Team of the Month: A December-born World Cricket XI


This side is more festive than the one I selected for November Team of the Month: A November-born World Cricket XI.

Two of its members were born on Christmas Day, and another on New Year’s Eve. While four of its players appeared before WWII, another is one of the world’s best current players.

By sheer chance, the batting order is exceptionally Anglo-centric.

1. Jack Hobbs (England, born 16 December 1882)
61 Tests, 1908-30, 5410 runs at 56.94, 15 centuries

Hobbs is arguably England’s finest-ever batsman. He scored nine centuries in Australia, the last at 46 years of age. In all first-class cricket, he scored 61,760 runs and made 199 centuries, both records. He achieved these figures despite WWI interrupting his career when he was aged 31.

Cricinfo named him in its all-time England XI in 2010. He was also named in all-time World XIs by both Cricinfo and Wisden, in 2010 and 2013 respectively. His peak ICC batting ranking in 1912 is the fourth highest of all time.

Cricinfo also recently rated three innings by him among the best 100 ever played, a number exceeded only by Don Bradman and Brian Lara. In Cape Town in 1909/10, he scored 187.

In Johannesburg in the same series, he scored 93 not out to enable a close victory. And at the MCG in 1911/12, he scored 126 not out to make a difficult chase look easy.

2. Alastair Cook (England, born 25 December 1984)
161 Tests, 2006-18, 12,472 runs at 45.35, 33 centuries, 175 catches

The left-handed Cook debuted at age 21 and played his last Test at age 33. He is England’s leading run-scorer and century-maker, and only four batsmen have scored more Test runs.

He played a record 159 consecutive matches and led his side 59 times. He is also his nation’s most prolific fieldsman.

He scored 60 and 104 not out on debut in Nagpur in 2005/06, and 147 in his final game at The Oval against India in 2018. In Australia, in 2010/11 he scored 766 runs at 127.66.

Cricinfo recently rated his innings of 244 not out at the MCG in 2017/18 among the best 100 ever played.

3. Ricky Ponting (Australia, born 19 December 1974, vice-captain)
168 Tests, 1995-2012, 13,378 runs at 51.85, 41 centuries, 196 catches

Ponting is one of his nation’s greatest-ever batsmen. No other Australian has scored more runs or centuries. His peak ICC batting ranking in 2006 is the fourth highest of all time.

He was also a superb fieldsman in any position. He led Australia to World Cup victory in 2003 and 2007, but also to three Ashes series losses.

Cricinfo recently rated two innings by him among the best 100 ever played. At Old Trafford in 2005, he scored 156 to force a draw for Australia.

At Fatullah in 2006, he scored 118 not out to lead a successful run-chase. His six double-centuries included three against India.

ON THIS DAY, in 2006

One of the greatest batting feats I’ve ever seen

The ONLY player in test history to score two 100’s in his 100th test

Ricky Ponting

And the magical 4th innings ton won the match AND the series, and he did it as captain

— Rob Moody (@robelinda2) January 5, 2022

4. Peter May (England, born 31 December 1929, captain)
66 Tests, 1951-61, 4537 runs at 46.77, 13 centuries

May is one of the finest English batsmen of the modern era, whose on-drive was described as perfect.

His peak ICC batting ranking in 1956 is the sixth highest of all time. His record at home was particularly good, with nine centuries and a batting average of 57.30. He also led his nation 41 times, in which he averaged 54.03, and claimed 20 wins while suffering just 10 losses.

He scored 138 on debut against South Africa at Headingley in 1951, after national service had delayed his first-class debut by two years.

Against the West Indies at Edgbaston in 1957, he scored 285 not out and shared a 411-run stand with Colin Cowdrey.

5. Joe Root (England, born 30 December 1990)
135 Tests, 2012-present, 11,416 runs at 50.29, 30 centuries, 183 catches

Root is one of the most outstanding batsmen ever to represent England, for whom only Alastair Cook has scored more runs. His peak ICC batting ranking in 2022 is the nineteenth highest of all time.

Cricinfo recently rated his innings of 228 in Galle in 2021 among the best 100 ever played.

In 2015 he scored 1385 runs in a calendar year, including Ashes hundreds at Sophia Gardens and Trent Bridge.

Other highlights to date include 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford in 2016 and 226 in Hamilton in 2019/20.

6. Les Ames (England, born 3 December 1905)
47 Tests, 1929-39, 2434 runs at 40.56, eight centuries, 75 catches, 23 stumpings

Ames was England’s first great wicketkeeper-batsman, and arguably the world’s best prior to Adam Gilchrist.

He toured Australia three times and kept to Harold Larwood, Bill Voce, Bill Bowes and Hedley Verity in the Bodyline series of 1932/33. In first-class cricket, he effected a record 418 stumpings. Against the West Indies at The Oval in 1933, he claimed eight victims.

During England’s tour to the West Indies in 1929/30, he amassed 417 runs at 59.57. Against New Zealand at Lord’s in 1931, he and Gubby Allen added 246 runs for the eighth wicket.

Most of his batting highlights were against countries other than Australia, against whom he averaged 27.00 with one century.

7. Andrew Flintoff (England, born 6 December 1977)
79 Tests, 1998-2009, 3845 runs at 31.77, five centuries, 226 wickets at 32.78

Flintoff was a hard-hitting batsman and fast-medium bowler and an inspiration to teammates and home crowds.

Despite scoring so few centuries, and taking five wickets in an innings only three times, he achieved more than those figures suggest.

His ICC all-rounder ranking peaked in 2005 as the eighth highest of all time.

Against the West Indies at Edgbaston in 2004 he scored 167 with seven sixes. In 2005 he was arguably the world’s best cricketer and a key figure in the regaining of the Ashes after 16 years, with seven wickets at Edgbaston, 102 at Trent Bridge and a haul of 5/78 at The Oval.

???? #OnThisDay in 2009…@flintoff11 took a five-wicket haul as England beat Australia at Lord’s ????

???? Check out some of the deliveries here #LoveLords

— Lord’s Cricket Ground (@HomeOfCricket) July 20, 2018

8. Tim Southee (New Zealand, born 11 December 1988)
94 Tests, 2008-present, 370 wickets at 28.98, 1976 runs at 16.06, 73 catches

Southee is a skilled swing bowler and a handy lower-order batsman.

On debut aged just 19, against England in Napier in 2007/08, he took 5/55 and then scored 77 from 40 balls including nine sixes.

His best innings figures to date are 7/64 in Bengaluru in 2012. At Lord’s in 2013, he claimed match figures of 10/108.

His figures in victories include 9/110 against India in Wellington in 2019/20 and 8/120 in Colombo in 2012/13, and 8/140 against Pakistan in Hamilton in 2016/17.

9. Joel Garner (West Indies, born 16 December 1952)
58 Tests, 1977-1987, 259 wickets at 20.97, 42 catches

Garner was a fast-medium bowler who used his height of 6 feet 8 inches to full advantage, extracting often unplayable bounce and delivering equally unplayable yorkers.

His partnerships with Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Malcolm Marshall were key to the West Indies’ dominance of his era.

Interestingly, 181 of his 259 victims were Australians and Englishmen.

In the calendar year of 1984, he claimed 79 wickets from 15 matches. As evidence of his consistency, he debuted with 25 wickets at home to Pakistan in 1976/77.

He then took 26 wickets in England in 1980, another 31 at an average of 16.87 in Australia in 1983/84, then 29 more in England in 1984, and 27 against England in the West Indies in 1985/86.

Happy Birthday Bill O’Reilly (cricket) ????????

— PetrosAndMoneyShow (@PetrosAndMoney) December 21, 2016

10. Bill O’Reilly (Australia, born 20 December 1905)
27 Tests, 1932-46, 144 wickets at 22.59

O’Reilly was a medium-paced leg-spinner who Bradman considered the greatest bowler that he had ever faced or watched.

Of all pre-WWII bowlers, he was second only to SF Barnes. Arguably only Shane Warne is his superior among wrist-spinners, and Cricinfo named both in its all-time Australian XI in 2010.

