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Few tasks in cricket are tougher than opening the batting in England, and picking openers for an all-time England XI is hardly easy either
July 28, 2009
The Australian nominations are out of the way; time now to turn to the men who will meet them in our Ashes cyber-clash. To assist our search for Cricinfo's best England XI of all time (and it's not a quest we've undertaken lightly) we've called upon the services of 10 of the most respected pundits in the country - a medley of editors, correspondents, columnists and historians, charged with condensing 132 years of Test history into 11 good men and true.
From Tom Armitage in 1877 to Graham Onions in 2009, a grand total of 644 men have answered their country's call, making this particular XI the toughest pick of all. Some names you'd imagine would be shoo-ins for one and all, but not a single one of the jury's final selection received 100% of the votes. The net has been cast as wide as possible, and the debate will doubtless rage regardless of the names involved.
We launch this search with perhaps the most crucial combination of all - the opening batsmen. Is there any tougher task than repelling the new ball in England? The heat of the subcontinent or an Australian summer may sap the concentration more, but in terms of a full examination of technique and temperament, there's nothing quite like the variety of conditions on offer in Blighty.
From the early-season greentops that cause the ball to spit off the seam, through the often overcast conditions that enable medium-pacers to hoop the ball round corners, and for the older generation the challenge of uncovered wickets and all the spite contained therein, to succeed as an opener in England is the surest confirmation of class.
The old adage of "A strong Yorkshire is a strong England" could scarcely ring more true when it comes to this crucial role in the team. Three of the eight contenders hail from "God's own country", including Geoffrey Boycott and Sir Len Hutton.
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