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Opinion

The Calendar Ashes: First Test, April

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Roar Rookie
31st May, 2020
15

Following the inaugural Calendar Ashes series down under, England will now seek to regain the urn at home.

Each of its six teams has been drawn from a large pool of players highly experienced in their own conditions. However, at four of those grounds, Australia has won more matches than it has lost.

The first match will take place between teams of April-born players at Trent Bridge, home of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. It has hosted 63 Tests to date, including 22 Ashes clashes. Head-to-head, England has six wins to Australia’s seven, with the remaining nine drawn. Australia also enjoys an overall batting average advantage of 31.12 to 30.10, equivalent to a 20-run margin.

England’s team includes an experienced top order, and the greatest bowler of all time and likely man of the match. Australia has a stronger and more balanced overall five-man attack.

My tip is Australia to win a very close match, and draw first blood in the series.

England April-born

Charles Fry (captain)
26 Tests, 1896-1912, 1223 runs at 32.18, two centuries
Fry was arguably the greatest all-rounder of his generation. He was a brilliant scholar, played football for England and in an FA Cup final, held the world long jump record for 21 years, was offered the throne of Albania, and served on the League of Nations. As a cricketer he captained England, batted superbly off the back foot, scored centuries in six successive first-class innings, and formed a legendary combination at Sussex with KS Ranjitsinhji. His centuries were 144 against Australia in 1905 and 129 against South Africa in 1907, both at the Oval.

Dennis Amiss
50 Tests, 1966-1977, 3612 runs at 46.30, 11 centuries
Amiss was a courageous and skilled batsman. In 1974, he scored 1379 runs in 13 matches at 68.95. Against the West Indies, he scored 262 not out in Kingston in 1973-74, and 203 at the Oval in 1976 when Michael Holding claimed 14 wickets. Eight of his centuries exceeded 150. At the MCG he scored 90 in 1974-75, and 64 in the Centenary Test in 1976-77. However, his overall record against Australia was a disappointing 305 runs at 15.25, with either Dennis Lillee or Jeff Thomson dismissing him 13 times in 20 innings. After signing with World Series Cricket, he did not play another Test.

Arthur Shrewsbury
23 Tests, 1882-1893, 1277 runs at 35.47, three centuries
Shrewsbury was arguably the world’s finest batsman during the late 1880s and early 1890s, especially on bowlers’ pitches. His Ashes highlights included 105 not out at the MCG in 1884-85, 164 at Lord’s in 1886 against Fred Spofforth, and 106 and 81 at Lord’s in 1893 against Charles Turner. Whenever WG Grace was a selector, his first words were “Give me Arthur”. His defensive pad play prompted a change in the LBW law. This match will take place at his home ground. He took his own life at the age of 47, believing that he had an incurable disease.

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David Gower
117 Tests, 1978-1992, 8231 runs at 44.25, 18 centuries
Gower was a graceful left-handed batsman who enjoyed some of his greatest successes in 42 matches against Australia, scoring 3269 runs at 44.78 with nine centuries. As captain in 1985, he scored 732 runs at 81.33 including 166 at Trent Bridge, 215 at Edgbaston and 157 at the Oval. He hooked for four the first ball he faced in Test cricket.

David Gower

(Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Jonathan Trott
52 Tests, 2009-2015, 3835 runs at 44.08, nine centuries
Trott was a technically correct South African-raised batsman. His Ashes career comprised 12 matches and 917 runs at 48.26. It included 119 on debut at the Oval in 2009, and 135 not out and 168 not out in 2010-11 at the Gabba and the MCG respectively. He did not make his Test debut until the age of 28, and his career ended at 34 shortly after a stress-related illness caused him to withdraw from the 2013-14 Ashes after the series’ first match.

Ian Bell
118 Tests, 2004-2015, 7727 runs at 42.69, 22 centuries
Bell was a technically sound batsman identified early as a prodigy, who debuted aged 22. During 2010 and 2011, he averaged more than 65 in five successive series. His Ashes highlights included a century in each of England’s three consecutive wins in 2013. But overall against Australia, he averaged only 34.00 in 18 home Tests.

Alan Knott (wicketkeeper)
95 Tests, 1967-1981, 4389 runs at 32.75, five centuries, 250 catches, 19 stumpings
Knott was arguably England’s greatest ever wicketkeeper, and very rarely missed a chance. He formed an especially effective partnership with Kent teammate Derek Underwood. His batting made him a genuine all-rounder, and he had a liking for fast bowling and the sweep shot. Against Australia he played 34 matches, scored 1682 runs at 32.98 with two centuries, and claimed 97 catches and eight stumpings.

