November 3, 2010

Old rivals come together

Who would you pick in a composite team from cricket's greatest rivalry?
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The quest for ESPNcricinfo's all-time World XI may have ended last month, but the public's thirst for fantasy match-ups - much like the thirst for top-quality cricket - shows no sign of abating. As England embark on what promises to be one of the most evenly contested Ashes tours in living memory, we have teamed up with our colleagues at ESPN Classic to seek out the ultimate combined Readers' Ashes XI.

Four Australians - Don Bradman, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and Dennis Lillee - and two Englishmen - Jack Hobbs and Len Hutton - made the cut in the World XI, which also included such indisputable greats as Garry Sobers, Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar. But with 133 years of history from which to choose, the Readers' all-time Ashes XI promises in its own way to be an even more problematic poser.

To provide a starting point for the discussions, we have reverted to the 85 names (39 Englishmen and 46 Aussies) who were put forward for selection for their respective country's all-time XIs back in July and August 2009. Those original shortlists were drawn up by some of the sport's most respected pundits, and span the entire history of Anglo-Australian rivalry, with representatives from every era of the game.

The "Demon" Frederick Spofforth, who contested the very first Test match, in Melbourne in 1877, is one of the names in the reckoning, as are Hobbs and Victor Trumper, two legendary opening batsmen who epitomised the Golden Age at the start of the 20th century. Then come the giants of the inter-war era - Bradman, whose legend will endure for all time, his English counterpart Wally Hammond, and bowlers such as Harold Larwood and Hedley Verity, whose speed and guile respectively made their own indelible marks on Ashes history.

Bradman's Invincibles, Australia'a unbeaten tourists from 1948, are represented in force, with the new-ball pairing of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller principal among their number, while the England team that ruled the roost for much of the 1950s is best showcased by Hutton, their legendary captain from 1953 and 1954-55, and four mighty bowlers in Alec Bedser, Frank Tyson, Brian Statham and Jim Laker, whose 19 wickets at Old Trafford in 1956 is a feat that has never come close to being matched.

Ken Barrington, England's immoveable object, is on hand to epitomise the dour attrition of the 1960s; Dennis Lillee, the ultimate Aussie menace, marks the change of tempo that set the 1970s apart. Ian Botham and Allan Border epitomise the inspiration and perspiration that defined the two nations' attitudes in the 1980s, while the unrivalled dominance that Australia enjoyed throughout the 1990s and into the start of the 2000s is showcased by a host of modern greats: Warne, Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, the Waugh twins, and of course, the last man standing, Ricky Ponting.

As with all such exercises, this is not a definitive list, and there are one or two notable omissions. Jeff Thomson failed to make the cut for the original exercise, for instance, while Chris Broad's three centuries as an opener in 1986-87, the last time England successfully defended the Ashes in Australia, might well have deserved a look in. However, given that one in eight of the names on the shortlist will miss out in the final reckoning, it's fair to suggest that the options are plentiful already.

Pick your Ashes XI here

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricketchopper on November 6, 2010, 15:26 GMT

    ASHES XI: Hobbs,Hutton,Bradman,Hammond,Gilchrist,Miller,Botham,Warne,Barnes, Lillee,Magrah.

    REST OF WORLD XI: Barry Richards,Gavaskar,Viv,Lara,Sobers, Sangakara, Imran, Hadlee,Waseem,Marshal,Murli

  • ZA77 on November 5, 2010, 10:06 GMT

    Best one, as an opener Hobbs and Hutton, no. 3 Don Bradman, no. 4 Greig Chappell no. 5 no. 6 Border no. 7 Knott (Keeper) no. 8 Shane Warne no. 9 Lillee no. 10 SF Barnes 11 McGrath

    2nd Best as an opener, Morris and Herbert Sutcliff, no. 3 Ponting 4 Hammond no. 5 Steve Waugh no. 6 Ian Botham no. 7 Gilchrist (Keeper), no. 8 O Reilly no. 9 Trueman, no. 10 Alec Bedser and no. 11 Underwood

    Third best, as an opener Hayden and Trumper, no. 3 Harvey no. 4 May no. 5 Peitersen No. 6 Miller no. 7 Ian Healey (keeper), no. 8 Alan Davidson, no. 9 Lindwall, no.10 Laker and no. 11 Grimmett

  • peterhrt on November 4, 2010, 23:44 GMT

    In the days of uncovered pitches, the ultimate test for a batsman was a treacherous surface and the greatest were judged on that. This is why some critics placed Hobbs and Trumper ahead of Bradman. Then it was about how one handled the fastest bowling. Gooch did so as well as anyone though he had other flaws. McCabe was perhaps the best Australian against the quicks. Now pitches are flatter and everyone wears a helmet, it's about how fast the runs are scored. Hence the elevated status of Pietersen and Gilchrist. Cricketers have to be judged in the context of their own time. But with so much quality to choose from, functional run-compilers with little style, who limited themselves to two or three shots, should be nowhere near their country's all-time team, let alone this one. Sutcliffe, Barrington, Border and Steve Waugh fall into this category. For bowlers, the acid test has always been consistent penetration on good wickets. Only Barnes among Englishmen challenges the Aussies.

