Inspired by Jamie Smith’s batting at Bristol in the last round of championship games I have selected a team comprised entirely of Smiths (he is twelfth person). Also includes some of my photographs.
This post was inspired by Jamie Smith’s double century for Surrey against Gloucestershire in the last round of county championship fixtures.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
For reasons that will become obvious I am including a twelfth person on this occasion.
Graeme Smith (left handed opening batter) – the South African’s record confirms him as one of the finest openers of the modern era. He was also a candidate for the captaincy which I have awarded instead to his opening partner.
*Mike Smith (MJK Smith, right handed opening batter, captain) – The Warwickshire stalwart averaged over 40 in FC cricket.
Robin Smith (right handed batter) – An excellent player of fast bowling but had the gloss taken off his test record when he was found badly wanting against Shane Warne. Still even with the deleterious effect of Warne on his overall record he finished with a test average of 43.
Steven Smith (right handed batter, occasional leg spinner) – The best test batter of the modern era, and possibly his country’s second best ever behind Donald Bradman.
Collie Smith (right handed batter, occasional off spinner) – killed in a road accident at the age of 26 but he had already achieved plenty of note, including scoring 168 in a test innings and racking up a triple century in a Lancashire League game.
Sydney Smith (left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner) – West Indian born but primarily associated with Northamptonshire. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball, figures that would probably equate to 46 and 27 on today’s more batting friendly surfaces. Three years after his arrival at Northamptonshire the county finished second in the championship, a position that they are yet to improve on 110 years later.
+Ian Smith (right handed batter, wicket keeper) – A fine keeper and a good enough bat to have test centuries, including a top score of 173.
‘Big Jim’ Smith (CIJ Smith – right arm fast medium bowler, very aggressive right handed lower order batter) – still holds the record for the quickest 50 scored of genuine bowling, reaching the landmark in 11 minutes (overall innings 66 in 18 minutes). A good enough quick bowler to be selected for England at his peak.
Peter Smith (leg spinner, attacking lower order batter) – his most famous performance came with the bat, for Essex against Derbyshire, when he came in at number 11 and proceeded to smash 163 out of a last wicket stand of 218. That innings helped him to achieve the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches for the first time in his career.
Haydon Smith (right arm fast bowler, right handed tailender) – the Leicestershire quick will form a useful new ball pairing with ‘Big Jim’ in this team.
‘Razor’ Smith (off spinner, right handed tail ender) – over 1,000 FC wickets at 17.55 a piece. The Surrey and London County player completes a highly dangerous spin trio who all do different things with the ball (of the three Peter Smith the leg spinner is probably the least threatening, but even he took his FC wickets at 26.55 a piece.
Jamie Smith (right handed batter, wicket keeper). The inspiration for this post. His double century at Bristol took his FC average north of 40, but he is not his county’s first choice keeper and I could not leave out Collie Smith to get him into the 11, so for the moment he is twelfthy for this team.
A LOOK AT THE XI
The team has a very strong top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an excellent keeper/ batter at seven, two useful hitters at eight and nine and only two out and out tailenders. The bowling his excellent variety, although it is short in the pace department. I would expect this team to give a good account of itself on most surfaces (only on a green seamer might they be in trouble).
Given the lack of pace bowling I will start with that department. Gloucestershire left armer Mike Smith did not have a good enough record to merit selection, though he was a good county bowler. Warwickshire all rounder Paul Smith, who bowled fast medium, could only have been accommodated had I left out one of Collie or Sydney Smith, and I did not feel that I could drop either to make way for him.
There were two wicket keeping candidates other than Ian Smith, both with Warwickshire connections – ‘Tiger’ Smith and Alan Smith.
Off spinner Neil Smith, for all that he was briefly an England cricketer, was not of the same calibre as the spinners I have selected. Had Sydney Smith not had an ironclad case for inclusion as an all rounder I might have included a female in the shape of left arm spinner Linsey Smith.
Chris Smith might have had the opening slot I awarded to MJK. David Smith (Surrey, Worcs, Sussex, picked for the 1986 tour of the Caribbean) was a good county player but not (in spite of the fact that he attended a previous incarnation of my own secondary school) good enough to qualify for selection.
Finally, I deliberately did not pick the guy known in his Cambridge days as ‘Smith’ – KS Duleepsinhji, because I would have considered it hypocritical to avail myself of this “cheat code” given my own condemnation of the conduct of a certain county at which a senior overseas pro was referred to as ‘Steve’ by folk who weren’t prepared to pronounce his real name.
Today’s all time XIscricket post, probably the penultimate in the series, gives the limelight to some of the best players not to have graced the test arena.
Today’s installment in my ‘all time XIs’ cricket series is envisaged to be the penultimate one – I have already selected my teams for tomorrow, and on Thursday I shall be writing about the resumption of test cricket, with one full day and part of the second to provide me with material if all goes well (overlapping the finish of this series with the restart of test cricket is part waiting for developments in the test match and part insurance policy in case of rain. Today we have a team of players who flourished too early and/or in the wrong country to play test cricket and a team of players whose selectors overlooked them in spite of consistent success at first class level.
SYDNEY SMITH’S XI
John Thewlis – right handed opening batter. He finished just before test cricket started. He scored the first first class century ever for Yorkshire, thereby inking himself indelibly into cricket’s history.
Ephraim Lockwood – right handed opening batter. He was called up by Yorkshire in emergency as a teenager. When he walked out to open the innings with his uncle, the aforementioned Thewlis, he was jeered by spectators because he did not have the correct kit. They had plenty of time to amuse themselves at the expense of his sartorial inadequacy since he contributed 91 to an opening stand of 176. In August 1876 he was captaining Yorkshire against Gloucestershire at Clifton, with WG Grace coming off the back of 344 for MCC against Kent and 177 against Notts in his last two innings leading the home county. Grace won the toss, batted, and allegedly said in appreciation of the pitch “I shan;t get myself out today, you will have to get me”. He proceeded to make a chanceless triple century, his second in less than a week, driving the Yorkshire fielders and bowlers to the brink of mutiny. At one point Allen Hill flatly refused to bowl when asked to do by his captain.
Mahadevan Sathasivam – right handed batter. He only got to play in 11 first class matches, spread over five years, and he averaged 41.83, several decades before his country, Sri Lanka, attained test status.
Steve Tikolo – right handed batter. Kenya’s finest ever batter, he played in the 1996 world cup, being part of the historic win against the West Indies and also making 96 against Sri Lanka in a defeat. His first class average of 48 was much better than his limited overs record and suggests that he would have been well suited to test cricket.
Ryan ten Doeschate – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. The finest cricketer The Netherlands have ever had, he was a stalwart for Essex through most of the first two decades of the 21st century. His first class figures are excellent, his ODI record makes breathtaking reading, even allowing for the weakness of some of the opponents he faced in that format.
*Sydney Smith – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. A West Indian, he qualified by residence for Northamptonshire in 1909, did the double in his first season and went on to a distinguished first class career, averaging 31 with the bat and 18 with ball (approx equivalents on today’s flatter pitches, 46 and 27). Inspired by his presence Northamptonshire, promoted to first class status in 1905 and previously known only for taking hammerings, finished second in 1912, a position that 108 years on they have not improved on.
+Fred Wyld – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A good enough batter to have a first class hundred to his name. His career ended just before test cricket in England started – he was part of the MCC side that played Australia in the game at Lord’s in 1878 that produced the lowest aggregate ever for a completed first class match – 105 runs for 31 wickets. In the second innings he and Flowers, also of Notts, shared a stand that accounted for 15 of MCC’s 19 all out.
Bart King – right arm fast bowler. The greatest of all USian cricketers, but not quite great enough to propel them to test match status (it was talked about at one point). He had a credit balance between his batting and bowling averages, averaging 20 with the bat and 15 with the ball in first class cricket.
Palwankar Baloo– left arm orthodox spinner. He took his first class wickets at 15 a piece, playing a decade or so before his country gained test status. As a low caste commoner he could not, unlike ‘Ranji’, ‘Duleep’ and the elder Nawab of Pataudi light out for England and establish himself there. Indeed caste prejudice delayed his selection for The Hindus in what was then the Bombay Quadrangular, and which later became the Bombay Pentangular and later still was abolished.
Sandeep Lamichhane– leg spinner. The Nepali has made a big name for himself playing franchise and limited overs cricket, and I hope that he will eventually get to play regular first class cricket. There is little chance of him ever being a test player, because Nepal are not currently close to being strong enough as a whole to compete at that level, and such elevations need to managed carefully – Bangladesh and Zimbabwe both suffered from ill-timed promotions to the top table, as in a different way have Ireland, while Afghanistan’s promotion was properly managed.
William Mycroft– left arm fast bowler. He was just too old to catch the start of test cricket, being born in 1841. He took 863 wickets in 138 first class appearances at 12.09.
This side has a strong top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a keeper who can bat and four excellent and well varied bowlers. Mycroft and King look an excellent new ball pairing, with ten Doeschate as support seamer if needed, and Lamichhane, Baloo and Smith to bowl spin.
