Allrounders June 29, 2009

Men for all seasons

Australia may not have had too many in recent times, but their ranks of allrounders from all time are formidable all the same

These five men are part of the game's most wanted - players who can change the direction of a match with either bat or ball, or both. And unlike the rest of the sections in Australia's All-time XI, there are no modern entries, highlighting the difficulties of achieving top-class performance with both disciplines.

Recent Australia sides have found that adding an allrounder upsets their balance and leaves them short in either specialisation. If they had any of these outstanding examples, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Hilditch would have no headaches. Warwick Armstrong, Jack Gregory and Monty Noble come from the dustiest pages of Australia's history, with all of them concluding their enviable careers before 1930, and are easy for modern observers to overlook. That mistake can be fixed easily by analysing their numbers, and casting your vote for someone deep in the country's history.

After World War II, Keith Miller arrived to wow everyone, and Richie Benaud joined him before bowing out in 1964. Two of the biggest names in the game took on the largest loads, and were idolised for their amazing deeds. Since Miller and Benaud exited the field and entered the media, Australia have prayed for similarly talented replacements. Nobody has been able to achieve anywhere near the success of these multi-skilled masters.

The contenders

Warwick Armstrong The Big Ship steered Australia on the 1920-21 Ashes clean sweep, and could be relied on for hefty contributions with bat and ball throughout the 50 Tests he played.

Monty Noble When he died in 1940 Noble was considered the best allrounder the country had produced. He appeared in 42 Tests between 1898 and 1909.

Keith Miller The "Australian in excelsis", he retired in 1956 with a batting average of 36, a bowling mean of 22, and respect from everyone who saw - or read about - his deeds.

Jack Gregory A fearsome right-arm fast bowler from the 1920s, Gregory was also a left-hand batsman who exited the game with a similar batting average to Miller's. Also picked up a 70-minute century - and did it without using gloves.

Richie Benaud A legspinner who could score Test centuries - not even Shane Warne could manage that. Benaud reached three figures three times in his dozen years at the top level to go with his 248 wickets.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo