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AA vs BB: The same-letter derby - Part 1

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Roar Guru
15th October, 2022

Over the last few years I have read some wonderful articles here related to A, B, C, D, X, Y, Z teams both from Australia and elsewhere. With little new to contribute in this regard, I have doubled the stakes and have tried to form AA, BB, AB etc. teams.

Here, in the first part of this series, I would like to form the AA and BB team and compare the two.

The AA team

Here I had only 15 options, most of them from the subcontinent. I decided to exclude Nyron Sultan Asgarali from WI.

Abid Ali (Pakistan)
Arvind Apte (India)
Azhar Ali (Pakistan) (c)
Aftab Ahmed (Bangladesh)
Asghar Afghan (Afghanistan)
(Syed) Abid Ali (India)
Adnan Akmal (Pakistan) (wk)
Andre Adams )(New Zealand)
Arshad Ayub (India)
Ashton Agar (Australia)
Ajit Agarkar (India)

Among the top order batters Abid Ali (batting 49.16), Azhar Ali (42.50) and Asghar Afghan (44.00) all are highly respected batters in world cricket.

Apte’s Test career, however, lasted just one match. Despite struggling against the county teams, he got his chance in the third Test at Headingley in 1959, mainly due to the injury of Nari Contractor. He failed, scoring just 8 and 7.

His connection with Test cricket, however, didn’t end there. He attended each and every Lord’s Test between 1953 and 2013.

Like many other Bangladeshi cricketers of his time, Aftab Ahmed, from Chittagong, was pushed to the big stage a bit prematurely. Not surprisingly he failed at the Test level, and his batting average of 21 over 15 Tests does scant justice to his enormous talents.

Nevertheless, he holds a permanent place in the annals of Bangladesh cricket history. At Cardiff in June 2005 he hit the winning runs as the Tigers upset the mighty Australians to win by five wickets. His 13-ball 21 included two fours and 1 six.

(Syed) Abid Ali from Hyderabad (India) regularly took the new ball for India during his playing days, although at times his job was just to take the shine off the ball before the spinners would come into action. He also opened the batting frequently, but here I have included him at the middle order.

He had a dream debut at the Adelaide Oval, in December 1967, as he took 6-55 in the Australian first innings. However, it was only a false dawn and a Test batting average of 20 and a bowling average of 42 suggest that at Test level he was more of a fringe player rather than a genuine all-rounder.

A super quick runner between the wicket and a brilliant fielder, Abid would have made a perfect ODI cricketer if only he was born a decade later.

Somewhat surprisingly, I had three options for the wicket-keeper position but opted for Akmal. Ashraf Ali (Pakistan) averaged 46 with the bat in his short Test career, but the average is heavily inflated by three not out innings out of 8. He was a neat keeper, who lived under the shadow of Wasim Bari. Many thought he would replace Bari eventually, but Imran Khan, the de facto selector, preferred Saleem Yousuf for his never-say-die sprit.

Alfred Archer (Eng) is an interesting case. Despite being a wicket-keeper, he didn’t keep in his only Test at Cape Town In April 1889. In fact, his role in the team still seems a bit mysterious. He batted at No.10 in both innings, but didn’t bowl at all. At least scores of 7 and 24 not out ensured a highly acceptable batting average of 31.00.

Finally, my bowling attack of Adams (medium pace), Agarkar (medium pace) Ayub (right arm off break) and Agar (orthodox left arm spin) doesn’t seem overly threatening. But at least all of them can bat a bit, ensuring a long batting line-up for the AA team.

Ashton Agar

(Photo by Matt Roberts – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

The BB team

Here I have more options, and focus now shifts from the sub-continent to elsewhere with the likes of Bobs, Bills and Brians dominating.

Bill Brown (Australia) (c)
Brian Bolus (England)
Billy Barnes (England)
Basil Butcher (West Indies)
Brian Booth (Australia)
Bob Barber (England)
Billy Bates (England)
Ben Barnett (Australia) (wk)
Bernard Bosanquet (England)
Bishan Bedi (India)
Bill Bowes (England)

Special mention to Bob Blair (New Zealand).

In Brown and Bolus we have a solid if slightly unspectacular opening pair. All-rounder Billy Barnes is an interesting pick at No.3. In his 21-Test career for Australia in the 1890s, he batted in all positions from 3 to 10. Here, he will also take the new ball.

Butcher and Booth are fairly similar stories; in fact, I can easily swap their position in the batting order. Butcher would be required to bat at No.3 in case Barnes gets tired after a long spell.

Bob Barber was a dashing left hander but he failed to perform consistently at the highest level, resulting in a Test average of 35. After getting into the England squad as a middle-order bat, he had a long spell as an opener.

And it was as an opener that he scored his only Test hundred – a dashing 185 in less than five hours on the opening day of the January 1966 Test at the SCG, which eventually led to a thumping innings victory for the Poms.

Ben Barnett from Victoria kept wickets in four Tests on the 1938 Ashes tour. There are three spinners in my team: offie Bates and left-armer Bedi are automatic choices. Bosanquet’s bowling average of 24 isn’t brilliant for his playing time (the very early days of the 20th century) but as the inventor of the googly he has a permanent place in the history of cricket.

On a seamer-friendly pitch, I would replace him with one of the Kiwis, Bob Blair or Brendon Bracewell.


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Bill Bowes, whom I often confuse with Bill Voce, is picked in my team as one of the pace bowlers.

Finally, Bob Blair of NZ has earned a special mention in my squad. A right-arm medium-pacer, he promised great things taking 4-98 against South Africa in his debut Test in his hometown of Wellington, but success was rare after that and he never had a five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

He was a real rabbit with the bat, but remarkably his most memorable effort came as a batter at Johannesburg in December 1953. Despite the tragic death of his fiancé in the Tangiwai rail disaster, he bravely came out to bat at No.11 and shared a 33-run stand with Bert Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe scored a remarkable 80 not out. His innings included 7 sixes and 4 fours. Everything, however, was only for a losing cause.

So, who wins the game? Player for player, the AA team is no match for the BB team, and I expect a comfortable 2-0 victory for the BB team in a three-match Test series.