All Time XIs – Eras Clash

A post that looks at cricket history, a view on England’s first test selections, a mathematical teaser and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s All Time XIs cricket post, in which we look at the history of English cricket. A team of cricketers who were all born before 1850 are pitted against an XI who were all born after 1850. Before getting into the main body of the post I start with:

THOUGHTS ON THE SELECTIONS FOR THE FIRST TEST MATCH

22 players have been retained by England at the ground, with 13 officially in the test squad and nine as back ups. Here courtesy of the pinchhitter is the full list:

Eng Squad

My thoughts on the above are: arguably neither Broad nor Anderson should be in the 13, and certainly Broad should not be there. Ollie Robinson should be in the 13 and if he is definitely fit so should Curran. Bracey and Lawrence should both be in the 13, as should Foakes, with Buttler not even meriting a place in the 22. I am relieved the Bess is confirmed as first choice spinner and that Moeen Ali has not even made the 22. I would have liked to see Parkinson in the 22 at least. I am personally not entirely convinced about Woakes. Buttler’s continuing presence in the test squad is a disgrace – he can barely even be described as a competent keeper and his red ball batting record is ordinary. Denly’s selection is a very poor call as well – he averages dead on 30 in test cricket, and Bracey and Lawrence provided the only two major innings of the warm up game and should both be ahead of him.

WG GRACE’S XI

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying styles through his career, captain. He was born in 1848, the latest birth year of any member of this XI. He scored 54,896 first class runs and took 2,876 first class wickets. Over the course of his best decade, the 1870s, he averaged 49 with the bat, while the next best among regular players was 25, achieved by Richard Daft and his younger brother Fred.
  2. James Aylward – left handed opening batter. His 167 against All England in 1777, a mere eight years after the first record hundred of any type was scored is enough on its own to warrant his selection. He batted through two full days of play on that occasion, and his left handedness also helps make him a good complement for Grace.
  3. Billy Beldham – right handed batter. At a time when 20 was considered a decent score, and seriously big scores were a huge rarity he amassed three centuries in matches still recognized today as being first class.
  4. John Small – right handed batter. One of the greats of his day. He is credited with pioneering the policy of playing with a straight bat – before he showed what could be done with this method cross batted swiping was the order of the day.
  5. Vyell Walker – right handed batter, right arm underarm bowler. One of only two players (the other, WG Grace, is also in this XI) to have scored a century and taken all ten wickets in an innings of the same first class match. He was one of seven brothers who hailed from Southgate, and the ground there, which still occasioanlly hosts Middlesex games, is called the Walker Ground in their honour.
  6. Alfred Mynn – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The greatest all rounder the game saw prior to the emergence of WG Grace.
  7. +Ted Pooley – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A great keeper for Surrey, and would have kept for England in the inaugural test match but for an incident that saw him briefly confined in a New Zealand prison cell.
  8. William Clarke – right arm underarm bowler. He was rated as the best bowler of this type ever to play the game, averaging 300 wickets a season in all forms of cricket at his peak, including 476 in his most productive season. He was captain of the All England XI, a touring outfit that played matches against odds (opposition having more than 11 in their team) all round the country. His most significant contribution to cricket history came as a result of his marriage to the landlady of the Trent Bridge Inn. He enclosed some land behind the inn, turning it into a proper cricket ground, and 180 years on Trent Bridge is officially still a test venue, although it will not be hosting any games this season – internationals will be happening at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford only.
  9. William Lillywhite – right arm bowler. The greatest bowler of his era, and one of the pioneers of ’round arm’ bowling, the development between under arm and over arm in the game’s history. He was one half of the game’s first great bowling partnership, along with…
  10. James Broadbridge – right arm bowler. Like Lillywhite, who he regularly bowled in tandem with he was among the pioneers of ’round arm’, and with these two spearheading their bowling Sussex were able to take on the Rest of England on equal terms.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. 863 wickets in 138 first class games at 12.09 each. His best match performance came in 1876 by when he was 35 years of age, when he took 17-103 v Hampshire, only to see them sneak home by one wicket.

This side has a powerful top six, three of whom can be described as all rounders (Grace, Walker, Mynn), a great keeper and a magnificent and varied foursome of bowlers.

FRANK WOOLLEY’S XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed batter, occasional medium paced bowler. 61,237 first class runs, including 197 centuries, both all time records. Scored his last test century at the age of 46, still the oldest ever to do so.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed batter. Hobbs’ opening partner for England, an alliance that had the best average of any opening pair in test history, 87.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The only player ever to achieve the career treble of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches in first class cricket, and indeed the only non-keeper to take 1,000 first class catches.
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He lost eight seasons of his career, one to bureaucratic malice on the part of Lord Harris, one to a mystery illness picked up in the Caribbean and six to World War II and still scored over 50,000 first class runs with 167 centuries, including 7,249 runs and 22 centuries for England. Only two players have ever scored as many as 900 runs in a test series, Hammond with 905 at 113.125 being the first in the 1928-9 Ashes, a record that was overhauled 18 months later by Don Bradman. He is joint record holder for reaching 1,000 first class runs in a season in the shortest time period, doing it in 1927 between May 7 when he started and May 28, where WG Grace in 1895 had done it between May 9 and May 30.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. He averaged 50 in test cricket, set a record first class season’s aggregate in 1947. In 1956 he was recalled for England at The Oval, having had a knee operation earlier in the season, and scored 94. He still holds the record score for England against Pakistan, with 278. He also holds the record for the quickest ever first class triple century, racking it up in 181 minutes v Benoni during the 1948-9 tour of South Africa. At Adelaide in the 1946-7 Ashes he and Arthur Morris entered the record books when each of them scored twin tons in a drawn match.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The man who will captain England when test cricket resumes in a few days time. Instrumental in England’s 2019 World Cup win, and also largely responsible for the win at Headingley later that season, plus having an outstanding series in South Africa. When the recent intra-squad warm up match at the Ageas Bowl was accepted as a draw he had been smashing the ball all over the place, but the dismissal of Moeen Ali, LBW to Bess, ended his team’s hopes of triumph, and Team Buttler apparently decided not to press for the wickets they needed to win.
  7. +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Over 100 first class hundreds with the bat, and over 1,000 first class dismissals with the gloves. Eight of his centuries came at test level, including 120 v Australia at Lord’s in 1934, which helped put England in position to win that match, their only victory over the old enemy at that venue in the entire 20th century.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. In his 15 match test career, ended prematurely by an eye injury, he averaged 27 with the bat and took 50 wickets at 16 each. His best match came at the MCG in the 1882-3 series, when he took seven wickets in each innings and contributed 55 to the only innings England had to play.
  9. Fred Trueman – right arm fast bowler. His record speaks for itself.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each.
  11. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler. 297 test wickets for the crafty Kent bowler.

This team has a strong batting line up, six front line bowling options (the four specialists plus Stokes and Woolley) and Hammond and Compton as back up bowlers. There is no right arm leg spin option, but Underwood, Woolley and Compton could all move the ball away from the right hander.

THE CONTEST

This has all the makings of a classic, and I will not even attempt to predict the outcome.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem appeared on brilliant.org today, and should have been even better than it actually was (it was a fine one anyway):

Triangles

This was presented as multi-choice, with four possible answers, and as I will explain tomorrow that opened up an unorthodox route to a solution, so I am not making it multi-choice.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Old v New
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Derbyshire

Continuing my series of “All Time XIs” with Derbyshire. We are approaching not the end, but the end of the beginning of this series, as I have just one more first class county to do.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today the focus is on Derbyshire, alphabetically the first of the 18 first class counties. Those who have been following this series in detail will realize that this is the 17th county to be looked at so far. Tomorrow’s post about Durham will not be the end of the series, merely the end of the beginning, an occasion I shall mark by creating a page with links to all 18 county posts (I already have several more posts mentally mapped out. Before getting to the main meat of this post I wish to start with…

BIG UP TO THE FULLTOSS BLOG

The Fulltoss blog, which I follow avidly and recommend you to do likewise, have been given an honourable mention in Wisden Cricketers Almanack (see yesterday’s Sussex post for more about the both the name Wisden and the origin of the publication), for which they deserve the heartiest of congratulations. Check out this recent fulltoss post inviting readers to nominate the greatest innings they have ever seen.

DERBYSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. Stan Worthington – an opening batter of the 1920s and 1930s, who appeared briefly for England. He managed a test hundred, which in Derbyshire terms places him in elite company.
  2. Kim Barnett – a Derbyshire stalwart for many years who gained a few England caps and did not do altogether badly at that level. He was also known to bowl serviceable leg spin. At the end of his long career he fell out with Derbyshire and decamped to Gloucestershire.
  3. Charles Ollivierre – one of the first Caribbean born cricketers (preceded in that regard by Lord Harris of Kent and a contemporary of Pelham Warner of Middlesex, both of whom were born in that part of the world and captained England) to appear in county cricket. He hailed from the island of St Vincent, and first came to England with a touring West Indian team in 1900 (WI gained test status only in 1928) and then settled in Derbyshire, who found him a clerical job while he was qualifying by residence. In the 1904 match against Essex at Chesterfield in which Percy Perrin made 343 not out in ultimately losing cause Ollivierre scored 229 and 92 not out for Derbyshire. Technically he does not count as an overseas player, but since I have not selected an official overseas player you can regard him as such if you insist.
  4. Albert Alderman – a consistent and reliable batter at a time when Derbyshire were especially weak in this department.
  5. George Davidson – for a long time he held the record individual score for the county with 274, which innings was moreover his maiden first class hundred. Also a useful bowler of medium pace but unlikely to be needed in that regard by this team.
  6. *Arthur Morton – a tough, determined batter who bowled both medium pace and off spin, the latter of which would be more required in this side. He often made his runs when they at a premium. At Chesterfield in 1914 against Yorkshire he and his team were caught on a rain affected pitch, and of the 68 that they managed to scrape up precisely 50 came from the bat of Morton. The last eight Derbyshire wickets crashed for just four runs, and the last six without addition in the space of just eight balls (Alonzo Drake finished one over by taking four wickets in four balls, and then another rather better known left arm spinner, Rhodes, took the remaining two in the next four balls). I have named his as captain of this side.
  7. +Bob Taylor – more first class dismissals (1,473 catches and 176 stumpings) than any other wicket keeper in the game’s history. His batting is often denigrated, but a six hour 97 at Adelaide on the 1978-9 tour that put England in control of both match and Ashes series indicates that not only could he do it, he could do it when the team really needed it. In 1986 when England’s chosen wicketkeeper, Bruce French of Nottinghamshire, suffered a freak injury, Taylor, then 45 and retired for two years, left a glad-handing role in a hospitality tent to don the gloves as substitute until a proper replacement (Bobby Parks of Hampshire being the choice) could get to the ground.
  8. Billy Bestwick – right arm fast bowler and lower order batter. He was in his mid forties when he took all ten Glamorgan wickets in an innings. He was the father of the father-and-son pair of Bestwicks who opened the bowling against the Warwickshire pair of Willie and Bernard Quaife, also father and son. In the 1904 Chesterfield match mentioned in connection with Ollivierre it was he with assistance from Arnold Warren who destroyed the Essex second innings. He had some turbulent times (including a brush with a manslaughter conviction after a pub brawl) but his skill and stamina were both undoubted.
  9. Les Jackson – right arm fast bowler, with an amazing first class record (1,733 wickets at 17 a piece between 1947 and 1963) whose test appearances were limited to two, largely one suspects because the establishment deemed him insufficiently willing to tug his forelock at appropriate moments (in those beggarly two games he collected 7 wickets at 22).
  10. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler of immense stamina, who had a magnificent record in the 1870s. I shall have more to say about him in the next section of this post. There is also a theory that Conan Doyle, a huge cricket fan, and indeed a fine player, who once dismissed WG Grace (albeit that worthy already had a ton to his name) named Mycroft Holmes in honour of William and his brother Thomas, a wicket keeper, while the other brother Sherlock was a fusion of the Notts pair Sherwin and Shacklock, likewise a fast bowler and keeper.
  11. Tommy Mitchell – leg spinner, he was a bit part player in Jardine’s 1932-3 Ashes winning tour party, but his county record was excellent, and the guy he could not displace as England’s number one spinner was Hedley Verity, a man whose test wickets cost 24 in spite of the inflationary effects on the bowling average of being opposed to Bradman, while his first class wickets cost 14.9 a piece.

