkshire opener, the first professional ever to captain his country in a home test, was also the first to be given out ‘obstructing the field’ in a test match. It happened against South Africa, and we shall be meeting the obstructed fielder a little later on.
Gilbert Parkhouse – the Welshman was playing for England in New Zealand when he suffered the rare fate of being out twice to the same ball. The deliver, from a left arm spinner named Burtt hit his pad, and the umpire raised his finger instantly to give him out. However, the ball had been trickling backwards from the pad, and ultimately rolled into the stumps and dislodged a bail. The laws of cricket have this sort of thing covered, with an order of precedence for modes of dismissal, and Parkhouse was officially recorded as B Burtt, bowled outranking LBW in the pecking order. In the modern era this could actually have been made even worse, because the batter might have signalled for a review while that ball was trickling backwards! My own inclination in such a situation, for all that the review request would technically be null and void due to the subsequent dismissal would be to count it as a review burned off – no one who is that comprehensively out has any business reviewing, do they Mr Watson?
Andrew Ducat – the Surrey stalwart, who was also an international footballer, was playing for England in the 1921 Ashes when a ball from Ted McDonald broke his bat, sending a splinter therefrom cannoning into his stumps, while at the same moment Jack Gregory at slip pouched the catch. In this case, ‘caught’ outranks ‘hit wicket’, so the entry on the scorecard was C Gregory B McDonald.
Martin Donnelly – the elegant Kiwi left hander, who created a unique treble by scoring centuries at Lord’s in the Varsity Match, for the Gentlemen against the Players and in a test match, was once bowled by a delivery that broke his wicket from behind. The ball, from Jack Young, hit his boot, looped over the stumps and then spun back to hit them from behind!
Henry Charlwood – running misjudgements don’t get much more horrendous than this one. He came back for a sharp second, and was comfortably run out – and what makes this a true classic, at the same time the bowler’s end umpire was signalling ‘one short’! Sometimes, especially if they were partnering Geoffrey Boycott and it was his call, run out victims deserve sympathy, but when you have failed to make your ground at either end of the pitch I feel that you can have little cause for complaint.
*Steve Waugh – the tough Aussie who regarded allowing himself to be dismissed in any way as an offence nevertheless joined the select ranks of those to have been given out ‘handled ball’ in a test match.
+Russell Endean – a few years after being the fielder obstructed by Hutton the South African entered the record books as the first person in test match history to be out ‘handled ball’. Endean also holds a rather more impressive record – most runs ever scored by one batter in a pre-lunch session of a first class match – 197, albeit in an extended session. His best test innings was 162 against Australia.
James Southerton – the Surrey and Sussex slow bowler who was test cricket’s oldest ever debutant ended in an innings in a very curious way. He offered up a very straightforward catch, and headed for the pavilion without even waiting to see it taken. It was actually dropped, but the message did not reach Southerton, and he left the ground, to be recorded in the scorebook as ‘retired thinking he was caught’!
James Grundy – best known as a right arm fast bowler, he only occasionally had his moments with the bat, but he featured in two of the ‘unusual dismissals’ list in the copy of the Wisden Book of Cricket Records that I used to own – from memory ‘handled ball’ and ‘hit ball twice’. As far I as am aware, his surname not withstanding, this particular Grundy did not have a side line producing home brewed cider!
Haydon Smith – the Leicestershire right arm fast bowler and no11 batter’s unusual ‘dismissal’ was mentioned in my post about that county – he became one of a fairly select group of batters to have declined to accept a fielder’s word that they had NOT taken a catch!
Harold Heygate – the 35 year old had not been planning to bat in Sussex’s second innings v Somerset due to back trouble, but when the ninth Sussex wicket fell with the scores dead level he rose from his sickbed and hobbled out in his everyday clothes. Unfortunately for him he took far too long to get to the middle, and a Somerset appeal for ‘Timed Out’ was duly upheld, ending the match in a tie, and no small quantity of confusion. This was Heygate’s sixth appearance for Sussex, and unsurprisingly his last.
The presence of Heygate at no11, mandatory given the nature of the XI, means that the side is light on bowling options, but I am hoping that Grundy, Smith and Southerton with a little help from skipper Waugh can carry the workload. The batting is definitely strong (when fully fit it was his batting that got Heygate selected).
THE REALLY UNUSUAL
MODES OF DISMISSAL
I believe that under the latest revisions of the laws of cricket ‘handled ball’, ‘hit ball twice’ and ‘obstructing the field’ now all come under the same heading of ‘obstructing the field’, while ‘timed out’ remains. However, I am go to look briefly at all of them individually:
Batters are forbidden from handling the ball unless specifically and explicitly invited to do so by members of the fielding side. In addition to Waugh and Endean, Graham Gooch is another frontline batter to fall foul of this in a test match. The caveat over being invited to handle by the fielding side covers the situation where a fielder entices the batter to pick it up and then appeals (there is a Grace family story regarding the dismissal of Nottinghamshire’s Charles Wright which was apparently achieved in precisely such a manner). However, I think that in the last test match of the South Africa series (simultaneously only a few months and an epoch ago) England erred when Francois ‘Faf’ Du Plessis repeatedly and obviously deliberately handled the thing with sweaty batting gloves – rather than bother with official complaints about his conduct they should have simply appealed and sent him on his way – and ticked off anyone who dared to complain on South Africa’s behalf for being mischief makers. As it happened Du Plessis’ cheating (yes, that is what it was and I will not apologize for saying so) did not prevent his side from going down to a heavy defeat and the series going to England.
HIT BALL TWICE
This one specifically allows for a double hit if it is inadvertent or if it is purely to protect one’s wicket. What is being guarded against is the unscrupulous batter who uses one hit to ‘control’ or ‘tee the ball up’ and then smacks it out of the park with a second hit. Although I do not know of any stories of this happening I presume that it has done, since legislation, especially in the context of cricket, is rarely based on hypothetical happenings.
OBSTRUCTING THE FIELD
This is quite simple – if the batter deliberately prevents a wicket from being taken by getting in the fielder’s way it is out. Most often it is used in relation to catches, where fielder’s can easily be baulked by unscrupulous batters, but it could also apply to run outs if the batter had obviously altered their course to prevent a throw-in from running them out. There is no recourse if the batter is fairly diving for their ground with no obstructive intent and the ball hits them or their bat and races away to the boundary, although it would be considered out of order for the batter to attempt extra runs if the ball did not reach the boundary.
A simple, and to my mind, underused one. The batter is allowed a maximum amount of time (used to be two minutes, is now three) from the fall of a wicket to be at their place in the middle. I would say that the incoming batter should pass the outgoing batter on the field of play. Maybe in extreme circumstances, such as if the bowler has just taken four wickets with successive balls and that has caused the new batter to be caught unprepared, leeway should be given, but in general I would be harsh on this one, recommending fielding sides to appeal as soon as that three minutes is up.
HOW LEGISLATION DEVELOPS
Basically what happens with cricket laws is that something happens that makes people sit up, and legislation is passed to counteract it. Sometimes it is sensible, and sometimes very much not. I am now going to look at one specific topic:
Originally no declarations were permitted – the batting side had to go on till they were all out. Then Surrey and Nottinghamshire, the two best county sides of the day, were playing a match the Surrey were ahead in, but unlikely to be able to bring to a conclusion. At this point John Shuter, the Surrey captain (yes, a Shuter on one side and a Gunn on the other!) had his ‘Baldrick’ moment, and instructed his team to get themselves out, so that they had time to dismiss the opposition and win the match. Surrey won that match, and the concept of the declaration was introduced. Subsequently there have been various scandals involving contrived declarations, at least one ‘bookmaker induced’ declaration and the declaration that led to the banning of declarations in limited overs matches. Declarations can be splendid when properly used, but also can be a huge blot on the game. Especially annoying is the giving away of runs to get your opponents to declare – no, back yourself and your team to win properly. I have mentioned (here) my distaste for the County Championship’s bonus point system. Justin Langer once declared an innings on 50-8 so that his opponents did not get full bowling points, which is obviously not to be approved of. The lawmakers have now said that declarations must be made with the intent to move the game forward, a woolly piece of phrasing practically designed to generate arguments. I have a hypothetical