He took 102 of his 144 wickets against England. At the MCG in 1932/33, Australia’s only victory of the Bodyline series, he took 5/63 and 5/66. At Trent Bridge in 1934 he took 4/75 and 7/54.

At Headingley in 1938 he took 5/66 and 5/56. He and Clarrie Grimmett formed an outstanding partnership, sharing 124 wickets in the consecutive tours to England in 1934 and South Africa in 1935/36.

After WWII interrupted his career he took 5/14 and 3/19 against New Zealand in 1945/46, at the age of 40.

11. Clarrie Grimmett (Australia, born 25 December 1891)
37 Tests, 1925-36, 216 wickets at 24.21

Grimmett was an accurate leg-spinner, master of flight, and inventor of the flipper.

His career was delayed by WWI, and because his birthplace of New Zealand did not have Test status. He migrated to Sydney, then moved to Melbourne and finally Adelaide. On debut aged 33 against England at the SCG in 1924/25, he took 5/45 and 6/37.

He took 29 wickets in England in 1930, another 33 against the West Indies in 1930/31, then 33 against South Africa in 1931/32, and 25 more in England in 1934.

In South Africa in 1935/36 at the age of 44, he took 44 wickets at 14.59, including 33 wickets in the series’ final three matches. He would never be selected for Australia again. Four years later he took a record 73 wickets in the Sheffield Shield.

Good looking cover drive from Joe Root, and it reaches the boundary #Ashes

— (@cricketcomau) December 10, 2021

In May and Ponting, the team boasts two of the most astute captains of all time. Cook, Flintoff, Root and Southee provide additional leadership experience in the modern era.

Hobbs and Cook will complement each other well at the top of the order. The latter was preferred to the imperious Archie MacLaren and prolific Hanif Mohammed.

Ponting, May and Root will combine to form an impressive middle-order. To enable the inclusion in the side of a fifth genuine bowler, unfortunately, no room could be found for a sixth batsman of the quality of Colin Cowdrey, Rohan Kanhai or Doug Walters.

O’Reilly and Grimmett are arguably the finest pair of slow bowlers in this entire series. They will carry a heavy workload and can be relied on to be both economical and penetrative. Their reunion kept Saqlain Mushtaq and Subhash Gupte out of the team. It also neutralised any benefit of including an all-rounder of the quality of Aubrey Faulkner or Ravindra Jadeja.

The new-ball trio of Garner, Flintoff and Southee will be more than adequate. Garner will be in the unfamiliar position of opening the bowling in a side boasting two wrist-spinners. Flintoff and Southee will also add depth to the side’s batting. Unsuccessful candidates included Jasprit Bumrah and Geoff Lawson.

Ames has claimed the wicketkeeping gloves in the face of strong competition from Mark Boucher, Jackie Hendricks and Syed Kirmani. His batting skills will strengthen the top order and facilitate the selection of five bowlers. Also in his favour, he batted regularly against team-mates Grimmett and O’Reilly and kept often for Kent and England to wrist-spinners Tich Freeman and Douglas Wright.

The team’s fielding will be of a high standard. Hobbs and Ponting will maintain an ever-present threat of run-outs. Cook, Root, Southee and Flintoff will occupy the slips cordon. Garner will take up his usual position in the gully.

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I also have an extensive list of honourable mentions: Warren Bardsley, David Boon, Tibby Cotter, Usman Khawaja, Geoff Lawson, Tim Paine, Doug Walters (Aus), Trevor Bailey, Colin Cowdrey, Jack Crawford, Matthew Hoggard, Archie MacLaren, Marcus Trescothick, Cyril Washbrook (Eng), Jasprit Bumrah, Subhash Gupte, Ravindra Jadeja, Syed Kirmani, Amar Singh (Ind), Chris Martin (NZ), Danish Kaneria, Hanif Mohammed, Saqlain Mushtaq, Sarfraz Nawaz (Pak), Mark Boucher, Quentin de Kock, Aubrey Faulkner (SA), Arjuna Ranatunga (SL), Jackie Hendricks, Rohan Kanhai (WI).

Next month I will name a side of January-born players that will be competitive, without matching the overall quality of its predecessors.

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