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Opinion

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

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Roar Guru
23rd March, 2020
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So following on from last time’s T team, we come to the V team.

The Vs were a struggle but we got there in the end. Only three players have Test experience and there is very little bowling. But they do have the statistical anomaly that was best since Bradman until a certain Steven Smith got going.

Mike Veletta (WA)

Eight Tests, 207 runs at 18.81

Mike Veletta was a prolific first-class batsman during the 1980s and 1990s who received only limited opportunities in Tests.

He scored over 8800 runs at first-class level, averaging more than 39 and producing 20 centuries. In 1986-87 Veletta topped the Sheffield Shield season runs and made his highest first-class score of 262 in the drawn final to enable Western Australia to win the title. WA won five titles during his career, including three in a row.

At Test level Veletta never really got going with a high score of only 39 across eight Tests all played at home (despite failing to reach double figures only twice). He toured India in 1986 and England in 1989 but wasn’t selected for any Tests on tour.

Veletta was more successful for Australia in limited-overs matches. He played 20 one-day internationals for Australia, scoring 484 runs at 32.26 with a strike rate of 75.38. His greatest contribution was as a member of Australia’s 1987 World Cup-winning squad. After starting the tournament out of the XI, Veletta hit a rich vein of form to be one of Australia’s most valuable contributors.

In the final against England Veletta smashed 45 runs from 31 balls, striking at a level that was virtually unheard of in those days. Australia ended up squeaking home by just seven runs. This effort was preceded by a quickfire 48 from 50 balls in the semi-final against Pakistan that Australia won by 18 runs, and 43 from 39 balls against Zimbabwe in the final pool match. This unlikely run of form came after Velletta scored a grand total of five runs across his first three ODIs. Veletta remained in the ODI team for the next six months but never repeated that run of form.

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Murray Vernon (WA)

73 first-class matches, 4169 runs at 34.74, eight centuries, 173 high score

Joining Veletta at the crease is another Western Australian opener, Murray Vernon. Vernon played for WA through the 1960s and 1970s. He had a solid first-class record and was regarded highly enough to play more than 70 first-class matches and captain WA twice.

Vernon started slowly, averaging under 30 for his first two seasons. His breakthrough came in the 1957-58 season where he scored over 400 runs and became a team regular, although he failed to score a century. His best year during this first period was 1960-61 when he scored nearly 700 run at 43.5 for the season.

Thereafter Vernon missed three of the next four seasons entirely and performed poorly in the fourth. You would have expected that his first-class career was over, but he returned in 1965-66 with a vengeance, averaging 53.11 and scoring two centuries in five games, including his highest first-class score of 173 against NSW.

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Vernon performed solidly over the next two seasons without again averaging over 40. Vernon’s final year in 1967-68 coincided with WA’s first Shield title, ensuring his place in the state’s history.

Jeff Vaughan (SA)

28 first-class matches, 1459 runs at 31.04, three centuries, 157* high score

At first drop is Broken Hill boy Jeff Vaughan, the current coach of the Tasmanian Sheffield Shield side (and former coach of South Australia), who played his first-class cricket for South Australia from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s.

He scored three centuries in 28 matches but struggled to convert that into an extended run, with an average just over 31 and drifting in and out of the side.

Vaughan played two games each in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons with little effect but his prospects looked much healthier in the 1998-99 season. He was brought in for South Australia’s fourth match and promptly hit 121 from only 170 balls against Tasmania as SA won by an innings. Vaughan followed that up with 157 not out from just 243 balls in the next match away to Western Australia. Three more half centuries followed during the season with resulted in 642 runs at 53.50.

Vaughan started the next season in the state XI and a 70 (run out) in the first fixture boded well, but that proved to be his highest score for the season as he slumped to 237 runs in seven matches at an average under 17.

In 2000 Vaughan played as the overseas professional for the Netherfield Cricket Club in the Lancashire Leagues and they were Northern League Champions. Others to have played for the club include Dirk Nannes and Callum Ferguson.

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Vaughan returned to form in the 2000-01 season and averaged 43.75 from his five matches, including a match-saving 131 not out in the opening fixture against a strong Western Australian team. Vaughan’s opportunities declined thereafter, only playing three unremarkable games in 2001-02 and one in 2002-03.

Adam Voges (WA)

Left-arm orthodox, captain – 20 Tests, 1485 runs at 61.87, five centuries, 269* high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 5 (July 2016)

At number four and captain is Adam Voges. Voges had a decorated first-class career behind him when he was selected for the Test side in 2015 at 35 years of age after a strong domestic season. What followed was a statistical anomaly and one of the best runs of form in cricket history.

Adam Voges scores a run in Sri Lanka

(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Voges debuted on Australia’s 2015 tour of the West Indies in what was effectively an audition to provide middle-order experience for the upcoming Ashes tour. He scored 130 not out on debut and that booked his flight. Later on Voges would make plenty of easy runs against the West Indies but this innings was not one of them.

Australia dismissed the West Indies for only 148 in their first innings, with no player scoring over 36. Australia’s response was floundering at 4-97 with David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith back in the sheds when Voges walked to the crease. The score was soon 6-128 (losing Shane Watson and Brad Haddin) with no other recognised batsmen left. Voges shepherded the tail to 318, with no other player scoring more than 40, providing the platform for an eventually comfortable nine-wicket win.

So Voges was off to England but didn’t fire a shot until half centuries in the fourth and fifth Tests when the series was gone. Nevertheless those couple of scores got him a start for the 2015 home season. And it was a season for batting.

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Against admittedly weak opposition (New Zealand and especially the West Indies) on rather flat decks, Voges piled on 285 runs at 71.25 against the Kiwis and then 375 for no dismissals against the West Indies. His career average against the latter team stands at a scarcely believable 542! His average of 99 against NZ is not too shabby either but he averaged below 30 against England, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

To give you an idea of the run-scoring gluttony of that summer, for the NZ series four players averaged more than Voges’ 71.25 (two from each side), with Usman Khawaja leading with 152.0. For the West Indies series, three Australians other than Voges averaged over 100 for the series (Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja having a summer of his own, and Shaun Marsh).

Voges followed that run with another double century in the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington. At this point his career was standing at 1267 runs at an average of 97.46 from 14 Tests.

From there the runs dried up with only one half century from his final dozen innings and a final series against South Africa that read 27, one, duck and two. But even so, it was enough for Voges to finish with the second highest career average in history behind only Bradman (minimum 20 Tests). This has since been surpassed by Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, at least for the moment.

In addition to his remarkable Test career Voges contributed significantly in both ODIs and T20 internationals during his short time in the limelight. He is one of few players to average over 45 in each format of the international game (45.79 from 31 ODIs and 46.33 from seven T20 internationals).

Voges’ other achievements are sometimes forgotten in the attempt to put his Test performance in perspective but he was a top-class player at all levels. He finished his career with nearly 14,000 first-class runs at 46.42 from 211 games, and you can add another 191 one-day games and 180 T20s to that list.

Graeme Vimpani (VIC)

30 first-class matches, 1598 runs at 29.59, three centuries, 161 high score

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Graeme Vimpani was a top-order batsman for Victoria in the 1990s to early 2000s. He had a reasonably solid debut year in 1995-96, averaging in the mid 30s and scoring four half centuries.

The following year, Vimpani scored three centuries, his highest being against NSW at the MCG where his 161 anchored the Victorians to chase down 391 for victory. His other Shield century had come the game before, again in a large fourth-innings chase, this time against Tasmania with the pink ball under lights. Vimpani also scored 133 against the West Indies and finished the season with 752 first-class runs at 50.13.

His future as a long-term opening partner for his Camberwell Magpies teammate Matthew Elliott seemed assured but his form fell off a cliff in 1997-98, averaging just over 11 across six matches. He fared little better the following season and never scored another first-class hundred.

Vimpani was a member of the Victorian limited-overs squad that won the domestic one-day competition in 1998-99, scoring 48 against NSW in the final.

Frederick Vaughan (VIC)

11 first-class matches, 572 runs at 28.6

Frederick Vaughan played for Victoria in the early 20th century. In his 11 first-class matches he made a top score of 150 and three other half centuries.

In his first full season 1906-07, Vaughan averaged 21.3 from five matches with one half century. He only played one first-class match in each of the 1904-05, 1907-08 and 1908-09 seasons, scoring one more half century against Tasmania on Victoria’s tour in February 1909. Vaughan captained the state side in that match.

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In the 1910 Tasmania tour of Victoria, Vaughan hit his sole first-class century – 150 in the first innings at the MCG. His final first-class match was in December 1910 against the touring Queensland side. Vaughan made a duck in the first innings, but top-scored a fighting 66 in the second as Victoria fell 78 runs short of their victory target.

Note: in the days before air travel and before Tasmania entered the Sheffield Shield competition, Victoria and Tasmania generally toured each other’s state once a year. Typically the Victorian side for these matches was a virtual second XI.

(Wiki Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Tom Veivers (QLD)

Off spin – 21 Tests, 813 runs at 31.26, 33 wickets at 41.66
Highest ICC batting ranking: 33 (December 1965), highest bowling ranking: 23 (October 1964), highest all-round ranking: 12 (January 1965)

Tom Veivers was a batting all-rounder for Queensland during the 1960s. He scored over 5000 first-class runs at nearly 37 and took nearly 200 wickets at 38.7.

At Test level Veivers played 21 fairly solid Tests between 1963 and 1967 but he holds one Australian record that may never be broken. In 1964 in the final Ashes Test at Old Trafford, he bowled a whopping 95.1 overs in an innings, taking 3-155 in England’s total of 611.

Apparently with the Ashes already won and Australia having batted into the third day, there was a concerted effort to get Veivers to the world record of 96 overs in an innings. No one was keen on taking a wicket and all looked on track, until just 14 balls short of the record, Veivers – whose fingers were mangled by this point – bowled an accidental looping full toss to the last English batsman, who saw his chance for a six and batting immortality. Instead he missed by a mile and the ball gently lobbed onto the stumps.

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While not a massively talented batsman, Veivers was reliable, hitting at least one half century in five of his seven Test series. Veivers’ best period was probably that 1964 tour of England, followed by a tour of India. Across those two series Veivers hit four half centuries, and took 22 wickets at an average just over 32. Back home, Veivers hit his highest Test score of 88 against Pakistan but his returns diminished thereafter and the 1966-67 tour of South Africa was his last appearance in Tests.

Veivers is part of a great sporting family in Queensland, with cousins Greg and Mick playing rugby league for Australia. He is also Jack Wildermuth’s great uncle.

Brian Vincent (SA)

Right-arm fast medium – six first-class matches, 125 runs at 31.25, 12 wickets at 29.25

Brian Vincent played six first-class matches for South Australia between 1980 and 1982. He had reasonable returns, suggesting a possible career as an all-rounder, but didn’t kick on. He also played five one-day games for the state, taking eight wickets.

After playing one game in 1980-81, Vincent played five games in 1981-82. He scored 107 runs at 35.66 with a top score of 47 (against Victoria) and took ten wickets at 32 with best bowling figures of 4-64 in a total of six wickets for the match against Tasmania. It was the first time Vincent had been given the new ball.

He played one more match for the season. Vincent took another couple of wickets in the final match of the season and South Australia won the title, the last to be determined without a Shield final.

Leslie Vernon (VIC)

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Right-arm fast medium – seven first-class matches, 286 runs at 23.83, 22 wickets at 33.54, best bowling 5-24

Leslie Vernon played for Victoria between 1906 and 1908, with Victoria winning the Sheffield Shield in 1908. He often opened the bowling and batted around number eight, scoring three half centuries in his seven matches including 62 against the touring British in 1908. Vernon’s best bowling was 5-24.

Vernon was also an accomplished Australian rules footballer, playing for Carlton and South Melbourne.

Roland Vaughton (SA)

Wicketkeeper – six first-class matches, 82 runs at 13.66, 12 dismissals

I found a wicketkeeper! Roland Vaughton played for South Australia just after World War 2 until the rise of Gil Langley. He took nine catches and effected three stumpings in six first-class matches.

Vaughton was also a good baseball player and coached South Australian in this sport.

Jason Voros (ACT)

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Left-arm fast medium – one first-class match, five wickets at 12.4, seven list-A matches, nine wickets at 25.88

Jason Voros makes the team ahead of other bowlers who played slightly more first-class cricket, such as Leslie Varis (WA – only 16 wickets in 19 matches) and Cameron Valente (SA – 14 in ten), due to his solid performance in his only first-class match as well as decent limited-overs stats.

Voros played one-day cricket for the Canberra Comets and the AIS, alongside up-and-coming players at the time such as Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson. He also played club cricket for Toombul in Queensland, opening the bowling with Ryan Harris.

Voros also played for Sussex in 2004 and was able to qualify as a non-overseas player, due to his Hungarian parents. He played one first-class match for them, taking four wickets in the first innings.

As late as 2013 Voros was still playing in the Sunshine Coast cricket competition in Queensland, being man of the match in the final.

Next we look at the W team, one of the strongest batting teams in the competition, and they also have a fairly handy leg spinner.