April 23, 2009

The great uncapped

TWC's panel of 14 picks the best post-war England team from players who never won a Test cap

England selectors are never far from controversy. They're either picking Darren Pattinson or leaving out a man who finished his career with 2218 first-class wickets. Step forward Don Shepherd, perhaps the greatest player never to have played for England and the only man to receive a vote from all 14 of our selection panel.

The only other player with double-figure votes - 12 in total - is another man of Glamorgan, Alan Jones. He is joined at the top of the innings by Peter Roebuck, creating a solid opening partnership. The fireworks are created by the middle order: none of David Sales, Trevor Jesty and Ali Brown is known for his restraint.

The wicketkeeper vote was tied between Paul Nixon and Geoff Humpage, but with a long tail Humpage sneaked in as the slightly better batsman.

Aside from Shepherd, the voting for the bowlers was less clear cut. TonyNicholson and GlenChapple form a nagging new-ball pair while Shepherd and Peter Sainsbury offer excellent spin options. That left one place, with medium-pacer Ossie Wheatley, slow bowler Ray East and batsman Andy Moles all in contention with four votes each.

That Sainsbury is in the team ruled out East, while the balance of the side meant another seamer, rather than an extra batsman, was needed. So Wheatley got the nod - Glamorgan's third representative. Finally, Roebuck is the captain of this side - one perhaps short of genuine pace but full of wickets (6892), runs (153,888) and match-winners.

Our selection panel was made up of former players and respected journalists and historians who will have seen most men on the shortlist (Christopher Martin-Jenkins was dismayed to find he had seen every member of his selection). They weren't unanimous in their choices - 42 players from the shortlist of 65 received a vote - but they were united in finding the task a difficult one. As David "Bumble" Lloyd put it: "This caused a fierce debate with my pal Billy Horan, who is a life member at Lancashire, and let's say, 'a good age'. Like any 'committee', we went on for hours, nay days, before coming up with the team." The fierce debate wasn't restricted to our panel. Judging by your response a lot of effort went into picking your XIs - which is also revealed over the page. Perhaps the life of an England selector isn't such an easy one after all. -- Daniel Brigham

Alan Jones
Glamorgan, LHB
First-class career 1957-1983; Matches 645; Runs 36,049; Avge 32.89; HS 204*; 100s 56; 50s 194

Jones did play for England. He made 5 against the Rest of the World XI at Lord's, yet it was eventually stripped of Test status. So, an unofficial Test was all Jones, a patient left-hander and native Welsh-speaker, had to show for scoring more runs for Glamorgan than anyone else. He passed 1000 runs in a season a monumental 23 times - the same as England's top six for their most recent Test in Trinidad between them.

What the panel say
"Alan spent his career playing on poor pitches in Wales. He would have played many times for England if his county had better quality wickets." Keith Fletcher

"He had the respect of the bowlers. I remember standing at the bar next to the likes of John Snow and Ken Higgs - not men normally to give compliments -and they all thought he was a fantastic player." Tony Lewis

Peter Roebuck
Captain; Somerset RHB
First-class career 1974-1991; Matches 335; Runs 17,558; Avge 37.27; HS 221*; 100s 33; 50s 93

Roebuck's solid batting was somewhat overshadowed by the chutzpah of his Somerset team-mates Ian Botham and Viv Richards. Yet the international credentials were there, especially in the second half of his career when he hit 24 hundreds in six seasons from 1984. He remained a riddle - an intelligent captain but a bit of a loner who divided opinion, forever to be overlooked by the national selectors.

What the panel say
"Peter Roebuck could play. Make no mistake about that. Somerset politics may have got in his way, and I must say that when I was an umpire I got on the wrong side of him, but from his early days at Cambridge you knew that he had what it takes."
David Lloyd

David Sales
Northamptonshire, RHB

First-class career 1996- ; Matches 188; Runs 11,458; Avge 42.28; HS 303*; 100s 23; 50s 57

An unbeaten 210 in the Championship aged just 18 marked Sales out for greatness in 1996. Hard-hitting and supremely gifted, Sales' career was stalled by injury and a loss of form early on. The last five seasons have produced runs - 6000 of them - in the kind of quantities that international selectors tend to like, but he seems destined to have less luck than even Owais Shah.

