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

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Roar Guru
13th March, 2020
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Following on from the O Team, we come to the P Team.

They have a couple of all-time great batsmen and are pretty strong all round. Interestingly they are the only team with four current players, and they have also drafted in a special guest who might go okay.

Bill Ponsford (Victoria)

29 Tests, 2122 runs at 48.22, seven centuries, 266 high score, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame, ACB Team of the Century
Highest ICC batting ranking: 4 (January 1931)

Bill Ponsford was Australia’s pre-Donald Bradman run machine, setting numerous first-class run-scoring records through the 1920s and 1930s. Once in, Ponsford’s great powers of concentration meant he often batted on and on. He is the only player to break the world record for the highest first-class score twice, and he stands with Brian Lara as the only player to have two scores over 400.

Later, when he was joined by the equally run-hungry Bradman, the pair could be devastating. In 1934 they set records for the highest Australian partnership in Test cricket in consecutive Tests – 388 at Headlingly and 451 at The Oval in the fourth and fifth Tests. These were to be Ponsford’s final Test innings, so he signed off from Test cricket with a 569 run series at 94.83.

Ponsford’s entry into Test ranks had been spectacular. In 1924 he became the first player to score centuries in his first two Tests. He was considered a master of play against spin, and since he started in an era dominated by slower bowling, he wasn’t regularly tested by relentless pace bowling until almost a decade later during the Bodyline series of 1932-33. His failure in that series was critical to England’s success.

His last series against England had produced 550 runs at 55, but now he was reduced to an average of 23.50 and was dropped twice during the series. Anyone who saw Matthew Wade deal with Neil Wagner by turning his back on the short ball can picture how Ponsford dealt with the tactic, and after his one substantial score for the series he returned to the dressing room covered with bruises.

But Ponsford continued to score prolifically thereafter, and his greatest Test series was his final one in 1934. However the Bodyline series had a lasting effect in Ponsford’s enjoyment of the game and he retired at only 34, remarking, “Test cricket has become too serious. It is not a game anymore but a battle”.

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The domestic level is where Ponsford’s reputation was built, and his first-class record of 13,819 runs at 65.18 is exceptional. He still holds the three highest individual scores for Victoria and averaged over 83 in Shield cricket. He topped the Shield season runs three times, and his 1217 runs at 152 in 1927-28 stood as a competition record for over 50 years. It should be noted that he played only six matches that season. At one point between 1926 and 1927 he scored a century in ten consecutive matches.

And as a final aside, Ponsford was considered to be arguably Australia’s greatest baseballer of his generation.

Wayne Phillips (South Australia)

27 Tests, 1485 runs at 32.28, two centuries, 159 high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 28 (November 1984)

Opening the batting with Ponsford is one of Australia’s wasted talents. Wayne Phillips was a talented top-order batsman during the 1980s who enjoyed a great entry to Test cricket, but during a desperate time for Australian batting he was turned into a Test keeper to shore up the team’s batting depth. His own confidence and form suffered terribly and he played only 27 Tests. But he is not keeping in this team, so hopefully we see the true Wayne Phillips.

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Phillips scored a cracking 159 against Pakistan on debut in 1983, but after five Tests (for 362 runs at 60.33) Phillips was asked to resurrect his underage and club-level keeping as the search to replace the great Rod Marsh continued. He started well, with a century away to the West Indies (no mean feat in those days), but over time he struggled with his keeping and his batting returns diminished.

Phillips ended up with an average over 40 as a batsman and under 30 as a keeper. What might have been.

Ricky Ponting (Tasmania) (captain)

168 Tests, 13,378 runs at 51.85, 41 centuries, 257 high score, Cricket Australia hall of fame
Highest ICC batting ranking: 1 (December 2006) – fourth highest all time and third highest Australian

Ricky Ponting is Australia’s highest Test run-scorer and he remains at No. 2 of all time behind only Sachin Tendulkar. He suffered a long decline and may have played on too long, but at his peak there was no-one better. His ICC batting ranking peak is the fourth highest ever behind only Don Bradman, Steve Smith and Len Hutton.

Ponting was a prodigy always considered destined for a long career, scoring 96 on debut only to suffer a dubious LBW decision. He suffered from some inconsistency early in his career, averaging only 38 after 30 Tests, but by the mid-2000s was unstoppable during a dominant period for the Australian team.

Under Ponting’s captaincy Australia equalled their own world record 16 Test wins in a row and his personal average peaked at 59.99 after 107 Tests, a full career for almost all players. He scored over 1000 Test runs in four out of five years between 2002 and 2006. During that period of 57 Tests Ponting averaged over 72, scored 24 centuries and averaged more than 100 for a series five times.

