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

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Roar Guru
11th March, 2020
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So following on from last time’s very strong M team, we come to the N team.

This team is solid at best. There is not a lot of depth and I have had to head to the Shield ranks to fill this one out. While the batting order is thin, with players probably a little higher up the order than they should be, they bat long, with first class averages over 23 right down to number ten.

Paul Nobes (SA) – 86 first-class games, 6180 runs at 41.75, 15 centuries, 146* high score
Opening the batting is South Australia’s long-term opener from 1988 to 1996, Paul Nobes. Nobes’ record is very solid, although he never seriously pushed for higher honours. He announced himself by scoring 95 against the touring West Indies side in the 1988-89 season, in only his second first-class match. Nobes was a native Victorian and moved back there for two seasons in the early 1990s before returning to South Australia

Between 1993 and 1996 Nobes enjoyed his most productive period, scoring over 700 runs for three consecutive seasons. He was a big-game player, scoring back-to-back centuries in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 Sheffield Shield finals, with the Redbacks winning the title in 1995-96.

Jack Nitschke (SA) – two Tests, 53 runs at 26.5, 45 first-class games, 3320 runs at 42.02, nine centuries, 172 high score
Nobes is joined at the top of the order by another South Australian, Jack ‘Slinger’ Nitschke. Nitschke played two Tests for Australia in the early 1930s but in a highly competitive era for Australia, could not break through to become a regular Test player.

But his record of over 3000 first-class runs at around 42 puts the left-hander in the very solid category. Nitschke had a reputation as an aggressive batsman, and his combative spirit can be demonstrated by scoring two half centuries against Douglas Jardine’s English tourists during the 1932-33 Bodyline series.

Marcus North (WA) – 21 Tests, 1171 runs at 35.48, five centuries, 128 high score, 14 wickets at 42.21, best bowling 6-55
Marcus North was a long time batsman and captain for Western Australia, scoring 13,762 first-class runs at 40.72. He was also a handy change bowler taking over 150 career first-class wickets.

That record would not have got North many Tests in the 1990s but he came along just after 2006 and Australia was in a rebuilding process. North played 21 Tests and scored five centuries, which is an impressive conversion rate. However he was very much rocks and diamonds, as suggested by a mid-30s average.

It all started extremely well. North scored a century on debut, away to South Africa. This was part of an unexpected away triumph against a very strong South African side, engineered by such players as Phil Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Andrew McDonald and North. This was followed by another two away centuries in the 2009 Ashes. North also memorably bowled some of the final few overs as England held on by one wicket for a draw in the first test in Cardiff. This proved to be the difference in the series, and few remember North’s unbeaten 125 to open his Ashes campaign.

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At this point North’s average was nearly 48, but a poor summer against the West Indies and Pakistan (only two half centuries and an average of 23) meant he was not as highly valued by home crowds. His career home average ended at only 21.3, compared to 43.6 away.

From this period onwards North’s inconsistency became more pronounced. In his last 18 Test innings he scored over 90 three times, but with no other score over 30. But a career including centuries in South Africa, England, New Zealand and India showed his ability.

North’s bowling was no more than useful at Test level, apart from a memorable 6-55 at Lord’s in the neutral series against Pakistan, as North spun out the Pakistan team for a 150-run win. Our main spinner in that match also took three second-innings wickets. His name? Steve Smith.

Monty Noble (NSW) (right-arm medium) (captain) – 42 Tests, 1997 runs at 30.25, one century, 121 wickets at 25.00, best bowling 7-17, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Monty Noble was Australia’s premier all-round cricketer in the early 1900s over a decade-long career. His Test batting and bowling averages put him in the elite all-rounder category and he was the second Australian to complete the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in Tests.

Noble also captained his country 15 times, for eight wins and five losses in an era where he only faced a strong England side. Noble regained the Ashes at home in 1907 and then retained them away in 1909 (as we know from recent times, this is not an easy feat). Noble’s batting average as captain was over 38, compared to a career average of 30.

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Noble’s medium pace and off-break bowling was especially valuable at home where he took 78 wickets at under 21, including 6-39 in the second innings on debut.

His greatest bowling performance was 13 wickets in the match in the second Test of the 1902 series. After Australia was bowled out for 112, Noble opened the bowling and took 7-17 as England collapsed to 61 all out. Despite the great English bowler Sid Barnes taking seven second-innings wickets (to go with six in the first innings), Australia surged to a significant lead after reversing their batting order on a drying pitch, Reggie Duff scoring a century from number ten. Noble took another six wickets in the second innings as England ended up losing by more than 200 runs. Noble went on to take 32 wickets for the series.

On the batting front, Noble averaged over 52 on his first tour of England in 1899 and was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1900. His single Test century was accompanied by 16 half centuries.

Noble seemed to rarely have both his batting and bowling in order at once. He took over seven or more wickets in a match seven times, and scored 100 runs in a match four times, but they never overlapped. His bowling dropped off in the second half of his career but his batting remained fairly consistent throughout.

At first-class level Noble scored nearly 14,000 runs at an average over 40 and took 624 wickets at just over 23.

Peter Nevill (NSW) (wicketkeeper) – 17 Tests, 468 runs at 22.28, 61 catches and two stumpings
Peter Nevill has been a high-quality long-term keeper for NSW, strong enough to bat in the top six and reliable behind the stumps. He was given an extended run of 17 Tests between July 2015 and November 2016, but could not translate his domestic batting results to the Test arena.

Also considered too quiet for the Australian team ethos at the time, Nevill was dropped in favour of Matthew Wade, more vocal but less competent behind the stumps, after Australia’s catastrophic defeat by South Africa in Hobart. This was only one Test after Nevill had scored 60 not out from 153 balls against the South Africans in a second-innings rear-guard in Perth.

Nevill’s first-class record is very sound, with 5198 runs at 37.66 including ten centuries as well as 361 dismissals. As of March 2020 Nevill ranked 11th on the list of most career Sheffield Shield dismissals, and third for NSW behind only Phil Emery and Brad Haddin.

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Given the shortage of options in the N team, Nevill will give up the gloves and play as a batsman.

Peter Nevill takes off for a run

(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Laurie Nash (TAS/VIC) (right-arm fast) – two Tests, ten wickets at 12.6, 22 first-class games, 69 wickets at 28.33, best bowling 7-50, also scored 953 runs at 28.02, one century, 110 high score
Taking the all-rounder slot is the great multi-talented sportsman Laurie Nash. Nash is possibly better known as an Australian rules footballer, and is a member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame. He was part of South Melbourne’s 1933 premiership team and was their leading goal-kicker on more than one occasion.

Nash’s international cricketing career consisted of only two Test matches. His pace bowling captured ten wickets at only 12.6 per wicket, which indicates a longer run might have been appropriate. But Nash was apparently a volatile person who clashed with authority and in cricketing circles of the day this could limit a player’s chances. Keith Miller called his non-selection “the greatest waste of talent in Australian cricket history”.

Nash’s hard-hitting batting at first-class level was also pretty good, averaging over 28 and scoring a century. Nash spent his initial cricket career in Tasmania, which limited his opportunities to play first-class cricket.

When selected for the Test team in 1932 at only 21 years old, he was the first Tasmanian-based player to be selected since Charles Eady 20 years before. Despite taking five wickets for the match at a very low average Nash was left out of the subsequent home summer Ashes, despite arguments in some quarters that his pace and intimidation could have been used to fight fire with fire during the Bodyline series.

It was five years before he was again selected for a Test match, during which Nash combined his professional Aussie rules career with club cricket. In the 1936-37 Ashes, Nash was picked for the deciding fifth Test and took five wickets for the match as Australia secured the series.

Incidentally the English were determined not to have Nash included in the Australian side, to the point of organising a dinner between the English captain and Don Bradman the Australian skipper. Bradman refused to omit Nash. The Australia Cricket Board allegedly then tried to veto his selection but the selection panel threatened to resign. Finally the English captain Gubby Allen threatened to take his team from the field if Nash bowled any deliveries aimed at the body. All this only four years after the English created Bodyline.

