All Time XIs – The Janus Contest

Today’s all time XI cricket post faces Janus-like in two directions simultaneously, towards the past and the future of this great game.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the final post in this All Time XIs cricket series – as I start typing it the test match at the Ageas bowl is about to get underway following weather delays. England have won the toss and chosen to bat, in view the correct decision grey skies notwithstanding. This post takes its name from the Roman god Janus because it faces two ways – a look at cricket’s past in the form of a team selected for a combination of entertainment value and class, and a look to the future with a team largely comprising up and coming players, with the topical exception of the captain.

TS ENTERTAINMENT XI

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career. ‘The Doctor’ just had to be the captain of this side, with his outstanding approach and his attack minded approach. One quote “I never like defensive strokes – you can only get three for them.” Against Kent in the match after becoming the first to 100 first class centuries he made 257 as Gloucestershire replied to Kent’s 470 with 443 of their own. Kent then slumped to 78 all out in their second innings, and Gloucs needed 106 in an hour and a quarter to win, and Grace was on 73 not out when they got there just in time, having been on the field fior the entire match, and with his 47th birthday less than two months away.
  2. Victor Trumper – right handed opening batter. At Old Trafford in 1902 he scored a century in the morning session of day 1. In a wet season he amassed 2,570 first class runs for the touring Australians, including 11 centuries.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. The only non-keeper to take 1,000 first class catches. At Lord’s in 1921 in the face of Gregory and McDonald against whom his colleagues could offer no resistance he scored 95 and 93. His highest first class score, 305 not out in a tour match on the 1911-2 trip to Australia, came from number three.
  4. Charles Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He scored centuries in the second, third and fourth matches of the 1926 Ashes, the second of the three, at Leeds coming before lunch on day 1. In 1921 he scored 345 in 232 minutes against Nottinghamshire, reaching 300 in 198 minutes.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete player ever to play the game, and the most automatic of selections for a team of this nature.
  6. +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Twice winner of the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season, three times he achieved the keeper’s season double of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals (only John Murray of Middlesex, who did so once, achieved the feat in all the rest of cricket history). He executed 418 first class stumpings, an all time record.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. The ultimate in x-factor players. 53 first class centuries and only once did he bat for over three hours in a single innings.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. 16 test matches, 50 wickets at 16 each and a batting average of 27. He was the first England bowler to take a test hat trick, as part of a match performance in which he took 14 wickets and scored 55 in England’s only innings.
  9. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. The ‘Typhoon’, producer of possibly the fastest bowling ever seen, during the 1954-5 Ashes tour when he bowled England to victory after they had been stuffed in the opener at the Gabba (that series remains the last Ashes series down under won by a side who lost at the Gabba).
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. Probably the greatest bowler ever seen. His signature weapon, ‘the Barnes ball’ was a leg break at fast medium pace, the nearest subsequent approach to which was Alec Bedser’s speciality. Incidentally it was from this no10 slot that he played his most important innings, the 38 not out that saw England to victory at the MCG in 1907, when they lost their eight wicket still 73 adrift, and their ninth still needing 39. Arthur Fielder of Kent was the no11 who assisted Barnes in that final partnership. In Barnes’ last test series, when he took 49 South African wickets in four matches before missing the fifth after a dispute, he took 17-159 in the match at Port Elizabeth, not a venue generally regarded fondly by bowlers.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. 138 first class matches, 863 wickets at 12.09, including a 17 wicket haul in a losing cause against Hampshire in 1876 (the crucial innings was played by one Reginald Hargreaves, who later married Alice Pleasance Liddell, aka the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland”). He may have inspired the name of Mycroft Holmes (Doyle was fine cricketer as well as being a fanatical follower of the game, and Mycroft and brother Thomas played for Derbyshire as fast bowler and keeper, while Frank Shacklock and Mordecai Sherwin, from whose surnames one can get Sherlock played the same roles for Nottinghamshire), and in this XI he has a team mate with the middle name Holmes (Frank Holmes Tyson).

This team has an excellent top six, the ultimate in x-factor no 7s and four very fine and varied bowlers. Tyson, Barnes, Mycroft, Bates, Woolley, Sobers, Grace, Jessop and Macartney provide a wealth of bowling options. Do you open with Mycroft and Barnes and have Tyson come on first change, do you open with Tyson and Barnes and bring Mycroft on first change, or do you attempt to persuade Barnes to accept coming on first change so that you can open up with Tyson and Mycroft?

HONOURABLE MENTIONS AND SEGUE

Of course I have a stack load of regrets about players I could not accommodate, and many of you will have ideas of your own, but my principal regrets are:

  • Could not find a place for Denis Compton’s batting and left arm wrist spin bowling.
  • No place for Keith Miller.
  • Tyson was one of three choices for that slot – Harold Larwood, who also terrorized the Aussies in their own backyard and Charles Kortright of Essex were both in my thoughts.
  • Bill O’Reilly, Doug Wright, Derek Underwood, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar and Jack Iverson were all highly individualistic bowlers I would have loved to be able to accommodate.

Having attended to the past it is now time for…

TS FUTURE STARS XI

  1. Prithvi Shaw – right handed opening batter. Has a remarkable record for someone so young, and will surely be a superstar before too many more years have passed. India would not want to break up the Sharma/ Agarwal opening pair an earlier than necessary, but perhaps they could accommodate Shaw by playing him at 3, with Kohli at four.
  2. Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter. His South African tour pretty much established him in the England side, especially his first test century. The restart of test cricket has not been good for him – in the brief passages of play that the weather has allowed he has been dismissed for a duck, but he will be back scoring runs again before long.
  3. Shreyas Iyer – right handed batter. He has a magnificent record in all forms of cricket that he has played, and that will surely continue when he gets his chance at test level.
  4. Daniel Lawrence – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He played at no 4 in last week’s warm up game at The Ageas Bowl and made 58 in the first innings, and was then not called on to bat in the second. He was then left out of the test squad, with Denly being chosen for the batting spot vacated by Joe Root being on paternity leave. His time will surely come soon.
  5. James Bracey – left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He made 85 in that warm up game at the Ageas Bowl, and again was overlooked for the test match. He has done some work on his wicket keeping, but regards himself primarily as a batter, and that is the role I see him playing for England when he gets the call up.
  6. *Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain. The one member of this side who is indisputably established at the very highest level, and in a nod to what is happening at the Ageas Bowl I have named as captain.
  7. +Ben Foakes – wicket keeper, right handed batter. England’s best (and worst treated) current wicket keeper. Among 21st century keepers his only rival with the gloves is the now retired Sarah Taylor, and he averages over 40 for those few tests he has been selected for. Bairstow is no longer able to perform in red ball cricket, and Buttler is barely even a competent keeper, and has never had a good red ball batting record, and yet it is this latter named individual who is currently taking the place behind the stumps that should be Foakes’. Stokes is an established test cricket, while Foakes should be but is not yet.
  8. Lewis Goldsworthy – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter. He had a good under-19 world cup, and I expect to see him notable first class performances from him before too much longer. He may yet develop into a genuine all rounder, but at the moment he is definitely more bowler than batter, hence his positioning at no eight in this order.
  9. Rashid Khan – leg spinner, useful lower order batter. Four test matches have yielded him 23 wickets at 21.08, a magnificent start at that level, and he has a phenomenal record in limited overs cricket. He has also already racked up a test 50 with his lower order batting. I look forward to seeing him establish himself as one of the greats of the game.
  10. Oliver Edward Robinson – right arm medium fast bowler, useful lower order batter. I use his full name because there is a young wicket keeper from Kent, Oliver Graham Robinson, who is on the fringes of the England set up. He takes his wickets at 22 each in first class cricket, and bowled well in the warm up match at the Ageas Bowl. Whether he has sufficient pace to trouble top level batters remains to be seen, but he should get his opportunity before too long. Yes, one has to pick for the present, but the future should also be considered, and England are due to go to Australia for their 2021-2 season, by when James Anderson will be 39 years of age, probably too old to spearhead the attack out there (the last England new ball bowler to succeed out there at that sort of age was Syd Barnes on the 1911-2 tour).
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. He has played 14 test matches, the second most of anyone in this side, in which he has taken 68 wickets at 20, including shaking the Aussies up in their own backyard in the 2018-9 Border – Gavaskar Trophy. I hope to hear more of him in the not too distant future – talents of this type can only be good for the game.

This team has a fine top five, the x-factor player of the current era at six, the best current keeper and a beautifully balanced selection of bowlers. Bumrah, Robinson and Stokes look a fine pace trio, and Goldsworthy and Khan should combine well as spin twins.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Pakistan left arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi has made an impressive start to his career, and would be my first reserve quick should one or other of Bumrah or Robinson be unavailable. Hamidullah Qadri was the other English success story of the u-19 world cup, although at the moment he would have to be considered as at best third in the senior off spinning queue behind Bess and Virdi, though in red ball cricket he is certainly ahead of Ali in my pecking order. Finally, a suggestion of a type that might be regarded as akin to heresy in certain quarters, all rounder Amelia Kerr has had success with both bat and leg spin for the New Zealand Women, is still only 18, and the Kiwis do not have a long queue of spin bowling options – will they take a chance on giving a female the opportunity to play alongside the men?

