Favourite England XI
The only criteria for selection is you have had to have seen the player live in a Test match
1 & 2 Graham Gooch and Alastair Cook - I have grouped the openers together. Openers need to do 2 things in my opinion. See off the new ball and if set, score 150+ which is often enough to tip a Test your way. Other openers like Boycott are more defensively sound and others like Trescothick are more exciting to watch, but the Essex openers have great averages, are gritty in defence and regularly score those 'Daddy Hundreds' that win you Tests.
3, 4 & 5 Michael Vaughan, Joe Root and Ian Bell - In my next grouping I have put together 3 technically correct stroke players. Both Vaughan and Root have opened for Sheffield Collegiate, Yorkshire and England, yet I feel they have a range of shots more suitable to playing 3 and 4 respectively. They are both tenacious batsmen with a sound technique but can both push on at a good strike rate is the match situation sees fit. Number 5 still demands a technically correct skill set but with a little more flair and an exceptional ability to bat against spin. Ian Bell has all that. An excellent range of shots, quick feet and an ability to start innings against spin.
6 & 7 Ian Botham and Freddie Flintoff
- Two once in a generation supermen which means I guess means I'm old as I've been around long enough to see their Test debuts and retirements. Both flawed geniuses who could make front and back pages of the newspapers, aggressive counter attacking batsmen and capable of taking wickets with sheer force of personality, though their ability accounted for most victims. Probably the 2 best pairs of hands I have seen play for England and the worst captains.
8 Graeme Swann - Picking a spinner was possibly the most difficult decision and I wracked my brains to recall if I saw Underwood play live in my formative years. I fear the answer is no, so Swann a good attack minded spinner who are arguably world class for 3 or 4 years is my eventual choice, He used pace has is variety and didn't need time to settle in to a spell. A useful late order batsmen, he was a decent player but sadly virtually every Test side has produced at least 1 better spinner in my lifetime.
9 Bob Taylor - The best wicketkeeper I have ever seen. Watched him play dozens if not hundreds of times and never saw him make a mistake. Apparently they occurred once every 3 seasons, but not on my watch. He kept everything simple and precise, not as flashy as Knott and certainly not as good a batsman but I never saw Knott play live and Bob is the only world class Englishman I ever saw play for Derbyshire, so I am having him in.
10 and 11. Darren Gough and Jimmy Anderson - two very different bowlers but are the finest English pace bowlers I have seen in the last 20 years. Gough all hustle and bustle with aggression and deadly yorkers who knocked over many tail ends in swift time. Anderson, silky smooth and able to swing the ball with such precision most seemingly bad balls were in fact designed to lure batsmen into an indiscretion later on in the over. The greatest English bowler I have seen.
There are 6 England captains in my side, but I would choose Vaughan as my captain. I will always love him for 2005.