The greatest all-rounder since 1970 (part I)

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The second coming of England's messiah - albeit in coloured clothing. AAP Images

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Quality all-rounders are the type of player every selector and captain wishes they had.

In Australia’s case, ever since Andy Flintoff impacted so heavily on the 2005 Ashes series, the search and experimentation has been seemingly never ending.

The likes of Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds and Steve Smith were all seen at some point as being the talisman they were looking for.

But, across the board, who are the top-10 Test all-rounders since 1970 and who indeed is the number one?

Before we start the countdown, let’s have a look at some who have failed to make the cut.

Wasim Akram was a man who really failed to do enough with the bat. In 104 Tests he averaged a mere 22.6 in concert with his 414 wickets at 23.6.

Former West Indian captain Carl Hooper averaged 36.5 with bat and compiled 13 centuries, but his 114 wickets came at 49.4.

Early on Steve Waugh was a genuine all-rounder but, given at the end of a 168 Test career he had captured only 92 wickets and very seldom bowled for the back half of his time in the baggy green, he has been left out.

Perhaps the unluckiest is former Indian skipper Ravi Shastri. In 80 Tests he amassed 3830 runs at 35.8 with 11 centuries, the highest of which was 206 against Australia at the SCG in Shane Warne’s maiden Test in 1990-91.

He also claimed 151 wickets at 41.0 with two five-wicket hauls, but that high average has seen him miss the cut.

So let’s start in reverse order en route to the best all-rounder since 1970.

10. Daniel Vettori (New Zealand) – 112 Tests, 4516 runs at 30.1 with six centuries and 23 half-centuries, highest score 140. 360 wickets at 34.4 with 20 5-wicket innings and 3 10-wicket matches, best bowling in an innings 7/87, best bowling in a match 12/149.

Vettori is the only true spinner in the top 10. His batting was extremely moderate early on – he debuted at the age of 18 and batted at number 11 and after 48 Tests his average was just 18.1.

However, in his next match he made an unbeaten 137 against Pakistan, his maiden Test century.

From that point on his batting continued on an upward curve, averaging 36.7 from there on. He has scored more runs at number eight in the order than any other batsman in history.

Aside from his six centuries he also has four scores in the 90s. Three of his centuries have come against Pakistan, where he averages 43.8.

With the ball, he his second only to Sir Richard Hadlee (431) for the most wickets for the Black Caps. He is not a big spinner and thus relies on flight and a deceptive change of pace.

His career-best 7/87 came against Australia in Auckland in 1999-2000.

9. Chris Cairns (NZL) – 62 Tests, 3320 runs at 32.8 with five centuries and 22 half-centuries, HS 158, 218 wickets at 29.4 with 13 5WI and 1 10WM, BBI 7/27, BBM 10/100

Cairns had the reputation of being a big hitter, clubbing 68 sixes at better than one a match, but across his career his strike rate was just 57.

Four of his five centuries came at home, with his best being 158 against South Africa at Auckland in 2003-04. He averaged 37.2 at home and 29.7 away.

With the ball he made the most of his broad shoulders, bowling what is nowadays termed a ‘heavy ball’.

Against the might of the Australian teams during his career his 39 wickets came at 42.0. Conversely, he took 30 wickets against the West Indies at an incredible 9.9.

8. Andrew Flintoff (England) – 79 Tests, 3845 runs at 31.8 with five centuries and 26 half-centuries, HS 167, 226 wickets at 32.8 with 3 5WI

Flintoff was somewhat of an enigma. When he was on-song he could be an absolute match-winner, as witnessed by his 2005 Ashes performance when he led the England bowling attack, capturing 24 wickets at 27.3. But with that he averaged over 50 with the ball in seven of his 25 series.

He could be genuinely quick and hit the pitch hard, extracting steepling bounce. He struggled with injury in the second half of his career.

With the bat, he was like most all-rounders, a lusty hitter who often took the aerial route. He struggled against Sri Lanka, averaging 19.3 from 14 innings.

7. Tony Greig (ENG) – 58 Tests, 3599 runs at 40.4 with eight centuries and 20 half-centuries, HS 148, 141 wickets at 32.2, 6 5WI and 2 10WM, BBI 8/86, BBM 13/156

The late Tony Greig was a cricketer of abundant enthusiasm and a true fighting quality. He was just shy of his 26th birthday when he made his Test debut and his career only lasted five years, cut short in the main by World Series Cricket.

He was one of the early exponents of the horizontal bat at above bail height in the stance. He compiled centuries against varying attacks, from the likes of Andy Roberts and Michael Holding to Bishan Bedi and B.S. Chandrasekhar.

His highest score of 148 was made on a dusty Mumbai track in 1972-73 while his most memorable ton was his 110 at the Gabba against Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. He thrived with the bat away from home, Averaging 46.9 against 34.6 at home.

With the ball he was a whirl of arm and legs, using his height (198cm) to deliver either medium pace or off-spin depending on the conditions.

His best bowling in both an innings and a match were against West Indies in Port-of-Spain in 1973-74.

6. Shaun Pollock (South Africa) – 108 Tests, 3781 runs at 32.3 with two centuries and 16 half-centuries, HS 111, 421 wickets at 23.1, 16 5WI, 1 10WM, BBI 7/87, BBM 10/147

Born into a famous South African cricketing family, Pollock was always destined to be a star. A technically correct lower order batsman, it is fair to say that he underperformed slightly in that aspect of his game but, given his workload with the ball (all-time highest wicket-taker for his country), he can be excused.

His centuries came against Sri Lanka and West Indies, while he averaged 42.3 in 12 Tests against Pakistan.

Like Greig, he was better on the road – 36.4 versus 29.1. He averaged 35.8 from his nine Tests in Australia.

With ball in hand he was reminiscent of McGrath and Hadlee with a metronomic line from stump to stump. He was genuinely quick early on but soon pulled back his pace.

His innings career-best came in Adelaide in 1997-98.

Tune in tomorrow for the top five.

After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.
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