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All-time XI: England

Big men, big deeds

No dressing room can be big enough for more than one of these three allrounders - all flash, all action

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Ian Botham presents Andrew Flintoff with his Man-of-the-Match award, England v  South Africa, NatWest Series final, Lords. 12 July 2003

There could only be one Beefy, but Fred came close  •  PA Photos

If, on balance, Australia have had the better of the previous two rounds in this poll, then here's a category that's designed to redress the balance. The names in the hat for England's allrounder slot are a select and elite trio. At a pinch, other names might have come into consideration, but frankly, what would be the point? Tony Greig, Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff are three such dominant characters - especially with the Aussies in their sights - that the trawl for allrounder contenders was short and to the point.
Let's take the names in chronological order, and first out of the traps comes Greig - tall, blond, strapping, and a man who never took a backwards step. At 6'7", he was built to intimidate his rivals, and while he was far from express as a paceman, he was cunning and steeped in variations, not least a tidy line in offspin, that earned him 13 wickets in a series-sharing victory in the Caribbean.
The abiding memory of Greig, however, was the sight of him signalling his own boundaries during a ludicrously brave century against Lillee and Thomson, in Brisbane in 1974-75. By bowling bouncers to the Aussies in the opening salvos of the series, Greig had started a fight that he could not hope to win, but typically he took it upon himself to front up for his error of judgment, just as he did when he "grovelled" at The Oval in 1976, after his ill-advised comments about West Indies.
Because of his involvement with Kerry Packer, Greig's career barely overlapped with that of his successor, Botham, although in many ways it's just as well, for it's hard to imagine how any dressing room could have been big enough for both. As a genuinely attacking outswing bowler, Beefy in his pomp was an outstanding and incisive paceman, and to this day he remains England's leading wicket-taker in Test cricket. Factor in the small matter of 14 Test centuries, including two in quick succession in the incredible summer of 1981, and his record speaks for itself.
And then last, but hardly least, is Flintoff - England's colossus du nos jours. Slow to fulfill his potential, and ravaged by injury when he ought to have been in his prime, there's little hope of the man's stats ever living up to the impact he made on the game. But every once in a while, when form and fitness came together, he was irresistible. The summer of 2005 was his zenith, but the three years from 2003 were his pomp. And that glorious final morning at Lord's last month could yet prove to have been a fitting last hurrah.

The Contenders

Tony Greig World Series Cricket denied him a deserved place in the affections of the English public. With a batting average of 40.43 and bowling figures of 32.20, he is statistically the best qualified of the contenders.

Ian Botham One hundred and two Tests, 5200 runs, 383 wickets, 120 catches, a thousand lasting memories. The leading English cricketer of his era, and arguably the biggest sport personality of his generation. Sir Beefy was larger than life in all respects.

Andrew Flintoff A human wrecking-ball of a cricketer, capable of searing pace and unrelenting accuracy, and possessed of a batting style that emptied bars and piled him to the top of England's sixes charts.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo