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Interested in stadium politics, competition programming, sporting administration, cricket history and trivia

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I forgot to mention the great win at Lord’s, at which I spent 3 days.

Border made 196, after Gatting dropped him at 87 in a Steve Waugh/Herschelle Gibbs moment.

Dutchie Holland took 5-68 to end England’s fightback with the last four wickets being Botham (85 from 117 balls) and nine, ten, jack. England had gone from 6-98 and still 37 behind, to 6-229 and now 94 ahead with Botham and Gatting well-set.

Australia slipped to 5-65 chasing 127 but Border steadied with 41 not out, Wayne Phillips smashed 29 from 32 balls with a six, and O’Donnell scored 9 not out at the very end including a six.

36 years later and I’m yet to get back in an Ashes year.

Test XIs we should have had: 1985 Ashes

Thanks Stephen,

I lived in the UK during 1985-87 so saw this series’ two games in London but missed 1986-87 in Aus. My biggest recollections-

England’s top-six of Gooch, Robinson, Gower, Gatting, Lamb, Botham cashed in big-time.

England’s bowling balance of Edmonds, Emburey, Botham and two token seam bowlers worked beautifully. The token seam bowlers to each get 1-2 matches were Ellison, Taylor, Sidebottom, Agnew, Foster and Cowans.

O’Donnell’s first 3 innings were 0, 24 and 48. Still can’t believe his multiples of exactly 24 didn’t then continue ie 72, 96 and 120.

Like JGK I was hoping for a miraculous sixth Test win but on the first day England scored 3-376 with Gooch and Gower adding 351. Then in between regular showers Botham, Taylor and Ellison took us apart.

Test XIs we should have had: 1985 Ashes

Thanks TSG, three points-

It’s always been Australia’s home-away-from-home, and it’s over-achieved there to the point of being almost-unbeatable.

Touring England has also meant the opportunity to play there against the MCC and Middlesex, and in days past against England XIs, the Gentlemen, the Players etc.

Keith Miller’s performances during the Victory Tests of 1945, Australian Combined Services v England, warrant a mention. Before then he was “just” a VFL footballer, Victorian cricketer and fighter pilot.

The series began only 2 weeks after WWII ended in Europe. The last of the three 3-day matches at Lord’s attracted 93,000 spectators. They adored him at Lord’s where he produced-

50 for RAAF v British Empire XI
78 not out for RAAF v South of England
105 in the first Test
71 not out, 3-44 and 3-42 in the third Test
118 in the fourth Test
185 in 165 minutes for Dominions v England, with 7 sixes including one onto the pavilion roof, and adding 91 in 35 minutes with Learie Constantine

'The ground screams grandeur and tradition': The honourable Lord's XI

Beardy had a massive influence. First Grade minor premiership first season, and premiership second season. Always contributed at management committee and selection committee meetings, and helped lower-graders at pre-season and midweek practice. Two seasons later he couldn’t play due to a back injury, and it won the Club Championship without him. He was only in his early-40s then, but from memory might have later played briefly for Pennant Hills ?

Peter Toohey was down the road at Lindfield.

Test XIs we should have had: 1981 Ashes

Thanks Stephen,

Including Kent, Wellham and T Chappell in its 8 batsmen meant that one always had to play. Shipperd was a very slow-scoring batsman, so he and Dyson might have not made a good combination.

T Chappell’s selection therefore made sense as the fast bowlers needed to be looked after, no other batsman bowled, and Bright was being under-used. In subsequent tours O’Donnell, S Waugh and M Waugh played similar roles.

Shame about Yardley’s non-selection. Noting that England chose a similar off-spinner Geoff Cope for its 1976-77 tours to India and the Centenary Test, who was called a number of times and had to remodel his action.

Higgs might have been handy. He’d previously toured in 1975. England’s last five partnerships produced a lot of match-winning/match-saving runs, and in total just as many as its top-order. Allott, Dilley and Emburey scored half-centuries, and Knott two in his only two games.

