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

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Roar Guru
8th March, 2020
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So following on from last time’s L team, we come to the M team.

This is another very strong team, with a lot of difficult decisions on who to leave out. The batting line-up is dynamic, the all-rounder is a superstar, the keeper is a legend and the bowling line-up has even more Test wickets than the L team.

Arthur Morris (NSW) – 46 Tests, 3533 runs at 46.48, 12 centuries, high score 206, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame, ACB Team of the Century
Opening the batting is Arthur Morris, often considered Australia’s greatest opening batsman. The left-hander is best remembered for starring on the 1948 Invincibles tour, scoring 696 runs across the series including three centuries.

This included Australia’s memorable chase of 404 in the fourth Test at Headingley, Morris contributing 182. Morris did even better in the next, scoring 196 (run out) in Australia’s first innings as they won by an innings and 149 runs. The next best score from either side in the entire match was 64.

Morris started his Test career straight after World War Two, but he had already been noticed as something special some years before, when at only 18 he became the first player in history to score a century in each innings on first-class debut.

As an experienced player on Test debut he was able to have an almost immediate impact, contributing his first century in only his third Test. He followed that up with a century in each innings of his next Test and his place was assured.

All up Morris scored nine centuries in his first 19 Tests and was averaging 67.77. This was the period upon which his reputation is built, because he only averaged 34 over his last 27 Tests. But at his peak there was no better opening batsman.

(AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Charles Macartney (NSW) (left-arm orthodox) – 35 Tests, 2131 runs at 41.78, seven centuries, high score 170, 45 wickets at 27.55, best bowling 7-58, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
‘The Governor General’ Charles Macartney was a hard hitting batsman from the early part of the 20th Century. He started out as a bowling all-rounder and his left-arm orthodox offerings were good enough to take ten wickets in a Test at Headingley in 1909.

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By the time international cricket was paused due to the War, Macartney averaged only 26.63 with the bat from 21 Tests (although he had taken 34 wickets at 26 with his bowling). But his batting was starting to develop, having averaged around 44 in England in his final series before the War.

Macartney’s batting truly blossomed after World War One and he became one of the leading batsmen in the world. From the end of the War, Macartney averaged nearly 70 across his final 14 Tests. He topped the first-class averages during Warwick Armstrong’s 1921 Ashes victory. This included a triple century in a first-class match that was at the time the fastest in history and the most runs scored in a single day.

After a five-year break from international cricket and although nearing retirement, Macartney played possibly his best cricket on the 1926 Ashes tour. He scored three centuries and averaged nearly 95 for the tour, including a century before lunch during the third Test at Headlingley.

Macartney was the subject of a selection controversy during the 1911-12 home Ashes. Captain Clem Hill wanted Macartney in the third Test team so badly that he came to blows with another selector and had to be restrained from throwing the man out a window. Macartney was still not selected.

Stan McCabe (NSW) – 39 Tests, 2748 runs at 48.21, six centuries, high score 232, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
This team will definitely be stylish. Stan McCabe follows Macartney to the crease. McCabe was not quite the greatest batsman of his era (Don Bradman and George Headley took care of that), however he was possibly the player of the finest innings of his time.

The legend is well known of his double century at Trent Bridge in 1938 when Bradman called his team to the balcony to watch, saying they would never see anything like it again. He scored 232 in only 235 minutes.

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McCabe was notable for a number of other great knocks. During the 1932-33 Bodyline series, in the second Test at Sydney, McCabe took on the short-pitched bowling in spectacular fashion, scoring 187 not out in 233 balls. Up to that time McCabe had averaged only 33 from his 15 Tests with no centuries. From that point until the end of his career, McCabe averaged 55 from his final 24 Tests.

In South Africa in 1935-36 McCabe caused a situation truly unique in cricket history. As he was pasting the South African bowlers powerfully to all parts in fading light, the fielding captain actually appealed to the umpires for the light, saying his fielders were in danger of being hurt, such was the ferocity of McCabe’s stroke play. He finished with 189 not out, from a total of 257 scored while he was at the crease.

Damien Martyn (WA) – 67 Tests, 4406 runs at 46.37, 13 centuries, high score 165
Coming in at number four we have another stylish batsman. Damien Martyn was possibly the most graceful Australian batsman of his generation. After a false start as a highly talented youngster, Martyn came back after more than six years in the wilderness to become a key part of one of Australia’s most successful periods.

