The only criteria for selection is you have had to have seen the player live in any format or level of cricket!
Graham Gooch (Captain) – my first full summer of cricket was the summer of 1990. This summer in my memory could be renamed “Goochies Summer”. In this summer he seemed to always be on TV either batting or bowling his dobbly deliveries. The first player to score a triple hundred and a hundred in the same test match – Graham made this summer his own. In what was perceived to be the end of his career Gooch was on the rise to becoming the world’s number 1 rated batsman in 1991 and in an era of England struggling so often Gooch in my early cricket years seemed to be the one constant. I had the pleasure of watching him play against Wasim and Waqar in the 1992 series against Pakistan and he was one of the few England players who seemed to stand up against the wizardry of both Wasim and Waqar. Gooch finished his career as England’s highest run scorer.
Michael Atherton – This was a tough call between Athers and Tresco. I am biased as I am a Lancs fan. Athers made his debut in 1989 for England. I hadn’t seen Athers live until I had the pleasure of watching him play for England in 1990 at Trent Bridge, he scored a characteristic 151 from only 389 balls. What Athers lacked in glamour at the crease he more than made up for in stoicism. He managed to be the linchpin of the England top order for a decade , despite suffering with a chronic back injury. When playing cricket in the back garden i was always Athers when batting right handed. His most famous innings is perhaps his rearguard action at Johannesburg in 1995 – one of the most enthralling blockathons you could ever see against a fiery South African attack. A true English cricketing legend.
Mark Butcher – This would have been a toss up between Ian Bell and Mark Butcher. Whilst Bell had a longer and a more distinguished career, I never saw Bell play so Butch gets the nod. I didnt see Butch get many at the Oval in 1997 but i managed to watch him on TV chase the runs against one of the best sides in Cricket history in 2001. He also played a huge part in a very successful Surrey team.
Graham Thorpe – I have seen Graham Thorpe bat on a few occassions and it turns out that the adage of him only getting runs when England were in a spot of bother was true. Thorpey had the ability to attack against pace and rotate against spin and provide the most solid of defences. He always seemed to enjoy the heat of the battle. I remember watching him in the gloom of Karachi seeing England home in an innings of such skill and determination. When I watched him in 1993 make his debut I didn’t know who he was but i soon did as he made himself one of the first names on the team sheet and a personal favourite of mine.
Kevin Pietersen – When i first watched KP play in a Sunday League game at Old Trafford for Notts. I didn’t know what all the hype about him was for. Then in the winter of 2004/5 i remember being surprised at the clamour and excitement of him being included in the England ODI team. When he faced down the hostile crowds in South Africa and announced himself to the Cricketing World. He inspired a generation of bats with his exploits and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when he reverse Swept Murali for 6 in a test match. I also remember getting up early to watch him in India in 2012 and luckily I saw the genius that KP possessed. He was the most mercurial and entertaining batsman I have ever seen play for England and in my viewing time the best the world has had to offer. His divisive nature only adds to the discussion around him and his genius tag.
Ben Stokes – What can be said about Ben Stokes that hasn’t been said already. When he scored his maiden 100 for England on the doomed Ashes tour of 2013/4 I considered him a flash in the pan. How wrong I was. I was at The Oval when Stokes hit 112/153 against the touring South Africans, he looked as if he was playing a different game to the other players on both sides. If I could come back as any cricketer it would be as Ben Stokes, never out of the game and
a brilliant competitor. I had the pleasure of meeting him after a world cup match in Southampton and he was the complete professional.
Alec Stewart – The team man of my XI. I saw Stewie play for England at the Oval in the 1998 series against South Africa and even then in his late 30’s he had an infectious love for the game which seemed to energise not only team mates but also the crowd. That match saw England win at home against South Africa for the first time in over 30 years. Even though he is Mr Surrey I can’t help but pick him. I grew up wanting a Kookaburra due to watching Alec hit the fast bowlers straight back past them with a trademark punch. In this side he is batting down the order but he was a brilliant opener and managed to score a hundred in each innings of a test against an attack that included Walsh and Ambrose on home turf. He was moved up and down the order to accommodate changes to the England teams and also made himself a wicket keeper that was more than at home with the gloves in test cricket.
Andrew Flintoff – Now there are not many teams that would have Freddie batting at 8. I have seen Freddie play lots and lots over the years and saw his initial rise and fall from the England set up. I remember his rise back from until form and fitness setbacks when Lancashire played Surrey in a quarter final in 2000. This seemed to mark his start of a rise back towards the England set up again. His exploits are well known in 2005, but in the years leading up to that he was the most in-form all rounder in the world across all formats. He has a charisma that helped to ignite the 2005 with his performances and personality on the field. I always felt that he was a fast bowling all rounder and thats why he is down at number 8. If injuries hadn’t blighted his career I’m sure he would have gone on to achieve even more on the field. My favourite cricketer in the 00’s.
James Anderson – the greatest English fast bowler in recent times and the most durable and skilful of all time. He is a joy to watch and from the looks on batsmen face a nightmare to bat against .I have seen him all over the country but the most telling was at Edgbaston in 2017. When Anderson was bowling there was a hush and anticipation that fell over the ground every time he kicked up his legs in his run up. He has a 5fer in all continents and so many scalps. He dismissed Tendulker more times than any other bowler from England. The sight of him running in to bowl is synonymous with an English summer. I hope that he continues to terrorise opposing batsmen for as long as he can. The sight of him moving the ball both ways from the same action and confusing batsmen makes me feel much better about my failings at the weekend.
Devon Malcolm – I could have chosen Gough or Broad but I have gone for Devon as growing up and playing in the garden the fastest bowler England had was him, I regularly imitated that distinct run up. I saw him playing for Derbyshire in 1992 and watched from side on as the batsmen were pushed back by his lightning pace. His batting was certainly that of a tail ender and he wasn’t the player you’d want under a steepling catch but if you wanted someone to strike fear into the opposition batsmen then Devon was your man. He was capable of devastating spells and the best one of these was his match winning 9/57 against South Africa in 1994.
Monty Panesar – I first watched Monty play in 2005 against the touring Australians. The match saw him bowl against a very strong batting line up and he showed so much promise that he was in the England Test team within a year. Monty was a fantastic bowler and he had a great helping hand in the improved bowling displays in Asia. Like Devon Malcolm, Monty wasn’t a great batsman but was hugely popular player with the England fans. I was also lucky enough to see him take 6/37 at Old Trafford against the New Zealanders. On the right day Monty was a world class spin bowler.