Jofra Archer
Seven Tests, 2019-2019, 30 wickets at 27.40
Archer is a pace bowler who, after representing his native Barbados at under-19 level, made a compelling Test debut at Lord’s against Australia. In four Ashes matches to date, he has taken 22 wickets at 20.27, including 6-45 at Headingley and 6-62 at the Oval. Changed ECB qualification rules had enabled him to wait only three years, rather than the previous seven, to become eligible for selection.

Jofra Archer.

(Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Steven Finn
36 Tests, 2010-2016, 125 wickets at 30.40
Finn was a tall fast-medium bowler. In seven Ashes matches he took 28 wickets at 30.39, including 6-125 at the Gabba in 2010-11 and 6-79 at Edgbaston in 2015. He played his first and last Tests against Bangladesh away from home, and made his home debut against Bangladesh as well. His habit of kneeing the bowlers’ end stumps on approach prompted a change in the laws of cricket.

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Sydney Barnes
27 Tests, 1901-1914, 189 wickets at 16.43
Barnes was considered by many who faced or saw him to be the greatest bowler ever. The ICC’s own rankings place him first. He was medium-fast in pace with commanding control of seam, spin, cut and swing. He averaged seven wickets per match, at a time when only one ball was available for each innings. Sure of his value, he regularly played in the Lancashire and Staffordshire leagues when unable to agree on payment terms with a county club, sometimes even alternating between weekend and weekday matches. In his second match, at the MCG in 1901-02, he took 6-42 and 7-121. At the same ground in 1911-12, his opening spell on the match’s first morning was 4-1 in five overs. In South Africa in 1913-14, his final series, he took 49 wickets at 10.93 in four matches, including 8-56 and 9-103 in Johannesburg, and 7-56 and 7-88 in Durban.

Phil ‘The Cat’ Tufnell
42 Tests, 1990-2001, 121 wickets at 37.68
Tufnell was a left-arm finger spinner with a great arm ball and skills of flight. His Ashes highlights included 5-61 at the SCG in 1990-91, and 7-66 and 4-27 in a famous victory at the Oval in 1997. But in his final match against Australia, he took 1-174 at the same ground. He was a genuine number 11 batsman, and more recently a reality television star.

Honourable mentions: Alec Stewart, Mike Brearley, Tip Foster, John Murray, Norman Cowans, Monty Panesar.

Australia April-born

Jack Fingleton
18 Tests, 1932-1938, 1189 runs at 42.46, five centuries
Fingleton was a courageous opening batsman who regularly opened with Bill Brown for NSW and Australia, and an outstanding fieldsman. In South Africa in 1935-36, he scored 478 runs at 79.66 with centuries in three consecutive matches, followed by another against England at the Gabba in his very next match. Against England at the MCG in 1936-37, he shared a 346-run sixth-wicket partnership with Don Bradman. His career was shortened by World War II, which commenced when he was aged 31. He later achieved fame as a cricket and political writer.

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Charles Kelleway
26 Tests, 1910-1928, 1422 runs at 37.42, three centuries, 52 wickets at 32.36
Kelleway was a sound batsman who often opened the innings, and he was a very useful fast-medium swing bowler. In the triangular tournament in England in 1912, he scored 114 at Old Trafford and 102 at Lord’s, both against South Africa. Against England in 1920-21, he scored 330 runs at 47.14 including 147 in Adelaide, and took 15 wickets at 21.00. His career was interrupted by World War I, which commenced when he was aged 28.

Syd Gregory
58 Tests, 1890-1912, 2282 runs at 24.53, four centuries
Gregory was a wristy and quick-footed batsman and brilliant cover fieldsman, who toured England eight times across 23 years. His Ashes highlights included 201 at the SCG in 1894-95 when England followed on and won, 103 at Lord’s in 1896, and 117 at the Oval in 1899. He was born on the site of the SCG, and his famous family included fellow Test cricketers father Ned, uncle Dave and cousin Jack.

