All Time XIs – England Before WWI

A look at England’s resources in the early years of test cricket and a large photo gallery.

Today is the third anniversary of my first ever All Time XIs post, about Surrey and I am varying the theme today with a look not at an all-time XI but an XI for a particular period of cricket’s history – England before WWI, so picked from players who appeared in the first 37 years of test cricket.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. *WG Grace (right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types and captain). WG’s test record looks fairly modest, but he was already 32 by the time he made his debut at that level and almost 51 by the time of his last appearance. He also did twice hold the England record individual score at that level, with 152 on his debut at The Oval in 1880, which lasted six years, and 170 at the same ground in 1886 to reclaim his record from Arthur Shrewsbury after one match. This latter stood until the 1894-5 Ashes series when Stoddart topped it with 173. Had test cricket been established a little earlier than it was Grace’s record would have been a lot better – in the 1870s he averaged 49 in FC cricket when no one else in England could do more than half as well.
  2. Jack Hobbs (right handed opening batter). Included in this XI as well as the one for the inter-war era out of deference to his own expressed wish to be remembered for how he batted before WWI – he was actually firmly established as the best in the world before the outbreak of WWI although his main record breaking years were after that conflict.
  3. Johnny Tyldesley (right handed batter). It was a choice between this man and David Denton of Yorkshire for the number three slot (both filled it with distinction) and I opted for the Lancastrian due to the fact that his brother misses out on a place in the inter-war XI because of England’s immense batting strength in that era.
  4. KS Ranjitsinhji (right handed batter). 989 test runs at 45 including two 150+ scores. One of the great geniuses of batting.
  5. FS Jackson (right handed batter,right arm medium fast bowler, vice captain). He never managed an overseas tour due to work commitments (he was a genuine amateur in terms of his cricket), but he still managed five test centuries against Australia in home matches. His peak came in the 1905 Ashes, when he won all five tosses, led England to victory in the only two matches to have definite results and topped both the batting and bowling averages for the series.
  6. Len Braund (right handed batter, leg spinner). The all rounder of the side, and an excellent slip fielder to boot.
  7. Frank Foster (left arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter). His career was cut short by a motorcycle accident, but in the few years he was around he did enough to claim his place, including playing a key role in a 4-1 win down under in 1911-2.
  8. +Augustus “Dick” Lilley (wicket keeper, useful lower order batter). The longest serving of England’s prewar keepers, and with an excellent record.
  9. George Simpson-Hayward (under arm off spin, right handed lower order batter). Selected for historical significance as the last specialist under arm bowler to feature at test level (and he did well in the five matches he got to play btw). He would need a law change (see here for a suggestion of how such a change could safely be made) to be able to play today.
  10. SF Barnes (right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter). That official ‘right arm fast medium’ is about as complete a description of Barnes the bowler as ‘artist’ is of Leonardo da Vinci – it tells a tiny fraction of the story of someone who could bowl every type of delivery known to right armers of his day and whose special weapon was effectively a leg break at fast medium.
  11. Wilfred Rhodes (left arm orthodox spinner, right handed lower order batter). Although Rhodes’ brief period as an England opening batter happened just before WWI I have selected him for his bowling – he started and ended his career as a specialist bowler with two spells as an all rounder and in the middle a spell as a specialist batter and I have put him in the slot from which he helped George Hirst to knock of the the 15 required when they came together at The Oval in 1902 and from where he helped RE Foster to add 130 for the last wicket at Sydney in 1903.

This XI has powerful top order, all rounders at six and seven, a fine keeper who could also bat at eight and three master bowlers to round out the order.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Other than my actual choices the main contenders for opening slots were Archie MacLaren and Arthur Shrewsbury. Reginald Foster has two places in the record books – his 287 at the SCG in 1903, at the time an all comers test record remains the record for someone playing their first test innings, and he is the only person to have captained England men at both cricket and football, but other than that amazing debut performance he only topped 50 once more in his career and that was an innings in which he benefitted from good fortune. Many would have expected CB Fry to be a shoo-in but his test record was not nearly as good as his FC record, and with WG inked in for the captaincy, and FS Jackson a more than able deputy his leadership skills were hardly required. Allan Steel might have had the all rounders slot I gave to Braund (like the latter he bowled leg spin). George Hirst may well have been as his Yorkshire skipper Lord Hawke was wont to claim the best ever county all rounder, but his performances for England were overall not that great, though he did have his moments.

George Lohmann was probably the biggest bowling omission but I felt he was too similar to Barnes to be able to pick both. The side also lacks a really fast bowler. The obvious candidate would be Tom Richardson, with 88 wickets in his 14 test matches, and if I were to be debarred from selecting Simpson-Hayward then Richardson would take his place, but I prefer the greater variety that Simpson-Hayward’s presence brings. Schofield Haigh’s England successes were limited for all that he was outstanding for Yorkshire. There were a stack of left arm spinners I could have picked: Johnny Briggs, Bobby Peel and Colin Blythe being the three most notable other than Rhodes in this period, while George Dennett never actually got an England cap, but 2,151 wickets at 19.82 in FC cricket provide proof of his greatness.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Great Test Matches I Did Not Get To Witness

11 of the greatest test matches that I know about only at second hand – I may have watched highlights of them, read about them or both of the foregoing, but I did not witness them live.

This is a follow up to my earlier post about great test matches I did get to witness. These are matches I have read about and/or witnessed highlights of but did not get to follow live at the time. The matches are listed ibn chronological rather than ranking order, and to set the tone there is match not of test status as an hors d’oeuvre.

MCC V AUSTRALIA, LORD’S 1878 – A WARNING SHOT

The Australians had had a rough start to their tour of England in what was a very wet summer. When they arrived at Lord’s to take on the MCC few gave them much of a chance. MCC were fielding a very respectable side, with the mighty WG Grace to the fore. MCC batted first, and Frank Allan, a graceful left armer dubbed ‘bowler of the century’ in the run up to the tour shared the new ball with Harry Boyle, a medium pacer of exceptional accuracy. WG Grace hit the first ball of the match for four, but was out to the second. Another wicket fell one run later, but then Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby and Arthur Ridley shared what turn out to be the largest partnership of the match. The moment that tilted this game towards being a historic one was when Frederick Robert Spofforth was called upon to bowl in place of Allan. Spofforth destroyed the MCC middle and lower order with sheer pace, a high water mark of 27-2 becoming 33 all out. Spofforth had taken 6-4 for the innings. The Nottinghamshire pair of Alfred Shaw (right arm slow/ medium) and Fred Morley (left arm fast) took the new ball for MCC. Australia fared little better than the home side, limping to 41 all out, with Shaw following the general pattern of his career by bowling considerably more overs than he conceded runs. For the second MCC innings Spofforth was given the new ball alongside Boyle, and MCC were rolled for a paltry 19, Boyle taking 6-3 and Spofforth 4-16. Charles Bannerman fell early in the fourth innings, but Billy Midwinter and Tom Horan saw Australia to a nine wicket win. The match was over on the same day it started, the thick end of a century before games with that intention would become a regular thing in top level cricket, and the aggregate of 105 runs remains the smallest ever for an FC match with a definite result. This tour did not feature any test matches, but the next visit by Australia in 1880 did, England winning a hastily organized match in September of that year by five wickets.

ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA, THE OVAL 1882: ASHES BORN

Unlike its predecessor in 1880 this match was planned when the tour itinerary was created. Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby captained England, a mistake, espeically given that Spofforth, the leading Australian bowler, had a hex on him (if they weren’t yet prepared to appoint WG Grace who would have been the best choice then Lord Harris would have done). Rather than Hornby, EM Grace should have been the other opener for England (as he was in 1880, when he and WG put on 91 together in the first innings). However, all seemed rosy when Australia were dispatched for 63 in their first innings, and England responded with 101, Yorkshireman George Ulyett top scoring with 26. Hugh Massie now played a crucial innings for Australia, scoring 55 of the first 66 runs in their second innings and propelling them into credit with only one wicket down. Once he was out there was little more to the Australian innings, though Murdoch batted through such of it as there was to finish on 29* in a score of 122. The single most significant moment of the innings was the dismissal of Sammy Jones, who left his crease to pat down the pitch with the ball not officially dead. Grace, fielding at point, ran him out, a move which provoked Spofforth to absolute fury. While England were preparing to chase 85 to win Spofforth was telling his team mates “this thing can be done”. Grace and Hornby put on 15 for the first wicket, but then Hornby and Richard Barlow, also of Lancashire, were both out at that score. Grace and Ulyett shared a fine partnership, but Ulyett was dislodged with the score at 51, and two runs later, Grace, only the second player in the game to record a score of above 30, was dislodged for 32, making it 53-4. It was at this juncture that things turned against England. Lyttelton and Lucas, paralysed by nerves, could barely score, and skipper Hornby started panicking and messed with his batting order. When Lyttelton was dismissed to make it 66-5 the panic really set in, Hornby holding CT Studd, scorer of two centuries against the Aussies that season, back in the order until the eighth wicket fell. Billy Barnes was dismissed shortly after Studd’s arrival to make it 75-9, and Peate had three balls to survive from Harry Boyle before the end of the over. He scored two off the first of these, but a wild swing at the second met fresh air, while the ball clattered against his stumps. England 77 all out, and beaten by seven runs. Studd, with his two centuries against the Aussies earlier that season, was 0* (0), not the least ridiculous feature of this ridiculous match.

AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND, SCG 1894: 586 BATTING FIRST…

England were captained by Andrew Stoddart, Australia had entrusted veteran wicket keeper Blackham (who had played the first test match of all in 1877) with the captaincy. Blackham won the toss and batted. Tom Richardson the great Surrey fast bowler claimed three early wickets, but the then George Giffen and Frank Iredale joined forces. Their stand, apparently helped by some clumsy keeping on the part of Leslie Gay, yielded 171 runs, and then after Iredale’s dismissal Syd Gregory joined the fray, adding a further 139 with Giffen before the latter fell for 161 just before the end of day one. Australia closed on 346-5. On day two Syd Gregory completed a double century, only the second ever achieved in test cricket, and with Blackham scoring a test best 74 Australia reached 586.

England were all out for 325 in their first innings, Albert Ward top scoring with 75. They were made to follow on, and when the sixth wicket went down at 296, with the lead still only 35 Australia still looked well place. However, Francis Ford and Johnny Briggs put on 89 together for the seventh wicket, and even the tail made contributions. England mustered 437 in this second innings, setting Australia 177 to win. Jack Lyons began breezily, hitting 25 in 15 minutes at the crease, but after he and Harry Trott were both out, Giffen opted to play safe, making sure he was still there for the following morning (tests in Australia were played to a finish in those days). Australia close on 113-2, needing just 64 the following morning, Darling 44*, Giffen 30*. Overnight it rained (pitches were uncovered in those days, and overnight rain, followed by strong Australian sun the following morning created what was known as a ‘sticky dog’), though England’s trump card in such circumstances, left arm spinner Bobby Peel, did not hear the rain following, as he had given the match up for lost and drowned his sorrows in emphatic fashion. The Australians certainly did realize that it had rained. Peel and fellow left arm spinner Johnny Briggs gradually tightened the screw on Australia, and the ninth wicket went down with Australia still 15 short. Blackham was last man in, nursing a cracked thumb, and the other remaining batter, Charlie McLeod did his best to protect the injured keeper, ultimately Blackham prodded a catch back to Peel and England had won by 10 runs, with Peel having innings figures of 6-67.

OLD TRAFFORD 1902 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA

A spat between chairman of selectors (Lord Hawke, Yorkshire) and captain (Archie MacLaren, Lancashire) led to an odd looking England side. MacLaren wanted Schofield Haigh, but Hawke would not release him. MacLaren in a fit of pique at this left another Yorkshireman, George Hirst, out on the morning of the match, handing a debut to 35 year old Fred Tate of Sussex.

Australia batted first, and by lunch they were 173-1 with Victor Trumper having reached three figures, the first ever to do so on the first morning of a test match. Post lunch England did better, but a rapid partnership between middle order left handers Clem Hill and Joe Darling (73 in 45 minutes) helped Australia to reach 299. England began poorly, but a big stand between FS Jackson and Len Braund, plus some further lower order support for Jackson (128) got England to 262. Australia in their second innings were 10-3 and should have been 16-4, but MacLaren had high-handedly refused to move Lionel Palairet, a fellow amateur, from square leg to the right hander to square leg to the left hander, sending Fred Tate (who fielded close to the bat for Sussex) out there instead. Tate dropped a chance offered by Darling, and the partnership added 46 further runs. Thereafter it was a procession and Australia mustered just 86 second time round, setting England 124 to win. At 92-3 England appeared to be cruising home, but then a collapse set in. When keeper Dick Lilley was brilliantly caught by Clem Hill, who ran 30 yards round the boundary and threw himself full length to make the catch, it was 116-9 and Fred Tate joined Wilfred Rhodes. Tate snicked a boundary off Jack Saunders to open his account, but then Saunders’ next ball kept fiendishly low and bowled the unfortunate Tate to give Australia victory by three runs.