case: the batting side have scored rapidly, but have just had a mini clatter of wickets, and with an hour of day 1 remaining they are 375-8, with no 9 the not out batter and no 10 due to come in – now to me the declaration sticks out like a sore thumb, since 50 minutes bowling at a team who have spent most of the day chasing leather may well net two or three wickets, while it is unlikely the such extra runs as the tail produce will make a great difference. However, because of the bonus point system I would be prepared to bet money that in the event of such a declaration the opposition skipper would complain, although the batting side have given up a bonus point by declaring, they have also prevented the fielding side from getting full bowling points. Would the powers the be in such a circumstance have the guts to tell the complaining skipper that he needs to grow up or words to that effect? I now move to a really controversial subtopic:
DECLARATIONS IN LIMITED OVERS CRICKET
These have been outlawed since Brian Rose as captain of Somerset used a declaration to deliberately throw a game, because under the rules governing that competition doing so guaranteed that Somerset would progress. Rose declared at Worcester after one over, with the score 1-0, and Worcestershire of course won by ten wickets in a ‘match’ that contained ten minutes of actual playing time. While Rose’s declaration deserved the condemnation it got, and measures would be needed in some situations such as: last round of group fixtures, side A have already qualified, and side B who A are playing need a win to be sure of qualifying. Side C, who side A fear more are the other potential qualifiers, so side A use a declaration to give side B the game and eliminate side C. However, especially in this country, there should be some scope for declarations: Side A are 300-2 after 40 of their allocated 50 overs, and they know that the weather is likely to intervene, and to constitute a match each side must have faced at least 20 overs. If Side A are prepared to back their bowlers to defend 300 in the full 50 overs should it come to that then they should be allowed to declare their innings closed in the attempt to ensure that in the event of the predicted bad weather coming a match can be got in. Such a declaration should actually be considered praiseworthy in the circumstances, since Side A could probably be fairly confident of reaching 400 if they batted for the remaining 10 overs of their innings.
A LINK AND SOME PHOTOGRAPHS
The Fulltoss blog have a new post up speculating about the 2021-2 Ashes tour, and I heartily recommend it. Now, another XI has been put through its paces, I have raised some related issues, and it remains only to apply my usual sign off (nb for those who are squeamish about such things there is a picture featuring one of our eight legged friends)…
My latest variation on the ‘all time XI’ theme, with a couple of special honourable mentions and a bonus feature on enforcing the follow on.
Yes folks, it is time for another variation on the ‘All Time XI‘ theme. Today the focus is on people who produced particularly special final curtain calls. This is an all Test Match XI, and I follow it with a couple of honourable mentions, and then a piece that touches on a topic that a couple of my XI had more than a little to do with – The Follow On. Scene setting complete it is time to introduce the…
‘SIGNED OFF IN STYLE’ XI
Andrew Sandham – his last test match took place in Kingston, Jamaica in1930. He scored 325 of England’s first innings 849 (both of them records at the time, his innings being the first test score of over 300, relieving Tip Foster with his debut 287 of the record), and then when skipper Calthorpe decided that as it was a ‘timeless’ match he would not enforce the follow on, in spite of having an advantage of 563 on first innings, Sandham scored a further 50 as England scored 272-9 declared. His aggregate of 375 was a record for a test match until Greg Chappell tallied a total of 380 for Australia v New Zealand about half a century later. Sandham (Surrey) was the in many ways the southern equivalent of Percy Holmes – one half of a tremendously successful county opening pair who did not get the opportunities at test level – their county opening partners Herbert Sutcliffe and Jack Hobbs, test cricket’s greatest ever opening pair, getting the nod most of the time, and quite rightly. Nevertheless, Hobbs and Sandham gave their county a century start 66 times in all (as opposed to the 69 by Sutcliffe and Holmes for Yorkshire). Sandham was involved with Surrey in various capacities for over six decades. It was typical in a way of his unobtrusiveness that his hundredth first class hundred came not at one of cricket’s big showpiece venues but at humble Basingstoke. Sandham was 39 at the time of his last test bow, a mere pup compared to his opening partner in that game, 50 year old George Gunn.