Michael ‘Pup’ Clarke (captain)
115 Tests, 2004-2015, 8643 runs at 49.10, 28 centuries
Clarke was a middle-order batsman, useful infielder and left-arm orthodox spinner. At his peak he was the world’s best batsman, and under his aggressive leadership Australia regained the ICC’s number one ranking. In 2012 he scored 1595 runs at 106.33, including innings at home of 329 not out and 210 against India, and 259 not out and 230 against South Africa. In 20 matches in England, he scored 1296 runs at 40.50 with three centuries. Between the captaincy highlights of an ICC World Cup 2015 title and an Ashes clean sweep in 2013-14 were memories of homework-gate and two Ashes series losses away.

Michael Clarke

(Nicky Sims/Getty Images)

Barry Shepherd
Nine Tests, 1963-1965, 502 runs at 41.83
Shepherd was a consistent left-handed batsman who recorded five half-centuries in 14 innings, with a highest score of 96. Against England at the SCG in 1962-63, he scored 71 not out on debut. He retired aged 28 to pursue a business career.

Peter ‘Rat’ Toohey
15 Tests, 1977-1980, 893 runs at 31.89, one century
Toohey was a middle-order batsman who debuted during the World Series Cricket period, and briefly retained his position thereafter. He scored 82 and 57 against India in 1977-78 in his first match, and his career highlight was scoring 122 and 97 (stumped) against the West Indies in Kingston in 1977-78, just weeks after being struck in the face by an Andy Roberts bouncer. In six matches against England, he scored 171 runs at 15.54.

Ian Healy (wicketkeeper)
119 Tests, 1988-1999, 4356 runs at 27.39, four centuries, 366 catches, 29 stumpings
Healy proved to be an outstanding wicketkeeper-batsman, after first being surprisingly selected over more experienced candidates. In 33 matches against England he scored 1269 runs at 30.95 with two centuries, and claimed 123 catches and 12 stumpings. His glove work was an integral factor in Shane Warne’s bowling success. Cricket Australia named him in its Australian team of the 20th century.

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Paul ‘Pistol’ Reiffel
35 Tests, 1992-1998, 955 runs at 26.52, 104 wickets at 26.96
Reiffel was an accurate seam bowler and useful lower-order batsman. All of his seven Ashes matches took place in England, returning 30 wickets at 22.96 with best figures of 5-65 and 3-87 at Headingley in 1993, 6-71 and 0-30 at Edgbaston in 1993, and 1-41 and 5-49 at Headingley in 1997.

Craig ‘Billy’ McDermott
71 Tests, 1984-1996, 291 wickets at 28.63
McDermott was a fast swing bowler who debuted at 20 years of age, but suffered regular injuries. He excelled in 17 Ashes matches, with 84 wickets at 26.30. His best performances against England included 8-141 at Old Trafford in 1985, 8-97 and 3-60 at the WACA in 1990-91, and 3-72 and 5-42 at the MCG in 1994-95.

Jason ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie
71 Tests, 1996-2006, 259 wickets at 26.13
Gillespie was a Sydney-born and Adelaide-raised fast bowler, who debuted aged 21. Statistically, he and Glenn McGrath are Australia’s most successful new-ball pair. In 18 matches against England, he took 65 wickets at 29.03, including 7-37 and 2-65 at Headingley in 1997, 2-23 and 5-88 at the WACA in 1998-99, and 2-56 and 5-53 at Lord’s in 2001. He is the first acknowledged Aboriginal Test cricketer, and famously scored 201 not out as a night-watchman in Chattogram in what would be his final Test.

Australian pace bowler Jason Gillespie celebrates

(AAP Photo/Julian Smith)

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Bert ‘Dainty’ Ironmonger
14 Tests, 1928-1933, 74 wickets at 17.97
Ironmonger was a medium-paced left-arm orthodox spin bowler. He played his first Test at 45 years of age, a full 19 years after making his first-class debut five years prior to World War I. Against the West Indies in 1930-31 he took 22 wickets at 14.68, including 7-23 and 4-56 at the MCG. Against South Africa in 1931-32 he took 31 wickets at 9.67, including 5-42 and 4-44 in Brisbane, and 5-6 and 6-18 at the MCG on a soft pitch. He could extract sharp turn from almost any surface, using the stump of a middle finger missing its top joint. Belying his nickname, he was a slow-moving and awkward fieldsman, and a poor batsman who scored only 42 runs at 2.62.

Possible tour party members: Peter Handscomb, Gary Cosier, Brian Taber, Damien Fleming, Bob Massie.