We see that Cricinfo has invited its readers to pick their All-time Ashes XI. Given we have recently selected our own all-time Australia and England Ashes XIs, it seems apt to pick a composite Ashes XI from these 22 names:
Having selected five openers in our two sides – Len Hutton was picked at first drop in our England Ashes XI – we have a plethora of options here. But for the same reason that Hutton was pushed down to three, we see no reason to split up the immortal opening partnership of Hobbs and Sutcliffe. The dynamic duo had 11 opening partnerships of over 100 against Australia including two of the greatest in the history of the game at The Oval in 1926 and Melbourne in 1928/29.
Bradman picks himself at three and is also our captain. Joining him in the middle order are Hammond – who other than in the 1928/29 series when he hit 905 runs was mostly overshadowed by the brilliance of Bradman. This leaves us with three tough, doughty fellows in Barrington, Border and Waugh. We opt for the middle of these, partly because as a left-hander he provides balance to the side, but also because he was equally as effective in a losing or winning side.
Choosing between two larger-than-life characters like Miller and Botham is no easy task - especially as we looked on as an awed child at the exploits of the latter in the unforgettable 1981 Ashes. But despite this, Miller seems to have the better of Botham with both bat and ball and also had his opponent’s ability to change a match single-handedly.
Gilchrist’s superior batting versus Knott’s better ability with the gloves? In the end this was quite an easy choice because quite simply Gilchrist had an unbeatable talent for counterpunching when his side were in trouble or turning a positive position into one of utter dominance all in the blink of an eye.
Barnes is arguably the greatest bowler ever and offers a potent variety of seam, swing and spin – the latter meaning that we need only select one specialist spinner in our XI. Due to our unashamed love of extreme pace, we opt for Lillee and Larwood over Bedser and Lindwall to join Barnes in our composite XI.
Having seen the exploits of Warne at first-hand, it is impossible to prefer O’Reilly or Verity above him. For balance, the left-arm spin of Verity is preferred to the leggie Tiger as our 12th man.
So, our all-time Ashes XI is: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Bradman (C), Hammond, Border, Miller, Gilchrist, Larwood, Warne, Lillee and Barnes with Verity as 12th man.