Bill Ponsford – the stocky Victorian scored 181 at Leeds in the 4th test of the 1934 Ashes, a game which was drawn due to the weather. With the series tied, the final game at The Oval was decreed to be timeless, and when Australia won the toss and batted they needed to get some serious runs on the board. Helped by Bradman (244) in a second wicket stand of 451, Ponsford produced an innings of 266, the Aussie score when he was finally dislodged reading 574-4. Australia went on to 701, and after declining to enforce a follow on, won the match by 562 runs, as skipper Woodfull regained the urn on his birthday, for the second time in four years. That was Ponsford’s swansong, and he had announced his arrival at the top level eight years and a bit previously with tons in each of his first two test matches, the only person to have both started and finished his career in such fashion. It says something about the nature of Aussie pitches of the period and timeless matches, then in vogue in Australia, that Ponsford averaged 84 in the Sheffield Shield but only 48 in test cricket.
Alec Stewart – as a Surrey native, Stewart had an easy way to take his final test match curtain call in front of a home crowd – retire at the end of a test summer, which is what he did. He treated his home crowd to wonderful farewell century, finishing with a tally of test runs, 8.463, that had an interesting symmetry with the digital representation of his 8th April, 1963 birthdate – 8.4.63! Although I named as wicket keeper in order to fit him into my Surrey all time XI, the truth is that Stewart the specialist batter was about 15 runs an innings better than Stewart the keeper, and as an excellent player of quick bowling who was an uncertain starter against spin, a top order slot makes sense for him.
Greg Chappell – the 6’4″ South Australian (one of a number of distinguished cricketing products of Prince Alfred College, Adelaide dating back to Joe Darling and Clem Hill in the late 19th century) produced a score of 182 in his final test innings against Pakistan in 1984. 14 years earlier, at the WACA, he had scored 108 in his first test match innings, and barring the quibble-cook exception of Andy Ganteaume whose first and last test innings were one and the same, no one else has centuries in their first and last test innings.
*Steve Waugh – being a native of NSW, Steve Waugh was in a position to script the fairy tale ending to his illustrious career – has final test match was the last match of a triumphant Ashes series and took place on his own home ground, the SCG. He supplied the last ingredient needed to complete the recipe – a bravura century brought up off the final ball of a day’s play. The tension in the closing overs of that day, as Waugh got tantalisingly closer and closer to the landmark was really something.
Stanley Jackson – the Yorkshireman was 35 years old (the same age to the day as his opposite number Joe Darling) when he captained England in the 1905 Ashes series. He won all five tosses in that series, England won both the matches that had definite results, and Jackson topped both the batting and bowling averages for the series (70 and 15 respectively). In the final match he contributed 76 with the bat. It would be 76 years before an England all rounder next dominated an Ashes series in such a way – and his golden period came only after he had resigned the captaincy just before he got pushed.
+Alan Knott – the keeper who had declared himself unavailable for tours was brought back at Old Trafford in 1981, and contributed 59 to an England win. Then at The Oval, with England in serious danger of defeat he signed off with a match saving 70, well backed by his skipper Brearley who also scored a fifty. At the time of his retirement he had made more dismissals – 269 (250 catches and 19 stumpings) than any other England wicket keeper. He had also averaged 32.75 with the bat for his country. He subsequently (in my opinion at least) blotted his copybook by going on the first ‘rebel tour’ of apartheid South Africa, but his test farewell was splendid.
Harold Larwood – the bowling star of the 1932-3 Ashes, which also turned out to be his last test series. In the final game he scored 98, before injuring himself while bowling. Skipper Jardine made him complete the over, and then kept him out on the field while Bradman was still batting. When Bradman was out, Larwood was finally allowed to leave the field, so the two greatest antagonists of the series departed the arena at the same moment. I have mentioned his subsequent shameful treatment by the powers that be in other posts.
Jason Gillespie – sent as nightwatchman he scored 201 not out in what turned out to be his last test innings. This ended his career on much higher note than had looked likely when in the 2005 Ashes he bowled largely unthreatening medium pace, paying out over 100 runs per wicket and looking every inch a spent force.
Sydney Barnes – The England ace took seven wickets in each innings of the fourth match of the 1913-4 series in South Africa. That brought his tally for the series to 49, and his overall test tally to 189. He then quarrelled with management over money and refused to play the final game, otherwise, such was his hold over the South Africans that it is likely he would have had 60+ wickets for the series and been the first to reach the landmark of 200 career test wickets (in what would have been only 28 games). Still, one match earlier than ought to have been the case, Barnes had produced an appropriate swansong performance to confirm his status as the greatest bowler the game had ever seen.