Ponting averaged over 44 against every single Test-playing nation. He struggled in India, averaging only 26.85 after a brutal first tour, but averaged over 40 everywhere else. It was at home where his remarkable pull shot could be used to its greatest effect that Ponting was supreme, scoring over 7500 runs at nearly 57, including 23 centuries. However, a 45.81 away average is not too shabby either.

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Ponting captained Australia 77 times and has an excellent overall record. His legacy will always feature his two unsuccessful attempts to win the Ashes in England in 2005 and 2009, but he led by example, averaging over 51 as captain. His finest moment was probably the 2006 home Ashes, when Australia exacted revenge for their shock 2005 series loss, smashing England 5-0 for only the second time in history, with Ponting contributing 576 runs at 82.28 and a strike rate of more than 60.

After retiring from Tests, Ponting topped the Sheffield Shield runs, scoring for 2012-13 to lead Tasmania to the Sheffield Shield title. His Sheffield Shield average of 63.13 is the highest since 1971 and the seventh highest of all time.

What a player.

Ricky Ponting of Australia works the ball to leg

(James Knowler/Getty Images)

Kurtis Patterson (New South Wales)

Two Tests, 144 runs at 144.0, one century, 144* high score

Well, Kurtis Patterson is in danger of becoming a trivia question, with his 144 Test match average from his two Test matches. A combination of bad luck, injury and, well, I’m not really sure what have sent him out of the Test conversation.

Patterson has a solid first-class record in this era of thin Australian batting quality, with 4343 runs at 40.97 with eight centuries. His solid play was considered ideal for Test cricket, although there were concerns over his ability to convert starts to big scores. He answered that question with 114 not out in his second Test. Time will tell if he ever receives a third.

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Kurtis Patterson of New South Wales

(AAP Image/Daniel Pockett)

Jack Potter (Victoria)

104 first-class matches, 6142 runs at 41.22, 14 centuries, 221 high score

At No. 5 we have Jack Potter, a first-class stalwart for Victoria in the 1960s. He played more than 100 first-class matches for over 6000 runs at 41 but never quite achieved higher honours. He got desperately close a number of times. He was 12th man for a Test against South Africa in 1963 and toured England with the Ashes squad in 1964, again getting to 12th man but not beyond. His three times as 12th man is record for a player who never actually got to play a Test.

A fractured skull in the latter stages of that tour – in a one-day match against the Netherlands – prevented further opportunities and his form tailed off thereafter. But he returned with a vengeance at captain of Victoria in 1966-67, averaging over 50 and leading them to the Shield title, before retiring at only 29 years old.

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Ellyse Perry (New South Wales)

Right-arm medium fast, eight Tests, 624 runs at 78.0, two centuries, 213* high score; 31 wickets at 18.19, best bowling 6-32
112 ODIs, 3022 runs at 52.1, two centuries, 112* high score; 152 wickets at 24.29, best bowling 7-22
120 T20Is, 1218 runs at 28.32; 114 wickets at 19.37
Highest ICC ODI batting ranking: 1 (February 2018), highest bowling ranking: 2 (March 2012), highest all-round ranking: 1 (February 2018), highest ICC T20 batting ranking: 14 (August 2016), highest T20 bowling ranking: 1 (July 2010), highest T20 all-round ranking: 1 (January 2016)

Okay, so I couldn’t resist. What. A. Cricketer.

I can’t really improve on the statistics above. The measure of an all-rounder is a batting average higher than their bowling average. Perry’s Test batting average is more than four times her bowling average! At one point Perry scored 329 Ashes Test runs between dismissals. If you think that’s all a fluke, at one-day level her batting average is more than double her bowling average over more than 100 matches.

Perry was the first Australian, male or female, to score 1000 runs and take 100 wickets in T20 internationals. In 2017 she was named as the first ICC women’s cricketer of the year.

Given she bowls at around 120 to 125 and sometimes gets Vernon Philander-like swing and seam, I will back her as a handy fifth bowler. And if she can average even half her Test average, she is up there.

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Add to all this that she debuted in the Australian women’s football team at only 16 and is the only person to appear at both football and cricket world cups. Primarily a defender, she scored a goal in the quarter-final of the 2011 World Cup against Sweden. But in the end Perry chose cricket, and the game is richer for it.

Ellyse Perry Australia Cricket Women's 2017

(AAP Image/International Cricket Council)

Tim Paine (Tasmania) (wicketkeeper)

26* Tests, 1164 runs at 31.45, 107 catches and five stumpings

The current Australian captain will defer to Ricky Ponting here, but his handy batting and safe keeping will keep the P Team on track.