Test XIs we should have had: 1981 Ashes

Fair enough Renato,

I didn’t see 1978-79 and 1979-80 first-hand as I was living overseas at the time.

But it’s true that you can’t put an old head on young shoulders, and also that youngsters don’t learn much from other youngsters. Something like WSC can really mess up succession planning.

Test XIs we should have had: 1978-79

Who’d be an Australian selector ?

WSC signed up 28 Australians, admittedly some of whom had already retired from State cricket.

That meant a huge loss of talent and experience not only from the Test side, but also from the Sheffield Shield competition overall.

It must have been incredibly difficult to identify the remaining players most likely to immediately succeed at Test level, on the basis of performances in lower-quality first-class matches. Especially against proven Test and County players.

Test XIs we should have had: 1978-79

Hi Stephen, looks like this is your 100th article.

Respect !

Test XIs we should have had: 1978-79

I’m not remotely qualified to comment, but it’s interesting to compare cricket captaincy with football coaching. Long-term strategy v pre-match/pre-series preparation v on-field tactics v leading-by-example. Technical skills v man-management skills.
Some captains or coaches are better for rebuilding, others for winning that season’s premiership. Some are better for a short, intense burst (eg SOO), others for a 28-week season peaking in 6 months’ time. Maybe it applies even more to the Olympics’ four-year (or five-year !) cycle.
It’s a matter of what the team needs at the time. England needed Brearley in 1981, not Botham. Australia needed Simpson in 1977, and Border in 1984.
Interesting also to compare the old English way of picking the captain then 10 team-mates, with the Australian one of picking the best 11 then one of them as captain. Noting however that Taylor and Ponting were tolerated for long periods in the name of stability.

Creating a single measure to rank the world’s greatest Test captains

Thanks Stephen,

It can’t have hurt the prospects of Rixon and Toohey that at the time they were playing First Grade under Simpson at Western Suburbs Cricket Club in Sydney ?

While as Simpson hadn’t been playing Sheffield Shield, he was less familiar with others ?

Test XIs we should have had: 1977-78

Thanks matth,

I think that the best measure of a captain is that his side exceeds realistic expectations, and then continues to succeed after he’s gone. Great leaders make their team members over-achieve, and also create more leaders. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

In a small sample size, overall figures can turn on little things and calculated risks. Hassett winning the toss at The Gabba in 1950-51, and batting before it rained. Bradman at the MCG in 1936-37, ditto.

Room for a degree-of-difficulty weighting or X-factor ? Or a luck quotient, while acknowledging that “the harder I work, the luckier I get” ? Competence with the DRS ? Non-neutral umpires pre-2000 ? Playing England after a war ? Correct toss calls away. Incorrect calls by opponent when at home. Star bowler not injuring himself during a warm-up.

Finally, a shout-out to FS Jackson in 1905 (won all five tosses and the series, and topped both batting and bowling averages), and Joe Darling and Harry Trott before him, and Richie Benaud. Each played strong opponents, and did well.

Creating a single measure to rank the world’s greatest Test captains

Thanks Stephen,

Cameron Boyce, leg-spinner, 2010-2015. 48 first-class matches, for 66 wickets at 62.99. He looked a lot better than those statistics suggest.

2 years ago Ashley Mallett published a book on Australian spinners, with 3 pages on Francke. Apparently Francke turned down a County club offer because the pay was too low. Greg Chappell rated him highly, but brother Ian and Doug Walters didn’t. In 1985-86, aged 46, he made a comeback with 3 matches for Queensland yielding 6 wickets at 47.50.

My top ten Queensland spinners

Thanks Tigerbill, nice read.

I hope that 1984 does not prove to be the year when your love of cricket peaked. As Steve Waugh replied when asked his career highlight- “It hasn’t happened yet.”

And the tied Test might be a higher point for Jones ?

Deano, Boonie and co: The 1984 debutants

Thanks johnb,

Sounds like a good read. A whole book on just a single tour can really do it justice. I’ve got a couple from the 1930s and 1940s.

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

Cheers Renato,

The exception that proves the rule !

Unfortunately for Australia, outnumbered far too often over the course of 145 years by 5-70 or thereabouts.

A better than average rating system for assessing great batsmen

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Mike Tyson.

Batsmen can’t win you a Test match in its first session, but they can lose you one.

Gotta have a Plan B.

A better than average rating system for assessing great batsmen

Malcolm Knox recently released a really good book, “The Keepers,” a history of Australian wicketkeepers. Includes a section on Zoehrer, including an interview with him. Sounded like he had a pretty tough upbringing, that toughened him up, but he wasn’t bitter at all.

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

Norman Callaway. Aged 17, scored 207 in 206 minutes for NSW against Queensland at the SCG in Feb 1915. Dominated a stand of 256 in 155 minutes with Macartney. Enlisted in 1916, and aged 19 was killed at Bullecourt in May 1917.

Then there was Jack Massie, son of Test player Hugh. 6’4″, fast left-arm, took 99 wickets in just 16 first-class matches. Selected for 1914-15 tour to South Africa. “By the time he joined the army, ruling out any games in 1914-15, he had represented his state at athletics, cricket, rowing and rugby, and was also the amateur heavyweight boxing champion. When he landed at Gallipoli in 1915 he tied a scarlet rag to his right arm so it would be a clear target for the Turkish marksmen and not his bowling arm. It made no difference. Grenade fragments shattered his left shoulder and ended his sporting career.” (Cricinfo)

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

Sorry, that should read 2021 marks the 50th anniversary…

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

1921 also marks the 50th anniversary of the first-ever ODI.

I wrote a piece naming an ODI side consisting solely of pre-1971 players. Macartney and Gregory were in it-

After 50 years of ODIs, here’s a pre-1971 Australian team to beat its best

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

Thanks TLN,

Back then big cricket matches were few and far between. The next Test series wouldn’t take place for 3 years. The Sheffield Shield competition had just 3 teams so was only 4 rounds long. Players worked on Saturday mornings, before Grade matches that afternoon.

Therefore players had careers and life experience. Carter was an undertaker. Oldfield ran a sporting goods shop. From memory Taylor was a dentist. Collins was a bookie, which made some suspicious in 1926. McDonald played as a professional in England. No media commentary, functions speech-making, product endorsement or property portfolios for a living !

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

Thanks JGK,

I’m often tempted to join the ACS, subscribe to Cricket Archive and buy Charles Davis’ book, and also to trawl second-hand book stores and major libraries like I did 30-40 years ago. But work and home must come first ! Maybe after I’ve retired.

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

Hi Rowdy,

Armstrong actually didn’t play during the South Africa leg, due to a relapse of malaria. The Ashes series was his swansong.

The 1878 Australians also toured North America, and were away for 8 months.

And of course the Combined Services teams post-WWI and post-WWII ended up coming home via South Africa or India, and then playing around Australia as well. They hated it, but as still-enlisted soldiers had to obey.

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

During 1977-79 and WSC ?

During the player disputes of the 1880s, when England won series after series ?

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

Courtesy of Cricinfo in a 2006 article on Ashes tours Down Under-

“There are only three things wrong with the English team – they can’t bat, they can’t bowl, and they can’t field.” Martin Johnson’s famous assessment of England ‘s early-tour travails was no exaggeration. A thumping defeat by Queensland was followed by a near-repeat against Western Australia, and the knives were being sharpened for a side that had lost eight of its last 11 Tests, including three series in a row against West Indies, India and New Zealand. But it remained a cheerful squad in spite of the bad press, and with larger-than-life characters such as Ian Botham, David Gower, Allan Lamb and Phil Edmonds on board, there was no brooding permitted. England duly rallied to rout Australia in the first Test at Brisbane, and by the time England had retained the Ashes with a game to spare, Johnson had revised his original verdict: “Right line, wrong team”.

Ashes anniversaries: Armstrong’s Australians

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