11 Surrey cricket heroes to play in the Ashes
- Credit: Archant
With The Ashes the competition that every English and Australian cricketer wants to win, here Crispin Andrews delves through the archives at The Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club, to pick out his all-time dream team for the world-famous tournament
The first Ashes Test took place in 1882, after the newspapers mocked the death of English cricket, when England lost a game to Australia earlier in the year. ‘The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia,’ Reginald Brooks wrote in the Sporting Times.
Since then, many Surrey stars have graced these famous contests, and below are my picks for the county’s best Ashes XI. With the exception of maybe, Don Bradman’s 1948 invincibles, the great Waugh, Warne, McGrath, Ponting teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, I’d back this team to win any Ashes series.
Jack Hobbs: The master. England’s most prolific batsman. 197 centuries in his Surrey and England career, 15 of them for England, 11 against Australia. With his fast footwork and impeccable concentration, Hobbs, it was said, could bat on any pitch, however uneven, however rain-affected. He averaged 56 per match for England at a time when pitches were nowhere near as good as they became in subsequent years.
Hobbs played for England from 1908 until 1930. After retiring, he was the first professional cricketer to be knighted. For many years, he ran a sports shop in London’s Fleet Street.
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John Edrich: A left-handed Boycott without the attitude; not even the quickest and nastiest of bowlers would easily budge John Edrich. New Zealand couldn’t manage it in 1965, when Edrich scored 310 not out at Headingley. He toured Australia three times, scoring 687 runs in 1970-1, as Ray Illingworth’s team won The Ashes. In 1974-5 he was captain for one Test after Mike Denness dropped himself.
Edrich is one of an elite group of batsmen who has scored one hundred first class centuries. Since retiring, he’s been a Test selector, England’s batting coach and president of Surrey County Cricket Club.
Ken Barrington: Australian wicket keeper, Wally Grout, once said that when Barrington walked out to bat, it was as if he had a Union Jack trailing behind him. His ‘over my dead body’ attitude saw him score 6,806 runs at an average of 58, the second best of any English Test match batsman, behind Herbert Sutcliffe.
Barrington started as an attacking batsman, but later became more defensive to achieve greater consistency. He loved batting. Twice he scored hundreds in four consecutive Test matches, managed 20 overall, and even scored two fifties in an Ashes Test, after breaking his wrist playing for Surrey.
Peter May: Stylish and correct, Peter May epitomised England’s post Bradman Ashes revival. Part of Len Hutton’s teams that won the Ashes in 1953 and 1954-5; as captain he retained them in 1956. May was an amateur on and off the pitch. Cambridge educated, his was a classic traditional batting technique and attitude towards the game and life. In the mid to late Fifties, he was England captain for 41 Tests, then a record. He also captained Surrey from 1957 until 1961, when he retired to work in the city. There’s a stand named after May at The Oval.
Kevin Pietersen: Central contracts and England responsibilities mean that Surrey don’t see much of KP, but he’s like no other English batsman of recent memory. As South Africa’s Steyn and Morkel will attest, Pietersen, when in the mood, can smash the very best bowlers around the park. His 158 at The Oval in 2005 secured The Ashes and in such style that no one noticed it was only Pietersen’s 5th Test Match. Last year, Pietersen scored three of the very best Test Match hundreds you’ll ever see. One on a spinning pitch in Sri Lanka, the second a Bothamesque counter attack against South Africa and the third a classic knock against India, in India, where England hadn’t won a series since 1984-5.
Douglas Jardine: Not up there with the other batsman, although a Test Match average of 48 shows that Jardine could definitely play a bit. No, D.R. Jardine is in this team for a quite different reason. The mere mention of his name winds up the Aussies, like no other cricketer. Aloof and confrontational with his Oxbridge Harlequin cap, he never hid his distaste for ‘uneducated Australians.’ But this isn’t the main reason why Jardine is disliked, so. He did the impossible. He beat Australia and Bradman in their own back yard. That he managed this by ordering his fast bowlers to bowl at the batsmen’s heads rather than the stumps, is still a source of much annoyance Down Under.
Alec Stewart: Would probably want to bat higher up the order, but such was Stewart’s versatility as wicket keeper, opener and middle order batsman that in this team, he’d play the Matt Prior role. Keep wicket and turn a game on its head by smashing tiring bowlers around. Stewart scored two hundreds in the same match against the West Indies to help England become the first touring team to win in Barbados since 1935. Fittingly, his last Test was at his beloved Oval, in 2003, against South Africa.
Mr Surrey, he was born in Merton Park, played 23 years for the county, and still works at The Oval as an executive director.
Tony Lock: One half of England’s most famous spin twins, left-armer Lock was accurate, spun the ball hard and had a good enough cricket brain to captain Leicestershire and Western Australia after he left Surrey. Think Monty Panesar, except Lock could bat too, and field. As a close catcher, he had few equals, taking 831 catches in his first class career. He also managed 2,844 wickets in 654 matches and is the only player to score more than 10,000 runs without getting a hundred. Lock also took the other wicket when Laker got his 19.
Jim Laker: The other half of that great spin pairing. The legendary bowler who took 19 wickets in one Test, in 1956, and the equally legendary voice of BBC’s Test Match coverage in the Seventies and early Eighties. In 1956, Laker also took 10 wickets in an innings for Surrey against the Australians, in a tour match at The Oval. His 46 wickets, that year, is still an Ashes record for a five test series. In 13 seasons for Surrey, Laker took 1,395 wickets, and is one of only four cricketers to be awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the others being David Steele, Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff.
Bob Willis: Yes, he played most of his best years at Warwickshire, but when Willis flew out for his first Ashes tour after Derbyshire’s Alan Ward broke down, he was a Surrey player. At his best, from 1977 to 1981, Willis, when in the mood, was up there with Lillee and those eras’ great West Indians. His eight wickets at Headingley, in 1981, did as much as Ian Botham to win a game that England had no right to win, after following on. In 1977, he out-bowled Jeff Thomson as England beat Greg Chappell’s Aussies 3-0.
Alec Bedser: A tireless fast medium bowler who stood up to Bradman, Keith Miller and all the other post-War Australian greats. Bradman once said that a ball Bedser bowled him was the best that ever took his wicket. He took 236 wickets in 51 games.
Bedser started with Woking Cricket Club with his twin brother Eric, who he lived with until Eric’s death in 2006. He played 485 games for Surrey between 1939 and 1960. After retiring, he was an England selector for 23 years, was knighted in 1996 and made chairman of Surrey County Cricket Club in 1997.
Earlier this year, the brothers even had a bridge named after them in their hometown of Woking over the Basingstoke Canal.