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Rest Of The World v Asia

An international clash of the titans today, as the Rest of the World take on Asia in our ‘all time XIs’ cricket post.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s all time XIs cricket post follows the usual Monday theme of going international. Today we pit the Rest of the World against Asia. I am, as usual in this series, thinking principally in terms of long form cricket, although of course this contest could not (or at least should not) officially be given test status.

REST OF THE WORLD

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, scorer of 12 centuries in Ashes cricket,a tally only beaten by Don Bradman with 19. He was one half of no less than four of the greatest opening partnerships in the history of cricket, at county level with Hayward and then Sandham, and at test level with Rhodes and then Sutcliffe.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opener. His case for selection for a contest of this nature is even more watertight than was his actual case for England selection. He got better the tougher the competition – averaging 52 in all first class cricket, 60.73 in test cricket and 66.85 in Ashes cricket. He and Hobbs had an average opening stand of 87, 15 times topping the hundred. At The Oval in 1926 they put on 172 in England’s second innings, beginning on a very spiteful pitch, with Hobbs falling for exactly 100 to end the partnership (the first time he had made a test century on his home ground), while Sutcliffe went on to 161 and to put England in an invincible position. At Melbourne in the third match of the 1928-9 series he and Hobbs started the final innings with England set to make 332, and many people reckoning that on the rain damaged pitch they had to contend with that the innings would not even last a full session. Actually, the pair were still in residence by the tea interval, and part way through the evening session Hobbs sent a message to the pavilion that if a wicket fell that night Jardine rather than Hammond should come in at no3. Hobbs finally fell for 49 to make to 105-1, and Jardine duly came in, and he and Sutcliffe were still together at close of play. The following day the surface was easier, and although England suffered a mini clatter of wickets, including Sutcliffe for 135, with victory in sight, George Geary ultimately settled the issue by hitting a ball through mid on for four with three wickets still standing.  Sutcliffe’s 100th first class hundred was scored when Yorkshire were after quick runs for a declaration, and he duly attacked from the get go, clobbering eight sixes on his way to the landmark.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter, captain. To follow the greatest opening pair the game has ever seen we have the greatest batter of them all, the man who averaged 99.94 in test cricket. He scored 974 runs (a record for any test series) in the 1930 Ashes, at 139.14, but perhaps his most remarkable display of high scoring given the circumstances came in the last three matches of the 1936-7 series. England won both of the opening games, and the weather played havoc with the third, England declaring their first innings at 76-9 to get Australia back in while the pitch was still vicious. Bradman countered by sending in tailenders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith, and then when O’Reilly was out before the close, another specialist bowler, Frank Ward. As a result of this the score when Bradman emerged to join regular opener Fingleton was 97-5, and the pitch had largely eased. Bradmand and Fingleton put on 346 together, and then McCabe joined Bradman. Bradman in that innings made 270, the most ever by someone coming in at no7 in a test innings, and England, set 689 to win, were duly beaten by a huge margin. Bradman then made another double ton in the fourth match, which Australia won to make it 2-2. In the final game Bradman was dropped early in his innings, scored 169, and Australia duly won again, becoming the first and to date only side to win a five match series after losing the first two matches thereof.
  4. Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. He averaged 60.97, a figure exceeded among those to have finished careers that included 20 or more test matches only by Bradman and Adam Voges, the latter named benefitting from playing most of his test cricket against weak opposition, and coming a cropper in his only Ashes series.
  5. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, occasional off spinner, ace slip fielder. When he led England out at Trent Bridge at the start of the 1938 Ashes he made history – he was the first person to have been a professional and also to be appointed an official England captain. A directorship at the Marsham Tyre Company had enabled him to turn amateur, which also saw him become the first and only player to captain the Players against the Gentlemen and the Gentlemen against the Players. In that team that he led out at Trent Bridge was the man who would get to lead his team out without turning amateur, Leonard Hutton. By the time of the outbreak of World War II he had scored 6,883 test runs at 61.75, but a comeback post war which never really worked out for him, and ended with a disastrous 1946-7 Ashes (168 runs in the series at 21.00).
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most complete player ever to have played the game.
  7. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper. The most destructive keeper/ batter there has ever been, he completely rewrote the requirements for keeper/ batters. The search for the keeper who is also a destructive batter has led to some bizarre decisions – the current England camp’s obsession with Buttler, barely even a competent keeper and someone who has failed to transfer his white ball form to the red ball game is an example of people being led up a blind alley by this thinking (though arguably it is only England’s second worst selection blooper for the upcoming resumption of test cricket behind the selection of Denly at four, which amounts to a v-sign being flashed at Lawrence and Bracey, compilers of the only two major scores of the warm up match). It is nowadays unthinkable that a Bert Strudwick, who habitually batted no11, would be selected as a test wicket keeper, and even Bob Taylor, another brilliant wicket keeper who was not a proper front line batter would have a hard time convincing national selectors to pick him – just look at the treatment Ben Foakes has had from the England selectors.
  8. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. For my money the greatest fast bowler of the West Indies’ golden age.
  9. Michael Holding – right arm fast bowler. His 14-149 in the match on flat Oval wicket in 1976 is probably enough on its own to justify his inclusion, but he produced many other stellar performances. At Bridgetown, Barbados in 1981 he made use of a super-fast pitch to bowl probably the most intimidating opening over any test match has ever seen – the England opener, by then a veteran of over 100 test appearances, was beaten all ends up by four deliveries, got bat on one and had his off stump uprooted by the final ball of the over.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. His wicket taking rate of seven per match is out on its own among bowlers who played 20 or more test matches. At Melbourne in 1911-2 Johnny Douglas won the toss for England and put Australia in, a decision that needed early wickets to justify it. Barnes soon had the Aussie top four back in the hutch, for a single between them, and with a couple more wickets also falling early in the game Australia were at one point 38-6 in their first innings. They recovered to reach the semi-respectability of 184, but England remained in total control and ran out winners by eight wickets. Wilfred Rhodes, who went on that tour as a specialist batter, having started his career as a specialist bowler, was asked many years later about Barnes and just how good he was and said simply “the best of them today are half as good as Barnie wor.”
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner. The Dunedin born leggie first crossed the Tasman in search of cricketing fulfilment, and then crossed two state boundaries in his new country, before eventually breaking into the South Australia side, and then, at the age of 33 into the test side. He took 11 wickets on test debut, and went on to finish with 216 wickets in 37 matches, a wicket taking rate of just short of six per match, putting him ahead of his mate Bill O’Reilly and significantly ahead of Shane Warne.

This team features a stellar batting line up, two out and out quicks, probably the greatest bowler of them all, the craft and guile of Grimmett, and of course the most complete player ever to play the game in Sobers. Barnes, Holding, Marshall, Grimmett and Sobers, with Hammond as sixth bowler represents a mighty fine range of bowling options.

SOME OF THOSE WHO MISSED OUT

Everyone will have their own ideas about possible selections, but here are some of my own additional thoughts:

  • Opening batters – I went for the greatest opening partnership of all time. Thinking in partnership terms their only serious rivals are Greenidge/ Haynes and Hayden/ Langer. WG Grace, especially given his all round skills, Victor Trumper, Len Hutton, Arthur Morris, Barry Richards and Chris Gayle might all have been considered on their individual methods.
  • No3 – this position was non-negotiable, ‘the Don’ standing high above all other contenders.
  • Nos 4 and 5 – Steve Smith was ruled out on grounds other than technical ones. Brian Lara and Allan Border had fine records as left handed batters, but I considered Pollock to have an even stronger case – all available evidence suggests that when the curtain came down on that incarnation of his country as a test playing nation he was still getting better. Among right handers Viv Richards, Kane Williamson and Steve Waugh all have serious cases for consideration, but Hammond has his slip fielding and his potential value as a support bowler on his side as well as his phenomenal batting record.
  • No6 – non-negotiable. Sobers’ range of cricketing talents make him not so much a star as a galaxy – or at the very least a constellation.
  • The keeper – Gilchrist gets it because of his batting, but many from Jack Blackham, the so-called ‘prince of wicket keepers’ who kept for Australia in the inaugural test match through to Ben Foakes of today would be worth a place as glovemen.
  • The fast bowlers – too many potential candidates to list. I regret that left arm fast bowler William Mycroft was in his pomp before test cricket was a thing, and similarly the brilliant USian Bart King was not quite brilliant enough to propel hbis country to test status. Two other 19th century legends, Charlie Turner and George Lohmann could have had the spot I gave to Barnes.
  • The spinners – I ruled out selecting a specialist left arm spinner, because I already had Sobers to attend to that department, I considered off spinners Billy Bates and Jim Laker, while O’Reilly and Warne were obvious rivals to Grimmett, but I think the obstacles Grimmett had to clear before even having a chance to prove himself get him the nod.

ASIA

  1. Sunil Gavaskar – right handed opening batter. The first ever to score 10,000 test runs, and the first to score as many as 30 test centuries. He made 13 of those centuries against the West Indies, a dominant cricketing force for much of his career.
  2. Hanif Mohammad – right handed opening batter. He played the longest ever test innings, 337 against the West Indies in 970 minutes at the crease. His side had folded for 106 in their first dig, and made to follow on, saved the game by posting 657-8 second time around. That 551 runs difference between 1st and second innings scores is an all time test record, and is equalled at first class level by Middlesex (83 and 634 in a match in the 1980s) and Barbados (175 and 726-7 declared). The other side of his game was seen for Karachi against Bahawalpur when he scored 499 in just over ten hours at the crease, then a world first class record (ended by a run out, depending on which you believe either going for the 500th, or, believing himself to be on 498, seeking to farm the bowling for the following morning.
  3. Rahul Dravid – right handed batter. More test runs than any other number three. When he really got settled in one got the impression that nothing short of an earthquake would dislodge him.
  4. Virat Kohli – right handed batter. A man who averages over 50 in all three international formats and has scored big runs against all opponents.
  5. Sachin Tendulkar – right handed batter. The only player ever to have scored 100 centuries in international matches (Kohli is currently on 70, and may conceivably match Tendulkar’s achievement).
  6. +Kumar Sangakkara – left handed batter, wicket keeper. Until Alastair Cook went past him he had more test runs to his credit than any other left hander. I have chosen him as wicket keeper to be able to pick a full range of bowlers.
  7. *Imran Khan – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain. Statistically, with credit balance of 14 between his batting and bowling averages he ended as the most successful of the four great test all rounders of the 1980s. He was also one of the very few captains able to unify a Pakistan dressing room.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed batter. Has a fair claim to be regarded as the best left arm quick bowler ever to play test cricket, and a mighty useful player to have coming at no8.
  9. Anil Kumble – leg spinner, useful lower order batter. The third leading wicket taker in test history, although Jimmy Anderson is officially still in the hunt to get past him. One of only two bowlers to have taken all ten in a test innings.
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 test wickets from 133 appearances at that level, an all time record tally.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. He is in the early stages of what should be an illustrious career. He already has on his CV an achievement few fast bowlers can point to – shaking the Aussie up in their own backyard, which he did in the 2018-9 series for the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

This side has a stellar top five, a keeper who is also a world class batter at six, a genuine all rounder at seven and four excellent varied bowlers. A pace attack of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Jasprit Bumrah looks decidedly fruity, and spin twins Muralitharan and Kumble will be formidable on any surface.

SO.ME OF THOSE WHO MISSED OUT

  • Opening batters – the current Indian opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal might well have warranted selection as a partnership, while Saeed Anwar, Sanath Jayasuriya (who would also have offered an extra bowling option) and Vijay Merchant all had cases for individual inclusion.
  • No3 – I considered that Dravid had no serious rivals for this slot, but I acknowledge the successes of Zaheer Abbas in the role.
  • Nos 4-5 – Javed Miandad, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mahela Jayawardene, Aravinda De Silva and Mushtaq Mohammad could all have a case made for them.
  • The keeper – among keepers who also count as front line batters, and therefore do not significantly alter the balance of the side Mushfiqur Rahim and Rishabh Pant had cases, while Syed Kirmani, Wriddhiman Saha and Wasim Bari all had cases for being picked as specialist glove men.
  • The All rounder – non-negotiable, especially given his claims on the captaincy (sorry, Kapil).
  • Spinners – If I revisit this post in a few years Rashid Khan, the Afghan leg spinner, may well have displaced Anil Kumble (like Kumble he is also a handy lower order batter), while Sandeep Lamichhane of Nepal may also be making a strong case, especially if he can get a contract to play county cricket and build up his long form record, and Zahir Khan, another Afghan who bowls left arm wrist spin (not to be confused, as Gulu Ezekiel did on twitter yesterday, with Zaheer Khan the left arm pace bowler for India) may also be making a case for himself. Had Palwankar Baloo had the opportunity at test level he may well have had an excellent record with his left arm orthodox spin, but just as I felt unable to pick William Mycroft for the ROW because he never played test cricket, so I cannot pick Baloo here. The great Indian spin quartet of the 1970s, Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan, all have cases for selection, especially the highly individual Chandrasekhar. Ravindra Jadeja’s all round skills fell only just short of making a case for him, and R Ashwin would also have his advocates. Saqlain Mushtaq, off spin, Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed (both leg spin) all warrant consideration.
  • The pace bowlers. I picked Bumrah on a hunch, although he is in the early stages of his career, and of course technically his place should have gone to Waqar Younis. Shoaib Akhtar would also have his advocates, but he was very inconsistent, and that ‘100mph delivery’ did not actually cause the batter a great deal of trouble. Two early Indians, Amar Singh and Mahomed Nissar both had fine records at a time when bowling quick on the subcontinent was a cause of heartbreak. Fazal Mahmood who bowled Pakistan to their first ever test victory at The Oval in 1954 might have been selected as an analogue for Barnes in the ROW side, and there may be those who would want to see Sarfraz Nawaz selected. Finally, about ten years ago I would have been betting that Mohammad Amir, then an 18 year old left arm fast bowler, would be among the game’s all time greats before long. Sadly he was drawn into a web of corruption, served a five year suspension from the game, and although still a fine bowler has now decided to concentrate purely on limited overs cricket, so has to be filed under ‘what might have been’. The other two players involved in that scandal, Mohammad Asif, a fast medium bowler, and Salman Butt, opening batter and captain, were both in the respectable rather than outstanding class and would never been eligible even had they not got themselves banned.

THE CONTEST

The contest, for what I shall call the ‘Hutton-Baloo’ trophy, acknowledging two of those who missed out on selection, would be a splendid one. The ROW probably just about start as favourites, but Asia do have an amazing bowling attack, and with Akram at eight and Kumble at nine their batting is deeper than that of the ROW, though lacks the eye-watering strength of the ROW’s top batting.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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The Bankhouse, venue for my first meal out in four months.

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An excellent use of a Beck style diagram.

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A red admiral.

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Socially responsible signage.

IMG_1454 (2)ROW v Asia

All Time XIs – England

Today is international day in my ‘all-time XIs’ cricket series, and it is England in the spotlight. I also have a mini-section offering solidarity to #BlackLivesMatter.

INTRODUCTION

Today is a Monday, which means that it is international day in my ‘all time XIs’ cricket series. The international set up in the spotlight today is England.

ENGLAND IN MY TIME

  1. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. England’s all time leading scorer of test runs and test centuries.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. His average for England in this specific role (he played many roles in his long and distinguished career) was 45, excellent for his era. I have opted for him out of my available options because as a right hander of fundamentally attacking inclinations he complements Cook perfectly.
  3. *Michael Vaughan – right handed batter, occasional off spinner, captain. The captaincy did somewhat negatively affect his batting output, as it has done a lot of incumbents, but he was such a good captain that I am prepared to accept that.
  4. Joe Root – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. A magnificent batter, but wasted as captain, a role which is negatively affecting his output.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. There were two choices for the left handed specialist middle order batter, Gower or Graham Thorpe, and I opted for Gower.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Ian Botham’s pomp occurred before I had got seriously into cricket, so I could not honestly include him in this XI, which left me two choices for the all-rounder, Flintoff or Stokes, and I regarded Stokes as the better option.
  7. +Matthew Prior – right handed batter, wicket keeper. This is a thorny one, which I shall be going into more detail on later on. Suffice to say for the present that this is not a selection I am entirely happy with.
  8. Graeme Swann – off spinner, useful lower order batter. The best spinner England have had in my lifetime (although the future in that department looks bright).
  9. Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler. One of the most exciting talents I have ever seen.
  10. Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. Rated number one in the world at his absolute peak.
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium. England’s all time leading test wicket taker.

This team has a decent balance, although there is only one genuine spin option – until very recently England struggled in that department. The batting in strong, and Stokes’ bowling workload should be kept reasonably light with Harmison, Archer, Anderson and Swann also there.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I will split these into playing roles:

  • Opening batters – besides my actual choices there were three outstanding candidates for the positions, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Graham Gooch.
  • Nos 3-5 – the main candidates among those I did not pick were Graham Thorpe, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen. I expect Ollie Pope to force his way in in the next few years.
  • The all-rounder – Flintoff was the only other serious candidate. I saw many ‘all rounders’ who were in truth not up to the job with either bat or ball.
  • The wicketkeeper – Ben Foakes should be England’s current keeper, and if he was he would have been in this team. Jack Russell was a fine keeper who was poorly treated by the selectors of his day. I also considered registering my unhappiness with the behaviour of the current England selectors over the keeping position by naming Sarah Taylor, a magnificent keeper for the England Women’s team.
  • Spinners – None of slow left armers Tufnell, Panesar, Giles or as yet Leach have a record to quite merit selection, nor does leg spinner Rashid. There are various young spinners who may feature in a few years time.
  • Fast bowlers. Mark Wood was in the mix and might have displaced Harmison. Simon Jones was another to merit consideration.

ENGLAND ALL TIME

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. Among the greatest ever to have played the game.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. Averaged 60.73 in test cricket, and 66.85 in the cauldron of The Ashes. Also formed the greatest opening partnership ever seen in test cricket with Hobbs (average stand 87).
  3. *WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career, captain. His test average of 32.29 looks modest, but was achieved between 1880 and 1899, when batting averages were lower, and he was already 32 by the time he made his debut in the first test on English soil in 1880. His record as test captain was excellent – eight wins in 13 matches in that role, another reason for his selection. He usually opened, and I see value in having three recognized openers at the top of the order.
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler. 85 test matches, 7,249 runs at 58.45. Had he not returned to top level action after World War II, when into his forties, he would have had 6,883 test runs at 61.75.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed batter, occasional left arm wrist spinner. He averaged over 50 in test cricket in spite of losing six years of his prime to World War II.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
  7. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. For about the first five years of his career he was an authentic great, and he still had great moments after that for a few more years, although he went on long after his decline had become obvious. He completed the test career double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in 21 matches, 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in 42, maintaining the pace, and then slowed down, reaching the triple double in his 72nd test, while by the end of his career after another 30 matches he had over 5,000 runs, but was still short of 400 wickets.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, useful lower order batter. An eye injury ended his test career after just 15 matches, but 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42 were testament to his effectiveness. He was the first England bowler to take a test hat trick, in a match in which he took seven wickets in each innings and scored a 50.
  9. Fred Trueman – right arm fast bowler.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each. 77 of those wickets came in 13 matches in Australia.
  11. +Herbert Strudwick – wicket keeper. His career was disrupted by World War 1. 28 test matches between 1910 and 1926 saw him take 61 catches and execute 12 stumpings, while his 674 first class appearances saw him achieve 1,495 dismissals.

This team has a very strong top five, two magnificent all rounders at six and seven, a superb keeper and three excellent and varied bowlers. Although he would have share the new ball with Trueman, there is an argument for regarding Barnes, based on descriptions of his method as effectively a leg spinner, which is why I did not select a second front line spinner (Compton is also available as back up).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

It is impossible to cover everyone who would have claims advanced on their behalf, but I shall mention some of the more obvious omissions:

  • Opening batters – I had positive reasons, based on their records, and their amazing success as an opening pair for going for Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and the only other England opener for whom I would consider breaking this pair up is Len Hutton, who was also an all-time great.
  • Nos 3-5 – Eddie Paynter (test average 59.23), Ken Barrington (58.67) and KS Duleepsinhji (58.52) had the highest averages of anyone I omitted, and Paynter in particular as a left handed batter was unfortunate. Peter May who averaged 46 batting in a difficult decade for run scoring (the 1950s) would also have his advocates. Frank Woolley, Patsy Hendren, Phil Mead and KS Rinjitsinhji all also had fine test records, while Colin Cowdrey’s longevity at the highest level was remarkable, and Ted Dexter would also have his advocates.
  • The all-rounders – Andrew Flintoff had a a few magnificent years (2004, 2005, first part of 2006) and had occasional moments either side of that golden period, but cannot displace Botham on any rational assessment. George Hirst, Trevor Bailey and Tony Greig all did good things for England over the years without having records to merit serious consideration.
  • Keepers – England have had some excellent ones, including the three contrasting Kent characters Ames, Evans and Knott, Bob Taylor and JT Murray.
  • Spinners – Jim Laker would have been the conventional selection as an off spinner, There have been a plethora of quality left arm spinners down the years: Johnny Briggs, Bobby Peel, Wilfred Rhodes, Colin Blythe, Roy Kilner, Hedley Verity, Johnny Wardle, Tony Lock and Phil Edmonds of the conventional type, plus the left arm slow-medium of Derek Underwood. Also three bowlers of that type who barely believable given their first class records have a single cap between them: George Dennett, Alonzo Drake and Charlie Parker. There have been fewer leg spinners with really good England records, but Tich Freeman, Ian Peebles and Doug Wright might all have their advocates.
  • Pace bowlers – too many of these to name. I am aware that I have not selected a left arm quick, and the best options in that department among those who got to play for England would be Fred Morley, Frank Foster or Bill Voce, while William Mycroft was at his peak just too early (he took his wickets at 12.09 each in first class cricket).

If naming another five players to make up a standard sized touring party I would choose Paynter and Woolley as reserve batters, Ames officially as reserve keeper, noting that he could also be played as a batter, and noting Woolley’s skill as an left arm orthodox spinner, Lohmann (right arm medium fast, 112 wickets at 10.75 in 18 test matches) and Underwood as my reserve bowlers.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

This links section is to declare my solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and especially to support the activists who toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Had Covid-19 not caused a change of plan for them, soprano Charlotte Hoather and her fiancee, pianist George Todica would have been married this weekend. Instead they settled for giving a wonderful concert from their balcony, posted by Charlotte on her blog yesterday.

Finally it is time for my usual sign off…

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This picture, and the next five after it are of a little bird that I spotted for the first time yesterday and captured on camera. My bird book does not offer a conclusive answer, so I post it here to invite comment.

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England
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – The Away Ashes

Today’s variation on the all-time XI theme is a paradoxical one – it features two teams of players whose finest hours occurred in enemy territory.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my ‘all time XIs‘ series. Today we look at players who enjoyed their finest hours when doing battle in enemy territory, with The Away Ashes. Before getting to the main body of this post however, there is a matter to be attended to, in my usual ‘reverse tabloid’ style so that it cannot be missed:

CORRECTION/ APOLOGY

In yesterday’s South Africa post I failed to mention Dale Steyn when looking at players from my lifetime. I still stick to my chosen pair of specialist speedsters Kagiso Rabada and Allan Donald, but I should have included Steyn in the honourable mentions as a candidate for one of those spots. My apologies to Mr Steyn for the oversight.

THE AWAY ASHES – ENGLAND

Just before I start going through the players, a quick warning about an easy trap that people might fall into: that these players greatest achievements came away from home does not imply that they were not also successful at home – the majority of my choices had their successes at home as well.

  1. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. The Yorkshireman scored 734 runs at 81.67 with four centuries in the 1924-5 series, which his side still lost 4-1. At the time both the runs aggregate and the century tally were records for a single series. In 1928-9 he played the single most crucial innings of the series when his 135, begun on a vicious sticky, underpinned England’s successful chase of 332 which put them into an invulnerable 3-0 with two matches to play lead. In 1932-3 he was joint leading run scorer of the series, with 440 at 55.00, something of an underachievement by his own stellar standards in Ashes cricket (overall average 66.85) as England ran out out 4-1 winners. That was third and last trip down under meaning that even after that 1924-5 series England had won nine and lost six in Australia with him in the side (1-4, 4-1, 4-1). His home Ashes highlights included a match and Ashes winning 161 at The Oval in 1926, and the same score at the same ground in a different outcome four years later.
  2. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. A career that spanned 12 years, saw him score over 12,000 test runs and set an all time record for consecutive test match appearances naturally included many highlights. However, one particular achievement shone out more brightly than anything else he did over the period: his 766 runs at 127.67 in the 2010-11 Ashes as England won down under for the first time in 24 years. In total in that series he spent just over 36 hours at the crease, 15 of them in his two innings at The Gabba, when his second innings 235 not out prevented England from going 1-0 down. His 148 at Adelaide, alongside Pietersen’s test best 227 enabled England to fully capitalise on a fantastic start to that match – Australia, having won the toss and batted lost their first three wickets on the opening day for two runs, two to slip catches off Anderson and a run out. In the final game at Sydney, with England 2-1 up he batted 488 minutes scoring 189, setting England up for a monster total after which Australia’s batting folded to give England a 3-1 series victory. At Melbourne in 2017 on a strip devoid of any hint of life he produced his final major Ashes knock, 244 not out, the highest ever Ashes score by someone carrying their bat through a completed innings.
  3. Douglas Jardine – right handed batter. He made two tours of Australia, in 1928-9 and 1932-3, and England won both series 4-1, the second under his captaincy. In the fourth match of the 1928-9 series at Adelaide he made his highest Ashes score, 98, sharing a third wicket stand of 262 with Hammond (177 not out), which put England in total control of the match. Though he did not manage any really major scores as captain in the 1932-3 series he did on some occasions soak up considerable amounts of time, putting more miles into the legs of the Aussie bowlers.
  4. Walter Hammond – right handed batter, occasional medium pacer, expert slip fielder. In his first Ashes series, in 1928-9, he announced his presence in cricket’s oldest international rivalry by scoring 905 runs at 113.125, including the first ever incidence of successive test double centuries, 251 at Sydney in the second game and then 200 not out in the first innings of the third match at Melbourne, before then hitting 119 and 177 not out in the fourth match at Adelaide. In 1932-3 he was joint top scorer for the series with 440 runs at 55.00, including the first half a record sequence – in the final match he hit 101 and 75 not out, and then in New Zealand he thumped 227 and 336 not out, the only four innings test sequence to top 700 runs. In 1936-37 he scored 231 not out in the second match of the series, but was overshadowed by Bradman for the rest of the series. He unwisely agreed to skipper England in a ‘goodwill’ tour of Australia in 1946-7, by when he was 43 years old and unable to summon up former glories, averaging only 21 in the series. Of his three home Ashes series 1930 and 1934 were both failures, while 1938 was a success.
  5. *Percy Chapman – left handed batter, occasional slow bowler, superlative close fielder, captain. Chapman was asked to captain England at The Oval in 1926 after the first four matches of the series had been drawn and the selectors had concluded that Arthur Carr was not the man for the job. He led them to victory and The Ashes. In 1928-9 he was made captain of the tour party and led England to a 4-1 triumph. His own batting contributions were minimal, but his captaincy attracted universal praise. He was a casualty of Bradman’s explosive vengeance in 1930, dropped from the captaincy after Lord’s that year, where the Don scored 254 (ended by Chapman holding a near miraculous catch – Bradman was to confirm that the ball had gone precisely where he intended to hit it and that he had not believed the catch was possible) in a total of 729-6 declared, and even though Chapman hit a defiant 121 in England’s second innings they went down by seven wickets.
  6. Bernard Bosanquet – right handed batter, leg spinner. The pioneer of the googly took his new weapon with him to Australia as part of Warner’s 1903-4 Ashes party, and played a major role in the winning of that series, including taking his best ever test figures of 8-107 in an innings.
  7. +Jack Richards – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Kept on the 1986-7 tour, when England won the series down under, scored 133 at Perth in second test thereof.
  8. Harold Larwood – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. Two ashes tours, 1928-9 and 1932-3, and two 4-1 series wins in Australia, in the second of which he was the undoubted star.
  9. Farmer White – left arm orthodox spinner. His accuracy and stamina were vital to England’s 1928-9 triumph – he bowled 542 overs in the five matches of that series. In the Adelaide match of that series his total figures across the two innings were 124.5 overs, 37 maidens, 256 runs, 13 wickets.
  10. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. If fast bowlers ever came quicker than the 1932-3 version of Larwood, then the 1954-5 version of Tyson was one of the few to do so. England lost the first match of that series at The Gabba by an innings and plenty, Tyson taking 1-160. However, he also listened to and acted on some shrewd advice from former fast bowler Alf Gover, shortened his overly long run considerably to conserve on energy in the Australian heat, and in matches 2,3 and 4 of that series was simply too hot for the Aussies to handle, being the key ingredient in a turnaround that saw 0-1 and likely loss of the urn become 3-1 and retention of the urn.
  11. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium. Archie MacLaren selected Barnes for the 1901-2 tour of Australia after a being impressed by him in the nets. Barnes won the first match of that series for his side, bagged another five for in the second, but was then rendered hors de combat by injury, an Australia ran out 4-1 winners. Barnes missed the 1903-4 series which England won. The 1907-8 tour party was poorly chosen and lost badly, but Barnes played a key role in the one test that England won in that series – his 38 not out in the final innings guided England home when they needed 73 from their last two wickets. His greatest Ashes moments came in the 1911-12 tour, when England won 4-1, and he took 34 wickets, backed him left arm pace bowler Frank Foster with 32, while the batting was dominated the opening pair of Jack Hobbs and Wilfred Rhodes. In all Barnes took 77 wickets in 13 test matches in Australia, as compared to 29 wickets in home Ashes matches.

This team has a magnificent looking opening pair, two good and one great batter in the 3-5 slots, an all rounder, a keeper who can bat and four splendid bowlers. The bowling has blitz men Larwood and Tyson, the extraordinary Barnes, and two contrasting spin options in White and Bosanquet, plus Hammond as a possible sixth bowler.

THE AWAY ASHES: AUSTRALIA

  1. Mark Taylor – left handed opening batter, fine slip fielder. Taylor had a fine record at the top of the Aussie order, was the second in a sequence of long serving Aussie captains after Border, and probably ranked third of the four (Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting followed Taylor) as a captain – my own reckoning makes the four skippers who spanned the ‘green and golden age’ rank as follows as captains: Border (unarguable – he taught an Australia who had forgotten the art exactly how to win and guided them from also-rans to top dogs), Waugh (who made a dominant side even better), Taylor (who consolidated Border’s work and kept Australia at the top) and Ponting (who inherited the captaincy of a team of champions and left a collection of ‘also rans’ for his successor). His greatest moments as a batter were in England in 1989 when he cashed in on the organization of what turned out to be the last of the rebel tours and general selectorial incompetence by the English to score 839 runs in the series, a record for any Aussie not named Bradman. Eight years later England was the scene of a display of massive character from Taylor, who was going through a run of dreadful form with the bat ans was under fire from his detractors. Australia were rolled in the first innings of the series at Edgbaston for 118, and had looked like not even managing 100 for large parts of the innings, and England spearheaded by Hussain with a double hundred and Thorpe with a century built a huge lead. Taylor opened the Australian second innings knowing that a second failure in the match could easily see the axe descend on him, and proceeded to chisel out a determined century, which could not save the match for his side, but did save his career. Australia bounced back to win the series, although England gained another victory in the final match at The Oval.
  2. Bill Ponsford – right handed opening batter. In 1934 the chunky opener achieved the rare feat of finishing with a better series batting average than Don Bradman. Ponsford averaged 94.83 for that series, while Bradman had to settle for a figure of 94.75. In the fourth match of the series at Leeds he scored 181, sharing a 4th wicket partnership of 388 with Bradman (304). Then, at The Oval in a match played to a finish because the series was not settled, as was tradition in England at the time (all test matches in Australia were played to a finish back then), he scored 266 in the first innings, sharing a second wicket stand of 451 with Bradman (244). Australia won the test match by 562 runs and regained the Ashes, the victory coming, as it had four years previously, on skipper Woodfull’s birthday. Ponsford retired from the game at the end of that series, the only player to date to score hundreds in his first two tests and hundreds in his last two tests.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter. He played in four of the five tests of the 1928-9 Ashes, scoring one century for a badly beaten side. In 1930 he came to England, with a number of critics predicting that he would fail there. He reached his thousand first class runs for the season before May was done, the first non-English player to do so (and he would repeat the feat in 1938, the only player to achieve it twice), and he began his test performances comparatively quietly, with 131 in the second innings of the first match at Trent Bridge, when Australia were beaten. In the second at Lord’s he hit 254 in the first innings, and was one of the three Aussies dismissed in the second as they chased down 76. At Headingley in the third match he hit 334, 309 of them on the first day. After a quiet match in Manchester it was time for the final match of the series at The Oval, where in the tour match v Surrey he had scored 252 not out in a tally of 379-5 in a rain ruined affair. He racked up 232 this time round in a score of 695 as Australia won by a huge margin. In all in that series Bradman played eight innings, one of them a not out, and amassed 974 runs at 139.14. In 1934 he averaged 94.75, and in 1938 it was over a hundred again, helped by unbeaten centuries is the Trent Bridge runfest that opened the series (seven individual centuries and over 1,500 runs for less than 30 wickets in the game) and in the low scoring game at Headingley that saw Australia retain the Ashes. In 1948 he was outscored by opener Arthur Morris, but helped by 173 not out at his favourite Headingley he had a higher average for the series.
  4. Billy Murdoch – right handed batter, sometimes wicket keeper. Twice in his test career he scored over 150, 153 not out at The Oval in 1880 in an ultimately losing cause (England after largely dominating the game had an attack of collywobbles in the final innings, contriving to surrender five wickets while chasing down 57) and 211 in a drawn game at the same ground four years later, the first double century in test cricket, and the second in the sequence of record individual scores at that level that in full reads: 165 by Bannerman at Melbourne in 1877, 211 by Murdoch at The Oval in 1884, 287 by Foster at Sydney in 1903-4, 325 by Sandham at Kingston in 1930, 334 by Bradman at Headingley in 1930, 336 not out by Hammond at Christchurch in 1933, 364 by Hutton at The Oval in 1938, 365 not out by Sobers at Kinsgton in 1957, 375 by Lara at Antigua in 1994, 380 by Hayden at Perth in 2000 and 400 not out by Lara at Antigua in 2004.
  5. Charlie Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. Macartney started his career as a blocker and ended it as one of the most highly regarded stroke makers of all time. In 1926 he became the first ever to score centuries in three successive test matches, although the weather saw it that all ended in draws.
  6. Harry Graham – right handed batter. He scored a century on test debut at Lord’s in 1893.
  7. +Graham Manou – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A rare Aussie ‘one cap wonder’, that appearance coming in England in 2009.
  8. Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Only one person has ever captured 100 test wickets in a country other than their own: Shane Keith Warne, who reached the landmark in England in 2005, in the course of the only Ashes series in which he finished on the losing side. He announced his presence in Ashes contests with the ‘Gatting ball’ at Old Trafford in 1993, his first delivery in an Ashes match, which drifted in the air to land well wide of leg stump and then spun back so sharply that it brushed the outside of the off stump just enough to dislodge the bail, to the stupefaction of the batter. Robin Smith who since making his own debut four years earlier had built a hugely impressive record was made to look a novice in that series, and Alec Stewart, deployed in the middle order in that series, fine player of fast bowlers that he was, never looked anything close to comfortable against Warne either. Even in the 2005 triumph Warne retained full mastery over the England batting, collecting 40 wickets in the series.
  9. Bob Massie – right arm fast medium bowler. Australia, captained by Ian Chappell, brought a largely young and unknown side to England in 1972. The first match was lost to Ashes holders England, and then the sides reconvened at Lord’s. Massie took 8-84 in England’s first innings 272, a sensational debut effort. Australia, with a century from Greg Chappell to help them led by 36, and skipper Ian Chappell gathered his team together and said he wanted a wicket before that deficit was knocked off, well rather as with Bill Bowes and his leg side field for Vic Richardson in 1932, ‘Chapelli’ did not get one, he got five! England recovered somewhat from that catastrophic beginning to their second innings, but only enough to reach 116, Massie 8-53 to give him 16-137 on debut. A victory target of 81 did not unduly trouble Australia, opener Keith Stackpole taking the opportunity to record an unbeaten half century. That was over half of Massie’s tally of test wickets. In the end England retained the Ashes, courtesy of a victory at Headingley, although Australia levelled the series by winning the final game at The Oval, both Chappells notching first innings centuries.
  10. Charles Turner – right arm medium fast bowler. A rare example of an Aussie great who never won an Ashes series – it was his misfortune to be in his prime at a time when his only reliable bowling support came from Jack Ferris, and Australia were riven by dissension. During one of his tours (1886, I think), there was an occasion when the train carriage in which the Aussie team had been travelling was marked by blood spatters! Nevertheless, he was an even more difficult proposition in England than back at home.
  11. Terry Alderman – right arm medium fast bowler. Meet the man who should have been the first bowler to 100 test wickets in a country other than this own (although a case could actually be made on Barnes’ behalf, since had been picked for the 1903-4 tour he would surely have done it in Australia). Terence Michael Alderman took an Australian ashes series record 42 wickets in a losing cause in the 1981 series. Eight years later he took 41 in a winning cause (both these series were of six matches, whereas the England ashes record, Laker’s 46 in 1956 came in a five match series), to bring his tally in England to 83 in 12 matches. Terry Alderman should have been part of the 1985 tour party as well, but he foolishly went on a rebel tour to apartheid South Africa instead, which netted him a three year ban from international cricket. The 1989 haul included a sequence of four successive innings in which he trapped opener Graham Gooch LBW, with the Essex man’s highest score in that little patch of torment being 13. Alderman may actually have contributed to the 1985 Ashes as well, since he was for a time a Kent team mate of Richard Ellison, who as a bowler of a similar type probably benefitted from the presence of an international practitioner. In the last two matches of that series Ellison captured 17 wickets, including the prize scalp of Border in three of the four innings.

This team has a decent top six, a splendid keeper, and four excellent and varied specialist bowlers (and Macartney had a 10 wicket haul in a test match with his left arm spin as well).

THE CONTEST

This looks an absolute ripper of a contest. Perhaps the trick would be to stage it on neutral territory, though not India, as that would spike Warne’s guns, so that both sides could treat as an away contest and thereby bring the best out of themselves.

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’S PROBLEM

Yesterday’s post included the following teaser:

Brilliant

The available answers were 9, 15, 21 and 27.

The correct answer is nine, the speed of ball nine after collision being 511 m/s.

A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

The scene has been set for the ‘Away Ashes’, with our players introduced and explained, yesterday’s teaser has been answered, but just before signing off there are some links to share, from the Guardian, where actor Rory Kinnear has a tribute to his sister who has just died of covid-19, in which he takes the “died with it, not of it” brigade sternly to task. Please read and share. A site which I discovered today, doodlemaths, has a number of posts about “Mathematicians who changed the world“, the example which drew me in, and which I offer as an introduction being about Florence Nightingale. Now it is finally time for my usual sign off…

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Goldfinch (two pics)

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Four starlings all perfectly positioned for the camera at one time.

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A double-page spread illustration in Dava Sobel’s “Planets”

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Away Ashes
The teams, in tabulated form with abridged comments.

All Time XIs – Teams of the Talents

My latest variation on the all-time XI theme.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s piece of whimsy on the theme of ‘all time XIs‘. I will set out the brief in full detail before launching into the main body of the post.

TEAMS OF THE TALENTS EXPLAINED

The two teams consist of one chosen from players who I have witnessed in action, and one chosen from players I have only read about but would dearly love to see in action. While class has most emphatically not been ignored my two principal criteria for creating these teams was to encompass the maximum breadth of skills within 11 players and that the teams should be jam packed with entertainment value. Of course no two cricket fans would arrive at similar conclusions following this brief – indeed I would probably not come up with the same set of teams twice. Please feel free to comment with your own views on my creations!

TEAM OF THE TALENTS – HISTORIC XI

  1. Victor Trumper – right handed opening bat. This is the man who at Old Trafford in 1902, with England’s primary aim as stated by skipper MacLaren being to ‘keep Victor quiet before lunch’ was 103 not out by lunch on that first morning, having absolutely splattered MacLaren’s carefully set fields. On another occasion against South Africa he taunted the Saffer skipper Percy Sherwell as follows: every time Sherwell rearranged his field Trumper would hit the next ball somewhere a fielder had just been moved away from! Later, when commiserated on over being made to look foolish while Trumper hit 214 not out Sherwell responded “don’t worry, we have seen batting today”.
  2. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying type. I could name no one else as captain of this team. He once said of his own approach to batting “I never liked defensive shots – you can only get three for them.”
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, brilliant close catcher. The “Pride of Kent” as Peebles subtitled his biography of Woolley. ‘Crusoe’ Robertson-Glasgow once wrote of Woolley that he was “Easy to watch, difficult to bowl to and impossible to write about” before going on to make a noble effort at doing the latter.
  4. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. A running theme through his book “Playing for England” and demonstrated in practice by the way he played cricket is that cricket is a game and should be fun.
  5. Charles Townsend – right handed bat, right arm leg spinner. My choice from various options for the leg spinning all rounder – he was the second after WG to achieve the season double of 2,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches.
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete cricketer there has ever been and incapable of being other than highly entertaining.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. The sort of cricketer for whom the phrase ‘worth the admission money on his own’ was invented, and a shoo-in for a team of this nature.
  8. +Jack Blackham – wicket keeper, right handed lower order bat. The game;s first great keeper.
  9. George Simpson-Hayward – right arm off spinner (under arm). 23 wickets at 18 in five test matches. The notion of him foxing international batters with his methods is irresistible to me.
  10. FR Spofforth – right arm fast bowler (later added considerable variations). The ‘Demon’ must have been seriously compelling to watch.
  11. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. My pick for the greatest bowler ever. A new ball pairing of him and Spofforth would test anyone.

This team features a splenid opening pair, a wonderfully entertaining and contrasting pair at 3 and 4, three genuine all rounders at 5,6 and 7, with Townsend and Jessop flanking the incomparable Sobers, a great wicket keeper who could bat, and a splendidly varied trio of specialist bowlers. The bowling also looks rich in depth and variety, with nine of XI recognized bowlers, commanding between them a minimum of 11 styles (eight plus Sobers’ three).

TEAM OF THE TALENTS MODERN XI

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The Sri Lankan was the star of the 1996 ODI World Cup, but also did the business plenty of times at test level.
  2. Virender Sehwag – right handed opening batter, occasional off spinner. The only cricketer ever to have scored over 100 runs in each session of a day’s test cricket (nb Don Bradman at Headingley was 220 not out at tea, but only added 89 in the final session of that day).
  3. Brian Lara – left handed batter.
  4. Sachin Tendulkar – right handed batter, holder of a raft of records at test and ODI level.
  5. Viv Richards – right handed batter, occasional off spinner.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
  7. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middler order batter.
  9. *Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order bat. I have chosen him as captain of this side. His arrival in the scene, commencing with the ‘Gatting ball’ at Old Trafford in 1993 was the trigger for an international revival of spin bowling.
  10. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter.
  11. Muttiah Muralitharan – right arm off spinner. I watched transfixed as he destroyed England at The Oval in 1998, taking 16 wickets in the match either side of a huge Sri Lankan total. 

This team has an excellent top five, x factor players at six and seven and a suoerb quartet of front line bowlers. With Stokes and Jayasuriya also significant as bowlers this team has most bases covered bowling wise, although there is no left arm wrist spinner, and of course no under arm option.

THE CONTEST

The XI from my lifetime have a stronger batting line up, with Marshall listed at no10, but the historic XI have greater depth and variety in bowling. This contest would be a spectacular one, and I cannot call a winner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

This post was interrupted by illness, and I am still by no means well – we shall see whether I can manage another tomorrow or whether it has to be wait until Sunday, when I will come up with something. Now for my usual sign off…

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Teams of the talents
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Pioneers v Developers

Some cricket history in today’s twist on the ‘All Time XI’ theme as ‘The Pioneers’ take on the ‘The Developers’, a couple of bonus cricket links, a measure of mathematics, some important stuff about the NHS and of course photographs.

INTRODUCTION

A new month starts today, and in keeping with the theme of beginnings my latest ‘All Time XI’ variation features various milestones from the beginning of cricket’s history. For those of a geological turn of mind it can be thought of spanning the cricketing equivalent of Cambrian to Cretaceous. The scene thus set, we can introduce the teams, beginning with…

THE PIONEERS XI

  1. Jack Brown – right handed opening batter. Brown scored two triple centuries for his native Yorkshire in the course of his career, but his greatest innings came for England. The 1894-5 Ashes saw England leap out of the blocks by winning a thriller in Sydney and then more comfortably in Melbourne (this was the first ever five match Ashes series, and Sydney and Melbourne each got two games, with the middle match being played at Adelaide) before Australia hit back by winning in Adelaide and in the second Melbourne game. In the final match of the series (all tests in Australia at the time were played out until a definite result was gained, so a draw was not a possibility, and in any case England needed to win the series to recapture the Ashes, held by Australia) England were set 297 to win, lost two very early wickets, which brought Brown and Albert Ward together. Brown responded to crisis by reaching 50 in 28 minutes (still the fastest in time times by an Englishman in test cricket), and though he could not main this hectic pace he reached his hundred in a then test record 95 minutes, and his stand with Ward (93) was worth 210. Brown ultimately scored 140 in that innings, falling as victory beckoned, but the Australian resistance had been well and truly broken, and England won by six wickets to win the series and the Ashes. In travelling to Australia without the urn and returning with it England’s captain for that series, Andrew Stoddart, had achieved a feat since duplicated among England captains only by Warner (1903-4), Douglas (1911-2, with a sick Warner masterminding from his sickbed), Jardine (1932-3) and Illingworth (1970-1). In addition to his own role as a stalwart opener, Brown was one half of the game’s first recognized great opening pairs along with…
  2. John Tunnicliffe – right handed opening bat, brilliant slip fielder (667 catches in 408 first class games). Tunnicliffe was the first Pudsey product to open the innings for Yorkshire, and as such a forebear to more illustrious Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton. In 1898, against Derbyshire, he and Brown shared an opening stand of 554, accumulated very rapidly. This was the record first class stand for any wicket until Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes opened up with a stand of 555 against Essex in 1932. After he had retired from playing Tunnicliffe became a coach, working at among others, Cirencester Grammar School where his charges included a certain Walter Reginald Hammond. Unusually for a long serving Yorkshire opener he never got to play for England.
  3. James Aylward – left handed bat. In 1777, a mere eight years after John Minshull scored the first century recorded at any level of cricket, in a local derby match between Wrotham and Sevenoaks, Aylward playing against an England side racked up 167 in an innings which saw him occupy the crease for two whole days. This score stood as the first class record for 43 years, and the fixture in which William Ward who beat it scored his 278 would not today be regarded as first class.
  4. William ‘Silver Billy’ Beldham – right handed batter. I covered him in detail in my ‘one cap wonders v nontest stars‘ piece earlier in this series. He was the first to be anything approaching a consistently big scorer.
  5. William Lambert – right handed batter, brilliant close fielder and sometimes wicket keeper. In 1817 William Lambert, playing for Sussex, became the first ever to score twin centuries in a match, a feat next achieved by WG Grace over half a century later. His fielding skills are attested to by his partner in more than one double wicket game…
  6. George Osbaldeston – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler (underarm). The first acknowledged great all rounder. In his autobiography, which did not see the light of day until 1926, Osbaldeston describes a couple of matches in which he teamed up with Lambert, and mentions that the latter took catches and executed stumpings off his bowling, the fastest around at the time. In one of these encounters Osbaldeston and Lambert got the better of the decidedly ignoble Lord Frederick Beauclerk, one of the most unsavoury characters from that period of cricket’s history.
  7. +Jack Blackham – wicket keeper, right handed bat.  The Aussie stumper who appeared in the first 17 test matches ever played, before missing a game due to a dispute and then returning to the side for another 10 years, was the first to habitually do without a ‘long stop’ fielder behind him – and he pulled of stumpings of the bowling of Fred ‘The Demon’ Spofforth on occasion. Blackham was also the first keeper to score fifties in both innings of a test, a record that remained solely his for half a century before Dilawar Hussain equalled it.
  8. *William Clarke – right handed (under arm) bowler, captain. Clarke established Trent Bridge (he was landlord of the Trent Bridge inn as well as a cricketer), and also founded the first of the great itinerant XIs who flourished until the mid 1870s. The MCC were sufficiently worried by the travelling elevens that WG Grace was proposed for membership of that club at the age of 21 (by the treasurer, with the secretary seconding) in an effort to secure the game’s biggest drawcard. Grace duly joined the MCC, but also until 1879 captained the United South of England XI, and earned good amounts of money from doing so. Clarke played high level cricket until his mid-fifties, continuing to bag hatfuls of wickets right up to the very end.
  9. William Lillywhite – right arm fast bowler (round arm). ‘The Nonpareil’ featured in my post about nicknames, and is here is the fast half of the first recognized great bowling partnership, along with…
  10. James Broadbridge – right arm fast bowler (round arm). His partnership with Lillywhite as pioneers of the then new craft of round arm bowling enabled Sussex to take on and beat The Rest of England.
  11. David Harris – right arm fast bowler (under arm). The first universally acknowledged master bowler, I included him in my T20 Clash post.

This team features a solid opening pair, a magnificent looking three, four and five, a genuine all rounder, a keeper who can bat and four varied bowlers. Clarke can provide the craft to go with the pace of the others, and the differing angles of attack offered by these bowlers will also pose a problem. Osbaldeston, as the all rounder and a very quick bowler will be used in short bursts as a shock weapon, while the front four will bowl more overs.

THE DEVELOPERS XI

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening bat, right arm bowler of multiple types, captain. I covered him in my Gloucestershire post.
  2. Victor Trumper – right handed opening bat, fine fielder. The first to score a hundred before lunch on day 1 of a test match, the Aussie opener revolutionized batting in his own country.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He defined the image of Kent cricket, based on attacking batting and slow bowling, throughout his long career.
  4. Charles Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The second batter ever to score a hundred on the first morning of a test match, what made Macartney’s performance even more extraordinary is that he was a blocker in his early years, before becoming more expansive and aggressive in approach as he grew older.
  5. Kumar Shri Ramjitsinhji – right handed batter, occasional right arm slow bowler, slip fielder. I covered him in my Sussex post, and he is in this squad as the pioneer of the leg glance.
  6. Bernard Bosanquet – right handed batter, right arm leg spinner. I covered the inventor of the googly in my Middlesex post.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. This man has been in a number of my previous XIs, and he is here for his unique approach to batting, based on “doing everything we are taught not to – with consummate success”.
  8. +Ted Pooley – wicket keeper, right handed bat. Pooley (Surrey) should have been England’s keeper in the first ever test match, except that he was cooling his heels in a Kiwi prison at the time. He had got into a fracas with one Ralph Donkin over a bet. Pooley had bet Donkin at a shilling to a penny that he could nominate the scores for match England were playing in. Donkin took the bet, and Pooley simply wrote a duck against each batters name, which even in a first class match would have seen him a comfortable winner, while in a game against odds, which this one was it was even more of a certainty. Donkin refused to pay, and heated words and ultimately blows were exchanged. There was some sympathy for Pooley on the grounds that “a bet is a bet” and also because Donkin was notorious for being a trouble maker. Pooley set a first class match record while keeping for Surrey that stood unchallenged for over a century when he caught nine and stumped three of the opposition in a single game.
  9. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium, right handed bat. Never has a piece of cricket terminology been more unfit for purpose than that standard descriptor of Barnes’ bowling method. The truth is he bowled every type of delivery then known save the googly, and that his special weapon, of his own creation, was a fast-medium leg break. Ian Peebles, in a chapter called ‘Barnes the Pioneer’ which appeared originally in “Talking of Cricket” and reappears in “The Faber Book of Cricket”, where it starts on page 12 and ends on page 15 explains Barnes’ methods in some detail. I have previously covered Barnes in the Lancashire and ‘Staffordshire Born‘ posts in this series.
  10. George Simpson-Hayward – right arm off spin (under arm). I mentioned him, and the possibility of reviving under arm, both slow in his manner and fast in the manner of the likes of Harris and Osbaldeston in my ‘Eccentrics‘ piece. The brief revival of under arm that he was the star of was initiated by Digby Jephson of Surrey who bowled fast under-arm, and must have come close to being picked for England. However, the crafty Simpson-Hayward (Worcestershire) not only did get to play test cricket, he was one of the stars of a series in South Africa (1909-10), when he took 23 wickets at 18 in the five matches, so it is he who I honour with a place in this XI. No one took up the cudgels on behalf of under arm after him.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. The first bowler ever to take 17 wickets in a county game, for Derbyshire v Hampshire in 1876, a game that I featured in my Derbyshire post, he rounds out this XI.

This XI features a power packed and all attacking top five, a fine and innovative all rounder at six, the inimitable Jessop at seven, a class keeper who was no mug with a bat in Pooley and a splendidly varied trio of specialist bowlers in Barnes, Simpson-Hayward and Mycroft. The bowling is equally varied, with left arm speed, the all-purpose maestro Barnes, right arm speed for Jessop, leg spin from Bosanquet, under arm off spin from Simpson-Hayward, two purveyors of left arm orthodox spin in Woolley and Macartney (each had a ten wicket haul in a test match in their day) and the types of bowling pursued by Grace in his day, which included fastish round arm at the start of his career.

THE CONTEST

This contest would be a splendid affair, red blooded in the extreme (Grace and Osbaldeston on opposing sides would guarantee that even of the other 20 players were all anodyne, which they are most certainly not) and featuring a vast range of skills. I cannot even attempt to pick a winner.

A COUPLE OF BONUS CRICKET LINKS

The pinchhitter blog has honoured me not just with a mention, but with the official title of their post this morning – check out their offering here.

The above blog introduced me to cricblog who have a post up analysing the England men’s ODI revival post 2015. I recommend you have a read.

