Reasons to be cheerful


2014 was the worst year for England cricket followers anyone can remember. The one consolation? It’s nearly over.

Thing is, it wasn’t always like this. At some point in each of our lives, we all fell in love with the game of cricket. Its beguiling but maddening properties inveigled their way into our emotional consciousness and refused to ever let go.

Around the same time, the England team took a grip on our imaginations. Like your parents splitting up, we had no choice in the matter but it would affect us forever. Like Lou Reed’s introduction to heroin, it was the start of a relationship which would take us from squalid trauma to sublime heights of perfection – and back again.

England have given us some of the best and worst moments of our lives. No other group of eleven men have collectively wrought such misery and ecstasy. We know about all the bad times. But there have been plenty of good times. And there will be again, one day.

It’s Christmas, after all, and we deserve something to smile about. So here is a festive selection of some of the greatest moments, matches and players in English cricket history. This is the stuff which keeps us going. Whatever we’ve forgotten or overlooked, please add in below.

1. Devon Malcolm v South Africa – the Oval, 1994

2. The conclusion to the 1982/83 Melbourne test

3. The career of (probably) the greatest folk hero and fast bowler in English history


4. Alec Stewart’s twin centuries – Barbados, 1994

5. Matthew Hoggard dismantles South Africa – Johannesburg, 2004

6. Botham’s finest hour – Edgbaston, 1981

6. Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe – the Oval, 1926


Their epic partnership of 172 drove England to the position from which they reclaimed the Ashes for the first time in fourteen years.

7. Steve Harmison to Michael Clarke – Edgbaston, 2005

8. England win in the dark – Karachi, 2000

9. Typhoon Tyson

In the 1954/55 Ashes, the unplayably hostile Frank Tyson took 28 wickets at 11.00 as England claimed their first victory in Australia since the war.

10. Our only silverware – ever

11. Fraser and Gough – Headingley, 1998

(Skip to 1.05’25” for the nitty gritty)

12. Goughy again – Sydney, 1999

13. The feats of Gilbert Jessop


He made a test hundred off 76 balls. He made 286 in 180 minutes against Sussex. He made 233 out of 318 in 150 minutes against Yorkshire. And in those days, you had to hit the ball literally out of the ground for a six. Oh, and he also took 873 first class wickets, and could run a hundred yards in 10.2 seconds.

14. England’s greatest World Cup innings

15. A second entry for Dev – 29 against Australia, Sydney, 1994/95 Ashes

16. Deadly

297 test wickets at 25.83. His ten-for in the ‘fusarium’ Headingley test secured England the 1972 Ashes.

17. Just type ‘David Gower’ into You Tube

 18. England’s first ever test victory


19. 12th September 2005

20. Alastair Cook scores his first 100 since May 2013

There were so many more I could have chosen. Please share your thoughts below.

In the meantime, from James and me – to everyone who visits The Full Toss to read and comment, and who’s given us such amazing support all year, there’s just one more thing to say.

Merry Christmas.


  • As much as I respect Andrew Strauss, I would argue very strongly that England’s greatest World Cup innings was played by Graham Gooch in Bombay, in the 1987 semi against India.

    Some of the best things not included:

    Trescothick, Thorpe and Flintoff at The Oval 2003.
    Harmison’s 7-12 in Jamaica.
    Hussain running out Strauss, scoring an undefeated hundred to win a Test and retiring.
    “Hello massive”, “That was very good” and “Beauty, Yessss”
    AC Gilchrist c Strauss b Flintoff 27
    Ramprakash catching Langer at Melbourne 1998
    Gooch 154*, Headingley 1991
    Robin Smith at Bridgetown 1990
    The fourth day at Edgbaston 1985.
    And Headingley 81, like, obviously.

    • Some excellent calls there.

      Eng v SA at the Oval, 2002, remains one of my favourite matches of all time. I was there for the decisive fourth day.

      Trescothick’s 209 must rank as one of his finest innings. Thorpe’s 124 (as part of a stand with Tres of 268. Having conceded 484 in SA’s first innings, their partnership ultimately gave us an unlikely lead of 120 on first dig.

      Then came Harmison’s first match-winning performance – 4-33.

      We’d been under the cosh (and the vast weight of Smith’s runs) for most of the series, but victory in this match not only gave us a draw few had foreseen – but proved a critical turning point in modern English cricket history.

      After that test, we went on to win in the West Indies, than win all seven tests in 2004, and beat South Africa away. Then came 2005. If there was ever a time when we were genuinely world number one, it was then.

      Turning to the two catches you mention, Strauss’s deserves a link. What an astonishing moment that was:

      I have also always loved that catch by Ramps, which was the pivotal moment in that innings and ultimately the match. Had it not been for that catch, and some last session rain at Brisbane, we’d have lost that series 5-0.

  • Merry Christmas to you, James, Tres (gakis) and the other worthy contributors, Maxie … some of the finest cricket writing to be found anywhere in print or online, IMHO, and a wonderful daily pick-me-up for lovers of the greatest game – especially the rants about Giles Clarke. But do be careful: this man has serious lawyers lurking around the urinals at the back of the Lord’s pavilion.

