All Time XIs – Match Ups (4)

This is the fourth post in my series analysing how the all time XIs I picked for each letter stack up against each other. We are working through the As at this stage, and this post starts with them on 38.5 out of a possible 75 points.

THE As V THE Qs

The As dominate in batting, keeping and fast bowling. The Qs big hope is with their spinners, but although they have a numerical advantage in this department, they cannot honestly be said to be indisputably superior even here. Score: As 5 Qs 0.

THE As V THE Rs

The Rs win all of the top four batting match ups, narrowly lose out at number five, and lose no six handsomely on the batting front but win it on the bowling front. Ames outdoes Russell with the bat, but Russell was far the superior keeper. Roberts, Rabada and Richardson should fare decently with the ball vis-a-vis Akram, Ambrose and Anderson. Rhodes, selected as a specialist left arm spinner, the role in which he both started and finished his extraordinary career, is without doubt the best spinner in either line up. The teams are very well matched, but the Rs have an advantage in batting, and Rhodes the specialist bowler had a big reputation for keeping his head in tight finishes, most notably at The Oval in 1902, when he helped his ‘Kirkheaton twin’ George Hirst to score the last 15 needed to secure a famous one wicket win in “Jessop’s match”. Thus I score this one As 2, Rs 3.

THE As V THE Ss

The Ss have a substantial advantage in the top six batting slots, Ames edges Stokes at seven, Stevens matches Akram in that department, Starc is just behind Ashwin as a batter. Ames outdoes Sangakkara as a keeper, but using him in that role gives the Ss greater bowling depth than the As – Starc, Statham and Steyn are pretty close to Akram, Ambrose and Anderson as a pace trio and are backed by Sobers in his quicker incarnations and Stokes in that department. Stevens and Sobers in his slower incarnations are not as potent as Al Hasan and Ashwin, but the gap is not a large one. We are not in whitewash territory here, but the Ss have a very significant advantage over the As: As 1 Ss 4.

THE As V THE Ts

The As are stronger overall in positions 1,2 and 3 in the order, but the Ts are ahead in positions 4,5 and 6. Ames out bats Taylor, but is comfortably out kept by the latter. The As also have the extra batting depth lent by Akram and Ashwin’s capabilities in that department. Tyson, Trueman and Thomson are the quickest pace trio to feature in this series, with the Yorkshireman ranking third quickest of them. Trumble beats Ashwin in the battle of the off spinners, and Tarrant’s left arm slow medium is demonstrably more potent than Al Hasan’s left arm orthodox spin. It is Tarrant’s presence, both adding an extra variation to the attack, and ensuring that three speedsters will be able to get some rest between spells of bowling that turns what would be a close contest in to a decisive win for the Ts. It is not quite impossible to see the As getting the better of the Ts in any circumstances, but it is hard, and I score it: As 0.5, Ts 4.5.

THE As V THE Us

The As have a clear advantage here. I reckon that in a five match series Underwood will have at least one field day for the Us, which means I score this one As 4 Us 1.

THE STATE OF PROGRESS

The As have taken 12.5 out of 25, exactly 50% from today’s match ups, which gives them a tally so far, with five of their match ups to go of 51 points out of 100, 51%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

All Time XIs – The Letter A

Assembling an XI all of whose surnames begin with A. Also some photographs.

I am revisiting the theme of All Time XIs. This time I am focussing on teams that can be composed with players whose surnames all begin with the same letter. I begin at the beginning with the letter A.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Bobby Abel – Surrey and England. The diminutive opener scored 74 first class centuries with a best of 357* v Somerset at Taunton. He was the first England batter to carry his bat through a completed test innings, scoring 132* on that occasion. He was also a fine fielder.
  2. Saeed Anwar – Pakistan. A superb left handed stroke maker, an excellent counterpart to Abel at the top of the order.
  3. Babar Azam – Pakistan. One of the best all format batters in the world at the moment.
  4. Zaheer Abbas – Gloucestershire and Pakistan. The only Asian to have scored 100+ FC hundreds, a roll of honour that includes scores of 274 and 240 vs England in test matches and eight instances of a century in each innings of an FC match, including four where one of the centuries was a double.
  5. Mohammad Azharruddin – India. A wristy middle order batter who did enough before his career ended in scandalous circumstances (match fixing and other dealings with dodgy bookies) to earn his place in this XI. He announced himself with centuries in each of his first three test matches, and at his peak dominated attacks all around the world.
  6. *Shakib Al-Hasan – Bangladesh. Has an amazing all round record and has achieved it without ever having what could be described as a stellar supporting cast around him
  7. +Leslie Ames – Kent and England. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100FC hundreds. Also holds the record for career stumpings in FC cricket (418). Won the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest hundred of the season twice in its first three seasons. Three of the four instances of the ‘wicket keepers double’ – 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in FC cricket in a single season – were achieved by him.
  8. Wasim Akram – Lancashire and Pakistan. Among left arm fast bowlers who bat only Alan Davidson of Australia, who played many fewer matches, boasts a test record to rival him.
  9. R Ashwin – India. The best off spinner of the current era, and a handy lower order batter. It is a fair bet that England’s exhilarating run chase at Edgbaston would have been harder work had India picked him rather than Thakur for the number eight slot in their team.
  10. Curtly Ambrose – Northamptonshire and West Indies. The list of bowlers with over 400 test wickets at under 21 a piece currently stands at one: Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose. He rocked the WACA in Perth in 1998 by claiming seven Australian wickets for one run in a spell of 33 balls. Australia having reached 100 only one wicket down were all out for 118. At Trinidad in 1994 England need 194 in the last innings to win, with an awkward hour and a bit to survive in murky light on the penultimate day as their first task. By the end of that short session England were 40-8, and although bad batting played its part, so to did an immaculate spell of bowling by Ambrose.
  11. James Anderson – Lancashire and England. More test wickets than any other pace bowler, and nor is there any obvious sign of his powers waning as his 40th birthday approaches.

