All Time XIs – The Letter B

The deciding ODI between England and India is intriguingly poised as I start this post picking the greatest XI of cricketers with surnames beginning with B (see the As). Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy is within sight of The Open Championship and five of the most unpleasant human beings anyone could conjure up are engaged in a battle to make Sauron look like one of the good guys as a way of securing the Conservative party leadership and with it the post of Prime Minister.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Charles Bannerman – Australia. The Kent born opener scored 165 in the first ever test match innings, and even with him scoring that many his team could only tally 245 all out. He also impressed in his native land during the heavily rain affected summer of 1878, though that tour did not feature a test match.
  2. Sidney George Barnes – Australia. A combination of WWII and continual skirmishes with the authorities limited his test career to 13 matches, but a batting average of 63 speaks for itself.
  3. *Donald Bradman – Australia. The most prolific batter the game has ever seen, his test average of 99.94 leaves a respectable career average (around 40) between him and the best of the rest at that level.
  4. Ken Barrington – Surrey and England. The Berkshire born right hander averaged 58 at test level, with a best of 256 at Old Trafford in 1964.
  5. Allan Border – Essex and Australia. The nuggety left hander pretty much was Australia’s resistance batting wise for about the first 10 years of his illustrious career. In the last few years of that great career, with Australia a good side, he played some excellent attacking innings. He would be the vice-captain of this side, as an acknowledgement of his status as the best skipper Australia have had in my lifetime.
  6. Ian Botham – Somerset, Worcesstershire, Durham and England. For a few years he was a genuinely great all rounder, for a few more after that he was a producer of occasionally devastating performances. England selectors of the period during and after his final decline spoiled many a promising career by trying to get decent young cricketers to fit into the Botham shaped hole opening in England’s ranks.
  7. +Wasim Bari – Pakistan. Pakistan’s best ever wicket keeper, and unlike some of his successors in that post there were never any questions asked about where his real loyalties were.
  8. Billy Bates – Yorkshire and England. His brief test career was ended by a freak eye injury sustained during net practice, but 656 runs at 27 and 50 wickets at 16 at that level are some testament to the off spinning all rounders capabilities. He took England’s first ever test hat trick, part of a match performance that yielded 55 in the only innings he had to play and seven wickets in each Australian innings.
  9. Richie Benaud – Australia. Before becoming ‘the Bradman of TV commentators’ (yes I believe he was that far clear of the best of the rest in that role) the Aussie leg spinning all rounder became the first to achieve the test career double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets.
  10. Sydney Francis Barnes – England. Probably the most skilled bowler of any type ever to have played the game. Like his near namesake who is opening the batting for this XI he had a less than harmonious relationship with the authorities. He played little county cricket because he was paid better for being a professional for various clubs in the northern leagues. This meant that he played less than half of the test matches that England played between the start and end of his test career. Nonetheless, 189 wickets in 27 matches at 16.43 a piece is sufficient evidence of the trouble he caused even the best opponents.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – India. He burst on the scene at the end of 2018, taking a cheap six-for in that year’s Boxing Day test in Melbourne. He is now established as one the finest contemporary pace bowlers, and is still young enough that he should still be improving. He would form a seriously potent new ball combination with Barnes (sorry Beefy, in this line up you don’t get the new ball).

This team has a heavy scoring top five, a colossus of an all rounder at six, a top drawer keeper, two bowlers who can bat and two of the greatest specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Barnes and Bumrah sharing the new ball, Botham as back up pacer and two contrasting spinners in Benaud and Bates is both strong and well balanced.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The team has no left arm orthodox spinner, and two who came very close were the Indians Bishan Singh Bedi and Palwankar Baloo. However, the only people I could have dropped to make way for one of them were Bates or Benaud, and that would have weakened the batting. Bill Brown (Australia) and Jack Brown (Yorkshire, England) were two fine opening batters, either of whom might have been selected instead of Bannerman. Jonny Bairstow missed out due to the extreme strength of batting available here and the fact that he has blown hot and cold (currently blazing hot) through his career. Two South Africans, Eddie Barlow and Colin Bland were very close to selection – the former missing out to Ian Botham and the latter to the general batting strength available, though he is of course designated fielding sub in the event of anyone having to leave the field. Bill Bowes was the best pace bowler to miss out and would certainly be in the tour party for this letter. West Indian speedsters Winston and Kenny Benjamin were also fine players, but no one is persuading me that they get in ahead of Barnes and Bumrah (or indeed Bowes). I also regretted not being able to accommodate Somerset and England’s Len Braund, resourceful batter, good leg spinner and brilliant slip fielder. West Indies batter Carlisle Best was ruled out for the same reason I had to rule out Keith Arthurton in the previous post – not enough substance to go with the style.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…