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Opinion

The Australian cricket all-time great alphabet teams: Letter F

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Roar Guru
20th February, 2020
38

So following on from last time’s E team, we come to the F team. They are probably stronger in bowling than batting and might not quite challenge the very top teams.

Jack Fingleton (NSW) – 18 Tests, 1189 runs at 42.46, five centuries, 136 high score
Opener Jack Fingleton is probably more famous for his writing and legendary differences of opinion with Don Bradman than his actual cricket. However he was a brave and stubborn opening batsman who finished his 18 Tests with a very fine record.

Fingleton’s achievements included scoring a century and carrying his bat for NSW against the 1933 English Bodyline attack and then a valuable 83 in the second Test of that tour, the only Australian victory of the season. He was dropped however, after making a pair in the third Test and was not selected for the 1934 tour of England. At this point he was not on good terms with either Bradman or the national captain Bill Woodfull, which can’t have helped his chances.

Fingleton was a valuable player for NSW, topping the Sheffield Shield run scoring in 1934-35. After his prolific 1935 season he returned to the national side in a rich vein of form and became the first player to score four Test centuries in a row. His partnership with Bill Brown during this period was prolific and their average of 63.75 is the highest for any Australian opening pair.

In the 1936 home Ashes Fingleton shared a record sixth-wicket partnership with Bradman to win the third Test and save the series. He subsequently toured England in 1938 but failed to make an impact and retired from cricket in 1940.

In retirement, Fingleton became a media advisor to the prime minister during the Second World War, and later became a celebrated cricket writer and political commentator.

Peter Forrest (NSW/QLD) – 15 ODIs, 368 runs at 26.28, one century, 104 high score, 80 first-class matches, 4251 runs at 43.68
Stepping up to open is Peter Forrest, a competent first-class top-order batsman who played 80 first-class games and averaged over 43.

Despite being more a long-form player (his 50-over career average was under 27 with a strike rate of 67 and he had never scored a white-ball century before his international debut), Forrest got picked to play ODIs for Australia in 2012 on the back of some good performances for Queensland and as captain of the Brisbane Heat T20 team.

And he started like a rocket, scoring a century and two 50s in his first four games, the first Australian to do so. Forrest’s returns diminished thereafter and he only scored one 50 in his next 11 games before losing his place.

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Forrest continued playing first-class cricket for another five years for Queensland, performing solidly without ever being in the frame for international selection again.

Les Favell (SA) (captain) – 19 Tests, 757 runs at 27.03, one century, 101 high score
Les Favell was a relentlessly attacking batsman who played less than 20 Tests for Australia for modest returns, but it is his record as captain of South Australia that places him in this side at number three.

Favell played more than 200 first-class games between 1952 and 1970, scoring over 12,000 runs. He captained South Australia 80 times in the Sheffield Shield, a competition record, and led the state to two titles. Favell topped South Australia’s runs in 1952-53 as they won the title and then nearly 15 years later topped the Sheffield Shield run-scoring list in 1966-67.

Favell had some interesting moments in his short Test career, scoring a fine century in India and taking part in the 1960 tied Test, where his last three balls faced read: six, six, run out.

Favell holds the unlucky record of scoring the most first-class runs by an Australian player to never tour England. Apparently, when in form Favell sang “happy birthday to me” at the crease as he smashed bowlers all over the park.

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Callum Ferguson (SA) – one Test, four runs, 30 ODIs, 663 runs at 41.43
Callum Ferguson has been a stalwart for South Australia for many years, scoring over 9000 first-class runs at an average over 37. He is also a very successful limited-overs player who played 30 ODIs for Australia with great success until his international career was severely hampered by a serious knee injury suffered in 2009.

Ferguson was selected for one Test in 2016, but it just happened to be the Hobart disaster where Australia were pumped by an innings and 80 runs by South Africa. Ferguson’s contribution was three (run out) and one and he was never selected again.

Ferguson is in the veteran class now, but continues to churn out runs for South Australia.

Aaron Finch (VIC) – five Tests, 278 at 27.8, 122 ODIs, 4721 runs at 41.05, 58 T20Is, 1878 runs at 38.32
Aaron Finch, Australia’s limited-overs captain, is a special player in limited-overs cricket, one of the very best Australia has produced. After a long time trying to come to grips with the red-ball game, Finch’s first-class returns as a middle-order batsman for Victoria have shown real improvement.

This is of course is why he was selected to open for Australia in Tests, to some success in the UAE, but with inevitable failure on the more pace-friendly pitches at home. He returns to the comfort of number five here.

Still, Finch adds some real firepower to this side with nearly 5000 first-class runs and over 6500 runs combined in ODIs and T20 internationals, both at averages higher than his first class mark of 35.87.

Australia's captain Aaron Finch celebrates after scoring a hundred

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Alan Fairfax (NSW) (right-arm fast medium) – ten Tests, 410 runs at 51.25, 21 wickets at 30.71
Alan Fairfax was an all-rounder who played ten Tests in the early 1930s. His batting at Test level was well above his career first-class average of 29 and his bowling was reasonably handy as well, picking up two wickets per Test.

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In 1929, in only his first year of first-class cricket, Fairfax scored a cautious half century on Test debut, sharing a record fifth-wicket partnership with Don Bradman playing in his second Test. Fairfax was selected for the 1930 Ashes tour and averaged 50 with the bat against the English. On returning to Australia he averaged over 48 in the home series against the West Indies. Fairfax retired in 1931 to play professionally in England – it was during the Depression and he needed the work.