This XI has a heavy scoring top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an all time great keeper batter at seven and a quite awesome quartet of bowlers, two of whom can certainly also bat. While the bowling attack is missing a leg spin option it is by any standards both powerful and varied, with left arm pace (Akram), two of the greatest right arm fast mediums of all time, who are different in methods to boot (Ambrose, relying on his immense height and unrelenting accuracy, and Anderson with his mastery of swing and seam). This trio is backed up by a pair of contrasting spinners (Ashwin, off spin, and Al-Hasan, left arm orthodox spin). The biggest decision is likely to which of Anderson or Ambrose gets to share the new ball with Akram.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Mike Atherton was close to claiming an opening slot and Dennis Amiss even closer, but I feel credit should be given to Abel for the fact that most of his runs were scored in the 19th century when pitches were often treacherous, and in the case of Amiss also feel that his decision to join a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa counts against him. Two top order batters who could bowl seam up both entered my thoughts: Mohinder Amarnath and Tom Abell. Russel Arnold of Sri Lanka came close. Among the quicks I could not accommodate were Kyle Abbott (Hampshire and South Africa) and Mohammad Abbas (Hampshire and Pakistan). Sri Lankan strokemaker Charith Asalanka may merit a place in few years time. Tommy Andrews, an Aussie middle order batter and ace close fielder of yesteryear was another who could not force his way into the middle order. West Indian left hander Keith Arthurton needed a bit more substance to go with his style to claim a place. Finally, although anyone capable of scoring 167 on the kind of pitches that existed in 1777 as James Aylward of Hambledon did must have been a very fine player, but I felt that there was just too little evidence to justify such a selection.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Pakistan

Today being Monday the ‘all time XI’ post focusses on an international outfit, in this case Pakistan.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of all time XI‘ cricket themed posts. Today, in keeping with our Monday tradition we look at an international set up. Today the focus is on Pakistan.

PAKISTAN IN MY TIME

  1. Azhar Ali – right handed opening batter. He has played 79 test matches and averages just under 43 at that level. He has also been a successful overseas player for Somerset. Pakistan have not been that well endowed with opening batters down the years, since most batters in that part of the world prefer to delay their entry until the shine has gone from the ball. The achievements of those who do open the batting are therefore all the more impressive because so few do so.
  2. Saeed Anwar – left handed opening batter. A test average of 45 per innings. His left handedness augurs well for my chosen opening pair.
  3. Babar Azam – right handed batter. This man averages 45 in test cricket and over 50 in both forms of limited overs internationals, an all format success rate that puts him firmly among contemporary greats not just of Pakistan but of world cricket.
  4. Javed Miandad – right handed batter. 8832 test runs at an average of over 50 (indeed he spent his entire test career with an average of over 50, a remarkable record of consistent success). 
  5. Misbah-ul-Haq – right handed batter. His arrival as a test cricketer came late in his career, but he made up for lost time to emerge with a batting average of 46 at that level, and an excellent record as captain.
  6. *Imran Khan – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain. Even if his record as a player did not automatically command a place there could be only one choice as captain of an all-time Pakistan team. As it is he stands as one of the greatest of all all rounders, and beyond a doubt the finest that his country has ever produced. He is now of course demonstrating his leadership skills in the political sphere, running his entire country rather than merely the cricket team thereof.
  7. +Zulqarnain Haider – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A one cap wonder, he made 88 on his only test appearance and kept well. He subsequently fled to Britain, believing his life in danger from match fixers and that the Pakistan authorities were not doing enough to protect him. Pakistan have had many wicket keepers, but most of those who might be considered have question marks hanging over them.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed batter. He was discovered by Imran who saw him bowling in the nets as a teenager and had him fast tracked into the national side. He went on to establish a record that places him firmly among the all time greats of the game.
  9. Saqlain Mushtaq – off spinner. A pioneer of the ‘doosra’, an off spinner’s equivalent of the googly that has always been controversial because of the arm angle required to produce it (there is a newer version called the ‘carrom ball’ which is less controversial). His record both for his country and for Surrey as an overseas player speaks for itself.
  10. Mushtaq Ahmed – leg spinner. He was one of two candidates for this position, Abdul Qadir being the other. However, for all Qadir’s merit in keeping alive the art of wrist spin at a time when fast bowlers ruled the world cricket roost, Mushtaq has the finer overall record. As well as his triumphs for Pakistan he was part of the first Sussex side ever to win a County Championship, having previously played for Somerset. He has gone to a coaching career which included a role in the England set up.
  11. Waqar Younis – right arm fast bowler. At one time he was probably the quickest on the planet, and his yorker was a devastating weapon for a number of years. Also, he bowled particularly effectively in tandem with Wasim Akram.

