All Time XIs – All Rounders v Specialists

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket post pits all rounders against specialists.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on an ‘all time XI‘ cricket theme. Today an XI noted for all round talents take on an XI largely made up of specialists (although I have allowed them one all rounder).

THE ALL ROUNDERS

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career. He tallied 54,896 runs at 39.55 in first class cricket and took 2,876 first class wickets at 17.92 each. I note two things in defence of his batting average: he played on poor wickets for much of his career, and that career was very long, and went on well past his cricketing prime. In the decade of the 1870s, when he was at his zenith he averaged 49 with the bat, while no one else who played consistently over the course of that decade averaged over 25. If we accept that he would have paid for his wickets and averaged more with the bat playing on good pitches and allow 50% inflation for the effects of the change in pitches then his career figures become a batting average of 59.42 and a bowling average of 26.88.
  2. Wilfred Rhodes – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. His career figures were 39.807 runs and 4,187 wickets, at averages of 30 and 16 respectively, but his career had several distinct periods: he started as pure bowler, batting no 10 or 11, then he moved up into the middle order for a few seasons, batting habitually at 6 or 7, and doing the double regularly (seven successive seasons), then he moved up to the top of the batting order, and on the 1911-2 Ashes tour he was England’s number two in every way – number two in the order, and second to Hobbs in the batting averages. Then, after World War 1, with Yorkshire needing more bowling he picked up his bowling arts, dropped into the middle order (no 5 initially, and moved down as years passed), and he again did the double in the first seven post war seasons. In 1926, now batting at no 8, he returned to the England team at the age of 49 for the Ashes decider at The Oval, and took 4-44 in the second innings. Then came the final stage of his career, when eyesight problems, which eventually became complete blindness late in his life, caused his batting to decline and he played as an out and out rabbit with the bat who was still worth his place as a batter. He went on the 1929-30 tour of the West Indies, playing for his country for the last time at the age of 52 years 165 days, the oldest ever to play test cricket for any country. In 1930 Hedley Verity began his Yorkshire career, and at the end of that season, at the age of 53, Rhodes retired from first class cricket to leave the stage clear for the younger man. A A Thomson wrote a two part book about the ‘Kirkheaton twins’, titled simply “Hirst and Rhodes”.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, close fielder. 58,969 first class runs at 40.75, 2,068 wickets at 19.85 and 1,018 catches (the only player ever to achieve this treble, and indeed the only outfielder ever to take 1,000 first class catches. The 1906 Wisden said of Woolley after his debut season that “it is doubtful whether he is robust enough to enjoy a really long career.” He only lasted 32 years, up to the end of the 1937 season!
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, ace slip fielder. 50,551 first class runs at 56.10, 732 wickets at 30.58, 820 catches. He lost two seasons of his early career, one to bureaucratic malice (Lord Harris, a stickler on matters of qualification, and dedicated to Kent, noted Hammond’s Dover birthplace, and that school – Cirencester Grammar – did not technically count as residence, and caused this hiatus), and one to a mysterious illness picked up in the Caribbean, and six seasons of his later career to World War II, so his figures might have been ever more remarkable.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, fine fielder. 28,314 first class runs at 54.87, 1,043 wickets at 27.74, 407 catches. The most complete all rounder the game has ever seen. Like Rhodes he started his career as a left arm spinner who did not really bat. Unlike Rhodes having climbed up the order he never went right back down, although he was moved down from three to six when his captain Frank Worrell noted that he and Rohan Kanhai were not combining very well and split them up.
  6. +Les Ames – wicket keeper, right handed batter. 37,248 runs in first class cricket at 43.51, 703 catches and 418 stumpings. The only wicket keeper ever to score 100 first class hundreds.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ace fielder. 26,698 first class runs at 32.63, 873 wickets at 22.79, 407 catches. A contemporary assessment of his fielding had it worth 20-30 runs per innings. He scored 53 first class innings, five of them doubles, with a best of 286, and only once in his career did he spend over three hours at the crease. For most of his career a ball had to go right out of the ground to score six, otherwise his record would have been even more extraordinary. He was once involved in a partnership of 66 to which he contributed…66 – the highest such partnership in first class cricket history. 
  8. George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. 36,356 first class runs at 34.13, 2,742 wickets at 18.73. In each of 1904 and 1905 he achieved the 2,000 runs, 100 wickets double, only previously achieved by WG Grace, Charles Townsend and Gilbert Jessop, though matched in 1905 by the Aussie Warwick Armstrong, and then in 1906 he became the only player ever to the ‘double double’, scoring 2,385 runs and taking 208 wickets in first class matches. Every season from 1903-13 inclusive he scored at least 1,000 runs and took at least 100 wickets in first class matches. He went on to be a successful coach, first at Harrow, then for Yorkshire. He was at the Yorkshire nets when Trueman had his first bowl there, and when others were fretting over the youngster’s wildness Hirst said coolly “just imagine what he will do when he teach him to bowl straight”, correctly realizing that pace cannot be taught but accuracy can.
  9. Maurice Tate – right arm fast medium, right handed batter. 2,784 first class wickets at 18.16, 21,616 first class runs at 25.04. Other than Hirst’s 1906 ‘double double’ only two cricketers have ever combined a season tally of 1,000 first class runs with 200 wickets, and he is one of them. He relied on swing and cut, being the first bowler to make really devastating use of the sea fret at Hove – usually the flatness of the pitches there emasculated bowlers.
  10. Albert Trott – right arm slow bowler, right handed batter. 1,674 first class wickets at 21.09, 10,696 runs at 19.48. The first of only two members of this team to have averages the wrong way round. In 1899 and 1901 he combined over 200 wickets with over 1,000 runs in first class matches. However, his decline was rapid thereafter as an obsession with repeating his 1899 feat of hitting a ball over the Lord’s pavilion negatively affected his batting and his bowling lost its fizz, and somewhere along the line he completely lost the fast yorker that was such a devastating weapon in his armoury. His first misfortune occurred when after making a sensational start to his test career he was not picked for the 1896 tour of England, and made his own way to that country, ultimately signing for Middlesex. He seemed to have put the disappointment behind him by the time another Aussie side visited in 1899, but then came that shot of Monty Noble, and its subsequent effect on his batting.
  11. Peter Smith – leg spinner, right handed batter. 1,697 wickets at 26.55 , 10,142 runs at 17.95 in first class cricket. He achieved the season’s double for the first time in 1947, and it was in that season that he had his greatest batting moment. In the game before his big day out he had batted at no 10 and bagged a pair, so he had seemingly little cause for complaint at being made no 11 for the game against Derbyshire. The ninth Essex wicket fell at 199 and he walked out to join Frank Vigar. By the time he was out the score had risen to 417, and his share of that stand of 218 was 163, with five sixes and 23 fours, the highest first class score ever made by a no 11.

This team has an excellent top five, statistically the best batter keeper there has ever been, the ultimate x-factor player in Jessop and a fine foursome who are there principally as bowlers. Counting Sobers as three options because of his multiplicity of styles there are 12 front line bowling options in this team.

THE SPECIALISTS

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. 61,237 first class runs at 50.65. Both this tally of first class runs and his 197 centuries are first class records, and he lost four years of his cricketing prime to World War 1. His entry into first class cricket was also slightly delayed because he was a native of Cambridge and had to qualify by residence for Surrey (after someone at Chelmsford apparently binned his letter asking for a trial without having read it).
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. 50,670 first class runs at 52.02. The only player to score at least 2,000 first class runs in every inter-war season. He and Jack Hobbs were statistically the most productive of all test opening partnerships, the average opening stand between them being 87.81 per wicket, including 15 century opening stands.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter. 28,067 runs at 95.14 in first class cricket. In his 338 innings he reached 50 186 times and went on to the century on 117 of those occasions, an average of a century per 2.78 innings, a figure not remotely approached by anyone else who played enough innings to qualify for assessment. 37 times he topped 200, an all time first class record, and on six of those occasions he scored over 300, the only player have more than four such first class scores (Hammond and Ponsford joint 2nd).
  4. Phil Mead – left handed batter. 55,061 runs at 47.67. His Hampshire tallies of 48,809 runs and 138 centuries are both records for any single first class team. He was originally associated with Surrey, and considered to be mainly a bowler, but moved to Hampshire and ended up as one of the heaviest scoring batters of all time.
  5. Patsy Hendren – right handed batter. 57,611 runs at 50.80. The third leading first class run scorer of all time, and second leading centurion with 170. He did all of this while having a reputation for being a great joker and prankster, just to show that one can be a highly successful player while remembering that it should be fun.
  6. Keith Miller – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. 14,183 first class runs at 48.90, 497 wickets at 22.30. Another who always realized that it should be fun. He served as an RAAF pilot in World War Two which led to his famous response to a question about pressure “There is no pressure in cricket – pressure is being in a Mosquito with two Messerschmidts up your arse.”
  7. +Bob Taylor – wicket keeper. He took 1,473 first class catches and executed 176 stumpings, totalling the most dismissals ever achieved by any keeper in first class cricket (two London based cricketers, John Murray and Herbert Strudwick are 2 and 3 on the list). Until he finally scored his maiden first class hundred near the end of his career he was in a club of two with Tony Lock – players who had over 10,000 first class runs, but no first class hundred (Lock’s highest score was 89 not out).
  8. Alec Kennedy – right arm medium fast bowler. 2,874 first class wickets at 21.23. He was seventh in the all-time list of first class wicket takers, and the only one of those seven not to be in Philippe-Henri Edmonds’ “100 Greatest Bowlers”. For many years he and Jack Newman (see yesterday’s post) carried the Hampshire bowling, until left arm spinner Stuart Boyes came along to lighten their workload a bit.
  9. Jack Hearne – right arm medium fast bowler. 3,061 first class wickets at 17.75 each. Number four in the list of all time wicket takers, a haul that included nine in an innings no fewer than eight separate times.
  10. Tich Freeman – leg spinner. 3,776 first class wickets at 18.42, taken in 550 first class games. Second on the all-time list of wicket takers behind Rhodes. Remarkably a combination of World War 1 and the strength of Kent’s bowling in his youth meant that by the time he turned 30 he had captured precisely 29 first class wickets. He took 200 or more wickets in each of eight successive seasons, including the only ever instance of 300 (304 in 1928).
  11. Charlie Parker – left arm orthodox spinner. 3,278 first class wickets at 19.46. The third leading wicket taker in first class cricket. Six times in first class cricket he achieved the hat trick, most remarkably in his benefit match when he hit the stumps five times in succession but the second was called no-ball.

This team has a stellar top five, a great all rounder, a great wicket keeper and four excellent and varied bowlers. The bowling with Kennedy, Hearne, Freeman and Parker with Miller as fifth option also looks highly impressive.

HONOURABLE MENTION

Every single batter to have scored over 50,000 first class runs is present in one or other of my teams, and numbers 1,2,3,4,6 and 7 of the all time leading wicket takers are also represented. No 5 in that list is Tom Goddard, the Gloucestershire off spinner who took 2,979 first class wickets at 19.84. For reasons of balance I had to select Kennedy, otherwise my only recognized pace options would have been Hearne and Miller, which is a bit too rich even for my blood.

THE CONTEST

This would be an absolute cracker of a contest. From no 3-11 inclusive the all-rounders team has a combined batting average of 280.95, while for different reasons it is hard to quantify Grace and Rhodes as openers. It would seem likely given their records when they were at their best as openers that these two would contribute sufficiently to make a team total of 400 more likely than not. The top six of the specialists team have a combined average of 344 in first class cricket, so nos 6-11 would have to come up with 50-60 between them to equalize things on this assessment. Without Bradman the specialists would have no chance whatsoever, with him it looks very even. I will call the trophy for this contest the ‘Martin – Stokes Trophy’, honouring two New Zealand born cricketers, one of the great specialists, that purest of pure bowlers Chris Martin, and a great all rounder in Ben Stokes.

AFTERWORD

For all that I would expect my side of all rounders to give a good account of themselves I most emphatically do not recommend selecting a fistful of all rounders in general. Especially I would warn of the curse of the ‘bits and pieces’ cricketer – the player who can bat a bit and bowl a bit but is not good enough at either to warrant selection. In general someone should only be picked if they merit selection as a specialist – and if they have a second string to their bow so much the better. The other problem that I did not highlight in connection with the all rounders side is that teams that bat literally all the way down often end up struggling because folk in such teams tend to develop the feeling that it is not likely to matter much if they do get out. I have memories seared in to me of England teams in the 1980s and 1990s picking bowlers who could bat a bit, and ending up neither able to score commanding totals nor to bowl the opposition out.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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All Rounders v Specialists
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – Kent

My ‘All Time XIs’ series continues with a look at Kent.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we look at Kent, and although there will no controversies to match one of my omissions from yesterday’s Lancashire side, this one has also had its challenges.

