The Forgotten XI: County Cricket’s Best Players Without An England Cap


Sick of slogging your guts out at work without recognition? Tired of seeing a plethora of unworthy candidates promoted above you? Life generally isn’t fair at the best of times, but for the following collection of county cricketers it’s the absolute pits. They’ve climbed mountains in county cricket time and again and yet our shortsighted selectors continually ignore their international credentials. 

It seems that some players just can’t catch a break. With this in mind, new writer Peter Jackson Eastwood presents his ‘forgotten XI’ of county cricket – a team of outstanding domestic cricketers who haven’t won a single miserable international cap. It’s enough to make a grown man cry ….

It’s quite simple in my eyes, really. You can’t be any sort of fan of English county cricket if you don’t spend an inordinate amount of time asking yourself the same question that invades my thoughts every single day:What in heaven’s name does Sam Northeast have to do to get a look in for England?’

I’ve lamented the loose strokes of Ben Duckett, I’ve turned violet watching James Vince guide the ball into the slip cordon, and the inevitability of Gary Ballance nurdling the ball into the mitts of leg slip for the umpteenth time has left me gesticulating like Jimmy.

Every county fan knows that their players are better than the drudge served up by the selectors. As a Kent fan I watch with resignation year after year as my favourite players are overlooked (Sam Billings transcends this trend only by virtue of being the most talented player on the planet,).

But just why can’t these chaps get a game? Were they too flirty with James Whitaker’s wife? Did they spit in Andrew Strauss’s soup? Did they accidentally bash the ball at Bayliss? Your guess is as good as mine, but for better or worse, here is the crew of the damned: English County Cricketers who will just never quite make it to the England side…

1: Mark Stoneman, 29 – 2015/16 stats: 1,234 runs at 45.70. Career average of 33.01.

The stats don’t tell the whole story with Mark Stoneman. Over a period in which England have scratched around for a rock-solid opener, Stoney has passed 1,000 runs in first class cricket in each of the last 3 seasons. As he now moves from the minefield of Chester-le-Street to the tarmacked road that is The Oval, expect more runs, but still no caps.

2: Nick Gubbins, 23 – 2015/16 stats: 1,409 runs at 61.26

It must be galling to be Nick Gubbins. You have a magnificent season and win the County Championship with Middlesex only to watch Haseeb Hameed leapfrog you into the England set-up. But better still, when Hameed gets injured, Keaton bloody Jennings jumps past you too! If he can back up last season with more runs he could jump the queue, but if he isn’t careful he could turn out to be Sam Robson MK II…

3: Tom Westley, 27 – 2015/16 stats: 1,217 runs at 52.91

We’re all thinking it, so I’ll say it. It’s never going to happen for dear old Tom. Cracking county player, aesthetically pleasing and previously thought to be high up the queue with fellow Essex man Cook as captain. Cook isn’t captain anymore. Methinks Tom’s chances have gone west.

4: Sam Northeast, 27 – 2015/16 stats: 1,337 first class runs at 83.56 striking at 67.36 (Five 100s) Career average of 38.51

Only being held back from international honours because England management don’t want to upset Joe Root by having a player better than him in the fold. Plays all around the wicket, scores quickly, performs in every format, and all of this while captaining the side. Samit Patel has 6 caps. Darren Pattinson has a cap. Darren Maddy was capped 3 times and Sam Northeast CAN’T EVEN GET ON THE LIONS TOUR. Somewhere, Len Hutton is weeping.

5: James Hildreth, 32 – Career stats: 14,582 first class runs at 44.32 with 39 100s

I remember back in the day when James Hildreth was everyone’s favourite solution to England’s middle order. Seems to have existed in a strange sort of purgatory for years: too good for county cricket but good enough for international cricket. Poor James.

6: Harvey Hosein, 20 – Career stats: 56 catches, 1 stumping & 713 runs at 32.4

I flirted with the idea of plumping for Tim Ambrose or Phil Mustard, but it felt like a stretch too far (as if the rest of this line up isn’t). Instead spare a thought for poor Harvey Hosein. He’s only got to get ahead of Bairstow, Buttler, Billings and Foakes to even get a look in. No hope.

7: Keith Barker, 30 – 2015/16 stats: 608 runs at 32.00 & 59 wickets at 23.14. Career batting average 29.30 & bowling average 25.76

All Barker no bite? Not so. One of the stars of the county circuit, but however imperious his performances, appears to be out of the picture. Probably just very unlucky that in Stokes and Woakes England have two of the best all-rounders on the circuit.

8: Matt Coles, 26 – Career stats: 302 wickets at 28.00 & 11 first class 50’s with 38 sixes

Most famous for being sent home from a Lions tour with Ben Stokes after the pair got up to antics. Definitely loves a pint. Probably loves a pie. All in all a relatable chap. Aggressive wicket-taker and also absolutely launches it with the bat. Must be bored of carrying Kent’s attack – maybe his old mate Stokesy will put in a good word.

