ESPNcricinfo picks the best Test teams of all time


Three lefties and an offie

Only four to pick from for the slow bowler's slot, but that doesn't make the task any easier

Andrew Miller

August 21, 2009

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A job well done - Jim Laker ambles off after his 19-wicket haul, England v Australia, 4th Test, Old Trafford, 5th day, July 31, 1956
Laker, of the 19 wickets in a match: will he make it? © The Cricketer International
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Other links: All-time XI: England

English spinners have seemed a rare breed in recent times, cowed by the country's seam-friendly pitches, and by the proliferation of superior craftsmen from overseas, most notably Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mushtaq Ahmed and Anil Kumble. But there once was a time when England's spinners ranked among the finest in the game, as the four names in the frame for the all-time XI amply demonstrate.

But whereas Australia's slow options have invariably been of the wrist variety, England's penchant has been for finger-based flight and guile. Three left-arm spinners make the final cut - the indomitable Wilfred Rhodes, who was still good enough for England at the age of 52, the professorially precise Hedley Verity, whose command of length was such that an inswinging yorker was a key weapon, and of course Kent's latter-day legend, Derek Underwood.

The sole right-arm representative is an unsurprising selection. Jim Laker's legend will live on, long after Test cricket has gone the same way as his demure wicket celebrations. Other fine exponents of the slow-bowler's art have failed to make it to this list - Laker's sidekick, Tony Lock, for instance, and Yorkshire's wrecker of the 19th century, Ted Peate. But there's limited space in the all-time XI, and it is hard to look beyond the quartet below.

The contenders

Wilfred Rhodes A legend who amassed 4204 first-class wickets in a career that spanned more than 30 years. The greatest slow left-arm bowler of his era, with genuine all-round credentials to boot, having graduated from No. 11 on his England debut to No. 1 eight years later.

Hedley Verity His 15 wickets in 1934 carried England to their only Ashes victory at Lord's in the whole of the 20th century. Died of wounds sustained during the invasion of Sicily in 1943, and assumed legendary status.

Jim Laker A Surrey colossus, and scourge of the Australians, against whom he twice claimed 10 wickets in an innings, most memorably at Old Trafford in 1956, when his crafty, flighty offspin claimed a never-to-be-surpassed 19 wickets in the match.

Derek Underwood More than quick enough to classify as a seamer, he regularly lived up to his nickname of "Deadly", not least on drying wickets such as The Oval in 1968. Formed a legendary partnership with his Kent wicketkeeper, Alan Knott.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007

England jury

Scyld Berry
Scyld Berry
Wisden editor, Sunday Telegraph correspondent; author of Cricket Wallah among other books
XI: Sutcliffe, Hutton, Stewart, Hammond, Pietersen, Gower, Botham, Rhodes, Trueman, Snow, Barnes
Lawrence Booth
Lawrence Booth
Guardian cricket writer, author of the weekly email newsletter The Spin, and Cricinfo columnist
XI: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hutton, Barrington, Hammond, Pietersen, Botham, Knott, Underwood, Barnes, Willis
Stephen Brenkley
Cricket correspondent of the Independent
XI: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hammond, Gower, Barrington, Jackson, Botham, Knott, Larwood, Barnes, Rhodes
David Frith
David Frith
Cricket historian, writer and archivist. Author of the definitive history of Bodyline
XI: Hobbs, Hutton, Hammond, Compton, Barrington, Botham, Knott, Laker, Verity, Larwood, Barnes
Tim de Lisle
Tim de Lisle
Former editor of Wisden and Wisden Cricket Monthly; editor of Intelligent Life magazine
XI: Hobbs, Brearley, Hammond, Pietersen, Barrington, Greig, Botham, Knott, Trueman, Underwood, Barnes
Steven Lynch
Steven Lynch
Deputy editor of Wisden, editor of the Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket, and writer of the Ask Steven column on Cricinfo
XI: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hammond, Compton, Pietersen, Botham, Knott, Barnes, Larwood, Laker, Trueman
Christopher Martin-Jenkins
Christopher Martin-Jenkins
Former cricket correspondent for the Times the BBC and the Daily Telegraph; Test Match Special commentator
XI: Hutton, Hammond, Compton, May, Botham, Knott, Rhodes, Laker, Trueman, Barnes
Peter Roebuck
Peter Roebuck
Former captain of Somerset; author of It Never Rains and Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh among other books.
XI: Hobbs, Hutton, May, Hammond, Compton, Barrington, Knott, Larwood, Tyson, Barnes, Underwood
Mike Selvey
Mike Selvey
Former England fast bowler; cricket correspondent of the Guardian
XI: Hobbs, Hutton, Sutcliffe, Hammond, Barrington, Botham, Knott, Larwood, Tyson, Snow, Barnes
John Stern
John Stern
Editor, The Wisden Cricketer
XI: Hobbs, Hutton, Hammond, Gower, Barrington, Botham, Knott, Larwood, Bedser, Underwood, Snow

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