As kids, my friends and I delighted in creating our all time England XIs or World XIs. It was great fun putting together the best team you could think of.
They were even at it on Sky the other day when the commentators selected teams made up of the best overseas players to have played county cricket in England.
It gave me an idea: what about an England team made up of the most distinctly average players to have played in Tests, players who totally failed to set the cricketing world alight.
There’s nothing scientific about the team I’ve picked, but the thing all the players have in common is that they all played Test cricket in the three-and-a-bit decades that I’ve been watching the game closely.
I’ll start with the skipper – and I’m afraid it’s got to be Nasser Hussain. Much as I like him now, I happen to think he’s a very good commentator, he didn’t do it for me as a player. If Michael Atherton was captain grumpy, then Nas was equally unhappy – mostly because England weren’t very good under him.
My openers would be Tim Curtis of Worcs and Nick Knight of Warks. Both played for decent county sides, but didn’t do it on the international stage. Curtis’s five Tests saw him average 15.55 while Knight finished with an average of a tad under 24 over 17.
Kim Barnett comes in at number four and Ian Ward at five. Like the other batsmen, both were in good county teams, but failed to translate to Test cricket.
My all rounder has to be Kent legend Chris Cowdrey, the former county captain who is also my distinctly average England vice-captain. He memorably captained England in the fourth Test against the Windies in 1988. He scored five runs in match and bowled 5.3 overs, taking no wickets. Chris Lewis narrowly missed out on a place in the average XI.
Bruce French is my keeper. He only played 16 Tests. His tours abroad saw him bitten by a dog, being hit by a ball thrown by a spectator while practising and then run over by a car as he arrived at a hospital for treatment.
With the bowlers, it was a question of who to leave out. I could have picked Mark Illot, Alan Igglesden, Chris Schofield, Paul Jarvis among a host of others, but have instead gone with Peter Martin, Martin McCague, Ian Salisbury and Chris Silverwood.
Salisbury seems to best sum up the distinctly average XI. His 20 test wickets came at the cost almost 77 runs apiece…
The full distinctly average XI:
- Tim Curtis
- Nick Knight
- Nasser Hussain*
- Kim Barnett
- Ian Ward
- Chris Cowdrey
- Bruce French+
- Peter Martin
- Martin McCague
- Ian Salisbury
- Chris Silverwood