The Ashes are the pinnacle for English and Australian cricketers and for close to 130 years the oldest rivalry in sport has produced plenty of spellbinding matches. Some of the finest cricketers ever to play the game like Bradman, Hammond, Warne, Hobbs, Trumper and Botham have fought toe to toe for the little urn.
However, not everyone who has represented Australia and England in the ultimate sporting contest has been blessed with greatness; far from it in fact. Certainly, in the 30 or so years that this writer has been addicted to the fiercest of cricket battles, a number of duffers have donned the Baggy Green or Three Lions cap.
The names that follow are a mixture of the downright obscure, confused selection strategies and the odd surprising name that proved to be a complete Ashes flop.
So without further ado, here are the teams starting with England today and Australia tomorrow:
Mark Lathwell – Heralded as the next big thing, he was drafted into the team for two Tests in the 1993 series and promptly stank the place out. Disappeared as quickly as he had arrived and never got near England selection again.
John Stephenson – One of 29 players called on by England during the disastrous 1989 series, Stephenson played his only test at The Oval scoring 25 and 11. He never played another Test.
Paul Parker – Having secured the urn in 1981, the England selectors decided to experiment with Parker for the final Test at The Oval. He scored 13 in his solitary innings and it certainly proved unlucky for Parker who never received the call again.
Usman Afzaal – Like Samit Patel, fell victim to the selectors aversion to those carrying a few extra pounds, Afzaal admittedly didn’t impress too much in his three tests in the 2001 series - although he did score a fifty at The Oval.
James Whittaker – Another of England’s one cap wonders, the loyal Leicestershire batsman played his only test at Adelaide in 1986 in place of the injured Ian Botham. Unlike Beefy, Whittaker didn’t leave his mark on the Ashes, scoring 11 in his only knock.
Derek Pringle - Pringle was more of a no-rounder than an all-rounder when it came to the Ashes averaging 20 with the bat and 58 with the ball. This writer remembers him being part of the worst England attack ever at Headingley in 1989 – a past it Neil Foster, Phil Newport and Phil De Freitas.
Chris Read – Surprisingly, England haven’t really picked a duffer behind the stumps in the last 30 years. We opt for Read simply because by the time he was finally chosen for the last two tests of the 2006/07 series, his confidence had been shattered by being dropped in favour of Geraint Jones at the start of the ill-fated series. He hasn’t played for England since.
Robert Croft – English (or Welsh) spinners have hardly set the Ashes alight in recent times and Crofty didn’t even raise a spark taking 11 wickets at 52 in seven Ashes tests from 1997-2001. But he can bat, I hear you say. Not against Australia against whom he averaged 9.54. Made Peter Such and Eddie Hemmings look like world beaters in comparison. About as useful as a cat flap in an elephant house.
Jimmy Ormond – Like Afzaal, fell victim to Duncan Fletcher’s dislike of fat cricketers after playing one Ashes test at The Oval in 2001. The one for 115 probably didn’t help matters either. Ormond did leave a mark though with his infamous retort to Mark Waugh, who had welcomed Ormond to the crease "Mate, what are you doing out here? There's no way you're good enough to play for England." Ormond replied "Maybe not, but at least I'm the best player in my own family", prompting much hilarity from Junior’s team mates.
Martin McCague – From a list of useless England seamers including Paul Jarvis, Mark Ilott, Phil Newport and a certain Jonathan Agnew, McCague took the biscuit. Dubbed “the rat who joined the sinking ship” by the Australian press on account of his upbringing down under, McCague may well have been a double agent judging by his shocking performance at Brisbane in 1994.
Mike Smith – We played in a five-a-side tournament for Smith’s benefit and he relayed how he was treated like a stranger in the England dressing room and hardly spoken to when he was called up for the Headingley test in the 1997 series. Graeme Thorpe dropped Matt Elliott in Smith’s third over – Elliott scored 199 and Smith went wicketless in his only test. Falls into the unlucky rather than the downright rubbish category.
A version of this article first appeared in the third and final edition of Cricket Sadist in November 2010.
Cricket Zeroes: Martin McCague
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