What the panel say
"David Sales, with seven scores of 200 or more, has demonstrated that he has the ability to play long innings on a consistent basis."
Paul Bolton

"He would have been called up had he been born in an earlier era when runs, rather than fitness, were what counted." Martin Williamson

Trevor Jesty
Hampshire, Surrey & Lancashire RHB, RM
ODIs 10

First-class career 1966-1991; Matches 490; Runs 21,916; Avge 32.71; HS 248; 100s 35; 50s 110; Wkts 585; Avge 27.47; BB 7-75; 5WI 19

Part of the Hampshire sides that included Malcolm Marshall, Barry Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Andy Roberts, Jesty was rarely eclipsed. A natural with the bat, having reflexes of Paul Collingwood in the field, and very useful with a bit of medium pace, he was picked for 10 ODIs but never a Test. Even 1645 runs and 31 wickets in 1982 weren't enough to earn a Test cap.

What the panel say
"Trevor Jesty turned in performances year after year. A heavy scorer, great to watch and he could bowl swingers too." David Lloyd

"Jesty got better and better as he got older. He reminded me a lot of Barry Richards." Tony Lewis

Ali Brown
Surrey RHB
ODIs 16

First-class career 1992- ; Matches 247; Runs 14,957; Avge 43.35; Hs 295*; 100s 44; 50s 62

Brown's one-day appetite has never been in doubt - his outrageous 268 from 160 balls in the C&G Cup in 2002 cemented it - but his four-day skills are often unfairly overlooked. His strokemaking makes him a natural crowd-pleaser, but he's more than a mere entertainer: his substance was integral to Surrey's success around the turn of the century. A match-winner at No. 5 or 6.

What the panel say
"Ali Brown is a great strokemaker and could take any bowling apart." Keith Fletcher

Geoff Humpage
Warwickshire WK, RHB
ODIs 3

First-class career 1974-1990; Matches 351; Runs 18,098; Avge 36.34; HS 254; 100s 29; 50s 97; Ct 671; St 72

Very much the Matt Prior of his day, Humpage wowed with the bat, and occasionally erred with the gloves. Three ODI caps in 1981 were a result of his fluent batting, often from as high as No. 4 in the Warwickshire order. A year later he hit 254 against Lancashire in the Championship, and if he'd started his career 15 years later, the five-day stuff would surely have beckoned.

What the panel say
"Geoff Humpage was a modern wicketkeeper-batsman in an era when keeping skills were still considered crucial. Paul Downton, from more fashionable Middlesex, got endless opportunities in the post-Knott era, but his record in almost every respect was inferior." Martin Williamson

Peter Sainsbury
Hampshire RHB, SLA

First-class career 1954-1976; Matches 618; Runs 20,176 Avge 26.86; HS 163; 100s 7; 50s 97; Wkts 1316; Avge 24.14; BB 8-76; 5WI 36; 10WM 5

Sainsbury was the only man to win Championships with Hampshire in both 1961 and 1973, and he made major contributions. His bowling was probing and occasionally ran through sides, taking over 50 wickets in a season 15 times. He was a good enough lower-order batsman to be considered a genuine allrounder, and he was a terrific short leg, where his springy brilliance was rarely bettered.

What the panel say
"Peter Sainsbury would perform the Ashley Giles role." Gerald Mortimer

"He was a dependable county player in all departments of the game, and he coached me when I was a boy." Stephen Chalke

Glen Chapple
Lancashire RHB, RMF
ODIs 1

First-class career 1992- ; Matches 227; Runs 6,311; Avge 24.94; HS 155; 100s 6; 50s 28; Wkts 693; Avge 27.72; BB 7-53; 5WI 27; 10WM 2

Probably the unluckiest of his generation of England bowlers not to win a Test cap, Chapple was called up to the England squad for Trent Bridge in 2003, but lost out to James Kirtley in a battle of the nearly-men. He was always accurate and occasionally deadly; a bit of extra pace would have guaranteed him an international career.

What the panel say
"A shoo-in for this team. Glen Chapple has been doing it for years for his beloved Lancs, and would never let you down." David Lloyd

"Chapple's inclusion should stop my press-box colleagues in Lancashire from moaning." David Warner

Tony Nicholson
Yorkshire RHB, RM

First-class career 1962-1975; Matches 283; Runs 1669; Avge 11.75; HS 50; 50s 1; Wkts 879; Avge 19.76; BB 9-62; 5WI 40; 10WM 3

Even 113 wickets at 15.50 in Yorkshire's Championship-winning team of 1966 wasn't deemed worthy enough for an England call-up. A medium-pacer, he found prodigious swing and was that little bit quicker than many batsmen expected. Injury ruled him out of England's 1964-65 tour to South Africa, and he was never selected again - his small batting average and larger frame counting against him.

What the panel say
"I had no hesitation in including the late Tony Nicholson, who could swing the ball like no one has done since for Yorkshire. He will, I am sure, be a popular choice among the players of his generation." David Warner

"Nicholson was probably the unluckiest player not to play for England. He swung it late and with that you can always get the great players out." Dickie Bird

Don Shepherd
Glamorgan RHB, RM

First-class career 1950-1972; Matches 668; Runs 5,696; Avge 9.67; HS 73; 50s 5; Wkts 2218; Avge 21.32; BB 9-47; 5WI 123; 10WM 28

Initially a fast-medium seamer then an offcutter after a loss of form, whatever Shepherd bowled produced a mountain of wickets - the most by any bowler not to have played for England. So why no cap? England were blessed with great spinners in the 1950s and 1960s, and Glamorgan weren't blessed with being fashionable; in most other eras Shepherd could have taken a stack of Test wickets.

What the panel say
"Just check out his stats. Incredible. Was he a spinner, was he a cutter? I don't know, but he would land it on a sixpence and when it was down to him he delivered every time." David Lloyd

"The unluckiest of all not to have won a bagful of caps is, of course, Don Shepherd, a craftsman among bowlers. Year after year touring sides left Wales hoping they had seen the last of him." John Woodcock

Ossie Wheatley
Glamorgan, Warwickshire RHB, RFM

First-class 1956-1969; Matches 316; Runs 1252; Avge 5.76; HS 34*; Wkts 1099; Avge 20.84; BB 9-60; 5WI 56; 10WM 5

Captaincy brought the best out of Wheatley's medium pace. While leading Glamorgan for six seasons from 1961 he took 620 wickets, including 136 in 1962. That still wasn't enough for England - in an era of Trueman, Statham and Shackleton, his type of bowling was well accounted for, perhaps another victim of the Glamorgan syndrome.

What the panel say
"Ossie Wheatley (Dai Peroxide) was an inventive bowler." Gerald Mortimer

"Ossie was made for reverse-swing. He also had a great pair of hands, but wasn't the most athletic man." Tony Lewis

This article was first published in the May 2009 issue of the Wisden Cricketer. Subscribe here The panel: Dickie Bird (Yorks, Leics, ex-Test umpire); Paul Bolton (Daily Telegraph writer); Stephen Chalke (author, TWC columnist); Keith Fletcher (ex-Eng batsman, coach); Tony Lewis (ex-England captain); David Lloyd (ex-Eng batsman, coach); Steven Lynch (Wisden deputy editor); Christopher Martin-Jenkins (ex-Times correspondent, BBC TMS commentator); Gerald Mortimer (ex-correspondent, Derby Evening Telegraph); Micky Stewart (ex-Surrey, England batsman, coach) David Warner (ex-correspondent, Bradford Tel. & Argus); Simon Wilde (cricket correspondent, Sunday Times); Martin Williamson (managing editor, Cricinfo); John Woodcock (ex-Wisden editor, Times cricket correspondent)