England’s Greatest ODI Side?

Don’t be misled by my (admittedly misleading) headline. Unlike some writers I’m not about to argue that the current England ODI team is our best ever. Indeed, I’ve heard some argue that it’s the greatest ODI side in history (out of every nation) full stop. This seems more than a little silly to me. They’ve got potential but thus far they’ve achieved very little in major tournaments.

Instead I’d like to start a debate similar to the one we had a few weeks ago about England’s best ever Test team. It would be great to discuss England’s best ever ODI players and then compile an all-time great England ODI  XI – a team who might then challenge other countries’ best XIs in the cricket fields of our imaginations! Forgive me for sounding all Field Of Dreams for a second.

I’ll kick off the debate by naming my greatest England ODI XI. You’ll notice it’s a blend of old and new – with perhaps more emphasis on the old. I don’t buy the argument that modern is always better. I reckon guys like Ian Botham would’ve been pretty destructive with modern bats and short modern boundaries.

So here we go. The TFT all-time England ODI XI:

Marcus Trescothick

Alec Stewart (capt)

Joe Root

Kevin Pietersen

Neil Fairbrother

Jos Buttler (wkt)

Ian Botham

Andrew Flintoff

Phil DeFreitas

Graeme Swann

Darren Gough

Although it was tempting to pick guys like Roy and Bairstow at the top of the order, I just couldn’t leave Tresco out. He was simply dominant at times, and I also think he somewhat revolutionised England’s top order batting. We’d never had a pugnacious left handed opener who attacked the bowling from the outset before.

Some might disagree with the inclusion of Sir Alec, but it’s important to remember that his overall statistics were affected by his keeping duties and the fact he was moved around the order. As an opener Stewart was excellent, and I have fond memories of him taking apart some incredibly high class attacks: the likes of Ambrose / Walsh, and Donald / Pollock spring to mind. Stewart’s timing was effortless and his stoke-play extremely graceful.

Although I gave the likes of Robin Smith, Allan Lamb, and also Graeme Hick (who was an excellent ODI player), due consideration, I think it’s impossible to argue against the inclusion of Root, Pietersen, and Fairbrother in the middle-order. Joe is having something of a lean spell at the moment – please give him a rest! – but he’s still a class act with a brilliant record. And KP is KP. He was the original improviser and probably the most exciting batsman we’ve ever had. Remember his debut series in South Africa when the crowds turned their back on him? He was irresistible.

As for Fairbrother, I think he’s probably the best ‘specialist’ white ball batsman we’ve ever had. He was brilliant between the wickets, incredibly difficult to restrict, and always seemed to score boundaries when he needed to. Of course, his left-handedness complements the other batsmen beautifully, and he was a panther in the field.

When it comes to the all-rounders and bowlers, I think they more or less pick themselves (although Ben Stokes fans might disagree). Stokes might develop into a better all-round batsman than Freddie and Beefy in time, but my two picks were superb white ball hitters in their era. What’s more, their bowling is superior to Stokes’s. And wickets are probably needed slightly more than runs in my lineup.

Flintoff was an excellent ODI bowlers at every stage of an innings. You could chuck him the ball any time and he’d do a great job. As for his Beefiness he was aggressive, swung the ball, and also had a bit of a golden arm. Nothing slows the run-rate down like picking up wickets.

I doubt many will argue with Gough’s inclusion. Dazzler was both a wicket-taker and a containing bowler in his prime. He was dangerous with the new ball and his in-swinging yorkers made him excellent at the death. As for the specialist spinner I think Swann is a more reliable option than Adil Rashid (although the latter has come a long way).

My most contentious selection is probably that of Phil DeFreitas. However, I wanted an all-rounder cricketer who was a valuable bowler (particularly in home conditions), a dangerous batsman, and also one hell of a fielder. Daffy was a natural athlete and possibly even better than Jimmy Anderson both in the circle or in the deep. He’d certainly get into England’s current ODI side.

I’d love to know what your greatest England ODI XI is. Perhaps I’ve missed someone obvious out? Maybe you think Gooch should be in there, or perhaps even Ian Bell (who until last week was England’s leading run scorer in history)? One could make a very strong case for Eoin Morgan (the man who replaced Bell at the top of the list) and perhaps even Paul Collingwood who was a top class white ball player.

When it comes to the bowlers I think there will be less debate. After all, Jimmy Anderson is still our leading wicket taker of all time and he can’t get into the current XI! I doubt many would like to see the inclusion of Broad either.

When you look at the list of all-time England wicket-takers there’s a general lack of match-winners. For example, did you know that the aforementioned Collingwood has the seventh most wickets of any England ODI bowler ? I love Colly as much as the next England fan but this statistic does say quite a lot.

We often talk about the current England side having brilliant batting strength (and depth) whilst somewhat bemoaning the lack of bowling quality. Just looking at the record books this seems to be a long-term trend. Plus ça change.

James Morgan

2018-06-27T13:58:15+00:00June 27th, 2018|Nostalgia|29 Comments


  1. Chris Evans June 27, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Thanks James
    I would have Roy and Bairstow instead of Stewart and Root. Close call between Fairbrother and Morgan – though both lefties, totally different types of batsmen. If I’m leaving Root out, Fairbrother could be the “sensible” batsman amonsgst all the dashers.
    Not convinced about DeFreitas – possibly White?
    (You’ve probably all heard the DeFreitas story about his tour to New Zealnd. He was disappointed at not being able to get a bacon sandwich for breakfast, and exclaimed “What, a country with 8 million sheep and you can’t do me a bacon sandwich?”)

    • James Morgan June 28, 2018 at 7:25 am - Reply

      That’s Daffy!

  2. AndyB June 27, 2018 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    “Less debate about the bowlers”? Perhaps if you stick only to those who played ODI for England. However I think there is a very strong case to look back much further. It seems a popular theory that a good leg spinner is valuable in white ball. Who better to test that idea than Sydney Barnes, a man who is almost universally rated the best bowler of all time, and who – if contemporaries are to be believed – bowled lethally accurate leg spinners at up to 75 mph (the fact that he got the Magnus effect seems to confirm they were genuine spinners rather than cutting seamers). If current leggies are picked for top ODI sides surely we should include the King of them all – probably in place of De Freitas.

    • Chris Evans June 27, 2018 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure how you can assess Sydney Barnes in white-ball cricket, as he never played any (or any limited overs cricket, for that matter).

      • AndyB June 27, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

        I thought my point was made pretty clear. On the principle that seems to favour top white ball teams having a leg spin bowler, I have suggested the best of all time. After all, if the sloggers have problems dealing with todays leggies bowling at 55mph and offering one 4 ball per over, then how much more difficult would they find it to play a leggie bowling at up to 75mph and landing each ball on whichever sixpence he chooses? You can take issue with the principle of having a leggie in any top white ball team, but if that principle is right the argument for Barnes seems overwhelming.

        • Chris Evans June 27, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

          You may probably be right – I’m just wondering what justification you have…

          • AndyB June 27, 2018 at 9:41 pm - Reply

            If a justification cannot rest on principle, but only on performance in the chosen form of the game……….then Buttler should never have got anywhere near the test side 🙂

    • James Morgan June 28, 2018 at 7:26 am - Reply

      Hi Andy. This is a team of cricketers who actually played ODI cricket. I’m sure Barnes would’ve been amazing but we’ll never know 🙂

      • Nigel June 28, 2018 at 8:43 am - Reply

        And Barnes would have loved ODI cricket, as he had an eye to the commercial side of the game…

  3. Max Sawyer June 27, 2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Andy B. – spot on. The great S.F. Barnes must be in the side.

  4. Ian June 27, 2018 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    How about:

  5. Doug M June 27, 2018 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    Sorry absolutely no interest in the competition any more. Overpriced hype. Couldn’t even tell you who won the last one.

  6. Marc Evans June 27, 2018 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    With the recent development of the science of white ball batting, where any score under 300 becomes distinctly getable on anything like a decent track, it is difficult to rate statistics. Obviously the West Indies quickies would still be a major threat and anyone who faced up to them with any success has to be considered, especially Alan Lamb.
    For my money you have to go with the present day specialists who can go big and take a game out of a side’s reach in 20 overs.
    Our present ODI batting line up to me is our best ever by a distance, so I would have to include most of them. The destructive power and variety of their shotmaking has not been matched and makes them the most difficult to bowl at.
    Bowling is a different matter. At present we don’t seem to have any bowler who is more than functional, so you are forced to go back, even as far as Underwood, the metronome of spinners. All the bowlers I have selected are strong personalities who would not be intimidated by big hitting batsmen. Also there are 6 front liners to cover for a off dayer. Selecting from generations when limited over cricket was not structured or was in its infancy, often on bowler friendly wickets, is not I believe possible.
    With all the above in mind my selection, for what it’s worth would be.
    Butler (wk)

    • AndyB June 28, 2018 at 7:41 am - Reply

      I have no problem selecting Buttler as a bat……..but ‘Hands of Stone’ as the keeper when Bairstow is also playing? Buttler as a keeper is top club standard. Bairstow is average county standard. This really shows the decline of keeper as a specialist and respected position, particularly in white ball where, arguably, they can make more difference given the higher incidence of catch and stumping chances than in red ball.

      • Nigel June 28, 2018 at 3:58 pm - Reply

        Buttler has improved, too. His stumping and runout in the last ODI were pretty smart pieces of work.
        I like that Marc has picked two spinners, but I would (probably) substitute Root for Gough, as that side doesn’t bat as far down as the current team.

      • Marc Evans June 28, 2018 at 10:42 pm - Reply

        Butler is not far off Bairstow as a keeper in this format, but Bairstow is one of the best outfielders in the country and of more value on the boundary than behind the stumps. Butler is merely functional as an outfielder. I don’t think Stewart was a much better keeper and certainly not in the same league as an ODI batsman as either Butler or Bairstow.
        Did think about Root, but with Flintoff batting at 8 I think there’s enough batting depth. Root maybe a better technical batsman but seems awkward when trying to push on with power or improvisation. It’s not his natural game. Morgan came closer, especially as a lefty, but I feel Hales can be more dominant over a long period. I don’t think this team needs to worry unduly about batting to the last man.

  7. Jackie Litherland June 27, 2018 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    I’m surprised that you’ve included KP who started brilliantly but became less and less interested in the format and chose to retire from it. If you look at his runs you will see why he wasn’t our leading run scorer. He chose to specialise in T20 instead which is the format closer to his natural style . KP lacked a sense of strategy which is crucial to ODIS. If the current England team have a weakness it may be this. Just hitting out fearlessly doesn’t suit every pitch or every situation. There’s no thinking involved in that approach. When Morgan comes out with that stuff that they play like that win or lose, because they win more games than they lose, I see the flaw in the logic. In a knockout competition that statistical argument is no longer valid.

    • James Morgan June 28, 2018 at 7:32 am - Reply

      KP’s ODI record looks even more impressive in this context. He averaged 41 in 136 ODIs with 9 hundreds, plus a strike rate of 86 which is extremely impressive for his time – especially as they inexplicably messed him around and moved him up and down the order (he was never an opener for example). Had he been part of the current side I think he would’ve slotted in nicely and been the team’s best player alongside Buttler and Root. He’s the most talented white ball player we’ve ever had imho.

    • John June 30, 2018 at 6:35 am - Reply

      IT always seemed to me that KP’s leg injury affected him more and more as his career progressed, making him less mobile and making it more difficult to get to the pitch of the ball.. This affected his white ball game more than his red.You have to include a peak form KP in any ODI ‘best ever’ in my book.

  8. Simon H June 28, 2018 at 8:30 am - Reply

    ODIs have seen so many rule changes it’s become incredibly difficult to compare across eras. Would this team play under current rules? The two new balls’ rule would hamper Gough for example because he needed reverse swing.

  9. Tom Moore June 28, 2018 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Morgan (c)
    Buttler (wk)

    4 seam options, all with different styles. 2 top quality spin options, who turn the ball in different directions. One day tons down to 8 and the ability to hit it all the way to the sh**house down to 11, arguably.

  10. SteveM June 28, 2018 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    Mine still work in progress as I’ve never thought of this question. No idea why, as its a damn sight easier than a Test XI. Initial thoughts are batting 1-6 I’m going to add Tres as an opener to go with most of the current side, I very much agree what a brilliant ODI opener he was. And Rashid aside, the whole current bowling line-up will not feature, but Beefy, Gough and Flintoff most certainly will – so I’m nearly there already.

  11. Simon C June 29, 2018 at 6:17 am - Reply

    What about Mark Ealham in for De Freitas? He controlled the middle overs, took vital wickets and could hit the ball a long way.

  12. Comte June 29, 2018 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Impossible to do this as the changes in ODI over the years are so significant. Would today’s big hitters have thrived in the eras of larger boundaries, smaller bats and so on. Conversely would the guys from the early days have adapted to today’s scenarios.
    So I’ll pass.

  13. Glenn June 29, 2018 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Here is my team

    Buttler (wk)
    Snow (for some pace!)

    The people on the Outside Cricket blog recommended Derek Pringle.

  14. Prateek Satpute July 1, 2018 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Well, Alaister Cook deserved a place for sure.
    Follow http://crickettoast.com/ for more updates on India tour of England, 2018.

  15. James July 2, 2018 at 8:31 am - Reply

    I think you have to pick on the basis of ODI international performances, so no SF Barnes (at an international level it means no Trumper, Bradman, Barry Richards or Sobers, to name 4). i suspect the “all time final” would be contested by West Indies (Gayle, Fredericks, Richardson, Richards, Lara, Lloyd (c), Dujon (w), Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Garner) and Australia (Hayden, Gilchrist (w), Ponting, G Chappell, S Waugh, Bevan, Symonds, Warne, Lillee, Hughes, McGrath). These 2 sides off the top of my head.

    Pakistan (to include Imran, Wasim Waqar Inzi, Yousef and Miandad) are, of course, capable of upsetting anyone!

  16. Pete Cresswell July 2, 2018 at 9:00 am - Reply

    I’m tipping this side to knock off whoever England put out mind

    N Astle
    G Turner
    K Williamson
    R Taylor
    B McCullum
    C Cairns
    C Harris
    D Vettori
    Sir Richard Hadlee
    S Bond
    T Boult

    (Gavin Larsen had an incredible record in the ’90s but would be eaten alive as a middle overs bowler today)

  17. Simon H July 2, 2018 at 9:43 am - Reply

    As a Hampshire fan, in the 70s and 80s I was regularly on the verge of tears when we kept losing SFs and players like Greenidge and Jesty never got their one-day final at Lord’s.

    Now it’s…. blah. The competition is a pale shadow of what it once was, the team feels like a rich man’s plaything and it all came down to “our Kolpak was better than yours”.

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