So following on from last time’s S team, we come to the T team.
The batting starts very well but falls away a little. But the bowling is varied and dangerous, with three contrasting bowlers all in the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame and all four having being ranked as best in the world at some point.
104 Tests, 7525 runs at 43.49, 19 centuries, 334* high score, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC batting ranking: 3 (February 1990), behind Richie Richardson (WI) and Javed Miandad (PAK)
Before he was a director of Cricket Australia, a seller of air conditioners and a commentator of questionable talents, Mark ‘Tubby’ Taylor was one of Australia’s better opening batsmen, an outstanding slip fielder and one of the our most celebrated captains.
When Taylor was selected for the 1989 Ashes he had the honour of being part of the so-called worst side to ever tour England. Taylor walked away from that tour with an incredible 839 runs for the series (the third best in history), seven 50-plus scores (only Neil Harvey and Greg Chappell had done that in a series) and a reputation as possibly the best opener in world cricket. Australian cricket left the painful 1980s behind for a new era of excellence.
After being the first player to hit over 1000 Test runs in his first calendar year, Taylor never again hit those heights. But over his 100-plus Test career he rarely let the side down and forged effective opening partnerships firstly with Geoff Marsh and then Michael Slater. By 1995 Taylor had taken over from Allan Border as the undisputed leader of a high-quality side that took the unofficial world champion tag from the West Indies in a memorable away series.
From that point on, Taylor – blessed with Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and an increasing number of all-time greats – was in charge of one of the best teams in history.
His own form was waning, however. From averaging over 50 for his first 32 Tests he started the 1997 Ashes in a prolonged slump with an average of 42.6 and no half centuries in his last 21 Test innings. There was serious talk of his career being over. Taylor managed to produce a gutsy 129 in the first Test loss, Australia recovered to take the series and Taylor remained on board for one final piece of history.
In 1998 against Pakistan, Taylor ground his way to 334 not out, at the time the highest score by an Australian, equal to Don Bradman’s mark set way back in 1930. At the time of his retirement Taylor’s 157 catches was also a world record and in 1999 he was named Australian of the Year.
48 Tests, 3163 runs at 39.04, eight centuries, 214* high score, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC batting ranking: 1 (June 1905)
Victor Trumper was Australia’s greatest batsman during the golden age of cricket, before the First World War. He is still held in great esteem well over a century later as the great stylist of cricket. This is in part due to a photograph showing Trumper in full flight that is perhaps the most famous image in cricket.
The bald facts are nearly 50 Test matches and a very good average for the time of just over 39, together with nearly 17,000 first-class runs and 42 centuries. But it was the intangibles that made Trumper so popular that tens of thousands – some sources say as many at 250,000 – lined the streets for his funeral. There had never been a more exciting batsman to watch who could play innings that no one else dared dream of. Scoring six of his eight Test centuries at home with an average of nearly 46 can’t have hurt his popularity in this country either.
Trumper’s estimated strike rate of over 68 was amazing for his day. To put that in perspective, even now that puts Trumper in the top dozen all time for modern players, i.e. since balls faced were recorded reliably. Take out tail-end sloggers and there are only seven above him and only four averaged more than Trumper’s 39, and he did it on uncovered wickets. And at the time a six had to be hit out of the ground, not just over the fence. So the man was an absolute dasher.
Trumper announced himself on the 1899 tour of England with 135 not out at Lord’s and an undefeated triple century against Sussex. Then on the 1902 tour he scored over 2500 tour runs at 48 on uncovered pitches during a wet summer. No one else came close. This run included a remarkable 103 runs before lunch on the first morning of the fourth Test at Old Trafford, the first player to achieve this very rare feat.
Trumper was still on top of his game when England toured in 1903-04, scoring 574 runs in the series, including 185 not out in Sydney in under four hours.
After that his great performances were sporadic until he signed off with 661 runs at 94 in the home series against South Africa. His 214 in the third Test was the highest score by an Australian in Tests to that time. We luckily have balls-faced data for this series. Trumper’s 214 took all of 247 balls, but was bettered by his 159 in the previous match from only 158 balls. Others have better averages, longer careers, better winning records but none are Victor Trumper.
Eight Tests, 325 runs at 29.54, 100 first-class matches, 5726 runs at 40.32
After such a dominant opening partnership, the middle order of the Ts is solid rather than memorable. At first drop is Grahame ‘Tonker’ Thomas from NSW. Thomas enjoyed a solid first-class career in the 1950s and 1960s and played eight Tests for Australia.
At Sheffield Shield level Thomas was very effective. After a number of years playing for NSW he topped the state’s season runs in their 1964-65 title win and then the following year topped the entire Shield aggregates as NSW again won the title. This run resulted in Test selection.
Thomas toured the West Indies in 1965, making his Test debut and playing all five Tests, scoring a 50 but otherwise struggling. He fared better in the 1965-66 home Ashes, averaging 36.75 and scoring a couple of half centuries.
Thomas was selected to tour South Africa in 1966-67. Before the tour there had been fears that the Apartheid regime would not let him in, being of Native American descent, but they proved unfounded. In any event Thomas was not selected for any Tests on tour and he retired after the tour despite being less than 30 years old.
75 first-class matches, 6005 runs at 46.34, 13 centuries, 234* high score
Michael Taylor was an underrated player for Victoria during the 1980s. Despite scoring over 6000 first-class runs at an excellent average, he never achieved Test selection.
Taylor scored a century on debut for Victoria in 1977. He was very solid for his state from the early 1980s and enjoyed scoring runs against touring international sides, hitting a century in 1984 against Pakistan.
Taylor’s finest hour was undoubtedly scoring 234 not out for Victoria against the touring West Indians at the height of their powers in 1984, on the way to a 1000-run summer. He was selected in the Prime Minister’s XI afterwards, but was not selected for any home Tests or for the 1985 Ashes tour.
After being snubbed for Test selection during a relatively weak Australian batting era, even after that momentous innings, Taylor signed up for the rebel tours of South Africa, spelling the end of his Test chances.
Taylor was possibly the tourists’ best player on the first South African tour, scoring 668 runs at over 55, including a century in the first unofficial Test.
After returning to Australia and serving out his ban, Taylor – now a veteran – moved to Tasmania for the 1987-88 Sheffield Shield season and showed he was still a quality batsman, scoring over 1000 season runs.
20 Tests, 997 runs at 35.6, one century, 108 high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 8 (February 1925)
Mark, Michael and now Johnny Taylor. Taylor was a dual international, representing Australia in cricket and rugby union after World War One. He served in the armed forces and was part of the post-war Australian Imperial Forces XI that toured England and South Africa. Given his first-class debut was made in 1913, a large portion of Taylor’s best years were lost to war and he would surely have added to his 20 Tests.
Taylor’s main claim to Test fame was setting the Australian record tenth-wicket stand in 1924 with Arthur Mailey, which stood for nearly 90 years until it was broken by Phil Hughes and Ashton Agar in England in 2013. Taylor’s 108 that day was his only Test century and was part of 541 runs scored in the home Ashes series of 1924-25 at an average of 54.1.
He did not average over 33 in any other series and particularly struggled away from home, averaging only 20.54 with two half centuries, compared to a home average of 45.35. However, one of those away series was the 1921 five-nil drubbing of England, led by Warwick Armstrong.
Taylor played two rugby union Tests for the Wallabies in 1922. Dr Otto Nothling, also from the 1920s, is the only other sportsman to do this. Spare a thought though for Jack Massie. He was picked for 1913 Wallabies Tour of England but had to withdraw because of university exams. Then he was picked for the 1914-15 cricket tour of South Africa, which was cancelled due to war. He never played an actual Test in either code.
Right-arm slow – five Tests, 228 runs at 38.00, 26 wickets at 15.00, best bowling 8-43, 375 first-class matches, 10,696 runs at 19.48, 1674 wickets at 21.09
Highest ICC batting ranking: 7 (February 1896), highest bowling ranking: 4 (April 1899), highest all-round ranking: 2 (February 1899)
Albert Trott had a short Test career, but in his five outings he showed himself to be an exceptional bowling all-rounder. His first-class record was extraordinary, scoring more than 10,000 runs and taking over 1600 wickets in a long career in English county cricket. His story is one of brilliance, charisma and tragedy.
Trott had one of the best debut matches in history. After only three first-class matches he was selected for the third Test of the 1894-95 series in Adelaide. Trott took his best Test figures of 8-43 and then scored 38 not out and 72 not out as Australia recorded a crushing victory. He scored another undefeated half century in the next Test.
After this amazing start Trott was somehow not selected for the 1896 tour of England, despite the party being captained by his own brother! So Trott made the decision to move to England. He sailed over on the same boat as the Australian team and joined country side Middlesex, where he racked up imposing numbers with bat and ball over the next few years, establishing himself as the finest all-rounder of his day.
By 1899 Trott was touring South Africa with the English side, becoming one of the few players to play Test cricket for more than one country.
Trott is famously the only player in history to hit a ball over the roof of the Lord’s Pavilion (off Monty Noble, no less). He also took two hat tricks in a single first-class innings and once took all ten wickets in an innings.
By the turn of the century, Trott’s best years were behind him, although he continued to play for his county. Tragically, Trott’s life spiralled out of control partly due to illness as his cricket career wound down and he committed suicide when only 41 years old.
Wicketkeeper – 21 Tests, 394 runs at 17.13, 50 catches and eight stumpings
Keeping wickets for this team is Don Tallon, Australia’s first-choice keeper after World War Two and considered by Don Bradman to be the best he had seen.
Tallon toured with the 1948 Invincibles and his keeping was so highly regarded that he was named one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year in 1949. He had been plying his trade at first-class level since 1933 but due to lack of opportunity and then the outbreak of war he only debuted in Tests in 1946 when he was 30 years old. In fact, as early as 1932, the 17-year-old Tallon had played for Queensland Country against the English tourists during the Bodyline series, where he stumped the great Herb Sutcliffe.
Tallon played 11 Tests between 1946 and the end of the Invincibles tour. His 20 dismissals in the 1946-47 home Ashes was a new Australian record. He started to struggle with injury from 1949 and missed a number of Tests due to injury or poor form and his performances started to fall away.
Like many keepers of the era, Tallon was not a top-line batsman at Test level, but he was good enough to top Queensland’s first-class averages in two seasons and score nine career first-class centuries. His 92 in the third Test of the 1946-47 series at the MCG was the highest score by an Australian wicketkeeper for over 35 years until bettered by Rod Marsh. He also scored 116 against New Zealand in a match not given Test status.
As a keeper, Tallon set a number of records including being the second ever to make 12 dismissals in a first-class match and also the fifth to make seven in a single innings. He was also the fastest ever Australian to 100 first-class dismissals.
Off spin – 32 Tests, 141 wickets at 21.78, best bowling 8-65, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 1 (July 1899) – ninth highest Australian in history
Before Nathan Lyon became the GOAT of off-spinners in Australia, that title sat with the great Hugh Trumble. With more than 140 wickets, Trumble was Test cricket’s first great off-spinner and arguably the best bowler of his time. At the time of his retirement nobody had taken more Test wickets.
Trumble was the first cricketer to take two hat tricks in Tests, both at the MCG. He was virtually unplayable on poor wickets, with his height (he was six foot, four inches tall) and great mastery of pace and length making variable bounce and degrees of turn impossible to predict.
Trumble started slowly and after eight Tests he had taken only 17 wickets at 36 but he kept getting better with age. His greatest series was in 1902 where he took 26 wickets in only three Tests, including ten wickets in two consecutive Tests at Manchester and the Oval. He had previously taken 28 wickets in the 1901-02 home series. From 1900 on, Trumble took 78 wickets at less than 19. He took 7-28 in his final Test innings to bowl Australia to a commanding win at his beloved MCG.
Trumble was a fair batsman as well, scoring 851 runs in Tests at 19.79 with four half centuries. His 165-run partnership with Clem Hill at the MCG in 1897 is still an Australian record for the seventh wicket.
Right-arm medium – 17 Tests, 101 wickets at 16.53, best bowling 7-43, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 1 (March 1892)
On pure figures, Charles ‘Terror’ Turner is possibly Australia’s greatest Test bowler. He only played 17 Tests but reached 100 wickets, the first Australian to do so. And he did it all with an amazing average, the second best ever by an Australian (the best is 14.25 by JJ Ferris from just eight Tests).
Turner was a success from his debut in 1886, taking 6-15 and bowling England out for their lowest ever score of 45 in his first Test innings. Turner took a scarcely believable 314 wickets in the 1888 English season at an average of 11.14, on top of 106 wickets in the previous home season at 13.59. As a result he was one of the first Wisden cricketers of the Year in 1889.
He is the only bowler to take 100 wickets in an Australian season. Where Turner went wickets followed, including 17 in a match against an England XI in 1888 and 12-87 at the SCG in 1887-88, still the best ever at the ground. In all first-class matches Turner took over 1000 wickets at an average around 13.
In Tests, Turner took at least five wickets in an innings 11 times from only 30 innings. He only went wicketless twice. While not a noted batsman, Turner did score a century at the Oval in the first game of the 1888 tour.
Left-arm medium – 12 Tests, 47 wickets at 21.04, best bowling 6-29
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 1 (December 1947)
Ernie Toshack enjoyed a brief but successful Test career, taking nearly 50 Test wickets in 12 matches just after the Second World War. By this time Toshack was already in his 30s, the war having prevented a longer representative career.
Toshack played his initial first-class match in the 1945-46 season and took 35 wickets in only seven games, resulting in selection for a tour of New Zealand where he took six wickets for just 18 runs in the only Test. He followed that up with nine wickets for the match in the first Ashes Test of the 1946-47 season. Although less successful for the rest of the series, he still finished with 17 wickets at 25.
Toshack continued to start his series well, taking his only ten-wicket match haul in the first Test of the 1946-47 home series against India. Injury cut Toshack down for the rest of the season and he only played one more Test. At this point, Toshack required a special medical clearance to be selected for the 1948 tour of England.
Toshack played as the third seam bowler on the 1948 Invincibles tour, behind Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller. He took 11 wickets at 33, but he was severely restricted by his chronic knee injury and he never played Test cricket again. Toshack’s bowling average ranks sixth on the all-time list for Australia and he never once lost a Test match.
Right-arm ridiculously fast – 51 Tests, 200 wickets at 28.00, best bowling 6-46, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 1 (March 1978)
And finally there is Thommo. The mere word Thommo probably ranks up there with Trumper, Lillee and Warne in terms of the iconic cricketing image it invokes.
Blond locks flowing, stuttering tip-toe run-up like a demented ballerina, the arm cocked back like a catapult and then ‘Whang!’ – the ball flying down the pitch almost too quickly to see it, then the keeper taking a good length ball above his head at a ridiculously long distance from the pitch.
It was, for this young Queenslander, a truly awe-inspiring sight. Like many hundreds of young boys, I was Thommo in the back yard, minus the pace and skills, but with the tip-toe run-up, blond locks and catapult action perfectly copied.
Previously only maybe Harold Larwood or Frank Tyson had ever shocked an opposition team like Thomson did to the English in the 1974-75 Ashes. He had previously played one uninspiring Test with a broken foot and in the warm-up match had been told to keep his powder dry and not let the English see what he could do.
The result was 33 wickets in the series and a catastrophic defeat for the touring English, who went home bruised and beaten. There had never been aggression like it as Thomson cranked the speed up as fast as anyone in history (he was clocked at over 160 kilometres per hour) and alternated wicked bounce from just short of a length with his sandshoe crusher yorker.
During a brief golden period on home pitches Thomson followed this up with 29 wickets in the 1975-76 West Indian tour. Then he managed to dislocate his shoulder in November 1976 and he was never quite the same. He still managed to take at least 20 wickets in each of his next three series before leaving to join World Series Cricket in 1978.
Good performances were increasingly rare thereafter as injuries and loss of pace took their toll, but Thommo roused himself for one more series, taking 22 wickets at home against the English in 1982-83 at only 18.68.
With the U side failing to field a team on their own, we next tackle the Vs. They only just managed to put an XI together, but they do have a batsman who averaged over 60 in Test cricket.