Fairfax only ever scored one first-class century, but luckily it was in 1929 in a Shield game just before Test selection, partnering Don Bradman.

James Faulkner (TAS) – one Test, 45 runs, six wickets at 16.33, 69 ODIs, 1032 runs at 34.4, 96 wickets at 30.85
James Faulkner is another player who has been given only one Test to show his wares. He scored 45 and took six wickets against England in a good all-round performance but was never selected again.

Faulkner has had a very good limited-overs career and at one time was possibly Australia’s best finisher with both bat and ball. His returns have diminished in recent years and he has fallen from favour with selectors, but there are signs that he might be on his way back and he is not yet 30 years old.

Faulkner’s all-round first-class record is excellent, with a batting average over 30 and a bowling average under 25. But the strength of Australia’s pace bowling stocks have prevented more opportunities at Test level and Faulkner does not quite have the batting game to be a genuine top-six all-rounder option.

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Doug Ford (NSW) (wicketkeeper) – 65 first-class matches, 575 runs at 13.37, 122 catches and 57 stumpings
Doug Ford was NSW’s first-choice wicketkeeper for a decade during the 1950s and 1960s. His 179 dismissals places him seventh on the all-time list for the state and he won five titles with the Blues during a dominant era where at times he was the only non-Test player in the team.

While never making the Test side, being stuck behind such keepers as Wally Grout and Barry Jarman, Ford did tour New Zealand in 1961-62 with an international XI.

Damien Fleming (VIC) (right-arm fast medium) – 20 Tests, 75 wickets at 25.89, best bowling 5-30, 88 ODIs, 134 wickets at 25.38
Before he was the Bowlologist, Damien Fleming was a skilful swing bowler, who had many career highlights and would have played more for Australia but for regular injuries.

Fleming’s main claim to Test fame is taking a hat trick on Test debut against Pakistan. He was also a simple Shane Warne drop in slips away from taking another five years later. His overall bowling record is very good, averaging under 26 across 20 Tests.

At ODI level Fleming played 88 games and bowled the famous last over in the 1999 World Cup semi-final against South Africa, where a last-over run out with the scores level saw Australia tie what was possibly the greatest one-day international of all time and progress to the final.

Fleming was part of the Australian teams that won both the 1996 and 1999 World Cup finals.

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Australia's Damien Fleming, left, is congratulated by Ricky Ponting after claiming a wicket

(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

John Ferris (NSW/SA) (left-arm fast medium) – eight Tests, 61 wickets at 12.70, best bowling 7-37
What an average (12.70)! What a strike rate (37.7)! Times have changed but these are still impressive figures in any era of cricket. In fact they are both the second best of all, behind George Lohmann of England.

John Ferris was a left-arm swing bowler who played in the 1880s. Back in the early days on poor wickets, often the opening bowlers would bowl through an innings unchanged unless the batting team got on top. Ferris did just that on debut, establishing a formidable pairing with Charles ‘Terror’ Turner as they shot England out for just 45. Ferris took nine wickets in each of his first two Tests and six in his third.

He toured England in 1888 and after combining with Turner at Lord’s to take 18 wickets between them for the match, Ferris was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in the first year of the awards. Through his eight Tests he never went wicketless in an innings.

After a second tour of England in 1890, Ferris moved there permanently and actually appeared for England in a Test against South Africa, taking 13 wickets against a very weak side, helping that average and strike rate just a bit. He died of typhoid during the Second Boer War in 1900.

Chuck Fleetwood-Smith (VIC) (left-arm wrist spin) – ten Tests, 42 wickets at 37.38, best bowling 6-110
Chuck Fleetwood-Smith was an eccentric, talented left-arm wrist spinner in the 1930s. He was for his time the Stuart MacGill to Bill O’Reilly’s Shane Warne, and there was also the small matter of Clarrie Grimmett as well. Fleetwood-Smith was a vicious turner of the ball, capable of destroying sides, but he was erratic and often expensive while O’Reilly was one of the most economical bowlers of all time.

Fleetwood-Smith only played ten Tests. They were certainly eventful. He bowled Wally Hammond in the 1936-37 Ashes Test in Adelaide with a massive turning delivery that was critical to winning the game for Australia, and took ten wickets for that match. Bill O’Reilly said it was the best ball he ever saw.

But on another occasion he was taken for a world record 298 runs in a single innings, as England amassed 903 at the Oval, Len Hutton hitting a then-world mark of 364.

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Fleetwood-Smith was a brilliant bowler at domestic level. In his 112 first-class matches he took nearly 600 wickets at an average of 22.64 and a simply amazing strike rate for a spinner of 44.5.

Fleetwood-Smith dominated the Sheffield Shield for Victoria in the 1930s. He topped the Shield season wickets for three years in a row between 1933-34 and 1935-36 and each time Victoria won the title. His best match figures of 15-96 are the third best in Shield history and he took another 15 in a match against a NSW team that included nine Test players.

He possesses the third most career five-wicket hauls and second most career ten-wicket hauls in a match – and all from only 44 Shield matches! Fleetwood-Smith’s 1934-35 tally of 60 wickets is the fourth most series wickets in history and stood as the record for over 60 years.

Up next is the G team, a group of wildly fluctuating ability and temperament.