Ashes 100-1 Countdown: 49 Days Until the Ashes…
David Green aka The Reverse Sweep moves on to the Australia 4 and 5 spots.
Whereas selecting the batsman to fill the number three role in an all-time Australian Ashes XI was an extremely facile task, picking who is going to follow Bradman at four and five is a nigh on impossible exercise.
The longlist includes a plethora of great Australian batsmen in Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Greg Chappell, Neil Harvey, Clem Hill, Mark Waugh, Stan McCabe, Ricky Ponting and Charlie Macartney. Indeed, one could argue that you could put the above names in a hat and select any two of these to join the already selected Trumper, Morris and Bradman, and you would have an immensely strong batting line-up.
But for the purposes of this exercise we do need to pick two. So we will start by discarding Hill and Mark Waugh immediately – not because they weren’t good players, but unlike the others they probably fell into the ‘very good’ rather than ‘great’ category. As Jimmy Ormond once famously retorted, Mark Waugh wasn’t even the best cricketer in his own family.
So that leaves us with seven. Harvey’s record against England (2416 runs at 38.34) was markedly worse than his overall test record (he averaged over 48) and as it is an Ashes XI we are selecting then fine player as he was that means he misses out.
Six left, which means four must miss out. But which four? Macartney (1640 Ashes runs at 43.15) was reputedly a devastating batsman who regularly demoralised English bowlers and achieved the notable feat of scoring a test hundred before lunch at Headingley in 1921. McCabe (1931 at 48.27) played two of the greatest Ashes innings ever at Sydney (187 not out) in the opening test of the Bodyline series and then 232 not out at Trent Bridge in 1938. The latter prompted Bradman to remark “If I could play an innings like that, I’d be a proud man“. That’s a pretty good reference.
Moving on to more recent times, Chappell (2154 at 43.95 with eight hundreds) and Ponting (2363 at 48.22 and also with eight hundreds) are formidable batsmen and like Macartney and McCabe have excellent records against England. All would be in contention for an all-time Australian XI, but when it comes to the Ashes it is the two remaining batsmen that stand out from the pack.
After Bradman, Border (3222 at 55.22) and Waugh (3173 at 58.75) are Australia’s highest run scorers against England. Both offer similar gritty and determined styles, which admittedly is a reason for perhaps only picking one of them. But first Border is left handed so complements Waugh, and secondly a battle with the English is what brought the best out of both of them.
After being the losing captain in 1985 and 1986/87, you can bet your bottom dollar that Border would rather die than lose to the Poms again. And Waugh is built from similar granite, has ten Ashes hundreds – behind only Bradman and Hobbs – and was a thorn in England’s side for such a long period that it is impossible to leave him out. Who can forget him coming back from injury at The Oval in 2001 and on one leg making yet another hundred? So after a lot of pondering it is Border and Waugh that get the vote.
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