THE OVAL 1902ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA: A REVERSAL

George Hirst and Gilbert Jessop returned for England after missing the match described above. Australia batted first and tallied 324, Hugh Trumble top scoring with64* and Monty Noble making 52. Trumble then turned to his more publicized ability, bowling unchanged through the England first innings, taking 8-65. England avoided the follow on only thanks to Hirst who scored 43 out of the last 54 runs of the innings. Australia at the second time of asking were all out for 121, setting England 263, which looked a massive total in those circumstances. It was looking even further distant by the time Saunders (four wickets) and Trumble (one) had reduced England to 48-5. At this point Gilbert Jessop joined FS Jackson and the match began to turn. Jackson fell for 49 with the score at 157, and George Hirst joined Jessop. This pair added 30 together in just eight minutes, Jessop completing three figures in 75 minutes and off his 76th ball, both still England records, though the latter has seemed under constant threat lately. Jessop fell for 104, making it 187-7, and still 76 needed from the last three wickets. However, Bill Lockwood stayed with Hirst while 27 of those were scored, and keeper Dick Lilley helped add a further 34, meaning that when fellow Yorkshireman Rhodes joined Hirst in the middle 15 were needed with one wicket standing. England inched their way towards the target, and finally Rhodes hit the winning single off Trumble. Trumble had scored 71 undefeated runs with the bat and captured 12 wickets, Hirst had 101 runs for once out and a first innings five-for but this is always called “Jessop’s Match”. Lionel Palairet gained two England caps – the Old Trafford and Oval tests of 1902.

MCG 1907 – AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND – NEARLY A TIE

This was a match which swing back and forth but seemed settled in Australia’s favour when England were 209-8 in the final innings, needing 73 more to win. Joe Humphries was ninth out, with 39 still needed for the win, to an LBW which added fuel to the flames of a controversy – England had had several rough LBWs in that match, George Gunn being furious about the two given against him. Arthur Fielder, a fast bowler, but as he was to show both here and a little later for Kent when sharing a last wicket stand of 235 with Woolley no mug with the bat, joined Barnes in the middle. The last wicket pair chipped away at the target and eventually levelled the scores. Barnes then went for a winning run that Fielder was unsure about. Had the fielder, Gerry Hazlitt, kept his head and lobbed to the keeper test cricket would have seen its first ever tied match. As it was, Hazlitt panicked and shied wildly at the stumps, missing and allowing the completion of the winning run.

MCG 1928 – AUSTRALIA A ENGLAND – ASHES HELD

England had comfortably won the first two matches of the series, but although Hammond had already entered the record books by becoming the first to score two consecutive test double hundreds, with 200 in the first England innings, it looked long odds against a third win in a row when England set off in pursuit of a victory target of 332 on a pitch that had become so spiteful that opening batter Jack Hobbs reckoned it would be all over by the tea interval. As it turned out Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, the other opener, were still both in residence by said interval, and midway through the evening, with the great pair still together Hobbs made a vital intervention, sending a message to the dressing room that if either opener fell that evening Jardine should be promoted to number three as his defence was more reliable than Hammond’s. Hobbs was the one to go, for 49 out of an opening stand of 105, and Jardine duly survived the remainder of the evening and England returned the following morning still only one down. Jardine contributed a crucial 33, Herbert Sutcliffe went on to 135, and although England had a bit of a stutter late on, George Geary, who had claimed the final wicket of the 1926 Ashes, smashed a four through mid-on to seal a three wicket win and with it retention of The Ashes.

OLD TRAFFORD 1956 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA

Good pitch which one side handled badly or spinners paradise made to order? England batting first ran up 459 in rapid time. Although Australia’s two recognized spinners, leg spinner Benaud and off spinner Ian Johnson claimed six scalps between them, they also leaked 274 runs while doing so.

Jim Laker, England’s off spinner, took the first two Aussie wickets, before Lock claimed the third, which opened the floodgates for Laker, who polished off the Aussie first innings with a spell of 7-8, giving him 9-37 in total. Regular rain interruptions and a fine defensive effort by Aussie opener Colin McDonald took the game into the final day. Eventually, with the second ball of his 52nd over, Laker trapped Maddocks LBW and Australia were all out for 205, beaten by an innings and 170 runs. Laker had all ten Aussie second innings wickets for 53, still the cheapest all ten in test cricket, and 19-90 in the match. The three other front line spinners had combined match figures of 7-380, an average of 54.29 per wicket, and earlier in the season, in the first innings of the match on a good Oval pitch Laker had recorded figures 10-88 from 46 overs against the Australians for Surrey. In all 58 of Laker’s first 100 Fc wickets of 1956 were Aussies, 46 in the Ashes series and 12 for Surrey in that tour match.

BRISBANE 1960 – AUSTRALIA V WEST INDIES

52 years after Gerry Hazlitt had failed to make the most of an opportunity to secure test cricket’s first tie Joe Solomon showed how to keep his head under pressure, executing two direct hit run outs in less than 15 minutes, first to dismiss Davidson (80), thereby giving his side a chance to save themselves, and then to seal the tie. Alan Davidson bestrode this match like a colossus, taking 5-135 in West Indies first innings 453, then scoring 44 of Australia’s reply of 505, then taking 6-87 as West Indies managed 284 second time round and finally scoring that 80 which so nearly won the match for Australia.

HEADINGLEY 1981 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA

This is proper script rejection stuff – not only did England record only the second ever victory by a side made to follow on, but one of the players who was key to achieving that result was not originally selected for the game and the other had been asked (albeit at most semi-seriously) if he wanted to play, having just stood down as captain (moments before he would have been sacked from that role). Australia scored 401-9 declared batting first, which was far more than they should have scored on that surface. John Dyson scored a very slow century, Kim Hughes made 89 and Graham Yallop 58, while Botham, recently resigned from the captaincy, claimed 6-95, his first five wicket haul since before taking up the reins of captaincy. England were 87-5 when Botham went in for his first innings, and a rapid 50 from him was the only highlight of their 174 all out. In the second innings they plummeted to 41-4 before Boycott and Willey added 64 for the fifth wicket. At 133 Boycott was pinned LBW, and two runs later keeper Bob Taylor departed. That brought Graham Dilley in to join Botham, and in 80 minutes the eighth wicket pair added 117, Dilley recording a maiden test 50, and Botham being well past his second 50 of the match. Chris Old helped the ninth wicket to raise a further 67, Botham racing past the 100 mark (87 balls to get there). Willis stayed long enough for a further 37 to accrue. England had totalled 356, a lead of 129, and Botham had scored 149*. The final morning was just underway. Approaching the lunch interval Australia were 56-1 and seemingly cruising towards their target of 130, when Bob Willis was put on to bowl at the Kirkstall Lane end. The first victim of one of the greatest spells of fast bowling in test history was Trevor Chappell, who in truth resembled a test match number three in name only, fending a bouncer through to Bob Taylor. Then came back to back wickets right on the stroke of lunch, Hughes well caught by Botham in the slips and Yallop superbly taken at short leg by Gatting. At lunch Australia were 58-4, and suddenly realizing that match wasn’t over just yet, while England went into lunch on a high. Old got one through Border’s defences early in the afternoon and it was 65-5. Dyson, who had one boundary off Willis post lunch took an a short ball from him and succeeded only in gloving it to the keeper to make it 68-6. Rod Marsh, the Aussie keeper, who had made a light-hearted bet on England when Ladbrokes were offering 500-1, took on another short ball from Willis, and Dilley at deep fine leg judged the catch superbly, being less than a foot inside the boundary when he completed it. That was 74-7, and one run later Lawson fell to mkae it 75-8. There was one final twist, as Lillee, who like Marsh had placed a bet on England at 500-1, helped Bright add 35 for the ninth wicket in four overs. Lillee then mistimed a drive at Willis and Gatting just managed to complete the catch, having to run in and dive forward to do so. Alderman came in at number 11, and was reprieved twice in one Botham over as Old at third slip put down catches. Willis summoned up enough energy for one final over, and with the first ball thereof he ripped a perfect yorker through Bright’s defences and Australia were all out for 111m giving England victory by 18 runs.

CHENNAI 1986: INDIA V AUSTRALIA – A TIE

Australia in the early to mid 1980s were a struggling outfit, but in this particular match they did a lot right, though not quite enough to win it. Dean Jones, in part due a vicious taunt from skipper Border, batted himself into a hospital bed, scoring 210 in eight hours at the crease on the first two days of the match, after which he had to put on a saline drip. Towards the end of the fifth day it looked like India were odds to complete their chase of 348, but Greg Matthews refused to give up, and eventually, with the scores level he trapped Maninder Singh LBW to secure test cricket’s second ever tie.

KOLKATA 2001: INDIA V AUSTRALIA – A VERY VERY SPECIAL TEST MATCH

Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s were well nigh invincible, and the first two innings of this match did not suggest anything other than business as usual for Steve Waugh and his men, as they forced India to follow on. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid then produced a historic partnership, with Laxman going to a then Indian individual record test score of 281 and Dravid making 180. India declared their second innings at 657-7, setting Australia 384 to win. Australia, unsurprisingly dispirited, collapsed to 212 all out and defeat by 171 runs, the third (and to date) last test defeat suffered by a side enforcing the follow on. Australia have rarely chosen to enforce the follow on since then, preferring to build stupendous leads and then look to dismiss their opponents a second time. Myself I would still need a good reason to suggest not enforcing.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off (the gallery is smaller than usual – there is not as much to see in foul weather)…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 31

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.

Welcome to the latest instalment jn my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Today we finish the Gs, who are currently on 72 of a possible 105 points and see the H’s move into the spotlight, with 20 of a possible 35 points from the encounters in which they are alphabetically second banked.

THE Gs V THE Ws

The Gs have the better opening pair, though by much less than the raw figures suggest – Woolley and Worrell is a right/ left handed combo, whereas Gavaskar and Greenidge were both right handed. Also Woolley began before WWI, so faced some very rough pitches in his early days, while Worrell achieved his successes in test cricket’s lowest and slowest scoring period. Weekes was definitely the better number three, though by less than raw figures suggest – had they played on the same surfaces Weekes would probably have been about 10 per innings ahead of Grace. Walcott and Waugh win the number four and five match ups. Gilchrist wins his match up against Watling. Whitty and Willis have a small advantage as a new ball pair of Garner and Geary, especially given Whitty’s left arm, and while Gregory was the finer batter, Woods wins the bowling element of the fast bowling all rounders match up. Warne and Grimmett is a clash of leg spinning titans, but the diminutive Kiwi born Aussie of yesteryear took more wickets per match than Warne and had a better average – and there were plenty of big scorers around in the 1920s and 1930s. Wardle, probably being used mainly in his left arm wrist spin style as this is a bigger contrast to leg spin than left arm orthodox outranks Gibbs. The best sixth bowling option is close between Grace and Woolley, but the Ws have an accredited seventh bowler in Worrell. This contest is close on batting, features two ace skippers (I just give Worrell the verdict in that department), is close on keeping, the Ws are ahead on pace bowling and more comfortably ahead on spin bowling. The Ws are significantly clear in view of the depth and variety of their bowling, but we are not in whitewash territory: Gs 1, Ws 4.

THE Gs V THE Xs

The Gs have much stronger batting, an overwhelming superiority in pace bowling, a clear superiority in spin bowling and the better captain. BoX probably outranks Gilchrist as a keeper, but this is hugely one-sided: Gs 5, Xs 0.

THE Gs V THE Ys

The Gs have the better opening pair, the Ys the better number three, though not by much – playing Younis Khan’s era Grace would probably have averaged not far short of 50. M Yousuf outranks Gower in the number four slot, but Yallop is outranked by Graveney. Gilchrist wins the keepers match up hands down, while Gregory beats Yardley in both departments. Geary outranks U Yadav, Garner outranks W Younis. The Gs also win the spin match ups. The Gs have somewhat better batting, the better captain, the better keeper and a much better bowling unit – Grace as sixth bowler for the Gs certainly outranks the Ys fifth bowler, Yardley, as indeed does Gregory, who may also outrank U Yadav as a bowler. There is no circumstance in which the Ys can make a dent in the Gs: Gs 5, Ys 0.

THE Gs V THE Zs

The only match up the Zs arguably win is the keeping element of Zulqarnain Haider/ Gilchrist. For the rest it is the Gs all the way: Gs 5, Zs 0.

THE Gs FINAL SCORE

The Gs have scored 16 of a possible 20 points today, moving them up to 88 out of 125 points in total, 70.40% overall.

THE Hs V THE Is

The Hs utterly dominate the batting, winning all of the top six match ups, though the Is do just win at nos 7 and 8. Healy is the finer keeper, Illingworth probably outranks Hutton as a captain. Hadlee and Holding massively outrank Islam and Ireland as a new ball pairing, though Iremonger would outrank Hammond as third seamer. Ironmonger outranks Herath with the ball but Harmer outranks Illingworth is an off spinner. There can be only one result here: Hs 5, Is 0.

THE Hs SO FAR

The Hs now have 25 of a possible 40 points, 62.5%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before my usual sign off, here is a link to a crowdfunder on behalf of the West Norfolk Autism Group.

All Time XIs – Match Ups 28

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I picked for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Gs are now in the spotlight.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against another. Today the Gs take centre stage, with 20 of a possible 30 points banked against the teams who are alphabetically ahead of them.