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Tim Nielsen (SA) (wicketkeeper) – 101 first-class games, 3805 runs at 26.06, four centuries, 115 high score, 316 dismissals
Tim Nielsen sits 12th on the Sheffield Shield all-time dismissals list for keepers, just recently passed by none other than Peter Nevill. Nielsen was not the batsman Nevill is, so let’s have him take the gloves, because this team will need Nevill’s batting.

Nielsen was a quality keeper for South Australia during the 1990s and stands first on the all-time Shield dismissals list for South Australia. He also scored over 3800 first-class runs including four centuries.

Ashley Noffke (QLD) (right-arm fast medium) – 118 first-class games, 3766 runs at 26.9, two centuries, 114* high score, 386 wickets at 29.41, best bowling 8-24
Ashley Noffke was a wholehearted bowling all-rounder for Queensland during the 2000s. Noffke played a significant part in Queensland winning four titles during his career, including being named man of the match in the 2001 Shield final. His double of 741 runs and 51 wickets in 2007-08 made him only the third player to do the double of 500 runs and 50 wickets in a season (the others are George Giffen and Greg Matthews).

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While coming into discussions for the national side on many occasions, touring England with the 2001 Ashes squad and the West Indies in 2003, Noffke never played for his country in Tests, although he did play in an ODI and two T20 internationals.

Incidentally Noffke’s first act in his first ever international appearance was to be run out without facing a ball. He did recover to take 3-18 with the ball.

Michael Neser (QLD) (right-arm fast medium) – 54 first-class games and counting, 1721 runs at 24.23, 11 half centuries, 174 wickets at 26.10, best bowling 6-57
Joining Noffke is a similar player in Michael Neser. Neser also combines effective fast-medium bowling with decent batting returns and also has been around about the Australian set-up without getting a Test so far.

Neser has steadily improved since his debut and in 2018 he was Queensland’s highest wicket-taker as they won the Sheffield Shield. He also scored a half century in the Shield final to showcase his all-round skills.

An effective swing bowler, Neser toured England in 2019 but did not gain a Test debut. With the current depth of quality in Australian fast bowling, that might be as close as he gets, although his skill with the pink ball may work in his favour. Neser has played two ODIs for Australia, against England in 2018. He struggled as England wiped Australia and has not been picked since.

Michael Neser

(Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images)

Matthew Nicholson (NSW/WA) (right-arm fast medium) – one Test, four wickets at 28.75, 124 first-class games, 3258 runs at 23.78, four centuries, 133 high score, 406 wickets at 29.91, best bowling 7-62
Matthew Nicholson had a long and successful first-class career for WA and NSW. Unlike the previous two players, Nicholson did receive a Test cap, but just the one in 1998 after only eight of his 124 first-class matches.

It was about the best Test cap an Australian can receive, however: a Boxing Day Ashes Test. He performed solidly, taking four wickets, but was given no further opportunities in a strong era. He toured Zimbabwe in 1999 but did not play a Test.

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Nicholson has an impressive first-class resume, including four centuries with the bat to complement his 400-plus career wickets.

By the way, Nicholson never actually got to walk out in front of 60,000 fans on Boxing Day. The entire first day was washed out that year.

Geff Noblet (right-arm medium fast) (SA) – three Tests, seven wickets at 26.14, 71 first-class games, 282 wickets at 19.26, best bowling 7-29
Geff Noblet has a wonderful first-class record, one of the few elite players to finish his career with a sub-20 first-class bowling average. And yet like the other N team bowlers, he received limited opportunities at Test level, in his case stuck behind Ray Lindwall, Miller and Bill Johnston. His three Tests came across a number of seasons, as an injury replacement.

Noblet has the second best career Sheffield Shield average of all time – 17.87 (minimum 20 games) – and he topped the Shield wickets tally three times, in 1947-48, 1951-52 and 1952-53. South Australia won the Shield in the third of those seasons.

Noblet once dismissed the great West Indies batsman Frank Worrell for a king pair (two first-ball ducks in a match) in a tour match.

Next we come to the O team. Their batting is nothing to write home about (with one exception), but if they get the opposition on a spinning wicket then they will cause some havoc.