The Western Australian was earmarked as a special player early on and was first selected for Tests in 1992 aged only 21. He struggled for impact however, and after Australia lost a Test in 1994 against South Africa when chasing only 115, Martyn bore the brunt of the consequences and was dropped from the team. Martyn had been the last recognised batsmen during the chase, but after struggling to only six runs from 59 balls, he was caught at cover attempting to clear the infield with his team in sight of victory.

A more mature player returned to the Test side in 2000. After some solid performances, Martyn played an important role in Australia’s 2001 Ashes win in England and he retained his place for the next five years. He was especially valuable in the sub-continent, averaging over 50 in India and Sri Lanka, taming Muttiah Muralitharan on Australia’s 2004 tour of Sri Lanka, scoring 333 runs at 55.5 in the three Test series.

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And then Martyn scored 444 at 55.5 during the team’s landmark 2004 series win in India, being named man of the series. In 2005 he was named Australia’s Test cricketer of the year.

Martyn struggled in the 2005 away Ashes loss like many others, but he returned to the side in 2006, enjoying a successful tour of South Africa (225 runs at 56). He remained for the 2006-07 home Ashes but retired suddenly after the first two Tests.

All smiles after Australia's historic Test series win in 2004

Damien Martyn was a key member of those great Australian sides of the early 2000s. (AP Photo/Aman Sharma)

Billy Murdoch (VIC) (captain) – 18 Tests, 908 runs at 31.31, two centuries, high score 212, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Leading all these fine players is Australia’s first elite batsman, Billy Murdoch. In the late 1800s he was acknowledged as Australia’s best and behind only WG Grace in his overall standing in the game.

Murdoch captained Australia in 16 of his 18 Tests. He was the first player to score a Test double century, the first Australian to score a triple century in first-class cricket and the first Australian to carry his bat through a first-class innings.

Murdoch made four tours to England and captained Australia on the famous 1882 tour that gave rise to the Ashes. Murdoch topped Australia’s batting averages in three of those four tours.

His reputation was very great in England: he averaged over 45 in Tests in England and scored both of his centuries there, including in the first ever Test in England in 1880. In that Test he scored 153 not out, beating WG Grace’s 152. There was extra reason to celebrate this as Murdoch had bet Grace a sovereign he could do it and he wore his winnings on his watch chain thereafter.

Later in his career Murdoch settled in England, played county cricket for a decade and represented them in one Test in 1902.

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Keith Miller (NSW) – 55 Tests, 2958 runs at 36.97, seven centuries, 170 wickets at 22.97, best bowling 7-60, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame, ACB Team of the Century
Rounding out the batting order is Australia’s finest ever all-rounder and possibly most charismatic cricketer, Keith Miller.

Putting aside his “Messerschmitt up the arse” comment and his rumoured romance with royalty, Miller was a dominant batsman and also formed one of Australia’s best ever opening bowling partnerships, with the great Ray Lindwall.

The difference between Miller’s batting and bowling averages (often used to measure an all-rounder) of 14 is one of the very best. Unlike Garfield Sobers and Jacques Kallis, Miller’s statistics show him as an absolutely elite bowler and a good batsman, as opposed to a great batsman who could bowl very well. This puts him in the Imran Khan mould (Khan averaged 37.69 with the bat and 22.81 with the ball). These four are likely the greatest all-rounders in history.

Miller had comfortably better batting and bowling averages than Ian Botham and Kapil Dev. He nearly matched Richard Hadlee with the ball and easily covered him with the bat.

Miller dined out against the West Indies in the 1950s, scoring four centuries in only ten innings, three of them away from home. His three remaining centuries were all against England, two at home. His batting was at its best early in his career, and he was still averaging over 45 after 25 Tests. And at that time his bowling average was 21, truly remarkable statistics.

But as injuries and age caught up with him his statistics retreated slightly from these outstanding levels. His bowling average over his last 24 Tests was over 25, with a strike rate of over 66 – still very good, but not what it once was.

At first-class level Miller averaged nearly 49 with the bat and still only 22 with the ball. And none of that conveys anything like what Keith Miller was to Australian cricket. He was the golden child, the war hero, who every man aspired to be and every woman aspired to be with. And possibly the greatest all-round cricketer this country has ever produced.

Rod Marsh (WA) (wicketkeeper) – 96 Tests, 3633 runs at 26.51, three centuries, 343 catches and 12 stumpings, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
At number seven we have the early prototype of the modern keeper-batsman, Rod Marsh. Marsh began as a talented and hard-hitting batsman, whose less than graceful keeping earned his the nickname ‘Iron Gloves’ and led to controversy when he was selected for the Test team ahead of the Brian Taber.

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But Marsh developed his glove work and by the end of his career he held the world record for Test dismissals. And 95 dismissals caught Marsh, bowled Lillee is a record that still stands today.

Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee

(Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

The image of Marsh diving full length to take one-handed catches from the quicks is an enduring one.

Marsh’s batting was a step ahead of any previous Australian keeper. He was the first wicketkeeper from this country to score a Test century and he finished his career with three to his name. His value in providing lower-order resistance can be demonstrated by the team winning every Test where he scored a hundred.

Marsh’s early innings were almost Gilchrist-like affairs, including this series of knocks.

In 1972 in Manchester, he scored 91 from only 111 balls in a losing cause. In a low-scoring match, no other batsman from either side scored more than 70.

In 1972 in Adelaide, he scored 118 from only 123 balls, including four sixes, as Australia spanked Pakistan by an innings. And then in the following Test in Melbourne he scored 74 from 83 balls as Australia chased a declaration against the same opponent.

This cemented his hard-hitting reputation, but Marsh could also dig Australia out of holes. He especially liked breaking Kiwi hearts.

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In 1974 in Adelaide, he took Australia from 5-221 to 477 all out, scoring 132 runs. NZ ended up losing by an innings.

In 1980 in Perth, in response to NZ’s 196, Australia were 5-68 before Marsh’s 91 took them to a 70-run first-innings lead and eventually an eight-wicket victory.

But possibly his greatest moment was in the 1977 Centenary Test. On maybe the biggest stage of all, Australia had been bowled out for only 138 and had lost Rick McCosker to a shattered jaw. Dennis Lillee responded by bowling England out for only 95, with caught Marsh, bowled Lillee being recorded three times.

On an improving pitch Australia were a long way from setting a tough target at 5-187 when Marsh strode to the crease and scored the first ever century by an Australian wicketkeeper against England, 110 not out, as the innings closed at 9-419. McCosker had come out swathed in bandages to contribute a 54-run partnership at the end.

It was a vital partnership as it turned out, as Australia only fell over the line by 45 runs, with Derek Randall playing one of the all-time great innings in a losing cause.

After a two-year absence from the Test team during World Series Cricket, Marsh returned as a lesser batsman, whose aggressive reputation no longer reflected the reality. His batting average had peaked at 38 after 22 Tests, and he averaged nearly 33 by 1977 when WSC broke. But by the time of his retirement this had fallen to 26.5.

Garth McKenzie (WA) – 60 Tests, 246 wickets at 29.78, best bowling 8-71, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Garth McKenzie was a skilful and big-hearted bowler from WA who carried the Australian team’s pace-bowling fortunes during the 1960s. He finished just two shy of the then all-time Australian wickets record set by Richie Benaud.

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McKenzie started his Test career in the best possible fashion in 1960, getting his name on the honours board at Lord’s on debut, his 5-37 in the second innings leaving Australia only 69 to chase for a memorable win. He was a regular in the team thereafter and was the first in a wave of Western Australians who broke through into the Test team through the 1960s and 1970s.

McKenzie was one of the few fast bowlers who was very comfortable in India, taking 34 wickets in eight matches at an average under 20. By 1964 he was the top-ranked pace bowler in the world, after taking 29 wickets at 22.55 on the successful 1964 Ashes tour of England, a performance at that time that had only been equalled by Clarrie Grimmett over 30 years before.

But the going became tougher thereafter and McKenzie often racked up a lot of overs and had a high strike rate by pace-bowling standards (career strike rate of 71.8).

After a relatively lean period in the mid 1960s McKenzie had two great series – in 1968 at home to the West Indies, when he took 30 wickets, and then in the 1969 tour of India, when he took 21 wickets at an average of 21.

That tour took its toll however, and an exhausted McKenzie (and the entire team) were immediately thrown into an away tour against the all-time great South African side of the time. Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock and company tore McKenzie to pieces as he took only a single wicket across three Tests. After a lean home Ashes in 1970, McKenzie’s Test career was over.

