June 24, 2009

Masters in the middle

The toughness of Border and Boon, the style of Harvey and Chappell - which of them makes it to the side?
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This batting engine room purrs with 10 talents, and if choosing two openers was hard, picking the core of the side will be even more difficult. After scanning through the list it's tempting to want all of them. Only Don Bradman seems a certainty, boasting an unrivalled career over 20 years, but in this field cases can be made for leaving everyone out.

Allan Border and Steve Waugh were responsible for pushing Australia to the top of the world, but are their deeds with the bat good enough to earn places? Greg Chappell and Mark Waugh were almost peerless as stylists and their output was impressive, while Ricky Ponting could end his career as Test cricket's leading run-scorer.

Looking back to the first half of the 20th century, Charles Macartney and Stan McCabe were capable of ruining attacks, and Neil Harvey stepped up between 1948 and 1963 to earn the tag of the country's greatest left-hand batsman. Finally there is David Boon, one of Australia's toughest and most uncompromising players.

The balance of the team becomes important here, with three or four options available depending on whether you want the allrounder, which will be voted on next, to qualify for the middle order.

The contenders

Don Bradman If he doesn't make it, the argument will have to be as flawless as his run-making. His record has proved unmatchable in more than 130 years of Tests.

Allan Border The modern saviour of Australian cricket, Border dragged the team from the bottom in the 1980s while picking up a then world record of 11,174 runs.

Steve Waugh Nobody has been tougher or more focussed in the pursuit of prizes. One of three Australians in the 10,000-run club, he became a great when he changed from flashy to fierce.

Greg Chappell Graceful, elegant and out of the modern world when it came to batting beauty. He stepped down in 1984 with a century, matching the way he arrived 14 years earlier.

Ricky Ponting Australia's most successful batsman since Bradman, he has the most centuries by an Australian and is far from finished as one of the current greats.

Stan McCabe Played three of the most ferocious innings - at the SCG, Trent Bridge and Johannesburg - and was remembered in awe by his team-mates. A brutal driver and hooker.

David Boon A solid man with a thumping heart, he was fearless against the best fast bowlers in the business. Most of his 7422 Test runs came when Australia desperately needed them.

Charles Macartney The Governor-General was in charge either side of World War I, flaying attacks during his 35 Tests and earning comparisons with Trumper.

Neil Harvey A batsman for all conditions who could conquer all bowlers. Started as a fresh 19-year-old and bowed out with 79 Tests and a reputation as the nation's best left-hand batsman.

Mark Waugh A stylist who eased his shots but remained tough enough to stay in one of the country's best sides for more than a decade.




Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo