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

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Roar Guru
26th February, 2020
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So following on from last time’s F team, we come to the G men.

They are surprisingly weak in batting at first glance, although explosive, with most batting up the order from their preferred spots.

But that batting order is made up of lesser known stars who at their peak were close to the best in the game. And they have stacked the team with world-class all-rounders and great bowlers. And their keeper can bat a bit.

Syd Gregory (NSW) – 58 Tests, 2282 runs at 24.53, four centuries, 201 high score
Walking out to open we have Syd Gregory, who was a long-serving Australian batsman, playing Tests from 1890 to 1912 and touring England eight times. His most famous moment was undoubtedly scoring a double century during Sydney’s first ever Test in 1894-95, the first ever double century in a Test in Australia. Remarkably in his seven previous Tests, Gregory had only passed ten once.

At the time, a collection from the crowd in his honour raised over 103 pounds, around $50,000 in today’s money. It was all in vain as England pulled off a remarkable victory after being forced to follow on, the first ever side to do so. Other batting highlights include scoring over 1400 first-class runs on the 1896 tour of England to top the tour averages.

While considered a competent batsman, Gregory was also an exceptional ground fielder at cover, maybe the first in a long line for Australia. Gregory finished his career as captain of the 1912 touring team, when unfortunately a number of other players refused to tour after disputes with the board. At the time of his retirement he had played more Tests than any other Australian cricketer.

Gregory was actually born where the Sydney Cricket Ground now stands (his father was the groundsman).

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George Giffen (SA) (captain) (right-arm medium) – 31 Tests, 1238 runs at 23.35, one century, 161 high score, 103 wickets at 27.09, best bowling 7-117, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
George Giffen was a giant of the game during its formative years in Australia. He was not an opener, but if anyone can do it, it’s Giffen.

He was the first Australian to complete the all-round double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in Tests and he also completed 10,000 first-class runs and 1000 first class wickets. In 1884 he became the first Australian to take all ten wickets in a first-class match, and he scored a century and took ten wickets in a single first-class match nine times.

Giffen managed to top both the batting and bowling averages on every one of his five tours to England. Just let that little stat sink in for a minute!

Giffen started his career slowly, but his batting and bowling at Test level improved throughout his career. Giffen averaged 36 with the bat over his last ten Tests and also took over half his career wickets. As a bowler, Giffen had amazing stamina, bowling over 40 overs in a Test innings 12 times and an amazing 70-plus overs on three occasions.

The 1894-95 home series against England was Giffen’s masterpiece. As captain, he produced some impressive all-round performances and here is just one. In the same Sydney Test where Syd Gregory hit his double century, Giffen scored 161 in the first innings (his only Test century), then bowled 43 overs in England’s first innings, taking four wickets.

England then followed on, so with little rest Giffen bowled another 75 overs in the second innings, taking another four wickets. And he topped it off by scoring 41 in two and a half hours as Australia fell ten runs short of the victory target. So all up, 202 runs and eight wickets from 118 overs.

Funnily enough, Giffen didn’t bowl in the first innings of the next Test in Melbourne, so he made up for it by bowling 78.2 overs for six wickets in the second innings. He finished that series with 475 runs at 52.77 and 34 wickets at 24.11 and was the premier all-rounder in the world.

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Ross Gregory (VIC) – two Tests, 153 runs at 51.0
The number three for this side is Ross Gregory, who played two Tests for Australia in 1937 as a 20-year-old. Batting at six, he hit 50 in the second innings of his debut Test and followed it up with 80 in the next. And that is the entire international career of Ross Gregory – 153 runs at a batting average over 50.

Gregory was selected for Victoria during the 1933-34 season while still in school. In 1936-37 he scored a century against a touring MCC team and averaged nearly 40 as Victoria won the Sheffield Shield. As a result he played in the final two Tests of the year as the Australians staged a stirring fightback from two Tests down to win the home Ashes series 3-2 – still the only team to ever do so.

Despite controversially missing selection for the 1938 Ashes tour of England, a long career beckoned. From his 33 first-class matches up to 1938, Gregory had scored a century and 17 half centuries and taken 50 wickets with his leg breaks.

