My best ever England Test Team
Well if you could be bothered to read my last blog about England’s best bowling attack you could probably struggle to contain your excitement to see who I came up with to complete my Country’s best Test team EVER.
As usual it has to be set up for a specific match. This is a one off, timeless Test. So what I’m looking for is a side that can score Daddy Hundreds, will fight and scrap to get the victory, and also be able to bowl sides out to press for the ultimate victory.
Now picking my bowlers was an absolute nightmare, but believe you me it’s a hell of a lot harder to pick the batsmen!
I’m thinking that we will be playing under current laws and current pitch recommendations (i.e. full covering etc). Not much of an issue I hear you cry. But is it?
As you look back over the previous 139 years of Test cricket, and indeed any recorded cricket, you realise that scoring nowadays is generally higher and more consistent than it used to be.
It wasn’t until the 1979 season that full pitch covers were used. Prior to that the pitch was left open to the elements. The worst ones were pitches that were very dry and hard to start with, which then had a few showers on which softened the surface but was hard underneath. DANGEROUS.
If the pitches were wet then they started to dry, especially quickly, well that was a minefield, sometimes called a sticky dog.
You still get the occasional sensational bowling figures but I think that is more down to better and more imaginative bowling (and better fielding) than bad/dangerous pitches. You may think otherwise.
You used to still get big scores but you tended to get more lower scores, with bowlers claiming more wonderful figures. The most remarkable being Jim Lakers 19 wickets in a match. You would get the odd 8 for 7, 8-11 , 9-28 etc.
A lot of early cricket, including Test matches, was played on coconut matting pitches! Hard to believe it, you can’t imagine modern players putting up with that, they would have nothing to blame apart from it moving off a missed chunk of coconut!
Reading back, donkey’s years, it sounds like when the summers were good dry summers, the batsmen would fill their boots. The pitches were generally easier paced than nowadays, you still got belters and the odd pacey one, but generally slower than todays.
Batsmen had to have better techniques to play on the varying pitches around the country, let alone the world.
Personally, I think they tend to be a bit more ‘samey’ around the country now, which is a shame. When players come up against the odd shocker now, they really do struggle to battle it out. Is that technique or temperament?
The timeless Test in Durban was an interesting pitch as well as a match. Chasing 690 in the last innings, England only failed to reach their target on day 9 because they were going to miss their boat home! The match itself was played in typical Durban weather. Hot mornings then in late afternoon the odd thunderstorm.
So what happened to the pitch apparently was that it played well during the day, started showing a few signs of wear by late afternoon, then whoosh, down came the rain.
So early in the morning the groundsman got his heavy roller out, flattened the pitch, sun comes out, dries the pitch, virtually a new pitch every day, hence the high scores. Now you know!!
Did I digress then? Makes a change.
So here goes, the openers. Who to choose? Where to start?????
BOYCOTT, COOK, STRAUSS, ATHERTON, SANDHAM, HUTTON, HOBBS, TRESCOTHICK, GOOCH, SUTCLIFFE, STEWART, VAUGHAN
3 - BELL (MY HERO!), HAMMOND, RANDALL, GRAVENEY
4 AND 5 GOWER, PIETERSEN, LAMB, BARRINGTON, SMITH.R, COWDREY, MAY, COMPTON (DENNIS!), THORPE, GATTING, GRACE
It’s quite interesting going back over my 40 years watching cricket and comparing the people I have seen and who I thought were greats and then reading about stars from decades ago and what they achieved.
My first “star” in the 70s was Sir Geoffrey. Great record, tough cookie.
Then probably Goochie, crap start to his career but then turned into one of the best. Hard working, capable of some of the best attacking innings.
Atherton, Stewart and a bit with Vaughan. Very good players, all playing memorable innings but playing in teams that struggled a lot of the time. Would they have been better playing in better teams?
Tresco, Strauss and Captain Cook. More TV coverage, playing in winning teams, again all great players and hopefully Cooky will go on for a few years yet.
But although I’ve obviously heard lots about Hutton, Hobbs and Sutcliffe it’s only when you google their careers that you realise that these guys were PROBABLY even better than all the ones I’ve mentioned before.
They had to be the toughest cookies, with great techniques didn’t they?
Now to number 3, to be honest to me there’s one person who stands out above all others (despite Arlkes 174 in the centenary Test!!) Wally Hammond
4 and 5, again loads to choose from. Modern players on generally flatter tracks? Who is going to move my side into a winning position for this one off Test?
Gower, pure class. Pietersen, despite being a bit of a knob at times an amazing attacking batsman.
Thorpe, Gatting, Robin Smith, Allan Lamb, how many great innings did I see them play and looked like they would do anything to play for their (Well maybe not Smith and Lamb’s!) country.
Ken Barrington, who knows much about him apart from his untimely death? An average of 58 plus an amazing record every time he played in Adelaide.
Well hopefully you have looked through the links and have some idea of my dilemma but here it is, the batsmen who are helping my bowlers win this one off timeless Test are:
Need a wickey now to finish my team PRIOR, TAYLOR, JONES, AMES, EVANS, KNOTT, RUSSELL?
Prior, after a dodgy start to his keeping career he turned into a fabulous keeper and bloody good batsman.
Taylor, probably the best out and out keeper we have had.
Geraint Jones, who will forget that catch at Edgebaston. Great strike rate for England.
Les Ames, 100 100s as a keeper?????? The Cricketer voted him the best batsman / keeper EVER
Godfrey Evans, Wisden’s arguably greatest keeper of all time.
Knott, England’s record holder for dismissals. Was in Wisden’s all time Test World XI.
Russell, unbelievable hands standing up to the stumps and one of the World’s most annoying batsmen.
And I’m going for A P E KNOTT, just.
So here it is in full, my all time world beating England team: