The North v South game in the UAE got us thinking here in the All Out Cricket office. If England’s best-ever northerners took on England’s best-ever southerners… who would win? We set to work.
First things first, we needed advocates. Ed Kemp (Hampshire) picks the South XI, Henry Cowen (Worcestershire, it’ll have to do) is in charge of the North XI.
A few criteria: generally speaking we’ve gone for birthplace over the county that players played for (Gower and Beefy could qualify for either team, really, but it feels right as is) and we’ve left out England’s imported stars – your KPs, your D’Oliveiras, your Greigs – just for ease of understanding who’s north and who’s south.
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Then there’s the Midlands. We’ve decided it’s the north, mirroring the ECB’s own determination for the purposes of this year’s desert jamboree.
The batting orders perhaps leave one or two square pegs in round holes but we’ve allowed ourselves the treat of picking six additional squad members.
So then, three Tests, one at Lord’s, one at Headingley and a final one on the neutralish turf of Edgbaston. Who wins?
SQUAD: Atherton, Amiss, Illingworth, Verity, Flintoff, Larwood
Firstly, what an honour it is to be selecting the North XI. Clearly, clearly this bunch will demolish the South XI. It’s barely a debate. The reasoning is simple: bowlers win you Test matches, and we’ve got so many of them that Stuart Broad (368 Test wickets) doesn’t even make the squad.
Sir Len and Herbie pick themselves up top – just the 90,810 first-class runs between them – and then if you can get past them you’ve got Boycs, and he needs no introduction. Vaughany gets the nod at No.4 to remind everyone that the north can deal in style and flair just as much as it can grit and determination. At No.5 there’s a young pup, England’s newest Test skipper.
Beef’s allegiances may be split but he balances this team like a dream. If we’re four down for not many, maybe Wilfred Rhodes pops above him in the order to shore things up. He always was versatile. Stoke’s finest has the gloves and then it’s Trueman, Statham, Anderson. Good luck dealing with them.
We’ve got depth, as well. I wanted Atherton in the starting XI but openers seem to grow on trees in the north so he’ll have to run the drinks and sort out the team’s quiz night. Amiss and Illingworth are very able back-ups and Hedley Verity is pushing hard for Rhodes’ place. There’s room for Freddie and Harold Larwood – but sadly we couldn’t squeeze in Frank Tyson, Broad or Darren Gough, despite them all being brilliant.
The game’s ours.
6. D. Compton
8. A. Bedser
SQUAD: Cook, Gower, Stewart, Lock, Laker, Tate
We have to face the fact that the stereotypes are true. If you’re looking for fast bowlers, you have to start in the north. We’ve managed to eke out a good attack here but the next highest wicket-taker of the south’s out-and-out seamers is Gus Fraser – a good bowler but not a great.
In this XI, the controlled craftsmanship of Bedser is complemented by Snow’s more mercurial gifts, and Willis completes a worthy trio, though even bustling Bob – England’s fourth-highest wicket-taker ever – only just sneaks in, his southern upbringing and time at Surrey making up for a northern birth and the fact that most of his career was spent at Warwickshire. Sussex’s sturdy Bedser forerunner Maurice Tate acts as back-up.
Spinners though? Why, dozens of the fellows! Jim Laker has been nudged aside by Deadly Del for the latter’s greater longevity in brilliance, and the fact that Laker, though a Surrey lifer, was really a northerner. And just look at who else is in the hutch: Tony Lock, Fred Titmus, John Emburey and Phil Edmonds. Alan Knott takes the gloves and will be delighted to join up with his great partner Underwood after all these years.
The only reason we need bowlers of course, is to give the batsmen something to hit. And, unsurprisingly, the south boasts many a record run-maker.
Goochie beats off stiff competition from his Essex protégé Cook to pair up with the Master Jack Hobbs, providing the perfect platform for perhaps the greatest of all, Wally Hammond, at No.3. Peter May has to skipper the side and Kenny Barrington will bat for weeks to drain the spirit of even the most sturdily backsided yeoman seamer. Compton is the very essence of the southern stereotype: dashingly brilliant and with great hair – he’s a shoo-in, and given his professional career with Arsenal, likely to thrive in the pre-match football warm-up. He completes a thrilling line-up and ensures that while it will certainly win matches, it will also steal hearts.