After Ashes Tests between sides of players born in October, November and December, the series continues with a fourth match in the New Year, this time between teams of January-born players at, naturally, the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Fortunately for Australia, while its player pool for the month is very small, quality has triumphed over quantity. The captain will lead his side before a grandstand that bears his name, one member is among its best-ever batsmen, while another has never played a Test. Seven were born in New South Wales (some things never change).
The visiting team is weak, in batting in particular. None of its members has scored 1000 runs or played 30 Tests, while few of them have enjoyed any success in Australia. But the members pavilion and ladies stand will appear familiar to their more vintage players, as will the team’s accommodation, comprising separate rooms for the amateurs (at the front) and professionals (at the back).
To date the SCG has hosted 108 matches. In the 56 involving England, the home team has a 27-22 win-loss record and a slight batting average advantage of 28.80 to 27.90, equivalent to an 18-run victory margin.
46 Tests, 1946-55, 3533 runs at 46.48, 12 centuries
Morris was a left-handed batsman and all-time great who captained Australia twice. Against England he scored 2080 runs at 50.73, including seven centuries. His Ashes highlights included 503 runs at 71.85 with three centuries in 1946-47 and 696 runs at 87.00 in 1948, including 182 not out in the successful chase of 404 at Headingley. He made his first-class debut in 1940-41 aged 18, scoring a century in each innings, but World War II then delayed his Test debut for six years.
Herbie ‘Horseshoe’ Collins
19 Tests, 1920-26, 1352 runs at 45.06, four centuries
Collins was a patient opening batsman and Test captain in the 1924-25 and 1926 series. Against England at the SCG he scored 70 and 104 in 1920-21 on debut and 114 and 60 in 1924-25. His highest scores were 203 in Johannesburg in 1921-22 and in his third-match 162 in Adelaide in 1920-21. His career was shortened by the commencement of World War I when he was aged 26.
30 Tests, 1982-87, 1690 runs at 35.20, three centuries
Ritchie was a middle-order batsman who in his second match scored 106 not out in Faisalabad. He arguably did not fulfil his great potential, with only two further centuries. In England in 1985 he scored 422 runs at 42.20, including 146 at Trent Bridge, 94 at Lord’s and 64 not out at The Oval.
70 Tests, 1977-84, 4415 runs at 37.41, nine centuries
Hughes was an extravagant stroke-maker who generally captained Australia only in difficult circumstances post-World Series Cricket. His most memorable innings included 117 and 84 in the Centenary Test at Lord’s in 1980, 213 against India at Adelaide Oval in 1980-81, 100 not out against the West Indies at the MCG in 1981-82 and 137 against England at the SCG in 1982-83. He subsequently led a ‘rebel’ team to South Africa.
Monty ‘Mary Ann’ Noble (captain)
42 Tests, 1898-1909, 1997 runs at 30.25, one century, 121 wickets at 25.00
Noble was a fine captain, batsman, medium-pace and off spin bowler, and fielder. He was arguably Australia’s greatest all-rounder prior to Keith Miller. In his first series he took 19 wickets at 20.26 against England, including a matchwinning 6-49 on debut at the MCG. At Old Trafford in 1899 he scored 60 not out and 89. Against England at the MCG in 1901-02 he took 7-17 and 6-60. Against England at the SCG in 1903-04 he scored 133. At Bramall Lane in 1902 he took 5-51 and 6-52.
18 Tests, 1951-55, 789 runs at 25.45
Hole was a middle-order batsman, occasional off spin bowler and brilliant slip fieldsman. He scored 63 on debut against England at the MCG and four of his six half-centuries against England. However, he did not transfer his Sheffield Shield performances to Test level.
57 Tests, 2011-present, 1515 runs at 22.27, 244 wickets at 26.97
Starc is a tall, fast left-arm bowler capable of bounce and late inswing. He was named player of the tournament at the 2015 World Cup. His recent highlights include 5-44 and 6-50 in Galle in 2016-17, 5-34 and 4-75 in Durban in 2017-18, 5-54 and 5-46 against Sri Lanka at Manuka Oval in 2018-19, and 5-52 and 4-45 at the Perth Stadium in 2019-20. He is also a hard-hitting left-handed batsman with a highest score to date of 99 in Mohali in 2012-13.
11 Tests, 1921, 43 wickets at 33.27
McDonald was a Tasmanian fast bowler known for taking early wickets and who formed a literally unbeatable combination with Jack Gregory. In England in 1921 he took 27 wickets at 24.74, including 3-42 and 5-32 at Trent Bridge, and 4-58 and 4-89 at Lord’s. Following the tour, he played professionally for Nelson, Lancashire and finally Bacup, finishing with 1395 wickets from 281 first-class matches and assisting Lancashire to four championships. He had made his first-class debut in 1909-10, but World War I then delayed his Test debut until he was aged 30.
51 Tests, 2014-present, 195 wickets at 26.20
Hazlewood is a tall, accurate and reliable fast-medium bowler. His greatest successes to date have been against England, with 13 matches returning 57 wickets at 24.43. They comprise 16 wickets at 25.75 in 2015, 21 wickets at 25.90 in 2017-18 and 20 wickets at 21.85 in 2019.
Bruce Buggins (wicketkeeper)
63 first-class matches, 1954-63, 148 catches, 19 stumpings
Buggins was Western Australia’s wicketkeeper during a nine-season Sheffield Shield career. He has been selected in the complete absence of any January-born Test glovemen. Wikipedia suggests that travel expenses from Perth to the east coast cost him a possible Test cap.
21 Tests, 1920-26, 99 wickets at 33.91
Mailey was a leg-spinner who spun the ball prodigiously but could be expensive. Against England in 1920-21 he took 36 wickets at 26.27 despite not bowling in one match, including 5-160 and 5-142 in Adelaide and 4-115 and 9-121 at the MCG. In his final match, at the Oval, he took 6-138 and 3-128. He had made his first-class debut in 1912-13 but World War I then delayed his Test debut until he was aged 34.
John Inverarity, Ken Archer, Ian Meckiff, Tim May.
Raman Subba Row (captain)
13 Tests, 1958-61, 984 runs at 46.85, three centuries
Subba Row was a tall left-handed batsman and fine fieldsman who will lead this team on the basis of his captaincy of Northamptonshire, in the absence of any Test skippers. He toured Australia in 1958-59 without playing a Test match but scored 24 against New South Wales at the SCG. In his only Ashes series, in 1961, he scored 59 and 112 in the first match and 137 in what would be his last Test. He then retired from first-class cricket at the age of 29 to focus on a business career. He later served as an ICC match referee.
15 Tests, 1882-1887, 510 runs at 22.17
Scotton was his country’s best left-handed batsman during the mid-1880s and a fine outfielder. He had a strong defence and a reputation as a stonewaller. His finest innings against Australia were 90 from 375 balls at The Oval in 1880, 82 in 345 minutes in Adelaide in 1884-85 and 34 in a 170-run opening partnership with William Gilbert Grace at the Oval in 1886. Wisden’s obituary of him wrote that “he carried caution to such extremes that it was often impossible to take any pleasure in seeing him play”.
Seven Tests, 1963-64, 496 runs at 41.33
Bolus was a good stroke-player, particularly on the leg side. He played against the West Indies at home and India away but was unable to regularly displace Geoff Boycott or John Edrich from the side. In India he scored four half-centuries with a top score of 88.
Seven Tests, 1933-39, 454 runs at 64.85, two centuries
Valentine was a fast-scoring batsman and brilliant fieldsman. His entire career comprised two matches in India in 1933-34 and five in South Africa five years later. In his first four matches he scored 136 on debut, 40, 3, 97 and 112. He played first-class cricket from 1927 until 1950, interrupted by World War II, which commenced when he was aged 31 and in which he was severely wounded and awarded the Military Cross.
Five Tests, 1927-30, 299 runs at 49.83, one century
Legge was a right-handed batsman and fine slip fieldsman who toured South Africa and New Zealand during a brief career. He scored the bulk of his runs in his final innings, 196 in a total of 540 in Auckland. That 1929-30 tour to New Zealand commenced with some matches in Australia, during which he scored 42 against NSW at the SCG.
Seven Tests, 2018-present, 430 runs at 47.77, one century
Pope is a promising batsman and part-time wicketkeeper. He debuted against India at Lord’s in 2018 at 20 years of age. Against South Africa earlier this year he scored 135 not out in Port Elizabeth and half-centuries in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
11 Tests, 1911-12, 330 runs at 23.57, 45 wickets at 20.57
Foster was a fine all-rounder who batted right-handed, fielded in slips and bowled left-arm fast-medium swing in combination with the great Sydney Francis Barnes. In Australia in 1911-12 he took 32 wickets at 21.62, including returns of 5-92, 6-91 and 5-36. In that same series he scored 71, 56 and 50 with the bat. Against South Africa at Lord’s in 1912 he took 5-16 and 3-54. He captained Warwickshire to its first County Championship in 1911. His career was interrupted by World War I’s commencement when he was aged 25 and ended due to injury from a motorcycle accident.
28 Tests, 1948-57, 102 wickets at 20.39
Wardle was a great left-arm slow bowler who bowled finger spin in England but wrist spin overseas. His opportunities were limited due to the presence of Tony Lock. In Australia in 1954-55 he took 5-79 and 3-51 at the SCG. In South Africa in 1956-57 he took 26 wickets in four matches at 13.81, including 5-53 and 7-36 in Cape Town. After writing a series of articles critical of his Yorkshire captain and teammates his invitation to tour Australia in 1958-59 was withdrawn, and he never represented England again.
15 Tests, 1997-99, 60 wickets at 27.85
Headley was a fast-medium seam bowler, grandson of the legendary George Headley and son of Test opener Ron Headley. He enjoyed his greatest successes in six matches against Australia, with 35 wickets at 24.77. At Old Trafford on debut in 1997 he took 4-72 and 4-104. He took 19 wickets in three matches in 1998-99, including 6-60 in a 12-run win at the MCG and 4-62 and 4-40 at the SCG. Chronic back injuries forced his early retirement at 28 years of age.
13 Tests, 1927-31, 45 wickets at 30.91
Peebles was a tall leg spinner from Scotland considered one of the best of his era. Against Australia in 1930 he bowled Donald Bradman for 14 at Old Trafford after first troubling him consistently and took 6-204 in a score of 695 at the Oval. His other career highlights were 6-63 in Johannesburg in 1930-31 and 5-77 and 4-150 against New Zealand at Lord’s in 1931. He has gained selection on the basis of the ground’s historical assistance to wrist spinners and the alternative seam bowlers’ unremarkable or non-existent records in Australia.
Bert ‘Struddy’ Strudwick (wicketkeeper)
28 Tests, 1910-26, 61 catches, 12 stumpings
Strudwick was a dependable and popular wicketkeeper whose 1493 first-class dismissals stood as a record until 1975. He toured Australia four times and South Africa twice. It is claimed that one letter to him posted in England and addressed to “’Struddy, ‘Stralia” arrived safely.
Possible tour party members
Alex Hales, Ken Higgs, Mark Wood, Dave Brown, Ryan Sidebottom.
The Fifth Test, for February-born players, will take place at Adelaide Oval.