    Where 1981 is concerned, it was sooo very Maxie of you to leave out Headingley, and Arron’s got a strong case for Day 4 at Edgbaston, but I would argue that ITB’s Old Trafford attack on Lillee and Alderman with the new ball, flicking sixes off his helmetless eyes (wide shut) on his way to a century that John Woodcock described on the front page of The Times as the ‘greatest Ashes century in history’ deserves a place in your pantheon, along with Tavare’s motionless but unbreachable heroics, while all Hell was being let loose at the other end.

    Oh, and the last hour at the Oval, 1968, following Basil D’Oliveira’s 158 straddling the first two days, that would – eventually, by hook and by crook – drag international sport into a more liberated world. Think of it: the current SA/WI series is now regarded as a humdrum affair, arranged to fulfill the Future Tours obligations of both countries. But when I was a lad, it would have been as likely a prospect as North Korea hosting the next Olympic Games. Dolly’s ton changed everything. RIP.

    • Frank,
      I was referring to day 4 at Edgbaston in 1985 rather than 1981. Not because I regard it as more remarkable than Botham’s 5 for 1, but simply because it remains my most glorious and vivid childhood memory of Ashes cricket (I was 12).

    • Many thanks, Frank, and lovely to hear from you.

      Some very thought-provoking suggestions. In all honesty, as far as 1981 goes, I could have listed 20 moments from that series alone. For all Botham and Dilley’s exploits at Headingley, that stand would have been long forgotten had Bob Willis not done what he did the following day.

      What happened in that last hour – were England chasing wickets against the clock? Here’s the scorecard:

  • Jim Laker’s 19 wickets for 90 (against Australia at Old Trafford 1956) while Tony Lock took only one wicket, despite bowling one more over than Laker, is the most extraordinary bowling feat ever. I would have included it.

    A very Merry Christmas to Maxie, James and all who visit this great blog. :-)

  • Reasons to be cheerful? Because this year I discovered TFT via Dmitri’s blog and they have both been an oasis of sense in a cricket world of seemingly endless nonsense.
    Thanks to all the contributors and especially James and Maxie for all the work it must take keeping this kind of enterprise going. Happy Christmas to you all!

    • I totally agree with everything there Northernlight. I live in Scotland too, and having found TFT, Dmitri, and Cricinfo and the fantastic George Dobell, I feel totally in touch with the world of cricket even though I am too distant from the centres of test match activity for my liking. I have just retired having spent thirty odd years completely out of touch with cricket because of work and other nonsense reasons, and you and the regular bloggers have enticed me back from “outside cricket” ! So a big thank you James and Maxie. Happy Christmas and high hopes for 2015. Hopefully hanging on in quiet desperation will be a thing of the past, and England will be learning to fly once again.

  • I do hope you both (and your families and friends) have a truly wonderful Christmas and that 2015 will be a fantastic one for you and yours and for England Cricket.

    Happy Christmas to all on this wonderful blog. Marvellous to be able to come on here, and on Dmitri Old’s blog, for honesty, integrity, and fun and feeling normal instead of feeling like that stuff you don’t want to pick up on yer shoes. Thank you so much Dmitri and all the lovely folk on here. Cannot express my gratitude to you all. Happy and peaceful Christmas and much joy in 2015!

  • Was Hoggy really bowling only 80mph? That was a great performance indeed.

    Sorry to invoke one of the the obvious events but KP’s century-and-a-half and Ashley’s 50 at the Oval in 2005 are my particular reasons to keep on loving the Engerrrland.

    And 1981, when I was 12. Every time I see footage of that I feel 12 again.

    To counterbalance the good stuff: anything that sounds like Downton, or even rhymes with Downton. And I’m properly going off the word ‘laptop’.

    Merry Christmas, y’all. Glad I found you.

  • I wish I could have seen SF Barnes’s opening spell at Melbourne in 1911. I did see John Snow and Peter Lever reduce Ian Chappell ‘s team at Lords in 1975. After the mayhem of the 74-75 Ashes, that session was sweet.

  • Happy Christmas to all.

    I’d add Atherton’s rearguard (aided by Russell) at Johannesburg in 1995. Wan’t sexy, but if ever an innings defined a batsman, that was it.

    For majestic strokeplay, Gower’s 158 against NZ down under in 1983 is my favourite English ODI innings, although Robin Smith’s 167 against the Aussies is probably the best.

  • Just to be perverse, Eoin Morgan did attend Dulwich College. Alumni include P. G. Wodehouse, Raymond Chandler, Trevor Bailey. Founded by Shakespeare ‘s mate Edward Alleyn. Don’t be fooled by funky accents….

  • Simply want to wish everyone a Happy Xmas and hopefully a more peaceful New Year in every sense. Thank you for your company

  • Just to say many thanks for all that you do . The writing on this site puts the mainstream press to shame. My sanity has been saved by you and Dmitri during what has been for me, courtesy of Downton and Co, the most depressing year in almost sixty of following cricket.
    Can I mention Dexter’s innings at Lords in 1963 against Hall and Griffith in their prime . No helmets. He didn’t even wear a cap that day!