THE Gs V THE Hs

The Hs are one of the few teams to have a better opening pair than the Gs. George Headley is also the better number three, though not by as much as raw figures suggest – Grace was already 32 when he made his test debut and almost 51 by the end of his test career, and an average of 32 in that era is worth about 48 in later times when surfaces were by and large better for batting than in the Victorian era. Grace also outranks Hutton as a skipper. Hammond and M Hussey clearly outpoint Gower and Graveney. Gilchrist and Hendren is a draw batting wise, but the presence of Gilchrist at six indicates where the Gs strengths lie – their range of bowling options. Healy loses his batting match up against Gregory but wins the keeping match up against Gilchrist. Hadlee and Holding are a better new ball combo than Garner and Geary, but Gregory is a much better third seamer than Hammond who would play that role for the Hs. The Gs are clear of the Hs in the spin department, having the two best spinners in these squads. The Hs are stronger in batting and keeping, about even in fast bowling, behind in captaincy and way adrift in spin bowling. I don’t think that the Hs one definite advantage, in batting, will make up for the greater depth and variety of the Gs bowling (any attack in which Grace ranks sixth is exceptionally strong) and I also expect Grace’s superior captaincy to make itself felt. This is a titanic contest which I have the Gs shading – Gs 3, Hs 2.

THE Gs V THE Is

The Gs boss the batting, winning every match up in that department down to number seven. Wicket keeping honours are shared, with Gilchrist much the better batter. While acknowledging that Illingworth was a fine skipper I rate Grace ahead of him in that capacity. The Gs utterly dominate in pace bowling, and have the better spin attack though by less of a margin. This can have only one outcome: Gs 5, Is 0.

THE Gs V THE Js

The Gs have the better opening pair without doubt. As I indicated in the match up with the Hs Grace’s average equates to about 48 in more recent times, including the era when D Jones batted, and he started his test career at an older age than would be ideal, so I give the Gs the number three slot as well. The Js win the number four and five slots, and FS Jackson and Grace is a clash of the titans captaincy wise. Gilchrist wins the batting element of the keepers match up though by less than the raw figures suggest, while A Jones is clear as keeper. Gregory outpoints Jessop. The Gs comfortably win the spin bowling – Gibbs rates above Jupp, and Grimmett is miles clear of Jayasuriya, and not even the spin element of Johnston’s bowling can close the gap. Pace bowling is close – the Js trio are 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the averages, with the Gs 1st, 5th and 6th. I think the Gs top order will make a better fist of handling the left arm rockets from Mitchell Johnson than the Js do of handling the awkward problem in ┬úD geometry posed by Garner’s extreme height. If it reverse swings at any point S Jones would be particularly dangerous. I think the Gs are winning this with a degree of comfort and score it Gs 4, Js 1.

THE Gs V THE Ks

The Gs definitely have the better opening pair. I also give them the number three slot for reasons already explained, while Grace v I Khan is another clash of the titans captaincy wise. The Ks win the number four and five slots, though Gower’s left handedness (improving the balance of the batting order) and the more difficult conditions in which Graveney batted reduce the margins of superiority. Gilchrist is streets clear of Kirmani with the bat, but the Indian was the finer keeper. Imran Khan beats Gregory in both departments. Personally although neither got play test cricket (King was a USian – the best player that country has ever produced, while Kortright was in his prime during a very strong era for English cricket) I rate the Ks two specialist fast bowlers ahead of Garner and Geary, and also award King the number eight batting match up. The Gs spinners are better balance, being an off spinner and a leg spinner, which I think is enough to give them that department. I cannot pick a winner of this one: Gs 2.5, Ks 2.5.

THE Gs V THE Ls

I think the Gs have the better opening combo (Labuschagne is playing out of position for the Ls), but the Ls win the number three slot (albeit by much less than the raw figures suggest). The Ls also win the number four and five slots. Gilchrist comfortably wins the keepers match up against Langley, the Ls have the better pace trio, but the Gs have the better spinners, Grimmett outperforming James Langridge more than Laker outperforms Gibbs. I just give this one to the Gs – Gs 3, Ls 2.

THE Gs SO FAR

The Gs have scored 17.5 out of 25 today, putting them on 37.5 out of 55 so far, 68.18% at the moment.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups 24

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Pictures from Heritage Open Day.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Fs take their place in the spotlight today, with 16.5 of a possible 25 points already banked. This post also comes with a two part picture gallery.

THE Fs V THE Gs

The Gs have the better opening pair, but not by as =much as raw figures make it look: Fredericks was left handed whereas both Gs openers are right handed, and also Fry’s average of 32 on early 20th century pitches is would equate to considerably more on modern pitches. Conversely Flower at number three outranks Grace the batter by a lot less than the figures suggest, and Grace also offers a genuine bowling option. Gower outranks Fletcher, but the difference in batting averages between Faulkner and Graveney is more than made up for by the different pitches they played on and the fact that Faulkner provides a bowling option. Gilchrist hugely outbats Foakes, though Foakes wins the keeping side of their match up. Fender and Grace were two of the greatest captains to feature in this series, and I just award Fender the laurels in this epic match up. The Fs have the better pace attack – of the Gs three pacers only Garner would merit a place in the Fs XI. George Freeman retired in 1875, to concentrate on his auctioneering business, and although he would undoubtedly have paid more per wicket on modern surfaces he would still have been utterly outstanding. Ferris’ test bowling average of 12.70 converts on my rough and ready scheme for Victorian to modern to someone averaging 19.05 today, while Foster the third seamer clearly outranks Gregory as a bowler. While Grimmett and Gibbs rank as the two best spinners in this contest, Flowers, Fender and Faulkner are a trio of genuinely front line options. The Gs do of course have Grace as their own extra bowling option. This is an epic contest, but I think the pace bowling resources of the Fs plus Fender’s captaincy tip the scales their way: Fs 3, Gs 2.

THE Fs V THE Hs

The Hs dominate the batting, winning every match up down to number eight in the order. However, the Fs have a massive advantage in the bowling department, with Hammond the H’s only back up bowler behind the front four. Holding and Hadlee might be a fair match for Freeman and Ferris, although Ferris’ left arm gives the Fs an extra point of difference, but Hammond the bowler is miles behind Foster. While I would give Harmer the verdict over Flowers, Fender and Faulkner both probably outrank Herath. Bowlers win more than batters, so I score this one Fs 3.5, Hs 1.5.

THE Fs V THE Is

This is a non-contest with the Fs dominating the batting, having the better skipper, the better keeper, far the better pace attack, being outpointed only in the spin department, and that not by nearly enough to affect the outcome: Fs 5, Is 0.

THE Fs V THE Js

The Fs have a clear advantage in this one as well, but less so than in the previous case. No team with the mercurial talents of Jayasuriya, Jessop and Mitchell Johnson available can be completely dismissed, so I score this Fs 4, Js 1.

THE Fs V THE Ks

The Ks have the edge in batting, and they like the Fs have six authentic bowling options. The Fs are ahead in spin bowling with R Khan and Kumble both being leg spinners, whereas the Fs have an off spinner as well as their two leggies. The front line pace trios are very hard to separate, although all three of the Ks speedsters bowl right handed, so they lose on lack of variation. Kallis is his side’s sixth bowler, and I rate him less valuable to the cause in that department than Faulkner, his equivalent. There is very little between the captains, two of the best ever in that role. I think the slightly more varied bowling attack will just be enough for the Fs – Fs 3, Ks 2.

THE Fs PROGRESS REPORT

The Fs scored 18.5 of a possible 25 points today, putting them on 35 out of 50 so far, 70%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Part one of today’s photographic selection features pictures taken while stewarding at Greenland Fishery during yesterday’s rescheduled Heritage Open Day (should have been the 11th, but the death of a ludicrously over privileged old lady necessitated a postponement and yesterday was the new day chosen. A number of stewards were not available for the new date, hence some of us being relocated (I was originally due to be at the Red Mount Chapel).

Part two of the photo gallery is some of my more typical photography….

All Time XIs – Match Ups 20

Continuing my analysis of how the all time XIs I picked for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.

Welcome to the latest instalment in my series analysing how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. It is a few days since I last blogged – a combination of work, volunteering and a family get together in the lake district have swallowed all my time over the last few days. The Es XI currently occupy the spotlight and they have 9 of a possible 25 points going into this post.

THE Es V THE Gs

The Gs have the stronger opening pair. Bill Edrich and Grace are both ill served by their test records, Edrich because he lost six of his prime years to WWII and Grace because he was already 32 by the time he got the opportunity to play at test level, and because test pitches were a lot less easy to bat on than they are these days. I give the verdict to Grace. Gower and Graveney clearly outpoint G Emmett and Edwards. Gilchrist wins the batting part of his match up handsomely, but Evans was the finer keeper, though not by enough to make up for the batting gulf. Endean is outbatted by Jack Gregory, and Gregory is undoubtedly clear of Bill Edrich as a bowling option. The Gs undoubtedly also have the better bowling unit as a whole, though T Emmett’s left arm gives the Es extra variety. The Gs are a long way ahead: Es 1, Gs 4.

THE Es V THE Hs

The Hs dominate this one completely. Es 0, Hs 5.

THE Es V THE Is

The Es have much the better batting, with only Iredale and Imtiaz Ahmed clearly winning their match ups for the Is in that area. Tom Emmett and Gideon Elliott have to be considered miles better than Islam and Ireland as a new ball pairing, and while Ironmonger ranks first among the slower bowlers in this contest, for my money Illingworth ranks fourth. I score this one Es 4, Is 1.

THE Es V THE Js

The Js have the better opening contest, especially given that they have a right/ left combo, compared to the Es two left handers. The Js absolutely boss the 3,4 and 5 slots. They also bat deeper than the Es, with Johnson having a test ton to his name. The Js also have greater bowling depth. Es 1, Js 4.

THE Es V THE Ks

Barring the opening pair, where the Es have a small advantage, the Ks boss this one. The Es have two redeeming features bowling wise: only they have left arm pace, with T Emmett, and their slower bowlers, Ecclestone and Evans are a more varied combination than R Khan and Kumble. As against that the Es barely even have five bowling options (after their front four Bill Edrich is the best remaining option), while the Ks have Kallis as a SIXTH bowling option should their front five be struggling. Es 0, Ks 5.

THE Es SO FAR

The Es have scored six of a possible 25 points today, moving them up to 15 of a possible 50, 30%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Today’s gallery includes some shots from King’s Lynn and some I took while travelling north on Saturday…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (11)

Welcome to the next post in my series analysing how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. The Cs XI currently occupy the hot seat, and they enter this post on 3.5 out of 15 points.

THE Cs V THE Es

The Cs are ahead in each of the top five batting positions, though Elgar and J Edrich aren’t out of position whereas Cowdrey and Chanderpaul are. Also Bill Edrich lost six prime years to WWII, so Chappelli’s advantage over him the bat is slightly illusory. Endean outbats Constantine but doesn’t bowl. Evans is marginally behind Carter with the bat, but compensates by being the finer keeper. Tom Emmett and Gideon Elliott look capable of matching Cummins and Croft, and Emmett’s left arm is an extra point of variation. Edwin Evans beats Cornwall with the ball, while Ecclestone against Chandrasekhar is a close contest. The Cs have better back up bowling options, with Constantine, Compton, Chanderpaul and G Chappell all capable of offering something, whereas only Bill Edrich is remotely close to being a back up bowling option for the Es. This is a close contest, but I think the Es superiority in front line bowling is just enough: Cs 2, Es 3.

THE Cs V THE Fs

The Cs have the edge in batting, although the Fs extra depth in that department narrows the gap. The Fs are dominant in bowling – Ferris, Foster and Freeman are all arguably superior to any of the Cs pacers, and whoever out of Foster or Ferris ends up third seamer knocks Constantine out of the park in that department. Similarly, the Fs three front line spin options, Faulkner, Fender and Flowers are all better than Cornwall, with Faulkner and Flowers both clearly also ahead of Chandrasekhar. For all their marginal batting advantage there are no circumstances in which I can envisage the Cs having the advantage, and Fender is one of the few skippers not to lose that contest to Chappelli. I score this one Cs 1, Fs 4.

THE Cs V THE Gs

The opening pairs are apparently closely matched, but Gavaskar and Greenidge are in their natural positions, while Chanderpaul and Cowdrey are not. Similar Chappelli at three is not as well placed over Grace as the figures make it look – Grace came late to test cricket – 32 when he made his debut, almost 51 when he finally retired, and that batting average of 32 is worth at least half as much again in more modern times. Plus he provides a bowling option. The Cs win the number four and five slots. However Gilchrist knocks the spots off Carter with the bat, though the latter was probably the better keeper. Gregory outpoints Constantine in the battle of the fast bowling all rounders. Geary and Garner are a little behind Croft and Cummins as a pair, but not significantly so. Grimmett outpoints Chandrasekhar, and from a bowling point of view Gibbs is the proverbial country mile clear of fellow West Indian Cornwall. The Gs are definitely ahead in terms of the front five bowlers, and their sixth option, WG Grace, outpoints at least two of the Cs front five as well. The Gs have a significant advantage, and a skipper who will certainly stand up to opposite number Chappelli. Not even Chappelli can salvage anything for the Cs from this one: Cs 0, Gs 5.

THE Cs V THE Hs

The Hs win the first four batting positions, G Chappell just having the edge on compatriot Hussey at no 5. Hendren is far superior with the bat to Constantine, while Healy clearly beats Carter. Hadlee and Holding at least match Cummins and Croft, Harmer and Herath beat Cornwall and Chandrasekhar. The Cs have the better fifth bowler, Constantine outdoing Hammond in that department. The Cs extra bowling depth does not make up for their lack of front line strength or for the fact that they are badly outgunned with the bat: Cs 0, Hs 5.

THE Cs V THE Is

The Cs boss the first five batting positions, , though the Is win the next three. Bowling wise the Is win on spinners, but lose heavily in the pace department – Iremonger may rate as a better third seamer than Constantine, but the new ball pairing does not compare to Cummins and Croft. I score this as Cs 4, Is 1.

Cs PROGRESS REPORT

Even with four points in the final match up the Cs have scored just seven points out of 25 today, moving them on to 10.5 out of 40, 26.25% so far.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (6)

Welcome to the latest post in my series analysing how my all time XIs for each letter of the alphabet fare against each other. We reached the conclusion of the A XIs match ups yesterday, so now we start with the B XIs. They have 3.5 points in the bank from their encounter with the As (see here).

THE Bs V THE Cs

The Bs dominate the batting, with only G Chappell among the top six outpointing his opposite number, and that by a mere fraction. Added to this is the fact that for reasons explained in the original post about the Cs Chanderpaul and arguably Cowdrey are batting out of position. Carter out bats Bari, but Bari was the finer keeper. Bates and Benaud are unquestionably a finer pair of spinners than Cornwall and Chandrasekhar, and both also possessed batting pedigree, something to which Cornwall has limited claim and Chandrasekhar none. Barnes and Bumrah for my money have the edge on Cummins and Croft as a new ball combination, though the Cs are undoubtedly the faster pair. Botham and Constantine were two mercurial all rounders, capable of match winning performances. I will allow for the possibility of a Constantine special, while rating it odds against, so my final score for this is Bs 4.5, Cs 0.5.

THE Bs V THE Ds

The Bs have an advantage with the bat – only Duleepsinhji, D’Oliveira and Dujon of those whose batting is of major significance win their match ups in this department. Davidson, Daniel and Donald as a pace trio probably beat Barnes, Bumrah and Botham, but as against that the Ds have only one front line spin option, Dennett, to match up against Bates and Benaud. Finally, Bradman was acknowledged to be a superb skipper, whereas Dennett never got any captaincy experience because of the social mores of his time. Although the Ds are far from helpless in this contest, the Bs are obvious favourites and I score it Bs 3, Ds 2.

THE Bs V THE Es

The Bs have a huge advantage in batting, and Botham is definitely a better third pacer than Edrich, though Emmett and Elliott v Barnes and Bumrah is a fine contest, as is Ecclestone and Evans v Benaud and Bates in the spin bowling department. I make this one Bs 4, Es 1.

THE Bs V THE Fs

The Bs boss the batting as usual, though Foakes is the better keeper. The Fs have a greater range of bowling options, with six genuine front line bowlers. I accord them a definite win the pace department, with Ferris, Freeman and Foster clearly a stronger combo than Barnes, Bumrah and Botham. Flowers, Fender and Faulkner give the Fs three front line spin options. The question is whether the Fs extra bowling will compensate for the Bs huge superiority in batting. I don’t think it quite does, but I am not prepared to award the Bs victory here – Bs 2.5, Fs 2.5.

THE Bs V THE Gs

The Bs as usual are ahead on batting, but are clearly behind on bowling – WG is his side’s sixth best bowler. Grimmett and Gibbs are a good match for Bates and Benaud in the spin department, Gregory, Garner and Geary compare nicely with Barnes, Bumrah and Botham. I award this one to the Gs – Bs 2, Gs 3.

INTERIM REPORT ON THE Bs

The Bs are that this stage on 19.5 points out of 30, or 65%. The As were on a mere 14.5 points after their first six match ups, for comparison.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (2)

Continuing my analysis of how I see the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet faring against on another.

Yesterday I started the long process of analyzing how my teams for each letter of the alphabet measure up against each other. In that post I have covered the As XI against Bs, Cs, Ds, Es and Fs. At that stage the As rated at 13.5 out of 25. We pick up where we left off.

THE As V THE Gs

The Gs have substantial advantages batting wise in positions 1 and 6, a theoretical disadvantage in position 3 and are otherwise about even down to number seven. WG Grace’s test batting average of 32.29 has to be looked at a) with regard to the fact that he was 32 when his career at that level began and almost 51 when it ended and b) with regard to the fact that he played on some pretty ropey pitches. I would thus say that he should be regarded as at minimum Babar Azam’s equal in that department. In bowling the Gs have a very clear advantage, with their sixth best bowler by average, Gregory, marginally better than the As fifth best, Shakib Al Hasan. I also have to say that I reckon that WG has to be considered a better skipper than Shakib Al Hasan. I would score this one as Gs 4, As 1.

THE As V THE Hs

The question here is whether the Hs can make their massive batting advantage tell, when their bowling is weaker than the As. With Hammond prospective third seamer for them, they probably need a turner, when their spinners Harmer and Herath are probably a stronger pair than Ashwin and Al Hasan – Ashwin may be better than Harmer, though it is far from conclusive, but Herath is unquestionably superior to Al Hasan as a bowler. For all the greatness of Hadlee and Holding, they are outnumbered by Akram. Ambrose and Anderson, and the first named of the trio is left handed to add a point of variation. I think that anywhere other than India or Sri Lanka the As would be able to make their pace bowling advantage count, and I score this one As 3, Hs 2.

THE As V THE Is

The As have a huge advantage in batting and in seam bowling, additionally, Ashwin’s clear superiority as an off spinner over Illingworth counter balances Ironmonger’s advantage over Al Hasan as a bowler. Finally, the tail end of the Is is very weak batting wise – Anderson would bat above any of Islam, Ireland or Ironmonger. This is a colossal mismatch in favour of team A, and I accordingly score it As 5 Is 0.

THE As V THE Js

Down to number five the Js win every batting match up. They also have an ‘X factor’ player in Jessop, a great captain in Stanley Jackson. In bowling the Js have greater depth, but the As have more frontline strength. I consider the As to have a definite advantage overall, courtesy of their stellar bowling line up, but not enough to score it at 4-1. Final verdict: As 3.5, Js 1.5.

THE As V THE Ks

Positions 1-3 are fairly even between these two teams, but the Ks boss positions four and five, and while Shakib Al Hasan has a slightly better batting average than his rival skipper, Imran Khan’s bowling average blows Al Hasan’s out of the water. Ames has a better batting record than Kirmani, but the Indian was probably the finer keeper. Charles Kortright, Bart King and Imran Khan are a faster trio than Akram, Ambrose and Anderson, though don’t include a left armer in their number. The contrasting pair of leg spinners, Kumble and Rashid Khan probably give the Ks the edge in the spin department, and they also have the luxury of having Kallis available as sixth bowler. Finally, whereas the As who two genuine tail enders in Ambrose and Anderson, the Ks bat literally all the way down, with the no11 having two first class hundreds. I award the Ks a substantial advantage, my final score being As 1, Ks 4.