KENT ALL TIME XI

  1. Bill Ashdown – an attack minded opening bat. He holds the record for the highest individual Kent score, 332, made in just over a day against Essex at Brentwood. Kent were 623-2 at the close of the first day, Ashdown 300 not out, and declared at 803-4 and then bowled Essex out twice to win by an innings and 192 runs. His medium pace bowling was also sometimes of use to the team. He and Sussex pro Bert Wensley once teamed up to defeat a village XI in a reprise of an event that happened a century previously. The original match came about because the landlord of the village pub grew so incensed with the boasting of its team the he told them he would find two players who could beat them without team mates. He came back with two of the best players of the day, and they duly beat the village team. A century later the event was recreated with Ashdown and Wensley taking on the villagers, and the result was the same, a victory for the pros. In the field Ashdown and Wensley alternated between bowling and keeping wicket, meaning that there were just two gaps in the field – the off side and the on side! Andrew Ward’s “Cricket’s Strangest Matches” features this game.
  2. Arthur Fagg – in 1938 at Colchester he scored 244 and 202 not out in the same match, the only time in first class history that anyone has hit two double centuries in a game. Once his playing days were done he became an umpire.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter who scored 58,969 first class runs including 145 centuries, 2,066 wickets with his left arm spin at less than 20 a piece and 1,018 catches, the most in first class history by anyone who did not keep wicket. He was an integral part of Kent’s first four county championships. He was picked in every England team for a 19 year period (1909-28) – a run which today would give anyone achieving it about 250 test appearances as opposed to his final total of 64. In 1921 at Lord’s when everyone else was being blown away by Gregory and McDonald he scored 95 and 93. In the 1924-5 Ashes he and his county colleague Freeman shared a ninth wicket stand of 128 in ultimately losing cause. His greatest test with the ball was at The Oval in 1912 in the match that settled the Triangular Tournament (an experiment which was ruined by the weather, the weakness of the third team, South Africa, and the fact the the Aussies were hit by a serious dispute) in England’s favour. In that match Woolley had combined figures of 10-49. His volume of cricket related memoir “King of Games” is an excellent read, and I would also recommend Ian Peebles‘ “Woolley: The Pride of Kent”. It is partly on ground of the tactical thoughts expounded in “King of Games” that I have awarded Woolley the captaincy, a post that due to the class-based obsession with amateur captains that prevailed in his day he never actually held.
  4. Colin Cowdrey – a right handed batter who made a record six tours of Australia, the last of them at the age of 42 when he answered an SOS call and replaced his intended festive season with a trip out to attempt to counter Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. At the time his career ended his 114 test match appearances were an all comers record and his tally of 7,624 runs at that level was an England record, while his 22 centuries were a joint record with Wally Hammond. He was part of a family that currently stands alone in having produced four successive generations of first class cricketers (his father Ernest played a handful of games, two of his sons Graham and Chris were stalwarts of Kent in the 1980s and 1990s and his grandson Fabian played for Kent and now commentates on Kent games for local radio. The Tremletts with Maurice, Tim and Chris and the Headleys with George, Ron and Dean have each had three successive generations of first class cricketers and may yet get a fourth.
  5. Fuller Pilch – rated as the best batter of his era. He also featured in a dismissal that suggests a somewhat overly lively pitch – in the Gentlemen vs Players match of 1837 his dismissal reads ‘hat knocked on wicket’. He is one of two players from this era in my Kent team. He was noted for using a bat with a long blade and a short handle.
  6. +Leslie Ames – the only recognized wicketkeeper ever to score a hundred first class hundreds. The ‘wicket keeper’s double’ of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in the same season was achieved three times in history, and two of those were by Ames. In 1929 he pouched 78 catches and executed 49 stumpings, for a total of 127 dismissals. He won the Walter Lawrence trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season twice in the first three years of its existence, and his career high score of 295 took a mere three and a half hours. His test best of 149 came against the West Indies at Sabina Park in 1929-30, when Andrew Sandham scored 325, skipper Calthorpe was overly doctrinaire about not enforcing the follow on in a timeless match (England led by 563 on first innings!) and two days of rain and the necessity of England catching their boat home caused this timeless match to be drawn, with the West Indies 408-5 needing a further 428 to win (yes – they were set 836).
  7. Alfred Mynn – a fast bowling all rounder from the same era as Pilch. He was known as ‘The Lion of Kent’, and would appear in both his physical build and his approach to the game to have been the Freddie Flintoff of the 1830s and 40s.
  8. Arthur Fielder – right arm fast bowler, and useful lower order batter. He once scored 112 not out from no 11, as he and Frank Woolley added 235 for the last wicket.
  9. Tich Freeman – a diminutive (5’2″) leg spinner who made use of his extreme lack of height by releasing the ball upwards so that it spent most of its journey towards the batter above their eyeline. He stands second in the all time list of first class wicket takers with 3,776. In the 1928 season he collected 304 wickets, and he also holds second and third place if the list of season wicket hauls with 298 and 295. He stands alone in having taken all 10 wickets in a first class innings on three separate occasions. He took 386 five wicket innings hauls in his astonishing career and bagged 10 in a match 140 times.
  10. Colin Blythe – a left arm spinner who was killed during World War One, but not before he had taken a lot of wickets very cheaply. Against Northamptonshire in 1907 he took 17-48 in the match, and according to Woolley, writing in “The King of Games” he came within touching distance of getting all twenty in that match. As Woolley describes it, Blythe took all 10 in the first innings, and had the first seven in the second innings, before Vials, the last remaining Northants batter of any substance offered a return catch, which would have left Blythe a couple of absolute rabbits to polish off to claim an ‘all twenty’. Blythe dropped the catch and was apparently so discomposed by doing so that he was unable to refocus on his bowling, and the Kent captain had reluctantly to put another bowler on to finish it. He took 2,503 first class wickets at 16, and his 100 test wickets came in 19 games at that level.
  11. Fred Martin – a left arm fast bowler who took over 900 wickets for Kent at 19 a piece. He was selected for England at The Oval in 1890, and recorded 6-50 in the first innings and 6-52 in the second, still a match record for an England debutant.

These choices give me a team with a strong top five, a wicketkeeper who made big runs at a rapid pace at no 6, a fast bowling all-rounder at 7 and four bowlers of widely varying type. The bowling resources this side has include a left arm fast bowler, two right arm fast bowlers, a leg spinner and two slow left armers, plus Ashdown’s occasional medium pace if needed.  The next section will look to the present and future, and then I will look at some of the other players I have missed out.

KENT PRESENT AND FUTURE

This section deals with three current Kent players who part of the England setup and a fourth who may well become so. Joe Denly, a stop gap selection at no 3 in the test team, has produced a string of consistent performances since taking on the role. I suspect that when play resumes again post Covid-19 he will be displaced as England will go with Sibley, Burns, Crawley as their top three. Zak Crawley was elevated to international level without having what most would consider any considerable weight of achievement ad domestic level in the bank but has unquestionably thrived at the top level, and I suspect that if I revisit this series in ten years or so he will be challenging Ashdown or Fagg for one of those openers slots. Sam Billings is part of the England limited overs setup, but unlikely to feature in test selections. His wicket keeping will not be factor, given Kent’s illustrious history in that department, but were I selecting with white ball cricket in mind he would definitely be a candidate. Finally, Oliver Graham Robinson (as opposed to Sussex medium pacer and useful lower order batter Oliver Edward Robinson – please guys could you allow yourselves to be referred to by your middle names?) is a 21 year old wicket keeper who would appear to have a colossal future ahead of him (here’s hoping that the selectors treat him better than they have Ben Foakes), and even allowing for Kent’s historic riches in this department he may force his way into consideration in time.

OTHER CANDIDATES

Had I not been determined to include the “Lion of Kent” the number seven slot, and the captaincy that I actually awarded to Frank Woolley would have gone to Jack Mason, the subject of John Lazenby’s “Test of Time”, and also mentioned in many other cricket books, including Woolley’s “King of Games”.

There were a number of candidates for the opener’s slots: Wally Hardinge, Mark Benson (a one cap wonder for England in 1986 – 21 and 30 in a drawn game against India), David Fulton (ignored by the England selectors, even in the season in which he notched his 1,000 runs by mid June) and Robert Key being just four who merited consideration. In the middle of the order Kenneth Hutchings, Percy Chapman and Geoffrey Legge would all have their adherents. Among the bowlers to miss out were Doug Wright, who took more first class hat tricks, seven in total, than anyone else in cricket history, Derek Underwood whose left arm slow medium could not quite displace Blythe in my thinking and Bill Bradley, a right arm fast bowler who could have had the slot I gave to Fielder. I genuinely could not think of a Kent offspinner who I could even consider (yes folks, I am well aware that James Tredwell was an England pick at one time, but he was no one’s idea of a great bowler!).

The wicket keeping issue was a knotty (or should that be Knotty?) one, as Kent have had a stack of great practitioners down the years – Fred Huish, John Hubble, Godfrey Evans and Alan Knott most notably, but also in more recent times Geraint Jones has done the job for England and I have already mentioned the emerging talent of Oliver Graham Robinson. However, to select any of these legendary practitioners and play Ames as a specialist batter would have been to deprive myself of a desperately needed slot in the team, hence giving the gloves to Ames.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Yes, a journey that has taken us through nearly 200 years of cricket in the hop county (during any period of which you could if so inclined have partaken of Shepherd Neame’s finest!) is now at an end it is time for my usual sign off…

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