And then war broke out. Gregory enlisted in the RAAF and was killed in action in 1942. He was only 26 years old. In his final Test innings in 1937 Gregory was caught Hedley Verity, bowled Ken Farnes. All three had perished by the end of the war.

(Wiki Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Jack Gregory (NSW) (right-arm fast) – 24 Tests, 1146 runs at 36.96, two centuries, 119 high score, 85 wickets at 31.15, best bowling 7-69
The third Gregory in this team is Jack (nephew of Syd), a fast-bowling all-rounder from the 1920s. An unpredictable, exciting player with both bat and ball. Gregory was the prototype of the modern Australian fast bowler, and he formed a lethal combination with Ted McDonald. In 1921 Gregory sent both stumps and batsmen flying as Australia won the Ashes in Australia and then England by an unprecedented eight-nil margin.

With the bat his century in 70 minutes against South Africa in 1921 was at the time the fastest ever recorded and nearly a century later that record still stands. He achieved his century in only 67 balls and that record stood until bettered by Viv Richards in 1986. And he batted without gloves. And in the field Gregory was an excellent slipper, his 15 catches in the 1921 Ashes is a record that also still stands.

Gregory’s career peaked in his first 12 months, by which time in only 13 Tests he had incredibly taken 57 wickets at 24.4, scored 773 runs at 48.3 including two centuries and taken 30 catches. The remainder of his career was less impressive after he missed a number of seasons due to injuries or other business and sporting interests and he was done after only 24 Tests. But his peak was a place that maybe only Garfield Sobers has ever been to since.

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Harry Graham (VIC) – six Tests, 301 runs at 30.1, two centuries, 107 high score
At number five we have Harry Graham, who played six Tests in the late 1800s. Graham burst onto the scene, topping the tour averages on Australia’s 1893 visit to England, including a double century against Derbyshire. His highlight was 107 at Lord’s on Test debut. Batting at number seven, he came in at 5-75 and left at 7-264. He is one of only three players to score a debut century at the home of cricket and it was 98 years before another Australian made a century on debut away in England (Dirk Wellham).

Graham’s 105 in Sydney in 1895 helped Australia defeat England by an innings. Only one other player in the match scored over 31 (Albert Trott with 85 not out). Graham became one of few batsmen to make a century in both his first home and first away Tests (Michael Clarke was another).

Graham was also an accomplished Australian rules player, kicking 42 goals for Melbourne in the 1892 VFA season.

For all his obvious talent, Graham’s nickname of the Little Dasher might give some insight into his inconsistency. He hit two centuries in only ten Test innings, but only one other score over 20. At the time it was considered he was too carefree to make the most of his talent. His career flared only briefly and by the age of 41 he had passed away after being consigned to a mental institution suffering from alcoholism.

Adam Gilchrist (NSW/WA) (wicketkeeper) – 96 Tests, 5570 runs at 47.6, 17 centuries, 204* high score, 379 catches and 37 stumpings, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Well, what more can be said about Adam Gilchrist? In terms of influence on the game of cricket, he ranks with Don Bradman and Shane Warne in Australian cricket history.

Adam Gilchrist

(Photo by Philip Brown/Getty Images)

After biding his time behind Ian Healy, Gilchrist made an immediate impact on Test cricket, scoring 81 from only 88 balls on debut. In only his second Test Gilchrist effectively won Australia a Test match in Hobart against Pakistan with an amazing unbeaten fourth-innings century, 149 from 163 balls. Gilchrist went on to win his first 15 Tests in a row.

Gilchrist’s batting record for a wicketkeeper was unprecedented and his attacking style was a leap forward for the game. After 47 Tests his average was over 60 and it did not dip below 50 until his 80th match. A career strike rate of nearly 82 demonstrates Gilchrist’s unique ability to turn a match in a session.

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Everyone remembers his assault on Monty Panesar in Perth, where he came within a ball or two of breaking Viv Richards’ record for the fastest Test century. But there was also the 2002 series in South Afrcia where Gilchrist simply destroyed the opposition, belting eight sixes on the way to an unbeaten double century. He scored 473 runs at an average of 157.6 and a strike rate of 99.8 on that tour, numbers that are actually hard to imagine.

But Gilchrist was not just a dasher. His uncomplicated game and incredible eye was effective in all conditions, with centuries in seven different countries: Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies. Gilchrist averaged over 40 against and in every country except India (and for two away Tests in the UAE), but Gilchrist in India maybe had his finest hour in 2004, captaining Australia to a rare series victory.

To show his importance to possibly the greatest Test team in history, when Australia won, Gilchrist averaged over 54, but when they lost he averaged under 30. He averaged over 50 in all away Tests as a wicketkeeper, which is mind-blowing.

And he was a damn fine keeper as well. Adam Gilchrist was simply compulsory viewing, and just maybe as good an all-round cricketer as this country has ever produced.

Gary Gilmour (NSW) (right-arm fast medium) – 15 Tests, 483 runs at 23.00, one century, 101 high score, 54 wickets at 26.03, best bowling 6-85
This team is full of swashbuckling, carefree players. Gary Gilmour would have made a fortune in the T20 age, but instead had a short but effective Test career.

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Gilmour’s talents were obvious right from the beginning as he hit a century on debut for NSW. His first Test was also a memorable match for him, scoring 52 off only 58 balls and taking four wickets against New Zealand. His career was cut short through injury and he was not the most consistent player, but his talent was undeniable.

Gilmour’s finest hour was not in the Test arena, but in the 1975 ODI World Cup. Gilmour was not selected in the XI until the semi-final against England, where he picked up the amazing figures of six wickets for 14 runs in 12 overs, before hitting a run-a-ball 28 to help get Australia over the line in a low-scoring match. It was possibly the best bowling performance in a limited-overs international. He took another five-wicket haul in the final, although Australia were beaten by the West Indies.

Gilmour was not the most serious of cricketers and the story goes that his only Test century, in 1977 against New Zealand, was scored while suffering a raging hangover. Gilmour and Walters were not out overnight and proceeded to enjoy their evening in a big way before coming out the following morning to continue their 217-run partnership.

Tom Garrett (NSW) (right-arm fast medium) – 19 Tests, 36 wickets at 26.94, best bowling 6-78
Tom Garrett was an Australian cricket pioneer playing in the first Test in 1877 as an 18-year-old and touring England three times during the 1880s. He was a regular in the Test team, but his best performances were in the tour matches, hence his first-class career of 446 wickets at less than 19. At Test level he only once took more than five wickets in a match (nine in Sydney in 1882) and only once scored more than 50 (again in Sydney three years later). At domestic level Garrett captained NSW to two Sheffield Shield titles.

In the first ever Test innings, Garrett’s 18 not out was the second highest score behind Charles Bannerman’s 165. Garrett also was involved in an unusual situation in the 1885 Test at the MCG. The umpire, upset at the English tourists’ continual appealing, refused to continue after the tea break. Australian player Garrett, who had already been dismissed, came out and acted as umpire.

Jason Gillespie (SA) (right-arm fast) – 71 Tests, 259 wickets at 26.13, best bowling 7-37
‘Dizzy’ Gillespie was a great fast bowler and but for Glenn McGrath would be considered close to the best of his time. He took over 250 Test wickets during his career (sixth on Australia’s all-time list) and was a vital part of Australia’s golden age of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Together they formed another of Australia’s great opening bowling partnerships. Maybe the best, but that’s a whole different article.

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With his ability to move the ball both ways off the seam at pace, Gillespie was a great success in all conditions, averaging under 40 against every opposition and in every country except New Zealand. His away average of under 27 at a strike rate under 55 was vital to Australia’s dominance of the period. From 1997 to 2004 Gillespie never averaged over 33. He was accurate and attacked the stumps, which accounted for his sub-23 average in the fourth innings. Amazingly he never took ten wickets in a match, although he took nine three times.

Some of Gillespie’s finest performances came in important wins for Australia. In 1997 in the second Test against South Africa at Port Elizabeth, Gillespie took 5-54 in the first innings and 3-49 in the second as Australia won an extremely tight match by two wickets. This match was famous for a superb Mark Waugh century as Australia chased down 271 to win, with the winning runs being a six by Ian Healy. But Gillespie’s contribution was vital. His five first-innings wickets were all top-order players plus all-rounder Shaun Pollock. Gillespie had Gary Kirsten, Jacques Kallis and Pollock each for ducks. His three second-innings wickets were all from South Africa’s top four, removing both openers after an 87-run opening stand that threatened to take the game away from Australia.

