Today we welcome new writer Chris Eyes to TFT. Fed up with the current rows and angst in English cricket? This should provide some light relief…
In light of the Hundred kicking off recently, with its snack based branding and sponsors, and its bite size approach to cricket, I thought it a good time to pick a Food XI from the wider cricket world.
Now I’ll start by saying I’m from New Zealand, and the Hundred doesn’t really interest me, although I’ll check on the scores and the odd highlight if I can. But I prefer the longer form of the game, if I’m being honest, and deride the ever increasing effects the shorter forms of cricket are having on the first-class game and ultimately, Test cricket. But such is progress.
And this exercise in picking a Food XI is an example of the space and time that longer form cricket provides, to consider and complete such whimsical and unnecessary, well, whimsys.
The selection criteria is simple: a name that is synonymous with food and springs to mind thoughts of eating or drinking. It is not necessarily merit based, but rather the selected player adds their own flavour to the pot.
Let’s begin with an obvious choice, our number 11 and likely opening bowler, and work our way down the list.
11. Graham ONIONS
Onions did not disgrace himself during his 9 Test career for England, taking 5 for 38 on debut in 2009, against the West Indies at Lord’s. He was one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year that summer. In all he took 32 Test wickets at 29.90, and even saved England from defeat with the bat on more than one occasion, before a serious back injury effectively ended his Test prospects. Onions played his last Test in June of 2012, and two months later took 9 for 67 for Durham against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, denying himself the opportunity of all ten by running out number 10 batsman Luke Fletcher. Wrapping up his first-class career in 2019, Onions finished with 723 wickets from 192 matches, at an average of 25.70. He is now a bowling coach with Lancashire.
10. Michael BEER
There was more than one Beer to choose from in cricket’s history, but I’ve gone with the Michael version, the slow left-arm orthodox spinner from Victoria, Australia. Beer had to move states to get a crack at first-class cricket, being stuck on a waiting list in Victoria, so he headed out West, where he got a chance with Western Australia. Less than a season later, and only 5 matches into his first-class career, he was a shock selection in the Australian Test side, making his debut at Sydney’s SCG as England completed a 3-1 series win, their first series win in Australia for 24 years. England racked up 644 in their only innings of that Test, and Beer finished with 1 for 112 from 38 overs, capturing the wicket of Paul Collingwood for 13. His first Test wicket should have been Alastair Cook, but the wicket was overturned for a no-ball upon review. His second, and only other Test match, came over a year later, on Australia’s tour of the West Indies. In a drawn match Beer opened the bowling in both innings at the Queen’s Park Oval, taking 2 for 56 off 25.4 overs, dismissing Adrian Barath and Carlton Baugh, in the first and 0 for 10 off 4 in the second as the game petered out to a draw.
Beer eventually relocated back to his home state of Victoria, and once took a hat-trick, spread over two overs, during a domestic one-day match against South Australia played, for some reason, at the WACA in Perth. He played his last top flight cricket in the BBL of 2018/19 with the Melbourne Stars.
9. Matthew BACON
My selection here is a Horowhenua Kapiti boy from New Zealand, who made his first-class debut for Wellington in 2015/16 before moving south to Otago to further his career. In March 2019 Bacon took 10 wickets in a match as Otago beat Wellington by 3 wickets in a Plunket Shield clash at the University Oval in Dunedin. He followed his 6 for 73 in the first innings with 4 for 71 in the second, claiming amongst his scalps Black Caps Devon Conway, Tom Blundell, Michael Bracewell and James Neesham. In 20 first-class games to date, Bacon has taken 56 wickets with his right-arm mediums, at an average of 31.37. Other options here included the Bacon brothers of Hong Kong, John and Robbie, who represented their nation at Under-19 level in 2007, John taking 4 for 16 against Oman and Robbie hitting an even 50 against Kuwait. Francis Hugh Bacon was a Hampshire player who was born in Colombo in 1869 and died in 1915 when a ship he was on was struck by a mine off the coast of Belgium.
Who better to go with Beer than Crisp, in this case Robert James Crisp, or Bob, who according to his Wisden obituary was the most extraordinary man to ever play Test cricket. Born in Calcutta (Kolkata) and educated in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) Crisp played 9 Tests for South Africa in less than a year, from June 1935 to March 1936. He took 20 Test wickets at 37.35, including 5 for 99 against England at Old Trafford. His best first-class figures were 9 for 64, for Western Province against Natal in the 1933-34 season, during which he took four in four, a feat he achieved twice in first-class cricket. 276 wickets (including 107 on South Africa’s 1935 tour of England) at 19.88 from 62 first-class matches speak of a decent enough cricketer, a fast bowler who could get the ball to bounce and swing.
But his cricket is probably the least interesting thing about him. He learned of his selection for the England tour having just climbed Mt.Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and was heavily involved in World War Two, mostly in Greece and North Africa. After the war he worked as a journalist and writer, even running off to the Greek Islands where he supposedly cured himself of cancer by walking around Crete! A man whose life was so full of adventure you could make a movie out of it, Crisp was no angel either, ashamedly admitting to his son that “he loved the war” and being well known as a drinker, gambler and womanizer. However he was a man of his time and certainly seemed to earn the title given to him by Wisden.
As an interesting sidenote, there was a UK born cricketer named David Crisp who played for Costa Rica at the ICC World Cricket League Americas Division Four tournament in 2010. Held in Mexico, David had a blinder in a T20 against the Falkland Islands on the 17th of June, hitting 56 off 39 balls and taking 4 for 29 off 4 overs, helping his side to a 65 run win in Naucalpan.
As with the Beers, there are many Burgers to choose from, but I have gone with Namibian international Louis Burger, a medium pace all-rounder who played in the early 2000s. Louis played all 6 of his ODIs at the 2003 World Cup in Southern Africa, where he struggled with the bat but took 6 wickets, including 3 for 39 off 10 against a rampant Australian side, the Cup’s eventual winners. He got Michael Bevan caught and bowled before he clean bowled Matthew Hayden, who was in full flight, out for 88 off 73 balls. In his next over he had Ricky Ponting caught at point for just 2 and the Australians, at 146 for 4, had to consolidate. They ended up 301 for 6 off their 50 overs, then skittled the hapless Namibians for just 45, Burger one of McGrath’s 7 victims that day, caught behind by Gilchrist for 1. Another victim of his at that World Cup was Pakistan’s Younis Khan, while he took 2 for 49 against the Netherlands at Bloemfontein. No mug with the bat, he hit three first-class centuries for Namibia, all in Windhoek: 103* against Limpopo, 120 against the United Arab Emirates and 125 against Western Province. His younger brother Sarel also played for Namibia, as did other Burger’s like Jan-Berrie and Kola.
6. Phil MUSTARD
The Colonel, as he was known, played 10 ODIs for England in 2007 and 2008, having a highest score of 83 off 74 balls in a tied game against New Zealand at Napier. He also played 2 T20Is on that NZ tour, but it was with Durham where he spent much of his career as a swashbuckling wicket-keeper batsman. He played 210 first-class matches in total, scoring 8700 runs at an average of 30.41, and took 670 catches behind the stumps, with 19 stumpings. He played domestic cricket around the world, appearing for Auckland in the 2012/13 T20 HRV Cup, where he hit 97 not out against Wellington, before a terrible run against Otago. On New Years Eve, 2012, he was out for a golden royal duck in Queenstown, before a return match in Auckland 4 days later, where he was run out second ball of the match for 0 without having faced a ball himself. He also played domestically in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and spent time in Tasmania with the Glenorchy club early in his career. As a young footballer he spent time with Manchester United and Middlesborough, and is now doing the rounds as an umpire.
5. Rahkeem CORNwall
Probably a bit of a stretch for this team, and far too high up the order if I’m being honest, but the big man is such a big character and a favourite of mine that I’ve included him here. At almost two metres tall and weighing in around 140kgs, when Cornwall is out in the middle he makes his bat look like a toothpick and he towers over the opposition. Born in Antigua, Cornwall has played 9 Tests for the West Indies between 2019 and 2021, and took a 10 wicket bag in just his 2nd Test. Playing against Afghanistan in Lucknow, Cornwall claimed 7 for 75 and 3 for 46 as the Windies won by 9 wickets. He has 34 Test wickets at 37.76, and a highest Test score of 73, scored against Sri Lanka on his home island at North Sound. His right-arm offies have claimed him 354 first-class wickets and counting, at a much healthier average of 24.82 and he has the most wickets in first-class cricket for the Leeward Islands, with 250. His uncle Wilden is in 8th spot, with 105. Cornwall’s best of 8 for 51 was achieved in a match against Trinidad and Tobago in 2020 at Basseterre in St.Kitts, and his only first-class hundred came against the same team, this time in Trinidad, in what was a match winning innings in his debut season of 2014/15. Cornwall struck 101 not out off 84 balls with 11 fours and 6 sixes to help Leeward Islands to a 5 wicket win. He also has 4 List A hundreds and has often appeared in the Caribbean Premier League as a pinch hitting opening batsman, playing with the Antigua Hawksbills and St.Lucia Kings, and this year is signed on to play for the Barbados Royals.
Perhaps the greatest player NEVER to play Test cricket, Rice was a victim of South Africa’s exclusion from international competition. Making his debut in 1969, South Africa were sent into isolation a year later. In 1992 he played 3 ODIs against India, captaining his side in their first official series since reintroduction. He was by then 42 years old, and his best was behind him. His best, however, was pretty bloody good, and he spent much of the 80s tearing up the County Championship, winning titles with Nottinghamshire in 1981 and 1987, and was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 81 for his exploits. With New Zealand’s Sir Richard Hadlee he formed a deadly duo at Notts, and in the English winters Rice would return to South Africa, where he won the Currie Cup five times with Transvaal. His first-class numbers speak volumes of his ability: 482 matches and 26,331 runs at an average of 40.95, with 48 centuries and a highest score of 246 against Sussex in 1976. At the bowling crease he took 930 scalps at 22.49, in what was supposedly his weaker discipline. In List A cricket he played 479 matches, scoring 13,474 runs and taking 517 wickets.
3. Cec PEPPER
Pepper was an Australian cricketer who played in the Bradman era, and in fact was good enough to get him out on occasion. It was, however, a time when he did not get him out that possibly cost him a chance at Test cricket. Playing for New South Wales against South Australia at Adelaide during the 1945/46 season, he became enraged at the umpire’s constant denial of his appeals against Bradman, to the point where he lost his cool and “let off his mouth”. Bradman, by this stage a member of the Australian Board, was not impressed by this and it is thought this incident, and Pepper’s spicy attitude and “overripe” language, may have contributed to his omission from Australian selection.
He eventually headed for England and became something of a cult hero playing in the Lancashire Leagues. His only first-class century, a score of 168 in 146 minutes with 17 fours and 6 sixes, came in a match for an Australian Services XI against H.D.G Leveson-Gower’s XI at Scarborough, including one giant hit out of the ground. His best bowling figures of 6 for 33 were achieved while playing for a Commonwealth side in India, against Holkar in 1949-50. A batsman who loved to hit a long ball and a leg-spin bowler of some repute, he could have really made a name for himself in the modern game. Another player who became an umpire, he had a whole other career in that field and was reportedly quite the colorful character.
2. Phil SALT
Salt is a fast scoring batsman who has become more of a white ball specialist, traversing the world and its T20 leagues. He’s played for Sussex and Lancashire, for Barbados in the CPL, Adelaide in the BBL, Lahore and Islamabad in the PSL, Dambulla in the LPL and now plays for the Manchester Originals in The Hundred. Having been born in Wales and grown up partially in Barbados, he was qualified to play for either the West Indies or England. Selected in the covid replacement team of 2021, he made his ODI debut for England against Pakistan, and this season featured in the highest ODI score ever made, when he contributed 122 off 93 balls as England racked up 498 for 4 against the Netherlands in Amstelveen. Salt has hit 4 first-class centuries, his highest score being the 148, from only 138 balls, he hit for Sussex against Derbyshire at the County Ground in Hove during the 2018 season.
1. Sir Alastair COOK
We have our ingredients, now we need the Chef to bring it all together. Sir Alastair is the very man for the job, a legend of the English game and the fifth highest Test run scorer of all time. He retired from Test cricket in 2018, going out in style at The Oval against India, hitting 71 and 147 in an English win. The game was held up for several minutes as an appreciative crowd applauded his 33rd and final Test century. Knighted for his services to cricket, he continues to ply his trade for Essex, adding 4 centuries this summer to take his first-class tally to 73 and counting. His 12,472 Test runs came at an average of 45.35, from a whopping 161 Tests. In all first-class cricket he has amassed 25,576 runs from his 334 matches, at 47.18. An Ashes winning captain on more than one occasion, he is the perfect foodie to slow cook this aggressive and eccentric team to red-ball success.
Special mentions and extra squad members:
Eden APPLE Tom, a young and uniquely named spinner from Kerala, India, who took 4 for 41 and 2 for 30 on first-class debut as a 16 year old against Meghalaya in February of this year. Darren BERRY, an exceptional wicketkeeper who played for South Australia and Victoria throughout the 90s and early 2000s. Lahiru KUMARA (Maori for sweet potato) a right-arm fast bowler from Kandy who has 70 Test wickets for Sri Lanka since debuting against Zimbabwe in 2016. Bradley CURRIE, a Scottish youngster who took 6 for 93 on debut for Sussex against Middlesex at Lord’s this summer, and Anuj DAL, an all-rounder enjoying a fine summer for Derbyshire, including scoring 55 and 112* and taking 5 for 40 as he helped his team to victory over Worcestershire at New Road.
So in amongst all the sponsors’ products, bright lights and fireworks, take time to consider the elongated beauty of the multi-day game, its nuances and characters who enliven and embolden the game in different ways, more than just the crash bash of a hit and giggle match made for TV. There haven’t been any Hula Hoops or Butterkist’s to play first-class cricket, although there has been a KP and a handful of McCoys.
Feel free to comment with anyone I may have missed.