Hugh Trumble – in the final innings of his final test match he bowled his team to victory by bagging 7-28, bringing his tally of Ashes scalps to 141, which remained a record for over 77 years until Dennis Lillee overhauled it at Headingley in 1981.
This XI has a splendid top five, including a tough and resourceful skipper, an all-rounder at six, a splendid keeper/batter at seven and four front line bowlers of varying types.
I am limiting these to two, who I think demand explanation, although one was a first class rather than a test farewell. I start with…
SIR ALASTAIR’S SWANSONG
In 2006 Alastair Nicholas Cook announced himself at test level by scoring a fifty and a century versus India. 12 years and 12,500 test runs later the Essex left hander signed off by scoring a fifty in the first innings and a century in the second at The Oval – against India, for a neat dual symmetry. So why have I not included him? Well, my XI includes a top three who were all regular openers, the performances of Sandham and Ponsford in their sign off matches (remember the name of the XI) commanded inclusion, and in spite of the fact that a left handed batter would have been useful I could not place Cook’s sign off effort above Stewart’s home ground century. Also I could not miss the opportunity to include Stewart in his optimal role as a specialist batter. Finally, I wanted a stroke maker to follow my opening pair. Additionally I was slightly disappointed by the timing of Cook’s announcement of his plan to retire. England were struggling to find folk to open in test matches as the summer of 2018 drew its close, with Stoneman already having been found wanting and Jennings blatantly obviously being in the process of being found wanting. I envisaged, as I wrote in a post at that time, Cook staying on for one last tilt at the oldest enemy in 2019, and helping to usher through two new openers, Burns (who had made an irrefutable case for selection by then) and another (my suggestion, to alleviate concern over having two openers with no international experience, was that England should indulge in a spot of lateral thinking and invite Tammy Beaumont to take her place alongside the men). Thus, while I concede that there is a strong case for Cook having a top three place in this XI, I conclude (a bit like the umpire in a festival match who responded to an appeal against WG Grace by saying “close, but not close enough for a festival match”) that it is not quite strong enough, especially with the most likely drop being Stewart.
HEDLEY VERITY’S LAST BURST
In August 1939, as the warmongers mobilized, Hedley Verity played in Yorkshire’s last championship fixture of the year at Hove. In one final spell of left arm spin wizardry he captured seven Sussex wickets at a personal cost of nine runs. Four years later Captain Verity of the Green Howards was hit by sniper fire as he led his men towards a strategically important farmhouse on Sicily. He was moved to a military hospital at Caserta but died of his wounds at the age of 38. Although his story is a poignant one, and an extra spinning option would have appealed to me, I decided that it would be out of keeping to an include him in an XI picked for their test match sign offs. It is more than likely that had he survived the war Verity would have carried on playing, and I suspect that had been in the test side at Headingley in 1948 Australia would not have been able to chase down 404 on a wicket that was taking spin. It is even possible, without allowing him to break his great forebear Wilfred Rhodes’ record for being the oldest to play test cricket to imagine a 51 year old Verity being Laker’s spin twin in the 1956 Ashes rather than Tony Lock. His 1,956 wickets at 14.90 in less than a full decade of first class cricket show him to have been a very great bowler indeed, which is backed up by Bradman’s acknowledgement of precisely one bowler he faced as an equal: Hedley Verity.
TO ENFORCE OR NOT TO ENFORCE,
THAT IS THE QUESTION
This is a thorny question, and I tackle it here because of the presence in my XI of Sandham, who played in a match that was drawn after a refusal to enforce, Ponsford who played in several matches where the follow on was not enforced with varying degrees of success and Jackson who played a role in the enforcement of the follow on becoming voluntary.
A POTTED HISTORY OF FOLLOW ON REGULATIONS
While the margin required to enforce the follow on changed over the years, being as low as 80 at one point and climbing by stages to 150, until the 1890s it was compulsory to enforce it. Then there was a Varsity match in which Stanley Jackson (son of Lord Allerton, and never anyone’s idea of a rebel) deliberately orchestrated the giving away of eight runs so that his opponents would not follow on. It backfired – set 330 in the final innings the dark blues chased them down, but the lawmakers got the message after years of tampering with required margins that what people wanted was the right to choose.