  • george204 on November 4, 2010, 20:16 GMT

    Leaving Walter Hammond out of this XI would be as bad as leaving Tendulkar out of an all-time Indian XI! Hammond made 4 double centuries against Aus & what is still the 2nd highest test series tally (905) of all time.

  • amitava0112 on November 4, 2010, 19:17 GMT

    My Ashes XI with explanations: 1. J Hobbs (most prolific run getter during his time on uncovered wkts) 2. L Hutton( one of best openers of all times) 3. D Bradman(any doubts..Ponting .the other no 3 a distant 2nd) 4.Greg Chappell(narrowly edges out Hammond as he played better attacks in 70-80 5.A.Border(edges out S waugh,Harvey,Barrington as he singlehandedly held Aus batting together in crisis during 1980s against stiff opposition) 6.Ian Botham(best allrounder with great ashes record) 7.A Gilchrist (His batting edges out the better keepers Knott,Marsh,Healy) 8.S Warne (best legspinner of all time & handy bat) 9.D Lillee (most hostile bowler with great ashes record) 10. Fred Trueman (premier fast bowler.wud be a great combo with Lillee) 11. G Mcgrath (a remorseless fast bowler-played in an era of batting domination) On spin tracks O'Rielly wud replace Trueman top guys missing out:Hammond,Barrington,Ponting,S Waugh,May,Lindwall,Benaud,Grimmet,Trumper,Swann comments...

  • amitava0112 on November 4, 2010, 18:56 GMT

    My Ashes XI with explanations: 1.J Hobbs (a prolific first class run getter during his time on uncovered pitches) 2. L Hutton(one of finest ever openers) 3.Don Bradman (any doubts ? next no3 contender Ponting a distant 2nd)) 4)Greg Chappell (Close contest with HAmmond..face more quality attacks in 70-80)

  • baba6660 on November 4, 2010, 18:07 GMT

    I havechosen : Len Hutton, Geoffrey Boycott, Don Bradman, Ricky Pointing, Neil Harvey, Keith Miller, Ian Botham, Adam Gilchrist, Jim Laker, Harold Larwood and Dennis Lillee. Its really difficult to drop players like Shane Warne, Waugh brothers, Greg Chappel, Michael Vaughan,Mathew Hayden and Alan Davidson...But i guess this team is the best and can beat even the All time World XI

  • Mahesh.R on November 4, 2010, 17:51 GMT

    My XI didn't take in to account the Ashes performances. Rather, I just picked the best XI, in my judgement. It goes like:1. Len Hutton 2. Jack Hobbs (Openers) 3. The Don 4. Greg Chappall 5. Waltor Hammon 6. Keith Miller 7. Allan Knot 8. Shane Warne 9. Sydney Barnes 10. Dennnis Lille 11. Glen McGrath

    Only, one English bowler i.e. Barnes. No Botham. Instead, it is Miller. Only one spinner - Warne. Barnes though a medium pacer had many weapons in the armory of a spinner.

  • cricketchopper on November 4, 2010, 17:32 GMT

    My Ashes XI is not based on the Australian & English player on their performance against each other. I have selected joint team consisting of Australian and English players which will face REST OF THE WORLD XI in all conditions. My Xi is: Hobbs, Hutton, Bradman, Hammond, Gilchrist, Miller, Warne, Underwood, Lillee, Magrah, Barnes. REST OF THE WORLD XI: Gavaskar, B.Richards,Viv Richards,Lara,Sachin,Sangakara,Imran,Waseem,Marshal,Kumble,Murli

  • Engle on November 4, 2010, 17:14 GMT

    First pick those players who are guaranteed a spot, then choose contenders. So, Hobbs gets in unopposed. Between Hutton and Sutcliffe, narrowly opted for Hutton by slimmest of margins. Bradman walks in. Now, I need a LH bat. Gower, being too airy-fairy for my liking, had to decide between Border and Harvey. Border gets in as his bowling and leadership break tie. For 5th spot, between G.Chappell and W.Hammond. Would have loved to have Wally for so many reasons, but opted for G.Chappell for superlative performances vs WIndies. AR spot between Miller and Botham. Went for Miller, better bowling figures. WK went to Knott over Gilly, better gloveman. Warne walks in unopposed. Pair of fasties went to Lillee and Trueman (Thommo should've been a choice). Last spot between Laker and Barnes. How could one reject the great Barnes.

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