Ian Botham and Shane Warne watch the TV screen as rain delays play, England v Australia, Edgbaston, 3rd Test, 1st day, July 30, 2009
Ian Botham and Shane Warne: The greatest allrounder and the greatest bowler in the Ashes © AFP
Ricky Ponting has not had a whole lot to smile about in recent weeks, with his captaincy under scrutiny and his team under the cosh following England’s innings victory in the second Test at Adelaide. However, he has received a timely vote of confidence from the cricket-watching public, after being named as the only active player in ESPNcricinfo’s Readers’ Ashes XI.
The poll, which was run in conjunction with ESPN Classic and conducted over the course of the first two Tests, reveals a formidable team containing eight Australians and only three Englishmen, a state of affairs that reflects the traditional balance of power in the Ashes, as opposed to the improbable dominance that the Poms are exerting in the current series.
Ponting has played a part in each of the last eight Ashes series, starting with a century at Headingley in his first appearance against England in 1997. To date he has made 2433 runs in 33 Tests against England, at an average of 46.78, and while he is in danger of becoming the first Australian in 120 years to captain his team in three losing Ashes campaigns, he is also sure to be remembered as the man who led Australia to a crushing 5-0 whitewash in the 2006-07 series.
After all, Ponting is one of five players named in the readers’ XI who took part in that campaign, the others being Matthew Hayden, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and of course Shane Warne, who pooled more votes than even Don Bradman, and who, even at the age of 41, would be a shoo-in to the current Australian team, judging by the recent media clamour for his recall.
Bradman, inevitably, has been chosen to bat at No. 3, having amassed an Ashes record 5028 runs at 89.78 in his 37 Tests between 1928 and 1948. His tally of 19 Ashes hundreds is seven more than the next most prolific man on the list, Jack Hobbs, who edged out Len Hutton as Hayden’s opening partner in the combined XI. The last out-and-out batsman in the team is Steve Waugh, whose flinty-eyed approach epitomised Australia’s era of dominance in the 1990s and early 2000s, and who nudged Allan Border and Wally Hammond out of the reckoning.
There was never any doubt which of the many Ashes allrounders would find his way into this team, however. Despite strong challenges from Keith Miller and Andrew Flintoff, there was no way to ignore Ian Botham’s reputation as Australia’s public enemy No. 1. Four of his 14 Test hundreds came against the Aussies, as well as 148 of his 383 wickets, an Ashes tally that is exceeded by just three players, none of them English.
Warne, inevitably, is one of those players with 195 Pommie scalps. The other two are Dennis Lillee (167) and Glenn McGrath (157), and sure enough, both men make the final XI. The other quick bowler, and a man who would accept the role of first-change over his dead body, is none other than fiery Fred Trueman, the third and final English representative.
Though Trueman claimed only 79 Ashes wickets in 19 appearances, and missed out on England’s triumphant tour of Australia in 1954-55, his self-proclaimed reputation as the “finest fast bowler that ever drew breath” clearly resonated with the voting public, who edged him into the team ahead of Sydney Barnes, Harold Larwood and Bob Willis, to name but a few.
1 Jack Hobbs, 2 Matthew Hayden, 3 Don Bradman, 4 Ricky Ponting, 5 Steve Waugh, 6 Ian Botham, 7 Adam Gilchrist (wk), 8 Shane Warne, 9 Glenn McGrath, 10 Dennis Lillee, 11 Fred Trueman.
Openers Arthur Morris, Bill Woodfull, Mark Taylor, Bill Ponsford, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Bill Lawry, Bob Simpson, Victor Trumper, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Herbert Sutcliffe, Geoffrey Boycott, Mike Brearley, Graham Gooch, Mike Atherton, Michael Vaughan.
Middle order Don Bradman, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Greg Chappell, Ricky Ponting, Stan McCabe, David Boon, Charles Macartney, Neil Harvey, Mark Waugh, Wally Hammond, Frank Wooley, Colin Cowdrey, Ted Dexter, Kevin Pietersen, Ken Barrington, Stanley Jackson, Peter May, David Gower, Denis Compton.
Allrounders Warwick Armstrong, Monty Noble, Jack Gregory, Keith Miller, Richie Benaud, Tony Greig, Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff.
Wicketkeepers Rod Marsh, Jack Blackham, Don Tallon, Adam Gilchrist, Bert Oldfield, Ian Healy, Alan Knott, Bob Taylor, Alec Stewart, Jack Russell, Les Ames.
Bowlers Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Dennis Lillee, Ian Botham, Fred Trueman, Jim Laker, Sydney Barnes, Harold Larwood, Brett Lee, Bob Willis, Darren Gough, Derek Underwood, Bill O’Reilly, Ray Lindwall, Alec Bedser, Jason Gillespie, Frank Tyson, John Snow, Frederick Spofforth, Alan Davidson, Craig McDermott, Hugh Trumble, Clarrie Grimmett, Bert Ironmonger, Wilfred Rhodes, Hedley Verity, Charlie Turner, Garth McKenzie, Ted McDonald, Brian Statham.