FOLLOW ON HAPPENINGS
Three test matches have been won by a side following on – Sydney 1894, when enforcing was compulsory, Headingley 1981 and Kolkata 2001. The Sydney match, in which no decision over whether to enforce could have been made anyway, was largely lost on the fifth evening, when Giffen decided to block until the close, keeping wickets in hand for the morrow. Australia ended that day 113-2, needing just 64 for more to win. It rained overnight, though Bobby Peel, who seems to have had a Flintoffesque capacity for unwinding at the end of a day’s play apparently did not hear it. The combination of overnight rain (remember, uncovered pitches in those days) and a hot Sydney sun turned the pitch seriously nasty, and Australia fell to the wiles of Peel and Briggs, losing eight wickets for 36 runs (Darling, the other not out overnight batter, began with some big hitting, but was caught in the deep with the score at 130, and thereafter it was a complete procession). Additionally, during the England second innings the Aussies lost a bit of discipline in the field – both Francis Ford (48) and Johnny Briggs (42) offered easy chances that went begging. At Headingley in 1981 Ian Botham and Graham Dilley did not initially believe they could make a contest of it, and England’s great revival began as a slogfest. Australia had some undistinguished moments in the field, but the crucial period of play happened just before lunch on the final day. Australia were 56-1 with the interval not long away, when Willis was given a go from the Kirkstall Lane end to save his career. In the last stages of the morning play Trevor Chappell could not get out of the way of a bouncer and gave an easy catch, Kim Hughes and Graham Yallop fell to fine catches by Botham and Gatting respectively, and at lunch Australia were 58-4, and suddenly thinking about defeat as a real possibility. Even if Australia had scored no runs at all in that last period before lunch it is hard to imagine that a lunch score of 56-1 could have given them collywobbles to quite the same extent. The third match, which I mentioned in yesterday’s post, was turned on its head by an amazing partnership between Dravid and Laxman, and is the only one of the three where you can seriously argue that the decision to enforce the follow-on contributed to the defeat. At the end of the first day at Headingley, when Australia were 203-3, Brearley opined that a side could be bowled out for 90 on that surface, and it may well have been the case had Australia gone in again that something along those lines happened – third innings collapses are not unknown by any means (Australia once lost a test match after not enforcing when they were rolled for 99 in the third innings and South Africa successfully chased over 300, and Essex in 1904 and Warwickshire in 1982 to name but two can tell their own tales of horrendous third innings folds), and with a draw out of the question England may well have chased a target of just over 300. In the ‘timeless match’ that marked the end of Sandham’s test career England skipper Calthorpe declined to enforce the follow on, and the West Indies were 408-5 (Headley 223) chasing 836 when rain and England’s departure plans scuppered the match. Six years earlier Calthorpe had been involved in a credulity straining comeback, when Hampshire collapsed for 15 in their first innings, Calthorpe enforced the follow on and Hampshire made 521 second time round and emerged victorious by 155 runs. However, we have the word of Warwickshire keeper Tiger Smith that autocratic secretary RV Ryder had sent Calthorpe a message saying that the committee were meeting the following day and would like to see some cricket, and Calthorpe obediently put on some part time bowlers to ensure that there was not an early finish. In other words, this was another match in which the decision to enforce was not itself key to the outcome. Finally, we come to the last ever timeless test, at Durban in early 1939. South Africa batted first, made 530, England were out for 316, South Africa, scorning to enforce the follow on, scored a further 481, leaving England 696 to get. England, helped by a long defensive innings from Paul Gibb (140 in nine hours) and a double century from Bill Edrich (who had never previously scored a test 50) had reached 654-5, a mere 42 short of their goal, when rain and England’s departure plans intervened, and 11 days after its commencement the match was officially confirmed as a draw. Had the match, as originally intended, been played to its conclusion, there seems little doubt that England would have scored those last 42 runs, and claimed the victory. One man who was utterly convinced that South Africa’s failure to enforce the follow on was a blunder was England skipper Hammond, who was no fan of timeless matches (and for the record, neither am I). Hammond felt that after that 316 all out in their first innings England were demoralized, and that a follow on would have seen South Africa comfortably home.
My opinion on enforcing the follow on is that there are a few circumstances in which I might countenance not enforcing it, to whit:
It is the last (five day) test of a series, and your side is a match to the good. While I would consider it stolid, if not downright negative, I would understand the reasoning behind declining to enforce and aiming instead to pile up a colossal lead.
