Date added: October 11, 2011 Category: Andrew Carr
In the ninth of seventeen articles, one for each first class county (except Durham who have yet to produce 11 test cricketers), ANDREW CARR picks the best eleven who played for England.
This season’s County Championship Division 2 winners will consider that, given their splendid history – a dozen times County Champions (albeit two of them shared) – they are back where they belong in Division 1 for 2012.
Ian Peebles, one of cricket’s finest writers, and a more than decent servant to Middlesex and England, wrote a piece for the 1965 Wisden about the county, which included the following:
‘...Middlesex is pre-eminently of cheerfulness and enjoyment. Those who have played for Middlesex have known the very best that cricket can offer.’
I believe these attributes are present in the final eleven and among the many who were also considered. The sheer quantity and quality of players was challenging, including as it did some of the most eminent names in English cricket history. This meant that I included more batsmen than usual, but I was confident I had got the balance right for this particular eleven. It still meant the omission of many fine players though...
So on to the selection process.
This started with a dozen names, so hardly straightforward, yet I felt immediately that there were several automatic choices: Strauss, Edrich, Compton, Hendren and Gatting, so they filled five of the six batting positions.
This left seven contenders – all of them valid – for one place. Hard though it was, I had to look at test performances as a criterion and three – Mike Brearley, Mark Ramprakash and Pelham Warner (all of them in my earlier ‘Hall of Fame’ article) – underperformed as England batsmen in relation to their talent (especially Mark) so, with great reluctance, they were all out.
For the four remaining, I went for career figures as the criterion and although all were distinguished, I finally omitted Clive Radley, Jack Robertson and Andrew Stoddart, leaving ‘Young Jack’ Hearne as the final choice...
The only real alternative to John Murray was Paul Downton (once of Kent...), but given the former’s contribution as the county’s keeper with most career dismissals, I went for J.T.
This started with eleven names, so again hardly straightforward, yet I felt immediately that there were three automatic choices: Allen, Fraser and Titmus, so they filled three of the four bowling places.
This left eight contenders for one place, but given ‘Young Jack’ Hearne’s great ability as a legspinner (over 1,800 first class wickets) I felt he could partner Fred Titmus, so the final place was for a fast or fast-medium bowler. This meant leaving out three spinners each with over 120 test wickets – Phil Edmonds, John Emburey and Phil Tufnell – (and characters all) as well as the inventor of legspin, Bernard Bosanquet, and another fine ‘leggie’ Walter Robins.
Having decided on a seamer for the remaining place, although both Norman Cowans and Alan Moss were genuinely quick, it had to be John (known as ‘Jack’) Hearne (3,061 career wickets @ 17.75...), who was thought to be a distant cousin of ‘Young Jack’ Hearne.
I also want to mention two other Middlesex seamers here, the latter of whom played (albeit briefly) for England – Simon Hughes and Mike Selvey – for their contributions as writers and broadcasters; both have enhanced the reporting of the modern game.
For the future
There are four players, I believe, who could all challenge for places in a future consideration of this eleven, namely Joe Denly (from Kent for 2012 – still irks this Man of Kent that), Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan and John Simpson. Finn and Morgan, of course, have played for England with some success, but are still very much at the beginning of their test careers.
So Finally... the MIDDLESEX XI
A. J. Strauss *
W. J. Edrich
D. C. S. Compton
E. H. Hendren
M. W. Gatting
J. W. Hearne
J. T. Murray +
G. O. B. Allen
F. J. Titmus
J. T. Hearne
A. R. C. Fraser
So what do readers think, whether Middlesex supporters or not, of this best eleven? Look forward to receiving feedback!
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