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Opinion

The best Test XI born outside Test-playing nations

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Roar Guru
21st June, 2020
46

Recently, I have read with keen interest a series of articles by The Roar author Jon Richardson about the cities that have produced cricketing superstars on a regular basis.

While Melbourne and Sydney are expected names, the success of Durban surprised me.

Of course, over the years, cricketing talents have come from different corners of the world. Interestingly, many countries without Test status have produced highly successful Test cricketers.

In recent times, Kuwait City on the shore of the Persian Gulf has become a breeding ground of Pakistan cricket talents.

While Malaysia has no great history in cricket, Kuala Lumpur has produced multiple Test cricketers.

More than 100 years before Bangladesh became a Test-playing nation, Dacca produced Bransby Cooper for Australia.

Even Rio de Janeiro, better known for its Carnival and long-haired football stars, has produced a Test cricketer for India.

Of course, the list of such cricketers changes with time. Until Afghanistan became a full member of the ICC, Salim Durani – the only Afghan-born Indian Test cricketer – had his name in the list. Once Scotland becomes a full member, names like Archie Jackson (Australia) and Ian Peebles (England) will be removed.

Here, I have formed the strongest possible team from such players. Obviously, the list is full of England cricketers, but I will start with a Scotland-born Australian cricketer from the early 20th century.

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Archie Jackson (Australia) (Born in Scotland)
At the Adelaide Oval in 1929, Jackson – a right-had batsman – scored a fine debut hundred. His 164 gave the home side a 35-run lead, but in the end England prevailed in an exciting finish, winning by 12 runs.

Jackson was overshadowed (like everyone else) by Sir Donald Bradman during the English summer of 1930, but still great things were expected of him.

But the MCG Test against the West Indies in early 1931 was his last. He died of tuberculosis in 1933 aged only 23. He scored 474 runs in eight Tests at an average of 47.

Archie Jackson

(Public domain image/State Library of NSW)

Mike Denness (England) (Born in Scotland)
Although he was basically a middle-order batsman, the ex-England captain opened the batting in Tests on a few occasions. The graceful right-hander scored 1667 runs at an average of almost 40. He has four Test match hundreds.

He made an impressive start as the captain of England. A 1-1 draw in the West Indies in early 1974 was followed by a 3-0 clean sweep against India at home. But the Ashes tour of 1974 became an entirely different experience.

Qasim Umar (Pakistan) (Born in Kenya)
Like a few other events in Pakistan cricket in the 1980s, Umar’s international career is shrouded in mystery. During the tour to Australia in 1983-84 he showed excellent technique against the short-pitched bowling, convincing everyone that Pakistan had finally found a reliable number three bat.

He scored his first Test ton at the Adelaide Oval, but perhaps his best effort was at the WACA. He scored 48 and 65 in a match where the Pakistanis were badly outplayed.

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Then he scored 96 and 89 on a seamer-friendly pitch in Dunedin in early 1985 against Sir Richard Hadlee and company.

He converted two of his three centuries into double hundreds but there was also a lack of consistency in his performances. And his average of 36 over 26 Tests does scant justice to his talents.

He vanished from international cricket somewhat mysteriously in early 1987.

George Headley (West Indies) (Born in Panama)
While Barbados and the other regions of the Caribbean have produced many great batsmen over the years, the first great batsman from the West Indies was born in Panama. His father, from Barbados, was a part of canal-building team there.

When he was ten, his mother became worried about his lack of development in the English language. He was frequently speaking Spanish. So she sent him to Kingston, where he stayed with one of her relatives.

It was in Kingston that Headley learnt the game of cricket, fell in love with it, and eventually became a legend.

In 22 Tests, he scored more than 2000 runs at an average of over 60. He never had a bad series. Late in his career, he became the first black captain of the West Indies, leading them against England in Barbados in 1948.

Ted Dexter (England) (Born in Italy)
English cricket fought back well from their disappointing return to Test cricket in the post-WWII era to regain their status as a major power in cricket by the mid-1950s. A number of top quality batsmen gave the team much needed stability.

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But while the likes of Len Hutton, Colin Cowdrey and Trevor Bailey frustrated the oppositions frequently, they didn’t always bother about entertaining the crowd.

It was the introduction of Ted Dexter late in the decade that made the batting line-up more exciting and stylish. Perhaps the flair in his batting and in his personality may have something to do with the fact that he was born in Milan, the fashion capital of Italy.

His father was a retired British major, a veteran of WWI, who ran a small business there. But with the winds of war blowing throughout Europe, the family returned to England just before the start of the war.

(S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

He grew up in England, and played his first-class cricket with Cambridge University and Sussex. A middle-order batsman, he normally batted at number three for England. He was equally adept in playing both pace and spin.

During his 76 in just 84 minutes (14 fours, one six) against Australia on the final day of the Old Trafford Test in 1961, he treated Richie Benaud just like a club bowler. The NSW leggie, however, had the last laugh, dismissing Dexter and eventually wining the match for his team.

Then at Lord’s in 1963, England slumped to 2-20 in their first innings against Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith. Batting at three, Dexter – then the England captain – took on the fast bowlers in a most glorious manner, smashing 70 from 75 balls before Sir Garfield Sobers trapped him LBW.

In the county circuit he had a reputation of handling Derek Underwood better than anyone else, and he frequently produced big scores against Kent.

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In his 62 Tests he scored more than 4500 runs at an average of almost 48 with nine hundreds. He was also a useful medium pacer, taking 66 wickets at 35 apiece.

Freddie Brown (England) (Born in Peru)
He was an useful all-rounder, a solid right-had batsman and a bowler who could bowl both fast medium and leg breaks.

Although he made his Test debut in 1931, it was only in 1949 that he could command a regular place in the England team. He was almost 40 at the time.

As the captain of the English Ashes team of 1950-51, he helped in the gradual rebuilding of the England team at the time.

Geraint Jones (England) (Born in Papua New Guinea)
Wicketkeeping is a thankless job in cricket. Keepers seldom get the limelight for their keeping. MS Dhoni got the attention for his batting and his personality. Generally, the keepers are best remembered for the dropped catch or the missed stumping that cost the team the match.

In this regard, Jones can be considered lucky. He is best remembered for taking the catch to dismiss Michael Kasprowicz off the bowling of Steve Harmison in that famous finish at Edgbaston in 2005.

With England regaining the Ashes at the end of the summer, he like the rest of the team became a national hero. However, he struggled to establish himself in the England team. He was mainly picked over his rivals for his batting ability, but he wasn’t delivering enough.

In the end, his Test career lasted for 34 matches. A batting average of 24 wasn’t good enough in the Adam Gilchrist era.

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Adam Gilchrist hits Monty Panesar for six

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Late in his career he played for Papua New Guinea in T20 World Cup qualifiers. He was born in Papua New Guinea in a Welsh family, learnt his game in Brisbane, and played most of his top-level cricket for Kent and England.

Phil Edmonds (England) (Born in Zambia)
Born in Lusaka, Zambia in 1951 – it was known as North Rhodesia then – Phil Edmonds was an orthodox left-arm spinner and a useful lower-order batsman.

He moved to a school in Kent in 1966 and made his first-class debut playing for Cambridge University in 1971. He had a memorable Test debut against Australia in 1975 when he took 5-28 in the first innings, completely overshadowing his senior partner Derek Underwood.

At that stage, most people saw him as a long-term successor to Underwood. But despite playing 51 Tests, he was unable to show the killer venom of his predecessor consistently at the highest level. He had a lovely classical action of a slow left-armer, and he and the off spinner John Emburey enjoyed a great reputation as a spin combination at the county level.

They contributed a lot to Middlesex’s success of the 1970s and ’80s. But they both failed to convert their county form into Test match success. He was a capable right-had batsman and scored a couple of Test match fifties.

Ian Peebles (England) (Born in Scotland)
Aberdeen-born Peebles was a right-arm leggie. He made his England debut in South Africa during the 1927-28, even before making his country debut with Middlesex.

He managed to take only five wickets in his first four Tests in South Africa, but was lot more impressive in his two Tests against Bill Woodfull’s Australia in the summer of 1930. Overall, he took 45 wickets in 13 Tests at an average of 31.

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After his playing career, he became a well known cricket writer and journalist.

John Traicos (South Afrcia and Zimbabwe) (Born in Egypt)
Traicos was born in Egypt, played Tests for both South Africa and Zimbabwe, and was basically an English type of spinner.

While he enjoyed a modest success while playing three Tests against Australia in 1970, he made a memorable comeback 22 years later playing for Zimbabwe. At the age of 42, he produced a marathon effort to take 5-86 from 50 overs in Zimbabwe’s debut Test. None of the Indian batsmen looked comfortable against him.

His record of 18 wickets in seven Tests at an average over 42 isn’t very impressive, but his economy rate of 2.86 would suggest that he was an ideal bowler for ODI cricket.

Buster Nupen (South Africa) (Born in Norway)
Nupen was a right-arm medium pacer who represented South Africa in between the wars. His record of 50 wickets from 17 Tests at an average of almost 36 isn’t impressive. But he was a specialist on matting wickets, where he was often simply unplayable.

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He led South Africa in one Test against England at Johannesburg during the Christmas period of 1930. On a matting wicket he produced career-best match figures of 11-150 to lead his side to a narrow victory.

12th man: Derek Pringle (England) (Born in Kenya)
A right-arm medium pacer and a useful lower-order batsman, he made his Test debut at Lord’s in 1982 and ended it ten years later at the Oval. The fact that he played only 30 Tests in between would suggest that he never really settled in the Test team.

The selectors themselves were not totally sure about his role in the team. In 1986, he was even tried as replacement for Ian Botham as the all-rounder, batting at number six.

In many ways, Pringle represents England cricket in the 1980s perfectly. He was disciplined, motivated and committed to the team’s cause, but perhaps lacked the talents of a true champion cricketer.

Derek’s father Donald played two ODIs for East Africa during the 1975 World Cup.