All Time XIs – Eras Clash

A post that looks at cricket history, a view on England’s first test selections, a mathematical teaser and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s All Time XIs cricket post, in which we look at the history of English cricket. A team of cricketers who were all born before 1850 are pitted against an XI who were all born after 1850. Before getting into the main body of the post I start with:

THOUGHTS ON THE SELECTIONS FOR THE FIRST TEST MATCH

22 players have been retained by England at the ground, with 13 officially in the test squad and nine as back ups. Here courtesy of the pinchhitter is the full list:

Eng Squad

My thoughts on the above are: arguably neither Broad nor Anderson should be in the 13, and certainly Broad should not be there. Ollie Robinson should be in the 13 and if he is definitely fit so should Curran. Bracey and Lawrence should both be in the 13, as should Foakes, with Buttler not even meriting a place in the 22. I am relieved the Bess is confirmed as first choice spinner and that Moeen Ali has not even made the 22. I would have liked to see Parkinson in the 22 at least. I am personally not entirely convinced about Woakes. Buttler’s continuing presence in the test squad is a disgrace – he can barely even be described as a competent keeper and his red ball batting record is ordinary. Denly’s selection is a very poor call as well – he averages dead on 30 in test cricket, and Bracey and Lawrence provided the only two major innings of the warm up game and should both be ahead of him.

WG GRACE’S XI

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying styles through his career, captain. He was born in 1848, the latest birth year of any member of this XI. He scored 54,896 first class runs and took 2,876 first class wickets. Over the course of his best decade, the 1870s, he averaged 49 with the bat, while the next best among regular players was 25, achieved by Richard Daft and his younger brother Fred.
  2. James Aylward – left handed opening batter. His 167 against All England in 1777, a mere eight years after the first record hundred of any type was scored is enough on its own to warrant his selection. He batted through two full days of play on that occasion, and his left handedness also helps make him a good complement for Grace.
  3. Billy Beldham – right handed batter. At a time when 20 was considered a decent score, and seriously big scores were a huge rarity he amassed three centuries in matches still recognized today as being first class.
  4. John Small – right handed batter. One of the greats of his day. He is credited with pioneering the policy of playing with a straight bat – before he showed what could be done with this method cross batted swiping was the order of the day.
  5. Vyell Walker – right handed batter, right arm underarm bowler. One of only two players (the other, WG Grace, is also in this XI) to have scored a century and taken all ten wickets in an innings of the same first class match. He was one of seven brothers who hailed from Southgate, and the ground there, which still occasioanlly hosts Middlesex games, is called the Walker Ground in their honour.
  6. Alfred Mynn – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The greatest all rounder the game saw prior to the emergence of WG Grace.
  7. +Ted Pooley – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A great keeper for Surrey, and would have kept for England in the inaugural test match but for an incident that saw him briefly confined in a New Zealand prison cell.
  8. William Clarke – right arm underarm bowler. He was rated as the best bowler of this type ever to play the game, averaging 300 wickets a season in all forms of cricket at his peak, including 476 in his most productive season. He was captain of the All England XI, a touring outfit that played matches against odds (opposition having more than 11 in their team) all round the country. His most significant contribution to cricket history came as a result of his marriage to the landlady of the Trent Bridge Inn. He enclosed some land behind the inn, turning it into a proper cricket ground, and 180 years on Trent Bridge is officially still a test venue, although it will not be hosting any games this season – internationals will be happening at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford only.
  9. William Lillywhite – right arm bowler. The greatest bowler of his era, and one of the pioneers of ’round arm’ bowling, the development between under arm and over arm in the game’s history. He was one half of the game’s first great bowling partnership, along with…
  10. James Broadbridge – right arm bowler. Like Lillywhite, who he regularly bowled in tandem with he was among the pioneers of ’round arm’, and with these two spearheading their bowling Sussex were able to take on the Rest of England on equal terms.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. 863 wickets in 138 first class games at 12.09 each. His best match performance came in 1876 by when he was 35 years of age, when he took 17-103 v Hampshire, only to see them sneak home by one wicket.

This side has a powerful top six, three of whom can be described as all rounders (Grace, Walker, Mynn), a great keeper and a magnificent and varied foursome of bowlers.

FRANK WOOLLEY’S XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed batter, occasional medium paced bowler. 61,237 first class runs, including 197 centuries, both all time records. Scored his last test century at the age of 46, still the oldest ever to do so.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed batter. Hobbs’ opening partner for England, an alliance that had the best average of any opening pair in test history, 87.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The only player ever to achieve the career treble of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches in first class cricket, and indeed the only non-keeper to take 1,000 first class catches.
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He lost eight seasons of his career, one to bureaucratic malice on the part of Lord Harris, one to a mystery illness picked up in the Caribbean and six to World War II and still scored over 50,000 first class runs with 167 centuries, including 7,249 runs and 22 centuries for England. Only two players have ever scored as many as 900 runs in a test series, Hammond with 905 at 113.125 being the first in the 1928-9 Ashes, a record that was overhauled 18 months later by Don Bradman. He is joint record holder for reaching 1,000 first class runs in a season in the shortest time period, doing it in 1927 between May 7 when he started and May 28, where WG Grace in 1895 had done it between May 9 and May 30.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. He averaged 50 in test cricket, set a record first class season’s aggregate in 1947. In 1956 he was recalled for England at The Oval, having had a knee operation earlier in the season, and scored 94. He still holds the record score for England against Pakistan, with 278. He also holds the record for the quickest ever first class triple century, racking it up in 181 minutes v Benoni during the 1948-9 tour of South Africa. At Adelaide in the 1946-7 Ashes he and Arthur Morris entered the record books when each of them scored twin tons in a drawn match.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The man who will captain England when test cricket resumes in a few days time. Instrumental in England’s 2019 World Cup win, and also largely responsible for the win at Headingley later that season, plus having an outstanding series in South Africa. When the recent intra-squad warm up match at the Ageas Bowl was accepted as a draw he had been smashing the ball all over the place, but the dismissal of Moeen Ali, LBW to Bess, ended his team’s hopes of triumph, and Team Buttler apparently decided not to press for the wickets they needed to win.
  7. +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Over 100 first class hundreds with the bat, and over 1,000 first class dismissals with the gloves. Eight of his centuries came at test level, including 120 v Australia at Lord’s in 1934, which helped put England in position to win that match, their only victory over the old enemy at that venue in the entire 20th century.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. In his 15 match test career, ended prematurely by an eye injury, he averaged 27 with the bat and took 50 wickets at 16 each. His best match came at the MCG in the 1882-3 series, when he took seven wickets in each innings and contributed 55 to the only innings England had to play.
  9. Fred Trueman – right arm fast bowler. His record speaks for itself.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each.
  11. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler. 297 test wickets for the crafty Kent bowler.

This team has a strong batting line up, six front line bowling options (the four specialists plus Stokes and Woolley) and Hammond and Compton as back up bowlers. There is no right arm leg spin option, but Underwood, Woolley and Compton could all move the ball away from the right hander.

THE CONTEST

This has all the makings of a classic, and I will not even attempt to predict the outcome.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem appeared on brilliant.org today, and should have been even better than it actually was (it was a fine one anyway):

Triangles

This was presented as multi-choice, with four possible answers, and as I will explain tomorrow that opened up an unorthodox route to a solution, so I am not making it multi-choice.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Old v New
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Through The Alphabet III

Continuing the alphabetic progression of the last two days.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s all time XIs cricket post continues the alphabetic progression established over Friday and yesterday, so out first XI begins with an S.

GRAEME SMITH’S XI

  1. *Graeme Smith – left handed opening batter, captain. Scored large numbers of runs for South Africa. Appointed captain at a very young age he did that job very well as well.
  2. Glenn Turner – right handed opening batter. The only New Zealander to score 100 first class hundreds. In reversal of the more frequent pattern of development he started out as an absolute barnacle and developed an impressive range of strokes as he matured and grew in confidence – his 100th first class hundred as reached in the morning session of the first day of that game. This opening pair should blunt the opposing attack nicely for…
  3. Polly Umrigar – right handed batter, off spinner. India’s leading test run scorer prior to Gavaskar.
  4. Bryan Valentine – right handed batter. A great stylist for Kent and England.
  5. Everton Weekes – right handed batter. One of the greatest of all time to strengthen the middle order.
  6. Jerome Xaba – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. X is a very difficult letter in this context, hence my inclusion of a player who has yet to feature in first class cricket.
  7. +Hugo Yarnold – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Holds the all-time record for stumpings in a first class innings, with six (six successive batters no less, only David East of Essex who caught eight in a row beats that sequence). In total he made almost 700 dismissals in his 287 first class matches. I accept that he is a trifle high in the order.
  8. Dawlat Zadran – right arm fast medium bowler.
  9. Curtly Ambrose – right arm fast bowler.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler.
  11. Bhagwath Chandrasekhar – leg spinner. Our only front line spinner, and one member of this team whose position in the batting order will not cause any controversy.

This team is weaker in batting than is usual with my selections – Weekes is likely to need to remember how to count to six in the latter part of the innings.

CB FRY’S XI

  1. Ian Davis – right handed opening batter for Australia in the second half of the 1970s, known to his team mates as ‘wiz’ after a TV character of the time, ‘the wizard of ID’.
  2. John Edrich – left handed opening batter. A scorer of over 100 first class hundreds, and with a fine record at test level. He is one of five Surrey batters to have reached 100 first class hundreds (Hayward, Hobbs, Sandham and Ramprakash are the others).
  3. *CB Fry – right handed batter, captain. The English Leonardo, with an astonishing range of accomplishments to his credit. 
  4. Syd Gregory – right handed batter, brilliant fielder. A record eight tours of England, the first in 1890 and the last in 1912, the first test double century in Australia (Billy Murdoch scored 211 at The Oval in 1884), 201 at the SCG in 1894.
  5. Graeme Hick – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. His international record makes disappointing reading when compared to his stellar first class record, but there are two bog mitigating factors: his promotion to international cricket was rushed through, pitching him in to the fray against a very formidable West Indian fast bowling line up, and he was then dropped for the Sri Lanka game at tbe end of that season, and subsequently, when he was producing consistently at the top level for the first and only time of his career Ray Illingworth became supremo of English cricket (good idea, utterly wrong choice of person), and publicly described Hick as being ‘soft’, and Hick found himself back to being in and out of the side, as the Illingworth era was marked not so much by selectorial policy as a selectorial merry-go-round. Hick was merely the most prominent of a number of cricketers, along with Devon Malcolm, to be victims of the combination of crassness and insensitivity that marked the Illingworth era.
  6. Jack Iddon – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. Just five England caps, because he was in prime during the tail end of Rhodes’ career and with Roy Kilner also well to the fore, but his first class record, coinciding with his county, Lancashire, enjoying their most successful ever period was 504 matches, 22,681 runs at 36.76 and 551 wickets at 26.90. He was also a decent fielder – once when Hammond commenced a day’s play by hitting the great Ted McDonald for five successive boundaries it was only a great stop by Iddon that prevented ball number six of that opening over going the same way.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. The ultimate x-factor player to be coming at seven.
  8. +Jim Kelly – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He succeeded the great Jack Blackham as Australia’s wicket keeper and held the post for some 15 years.
  9. Geoff Lawson – right arm fast bowler. Had an excellent record in the 1980s, including being well capable of making irritating lower order runs, most notably his 74 at Lord’s in 1989 in support of Steve Waugh who was on his way to a second straight 150 (and was undefeated in both those innings).
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 test wickets in 133 appearances at the highest level.
  11. Sarfraz Nawaz – right arm fast medium bowler. The highlight of his distinguished career was a spell of 7-1 in 33 deliveries that turned seeming defeat against Australia into victory – 305-3 became 310 all out.

This team has solid batting, and a bowling attack of Lawson, Nawaz, Muralitharan, Jessop and Iddon is hardly shabby, though not as stellar as some I have part together in this series.

THE CONTEST

CB Fry’s XI have greater depth in batting, while Graeme Smith’s XI are heavily reliant on their top five to score lots of runs. Graeme Smith’s XI has a stellar bowling unit, especially Ambrose, Barnes and Chandrasekhar. I see this as a close contest, with the odds possibly favouring CB Fry’s XI.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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TAII
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Left Hand v Right Hand

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket post sees a team of left handers take on a team of right handers.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s ‘all time XI‘ cricket themed post. Today we have a team who did everything right handed against a team who did everything left handed, and a guessing game – based on some of my explanations can you work out what tomorrow’s post will be?*

THE LEFT HANDED XI

  1. Arthur Morris – left handed opening batter, very occasional left arm wrist spin. Rated by Bradman as the best left handed opener he ever saw. Morris the bowler was in action when Compton hit the four that won the 1953 Ashes.
  2. Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner.
  4. Martin Donnelly – left handed batter, very occasional left arm orthodox spinner. He averaged 52.90 in his very brief test career, including 206 v England at Lord’s in 1949.
  5. *Allan Border – left handed batter, occasional left arm orthodox spinner, captain. The guy who if the first three wickets fall quickly will dig the team out of the hole, while also being capable of playing very aggressively if circumstances warrant. 
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most complete all rounder ever to play the game. His 254 for Rest of the World v Australia in the series that replaced the 1971-2 Australia v South Africa series was rated by Bradman as the best innings he ever saw played in Australia.
  7. +Steven Davies – wicket keeper, left handed batter. Once seen as England material he did not quite kick on. He has never bowled a ball of any kind in senior first team cricket.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. An ideal number eight, who meets all the qualification criteria for this XI.
  9. Mitchell Johnson – left arm fast bowler, useful left handed lower order batter. A cricketing version of the ‘little girl with the curl’ – when he was good he was very good indeed, when he was bad (e.g Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in the 2010-11 Ashes) he was awful. Having listened to a number of them I consider his good times to be good enough to warrant his inclusion.
  10. Johnny Wardle – left arm orthodox spinner, left arm wrist spinner, left handed lower order batter. 102 test wickets at 20.39, in spite of often missing out to make way for Tony Lock, and his career ending early due to a fall out with authority.
  11. Fred Morley – left arm fast bowler, left handed genuine number 11 batter. Took his first class wickets at 13 a piece, and his four test appearances netted him 16 wickets at 18.50 (he died at the age of 33, in 1884, hence the brevity of his test career).

This team has an excellent batting line up, and with Wasim Akram, Mitchell Johnson and Fred Morley to bowl fast and Sobers as fourth seamer, plus Wardle, Woolley, Sobers and Jayasuriya as front line spin options the bowling is none too shabby either.

NOT QUALIFIED

Among the specialist batters who did not qualify were Graeme Pollock, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Alastair Cook who all bowled their few deliveries with their right hands. Adam Gilchrist, keeper and left handed batter, bowled only a few balls in his career, but he did so with his right hand, officially described as ‘off spin’. Two of the greatest of left arm orthodox spinners batted right handed, Wilfred Rhodes and Hedley Verity, while the crafty left arm slow medium of Derek Underwood was paired with rather less crafty right handed batting. Left arm fast bowler William Mycroft, who took his first class wickets even more cheaply than Morley, and was a similarly genuine no11, did his batting right handed, and so did not qualify. This little list contains a clue to tomorrow’s post.

RIGHT HANDED XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter, very occasional right arm medium pacer.
  3. *Donald Bradman – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner, captain. The greatest batter of them all, to build on the foundation laid by the greatest of all opening pairs.
  4. George Headley – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Averaged 60.83 in test cricket, converting 10 of his 15 50+ scores at that level into hundreds.
  5. Walter Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, ace fielder. Averaged 58.45 in test cricket, topping 200 seven times at that level, including twice hitting two in succession – 251 at Sydney and then 200 not out at Melbourne in 1928-9 and 227 and 336 not out in New Zealand on the way home from the 1932-3 Ashes.
  6. WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of varying styles through his career.
  7. +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper, very occasional leg spinner. Statistically the greatest of all wicket keeping all rounders, and ticks all the qualifying boxes for this team.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, useful right handed lower order batter.
  9. Shane Warne – leg spinner, useful right handed lower batter.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. 189 wickets in just 27 test matches, 77 of them in 13 games down under.
  11. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner, right handed tail end batter. 800 wickets in 133 test matches – an average of six per game.

This team contains a super strong top six, a great wicket keeping all rounder and four all time great bowlers. Hammond is not the worst as a fifth bowler, particularly behind that foursome, while Grace is also a genuine all rounder, and even Hobbs might take wickets with his medium pace. Because there have historically been many more pure right handers than pure left handers, people turning out not to be qualified is less of an issue for this team.

THE CONTEST

The Right Handed XI is stronger in batting, but not quite so formidably armed in the bowling department, although still mighty strong. Overall I would expect the right handers to win, but certainly would not entirely rule out the left handers.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced my two teams for today’s contest, set you a guessing game re tomorrow, and now just before signing off I have a couple of superb twitter threads to share:

My usual sign off…

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LH v RH
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs -The Underappreciated Ashes

My latest variation on the ‘all time XIs’ theme – enjoy!

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on the ‘All Time XIs’ theme. Today I create two teams to do battle for the little urn, but with a twist. The players featured today are players of whom more should have been seen. There is one player of the 22 who did not get to play test cricket, but I believe I can justify his inclusion. At the other end of the scale is a player who eventually played 79 times at the highest level, but who had to wait a long time for the call to come. We start with…

ENGLAND’S UNDERAPPRECIATED XI

  1. Jack Robertson – the stylish Middlesex opener was selected for 11 test matches, all between 1947 and 1952, and he scored 881 runs in those games, at and average of 46.36, with a highest score of 133. He missed the 1950-1 Ashes, when until Reg Simpson scored 156 not out in the final match only Hutton had contributed serious runs from the top of the order.
  2. Cyril Walters – another stylist, the Glamorgan and Worcestershire opener was selected for 11 test matches between 1933 and 1939, in which he scored 784 runs at 52.26, including one century and seven fifties.
  3. David Steele – ‘The Bank Clerk Who Went to War’ – the gritty Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire man played eight tests in 1975 and 1976, against Australia and the West Indies, averaging 42.06 (672 runs in 16 innings, no not outs).
  4. Clive Radley – the Hertford born Middlesex middle order man of the 1970s who like Steele only got to play eight times at the highest level. He scored 481 runs at 48.10 with a highest of 158, and another century versus Pakistan.
  5. Eddie Paynter – the Lancashire left hander’s record reads: 20 test matches, 31 innings, 1,540 runs at 59.23, 591 of them at 84.43 in Ashes matches. Among those who have played 20 or more games for England only Yorkshire’s Herbert Sutcliffe (60.73) has recorded a higher test average.
  6. +Ben Foakes – the Surrey man is the best current English wicket keeper, any doubt about that status being removed by the retirement of the marvellous Sarah Taylor. The measly five test matches he has thus far been given have yielded him 332 runs at 41.50 including a century and also 10 catches and two stumpings. I hope that the selectors will see sense and render him ineligible for selection in future sides of this nature. For the moment, he holds this position as he keeps wicket – summa cum laudae.
  7. Harold Larwood – The Notts express who was the star of the 1932-3 Ashes, and never picked again after that series through a combination of Aussie whinging and appalling behaviour by the English powers that be. Number 7 may look high in the order for him, but he did score 98 in his last test innings and made many useful contributions for Nottinghamshire with the bat.
  8. Frank Tyson – The Northanptonshire super fast man 76 wickets at 18.56 in his 18 test matches. He like Larwood was the hero of an Ashes triumph down under – in 1954-5. Many years after his prime he played in a charity game in which he bowled at Keith Fletcher (Essex), then an England regular, and he produced a delivery that Fletcher reckoned to be the quickest he faced that season.
  9. *Johnny Wardle – 28 test matches, 102 wickets at 20.39 with his left arm spin (he could bowl both orthodox and wrist spin). The Yorkshireman was often passed over in favour of Tony Lock, which rankled in “God’s own county”, especially since Lock’s action in the period in question was rarely as far above suspicion as Caesar’s wife. He fell out with Yorkshire over their appointment of 40 year old amateur Ronnie Burnet as skipper in 1958, and Yorkshire vindictively warned other counties against signing him, which effectively terminated his chances of further international recognition as well. I have done what Yorkshire would not in 1958 and named as captain of this team.
  10. Sydney Barnes – 27 tests, 189 wickets at 16.43, 77 of them in 13 matches down under. He played in under half of the matches contested by England between his first and last appearances, which irrespective of the fact that he was an awkward blighter (if he were to dispute this assessment it would only be as a matter of principle) and chose to play most of his cricket in the leagues rather than in the county championship is simply absurd. Also, there were various times when people considered him a possible post World War 1, including as late as 1930 when some people believed he was the man to take on Bradman who was running riot (2,960 runs at 98,66 for the tour, 974 of them at 139.14 in the test matches). West Indian legend Learie Constantine who faced Barnes for Nelson vs Rawtenstall in the Lancashire League when Barnes was 59 years old said after that match (in which he made 90) “if you wanted to score off Barnes you had to score off good bowling”.
  11. Charles ‘Father’ Marriott – (Lancs and Kent) A ‘one cap wonder’. He was selected in the final match of the 1933 series against the West Indies, took 11-96 in the match and that was his international career. He was known to be a liability except when actually bowling (his 711 first class wickets comfortably beating the 574 runs he scored at that level).

This team has a splendid looking top five, a superb glove man well capable of batting at six, and five excellent and well varied bowlers, all of whom save Marriott are capable of making useful contributions with the bat (Barnes was a regular run scorer in the leagues where he generally plied his trade and played one clearly defined match winning innings in a test match, at Melbourne in 1907 when he came in with 73 needed and two wickets standing and was there on 38 not out when the winning run was scored. Now it is time to look at…

AUSTRALIA UNDERUSED XI

  1. Sidney George Barnes – 13 test matches, in which he averaged 63 with a highest score of 234 (at Sydney in the second match of the 1946-7 Ashes). A combination of World War II (six years of his prime gone), and run-ins with the authorities meant that he played ridiculously little for such a fine batter. I would want ‘Blowers‘ at the mic when Sydney Francis Barnes bowled to Sidney George Barnes – there would surely be some priceless commentary moments!
  2. Chris Rogers – averaged 42.87 in the 25 matches he played, having amassed over 15,000 first class runs before the call came. He hit his peak at just the wrong time, when Australia had a dominant side that they were understandably reluctant to change.
  3. Mike Hussey – what is a man who played 79 tests doing here? He had been playing first class cricket and amassing mountains of runs in that form of the game for over a decade before getting to don the baggy green (‘Mr Cricket’ eschewed the other classic Aussie insignia, the chip on the shoulder). Yes, 79 tests is a fine achievement, as his average in that form of the game, but it could so easily have been 159 test matches, and it is for that reason that I include him.
  4. Martin Love – his peak coincided with Australia’s most dominant period, with the result that his test record amounts to 233 runs at 46.60 with one century. At almost any other time, or in almost any other country he would be an automatic selection for most of his career.
  5. Adam Voges – although the one trough of his brief test career (he was in his mid 30s when it began) coincided with the 2015 Ashes he averaged 61.87 in his 20 matches, an output that cannot be ignored.
  6. *Albert Trott – all rounder and captain (also captain of the ‘what might have been XI’ when I come to present that). His test career was in two parts – for Australia in the 1894-5 Ashes, and then for England against South Africa in 1899. Between them they amounted to five matches in which he scored 228 runs at 38.00 and took 26 wickets at 15.00. It was also in 1899 that he achieved a thus far unrepeated feat – he struck a ball from fellow Aussie Monty Noble that cleared the Lord’s pavilion, hitting a chimney pot and dropping down the back of the building. He was a right arm spin bowler. His test debut in 1895 was remarkable – 38 and 72 not out with the bat and 8-43 in the second England innings.
  7. +Graham Manou – the most skilled glove man in Australia during his career, but Brad Haddin was generally preferred on ground of his belligerent batting. Manou played in only one test match, unusual for an Australian (there are about 70 English members of this club).
  8. Eddie Gilbert – right arm fast bowler and the most controversial of my 22 picks today. He never played test cricket, but in his brief domestic career he sometimes caused carnage, including inflicting on Don Bradman “the luckiest duck of my career”. He might have been selected during the 1932-3 Ashes had Australia adopted a ‘fight fire with fire’ approach. He was an aboriginal, which might explain his scurvy treatment by the Australian cricket powers that be – it would be until Jason Gillespie that a player of proven aboriginal ancestry would don the baggy green.
  9. Laurie Nash – another fast bowler who could have been used as part of the ‘fight fire with fire’ option in 1932-3. He claimed that he could have stopped ‘Bodyline’ in two overs given the chance. His two test caps yielded 10 wickets at 12.60. What might have happened at Australia taken the ‘fight fire with fire’ approach? My reckoning is that there would probably have been one absolute war zone of a test when both teams gave it both barrels, and then the method would have been abandoned, because the English professionals who could not afford to risk their livelihoods would have insisted on it.
  10. Stuart Clark – a tall fast-medium who took 94 wickets at 23.86 in his 24 test matches. Injury problems and a chap by the name of McGrath kept him from featuring more often than he did.
  11. Jack Iverson – mystery spinner (subject of Gideon Haigh’s book “Mystery Spinner”) whose test career amounted to the five matches of the 1950-1 Ashes series, in which he took 21 wickets at 15.23. Many reckoned that he would have been even deadlier in England (although he bowled wrist spin he was effectively a very accurate off spinner) – which creates an interesting counter-historical speculation. Had he gone to England in 1953 Australia may well have retained The Ashes, which would almost certainly have meant that the grumblers who had never liked the notion of a professional captaining England would have got their way and Hutton would have been replaced by an amateur, which would almost certainly have also meant no 1954-5 triumph with ‘Typhoon’ Tyson.

This team has a strong looking top five, a potentially match winning all rounder at six, a magnificent keeper at seven and four top quality bowlers.

THOUGHTS ON HOW THIS ASHES CONTEST MIGHT GO

Barring an emerald coloured pitch and/or heavy cloud cover that you are prepared to bet on remaining in place for long enough to cash in on the toss winner would be heavily advised to bat first and get their runs on the board (trying to score runs against Trott and Iverson in the fourth innings does not look like fun, and this is even more the case vis a vis Wardle, Barnes and Marriott). I reckon that Larwood and Tyson are a quicker pair (thought not by much) than Gilbert and Nash. Where England definitely shade it is that irrespective of conditions Barnes is likely to more dangerous than Clark. I would expect it to be close – in a five match, play to a finish series I would back England to win 3-2, while I would expect England’s margin to look a little more comfortable with draws in the equation because I reckon Steele and Radley could each be counted on for at least one match saving rearguard action,  while ‘Mr Cricket’ would probably probably save one game for the Aussies, so factoring in draws I make it 2-0 to England. Glenn McGrath would probably utter his reflex “5-0 to Australia’ line!

Given the characters on show we need some good officials in charge. I am going for Bucknor and Dar as on field umpires, Venkataraghavan as TV Replay umpire and Clive Lloyd as match referee. For commentators I have already indicated that ‘Blowers’ has a role to play, and as his colleagues I choose Jim Maxwell (Australia) and Alison Mitchell (who has a foot in both camps) – sorry ‘Aggers‘, no gig for you this series. For expert summarisers I have no strong preferences other than that Boycott is absolutely banned.

A TWITTER THREAD AND PHOTOS

I have set the stage for my Ashes series between two teams of often overlooked players, but there remains one more thing to do before my usual sign off – I have an important twitter thread about Coronavirus to share with you, from Lainey Doyle, please click on screenshot to view the whole thread:

Lainey TT

We end with the usual photographic flourish:

Neglected Ashes
The contending XIs in tabulated form.

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Sitting out in my bit of garden is providing plenty of opportunities for camera work (all bar two of the remaining pics in this post were taken while sitting outside, which I was also doing for most of the time spent typing this post).

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All Time XIs – Lancashire

Continuing my ‘All Time XIs’ series with a look at Lancashire. There is one very controversial omission from the XI, but I hope that I have adequately explained my reasoning.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my series of ‘All Time XIs‘. This one deals with Lancashire, and features one selection decision that is by any reckoning colossally controversial and another that will be seen as such in certain quarters. Before we move into the main body of the post however, today is the first day of ‘Autism Awareness Month’, and I therefore start with a small item that reflects that…

A GREAT TWITTER THREAD ON AUTISM BY AN AUTISTIC PERSON

This thread, from Pete Wharmby, aka @commaficionado deserves to widely read and shared. Please click on the screenshot of the start of it to view it in its entirety.

Thread

Now it is time for the main business of the day…

LANCASHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. *Archie MacLaren – an attack minded opening bat who scored the first ever first class quadruple century – 424 against Somerset at Taunton in 1895, amassed in eight hours. Also, have a gander at his stats for the 1897-8 Ashes tour, which you can read about in John Lazenby’s “Test of Time”, which reconstructs the tour through the eyes of his ancestor Jack Mason, one time captain of Kent. I have also named him as my captain – he guided Lancashire to a county championship in which they went through the season unbeaten in 1904. In 1921 he put together a team to take on Warwick Armstrongs all-powerful Aussies, and after being all out for 43 in the first and losing MacLaren early in the second they emerged victorious by 28 runs. In 1922, eight year before the Kiwis took their official test bow he scored 200 not out in a representative game in Wellington, that at the age of 51.
  2. Cyril Washbrook – he and Len Hutton hold the record opening stand for England, 359 against South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
  3. Johnny Tyldesley – no 3 for Lancashire and England in his day. At Edgbaston in 1902 he scored 138 in the first innings against Australia. His highest first class score was 295 against Kent, an innings that Frank Woolley, who played for Kent in that match, writes about in some detail in “King of Games”.
  4. Eddie Paynter – a left hander whose test opportunities were limited by the extreme strength of batting available to England at that time, but who still managed to average 59.23 at that level, including double centuries against both Australia and South Africa. His most famous innings came during the 1932-3 Ashes (aka Bodyline), when he rose from his sick bed to score 83 in four hours at Brisbane, and innings that put England in control of the match and with it the series (the Brisbane game was the fourth of that series, not the opener as it would be today and England had won an acrimonious match in Adelaide to go 2-1 up).
  5. Ernest Tyldesley – much younger brother of Johnny, and the only Lancastrian ever to score 100 first class hundreds, reaching the landmark at the age of 45, the second oldest after W G Grace.
  6. Andrew Flintoff – big htting middle order bat and right arm fast bowler. His finest hours came in the 2005 Ashes, though it was also his spell of bowling that settled the destiny of the Lord’s match in 2009, and in his final test appearance at The Oval in 2009 he produced a direct hit throw to run out Ricky Ponting. He is this team’s X Factor player, a luxury that the strength of the top five permits.
  7. Cecil Parkin – his stock delivery was the off break, but he also bowled just about every other kind of delivery known (and probably more besides!) to right armers, and he had his moments with the bat as well, hence his position in this order.
  8. Johnny Briggs – a slow left arm bowler, a brilliant fielder and a useful lower order bat. He was one of two such bowlers who caught the Aussies on a ‘sticky’ in Sydney in 1894 (Bobby Peel of Yorkshire was the other) to achieve the first test victory by a side following on (Aus 586, Eng 325 and 437, Aus 166, Eng won by 10 runs). England also won the second match of that series, before Australia took games three and four and then England won the decider.
  9. +George Duckworth – Wicket keeper in Lancashire’s greatest period, the latter half of the 1920s.
  10. Syd Barnes – rated by most of those who saw him as the greatest of all bowlers. He worked out a way of bowling a leg break at fast medium pace, which was his deadliest delivery. In 27 test matches he took 189 wickets at 16.43, a haul that included 77 at 21 a piece down under. He also destroyed South Africa in their own backyard, in a series in which he took 49 wickets at 10.93 in four matches before refusing to play the fifth following an argument over terms. As late as 1930 there were those who thought that Barnes, then approaching 60 years of age, was the best hope of subduing Bradman. Bradman was sufficiently impressed by what he read and heard about Barnes to include him in his all-time England XI (see “Bradman’s Best Ashes Teams by Roland Perry). Barnes remained a league pro until the outbreak of World War Two, meaning that for 44 years of his adult life there was someone willing to pay him to play cricket.
  11. Brian Statham – right arm fast bowler. He combined with Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson to bowl England to the 1954-5 Ashes, and later formed a hugely successful England new ball pairing with Freddie Trueman. For England his 252 wickets cost 24 a piece, for Lancashire where he had first choice of ends as undisputed lead bowler he took his wickets at a mere 16 a piece.

This team has a hugely powerful top five, an attacking all rounder at six, four widely varied bowlers and a top of the range wicket keeper to ensure that no chances go begging.

CONTROVERSIES AND OMISSIONS

I start this section by dealing with my most obviously controversial admission…

JIMMY ANDERSON

England’s all time leading test wicket taker, which is a tribute to his longevity. However his test bowling average is only just the right side of 30, and to include him would mean either sacrificing variety by dropping one of Parkin or Briggs, or dropping Statham. If I have Anderson, Statham and Barnes in the team that means Statham not getting the new ball, since Barnes would have to have it and Anderson would lose a huge amount of his value if not given the new ball.

OTHER OMISSIONS

There were a number of openers who could have been considered, starting with “My Hornby and my Barlow, long ago”, continuing with the transplanted Yorkie Albert Ward whose career highlight was his 75 and 117 in the Sydney test that England won after following on, R H Spooner whose omission probably has Neville Cardus turning in his grave, left hander Charles Hallows, one of only three players to achieve the strict feat of scoring 1,000 first class runs actually in the month of May (as opposed to in the English season before the start of June), ‘Shake’ Makepeace, Geoff Pullar, Barry Wood, David Lloyd, Graeme Fowler and Mike Atherton. Hornby was an amateur stylist, as was Spooner, and MacLaren was also an amateur with a rather weightier record. Barlow, though his left arm medium pace could also have been a useful addition, was an absolute stonewaller (twice spending two and a half hours over scores of 5, and on another occasion taking 80 minutes over a blob). All of the others would have their advocates, and only Atherton has a big black mark against him – his negative attitude to county cricket as conveyed in his writings since his retirement (hence why, unlike in the case of Anderson, I do not personally see his omission as in any way controversial).

Among the middle order batters Neil Fairbrother is the most obvious non-overseas omission, along with John Crawley. However, neither of those two really delivered at the highest level, and although Fairbrother holds the record for the highest score in a first class match in London (366 at The Oval in 1990), that innings was played on a pitch of mind-numbing flatness. Ian Greig of Surrey, no ones idea of a great player, scored 291 on that same pitch. Clive Lloyd could easily have had the nod as an overseas player, although I am normally disinclined to choose batters for that as will now be obvious to anyone who has followed this series. 

I could find no way of fitting in Wasim Akram (left arm quick, attacking left handed bat) unless I had gambled on him batting as high as six and had dropped Flintoff for the sake of greater variety in the bowling department. I felt that having bitten one king sized bullet by leaving out Anderson dropping Freddie was going too far.

There were three spinners who entered my thoughts but who I could not accommodate, leg spinner Richard Tyldesley (unrelated to the two Tyldesleys already in the side), off spinner Roy Tattersall who had the misfortune of overlapping with Jim Laker (see my Surrey team) and Malcolm Hilton, who has a niche in the history books, because playing for Lancashire v Australia in 1948 he accounted for Bradman in both innings, but he does not quite have the overall weight of achievement to displace Briggs.

That brings to an end this section of the post. Feel free to comment, but remember to consider how your chosen selections might fit into an XI and which of mine you would displace.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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