Following on from last time’s G team, we come to the H XI, one of the real contenders.
They have a frighteningly good batting line-up, an all-time great keeper and a very strong bowling attack.
Phil Hughes (NSW) – 26 Tests, 1535 runs at 32.65, three centuries, 160 high score
Many words have been written about the tragedy of Phillip Hughes’ death at only 25 by better writers than myself. With potentially a decade of top-level cricket denied to us, we will never know what could have been. What we are left with is a precocious talent who was just gaining the consistency to convert his impressive first-class record into a long-term Test career.
That first-class record stands at 9023 runs at 57.11 with 26 centuries, one of the finest first-class careers by an Australian in the modern era.
At Test level Hughes started brilliantly in 2009. In only his second Test he became the youngest player in history to score a century in each innings of a Test match. This occurred in an away game in South Africa, one of the most difficult places for an opening batsman.
Hughes’ first five Tests were all away and this may have contributed to diminishing returns as he struggled in the 2009 Ashes series. Despite his obvious talent, Hughes was rarely afforded a lengthy run in the Test side and only played in three or four full Test series. Further highlights included a century in Sri Lanka in 2011 to gain Australia a draw and a fighting 81 not out in Nottingham in 2013 from the unfamiliar number six position as he combined with Ashton Agar for the largest tenth-wicket stand in history.
After one more lean Test Hughes was dropped again and tragically this time there was no further opportunity to return.
Matt Hayden (QLD) – 103 Tests, 8625 runs at 50.73, 30 centuries, 380 high score, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Joining Hughes at the top is Australia’s most intimidating opening batsman, Matt Hayden. Hayden had a fairly long road of outstanding Shield performances and a few false starts before establishing himself in the Test side. He broke through with 549 runs in a three-match series in the famous 2001 away series against India. A famously hard worker, Hayden spent countless hours practising his sweep shot on scuffed-up pitches to prepare for that series.
From that point on Hayden was a fixture at the top of the order. He formed a successful partnership with Justin Langer and by the end of his career had reached 100 Tests, over 8500 runs and matched his first-class average of over 50. Thirty centuries in 103 Tests is a remarkable ratio, even more so from an opening batsman. Hayden was an aggressive player, often walking down the wicket towards the opposition opening bowlers early in his innings.
Apart from that marvellous India series, other highlights included giving Nasser Hussain recurring nightmares, after he sent Australia into bat at the Gabba, as Hayden pummelled his way to 186 not out by the end of the first day. He added another century in the second innings for good measure and the Ashes were effectively over from that point.
Across late 2001 into early 2002, Hayden hit centuries in four consecutive Tests against South Africa, home and away. And in the fifth Test of the sequence he hit 96 to be a boundary away from five on the trot.
At his peak Hayden achieved the fourth highest ever rating for an Australian batsman in the ICC ratings, behind only Don Bradman, Steve Smith and Ricky Ponting. Only the two legendary Englishmen, Len Hutton and Jack Hobbs, had higher ratings as openers.
And there was the small matter of 380 runs against Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003 to briefly wrest the world-record score in a single Test innings from Brian Lara.
Neil Harvey (NSW/VIC) – 79 Tests, 6149 runs at 48.41, 21 centuries, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame, ACB Team of the Century
At first drop we have Neil Harvey, the first best since Bradman. Despite carrying that baggage for his entire career he forged a record matched by very few. Some highlights include scoring over 600 runs in three different series, including a whopping 834 in the 1952-53 series against South Africa.
In that series Harvey also became one of only four Australians to score four centuries in a series (along with Bradman, Doug Walters and Smith) and he had already done it in 1949-50 (only Bradman did it three times). Harvey also had seven scores over 50 in that 1952-53 series. Only Greg Chappell and Mark Taylor have achieved that feat.
With over 6000 runs at nearly 50, Harvey was the undisputed number two to Bradman, probably until the arrival of Greg Chappell in the early 1970s, and he is still in the discussion for any all-time Australian Test side. He had an away average over 51 and was still averaging over 60 eight years after his debut. His closing average is the result of struggling over his final few years, but at his peak there were few better than Neil Harvey.
Clem Hill (SA) – 49 Tests, 3412 runs at 39.21, seven centuries, 191 high score, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Coming in at number four we have Clem Hill, one of this country’s first great batsmen. The left-hander was sometimes overshadowed by the artistry of Victor Trumper, but like Steve Waugh compared to brother Mark, Hill’s ruthlessness and determination made him a match for the great Trumper.
From one more Test match Hill scored nearly 250 more Test runs at a slightly higher average. Their first-class records are almost identical as well, with Trumper having the slightly higher average, while Hill had more runs and hundreds.
Hill’s average of 39.21 was extremely high for the period. He toured England four times but his greatest batting moment probably came at home. In 1895 with Australia struggling at 6-57 against the touring English, Hill scored 188 as Australia romped to an eight-wicket victory.
Hill headed the averages on the 1899 tour of England and scored 135 at Lord’s (as did Trumper – the exact same score) to bring up the only win by either side in the series.
