Following on from England’s ascent to the top rank in Test cricket, this would be my ultimate Test 11 from the last thirty odd years of watching the trials and tribulations of our national team. There have been far more downs than ups, but due to the introduction of central contracts and the development of the team ethic England is finally on top of the world.
Past England teams contained very talented individuals but very rarely performed in unison, and once things started to go against them, collapse to defeat became inevitable.
Nasser Hussain must take a lot of credit for laying the foundations for our success, and Strauss can consider himself unlucky to be left out. Only Boycott makes the cut from the last century.
1) G. Boycott. Obvious. Only question mark is his commitment to putting the team before himself, but if you had to send someone in with your life depending on him not getting out, then Boycott has to be first on the list.
2) M.E. Trescothick. Tough choice between the Somerset man and Alastair Cook, but Trescothick’s attacking flair would be the perfect foil for Boycott’s doggedness. Cook has the potential to be better than Boycott in the long run as he has more natural ability to go with his iron will not to get out once he is established at the crease. Only criticism of Cook is that the standard of Test bowling (S. Africa excepted) is pretty ordinary at the moment.
3) M.P. Vaughan. (Capt). Proved his worth against a world class Australian attack in the 2002/3 Ashes when he scored three centuries in a losing cause. Out thought and out fought Ricky Ponting in the 2005 Ashes triumph.
4) K.P. Pietersen. Best attacking batsman of the modern era bar non. His 158 when England were reeling at 125 for 5 at the Oval in the 2005 Ashes won the series and must one of the greatest innings ever by an Englishman.
5) I.R. Bell. Supreme natural talent has been harnessed producing a mentally tough competitor who is fit and epitomises the team ethic at the heart of the current squad. Lamb, Gower and to an extent Ian Botham had as much talent as their 21st century counterparts, but lacked the intensity and didn’t see themselves as the athletes that the modern players undoubtedly are.
6) A. Flintoff. Gets the nod over Ian Botham as his runs and wickets in 2005 came against the best team in the world. When Botham faced the Windies he fell well short of what was required and whilst his 1981 success defied the odds, it was against a very ordinary Aussie side that was on the slide. Botham’s early triumphs were cheapened by the Packer affair and when England needed someone to stand up and be counted and use their talents to set an example to young players, Botham failed. Flintoff was hamstrung as Captain by an over bearing and too powerful Coach in Duncan Fletcher, never having the chance to find his own voice resulting in the 5-0 debacle down under in 2006/7. Strauss, liberated by Andy Flower is the right Captain at the right time, but Vaughan shades it for me.
7) M.J.Prior. Top notch ‘keeper after a shaky start. My main reason for including the Sussex star is his total selflessness when he bats. He often comes in when quick runs are needed and doesn’t mind the odd failure as long as the team is successful.
8) S.C.J. Broad. The India series has vindicated the selectors faith in the Notts man. He has far more strings to his bow than Steve Harmison and not only due to his batting. He can be a quick bang it in bowler, can pitch it up and swing the ball, plus he has the art of reverse up his sleeve. He has the uncanny ability to blow a middle order apart at vital stages of a series and his batting puts him into the genuine all rounder stakes.
9) T.T.Bresnan. Over the last thirty years I can’t find an England player who has a bigger heart. I maybe biased having watched his career develop at Yorkshire but he can run in all day and bowl a heavy ball even when it is 75 overs old due to supreme fitness and athleticism, plus he is a classical batsman who will get a Test hundred sooner rather than later. 41 wickets in ten winning Tests against high class batting line ups bodes for a formidable career. But he is selected for what he has done, not on potential.
10) G.P.Swann. Great competitor and his 153 victims including 11 five wicketshauls in just 36 Tests is a stunning record proving he can do the business on all surfaces and against all batting line ups. 800 runs and four 4 50’s at number ten must demoralise any attack when they think they have finally got England on the ropes.
J.M Anderson. Just shades out Matthew Hoggard due to his extra pace and ability with the old ball. In addition he is a brilliant fielder, and the personification of the team ethic.