So following on from last time’s V team, we come to the highly anticipated W team.
This team is extremely strong in the batting department, but might be slightly behind the top teams with their bowling, even with their handy part-timers and all-rounders.
84 Tests and counting, 7244 runs at 48.94, 24 centuries, 335* high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 3 (July 2014), behind AB de Villiers (SA) and Kumar Sangakkara (SL)
David Warner is one of the most exciting batsmen to play Test cricket for Australia. The first player to emerge from T20 through to the Test team has now scored over 7000 Test runs at an elite average for an opening batsman, culminating in this summer’s 335 not out epic against Pakistan.
The most frequent criticism of Warner is his struggles away, particularly in England. Warner’s away average is just over 33 and in England this drops to 26. And that away average is propped up by impressive results in South Africa, where Warner averages over 63 from six Tests.
However a home average of nearly 66 as an opener has been a key factor in Australia maintaining their home record even during weaker periods over the last decade. Eighteen of Warner’s 24 centuries have been scored at home (and another three in South Africa).
The other factor that destroys opposition teams in this country is Warner’s speed of scoring, denying the fielding team any sort of control right from the start of Australia’s innings. Warner’s strike rate of over 75 in Australia is truly amazing. To put it in perspective, Australia’s other dominant opener of recent times, Matt Hayden, had a strike rate of 62.9 at home, and Michael Slater before him, 55.6.
There have been many remarkable performances over the years including:
• In 2011, carrying his bat in the fourth innings at Hobart (only the fourth player in history to do so) on a tough wicket. This was only Warner’s second Test match.
• In 2012 in Perth against India, scoring 180 in only 159 balls. His century from 69 balls is the second fastest by an Australian (behind Adam Gilchrist).
• In 2013-14 away to South Africa, scoring 543 runs in only three Tests at a strike rate of 86.74, including three centuries.
• In 2014, scoring a century in each innings against India in Adelaide.
• 592 runs at 98.66 in the 2015-16 home series against NZ, including 253 in Perth and a century in each innings at the Gabba.
• In 2017 in Sydney, Warner scored a first-innings century before lunch against Pakistan, the fifth player to do so.
• 489 runs in two Tests for once out against Pakistan in 2019.
Let’s just hope the Ws are playing at home.
24 Tests, 1761 runs at 42.95, four centuries, 179 high score
Highest ICC batting ranking: 2 (January 1985), behind Allan Border (AUS)
Joining Warner is a batsman who may be his opposite. South African-born Kepler Wessels was a fairly unattractive, bloody-minded opener for Queensland and Australia who fashioned a successful career in Australia’s dark times of the 1980s, before returning to his home country to lead South Africa back into world cricket.
Wessels first came to Australia from South Africa as a 21-year-old to join Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. He played for Australia and scored a century in his second Supertest against the West Indies. He also scored a one-day century against the same opposition.
After the end of WSC, Wessels had to qualify through residency to play for Australia. He did so, playing for Queensland, and scored a brilliant 162 on debut against England in 1982. He scored over 380 runs for that series at an average of 48 to become a fixture in the team.
Wessels scored a century in each of his next two series, against Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Then in 1984-85 at home to the dominant West Indies side, Wessels was Australia’s standout player, scoring four half centuries in a row before a commanding 173 in the final Test to finish with over 500 runs at 56 for the series.
Wessels’ form deserted him in the mid 1980s as he was implicated in the rebel tours of South Africa (a charge he has always denied) and he retired from Test cricket by 1986. He ended up playing for Australia in the second rebel tour in 1987, scoring two centuries.
Five years later, Wessels’ uncompromising style and determination perfectly suited the South African psyche on their return to international cricket. Wessels first made them incredibly difficult to beat and in their first international tournament after readmission, very nearly dragged his team to a World Cup final, but for the inequity of the calculations for rain-affected matches in those days. To be fair, South Africa were already in trouble, needing 22 from 13 balls, but after a rain delay this was recalculated to 21 runs from one ball, ensuring England progressed to the World Cup final.