This team has a solid top six, with a genuine all rounder in Morton and three others (Barnett, Worthington and Davidson) who could bowl usefully, the most prolific wicket keeper of all time and four specialist bowlers who are well varied and of high quality. The spin bowling is a little thin, with only Mitchell and Morton genuinely recognized in that department, while the question with the pacers was always who would be unlucky, this has historically been Derbyshire’s only really strong department.

HAMPSHIRE V DERBYSHIRE 1876 – EVERYTHING BUT A MATCHWINNER

This match, chapter two in Patrick Murphy’s “Fifty Incredible Cricket Matches”, my copy of which has not survived the ravages of time, but of which I have reasonably clear memories stands out as one the game’s great hard luck stories. William Mycroft captured 17 wickets with his own bowling, held a catch and took part in the biggest stand of the Derbyshire first innings. Yet at the end, Hampshire, courtesy of one Reginald Hargreaves (35 not out at the death) sneaked home by one wicket. Few can have so dominated a match that their team ended up losing. In those days there was a mechanism referred to as ‘switching ends’, by which a bowler was allowed by two consecutive overs on occasion (but never three), which explains why Mycroft bowled so many overs, as shown in the report and scorecard from the relevant pages of my “Wisden Cricket Anthology: 1864-1900”) appended in photographic form.

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A brief footnote: Hargreaves, the batting hero (or villain), also has a curious literary connection – he married Alice Pleasance Liddell, otherwise known as the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through The Looking Glass”.

OMISSIONS

Starting with those of fairly recent times, fast bowler Devon Malcolm (who later appeared for Leicestershire and Northamptonshire) was unlucky to miss out, given that he has a test match nine for to his credit. Fast medium bowler and useful lower order batter Dominic Cork might be considered unlucky, but Morton was a more complete player. Off spinning “all rounder” Geoff Miller, a contemporary of Bob Taylor’s, was actually not good enough in either department to merit a place (although he later did a good job as national selector). Mike Hendrick, a high class operator on the quick side of medium was overly worried about being hit and therefore tended no to pitch the ball up enough to get the wickets he should have done – he never managed a test five-for, which his best known England captain, Brearley, attributed to this failing (in “The Art of Captaincy” and his various Ashes accounts). There was an absolute stack of pace bowlers who had good records – Arnold Warren, George Pope, Bill Copson and Cliff Gladwin being the four most obvious. Danish express Ole Mortensen might also be thought unlucky in certain circles. Leg spinner Garnet Lee came close, but Mitchell was definitely superior. As far as I am aware, although I am open to correction, Derbyshire have never had a high class left arm spinner. Billy and Harry Storer both had solid records for the county, and but for Taylor’s achievements in that department Billy could have been nominated for the keeping role. Peter Bowler was a useful but dull batter (he later played for Somerset), and a candidate along with Kent specialist fast bowler Arthur Fielder for the “Oxymoron XI” if I can find nine others who did not do what their name suggests, however the fact that he topped 150 three times in a single season is not quite enough to warrant inclusion.

In view of the selection of Ollivierre I opted to eschew an official overseas player. Had I named one the honour would have gone to Michael Holding, aka “Whispering Death”, who would have replaced Les Jackson, and batted at no 8 above Billy Bestwick. Eddie Barlow was a tough all-rounder who many would have considered for the overseas player role, and the captaincy.

Performing this exercise with Derbyshire as the subject has been tough for the reverse of the usual reasons. The general problem one encounters when doing this is just where the truest gold is located in amongst a positive embarrassment of riches, but with the signal exception of pace bowling options the problem here is the reverse one of actually finding anyone good enough.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our look at Derbyshire is complete, and all that is left is my usual sign off…

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Full moon pics from last night
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Edited…
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..and then edited again.

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I spotted this jay just too late.

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A bug crawling on my right hand (very close zoom)
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The text here is footnote sized (In Jardine’s account of the 1932-3 “In Quest of the Ashes”.

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The bug is on the left of this shot, with the bottom part of an old fashioned pub beer mug on the right (it contained water, ftr).

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still only one bud on the fuchsia.