Saturday, September 08, 2018

The best England cricket team from the past 50 years

I have been following test cricket for 50 years. My first memory of it is of Colin Milburn hitting Australia all round Lord's in 1968.

If I were asked to pick the best England team from the 50 years I would refer enquirers to Mike Selvey, because I believe he has got it exactly right:
  1. Graham Gooch
  2. Alastair Cook
  3. David Gower
  4. Kevin Pietersen
  5. Joe Root
  6. Ian Botham
  7. Alan Knott
  8. Graeme Swann
  9. John Snow
  10. Bob Willis
  11. Jimmy Anderson
I worry about preferring Cook over Geoff Boycott and, particularly, about preferring Swan over Derek Underwood. On a pitch that favoured the spinners to any degree I would be happy to pick them both and leave out one of the seamers,

A word too for Mike Gatting. He and Gooch dominated country cricket to an extraordinary degree in their era. If either reached double figures, you expected them to get a hundred.

Gower, while more attractive to watch, was always a little more fragile. However well he was playing, he kept you on the edge of your seat, aware that the next ball could be his last. Often, it was.

Who should be captain?

The three best England captains of this period are Ray Illingworth, Mike Brearley and Michael Vaughan.

None makes the cut, though Vaughan had a brilliant series in Australia in 2002-3 and Ray Illingworth would not be a ridiculous selection to bowl his off spin and bat at number 8.

The safe choice from this team would be Gooch, but I remember Gower's first spell as England captain where he won a series in India and then won back the Ashes by batting Australia into oblivion along with Gooch and Tim Robinson.

So let's give it to him.

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