ANOTHER TEASER

I give you another problem from brilliant.org, one which I solved very easily this morning:

Perimeter

In it’s original setting this was a multiple choice question, but I reckon that makes it far too easy.

TWO FINAL LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Our two teams, dubbed ‘pioneers’ and ‘developers’ have made their appearances, there have been a couple of bonus cricket links, and a mathematical teaser. Before proceding my usual sign off I have a couple of related links to share:

And now, here is my closing flourish:

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Pioneers v Developers
The two teams, in tabulated form with abridged comments.

 

 

 

 

All Time XIs – Staffordshire Born (Plus Bonus Feature)

Another variation on the ‘All Time XI’ theme, featuring an XI of Staffordshire born players from which I lead into some suggestions for reforming the County Championship.

INTRODUCTION

Pandemic continues to stop play, and in an attempt to help fill the gap I continue to come up with variations on my ‘All Time XIs‘ theme. Today we have a two part post. The first part of the post presents an XI made up entirely of players born in Staffordshire (who have never enjoyed first class status). The second part of the post makes some suggestions for reform of the County Championship which will doubtless engender reactions ranging all the way from endorsement to people reaching for pins and waxen images.

BORN IN STAFFORDSHIRE XI

  1. John Steele – we met this right handed opener and occasional purveyor of left arm spin when I did my post about Leicestershire.
  2. *Danielle Wyatt – current star of the England Women’s team, an attack minded opener who also bowls off spin. She has centuries in both T20Is and ODIs to her credit,though she has yet to be given her chance in a test match (the women play far too few of these contests). I have taken a punt by naming her as captain of this XI, but it is my belief that she would do the job well – and I would bet money that a game with her as captain would be worth watching.
  3. David Steele – brother of John, and like him and adhesive right handed batter and an occasional bowler of left arm spin. We met him in my Northamptonshire post, and also in my ‘Underappreciated Ashes‘ post.
  4. Kim Barnett – attack minded batter and occasional leg spinner, who enjoyed a distinguished career with Derbyshire before moving to Gloucestershire. I would hope that some flexibility would be shown of the batting positions of him and David Steele – in general of Wyatt was out first I would want him in next, while if John Steele fell first I would send brother David in to replace him at the crease, the plan being where circumstances permit to avoid having both blockers or both hitters together.
  5. Frank Sugg – a right handed bat who played first for Derbyshire, and then having discovered that he had been born in Smethwick (Cricinfo lists him as born in Ilkeston and lists him as having also played for Lancashire, but the Derbyshire chapter in the book “County Champions” says otherwise, and I go with them).
  6. Brian Crump – an all rounder who played for Northants, batting right handed and bowling right arm medium pace and off spin.His 221 first class matches yielded 8,789 runs and 914 wickets.
  7. +Bob Taylor – a wicket keeper and right handed bat, with more first class dismissals to his credit than any other.
  8. Dominic Cork – a right arm medium fast bowler and aggressive lowe order bat. He took 7-43 in the second innings of his England debut at Lord’s in 1995, and the highlights of his somewhat chequered international career also include a hat trick. He also suffered from the desperation of people involved with English cricket at the time to find all rounders – his undoubted skill with the ball and his moments as a lower order batter were blown out of all proportion (the then 20 year old me was guilty of allowing the wish to be the father of the thought in this case – mea culpa). He played for Derbyshire, Lancashire and Hampshire in county cricket.
  9. Sydney Barnes – yes , the one and only SF Barnes (see my Lancashire post, and the ‘Underappreciate Ashes’), probably the greatest bowler the game ever saw. He played a few games for Warwickshire in 1894-5 and a couple of full seasons at Lancashire in the early 1900s, but mainly plied his trade in the northern Leagues and for his native Staffordshire. Incidentally, while he did not a lot when he turned our for Warwickshire, they also did have a problem in the 1890s with recognizing talent when they saw it – the Warwickshire yearbook of 1897 contains the memorable phrase “it was not possible to offer a contract to W Rhodes of Huddersfield” – and yes it was the one and only Wilfred they were referring to – a genuine rival to Essex’s failure to respond to Jack Hobbs’ letter to them requesting a trial! Incidentally the then NSW selectors nearly perpetrated a miss to rival even these because some of them were in doubt as to whether it was worth forking out for a return rail fare for the lad so that they could have a closer look at a certain DG Bradman!
  10. Jason Brown – off spinner who took part in an England tour to Sri Lanka in 2001. He did not break into the team on that tour, and subsequently a combination of injuries and the rise of Monty Panesar blocked further chances for international recognition.
  11. Eric Hollies – leg spinner, and the most genuine of genuine number 11s.

This team features a solid front five, an all rounder, a record breaking keeper who tended to score his runs when they were most needed and four varied bowlers, two of whom, Cork and Barnes had the capacity to weigh in with useful runs. It is certainly an impressive collection of talent for what has never been a first class county.

POSSIBLE REFORMS TO THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP

I am going to start this section by presenting some suggestions which I will expand on:

County Reforms

To expand on the above points:

1) The bonus point system as it currently stands offers up to five batting points and three bowling points to each team, awarded only during the first 110 overs of each team’s first innings. The batting bonus points are awarded when the score reaches 200, 250, 300, 350, and if it happens inside 110 overs 400, while the bowling points are awarded for taking 3, 6 and 9 wickets, so long as those milestones are reached within the 110 overs. This comes on top of 16 points for a win and 5 points for a draw. The 110 over limit is designed to encourage teams to try to score reasonably quick in their first dig and to bowl for wickets, but the truth is that few teams manage to claim a full haul of batting points, and occasions on which full bowling points are not garnered are fairly rare. It can lead to situations where teams do things that they would not normally even be thinking about (a prime example being the farce involving a prearranged declaration that Middlesex and Yorkshire perpetrated when they knew that an outright win for either of them would give that side the championship at the expense of Somerset, who were top having completed their programme). Yorkshire deliberately bowled badly on that occasion to allow Middlesex to get far enough ahead for the intended declaration. I have no objection (not in the slightest) to genuine declarations, and to batting sides trying to put themselves in position to do so by attacking bowling that it is intended to make life difficult for them, but I despise the notion of deliberately giving the opposition runs to keep a game alive – why were neither of the contending sides prepared to go the aggressive route without relying on co-operation from the other? My 5-1 ratio of points for a win and a draw may be an insufficient margin, but a draw should have some reward attached to it – to anyone telling me that there is no such thing as a good draw, I would a) tell them not to talk nonsense (publishable version) and b) mention a few of the classics such as Old Trafford 2005 and Brisbane 2010.

2) On pitch preparation: whatever the official guidelines say, pitches that offer turn early in the game get viewed more harshly than pitches which assist seamers, which in turn are generally viewed more harshly than shirtfronts. This is in my opinion is wrongheaded – the game is more fun when spinners are involved, so pitches that allow that should be encouraged, while given that conditions in April and September mean that a preponderance of green pitches is always likely at those times, and that there is good chance of seamers getting overcast skies to help them further. Shirtfronts produce games that are utterly uninteresting, boosting the averages of various batters, but not really helping even them – batters who fare well on flat tracks are frequently exposed when the pitch does a bit, because they get away with things on flat tracks which would see them dismissed on livelier surfaces. So, I would almost never punish a team for having a pitch the offered spinners overmuch, would not be harsh on greentops in April and September, but would punish anyone who produced one in mid season, as then it would clearly be deliberate, and I would be down like a ton of bricks on anyone producing a shirtfront.

3)Over rates – this one is a problem that blights test cricket more than county cricket, but I have known some late finishes when listening to commentaries of county games, and I believe that my scheme should be rolled out at that level before then being extended to test level. There might be a few early matches in which extras, swelled by penalty runs, threatened to score at a Bradmanesque rate, but I am pretty sure that it would not take long for the message to sink in.

4)The first part of this post demonstrated just one minor county that has produced serious talent, and they are not alone – Norfolk have provided the Edriches (all six of the English Edriches are members of the same family) and a few others over the years, Berkshire boasts among its products the Bedsers (EA and AV), Peter May, Ken Barrington, Tom Dollery and in the women’s game Claire Taylor the batter (as opposed to Clare Taylor, the Yorkshire medium pacer) and other minor counties have similar stories, and it is my belief that there should be more movement between minor and first class county status – first class counties should have to prove that they merit that status and failure to do so should mean being temporarily supplanted by a minor county. The introduction of promotion and relegation into the county championship was just one of a raft of changes made at that time which had a telling effect on England’s fortunes (remember folks, England were bottom of the test rankings in 1999, and while there have been a few dips in the 21 years since then they have never seriously threatened to occupy that place again). Jack Hobbs who I mentioned earlier, and Tom Hayward, his great Surrey predecessor, and the man who persuaded Surrey to give him a chance (and there were those at the time who did not approve) were both natives of Cambridgeshire.

I would like to see more County Championship action at the height of the season and less at the extreme ends thereof as well.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Well that is today’s exhibit from the Museum of All Time XIs revealed, and it now remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…

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Three shots from the garden.
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This aeroplane stood out against the otherwise pristine blue sky.

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The muntjac again, this time enjoying the afternoon sun.

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A shot emphasising how small the muntjac is.

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Staffordshire Born
The XI in batting order.