Cricket’s all-time alphabetical L team

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Next up is one of the heavyweights. My all time ‘L’ XI:

1. Justin Langer
2. Bill Lawry
3. Maurice Leyland
4. Brian Lara
5. Clive Lloyd (c)
6. VVS Laxman
7. Dennis Lindsay (wk)
8. Ray Lindwall
9. Jim Laker
10. Dennis Lillee
11. George Lohmann

The absence of Harold Larwood for one shows how strong an attack the L’s have.

If I am nitpicking, the team is perhaps lacking a high quality all-rounder (although Lindsay and Lindwall are very strong batting at seven and eight) and the balance is a bit unusual with five lefties at the top of the order.

But with match-winners all over the place, and at least two players with claims to an all time XI, this team will be one of the challengers. A little more on each:

1. Justin Langer
Aus, LHB, 105 Tests, 7696 runs at 45.27, 23 100s

The hard-as-nails Langer was the prime example of, firstly, how a batsman who can reinvent himself and, secondly, of how certain players can flourish in the right team environment.

After a sporadic start to his career where he batted mostly at three (including a typically brave 54 on debut in the infamous Adelaide Test in 1993), Langer was tried as Matthew Hayden’s opening partner in the final Test of the 2001 Ashes.

Love blossomed and the rest is history as the two formed the second most prolific opening partnership ever in Tests (and if you add Ricky Ponting at three the most prolific top order). Langer’s personal record at opener was 5112 runs at 48.23.

2. Bill Lawry
Aus, LHB, 67 Tests (25 capt), 5234 runs at 47.15, 13 100s

Lawry has consistently been maligned in his various careers. As a batsman he was described as “the corpse with pads.”

As captain he famously led Australia to a whitewash defeat in South Africa and then an Ashes loss against Ray Illingworth’s tourists in 1970/71 before being dropped from the team entirely despite him easily being worth his spot as a batsman alone.

As a commentator he is criticised as being over the top in his support of Australia (and Victorians in particular).

Yet fundamentally, he is a bloke who just loves his cricket and who also happened to be one of the finest openers this country has produced. His most regular partner was Bob Simpson and no other opening pair has scored more runs between them at a higher partnership average.

3. Maurice Leyland
Eng, LHB, 41 Tests, 2764 runs at 46.07, nine 100s

Although he played somewhat in the shade of his legendary Yorkshire teammates Herbert Sutcliffe then Len Hutton, Leyland was himself a quality top order batsman with a reputation for scoring tough runs.

His last Test innings of 187, although it was his highest score, went somewhat unnoticed as Hutton scored 364 down the other end and England piled on 7/903. The 382 they put on in that match was the third highest partnership at the time for any wicket.

Interestingly, Leyland’s average in Tests would be 52 if not for his abysmal record against the West Indies. In five matches against them over three series, he only managed 37 runs at 4.63 and was regularly dismissed by fast bowlers like Manny Martindale or Learie Constantine.

4. Brian Lara
WI, LHB, 131 Tests (47 capt), 11953 runs at 52.89, 34 100s

In my view Lara is the best batsman of the last 40 years, and is certainly the most thrilling.

His completeness as a batsman can be seen by some of his figures: he has the highest and third highest Test match scores (400 and 375) and the highest First Class score (501). He has the second most double tons (nine). He has scored most runs in a losing Test match (351 versus Sri Lanka); so his penchant for big scores is undisputed.

Yet he also has a 77-ball century (the ninth fastest); is first and third on the ‘most runs in an over’ list (with 28 and 26); and scored the most runs in a day of First Class cricket (390); so he could take an attack apart when appropriate.

Only a love of the high life and other off-field distractions prevented him from making an unequivocal case of being the best after Bradman.

5. Clive Lloyd (c)
WI, LHB, 110 Tests (74 capt), 7515 runs at 46.48, 19 100s

Revered as the mighty leader of the normally fractured West Indies and the captain who exploited fast bowling perhaps even better than Douglas Jardine, it is easy to forget that Lloyd was also a highly accomplished middle order batsman.

At the time of his retirement, only Boycott, Sobers and Cowdrey had scored more runs, and only Cowdrey had played more matches.

