May 022013

Readers have requested me to pick the best Australian Ashes team based on their performances in Australia and, sadly, no current cricketer makes it to my all-time great Australian team (based on statistical criteria in Ashes Tests in Australia).

Eight batsmen have scored 1400-plus runs: Don Bradman (2354 runs at 78.46 in 18 Tests), Clem Hill (1883 at 39.22 in 25), Greg Chappell (1599 at 49.96 in 20), Steve Waugh (1567 at 47.48 in 24), Warwick Armstrong (1482 at 43.58 in 22), Allan Border (1466 at 47.29 in 22), Neil Harvey (1402 at 42.48 in 20) and Victor Trumper (1400 at 36.84 in 20).

Among those scoring more than 900 runs, the best four in averages after Bradman are Michael Hussey 73.42 (1028 runs in 10 Tests), Matthew Hayden 56.81 (909 in 10), Mark Waugh 50.75 (1015 in 12) and Ricky Ponting 44.34 (1153 in 17).

Six bowlers took more than 65 wickets: Monty Noble (78 wickets at 20.76 in 19 Tests), Hugh Trumble (74 at 21.36 in 15), Dennis Lillee (71 at 21.59 in 13), George Giffen (70 at 25.47 in 18), Glenn McGrath (70 at 22.90 in 16) and Shane Warne (66 at 25.81 in 14).

Charles ‘Terror’ Turner had the best average of 14.84 (63 wickets in nine Tests) followed by Rodney Hogg 15.94 (52 in nine), Jeff Thomson 19.01 (58 in 10), Fred Spofforth 19.28 (56 in 11), George Palmer 19.81 (55 in 10), Alan Davidson 22.66 (51 in 13) and Bill O’Reilly 24.59 (52 in 10).

The five most prolific wicket-keepers are Rod Marsh (77 dismissals; 73 caught plus four stumped in 21 Tests), Ian Healy (68; 63+5 in 15), Bert Oldfield (53; 33+20 in 22), Adam Gilchrist (51; 47+4 in 10) and Wally Grout (45; 39+6 in 12).

Marsh also scored 860 runs at 29.65, Oldfield 772 at 23.29, Healy 645 at 30.71, Gilchrist 562 at 51.09 and Grout 170 at 15.42.

Three all-rounders have achieved the double of 500 runs and 40 wickets; Noble (1057 runs at 35.23 and 78 wickets at 20.76 in 19 Tests), Keith Miller (901 at 45.05 and 43 at 20.41 in 14) and Richie Benaud (507 at 24.14 and 58 at 28.43 in 15).

Now to the hard part; select an Australian XI using the above criteria.

Trumper and Hayden will open the innings. What a pair! One a right-hander oozing grace, the other a leftie out to destroy any attack.

Trumper was a genius and one of the greatest ever. Not worried about statistics, he scored runs on uncovered pitches. Left-handed Hayden had something which Trumper lacked: killer instinct.

Bradman will bat at number three. He holds all records.

Ponting or Hussey? As the criterion is stats-based, left-handed Hussey comes in at number four.

There is a competition for the number five spot; the elegant Harvey and Mark Waugh, the durable Allan Border or the majestic Greg Chappell?

Chappell wins. His on-drive was as eye-catching as Wally Hammond’s cover drive.

Noble, Miller, Steve Waugh and Richie Benaud compete for the six and seven slots. Miller and Benaud win as they were world-class all-rounders.

Debonair Miller was a terrifyingly fast bowler with gigantic sixes being his signature tune. According to ABC commentator Glenn Mitchell, “every woman wanted to be with him while every man wanted to be him.”

Benaud was a crafty leg-spinner, an attacking lower-order batsman, a brilliant gully fielder and a courageous captain who neither lost a series nor his cool.

Despite Gilchrist’s scintillating batting, Rod Marsh will keep wickets. He dismissed most Englishmen behind the stumps, 77, and hit an Ashes ton as well. ‘Caught Marsh bowled Lillee’ became part of Aussie folklore.

Lillee and Thomson will open the attack. They put fear in the hearts of batsmen – ask the England team of 1974-75.

Lillee captured 6-26 in the 1977 Centenary MCG Test as England was wiped out for 95 and the huge crowd went berserk with ‘Lillee, Lillee, Lillee’ chants. An oft-heard phrase of the 1970s was, “If Lillee doesn’t get ya, Thommo must”.

Shane Warne will be the spinner along with Benaud. Wily and controversial, Warne is rated by experts as the greatest spinner of all time. After ordinary performances, he attracted world attention with that ‘rogue’ ball that stunned Mike Gatting in the 1993 Manchester Test. It was his first ball in an Ashes Test.

Here is a composite Australian Ashes team based on stats in Australia (in batting order):

Trumper, Hayden, Bradman, Hussey, Greg Chappell, Miller, Benaud (capt), Rod Marsh (wk), Warne, Lillee and Thomson.

12th man: Ponting.

Reserves: Border, Harvey, Steve Waugh, Noble, McGrath, Turner, Gilchrist.

I do not expect my team to satisfy every reader, so let the debate begin.

First Posted 03 May, 2013 1:20PM AEDT

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