This team has a solid top five, one of the greatest ever all rounders and captains at no six, a keeper who can bat, and an awesome quartet of bowlers. The bowling, with a left arm speedster, two right arm speedsters, a leg spinner and an off spinner has both depth and variety. With Imran to captain them this would be a very tough unit to do battle against.

THE NEW NAMES FOR THE ALL TIME XI

  • Hanif Mohammad – right handed opening bat. He held the records for the highest first class score (499 for Karachi vs Bahawalpur) and the longest ever first class innings (337 in 970 minutes v West Indies, in a match saving second innings score of 657-8). Both have subsequently been broken, although his 970 minutes remains a test record for a single innings. He and the left handed, much more attack minded Saeed Anwar would make a formidable opening combination.
  • Zaheer Abbas – right handed batter. The only Asian batter to have scored 100 first class hundreds, a record that includes eight instances of twin centuries in a first class match (itself a record, which includes another record of four such instances including a double century). Although best known for his tall scoring in long form cricket he was also one of the best early ODI batters, being the first ever to hit three successive tons in that format.
  • Mushtaq Mohammad – right handed batter, leg spinner. He av eraged 39 with the bat and 29 with the ball, including twice combining centuries with five wikcket innings hauls.
  • +Wasim Bari – the finest keeper ever to play for Pakistan, his career ended just before I started following the game in earnest, but his record speaks for itself.
  • Fazal Mahmood – right arm fast medium. An expert bowler of the leg cutter, he took as test wickets at 24 each and his first class wickets at 18.96. He took 12 wickets in the first test match that his country won, against England at The Oval. His presence adds craft and variety to the bowling attack.

Thus, our Pakistan All-Time XI reads in batting order: Hanif Mohammad, Saeed Anwar, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Mushtaq Mohammad, *Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, +Wasim Bari, Saqlain Mushtaq, Fazal Mahmood and Waqar Younis. This team contains a very strong top four, three all rounders, a keeper and three varied bowlers. Waqar, Wasim, Imran, Fazal, Saqlain and Mushtaq Mohammad is a superb all round bowling unit.

THOSE WHO MISSED OUT

I have mentioned in passing Abdul Qadir, who I believe deserves full credit for keeping wrist spin bowling alive. Shoaib Akhtar, the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ might have had a fast bowling spot, but his record does not compare with Waqar Younis, and I am a little sceptical about his ‘first record 100mph delivery’, since a) there was something of an obsession during that world cup with the mark being reached, b)the delivery in question did not actually cause many problems and c)Jeff Thomson, Frank Tyson and even Charles Kortright of old may well have bowled deliveries that travelled at over 100mph but were not recorded as doing so, there being no recording equipment available at the time. If Shaheen Shah Afridi continues as he has started his left arm pave bowling will merit serious consideration, but it is Waqar’s place that would in danger – he is very much a pure bowler, and so could not be selected in place of Wasim. Sarfraz Nawaz, a fast medium not altogether dissimilar to Fazal produced one outstanding spell, 7-1 in 33 balls v Australia as 305-3 became 310 all out, but his record overall is not a match for Fazal’s. Shahid Afridi, a big hitting batter and leg spin bowler, was among the most watchable of all cricketers but his record does not have the substance to match the style. There are three batters with outstanding records who I have ignored for reasons other than their cricketing ability. Inzamam-ul-Haq was considered for the place that I awarded to Misbah, and I fully accept that he has a valid claim. Imtiaz Ahmed and Taslim Arif were both heavy scoring keepers. Asif Iqbal, a middle order batter and sometimes useful slow-medium bowler would also have his advocates. It is also a matter of regret to me that I could find no way of equipping this unit with a front line left arm spin option, and I am open to genuine suggestions about this. Finally, Asif Mujtaba and Ijaz Ahmed both had good records, but I could not see them ahead of those I actually picked. I also remind people that no two people’s selections would ever be in complete agreement in an exercise of this nature, although I would expect the choice of Imran as skipper to be pretty much unanimous.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Our journey through Pakistan cricket is at and end, but before my usual sign off I have a couple of links to share, both from Tax Research UK:

  1. The Way To Tackle The ‘How Are You Going To Repay The Borrowing?’ Question
  2. We Do Not Need A One Off Wealth Tax To Pay Off The National Debt

And now for those pictures…

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A series of illustrations from Stephen Jay Gould’s “Dinosaur in a Haystack”

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A splendid little book.

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Pakistan
The teams in tabulated form.