Wobble Wobble: County Cricket’s Greatest Trundlers XI

It is with great regret I conclude that the British public have lost our minds. We’ve spent the summer basking in a heatwave: sun-worshipping and blaspheming.

These rising temperatures are no cause for celebration. For as the summers get hotter and hotter, our cricket pitches get drier and drier. And with such changes come consequences.

I am talking, of course, of the existential threat that climate change poses to the dibbly dobbler bowler. This noble breed of cricketer is tailor-made for cloudy May mornings on seaming green tops. Plodding, slow but with an unerring propensity to nibble it about. As lethal in traditional English conditions as they are when let loose in a pie shop.

But as our summers get hotter, the dobbler faces extinction. It is time for action. South London’s Kings Road Cricket and Social Club, spiritual home of the slow-medium pacer, are officially launching our campaign to save the dobbler. To kickstart it, we’ve created the ultimate XI of English wibbly wobblers. They’ll dibble, they’ll dobble, they’ll nibble and wobble and they’ll obliterate sub-continental opposition under cloudy overheads.

Here’s to wibbling cricket balls and wobbling waistlines.

Darren Maddy – As a biffer of some repute, Maddy is the obvious choice at the top of the order. Opened for England in that fateful 2007 World T20 campaign, but don’t let that put you off. He knows the value of a quick-fire 30 in swinging conditions, and will bash his way there more often than not I reckon. Can wibble as required.

Paul Nixon (k) – We need somebody particularly sharp to stand up to all of this medium pace. It has to be Paul Nixon because he’s mouthy, will gobble up nicks and stumpings, and also gives us a left hand option up the order. Put that ramp away though Nicko.

Ravi Bopara – Ravi fluffed it at 3 for England (do you see that there’s a theme developing here) but for us, he is elegant and perfect. Has a lovely cover drive and has evolved into a pretty useful wobbler. First class average of over 40 is surprisingly high.

Ronnie Irani – Loved him as a child just because he’s got such a cracking name. Gives us some height to balance out all the little fellas around him, and for my money is the stardust in that top four. Extra height, even at 68mph, could come in handy. Bounce and nibble, lovely.

Paul Collingwood (capt) – The talisman of our side and captain. Relentless run machine and a superb fielder, which he will need to be when he looks to his right and finds Derek Pringle at extra cover. Can dobble but won’t bowl much as he has his hands full with captaincy and jerking his bat across the line on his way to another hideous century.

Tom Abell – The most controversial pick in this team, just edging out Adam Hollioake. This is a selection with an eye to the future. Tom has shown some dibbly promise this season, and also has captaincy experience. Gives us some steel in the middle order and is Collingwood’s natural successor. Surely crucial key to the long-term viability of the wibbly wobbler.

Dimi Mascarenhas – Wild card pick, just call me Ed Smith. Naturally he can dobble, but it’s the explosive hitting down the order that attracts me to Dimitri. In a low-scoring game, a few lusty blows from his mighty blade might just swing the game for us. Swing with the bat, swing with the ball. He’s also quite cool, and most of this team is not. We need somebody marketable and Dimi is the guy.

Darren Stevens – The finest wine in the country, he grows more delicious by the year. Takes the new ball and fields at slip. