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.
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.
Now it is time for the main business of the day…
LANCASHIRE ALL TIME XI
- *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 Armstrong‘s 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.
- Cyril Washbrook – he and Len Hutton hold the record opening stand for England, 359 against South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
- 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”.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- +George Duckworth – Wicket keeper in Lancashire’s greatest period, the latter half of the 1920s.
- 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.
- 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…
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.
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.
My usual sign off…