As a first drop, Hill scored seven centuries in 49 tTests, but also has the rather unfortunate record of another four scores over 95.
Domestically Hill held the all-time Sheffield Shield scoring record until overtaken by Don Bradman.
Hill was a rough-and-ready type, like Ian Chappell nearly 80 years later. He famously got into a fist fight and threatened to throw a cricket official out a window in 1912 over a dispute about the players’ right to choose their manager for the upcoming tour of England. In the end Hill boycotted the tour, along with Trumper and others.
Lindsay Hassett (VIC) (captain) – 43 Tests, 3073 runs at 46.56, ten centuries, 198* high score, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
I said this team had some batting. At number five, in comes all-time great Lindsay Hassett. Hassett was a shrewd but affable and well liked captain with 14 Test wins and only four losses, and that may have overshadowed just how good a batsman he was.
Hassett scored ten centuries in a 43-Test career interrupted by the Second World War, but he also scored over 16,000 first-class runs at an average of 58.24. Of those who have scored more than 10,000 first-class runs, Hassett’s average is the fifth highest ever.
After a slow start as a youngster before the war, by 1946 Hassett was chosen to captain an Australian XI on a Victory Tour of England. He returned to the Australian side as Bradman’s vice-captain and took the captaincy on his retirement in 1949.
In eight series between 1946 and 1953, Hassett never scored less than 300 runs and only once averaged under 40, in his farewell tour of England. That final series was also the only one that Hassett ever lost. In terms of win-loss ratio, Hassett sits only behind Bradman and Steve Waugh as our most successful captain.
Hassett was renowned for his footwork and his ability against spin bowling. He was the only player to ever a century in each innings of a first-class match against the great leg-spinner Bill O’Reilly.
Mike Hussey (WA) – 79 Tests, 6235 runs at 51.52, 19 centuries
And the batting masterclass continues. Mr Cricket Mike Hussey is at six, the late bloomer who at one point was heading into territory that few players before or since have ventured.
Hussey debuted for Australia after his 30th birthday with over 15,000 first-class runs in the bank (the most ever), and such was his impact that he ended his career with 79 Tests, over 5000 runs at 51.52 and almost universal respect and admiration for his work ethic and ability.
Hussey hit a first-innings century as an opener in only his second Test and was named man of the match. In his next Test, although a natural opener, he was moved down the order where he stayed for most of his Test career. He responded with an amazing not-out century in the first innings, sharing a 60-run last-wicket stand with Glenn McGrath, who contributed only five. To show this was no fluke, only three Tests later Hussey and McGrath combined for a massive 107 last-wicket stand, with McGrath scoring only 11.
Although Hussey was selected in 2005 as Australia’s long reign at the top of world cricket was starting to wind down, it still took 21 Tests before he tasted Test defeat. At that point his batting average was over 80! He remained a fixture in the side for a further four years, but his returns became those of mere mortals.
Hussey scored at least one century in each of his next five series, including in the famous 2006 whitewash of England. In that series Hussey had the honour of hitting the winning runs in the Adelaide miracle Test win, where England lost after declaring at 6-551 in their first innings.
A great pressure player, Hussey’s fourth-innings average of 52.41 at a strike rate over 50 is possibly his most impressive achievement. Hussey retired in 2013, possibly prematurely after averaging 59 and 116 in his last two series.
Hussey was possibly even more valuable in limited-overs cricket, where he followed in Michael Bevan’s footsteps as the ultimate finisher. He averaged over 48 at a strike rate over 87. If his Test career started well, consider that his ODI average after his first 18 matches was over 123!
And Hussey could go in the T20 arena as well. His most famous innings was the semi-final of the 2010 T20 World Cup against Pakistan. Chasing a daunting 192 for a place in the final, Australia had slumped to 7-144, still requiring 48 from just 17 balls. At this point Hussey was on 16 from 11 balls. He then went berserk, scoring 44 from 13 balls, including three sixes and a four from the last four balls of the innings to steal the match.
Ian Healy (QLD) (wicketkeeper) – 119 Tests, 4356 runs at 27.39, four centuries, 366 catches and 29 stumpings, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame, ACB Team of the Century
After the retirement of the great Rodney Marsh, Australia spent a few years struggling to find a long-term keeper for the Australian side. After many false starts, Ian Healy was plucked from obscurity after just six first-class games, when he was only Queensland’s first-choice keeper due to an injury to Peter Anderson.
What followed was 119 Tests of durability and excellence, only halted by the emergence of Adam Gilchrist. During that period Healy only ever missed one single Test, despite carrying many finger injuries over the years. Healy was the heartbeat of Australia’s rise to domination of world cricket and his keeping to the great leg-spinner Shane Warne was virtually faultless.
Healy’s was most prolific against England, where between 1990 and 1997 he had 135 dismissals across six series in the 1990s at more than four per Test, his highest ratio against any opponent. Bunch of nickers, those 1990s Englishmen!
Healy was also a handy batsman, in the pre-Gilchrist style of keeper. He hit a memorable six to win a Test in Port Elizabeth against South Africa in 1997, but also scored four centuries. His first was a sprightly not-out century in Manchester in 1993 as the dominant Australians raced to set up a declaration.
The rest were first-innings centuries at home, including two at his own Gabba ground. These were generally turning a vulnerable position of five for less than 200 into a dominant first-innings total, allowing the Australians to dominate.
Healy retired with the most dismissals of any keeper in Test cricket history and was named at keeper in Australia’s Team of the 20th Century.
Ranji Hordern (NSW) (leg spin) – seven Tests, 254 runs at 23.09, 46 wickets at 23.36 average and 46.6 strike rate, best bowling 7-90
Dr Herbert ‘Ranji’ Hordern was Australia’s first significant international leg-spin bowler, paving the way for O’Reilly, Clarrie Grimmett, Richie Benaud and Warne.
An educated man, Hordern studied dentistry in Sydney, Pennsylvania and Edinburgh. Pennsylvania was at the time a significant cricketing power and in 1907 Hordern toured England with the so-called Gentleman of Pennsylvania, where his ability to bowl leg spin and especially the googly made him a great success, including taking eight wickets in an innings against the MCC.
After returning to Australia, Hordern announced himself on a tour of South Africa, taking 14 wickets in two Tests. When England toured in 1911-12 Hordern was a standout, taking 32 wickets including four five-wicket innings hauls and dismissing the great opener Jack Hobbs five times. The next best Australian only took 12 for the series.
And that was the total international career of Ranji Hordern. His medical career took precedence and prevented him touring England and then World War One put a halt to international cricket for a number of years.
Ryan Harris (QLD) (right-arm fast medium) – 27 Tests, 603 runs at 21.53, 113 wickets at 23.52, best bowling 7-117
Ryan Harris. What a lionheart. This late-blooming fast bowler was one of the best of his era, all the while performing with basically no knees and a multitude of other ailments that limited his appearances. But when he was available, he was close to Australia’s most valuable bowler in all conditions.
Harris spent a fairly unremarkable period with South Australia, but when he moved to the Gabba it all started happening for him, leading to Test selection at 29 years old.
Highlights included 24 wickets at under 20 across four Tests in the 2013 away Ashes series, resulting Harris being named man of the series and a Wisden Cricketer of the Year. He followed this up with a brilliant one-two punch alongside Mitchell Johnson in the 2013-14 home Ashes, taking 22 wickets again at less than 20.
And who could forget Harris at Cape Town against South Africa in March 2014, ploughing in late on Day 5 to take the final wickets and win Australia a hard-fought series, despite being barely able to walk as his chronic knees finally succumbed.
Harris rarely managed a full series of bowling, but over his entire career he never had a series average over 34 and he never took less than three wickets per Test. His Test average of 23.52 is among the best of all time, with only Glenn McGrath and Pat Cummins having better for Australia in the past 40 years.
Merv Hughes (VIC) (right-arm fast medium) – 53 Tests, 212 wickets at 28.38, best bowling 8-87
Merv Hughes was larger than life, the darling of Bay 13, the source for many sledging anecdotes and in retirement appears to be on a 365-day supporters’ tour.
Big Merv was also a quality bowler who improved along with the Australian team as they rose from the dark days of the mid-1980s through to the cusp of their rise to world number one.
Hughes’ finest moment was during the 1988-89 West Indies tour of Australia. After losing Geoff Lawson to a broken jaw, Hughes in only his eighth Test took 13 wickets for 217 from 73 overs, including a hat trick.
Over the next few years he added subtlety to his bustling approach and his Test average fell during every block of ten Tests during his entire career. By the 1993 Ashes tour, Hughes was a significant force. After being left as the lone spearhead due to an injury to Craig McDermott, he took 31 wickets as Australia won their second straight away Ashes series. However, the 300 overs bowling that summer ruined his knees and Hughes’ career was over after two more Tests.
Josh Hazlewood (NSW) (right-arm fast medium) – 51 Tests and counting, 195 wickets at 26.20, best bowling 6-67
Josh Hazlewood inherited the role previously played by Glenn McGrath and Stuart Clark in the Australian team. After overcoming numerous injuries early in his career, he has matured into a high-quality pace bowler combining healthy pace, stifling accuracy and just enough movement to make him a handful in all conditions.
Hazlewood has recently passed 50 career Tests, and when fit, forms an integral part of Australia’s big three pace-bowling unit. Hazlewood debuted back in 2014 against India and since then has only once averaged over 35 in a Test series (against South Africa in that series). He has a particular affinity for English batsmen, having taken more than 20 series wickets in each of the last home and away series.
There are a couple of standout unlucky players to miss out on this very strong squad. Kim Hughes, former Australian captain and veteran of 70 Tests, and Brad Haddin, hero of the 2013-14 Ashes and owner of 66 Test caps. In addition, there were another 14 players who have played at least ten Tests that missed out on a spot in this XI.
Next we will take on the I team, where we have managed to cobble together a standalone team, with a couple of mystery bowlers to cause some damage.