|Atherton v Donald : Test cricket at it's best|
Monday, 2 April 2012
Inter-Galactic Test - Part II
In the first instalment of this inter-galactic Test championship back in February, Earth XI gathered (and in some cases, resurrected) a fine set of cricketers to head out to the Planet Teesra. Keeping the gifted extra-terrestrial spinners at bay and utilising the Martian conditions very much to their advantage, Earth XI upset the odds with a two wicket victory.
Our be-tentacled friends had clearly never bowled at anyone quite so imperious as Sir Donald Bradman or encountered any batsman with such steely resolve as Rahul Dravid, and even their own fearsome spinners failed to hold a candle to the peerless Shane Warne.
Earth XI’s stunning upset reverberated around the universe, arousing the interest of many a cricketing planet. Indeed, such was the resounding nature of Earth’s triumph that an envoy hailing from the Planet Beamer soon got in touch. Of course, with these extra-terrestrial cricketers clearly preferring the cards stacked in their favour, Earth XI are to compete away from home once more. Regardless, the hardy human race accepts, and following some fine reconnaissance work from the Hubble Telescope it becomes eminently clear that conditions on the Planet Beamer will provide a whole different challenge.
The Planet Beamer is devoid of the dust experienced on Earth XI's previous tour, and is home to incredibly green, hard and fast tracks that are liable to crack rather significantly as the match progresses. If that wasn’t enough, the Hubble Telescope has also managed to espy natives practicing in the nets. These newly discovered aliens are taller than the previous lot; standing anywhere between six and seven feet in height, it would appear that they have a terrifying battery of fast bowlers at their disposal. In fact, the Hubble speed gun is clocking their deliveries at anywhere between 90-100mph.
Being rather more advanced than their Earthling counterparts the aliens of the Planet Beamer, in one of their more sporting moments, are to make the same technology available for this one off Test, whereby the Earth XI selectors will possess the ability to resurrect any former greats that they feel are required to confront such a challenge.
So, as selector, who would you pick to combat the aliens of the Planet Beamer in incredibly hostile fast bowling conditions? Here is the Silly Point(s) XI:
Sunil Gavaskar – against high quality fast bowling there are two key attributes required for success: a perfect, compact technique and enormous powers of concentration. Gavaskar possessed these in abundance. With wonderful balance and being an expert judge of line and length, Gavaskar’s defensive play was amongst the finest in the history of Test cricket.
Michael Atherton – when you think of great duels between opening batsmen and world class fast bowlers, Atherton vs Allan Donald in 1998 immediately springs to mind. As Lawrence Booth once said, Atherton “made batting look like trench warfare.” A master in defence against fast bowling, Atherton proves the perfect companion for Gavaskar.
Sir Don Bradman – we can’t leave him out, can we? If Bradman had any weakness at all, and that is debatable, it was against spin bowling. Some will inevitably point to the Bodyline series as reason enough to omit The Don from this line-up, but even then he averaged an impressive 56. I’d take 56 in this Test.
Greg Chappell – Chappell enjoyed unparalleled success against the fearsome West Indies fast bowlers of his day. Scoring 621 runs at an average of 69 during five World Series Cricket “Super Tests” in the fast bowling paradise of the Caribbean in 1979, Chappell displayed incredible resilience and skill to negotiate some of the most hostile fast bowling ever witnessed.
Stan McCabe – a short, stocky batsman McCabe may not seem the ideal candidate to face terrifying fast bowling, but in reality was quite the opposite. An expert driver and hooker of the ball, McCabe used sublime footwork and incredibly flexible wrists to enjoy great success against fast bowling. As Wisden told us, “he was at his best when facing bowlers of pace.” When speaking of McCabe, Sir Don Bradman once said “I wish I could bat like that,” praise enough for anyone, you would think.
Sir Garfield Sobers – almost missed out to Jacques Kallis, but hangs on to the all-rounder spot. Whilst Kallis perhaps at his peak possessed a little more pace and a sharper bouncer than Sobers, thus proving a more threatening bowling alternative, he has on occasion shown weakness with the bat against high class fast bowling; namely that of Andrew Flintoff.
Adam Gilchrist – always kept well to the pace of Brett Lee and Shaun Tait, and takes the wicket-keeping spot through batting prowess. An aggressive number seven proves the ideal foil to a solid top order.
Harold Larwood – a fast bowler whose name alone induced terror in opposition batsmen during his pomp, Larwood is renowned for his pivotal role in the infamous Bodyline series. Perhaps the one man to render Don Bradman a mere mortal, Larwood’s express pace, razor sharp bouncer and unerring accuracy suit conditions perfectly. Rumoured to have bowled in excess of 100mph, and with an endless list of injury victims during his reign of terror, Larwood would prove somewhat of an unwelcome guest.
Jeff Thomson - one of the most aggressive and fastest bowlers to have played cricket. Possessing a fearsome bouncer and no shortage of variation, Thomson’s slingy action and hostile approach to bowling make him a certainty for selection. Thomson often provided equal threat with the old ball as he did with the new, and the sheer explosiveness with which he delivered each and every ball would undoubtedly prove to be the most hellish of experiences for the opposition batsmen.
Bill O’Reilly – ‘Tiger’ makes it in to the side as the sole spinner, though that is a word to be used lightly. To quote Wisden once more, O’Reilly “gripped the ball in his enormous right hand and released it at a pace that could be almost fast-medium. It would then bounce ferociously on the hard pitches of his time and, on occasion, knock wicket-keepers off their feet.” O’Reilly’s combination of fast, bouncing leg-breaks, top-spinners and googlies should enjoy great success in such conditions.
Joel Garner – standing at 6ft 8 inches tall and with the capability of bowling at searing pace, ‘Big Bird’ was an intimidating prospect for the very best of batsmen and completes the Earth XI line-up. Possessing an uncanny ability to produce deliveries that would rear up alarmingly from an almost good length, Garner would be in his element. A devastating yorker only added to the menace of this West Indian great.