Mike Holmans September 1, 2009

Old-timers Twenty20 - I


Fetch that: Fifteen of Gilbert Jessop's first-class centuries were scored in under an hour © The Cricketer International

As the rain washed away the first T20I between England and Australia, I started to ponder how the old-timers would have done at Twenty20, and fell, as one does, into constructing imaginary XIs for England and Rest of the World selected from those who finished their international careers before 1970, so as to exclude anyone who ever played an ODI. It is more of a jigsaw-puzzle than picking an all-time Test team because of the need to cover all the angles. You want at least eight batsmen who are unafraid of taking the aerial route, six bowlers covering every speed from 50mph to 90mph and a couple of really good fielders you can put in key positions.

Beginning with the England XI, SF Barnes is always the first name on the sheet for any team I select for which he is eligible since he was the best bowler ever, a master of swing, swerve, spin and pace.

Next for Twenty20 comes Gilbert Jessop, one of the most amazingly fast scorers ever seen. Fifteen of his first-class centuries were scored in under an hour. He was initially regarded as a bowler, of fast-medium pace, and was also a brilliant fielder.

The other two certainties for me are Denis Compton, whose talent for batting improvisation remains unsurpassed, and Frank Woolley, a man capable of peppering the roof of the football stadium at Bradford against the powerful Yorkshire attack. Furthermore, Woolley was an almost Test-class slow left-armer and Compton's leg-spin was good enough to bring him 622 first-class wickets.

So, with Woolley, Compton, Jessop and Barnes as the nucleus, who else?

Of the three great H's, only Wally Hammond seems cut out for this team. Hutton spent his career worrying about the weakness of those coming in after him and curbed his aggressive talents, and Jack Hobbs was a timer and placer as well as a great stealer of singles and would, I fancy, have been as unsuccessful a Twenty20 player as Michael Vaughan. Hammond, however, crunched the ball through the off side with immense power and frequency. That he could (if reluctantly) bowl fast and was a brilliant close catcher are also useful add-ons.

The obvious batsman-keeper is Les Ames, who can also open the batting. But with Hobbs and Hutton ruled out and most of England's openers before 1970 being a stodgy lot, his partner needs some selecting. I will go for Colin Milburn, whose England career finished when he lost an eye in 1969, but who had broken the mould of English openers with his blitzkrieg style.

Still room for one more specialist bat. My choice is Percy Chapman, who will also captain the side. A batsman who hardly knew the meaning of defence and a brilliant cover fielder, he was appointed captain for the fifth Test of the 1926 Ashes and won them back, and then went to Australia and rested after the fourth Test because England were already 4-0 up.

Three places left. We have no off-spinner and no top-quality fast bowler yet, and we can give those spots to Jim Laker and Fred Trueman, whose credentials hardly need further elaboration. The last place goes to Maurice Tate, the great medium-pace bowler between the wars who also opened the batting rumbustiously for Sussex.

So here is the final XI in batting order, with the proviso that Jessop might well be sent in early if it seemed like a good idea:

C Milburn LEG Ames (k) FE Woolley DCS Compton WR Hammond APF Chapman (c) GL Jessop MW Tate FS Trueman JC Laker SF Barnes

My Rest of the World Old-timers Twenty20 team will appear in a couple of days.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on September 9, 2009, 20:37 GMT

    My All-time India XI for test

    Sunil Gavaskar Virendar Sewag Rahul Dravud Sachin Tendulkar Mohd. Azharuddin MAK Pataudi (C) Kapil Dev SMH Kirmani (WK) J. Srinath Anil Kumble BS Chandershekar

  • testli5504537 on September 9, 2009, 16:52 GMT

    If Ted Dexter's career at the international level ended by 1970,and I am not sure it did,he should walk into this team.I would venture a guess that on the All-time England XI opponents would be happier to see Kevin Pieterson than Ted marching to the crease.And a more than useful bowler too.

  • testli5504537 on September 9, 2009, 11:52 GMT

    It would be nice to have links to the player's stats for an article such as this

  • testli5504537 on September 7, 2009, 5:27 GMT

    A superb side, cant really pick a fault in it

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2009, 21:34 GMT

    Great posting. I would venture to suggest 2 great names from the past for the ROW Old Timers XI; Mushtaq Ali (who played for India) and Keith Miller. My grandfather saw them both play and these 2 players as well as Lindsay Hassett are the few old timers that he remembers still....Apparently Mushtaq had such an endearing style that the Calcutta crowd boycotted a test match he was not picked (No Mushtaq, No test)...The Indian board had to play him and he promptly rewarded their gesture with a half century...

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2009, 11:19 GMT

    Jessop's too far down the order! W.G. Grace has to be there. Ahead of Chapman, I would think. And I'd be tempted to drop Tate and play two spinners - Laker and Blythe, perhaps? Or Verity?

    Here's my ROW Old-timers T20 XI (which happens to contain at least one player from each Test-playing nation of the time!) Victor Trumper Learie Constantine Don Bradman Charlie Macartney CK Nayudu Keith Miller JR Reid Jock Cameron (w) (shaded Clyde Walcott, my initial pick on pure keeping skills, and was supposed to be a fine scientific hitter - a phrase that seems sadly to have gone out of fashion) Alan Davidson (selected above Ray Lindwall for lower-order biffing and left-arm variety) Fazal Mahmood Clarrie Grimmett (as a cunning, teasing bowler he seems to me more suited to Twenty20 than Bill O'Reilly)

    [Mike: As you will see from my next post, I agree with you about seven of those names. And I did say that Jessop could well float up the order if it seemed like a good idea at the time.]

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2009, 4:00 GMT

    I'm assuming a person by the name of don bradman will be captain and bat at number 3 for the ROW XI

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2009, 0:40 GMT

    There's a bit of a query about Hammond because he could be kept quite by bowling on his pads.

  • testli5504537 on September 2, 2009, 18:14 GMT

    I'd be tempted to put Harold Gimblett in there somewhere, personally.

  • testli5504537 on September 2, 2009, 8:56 GMT

    Thanks for picking Tate. Was astonished he wasn;t even nominated for the all-time England Test XI.

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