Over the last few weeks, we asked you to vote on who should make The Roar’s greatest Ashes XI of all time. Now, after the votes have finished pouring in, it’s time to reveal who made it.
First, a quick refresher on the voting process: we initially asked everyone to pick their preferred full side, comprising two openers, three middle-order batsmen, an all-rounder, wicketkeeper and four specialist bowlers, with an option to vote for one spinner and three quicks, or two slow and fast bowlers.
From there, the two players with the most votes were pitted against each other for each individual spot in a series of seeded one-on-one polls. In the case of ‘positions’ with more than one vacancy – all of them except for the all-rounder and wicketkeeper – we took twice as many players as required and had the player with the most votes against the one with the least, and the one with the second-most against the second-least and so on. So the most popular opener after Round 1 (Matthew Hayden) went up against the opener with the fourth-most votes (Len Hutton) for one spot, while second (Jack Hobbs) and third (Herbert Sutcliffe) faced off for the other.
This was the resulting XI.
Openers: Matthew Hayden and Jack Hobbs
No surprise to see Jack Hobbs, the second-most prolific batsman in Ashes history, make it into the final side. He received more than twice as many votes in the second round as his opponent and former opening partner, Sutcliffe. His partner, though, is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.
Matthew Hayden received more votes than any other opener in the first round then eased past Len Hutton in the second round, 1451 votes to 1012. While Hayden’s Ashes record was hardly shabby – 1461 runs at 45.65 – it’s not exactly Hutton’s 2428 at 56.46 or Sutcliffe’s 2741 at 66.85. In fact, the Queenslander had the fewest Ashes centuries (two) of any of the opening options. However, he was undoubtedly a great opener when Australia were at their peak in the mid-2000s, which has presumably seen him home here.
Middle order: Don Bradman, Steve Smith, Ricky Ponting
Bradman made it. Don’t really need to offer any explanation there.
(Although if you want more detail we could offer that his match-up against Wally Hammond was more lopsided than all others bar one, the Don winning that poll 1062-63. Sorry Wally.)
Steve Smith was also an easy selection for most voters, handily getting past Allan Border 1088-414. It’s worth recapping just how good Australia’s best current batsman has been in Ashes encounters, too. Having only played 27 Tests against England, he’s already sixth in the all-time list of Ashes runscorers with an even 2800 runs at 65.11. None of the top ten played fewer matches, only Sutcliffe and Bradman finished with better averages, and only Hobbs (12) and Bradman (19) scored more than Smith’s 11 centuries – three of which have been doubles.
The last middle-order spot was also a battle between former Australian captains, with Ricky Ponting getting past Steve Waugh by some 300 votes. As with Hayden, some could argue recency (or just non-Ashes) bias with this pick, as Waugh’s record against England seems to be the better one. He led his successor as skipper in matches (45 to 35), runs (3173 to 2476), average (58.75 to 44.21) and centuries (ten to eight).
Ponting, on the other hand, did captain his side to a rare whitewash in 2006-07, when he also finished as player of the series, and produced some other memorable knocks in Ashes Tests.
All-rounder: Keith Miller
The most closely fought position. In Ian Botham and Miller there were two outstanding all-rounders to choose from, and it came down to a nail-biter, with Miller, one of the men whose name adorns the award for player of the series, edging out ‘Beefy’ by just four votes.
Having had his Test debut until after World War II, Miller didn’t play an Ashes match until he was 26, so was denied the opportunity to play an extra series or two. Nonetheless, he was a star of the post-War years, opening the bowling for Bradman’s Invincibles while batting in the middle-order. He finished his Ashes career with 1511 runs at 33.57 and 87 wickets at 22.4 from 29 Tests.
As an aside, there are plenty of worse ways to spend seven minutes than by watching this interview with Miller and Denis Compton:
Wicketkeeper: Adam Gilchrist
By far and away the most lopsided position, Adam Gilchrist was always going to end up in this XI. After being picked in 89 per cent of teams in Round 1, he then just barely edged past Ian Healy by, um, 1434 votes to 170.
With 1083 runs at 45.12 and 96 dismissals from 20 Tests against England, it’s not hard to see why.
Spinner: Shane Warne
No surprise that Shane Warne, too, was a shoo-in for the side. He was the most-picked bowler in Round 1, then out-polled Jim Laker 946-92 in the second.
Warne is, of course, the leading wicket-taker in Ashes history with 195 at 23.35 in 36 matches, and conjured up some of the most memorable moments in contests between Australia and England, from his unplayable first ball which bamboozled Mike Gatting, to the famous last-day win in Adelaide in 2006.
Fast bowlers: Glenn McGrath, Dennis Lillee, Mitchell Johnson
It’s an all-Australian attack. Again, two of these were practically foregone conclusions; McGrath and Lillee come in behind Warne in the list of leading Ashes wicket-takers, having snared 157 and 167 English scalps respectively.
McGrath cruised past Pat Cummins in the second round of voting 1228-299 after topping the pace-bowling charts in the first, while Lillee trounced his former teammate Terry Alderman 980-85.
The third quick was less clear cut. James Anderson finished in third place after Round 1, but was comprehensively out-polled by Mitchell Johnson in the second round, the Australian getting 1174 votes to Anderson’s 398.
In a head-to-head Ashes face-off, that’s probably fair enough, too. While Anderson has played more matches (32 to 19) and taken more wickets (104 to 87), it’s Johnson with the far better average (25.81 to 34.56) and strike-rate (43.1 to 67.7) – much of which is, of course, due to the latter’s otherworldly series in 2013-14.
That leaves us with an XI looking like this:
1. Matthew Hayden
2. Jack Hobbs
3. Don Bradman
4. Steve Smith
5. Ricky Ponting
6. Keith Miller
7. Adam Gilchrist (wk)
8. Shane Warne
9. Mitchell Johnson
10. Dennis Lillee
11. Glenn McGrath
Just a slight Australian flavour then…
Well, did the voters get it right? Or are there some flaws in the final XI? Let us know in the comments below.