It is the final round of the County Championship, and your team, at the top of the table, are playing the team in second place, and a draw will see you champions, while a defeat would see the opposition take the title. Again, while I would not go so far as to support a decision to to enforce, I would understand the reasoning behind it.
Notwithstanding a couple of counter examples already mentioned, in a timeless match I could understand why it might seem imperative to rest your bowlers by going in again.
However, even making due allowance for these specific situations, my firm opinion remains: if you have the opportunity to go for the quick kill by enforcing the follow on you should be very strongly inclined to take it.
Another ‘All Time XI’ has paraded its skills on this blog, a couple of magnificent cricketers have been given well merited honourable mentions and an answer has been offered to the question of whether or not to enforce the follow, and all that remains is my usual sign off…
Continuing my “100 cricketers series, with a look at nos 6 and 7 from my third XI. Also features some of my photographs.
Welcome to the latest post in my “100 Cricketers” series. The introduction to the series can be found here, and the most recent post can be found here. Before I get into the main meat of this post, as it is cricket themed I will briefly mention…
AFGHANISTAN V IRELAND
The inaugural test match between these two newly elevated nations is taking place in Delhi at the moment. After one day’s play Afghanistan are 90-2 in reply to Ireland’s 172 all out. At one stage it looked like being a lot worse for Ireland – they were 69-8 at one point and then 85-9 before George Dockrell and Tim Murtagh performed a rescue act, the latter top scoring with 54 not out from number 11. Whatever happens over the next four days one of these sides will make the best start to their test match involvement since 1877 when the first two test sides, England and Australia each one won match – each have only played once before, so the winner will record a success in their second outing. Now onto business, with the man at no 6 in my third XI…
Normally I would have an all-rounder at no 6, but Steve Waugh can hardly be so described, even though when he first got the call-up in the mid 1980s he was seen as a bowling all-rounder. He seemed to positively relish difficult situations, such as the occasion at Manchester when 21 players failed to achieve anything of significance with the bat due to a difficult pitch and perpetually overcast conditions, while he chiselled out a century in each innings to win the game for his side.
He really arrived as a test match player in the 1989 series in England when he made big hundreds in the first match at Headingley and the second at Lord’s, both times being supported by lower order batters who were inspired to play above their usual station (Merv Hugheswith 71 at Headingley, Geoff Lawson with 74 at Lord’s), and scored over 350 runs before being dismissed for the first time in the series.
Time again through the 1990s and in to the early 2000s Australia would look be struggling and then Steve Waugh would come to the crease, and right when it was most needed would make sure he was still there at close of play, with Australia firmly back in control. Teams often tested him with bouncers because he rarely played the hook and often looked less than comfortable against short stuff, but I cannot recall him ever losing his wicket to it.
He was the third in the sequence of long-serving Aussie captains that started with Allan Border and ended with Ricky Ponting. Earlier in this series when I covered BorderI rated him the best captain of the four, based on the fact that he turned the fortunes of Australian cricket around when they had been in the doldrums. Steve Waugh, who made a team of champions even stronger, so that they became as near as any team in history to be absolutely unstoppable is for me number two in that ranking, with Mark Taylor a respectful distance back in third and Ponting a poor fourth.
Teams were just starting to take seriously the need for wicketkeepers to have potential as runmakers when Dujon came on the scene. Alan Knott’sEngland career was just coming to a finish, and many matches therein had been influences by his ability to contribute runs from the lower middle order, and England were frantically looking for a replacement (it would take the emergence of Matt Prior some quarter of a century later before they found someone who was good enough in both departments, since when there have also been Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes). Other countries also started requiring regular runs from their wicketkeepers.
Dujon scored four test centuries, averaged over 30 when that was unusual for a wicketkeeper (and generally made his runs when they were badly needed) and was an excellent keeper standing back to the fast bowlers. There is no way of knowing how we would have handled keeping to top class spinners, as the only person picked as a front-line spinner by the West Indies during his time as keeper was Roger Harper (who was also a fine middle-order batter and one of the greatest fielders the game had ever seen), but the fact that I have named in this XI rather than holding him back for the XI featuring a quartet of West Indies quicks tells you what I think – he would have been as good keeping to spinners as he was keeping to quicks.
NEXT IN THIS SERIES
We cover the bowlers from this Third XI and introduce the Fourth XI in batting order.