In the early years of organised cricket, there were regular matches played by a “B Team” such was the strength of the players with that initial for a time.
Alas, the B Team does have the ignominy of recording the lowest ever total in first class cricket – six runs, which it managed in 1810. My B team should comfortably muster more than that.
1. Warren Bardsley (Aus, LHB) 41 Tests (2 capt), 2,469 runs at 40.48, 6 100s
Perhaps a slightly left field selection to start but Bardsley was one of the cricket’s finest batsmen before WWI, when he averaged 45.
In modern times, every time you kick a tree a left-handed opener falls out, but Bardsley was the game’s first long term lefty at the top of the order and remained so until Arthur Morris debuted after WWII.
In 1909 he became the first player ever to score a century in each innings which he followed up with 132 and 85 in his next two innings.
His final record is skewed somewhat by his post war appearances when he was well past his peak. However, he did manage one final benchmark during his last Ashes tour when, approaching 44 years of age, he carried his bat for 193* at Lords.
At the time, it was the highest innings for a player to carry his bat and still no player has made a higher score in Tests at that age or older.
2. Sir Geoffrey Boycott (Eng, RHB, RM) 108 Tests (4 capt), 8,114 runs at 47.73, 22 100s
His ability to polarise people – due to his slowness at the crease, perceived selfishness and prickly nature – probably overshadows how good a batsman Boycott actually was.
His achievements in the Test and first class arenas are too numerous to mention, safe to say he scored many many runs for many many years.
His first class record of 48,426 runs at nearly 57 with 151 centuries is mind boggling, as is the feat of averaging over 50 in each of his last five county seasons when he was well into his 40s. Post playing career he became a forthright and entertaining commentator, never afraid of comparing some up and coming player’s pull shot unfavourably to his Nan’s.
He was also immortalised by the Major in Fawlty Towers who noted, to Basil the Rat, that “Boycott made a century!”
3. Sir Donald Bradman (c) (Aus, RHB, RLS) 52 Tests (24 capt), 6,996 runs at 99.94, 29 100s
Not even John Inverarity could get this one wrong. 65 years after his retirement the numbers are as unimaginable as ever.
4. Ken Barrington (Eng, RHB, RLS) 82 Tests, 6,806 runs at 58.67, 20 100s, 29 wickets at 44.83
As beloved as he is under-rated, Barrington’s average is second only to Bradman for players with more than 5,000 runs.
His consistency was truly heroic, only Bradman, Hobbs and Sutcliffe reached 50 more regularly and he once had eight consecutive scores of 45 or more.
Despite being labelled as boring, with his two-eyed stance, Barrington brought up centuries with a six on four occasions.
Only Tendulkar has more.
His playing career was cut short by a heart attack in 1968 and sadly, his life ended with a second heart attack in 1981 while touring as England team manager in the West Indies.
5. Allan Border (Aus, LHB, SLA) 156 Tests (93 capt), 11,173 runs at 50.56, 27 100s, 39 wickets at 39.10
A goddam freaking legend! The original Mr Cricket.
The type of man to declare on himself on 91* despite not having scored a Test century in over three years.
AB’s achievements are far too many to list but let me indulge in a couple of my favourites.
153 consecutive Test matches without a single “wellness chart” to be seen. How do you like them apples Mickey Arthur?
And of the players who played at least 8 Tests against the West Indies in the 1980s, Border is at the top of the charts with nearly 1,500 runs at over 46. Only Vengsarkar, Gooch, Boycott and Gavaskar also averaged over 40.
So perhaps the last word on the little champ should come from Clive Lloyd : “if you scored runs against us, you were pretty good”.
6. Sir Ian Botham (Eng, RHB, RFM) 102 Tests (12 capt), 5,200 runs at 33.55, 14 100s, 383 wickets at 28.40
A player whose legend is greater than mere stats. While Beefy’s final averages are relatively modest, no player who has held the Test wickets record has scored so many 100s.
In fact, his great 80s rivals – Imran Kahn, Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee – only managed 16 tons between them. Five times he scored a ton and took a Michelle in a match – no one else has done it more than twice.
His ability to swing a match with bat or ball earned him the name “Golden Bollocks” from his captain Willis and for the first half of his career, it was well earned.
However, the second half his career was blighted by injuries and other distractions and he only played eight Tests in his last five years.
The precise turning point of his career could have been caused by Gordon Greenidge. In the famous Lords Test of 1984, Botham had taken 8/103 and then scored a quick 81 as England set the Windies 344 to win.
Which they did with nine wickets to spare as Greenidge scored an incredible 214 off 242 balls.
Before that innings, Botham’s career stood at 69 Tests, 4,019 runs at 38 and 295 wickets at 25 – comfortably comparable with Imran.
For the remaining 33 Tests and 8 years of his career he limped out 88 wickets at 38 and 1200 runs at 25 – comfortably comparable with Chris Lewis.