As STATS UPDATED

In the end, with two heavy defeats, one overwhelming win and two respectable wins in these five matches the As score another 13.5 points, now having 27 out of a possible 50 and still being on 54%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter G

Continuing my all time XIs theme with a skip ahead to the letter G, it being the 174th anniversary of the birth of that letters captain.

Outside it is ferociously hot, as per weather forecast. I have curtains drawn at the front of my bungalow, blinds down at the back and windows open everywhere, and so far that is keeping indoors bearable. I have skipped forward a few letters in my selection of teams with surnames beginning with the same letter because today is the 174th anniversary of the birth of the skipper of the team for whom that letter is G. Coverage of the second women’s ODI between England and South Africa is just underway. Ben Stokes has announced that tomorrow’s ODI in Durham will be his last game in that format – he is still available for selection in T20Is, but his main focus is the team of which he is captain, the test team.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Sunil Gavaskar (Somerset and India). The first to reach the career milestone of 10,000 test runs. His career highlights include an innings of 221 at The Oval in 1979 which almost enabled India to chase down a target of 438 (they were 429-8 when time ran out, having panicked from a high-water mark of 366-1).
  2. Gordon Greenidge (Hampshire, West Indies). The Barbadian was aggressive by nature but possessed the ability to rein in his attacking instincts in the interests of the side. His two double centuries in the 1984 ‘blackwash’ series exemplify the different ways he could approach an innings: at Lords he was brutally destructive, carrying WI to a nine wicket victory with 214* in under five hours at the crease. Later in the series at Old Trafford, with WI needing a long innings Greenidge contributed 223*, batting almost 10 hours to wrench the initiative back for his side.
  3. *WG Grace (Gloucestershire, London County, England). The birthday boy, and this team’s captain. His first first class hundred (out of 126 he was to score – I have no truck with the revisionist stats that give him only 124) came at The Oval in 1866 (224*). His last began on his 56th birthday, in 1904 (166). When he completed 50 FC centuries in 1875 that tally was equal to that of the next 13 leading century makers combined. When he made it 100 FC centuries 20 years later second in the list of century makers was Arthur Shrewsbury with 41 to his name). Add to that the bowling that brought him 2,876 FC wickets at 17.39 each and about 900FC catches and you have a serious all rounder. He was a regular opener, but I do not see him having a problem with first drop.
  4. David Gower (Leicestershire, Hampshire, England). After three right handers we have a left hander. 8,231 test runs at 44.25 show that he had plenty of steel to go with the style he was justly famous for.
  5. Tom Graveney (Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, England). The second leading scorer of FC runs among players who played exclusively after WWII. He was part of an astonishing turn around at The Oval in 1966 – England were 166-7, still over 100 behind the WI first innings total at low water mark. Graveney (165) and keeper Murray (112) began the turn around, which was completed when tail enders Snow and Higgs each hit maiden test fifties, carrying England to 527 all out. WI not surprisingly went down to an innings defeat.
  6. +Adam Gilchrist (Australia). The wicket keeper, and our second left hander, one place above his preferred no seven. The only minor blot on a stellar international record was his horror series in England in 2005.
  7. Jack Gregory (AIF and Australia). It was Plum Warner who suggested to the Australian International Forces team when they were uncertain of who to pick for the last place in their XI to go for Gregory, saying “there never was a Greogry of Sydney who couldn’t play the game”. Plum was spot on, and Jack Gregory developed into a genuine all rounder, attacking left handed batter (once hit a century against South Africa in just 70 minutes at the crease), one half of test cricket’s first great pair of fast bowlers along with Ted McDonald and a superb fielder in the slip and gully regions.
  8. George Geary (Leicestershire and England). A bowler of seemingly inexhaustible stamina (once at Melbourne he bowled 81 overs in a single innings, taking 5-105) and possessed of all the tricks of the medium-fast bowler’s trade and a useful lower order batter to boot. His CV included two Ashes winning moments – in 1926 it was he who bowled Arthur Mailey to seal the victory at The Oval, while at the MCG two and a half years later he hit the winning runs as England scored 332-7 to go 3-0 in the five match series. His best FC bowling performance came for Leicestershire against Glamorgan, when he took all ten wickets for 18 runs, the second cheapest first class all ten ever (Hedley Verity 10-10 v Nottinghamshire being the champion performance in this department).
  9. Joel Garner (Somerset and West Indies). One of the most awkward propositions ever seen on a cricket field – his 6’8″ height, a leap in delivery stride and long arms combined to mean that the ball came down from way up in the air (above the height of more than one test match ground’s sight screens).
  10. Clarrie Grimmett (Australia). He had to cross one international and two state boundaries before establishing himself. He was 33 when he made his test debut, collecting 11 English wickets in the match. He ended with 216 wickets in just 37 test matches, and there were many, including his regular test match bowling partner Bill O’Reilly who thought that 46 year old Grimmett should have been picked for the 1938 tour of England.
  11. Lance Gibbs (Warwickshire and WI). The off spinner was briefly the world record holder for career test wickets, with 309 wickets at that level, breaking the record set by Fred Trueman.

This team has a powerful top five, the most destructive keeper-batter ever, a genuine all rounder, a bowling all rounder (Geary), and three great specialist bowlers. Garner, Gregory and Geary represent an excellent pace/seam trio, Grimmett the leg spinner and Gibbs the off spinner represent a fine combination in that department, and of course there is WG as an extra bowling option.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Graham Gooch cannot be accommodated, with three regular openers already there (backdated punishment for going on the first of the rebel tours of SA!). Larry Gomes (test average 39) and Mike Gatting (35.55) are a both a touch short of the necessary class. Lewis Gregory is a fine all round cricketer for Somerset, but not a serious rival to his namesake Jack. Lewis Goldsworthy may challenge for batting/ left arm spin slot in years to come, but having only just registered his maiden first class century his case remains to be made. Alf Gover was a fine fast bowler, and in later years a highly respected coach (although the coaching school he established in Wandsworth numbers at least one ghastly failure – I attended sessions there in my childhood and never developed so much as a hint of skill as a player) but hardly a serious rival to Garner. George Gunn was another I regretted not being able to fit in. Shannon Gabriel was another fast bowler to come up short. Anshuman Gaekwad was another test batter with a respectable rather than outstanding record. Had I been selecting with white ball in mind Ruturaj Gayakwad would have had a strong case. In ten years time Shubman Gill may be considered a shoo-in, but he does not yet have the weight of proven achievement to dislodge any of my choices.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…