Craig McDermott (QLD) – 71 Tests, 291 wickets at 28.63, best bowling 8-97, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Our most recent inductee into Cricket Australia Hall of Fame is Craig McDermott. ‘Billy the Kid’ was a talented pace and swing bowler for Queensland and Australia, who came to prominence during Australia’s low point in the 1980s and took nearly 300 wickets despite a career blighted by serious injuries.

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McDermott had a tough introduction to Test cricket as a 19-year-old, playing against the West Indies at their peak at the MCG. His fast outswing startled the tourists and he took three quick wickets – Richie Richardson, Jeffrey Dujon and Larry Gomes, before Viv Richards grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and normal service was resumed. McDermott’s six wickets for the match indicated that Australia may have found its next fast bowler and for the most part McDermott was the team’s spearhead in the period between Dennis Lillee and Glenn McGrath.

This included taking at least 30 wickets in a series three times – in 1985 in the away Ashes against England, in 1991-92 at home against India and in the 1994-95 home Ashes. That puts McDermott in very elite company. McGrath is the only other Australian pace bowler to achieve this feat (among spinners it’s been done by Benaud, Shane Warne and Grimmett, who did it four times).

McDermott finished his career as Australia’s second highest wicket-taking pace bowler, behind only Dennis Lillee. McDermott was also an important one-day player for Australia during the period. He was the highest wicket-taker in the 1987 World Cup and took five wickets in the semi-final against Pakistan as Australia went on to win the tournament.

Stuart MacGill (NSW) – 44 Tests, 208 wickets at 29.02, best bowling 8-108
Stuart MacGill was the world’s greatest understudy. Despite spending his career in the huge shadow of Shane Warne, MacGill took over 200 wickets in only 44 Tests and won many matches for Australia.

Stuart MacGill

(Image: paddynapper CC BY-SA 2.0)

MacGill was generally confined to playing during Warne’s injury or misadventure-enforced absences. He was less accurate than Warne and maybe not as adept at thinking a batsman out, but he was a vicious spinner of the ball who sent down regular wicket-taking deliveries. His strike rate of 54 is one of the best for a spinner.

Whenever MacGill got an extended run in the team he generally made an impact. In the home Ashes of 1998-99 MacGill took 27 wickets at 17.7 including 12 in the Sydney Test. He followed that up with 28 wickets across home and away series against the West Indies in 1999 and 2000. At that point his average was 25 with a strike rate under 50 balls.

After that period MacGill only played more than two Tests in a series twice. He feasted against Pakistan and Bangladesh (he took 33 wickets against the Tigers at 15.75 in only four Tests) but was not quite as effective against other teams, although amazingly MacGill never played in a losing series.

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Unfortunately when Warne finally retired, MacGill’s body was no longer up to the rigours of Test cricket and his chance of an extended run in the team had passed him by.

Glenn McGrath (NSW) – 124 Tests, 563 wickets at 21.64, best bowling 8-24, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Glenn McGrath made boring sexy again. His metronomic accuracy, control over line and length, high cricketing intelligence and patience made him the greatest pace bowler of his generation.

It’s been said that McGrath can remember and describe every one of his 563 Test wickets (at the time of his retirement, the most by a pace bowler). Without the highlights reel of a Lillee, Jeff Thomson or Mitchell Johnson, McGrath probably won more Tests for his country than any player before or since.

There are too many highlights to mention. McGrath tormented England (especially Mike Atherton) taking 157 wickets at under 21, toyed with the West Indies (especially at home) taking 110 wickets at 19.38, but he averaged under 27.5 against every Test-playing nation and 31 or under in every country. McGrath averaged an especially impressive 21.3 in India.

His home average of 22.43 sounds like an all-time great, but amazingly is higher than his away average of 21.35. From his breakthrough year in 1995 (when he spearheaded Australia to a de facto world championship victory in the West Indies), he only averaged over 30 in one of the next 13 calendar years. And in 11 of those he averaged under 23.50. He was equally effective in any innings, whether bowling first or second.

There were simply no weaknesses. That was Glenn McGrath.

Such was the depth of this team that there are another ten players who played more than 20 Tests who missed selection, including such names as Ashley Mallett, Rick McCosker, Ken ‘Slasher’ Mackay and all the Marshes.

We next tackle the N team. Put it this way, most of the players in the honourable mention list above would likely make the N team (even the Marshes – okay, I’ve given you the ammo, fire away!).

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