Favourite England XI

The only criteria for selection is you have had to have seen the player live in a Test match


Graham Gooch - First batsman I recall who scored runs at a decent rate, unlike the Yorkshire plodders I had previously been accustomed to watching opening for England. I think he started his International career with a pair in 1975 against the Aussies from memory, but after that as they say the rest is history. An astonishing 67,000 first class runs and a decent captain too.

Marcus Trescothick - A left handed opener to complement Gooch. Always entertaining and I will never forget watching him score a hundred in the second innings at my very first away Test – Durban 2004/5. It took the selectors a long time to pick him but a longer time to drop him. Test average of 43.7 – not too bad!

Brian Close © - Sadly, he recently passed away. All things being equal, I should not have been able to watch Close ‘live’ as he made his debut in 1949 (even I wasn’t born then) and he is still England’s youngest ever Test cricketer. However, in 1975 at the age of 45 he was unexpectedly recalled to face the lethal West Indian bowling attack, due to the failure of younger, terrified batsmen to cope with their short pitched, intimidatory bowling. I watched spellbound at Old Trafford as like Monty Python’s Black Knight, Close (and John Edrich) took blow after painful blow on their bodies to protect their wickets. This is before the age of protective gear – he must have had balls like coconuts – before and after! An anti-establishment figure, I suspect he might not have had too much time for the ECB Hundred competition. Does anyone? I bet Mr Close, though, would have told Mr Graves where to stick it.

K.P. - Marmite man. Having seen him win many Test matches almost single handedly in far flung places like Mumbai, Colombo and Adelaide, impossible to leave out. He gets lots of bad press – I met him just the once while experiencing the strange, inescapable malaise of East London, S.A, with Tremers. He was absolutely fine with us.

Ben Stokes * - I’m a mug for all rounders. But anyone who was there at that Cape Town Test... Hopefully lots more to come from our Stokesy and recently I’ve noticed he has the ability to knuckle down when required while batting too, hence his elevated position at 5. In fact, he is very good with his knuckles, period.

Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff - Another all rounder and I’m sure I don’t need to spell out his exploits. Rubbish captain, but on his day as a player, inspirational. He has now stopped drinking and is on the Board at Lancashire CCC, which did give me a moment’s misgiving about the wisdom of his selection.

Ian Botham - Anyone who was at the Old Trafford Ashes Test in 1981 will not be able to forget his century. After a morning of yawns watching Boycott and Tavare block and get nowhere, virtually the whole crowd had turned to drink and were collectively extremely pissed. Enter Botham after lunch, playing outrageous hook shots for six with his eyes closed against D K Lillee and his silly orange headband and depositing him onto the railway line. Fantastic. His stats and legend speak for themselves, shame he has become such a boor since his playing career ended.

Alan Knott (wk) - First name on the team sheet...! The best wicketkeeper England ever had, bar none. With the notable exception of Bob Taylor, every keeper since Knotty has been wearing the gloves to keep his hands warm in comparison. Played in some poor sides but could always be relied upon for late middle order runs even when we were being pummelled by the Australians. Bottler, Bairstow et al eat your hearts out!

John Snow - Like our beloved leader Theresa May, the child of a vicar. A touch more aggressive though! Another anti-establishment figure who might have played more if not for his attitude. He had a problem with Australian umpires, and his short pitched fast bowling nearly caused a riot at one game in Australia. Anyone who can do that has a good chance of getting in my team. So good in fact, they named a heroic TV fantasy character after him.

James Grumpy Anderson - With gritted teeth! Impossible to ignore due to sheer number of wickets but I wish he would fucking well cheer up. He’s even grumpier than the Lancashire Members. And that’s really saying something. Jimmy ‘Grumpy’ Anderson.

Derek Underwood - A ‘ proper’ spinner rather than a T20 batsman who turns his arm over a bit. Long and distinguished career and nearly 300 wickets for a spinner speak for themselves as does his nickname – Deadly Derek. Unplayable on uncovered wickets. If he went on the market for the IPL, he would probably break the Bank of India ( again).

Twelfth man: Graham Thorpe * - A rock. Everybody loves Thorpe. Well nearly everybody...! Unlucky to be carrying drinks, but if we happen to be playing in Bristol, he gets in the side batting at number 5.