CEC PEPPER’S XI
John Langridge – right handed opening batter. He amassed 76 centuries in his long first class career, but was never once selected for England. He also pouched 788 catches in the field.
Alan Jones – right handed opening batter. He was selected for England against the Rest of the World in the hastily arranged series of 1970 which took the place of the planned visit by South Africa, but that series was not accorded test status (although illogically certain later matches between Australia and non-national XIs have been given test status and contribute to, to give just one example, Shane Warne’s wicket tally. He scored more first class runs, 36,049 of them including 56 centuries, than anyone else who never to got to play test cricket.
Percy Perrin – right handed batter. He amassed 66 first centuries, including a best of 343 not out, which at the time he compiled it was the fifth highest score ever in first class cricket. His driving off the front foot was so fierce that opposition teams would regularly have four fielders posted in the deep to reduce his scoring rate from such shots. Yet the England selectors ignored him completely. Ironically once his own career was done he became a selector himself, and was at one stage chairman of selectors.
Jamie Siddons– right handed batter. His career began in the mid 1980s and ended at the start of the 21st century. In that period he scored just over 11,000 first class runs at an average of 45, a very impressive record, but not quite enough to secure him a baggy green.
Tony Cottey – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The 5’4″ Swansea native scored almost 15,000 first class runs at an average of 36. He also tended to produce when his side really needed it – he would be far more likely to make a hundred if he came in at 30-3 than from 300-3. However, England selectors have always seemed to have great difficulty comprehending what is going on to their west, and Cottey was a victim of this, somehow being entirely overlooked at a time when the England middle order was not generally noted for its solidity.
Basil D’Oliveira – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He did get to play test cricket eventually, but his international career started for England when he was in his mid-thirties, instead of for his native land a decade earlier. His performances in the cricket he was allowed to play in his native land, and for the SACBOC XI, the only remotely representative South African side to be selected prior to the 1990s (there were no whites involved, but not because they were excluded – they chose not to participate) give a hint of what the world missed because of this. While I acknowledge, as I did yesterday, the misfortunes of those such as Graeme Pollock, whose careers were ended prematurely by their country’s isolation I am far more concerned for the likes of Krom Hendricks and others who were deprived of the opportunity to forge an international career purely because of the colour of their skin, and my selection of Basil D’Oliveira, a man who in spite of being well past his cricketing prime by the time he got to play test cricket averaged 40 at that level and took some important wickets (notably that of Barry Jarman at The Oval in 1968 in the game in which he scored 158 in the first innings, which opened up the tail for Derek Underwood) is an acknowledgement of their plight.
*Cec Pepper – leg spinner, right handed batter. He averaged 29.64 with the bat and 29.35 with the ball in a 44 match first class career. He was also a highly regarded Lancashire League pro, having decided that he was not going to be selected for his native Australia. Once his playing days were finished he became an umpire.
+Colin Metson – wicket keeper, right handed batter. An excellent keeper for many years, but England were always looking for a better batter to do the job. It was true that Metson was no great shakes with the willow, but he did score useful runs on occasion (and nearly all of his runs were useful – like Cottey he responded well to his side being in need).
Don Shepherd – off spinner. He took more first class wickets than any other bowler who never played test cricket (2,218 at 21.32). It must be acknowledged that England had a wealth of good off spinners at the time, with Appleyard and Laker overlapping the early part of his career, Illingworth, Titmus, David Allen and John Mortimore being around during the latter part of his career, but nevertheless it does look odd that he never got picked at all.
Eddie Gilbert – right arm fast bowler. Playing for Queensland against NSW he once produced a spell that included inflicting on Bradman what the great man himself described as “the luckiest duck I ever made.” NSW were dug out of trouble on that occasion by Stan McCabe who scored a double century. Bowling against Jardine in one of the minor matches of the 1932-3 Ashes tour he scored a hit on the England skipper’s hip which according to eyewitness Bill Bowes left a discoloured area the size of a soup plate. Had Australia decided to fight fire with fire, he along with ‘Bull’ Alexander, Laurie Nash and Jack Scott was one of the fast bowlers they might have turned to. As it happened Australia went for the moral high ground, and for firing of whingy cables to the MCC headquarters in London (nb the first complaining cable was sent when Australia were headed for heavy defeat in the third match of the series at Adelaide – no complaints after the opener in Sydney when McCabe made runs in an Aussie defeat, nor after the second at Melbourne when Bradman made a ton in an Aussie win, but only once it was obvious that England were taking a firm grip on the series did the complaining start). Eddie Gilbert may well have been a victim of prejudice – he was aboriginal, and the first player of acknowledged aboriginal descent to don the baggy green was Jason Gillespie in the 1990s.
