I’d forgotten about this piece until I stumbled across it while going through my MTWD articles. Patrick Kidd of The Times asked me to write the piece for their on-line thingie.
Just in case SportNetwork lose the above piece in the meantime, I’ve uploaded it here on Ogblog, so this link will work.
The link to The Times article no longer works – perhaps because of the pay wall (although I’d expect that to at least ask you to pay) or perhaps The Times used similar techies to the SportNetwork crowd.
Anyway, here is the text I submitted – I don’t suppose Patrick edited it much.
Ged Ladd, from the Middlesex supporters’ website “Middlesex Till We Die” http://www.cricketnetwork.co.uk/boards/list/s66.htm?67 presents an Ashes Top Ten of heroes who have not only played in Ashes Tests but have also played first class cricket for Middlesex.
- Andrew Stoddart. Andrew Stoddart played 16 tests against Australia, captaining half of them, in five series between 1887/8 and 1897/8; his highlight being 173 in Melbourne in a winning 3-2 cause in 1894/5, starting a great tradition of Middlesex players captaining Ashes series victories home and away. A stupendous sportsman, he played both rugby and cricket for England; he also famously once scored 485 in 370 minutes for Hampstead against Stoics after a sleep-free night on the razz. Sadly, he found the game of middle-aged mundanity harder than elite sport; in 1915 he took his own life, perhaps due to debts and ill health.
- Sir Pelham (Plum) Warner. Plum Warner was a distinguished Middlesex and England Captain who captained England to a 3-2 series win in Australia in 1903/4. Like several of the Middlesex and England captains, his personal record in tests was less distinguished than his captaincy record, but Plum Warner did more than enough to get a stand at Lord’s named after him; the one between the Pavilion and the Grandstand.
- Patsy Hendren. Elias Henry Hendren scored over 57,000 first class runs between 1907 and 1938, including 51 tests, 28 of which were against Australia at a very respectable twixt-wars average of just under 40, including 3 tons and 10 fifties. His one test wicket was against the Aussies. An Ashes hero and a Middlesex Collosus; any man with 170 first class hundreds to his name is something special.
- Gubby Allen. George Oswald Browning Allen is another Middlsex and England captain with a Lord’s stand named after him (the small one between the Pavilion and the Tavern Stand). Genuine all-rounder Gubby Allen quietly took 21 vital wickets in the Bodyline series. He also captained England in an Ashes series, but (unusually for a Middlesex and England captain) it was the losing (2-3) tour of Australia following the Bodyline series.
- Denis Compton. The Brylcream Boy himself not only scored 39,000 first class runs and played 78 tests (phenomenal numbers for a player whose career spanned the war), but he also regularly appeared as a winger for Arsenal. He averaged just under 43 in the 28 tests he played against the Aussies (compared with an overall test average just over 50) and is the third of our Middlesex Ashes heroes to have a Lord’s stand named after him; between the Grandstand and the Edrich Stand (Bill Edrich just missed the cut for our heroes list).
- Jeff Thomson. One half of the “Lillian Thomson” pairing which terrorised England’s batsmen on several occasions, Thomo took 100 England scalps at just over 24 in his 21 test outings against England. Given his personal success, he was on the losing side surprisingly often for a top-ranking Aussie; the next three Middlesex and England Ashes heroes were a large part of the reason for his failures.
- Mike Brearley. A master of the art of captaincy, Brearley captained England to three Ashes series wins in the 1970s and 1980s; his only low point being a 0-3 series defeat in the “non-Ashes, aluminium bat” tour. His personal batting effort, averaging just over 22 in 19 Ashes matches, is almost beside the point in the context of that unique degree of Ashes captaincy success. Self-effacing and currently president of the MCC, it seems unlikely that a Lord’s stand will be named after him for the foreseeable future.
- Mike Gatting. Twenty-seven tests against the old enemy at an average of 37+, he scored 4 tons and 12 fifties against Australia. One of Middlesex’s finest, he will long be remembered as the victim of Shane Warne’s “ball of the 20th century” and also (hopefully not for too much longer) as the last England captain to bring the urn back from a winning Ashes tour, 1986/7.
- John Embury. A 64 test veteran, that’s a massive test haul for an English off-spinner. 25 of those tests were against Australia; he took 78 scalps in those tests at under 35s. Effectively a bowling all-rounder, he also managed a Brearley-busting average of 28 in his Ashes outings; undoubtedly a man who lifted his perforamances for the big occasions, none more so than the battles against Australia.
- Glen McGrath. England’s utter nemesis for donkey’s years (ask Atherton, for example), his 30 test outings against England yielding 157 wickets at just over 20 including 10 fivefers tells just part of the story. His ankle-busting encounter with a stray practice ball just before the start of play at Edgbaston in 2005 was probably the single most significant Ashes series-turning event in history.
If the editor were to allow me the indulgence of an eleventh man, wicket-keeper John Murray would make an excellent addition to the above ten to make up a complete team. It’s a little batsman heavy but a bit of medium pace from Gatt in his prime plus some of The Brylcream Boy’s dobblers would provide some makeshift bowling on the rare occasions it would be needed with that strong four-man attack.
I’d like to thank Seaxe Man at MTWD whose excellent three-part series of articles on Middlesex’s England Captains, “Did You Know?”, provided much inspiration for several of the above pen-portraits: