As England prepare for their 1,000th Test match on Wednesday against India, the ECB have announced the nation’s greatest ever Test side. Over 6,000 English cricket fans voted and the team consists exclusively of Test legends, including three from the current squad – James Anderson, Alastair Cook and Joe Root, an ICC report on Monday said.
England skipper Root was overwhelmed with his inclusion, saying: “To be selected in the best-ever England men’s Test XI side by cricket fans across the country is incredibly humbling.”
“When I think of some of the incredible players who haven’t made the cut, legends of the game such as Denis Compton and Wally Hammond, I’m not sure I would have voted for myself, but I certainly want to thank the fans for thinking of me,” he said.
“It’s great to see my current team-mates Alastair Cook and James Anderson be recognised for their contributions to England Test cricket too,” Root added. A modern great, Alastair Cook has played more matches (156) and scored more runs (12,145) than any other player in England’s history.
First starting as Andrew Strauss’s protégé, the 33-year-old grew into a natural leader of the side for eight years, in which he also became England’s longest-serving captain.
Longevity is reflected in Cook’s records and it best reflects his batting style – patient and determined, he is a model opening batsman, with an English record 32 centuries to his name.
Len Hutton’s 364 against Australia in 1938, coming in only his sixth Test match, marked him out as destined for greatness and he would go on to score 19 centuries across an 18-year career which spanned the Second World War.
His record is made even more astonishing by the fact that during the war, he broke his arm so badly that he was forced to readjust his technique and use a shortened bat for the remainder of his career.
Hutton also became England’s first professional Test captain in 1952, and his place atop the batting order is undisputed. David Gower known contemporarily as the face of Sky Sports’ cricket coverage, it was innings rather than live TV which Gower used to anchor.
During the Eighties, when players like Botham fluctuated with their hard-hitting style, Gower remained a constant, graceful player. How he made his runs was as important to many fans of that era as how many he made, his cover drive still reckoned by some as the prettiest Test cricket has witnessed.
His Test career spanned 14 years and as captain he masterminded series wins over Australia at home and against India in India. He’s England’s fourth highest run scorer with 8,231 runs at an average of 44.25.
The one-of-a-kind South-African born batsman Kevin Pietersen made his debut in the memorable 2005 Ashes series, and by its end he had already carved out a place in English history, as his 158 on the last day at The Oval, an innings as audacious and unprecedentedas his bleach blonde mohawk, saved the fifth Test and secured a 2-1 series win.
Pietersen’s phenomenal stroke play, pantheon of scoring shots, and his unmatched ability to turn a game in a session made him a household name, and though he clashed with the administration throughout his time as a player, in some ways it only marked him out more as a singular personality.
The current captain Joe Root has only been playing Test cricket for six years, so his inclusion showcases the impact of this gutsy, dexterous cricketer, hailed by many as the best batsman England have produced since the Second World War.
The 27-year-old has already notched 13 tons and played a part in two Ashes series wins, and may well earn many more of both in a career from which plenty more is yet to come.
Root is currently ranked as the third best Test batsmen in the MRF Tyres rankings, and will be looking to add more runs to his tally come the arrival of India on Wednesday. Ian Botham’s outspoken nature dovetailed with his ability to divert the route of a Test match within a session, whether by smashing it or swinging it miles.
The 1981 Ashes series was the zenith of Botham’s Test career, his run-a -ball 149 not out in the third Test and five wickets for one run in the fourth Test turning the series on its head.
At one point he was the leading Test wicket-taker of all time, and he still holds the record for the most five-fors (27) by an Englishman, complimented by 5,200 runs and 383 wickets.
No wicket-keeper claimed more dismissals for England than Alan Knott, who claimed 269 dismissals in his 14 years behind the stumps. For wicket-keepers, performances behind the sticks are almost exclusively judged on their taking of chances, and not the ball-by-ball work they do. It says something that not only is Knott remembered as a safe pair of hands, but also a terrifically nimble athlete.
His ability with the bat was another asset, scoring 4,389 runs at an average of 32.75. With great glove skills, experience and batting acumen, Knott’s well worth his place.
Graeme Swann’s dominance during his five-year spell in Test match cricket, that he’s included despite playing only 60 matches – the least in this side. The chirpy off-spinner has been England’s finest slow bowler this century, picking up 255 Test wickets and forming an integral part of the England sides that won three consecutive Ashes series.