George Dennett– left arm orthodox spinner. 2,151 first class wickets at 19.82 for the Gloucestershire man, and never an England cap. When he was in his absolute prime in the years running up to world war 1, first Wilfred Rhodes and then Colin Blythe (2,503 first class wickets at 16) were the left arm spinners of choice for England, and with Woolley a regular pick for his batting and also a fine left arm spinner there was simply no vacancy for a second specialist in that role.
This side has a strong top six, a genuine all rounder at seven, a splendid keeper and three excellent specialist bowlers. The pace department is weak, but George Dennett regularly took the new ball for Gloucestershire, and Pepper as a Lancashire League pro must have done so on occasions as well. I might have strengthened the pace bowling department by including Tony Nicholson (879 wickets at 19.76 each for Yorkshire), but I wanted Pepper as captain, and felt that Dennett and Shepherd had irrefutable cases for selection and that I could not afford to drop a batter to accommodate Nicholson.
Today’s all time XI cricket post continues the alphabetic progression theme. Lots of Photographs as well.
Today’s all time XIs cricket post is our seventh alphabetic progression. We finished yesterday with a B, so today we start with a C.
JW HEARNE’S XI
Chetan Chauhan – right handed opening batter. He was overshadowed by his regular opening partner for India, Sunil Gavaskar, but his record was not a bad one.
+Tillekaratne Dilshan– right handed opening batter, wicket keeper. One of the most innovative of all iternational batters. I admit that he was not a regular wicket keeper, and that the combination of keeping and opening the batting is a tough one, but he did keep on occasion, and I think he could do both jobs.
Bill Edrich – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. A regular number three and occasional opener. In the last ever ‘timeless’ test match (the 99th such ever played, and it was the events of that game that pretty much killed the notion of timeless tests stone dead – after ten days play it ended in a draw because England had to get back to Cape Town to catch their boat home) Edrich who had endured a nightmare start to his test career produced 219 in the second England innings, as they got to 654-5 chasing 696 to win.
Neil Fairbrother – left handed batter. He holds the record for the highest first class score at a London ground – 366 for Lancashire v Surrey at The Oval, in a monstrosity of a match in which Surrey made 707 and Lancashire 863. He failed to establish himself at test level, partly because the powers that be typecast him as a one-day specialist, where he did have an excellent record.
David Gower – left handed batter. 8,231 runs at 44.25 in test cricket, and it would have been more but for the narrow-minded, intolerant attitude of then captain Graham Gooch, which brought the curtain down on his career when he still had plenty to offer. Gower, unlike Gooch, resisted the bait dangled by apartheid South Africa, and did not sign up for either of the two England rebel tours of the 1980s. He scored 58 in his first test innings, making his maiden century against New Zealand later that summer, and scoring a crucial maiden Ashes hundred at Perth on the 1978-9 tour. His 123 at Adelaide on the 1990-1 tour, one of two centuries he made in that series (the only England player to do so), was rated by Don Bradman as among the top five innings he ever saw played in Australia. That tour also saw an epic sense of humour failure by Gooch and manager Mickie Stewart over an incident in which Gower and John Morris of Derbyshire buzzed the upcountry ground at which England were playing in tiger moth planes.
*Jack Hearne – right handed batter, leg spinner. In first class cricket over the course of a long career he averaged 40 with the bat and 24 with the ball, although he did most of his bowling before World War 1, playing largely as a batter thereafter. He was not actually related to the original Jack Hearne, a medium pacer who claimed 3,061 first class wickets (the fourth most ever), but they did both play for Middlesex, and their careers overlapped. I have named as captain, following my belief that all other factors being equal a slow bowling all rounder should be best equipped for the job (exhibit A among actual captains in favour of this theory the late legendary Richie Benaud, exhibit B Ray Illingworth – and as an effective captain who because of the mores of his time never officially had the job I give you exhibit C, Wilfred Rhodes – as witness his comment about Percy Chapman’s England captaincy “Aye ‘ee wor a good ‘un – he allus did what me and Jack telt him”).
Doug Insole – right handed batter. He normally batted a little higher than this, but his attacking approach, often further highlighted by the fact that he was batting in partnership with one TE Bailey, makes him well suited to batting in this position, and I is not the easiest of letters to deal with. After his playing days were done he became a selector, and as chairman of selectors once dropped a well known Yorkshire opener on disciplinary grounds immediately after said worthy had scored 246 not out – an incident with which TMS listeners no longer have to fear being regaled while listening to commentaries.
Ravindra Jadeja – left arm orthodox spinner, left handed lower middle order batter. Test averages of 35 with the bat and 24 with the ball make for a mighty useful no8, and he is also one of the best fielders currently playing the game. For those who produce ‘ah, but he is not so good away from home’ I suggest you check out the away records of James Anderson and Stuart Broad and then come back to me.
Bart King– right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. In 65 first class matches he took 415 wickets at 15.66 each while also averaging 20 with the bat. In the last of his four visits to England with the Philadelphians he claimed 87 wickets in 11 first class appearances to top that season’s bowling averages. He was the pioneer of swing bowling – it was a commonplace in that era before World War 1 for bowlers to rub the new ball in the dirt to remove the shine, and many sides reckoned that to give the opponents a varied challenge it was best to open the bowling with a fast and a slow bowler. Kent, champions four times in the last eight pre world war one seasons, regularly gace the new ball to left arm spinner Blythe alongside right arm fast bowler Arthur Fielder, while Lancashire a decade earlier had used a similar pairing of Briggs and Mold. It was King who taught the cricket world how to use the shine of a new ball as an extra weapon in the bowler’s armoury, and it is now very rare for a slow bowler of any type to get the new ball, although Muralitharan sometimes took it for Sri Lanka.
Jim Laker– off spinner. Probably the best of all classical off spinners, most famous for his destruction of the 1956 Australians (58 of the first 100 wickets he took that season in first class matches wore baggy greens, 46 of them being claimed in the five test matches). On the 1958-9 tour of Australia, although the hosts regained the urn, they were, much to their chagrin, obliged to treat Laker with a degree of respect, and in the four test matches for which he was fit and available he claimed 15 wickets at an economical average. Among English off spinners only Fred Titmus four years later, John Emburey and Geoff Miller against an ill-equipped and badly captained rabble in 1978-9 and John Emburey again in 1986-7 also against a less than full strength side have fared better down under.
Ted McDonald – right arm fast bowler. One half of the first great fast bowling duo seen at test level, along with Jack Gregory (Tom Richardson and Bill Lockwood, pioneer of the slower ball, had opened together for Surrey). After the Ashes series of 1920-1 and 1921, in which Australia won eight straight tests before England drew the last two of the home series he accepted a Lancashire league contract, and went on to playfor the county for some years, combining with Cecil Parkin and Richard Tyldesley to form a bowling unit that saw Lancashire dominate the second half of the 1920s.
This team has a solid batting line up, a competent keeper and a fine array of bowlers. McDonald and King look a splendid new ball pair, Edrich is available if a third pace option is needed, and in Laker, Jadeja and Hearne there is a wonderfully varied trio of spinners.
SYDNEY SMITH’S XI
Mike Norman – right handed opening batter. A consistent county pro rather than a real star.
Alan Ormrod – right handed opening batter. Played for Worcestershire for many years, before finishing his career at Lancashire. He was part of the Worcestershire side involved in the ‘ten minute game’, when Somerset skipper Brian Rose declared after one over, deliberately losing the limited overs match in order to protect his side’s wicket taking rate. The powers that be took a dim view of this, and Somerset were booted out of the competition anyway. Declarations were late banned from limited overs cricket, a move I consider unduly hamfisted, especially now that net run rate is used to split ties. Why shouldn’t a side who are 300-2 after 40 overs and facing possible weather interruptions say to their opponents “OK, we reckon we can defend in this over the full fifty if we have to do, over to you to have a bat”?
Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. He averaged 60.97 in test cricket before his country were forced into international isolation by the fallout from the D’Oliveira case (in fact South Africa were lucky to have lasted as longs as they did in that first incarnation as a test playing nation – various moments could have seen them given the boot well before they were.
+Stanley Quin – right handed batter/ wicket keeper. He played for Victoria in the 1930s, averaging 33 in first class cricket, including a double century, and given how difficult a letter Q is I think this is a pretty good solution. His 24 first class appearances brought him 35 catches and 24 stumpings.
Vernon Ransford – left handed batter. He averaged 37.84 in test cricket – at a time when Victor Trumper, universally regarded as an all-time great, averaged 39.04 at that level, sufficient indication of his class as a performer.
*Sydney Smith – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He was Northamptonshire’s first ever overseas signing, coming over from the West Indies in 1909, twenty years before they took their test bow, and doing the double in his first season of county cricket. He finished his career averaging 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball. Making a standard ‘covered pitches inflation’ adjustment of 50% up for each average that equates to averaging 46 with the bat and 27 with the ball today.