  • James, Maxie, et al…

    Thank you for everything this year! Yourselves, Dmitri, and many a poster here, there, everywhere have gladdened my heart with your honesty and well-written pieces, made my mind boil with the ignorance and arrogance of the ECB and the written press in general (some exclusions – sadly not enough), also thanks to the few at CricInfo who can decipher ‘tween the bullsh!t too.
    Have a great time all, and a positive and happy new year
    Best Wishes to you all

    TheBogfather x

    (I’d like to do a post of my personal cricket memories – from being picked for the school team when I’d never watched or played the game, through learning and playing at a low level, and a few, mainly TV/Radio special moments?)

    • Never seen that before – Randall was in the late autumn of his career when I began watching cricket. But it’s wonderful.

      On the run-outs theme – go to 3’00 here:

  • Gosh – many, many thanks to all of you for your very kind and generous words. They mean a lot. I’m not sure we can always guarantee to live up to such praise, though! It is of course a team effort and so much of TFT is about the comments boards and the insight and knowledge everyone brings to the table.

    Once again, a very merry Christmas to you and your families, and thanks for reading.

  • Hoggard at Jo’burg. To think, I left the test match on Day 3 to fly home that night. Missed all the good bit.

    Thorpe’s hundred in Barbados.
    Thorpe’s ton v South Africa.
    Thorpe’s debut century.
    Gower’s double century v India in 1979
    Alastair Cook’s 95 at Southampton. (I kid, I kid)

    Have a top Christmas everyone, and cheers for the nice words.

  • Merry Christmas everyone and my thanks too for a remarkable blog full of proper cricket writing. Like others, I don’t bother with the dumbed down press and don’t need to.

    Too many great memories but let me mention:

    Monty’s first Test wicket – Tendulkar. Finally England had a spinner.
    Beefy’s return after the back operation – first ball – wicket! The Oval crowd erupted.
    May and Cowdrey’s 411 stand against the mighty WI at Edgbaston 1957 – hooked me on cricket.
    1981 – most excitement in sport ever

  • Thanks all of you for all these fantastic nominations – sorry I’ve not been able to reply in more detail today. We’ll have to return to this theme some day.

    But watching all these stirring clips makes we realise just what we’ve lost this year – an England team whose moments of glory bring us joy.

  • Thanks also from me for all the work you do so well. You provide a valuable service to many true cricket fans. some may try to cut us adrift, but we will cling on! Merry Christmas to all reading and writing here.

    Two memories for me, both very well known, but which still give me great pleasure, thanks to youtube (IanRSA, look away now…)

    Here’s Freddie still making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

    Here’s the greatest video for Christmas afternoon, The Sound of Music meets Thunderball, with The Great Escape thrown in

  • Hi everyone. Merry Christmas to all who write ad all who frequent these pages. Wonderful work by you all.

    Rooto you are a very bad man, very bad. :-)

  • The finest cricket I have ever seen was England v rest of the world in 1970. It replaced a tour by South Africa. The rest team included Barry Richards, graeme pollock, Gary sobers, Mike proctor,…. They played awesome cricket. England were not totally outclassed. I wish the highlights of those matches were available commercially. Sobers and Pollock in action together at the Oval… As a 10 year old, they made me cry.

    • Reply to man in a barrel:

      The great Robelinda has posted this of Graeme Pollock at the Oval in that series:

      There is also a link to Eddie Barlow taking a stack of wickets at Headingley in that series. Rest of the World went on to play a series in Australia and there are highlights on Youtube of some fantastic play from there (including Sobers 254 at the MCG and Dennis Lillee taking 8-29).

  • my finest moment is perhaps Flintoff consoling Kasprowicz after the latter got him within 2 runs of a seemingly impregnable England target at Edgbaston 2005 – Respect, support and commiserations to your opponent in one go helps to sum up what I love about this game.

    To James, Maxie and all the rest – Many thanks Guys for your excellent blog to help keeping us sane at a time when the Cricketing World (as well as other World, for that matter), seemed to be turning into a version of Orwells’ Nineteen Eighty-Four writ large.

    And many thanks for all the other Cricketers for giving me hope and support that my ramblings were at least read and given a sympathetic hearing if nothing else – and for realising that I was not the only one who shared such thoughts.

    Merry Christmas Everybodyxx

    • Yes that is one of the all time great moments in Ashes cricket for me although it was Brett Lee that Flintoff was comforting.

      • Profuse apologies there Ian, it was early in the morning for me and I hate getting the names wrong, but the sentiment is the same -Merry Christmas

        • Ha, no worries Andrew the sentiment of the action matters more than the particular players I think. I like that we both found it affecting.

          Merry Christmas.

    • Flintoff admitted the recently that it was Steve Harmison who was the first to console Brett Lee, but “Steve was never much good at knowing when the cameras were looking.”


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