The only criteria for selection is you have had to have seen the player live in any format or level of cricket!
Michael Vaughan – Captain. One of my all-time cricketing heroes! Saw him play live a few times but sadly not the times when he came oh so close to that elusive test double hundred. Didn’t see any of the 05 Ashes live either but loved every minute of it! Captaincy was excellent and I can’t believe he is not involved in the England set up in some way.
Alastair Cook – Was going to go with Marcus Trescothick because he is a legend and I loved watching him bat, but then I remembered that I once saw Cook playing for England at Chester-Le-Street in the early days of his Test career, against the Windies I think, he was fielding out on the boundary near where we were sat, the crowd got the usual chants of “Cookie giz a wave” going and he did, next it was “Cookie touch your toes, Cookie Cookie touch your toes!” and fair play to him he did that too. It eventually progressed to “Cookie do a star jump, Cookie Cookie do a star jump!” and bless him he did the most discreet star jump I have ever seen! Fair play to him! I noticed that once he was Captain he mostly stayed in the safety of the slips and who can blame him. Criminally under bowled himself though.
Joe Root – Great player. I used to go and watch Yorkshire play on my tod or with pals, my Mrs wasn’t interested. Then one spring Saturday I was keeping an eye on the score where Durham had declared and set Yorkshire a massive total. I was aware something special was happening. As we had nothing else to do that afternoon I talked the good lady into popping up to Chester-Le-Street to watch the conclusion of the match. I told her to bring a book, sit in the sun and enjoy looking at the castle. The book remained unopened, the cricket was too gripping (and the people watching!) as Root brought us home with a magnificent unbeaten double hundred! As he came off the pitch I shook his hand and said “Well batted Joe!” he said “Thanks very much that’s good of you to say!” Good of me to say??? I’m the worst batsman in the Middlesbrough Midweek League, you are the future of English cricket! This was a great day and converted my better half to become a cricket fan and since then we have had many brilliant times watching Yorkshire playing around the country. (Disappointingly a quick Google search has shown me that the 22-year-old Root actually got out for 182 with one run still needed to win, but still not a bad effort eh?)
Graham Thorpe – Brilliant batsman and got England out of trouble more times than I care to remember. With a better test average than Gower, Gooch, R Smith, Bell, Atherton, Stewart etc. etc. he must surely be England’s most underrated player ever. I was at what turned out to be his last Test match when he scored 66* against Bangladesh at Chester-Le-Street. He was kind enough to sign my scorecard and I asked why Vaughan had declared when he was on 66 instead of letting him get 100 in his 100th test? I was gutted when he was left out of the 05 Ashes squad, such a great player who had rescued England so many times in the years before, really deserved to be part of that team and get that Ashes winners medal.
Kevin Pietersen – I still think we should #Bringbackkp brilliant batsman to watch, so entertaining and I’m sure he would have gone on to break all England batting records if he hadn’t been binned. I really feel that it was us fans who were punished when he got pushed out. I was lucky enough to be at Headingley in 2012 when he played that unbelievable innings against South Africa, it really was amazing. In his autobiography Marcus Trescothick talks about ‘batting in the matrix’ when you are so in the zone the ball seems to come to you in slow motion and you can put it wherever you want. I am sure KP was batting in the matrix that day, unbelievably good. I was also at Chester-Le-Street in 2008 when he played the switch hits against New Zealand in the ODI. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing! Everyone was loving it! However the innings I really wish I had seen live was his 05 heroics at the Oval to win us the Ashes. I had to make do with watching it on the TV and I think that day took about ten years off my life! That innings under that pressure must go down as one of the best ever and was a fitting end to what was a fantastic Ashes series, never to be forgotten.
Jonny Bairstow – (Wicket Keeper). I’m always amazed at how often people call for him to be dropped. He is a brilliant cricketer! His cameo at Headingley in 2019 seemed to change the momentum and got Stokes going. I have seen him play countless brilliant innings for Yorkshire when he seemed to be playing a different game to everyone else. Also a really good lad who is always happy to have a chat.
Ben Stokes – Watching the Headingley Ashes Test in 2019 I was getting more and more depressed knowing that I had tickets for Day 4 as it seemed we would go down to a heavy defeat before then and I would see no play. I even tweeted ECB asking if they could put some sort of exhibition match on that day as the Test would be over. Well what an exhibition it was! We very nearly didn’t make it as our train was cancelled! Luckily my mate Harlow got his Mam to give us a lift from Middlesbrough to Leeds and we made it just in time. What followed will never be forgotten and could quite easily be the best day of my life. What an innings. If that was the only innings he ever played for England he would still get into my XI just for that! What a day! “Shoes off, if you love Ben Stokes!”
Andrew Flintoff – I do feel bad that he has taken Tim Bresnan’s place in my team, but it had to be done. It’s sometimes forgotten that even before 05 he was creating joy with swashbuckling innings for England launching huge 6s! He was outstanding in 05 of course, greatest Ashes ever. On the back of that Ashes I saved up and went to Australia for last two tests of the 06/07 Ashes. Listening to TMS on the way to the airport I heard us lose the 3rd Test and the Urn was gone before I even got on the plane! I felt sorry for Fred in the tests at the MCG & SCG as he seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, it was still great to be there though and all of us England fans enjoyed singing his song “Oh how we love….”
Darren Gough – What a legend! I am not from a cricketing family at all and we never played it at school. I got into it when I was off school sick one day and there was a one day game on BBC and it seemed better than watching Richard & Judy. From that day I was hooked (and this is why I think it so important for cricket to be on free to air TV!). As a birthday present my Dad took me to Headingley to watch a day of the 4th 1997 Ashes Test. My parents knew nothing about cricket and bought our two tickets slap bang in the middle of the Western Terrace. I think my Dad was expecting a quintessentially English summers day, reading his paper in the sun listening to the sound of leather on willow and the gentle hum of civilised conversation. What we got was quite different! It was raucous to say the least! Quite an eye opener! Towards the end of the day an Aussie fan who had been getting pelters all day got up to leave and shouted “See you tomorrow ya bunch of *****”. Blimey. Anyway England were struggling as we tended to in those days, when a wicket fell and Goughy strode out to the crease, the roar from the crowd was deafening as they welcomed one of their own to the middle. The silence was deafening as he trudged back two balls later for a duck.
Liam Plunkett – This feels a bit harsh on Broad, Anderson, Harmison, Hoggy, and especially Ryan Sidebottom, but I wanted at least one fellow Boro lad in my team! I always thought he was very unlucky not to play more Tests, and I think it’s terrible how he has been dumped from the ODI team when he was such an important player for us when we won the World Cup. I saw him bowl like lightning for Yorkshire many times, especially steaming in at Scarborough from the Trafalgar Square end, the pace was genuinely frightening and I was just watching from the safety of the stands.
Monty Panesar – Would have liked to pick Phil Tufnell as my spinner but I never saw him play live and rules are rules so Monty gets in! Who can forget his celebrations when he got wickets, particularly his bunny Tendulkar! Also gets in on the strength of his bizarrely brilliant Twitter profiles!