George Thompson – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. The man, along with Bill East, who was most responsible for Northants’ elevation to first class rank in 1905, and the first Northamptonshire cricketer to play for his country – and he did not fare badly at that level either, more especially given that by the time the chance arrived he was already past 30.
Rana Naved Ul-Hasan – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He first appeared on scoresheets as Naved Ul-Hasan, before indicating a preference for Rana Naved, and U is not an easy letter to fill. He played for Sussex for some years, and had a lot in common with an earlier Sussex stalwart, Maurice Tate, both being fast medium bowlers who loved to give the ball a good clout with the bat.
Vince Van der Bijl– right arm fast medium. Took his first class wickets at 16.54 each. A combination of the political situation in South Africa and his unwillingness to completely cast adrift from his native land cost him a test career. He was a popular overseas star for Middlesex. On one occasion when the county lost a Sunday League (an aeon or so ago counties played 40 overs per side matches on Sundays, accumulating points towards a league title) match by eight runs and when they got back to the dressing room Van der Bijl opened the post -mortem by saying “sorry folks, those two half volleys I bowled early in my spell cost us”, thereby preventing any recriminations from developing.
Jack Walsh – left arm wrist spinner. Australian born, but moved to England and enjoyed a long career with Leicestershire – one of a number of Aussie spinners of that era to decide that the grass was greener elsewhere.
Xara Jetly – off spinner. The trickiest letter of the lot, but the teenage Kiwi may yet go on to establish herself as a top player – it is certainly a name I will have half an eye one for the future. The women play almost exclusively limited overs cricket, which reduces the potential for really big wicket hauls, but there is a 3-35 among her recent sets of figures.
This team may be a little short of really top drawer batters (only Pollock and Ransford qualify for that description), but it does have great depth – everyone down to no8 has the capacity to play a match winning innings. The bowling, with a pace trio of Rana Naved Ul-Hasan, Vince Van der Bijl and George Thompson backed by tweakers Xara Jetly, Jack Walsh and Sydney Smith looks really good.
This should be a cracker. JW Hearne’s XI are stronger in batting, but not quite as strong in bowling. I suspect that Sydney Smith’s XI would need Graeme Pollock to ‘come to the party’ to win, but he usually managed that, so I cannot predict a winner.
Continuing my ‘all time XIs’ series with a look at Northamptonshire.
Welcome to the latest post in my series of ‘All Time XIs‘. Today we look at Northamptonshire. This post features two more players who will be in the ‘what might have been?’ XI (see my Somerset post for more) when I create it, and two more who had I not decided that what they actually did was sufficient to get them into this XI might have been eligible.
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE ALL TIME XI
Fred Bakewell – his career was ended early by a car crash, but he had still done enough to prove his greatness. The eight test matches he managed to play before his career ending crash yielded him a batting average of 45, including a ton against Australia.
Colin Milburn – an attacking opener, who like Bakewell suffered a career ending car crash (in his case he lost an eye). Also like Bakewell he had already achieved enough to prove his greatness. His county captain Keith Andrew, worried about his alcohol consumption, once suggested that he drink halves instead of pints. Not long after this they were in the bar and Andrew asked Milburn what he wanted, and the opener unerringly responded “two halves please skipper”.
David Steele – brother of John, who features in my Leicestershire post, an adhesive right handed batter and sometimes useful as a slow left arm bowler. Tony Greig as England captain wanted someone difficult to dislodge to be brought into the team which had just lost the opening test match of the 1975 series by an innings and 85 runs, costing Mike Denness the captaincy, and Steele’s was the name that kept recurring when he asked about this. Greig, thus fortified insisted on Steele being selected and the then 33 year old and already white haired batter responded with 365 runs in six innings – 50 and 45 on debut at Lord’s, 73 and 92 at Headingley and 39 and 66 at The Oval, and England had the better of draws in the first two of those matches and saved the third as well. His performances so captured the public imagination that he was named as 1975 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, only the second time that honour had gone the way of a cricketer, after Jim Laker (see my Surrey post) in 1956. Since Steele’s year three further cricketers have received the honour – Ian Botham (Somerset, 1981), Andrew Flintoff (Lancashire, 2005) and Ben Stokes in 2019. In the 1976 series against the West Indies he scored his one and only test century, but was dropped for the tour of India because people did not believe he would be able to handle their spinners. By the start of the 1977 season Greig’ s name was mud because of his association with Kerry Packer and Steele was never recalled, but his eight test matches yielded him an average of 42.06 without any not outs to boost the figure.
Raman Subba Row – moving north from Surrey he flourished at Northants, becoming the first batter ever to score 300 in an innings for the county, and representing England with distinction before retiring at the age of only 29.
Dennis Brookes – he came south from Yorkshire as a 17 year old and did not take long to convince the county of his merits. As so often with people who play for unfashionable counties he was badly treated by the England selectors, being a one cap wonder at that level.
*Sydney Smith – a West Indian all-rounder who batted in the middle order and bowled left arm spin. He qualified for the county in 1909, only four years after they had gained first class status, and fell just 45 wickets short of the career double of 10,000 runs and 1,000 wickets. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball. I have also chosen to award him the captaincy.
Vallance Jupp – moving north from Sussex, once he had served out his residential qualifying period he achieved a period of sustained all round success matched in the game’s history only by George Hirst of Yorkshire, doing the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets eight times in a row (Hirst’s great run extended to 10 seasons in a row, while the other ‘Kirkheaton twin’, Rhodes, twice achieved the feat seven successive times at different stages of his extraordinary career). He gained just eight test caps, and his averages at that level were the wrong way round, 17 with the bat and 22 with the ball, but in first class cricket he averaged 29 with the bat and 23 with the ball.
George Thompson – one of two all rounders (Bill East being the other) who was largely responsible for Northamptonshire gaining first class status in 1905. However, while East was never more than a solid county pro (a status which in itself put him streets ahead of most of his team mates), Thompson, who bowled right arm fast medium, became his county’s first ever England player. On the 1909-10 tour of South Africa when only Hobbs (series average 67) really mastered the combination of matting pitches and googly bowlers, Thompson was third in the batting averages with 33 per time, a fraction of a run an innings below Rhodes. In his six test matches he averaged 30 with the bat and 27 with the ball, while his first class figures were 22.10 with the bat and 18.89 with the ball.
+Keith Andrew – the presence of the three all-rounders above (and yes, all three merit that term, even for one who in general uses it as sparingly as I do) enables me to have no qualms about selecting the best wicket keeper, and Andrew, who at one time combined the captaincy with his keeping duties was that. Due to the fact that his career overlapped with the likes of Godfrey Evans (Kent), John Murray(Middlesex) and Sussex’s Jim Parks whose batting put him into the frame he was only twice selected for his country, but his 388 domestic appearances yielded 722 catches and 181 stumpings.
Frank Tyson – a right arm fast bowler, who, like Larwood (Nottinghamshire) he managed to blitz the Aussies in their own backyard. He moved south from his native Lancashire, was picked by Hutton for the 1954-5 Ashes more or less as a bolt from the blue – at a press conference before the series commenced Hutton said “no we haven’t got mooch boolin’ – there’s a chap called Tyson but you won’t ‘ave heard of him because he’s ‘ardly played”. Tyson played huge roles in the winning of the second, third and fourth tests of that series. How quick was he? Well, Geoffrey Boycott once asked Richie Benaud what Tyson did with the ball, and Benaud said “didn’t need to do anything, Geoffrey”, Boycott double took with “That quick?” and Richie confirmed “That quick.”. Trevor Bailey(Essex) who played in that series as an all-rounder reckoned that the step up in pace from his fast medium to Statham (genuinely fast), was the same as the step up from Statham to Tyson. Finally, John Woodcock who covered cricket for The Times when it was a real newspaper as opposed to the Murdoch rag it has become, saw Tyson at his fastest in 1954-5 and Patrick Patterson’s famously fast spell at Sabina Park in 1986. Woodcock reckoned that the two spells he saw 31 years apart were equally quick with the difference that Tyson pitched it up as regularly as Patterson banged it in short.
Nobby Clark – left arm fast bowler. In the 1930s he was probably the next quickest thing to Larwood. He only got to play eight test matches and his bowling average at that level was 28 per wicket, but his 1,208 first class wickets at 21.49 each tell a different tale from his sporadic England appearances.
This team has an excellent top five, three genuine all rounders, a superb keeper and two of the fastest bowlers you could wish to see. The bowling attack, with Clark and Tyson a ferocious new ball proposition, Thompson a high class fast medium, front line spinners (of different types) Smith and Jupp and Steele as a back up option looks both strong and well varied (there is no leg spinner, but that is the only major bowling type not represented). A regular theme of these exercises has been giving my putative captains the opportunity not just to change the bowler, but to change the bowling. Being English and starting to follow cricket when I did has meant that I have witnessed far too many bowling ‘attacks’ that consist either mainly or worse still wholly of right arm fast medium practitioners for my liking, and this is reflected in my own selection policy.
TWO BIG FAIRLY RECENT OMISSIONS
Much as I respect Monty Panesar, Sydney Smith’s irrefutable case for inclusion as all-rounder meant that there could not be room for someone who could offer nothing other than left arm spin. Allan Lamb, an attacking middle order bat whose test career began superbly before falling away, was another who I enjoyed watching but could not fit in.
FOR THE ‘WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN XI’
I was listening to a test match (not a great one, this moment is all I remember from it!) when I heard the tones of Christopher Martin-Jenkins announcing a potentially important moment in the history of English cricket. A 17 year old had just scored 210 on debut for Northamptonshire. His name was David Sales, and it seemed certain that this performance would get him fast tracked into the England set up. Unfortunately, I failed to allow for the conservatism of those in high places in English cricket. David Sales not only did not get fast tracked, he was destined never to play for his country, and although he enjoyed some good moments at county level, including scoring a triple century and a 276 not out he has to settle for a place in the ‘what might have been XI’. The highest score made by a first class debutant is 240 by Eric Marx, whose career never really developed. Sam Loxton, scorer of 232 in his debut innings, did go on to represent Australia with some distinction. Saddest of all the tall scoring debut stories is that of Norman Callaway, who played one Sheffield Shield match in the 1914-15 season, scored 207 in his only innings and then went off to fight in World War One where he was among the many killed in action. In one of those parallel universes that physicists talk about will be a David Sales who got fast tracked into the England set up and became a stalwart of his country’s middle order.
My other ‘what might have beener’ with a Northants connection is Jason Brown, an off spinner who was named in the 2001 touring party to Sri Lanka, got picked for only one warm up game on that trip and then returned to county cricket never to be heard from again.
Among the top order batters who I could not find places for were Wayne Larkins, Geoff Cookand Alan Fordhamwho all had fine records. Charles Pool, Russell Warrenand Riki Wessels (now on his third county, Worcestershire, after a spell at Nottinghamshire) were all good middle order players, and the last two named might have attracted the attention of someone who wanted a batter/keeper rather than a top class gloveman. David Ripley was a fine keeper and useful lower middle order bat who was unlucky never to gain England recognition. The Willeys, Peter and David missed out for different reasons, Peter because his batting record is not quite weighty enough to warrant selection on his own, and his off spin was not a front line option, and David because his red ball record, always my chief concern, is not good enough. Freddie Brown, an attacking middle order bat and leg spin bowler, did not have the weight of achievement to merit inclusion, his captaincy of the 1950-1 Ashes party coming only after two others had declined and because the obsession with amateur skippers had not yet died, though it was on life support by then (he will feature in the ‘exotic birthplaces’ XI, since Lima, Peru is pretty hard to top in that regard). Harry Kelleher, a fast bowler of the 1950s, did not have the kind of consistent success to merit serious consideration, although he once rattled the Aussies in a tour match by firing out three of their top four with the new ball. Paul Taylor bowled his variety of left arm pace well enough to play for England briefly, but at that level he never looked remotely good enough.
Finally we come to the overseas players. My usual preference for the nominee being a bowler ruled out two quality Aussies, ‘Buck‘ Rogers and ‘Mr Cricket’ himself, aka MikeHussey. Bishan Singh Bedi was a classical slow left arm bowler but did not also offer runs as Smith did. Anil Kumble would have given me a leg spin option, but would also have lengthened the tail, since to fit him in I would have had to pick Panesar instead of Smith. George Tribe, an Aussie who specialized in left arm wrist spin was also a possible, but offered less batting wise than Smith. Finally, Curtly Ambrose was a magnificent cricketer, but again there was no way to accommodate him without altering the balance of the side. I could have argued that as someone whose native land did not yet play test cricket Smith does not really count as an overseas player and allowed myself one of the above as well, but decided that one overseas player means one overseas player.
As with Leicestershire who I covered yesterday Northamptonshire is also associated with a top quality commentator, in this case Alison Mitchell.
Northamptonshire only became a first class county in 1905, have never been County Champions, though they were second in 1912 and have spent far more of their history near the wrong end of things than near the top. In 1907 they were bowled out for 12 by Gloucestershire (Dennett 8-9, Jessop 2-3) and reduced to 40-7 in their second innings (Dennett 7-12) before rain intervened to save them. In 1908 against Yorkshire they were put out for 27 and 15, to lose by an innings and 326 runs (although on that occasion George Thompson was injured and unable to bat, whereas when Border were dismissed for 16 and 18 by Natal they had a full complement of 11 batting for them). They were winless in all of 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938 and won only once in 1939. However, if you believe I have missed someone do feel free to comment.