9: Mark Footitt, 31 – Career stats: 314 wickets at 25.73.

Ever since Ryan Sidebottom was dropped from the England side (far sooner than he should have been in this authors opinion), we have been a top class left-arm seamer short. Footitt was all the rage a couple of years ago but injuries have halted his progress at Surrey and it looks like his chance has gone.

10: Jack Brooks, 32 – Career stats: 360 wickets at 26.59

Part of this teams all-seam, all-fast-medium, all-really quite good but never getting a test cap bowling attack. Has long flowing locks that put the mighty Sidebottom to shame, and earns bonus points for the headband. Another who suffers from England saturated seamer syndrome.

11: Chris Rushworth, 30 – Career stats: 312 wickets at 24.16

One imagines that Chris Rushworth’s internal monologue reads something like ‘By the whiskers of WG, what the actual f*ck more can I possibly do?’ Superb record, mesmeric control, no hope of even a Lions cap.

Peter Jackson Eastwood


    • Giles Falconer on

      Started at Kent – fell out with them, went to Hampshire and found that the grass isn’t always greener. So returned to his home county.

    • To be fair, he has been one of the best bowlers around the past 2 seasons since leaving hampshire, especially if you consider all forms of cricket – for reference, his stats are (and 2017 he missed 6 T20 and 5 CC matches due to disciplinary problems):
      2015 (where he was one of only 2/3 players to have taken 100 wickets in all comps)
      County Champs – 67 wickets @23.5, SR 38.7
      OD comp – 16 wickets @19, SR 22.8, econ 4.99
      T20 comp – 17 wickets @25, SR 16.2, econ 9.36
      County Champs – 40 wickets @29.3, SR 50
      OD comp – 24 wickets @17.4, SR 20, econ 5.2
      T20 comp – 8 wickets @39.4, SR 22.5, econ 9.14

      For reference, in both seasons, that’s better than Hampshire’s leading wicket takers in each comp other than last years T20 (2016 had Crane with 35 LCVV wickets, Berg with 11 OD wickets, Dawson 19 T20; 2015 had Fidel Edwards with 45 CC wickets, Dawson with 12 OD, Briggs/Wood 18 T20 but from more matches) ; from what I recall the reason he was shipped was because of disciplinary problems, probably drink related, and when he came back to kent, Key said it was his last chance to buckle down and work hard. He also was Hants second leading wicket taker in 2014 with 41 @28.4, as well as joint leading wicket taker in OD (9@32.4), and 3rd in T20 (18@26) so he certainly was getting in the side.

  1. I think it’s fair to say that Matt Coles is in there purely because of my perverse bias towards Kent. Though I’m quite sure that if he hadn’t got homesick at Hampshire he’d be leading their attack with gusto!

    • James Morgan on

      Chapple! Of course. Great shout. A very fine bowler for a number of years although he was picked in a test squad once (but didn’t play). He might also have a solitary ODI cap from memory but not entirely sure. Still, a very unlucky guy.

  2. Like most Brummies I find it hard to understand the failure to try Barker. A better bowler and bat than David Willey, he is the obvious choice if England want a left arm option in the seamer line up. He is also getting better with age, probably because he was a late starter after a pro football career. Add in that his bowling figures are even better than they look because he rarely gets the new ball with Woakes, Wright and Rankin around and you have to say that he would have had a chance if he played for certain counties (Surrey?) or had connections.

  3. David Fulton? Overall average isn’t anything special but the had some really strong seasons and was unlucky with that freak bowling machine injury. He was never quite the same afterwards.

  4. Harmy's Head on

    I think where they play has a big part in some of these players missing out on international recognition – but not necessarily because their counties are unfashionable. Hildreth keeps getting passed over because the selectors think runs are too easy to come by on Taunton’s feather-bed, and Rushworth similarly because they still think he gets cheap wickets on a Riverside green top.

    BTW, Mustard would have been ineligible for your list – although he’s never played Test cricket he did play 10 or so ODI’s. Like many good keepers he was given a go as we searched for an English Gilchrist who could keep and be a pinch hitting opener in ODI’s, and discarded before he really had a chance to show what he could do.

    • I think you are being too generous in your first sentence. I can see no reason other than preference for the selections of Meaker and Dernbach of Surrey, and Gurney of Notts. Add in the bizarre attempt to suggest Topley of Essex is more than a county bowler and you have the set of seam selections with a hint of place or connection.

  5. If you were going “all time”, the likes of Franklyn Stephenson would be on the “best who never got a call up” list. Admittedly West Indies in the 1980’s wasn’t the easiest side to get into, but I reckon that, but for 1983, he’d have at least got an ODI cap.

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