Any “Best XI” list is always guaranteed to illicit debate and cause arguments. Before you shoot me down and clamour for the inclusion of your favourite player let me set out my parameters for selection.
My love affair with Test Cricket began in the glorious summer of 1985, England were winning the Ashes, DI Gower was elegance personified and Ian Botham was a bona fide superstar. With hindsight it was very much a false dawn for English cricket. It would be 5 years before we even looked like winning on home soil again.
To get in my best England Test XI of the (mid) 80s and 90s you must have played Tests between 1985 and 1999. Great players like Freddie Flintoff only played a handful of matches in this period so unfortunately won’t be considered. Equally, as much as I’m a massive John Lever fan and would have loved the left-arm variety his relative inactivity in this period counts him out.
I’ve picked two openers, three specialist batsmen, an all-rounder, a wicket-keeper and four bowlers. So, let’s begin….
GA Gooch (c) – a phenomenon who got better with age. His training methods and professionalism were ahead of their time and his influence on the likes of future England captains Hussain and Cook coupled with his sheer weight of runs during this period make him an automatic selection at the top of the order. Let’s just hope we’re not facing Terry Alderman!
MA Atherton – one of the hardest decisions I had to make, Atherton or Stewart. They both played the same amount of Tests (93) in the period, with Stewart scoring more runs at a better average (could this have been even higher without having to keep wicket?) but Atherton just about gets the nod for me because of his ability to grind out a score and his love of a battle. Two obvious South African encounters spring to mind.
DI Gower – There’s no English player I’ve ever enjoyed watching play more than “Lord” Gower. A thesaurus couldn’t come up with enough synonyms to describe his class when batting. He was simply magnificent in 1985 and but for a few differences of opinion with Gooch and the England management could have played many more Tests.
RA Smith – His square cut was as savage as any shot ever played in the history of the game. A brilliant player of fast bowling, he loved a fight. Discarded from the Test team far too early in my opinion, his record stands up against anyone else’s in that era.
GP Thorpe – I’ve never hidden my admiration for Thorpe. The best England player of his generation who also got better as he got older. I’ve dedicated a whole blog to him previously so no more is needed here.
IT Botham – The sad thing about Botham’s inclusion here is that he was right at the end of his all-conquering best in 1985. He had his moments, briefly capturing the world Test wicket record in 1986 and a swashbuckling century later that year in Perth but his achievements were moderate in comparison to what had gone before. It says more about the paucity of other options in this period that he is included in this team. No doubt he’d relish the occasion though and put on one last show.
RC Russell – An artist on and off the pitch. Scored some useful runs, including two centuries and an absolute master behind the stumps.
DG Cork – Exploded on the scene in 1995, taking a hat-trick against West Indies and showed glimpses of real class. Another fierce competitor who left nothing out on the field.
D Gough – A brilliant bowler, his infectious smile and positive attitude was always a joy to watch. A fantastic strike rate but hampered by injuries. Could more than hold a bat too, on debut in 1994 he smashed New Zealand all around the park for 65.
ARC Fraser – Always looked exhausted but no one took more wickets for England during this period than the skilled Middlesex man. Gus was another player who suffered with injuries. How good could Gough and Fraser have been if they had been protected with central contracts?
PCR Tufnell – The wild card. If this team were playing at The Oval who would bet against The Cat bowling the opposition out? A real character off the pitch and a brilliant bowler on it.
Feel free to comment and tell me who I should have included. My team would show no lack of fight, but I think Gooch would have a hard job on his hands in tempering the off the field shenanigans!
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