Wessels played 16 Tests for South Africa, scoring another 1027 runs at 38 with two centuries. South Africa’s record under Wessels was five wins, eight draws and three losses.
35 Tests, 2300 runs at 46.00, seven centuries, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC batting ranking: 3 (July 1930), behind Bert Sutcliffe (ENG) and Herbert Taylor (SA)
“There are two teams out there. One is playing cricket and the other is not.”
Coming in at first drop is one of Australia’s most notable captains, Bill Woodfull. Woodfull captained Australia through the controversy of the Bodyline series and for 25 Tests in all. This was a record for Australia until passed by Richie Benaud in the 1960s. Woodfull’s captaincy record stands at 14 wins, seven losses and four draws. Four of those seven losses were during the Bodyline series, the only series Woodfull lost as captain.
The Bodyline series was also one of only three in Woodfull’s career where he averaged under 50, although he improved as the series wore on, scoring three half centuries. This was in the twilight of his career, and he retired after a similarly modest series in England in 1934.
But in his prime Woodfull was among Australia’s greatest batsmen of the era. From his debut in 1926 until the start of Bodyline he averaged over 53 and hit seven centuries in only 25 Tests. His first 15 Tests were all against England, home and away, and he hit six of his seven tons and averaged 54.
At Sheffield Shield level Woodfull scored 3620 runs at 67.03, the sixth highest average in competition history. He topped the Shield run-scorers in 1922-23 and again in 1925-26. Overall he scored more than 13,000 first-class runs at 64.
Off spin – 128 Tests, 8029 runs at 41.81, 20 centuries, 59 wickets at 41.16, best bowling 5-40, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC batting ranking: 3 (November 1996), behind Steve Waugh (AUS) and Brian Lara (WI). Highest all-round ranking: 4 (November 1995)
Is Mark Waugh Australia’s most naturally talented cricketer? It certainly looked that way, whether it was his graceful onside play, his effortless belting of spinners, or his supreme catching ability. Over a long career Waugh scored over 8000 Test runs as part of one of Australia’s most successful eras.
Waugh first came into the side at the expense of his twin brother Steve and scored an imperious 138 on debut against England. What followed were many ups and downs over his career including:
• Four ducks in a row against Sri Lanka, earning him the nickname Audi.
• 126 against the West Indies away in 1995 in a partnership with his brother that effectively transferred the title of world’s best team to Australia.
• 115 not out, playing against type, to bat over a day in Adelaide to save a Test against South Africa in 1998.
• An Ashes average of over 50, with six centuries, including 550 runs in the 1993 series in England.
Waugh often gave the impression that batting was so easy and he was often accused of lacking concentration or drive to turn his 42 average into 50. His 20 centuries in 128 matches and no scores over 160 might not match the very best.
Waugh also took 181 Test catches, a world record at the time of his retirement, and pretty much made every one look easy.
Waugh would also be in serious consideration for an all-time great Australian one-day team. As an opener he stands in this format alongside Gilchrist, Hayden and Warner with 8500 runs (the third most by an Australian) from 244 matches at 39 average and 77 strike rate. This included three centuries as Australia’s best player in the 1996 World Cup, the first player to achieve this feat.
Right-arm medium – 168 Tests, 10,987 runs at 51.06, 32 centuries, 92 wickets at 37.44, best bowling 5-28, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC batting ranking: 1 (May 1995) – ninth highest Australian in history. Highest all-round ranking: 1 (March 1994).
Joining his brother in the middle order is the great Steve Waugh. After a lengthy apprenticeship as a dashing but streaky batting all-rounder, Waugh matured into one of the best players of his generation, and the hardest Australian to dismiss since Allan Border.
Waugh finished his career with nearly 11,000 runs at one of the country’s highest ever averages, but across his first 26 Tests he only averaged 30 and had not scored a century (to be fair, by this time he had taken 40 wickets at an average under 40 as well).
Waugh was part of the famous 1989 Ashes squad that left the country as one of the weakest of all time and returned victorious. Waugh’s contribution was 393 runs in the first three Tests before he was dismissed, and eventually over 500 runs at an average of 126. From that series on Waugh averaged over 55 in Tests.
There were many other highlights as a batsman and a captain:
• A double century against the West Indies in 1995, in a partnership with his brother that sealed the series and established Australia as the premier side in Test cricket. Waugh scored 429 runs at 107 during that series.
• Captain as Australia won a world record 16 Tests in succession between 1999 and 2001.
• A marvellous century in each innings against England in Manchester in 1997. The first Australian to score twin centuries in an Ashes Test since Arthur Morris in 1947. In each innings on a tough pitch Waugh came in with Australia three down for less than 40. There was only one other score over 80 in the entire Test from either team.
• A century at the SCG with a four of the last ball to preserve his career in 2003.
Waugh was no slouch in limited-overs cricket either. Early in his career, Waugh’s death bowling as one of the first masters of the slower ball was a key part to Australia winning the 1987 World Cup. And his century against South Africa in 1999 edition, coming in at 3-48 chasing 272, was key to Australia going on to win the title.
Leg spin – 74 Tests, 5357 runs at 48.26, 15 centuries, 250 high score, 49 wickets at 29.08, best bowling 5-66, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Highest ICC batting ranking: 1 (November 1969) – 18th all time and fifth Australian, highest all-round ranking: 4 (December 1970).
Finishing this very strong top six is Doug Walters. Walters was another supremely talented batsman who dominated for Australia in the late 1960s through the 1970s.
Walters burst onto the scene with 155 on debut at the Gabba and made centuries in his first two Tests. Soon after in 1968-69 Walters his a remarkable 699 runs on a tour of the West Indies at an average of 116.5 despite missing the first Test. This included being the first player in history to score a century and a double century in a single Test. Walters also became one of only four Australians to score four centuries in a single series. After his first 18 Tests Walters averaged over 73.
Walters was a player of remarkable innings, three times scoring a century in a session. The most famous of these was in 1974-75 when he hooked Bob Willis for six from the last ball of the day to bring up his hundred.
Walters would not have been keen on the level of professionalism in the current game. Fond of a drink and a smoke, he notably made his highest Test score of 250 against NZ in 1977. The notable part about it is that he was not out overnight after reaching his hundred and had to be dragged from the bar by the tour manager when the hotel was closing, before backing up the next day.
Walters’ one great weakness was in England where he only averaged 25.7 from 28 matches, but at home he was supreme, averaging nearly 58 from 37 Tests.
Wicketkeeper – 32 Tests and counting, 1440 runs at 31.3, four centuries, 117 high score, 69 catches and 11 stumpings
Highest ICC batting ranking: 47 (March 2013)
Matthew Wade is a specialist batsman these days, but for this side he will have to brush up his wicketkeeping skills.
Wade has had a career in a few parts. Initially selected as a gritty and combative wicketkeeper-batsman, Wade’s first period resulted in two centuries, but a struggle with the keeping side of things. He was brought back in 2016 for his talk as much as anything else, but failed to impress.
But then Wade went back to domestic cricket, gave up the gloves and produced a rich run of form. As a result he returned to favour in 2019 and is now in the national squad in all three forms of the game as a specialist batsman.
His Test returns since re-selection are an average of nearly 37 and two centuries in the 2019 Ashes to hold his place at number six.
Leg spin – 145 Tests, 3154 runs at 17.32, 708 wickets at 25.41, best bowling 8-71, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame, ACB Team of the Century
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 1 (November 1994) – 18th highest all time and fourth highest Australian (first spinner)
Heading up the W team’s bowling group is possibly the greatest leg-spinner of all time, Shane Warne. Warne at one time held the world wicket-taking record and I’m fairly sure is the only cricketer to ever have a stage musical written about him.
Warne made spin bowling cool. Everything about him caught the attention and made the headlines:
• The so-called Ball of the Century to Mike Gatting in 1993.
• The 1994 MCG hat trick in a Boxing Day Ashes test.
• The 1999 World Cup, where Warne took four wickets in the semi-final and again in the final, where he was named man of the match.
• Getting caught on the boundary for 99 in 2001 against NZ and never scoring a century, having scored the most runs of any batsman without reaching three figures.
• The 2005 Ashes, where he was so amazing for Australia that the Barmy Army ended up singing “We wish you were English”. Warne took 40 wickets for the series at 19.92 and scored 249 runs at 27.7 in a losing cause to share man-of-the-series honours.
• Taking 96 wickets in a calendar year in 2005, an all-time record.
• The Adelaide miracle of 2006.
• The 700th wicket at the MCG, bowling Andrew Strauss with a classic Warne ripping leg-spinner.
• In 2000 being named one of five Wisden Cricketers of the Century and later being included in their all-time Test XI.
And all of this after taking 1-150 on debut. The man is a legend.
Right-arm wonky leg fast medium – 34 Tests, 138 wickets at 27.47, best bowling 8-143
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 1 (March 1974)
Max Walker was a wholehearted swing bowler, delivering off the wrong leg, hence the nickname Tangles, who was part of the Australian pace attack in the 1970s. Despite often playing as third seamer to Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, Walker more than held his own, taking nearly 140 Test wickets at 27.5.
No doubt the highlight of Walker’s career was taking a whopping 8-143 at the MCG against England in 1975, leading Australia’s attack after injuries to Lillee and Thomson. Walker took 23 wickets for the series, one of his most successful. But he stood up whenever asked to lead the attack, for example taking three five-wicket hauls and 26 series wickets away to the West Indies in 1972-73, leading an attack of Terry Jenner, Kerry O’Keeffe and Jeff Hammond.
Walker was one of those rare players in modern times to juggle two sports at the highest level. On top of his cricket career Walker played 85 Australian rules football matches for Melbourne.
Left-arm fast medium – 14 Tests, 65 wickets at 21.12, best bowling 6-17
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 2 (May 1912), behind Syd Barnes (ENG)
Bill Whitty played 14 Tests in the early 1900s with great success. After touring England in 1909 but only playing one Test, Whitty routed the touring South Africans with his left-arm pace bowling in 1910-11, taking 37 wickets for the series at an average of only 17. His best performance was six wickets for only 17 to dismiss the tourists for 80 as they chased only 170 for victory.
Whitty was less successful in the following home season against England, but then took 25 wickets in six Tests in the 1912 triangular tournament held in England against England and South Africa.
The First World War effectively ended Whitty’s international career. He still turned out for South Australia thereafter but was definitely in the veteran class. Over a long first-class career that finally ended in 1926, Whitty took nearly 500 wickets at an average around 23.
Left-arm fast medium – 12 Tests, 39 wickets at 33.97, best bowling 7-27
Highest ICC bowling ranking: 22 (June 1992)
Another left-arm pace bowler rounds out this side, Mike Whitney. Whitney only played 12 Tests but had a few standout moments, with both ball and bat.
Firstly, Whitney made his Test debut during the 1981 Ashes from outside the squad, the first Australian to do so. He was playing in the Lancashire League but an injury crisis saw him play the final two Tests, taking five wickets.
Whitney played ten more Tests with varying success, but when he got it right, he really got it right. In the fifth Test against the West Indies in Adelaide 1989, Whitney took 7-89 in the first innings to give Australia the lead, dismissing among others Gordon Greenidge, Richie Richardson and Viv Richards. Then in 1992 in Perth, Whitney took 7-27 in the second innings against India to win the match.
Whitney was absolutely nothing good with the bat, but on one memorable occasion in 1987 he blocked out the final over of the match against the great New Zealander Richard Hadlee to save the Test with Australia nine wickets down.
Whitney had a long and successful first-class career and is one of only two bowlers to take over 300 first-class wickets for NSW. Whitney took 25 wickets at under 20 in five Sheffield Shield finals, winning four.
Spare a thought here for two players who played 59 Tests each but could not get a look in to this strong batting unit: the original kamikaze runner Graeme Wood and the front pad himself, the criminally underrated Shane Watson – a batting average of 35.2 and a bowling average of 33.7 says true all-rounder.
Next we take on the Y team, one of the real strugglers.