His finest batting probably came at the end of his career – in his last 25 Tests (from the age of 38) he scored 1,684 runs at over 60.

Lloyd is the easy choice as skipper of this side.

6. VVS Laxman
Ind, RHB, 134 Tests, 8781 runs at 45.97, 17 100s

The poster boy for ‘quality over quantity’ when it comes to judging cricketers, VVS is as admired in Australia as much as in his own country because of his ability to make hard runs when they were needed most.

His 281 in Calcutta against a great attack almost ruined my honeymoon, but to this day is a reminder to me of the supremacy of Test match cricket.

The fact that he batted with such style and grace and remained humble about his achievements only adds to his reputation.

7. Dennis Lindsay (wk)
SA, RHB, 19 Tests, 1130 runs at 37.67, three 100s, 56 dismissals (52/2)

Another of the lost generation, Lindsay was South Africa’s regular keeper for the period up to isolation. He started off solely as a batsman but kept for 15 Tests in which he conceded a meagre 20 byes.

He was also a high quality batsman – his 131 against Australia in Johannesburg in 1967 was the only score above 50 in the match as Australia held on for a draw. His 606 runs in that series are a record for a keeper.

8. Ray Lindwall
Aus, RHB, RF, 61 Tests (one capt), 1502 runs at 21.15, two 100s, 228 wickets at 23.03

Lindwall was Australia’s greatest fast bowler until Lillee appeared and was selected in the Australian Team of the Century.

He was one of the rocks on which Australia’s immediate post WWI dominance was based, and his partnership with Keith Miller is legendary.

His final record probably doesn’t reflect his overall skill as he played a quarter of his career after the age of 34. Lindwall’s most regular victims in Tests were Compton, Hutton and Edrich, and his percentage of victims bowled (43%) is the highest of any post 19th century bowler with 100 wickets.

Interestingly, his record halfway through his 44th Test match was almost identical to Alan Davidson’s career record – 44 Tests, 184 wickets at 20.53 (Davidson had 186 wickets at the same average).

9. Jim Laker
Eng, RHB, ROS, 46 Tests, 676 runs at 14.08, 193 wickets at 21.24

The greatest orthodox off spinner ever and still a name that haunts Australians.

His 19 wickets for 90 at Old Trafford in 1956 is the stuff of English legend and is comfortably the best Test and First Class match figures ever (no one else has even taken 18 wickets in a proper First Class match). It will probably remain as untouchable as 99.94.

That match was no fluke, either, with Laker having taken 10 wickets in an innings against Australia in the tour match earlier that summer.

His overall First Class record was 1944 wickets at 18.41.

10. Dennis Lillee
Aus, RHB, RF, 70 Tests, 905 runs at 13.71, 355 wickets at 23.92

If not for Dennis Lillee, World Series Cricket may not have happened until Shane Warne came along – Lillee was that good; that charismatic; that iconic of cricket in the 70s.

Routinely chosen in ‘Best XI’ teams of all descriptions, Lillee’s skill and fitness levels resulted in him being the complete fast bowler and a captain’s dream – a strike bowler in friendly conditions; a stock bowler in flat conditions; a pack bowler in that he could soften up batsmen for other bowlers to exploit; a partnership-breaker and a virtually unlimited store of aggression and competitiveness (which wasn’t always a pleasant thing).

What would I have given to see him and Warne bowl together.

11. George Lohmann
Eng, RHB, RM, 18 Tests, 213 runs at 8.88, 112 wickets at 10.76

Lohmann’s record is simply mindboggling. While it would be easy to put it down to the era he played in (and his medium paced accurate seamers and cutters seem to be the bowling style of choice in the uncovered era given Syd Barnes’ own brilliant record), it is still comfortably ahead of any other with 100 Test wickets.

It is also a record not confined to any country – his record in Australia (41 wickets at 11) is better than his home record (36 at 14.) and the 77 wickets at 13 he took against Australia is still outstanding for the era.

His 35 wickets at 5.80 in three Tests against South Africa are the icing on the cake.

At one stage in successive innings he took 7/38, 8/7 and 9/28. Sadly, Lohmann contracted tuberculosis in his 20s and died from it at the age of 36.

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