Paine was destined for big things and was considered the next long-term national wicketkeeper. By October 2010, at 25 years old, he had played four Tests, all away, and scored an excellent 92 against India in Mohali while averaging nearly 36.

But then Paine was struck on the finger in a T20 exhibition match in November 2010 just before the home summer. The injury failed to heal and he spent seven years in the Test wilderness. He had got to the point of considering retirement to take up a job with Kookaburra when the 32-year-old was a surprise selection for the 2017-18 Ashes team. England were destroyed and Paine scored nearly 200 gritty lower-order runs at 48, but more importantly he was a step up as keeper from Matthew Wade.

And then Paine was the right man in a crisis as the Australian team leadership was removed after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa – it should be noted he averaged over 43 in that series as well. After a rough few months holding the team together by the skin of his teeth, Paine remarkably achieved what Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke before him had failed to do: retain the Ashes in England.

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He followed that with a perfect six from six Test victories at home in 2019-20, and after a fairly prolonged slump his batting started to pick again, averaging 38 against New Zealand.

It remains to be seen how long Paine stays on, but his legacy as captain is assured.

Tim Paine

(Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Peter Philpott (New South Wales)

Leg spin, eight Tests, 26 wickets at 38.46, best bowling 5-90
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 19 (December 1965)

Peter Philpott was a solid bowling all rounder for New South Wales, with a first-class record of 2886 runs at 31.36 and 245 wickets at 30.31 with his leg spin.

He was selected for the 1965 tour of the Caribbean and acquitted himself well, taking 18 wickets across the five Tests, although without showing his batting capabilities. On returning to Australia he took 5-90 at the Gabba in the first Test of the home Ashes, but he took only three more wickets across three innings and by the fourth Test Philpott was out of the side.

James Pattinson (Victoria)

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Right arm fast, 21* Tests, 401 runs at 26.73; 81 wickets at 26.33, best bowling 5-27
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 17 (March 2013)

James Pattinson has somehow managed to take over 80 Test wickets in a career blighted by injury.

Pattinson was an immediate success at Test level in 2011, taking a five-wicket haul on debut against New Zealand at the Gabba. In fact Pattinson took at least four wickets in one innings of each of his first four Tests and his future as the long-term spearhead of the team seemed assured.

But a series of debilitating back injuries severely limited his opportunities and also his performances over multiple comebacks and by 2016 he was effectively done. But after a three-year lay-off Pattinson was selected as part of Australia’s squad for the 2019 Ashes in England and for the 2020 home Tests against New Zealand.

At his best Pattinson is a wicket-taker, so fingers crossed this latest phase of a stop start career is a happy one.

James Pattinson

(Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Joey Palmer (Tasmania/Victoria)
Off spin, 17 Tests, 78 wickets at 21.51, best bowling seven for 65
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 1 (March 1882)

Joey Palmer was an off spinner during Australia’s pioneering days of Test cricket. He played between 1880 and 1888 and toured England four times.

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Palmer came to prominence when he took nine wickets on first-class debut against the touring English. His best performances were at the SCG in 1881-82, when he took 11-165 and 9-90 across two Tests there, taking Australia to victory both times. The following year he turned his attention to Melbourne, taking 15 wickets across two Tests there against the touring English. Palmer is also on the honours board at Lord’s taking six for 111 in 1884.

Palmer also played Australian Rules football for South Melbourne.

Len Pascoe (New South Wales)

Right arm fast, 14 Tests, 64 wickets at 26.06, best bowling five for 59
Highest ICC bowling ranking 10 (March 1981)

Lenny Pascoe played only 14 Tests, but the New South Wales firebrand is well remembered as part of Australia’s fast bowling strength of the era. Pascoe went to school with another speedster, Jeff Thomson, and they came up through the ranks together before Thommo moved to Queensland.

Pascoe debuted in 1977, taking 13 wickets in his first three Tests, but unfortunately his international career between 1977 and 1982 included two of his best years being taken up by World Series Cricket, where he took 30 wickets in nine matches. After the two organisations were reunited, Pascoe was selected in the first combined team in 1979 to play England, taking ten wickets at 24 across the three test series.

Possibly his best Test performance was opening the bowling in the 1980 Centenary Test at Lord’s and taking 5-59 in the first innings. That was Pascoe’s only five-wicket haul, but he added three four-wicket hauls and eight three-wicket hauls in an innings in only 14 Tests.

Pascoe was possibly more effective in one-day cricket, with 53 wickets at 20.11 from his 29 one-day internationals.

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Next we tackle the R Team, with the Qs being part of a combined side later on. The Rs have some solid batting and bowling but struggle against the big guns.