Later that year in the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley, Gillespie’s first-innings 7-37 shot England out for 172, leaving them to lose by an innings after Australia responded with over 500 runs.

In the 2000 Boxing Day Test against the West Indies, the visitors were left chasing over 450 for an unlikely victory, which turned completely impossible as Gillespie removed every single one of their top six inside the first 20 overs, including the great Brian Lara bowled for a duck.

Australian pace bowler Jason Gillespie celebrates

(AAP Photo/Julian Smith)

In the decisive third Test of Australia’s famous 2004 away series victory in India, after Australia opened with a solid 398, Gillespie combined with McGrath to reduced India’s first innings to 185 all out. Gillespie’s five wickets included Sachin Tendulkar LBW for just eight runs. His four second-innings wickets as India failed an impossible chase included bowling Aakash Chopra and Rahul Dravid inside the first six overs to leave the home side reeling at 2-9.

Of course Gillespie’s other claim to fame is his remarkable double century scored against Bangladesh in his final Test, his 201 being by far the highest ever score by a nightwatchman.

Johnny Gleeson (NSW) (leg spin) – 29 Tests, 93 wickets at 36.2, best bowling 5-61
Johnny Gleeson was a mystery spinner in the 1960s to 1970s for Australia, bowling his leg breaks with an unusual two-fingered grip. Gleeson was highly successful at domestic level, taking 430 first-class wickets at an average of only 24.95.

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At Test level Gleeson had some memorable moments, but after his first few series opposition players became better at reading him and his strike rate ballooned as he was used primarily as an accurate defensive bowler. His greatest success was during the West Indies’ 1968-69 tour of Australia, where Gleeson took at least four wickets in each match and 26 in the series as Australia won the Frank Worrell Trophy.

Gleeson was not much interested in the party lifestyle of some of his fellow cricketers of the time and earned the nickname ‘Cho’ – Cricket Hours Only.

Clarrie Grimmett (SA) (leg spin) – 37 Tests, 216 wickets at 24.21, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Rounding out the G team is the great Clarrie Grimmett. Along with Bill O’Reilly, Richie Benaud and Shane Warne, Grimmett is considered one of the greatest leg-spinners of all time. Unusually, Grimmett and O’Reilly formed a lethal leg-spinning partnership at Test level.

Grimmett hailed from New Zealand, well before they had been granted Test status and he came to Australia for a working holiday and never returned. His first-class stats for South Australia are truly mind-boggling. At Test level he was irresistible, becoming the first player to take 200 Test wickets and he was the fastest to that mark for more than 80 years.

After first being picked in 1925 as a 33-year-old, Grimmett dominated cricket for the next decade. He took 11 wickets in his first Test and by the time he went to England in 1930 he was a match-winner, taking a record 29 wickets in the series. But this was just the beginning. Grimmett took a whopping 33 wickets in each of Australia’s next two home series against the West Indies and South Africa.

In 1935-36 Grimmett took 44 wickets in a single series against South Africa. Amazingly, this was to be his last series, as he was considered too old for international cricket at 43, despite 13 wickets in what turned out to be his final Test match. It was to be his seventh and final ten-wicket haul in only 29 matches. Just think about that. Grimmett took a ten-wicket haul in every fourth Test he played.

He played on in the Sheffield Shield for a number of years, taking 73 wickets in a single season in 1939-40 at 47 years old. Overall Grimmett took 1424 first-class wickets at an average of 22.28.

Grimmett is credited with inventing the flipper, later mastered by Shane Warne. Grimmett used to snap the fingers on his left hand to disguise when the flipper was sent down with a snap of his bowling fingers.

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Next we have the very strong H team, with one of the best batting line-ups in the whole competition.

And I haven’t normally been putting in honourable mentions, but spare a thought for the great Wally Grout. A member of the Cricket Australia Hall of Fame and veteran of 51 Tests, Grout is a victim of there only being one keeper per side. I seriously considered playing Gilchrist as a batsman, but elected to maintain the structure of the team. But Grout would walk into virtually any other team.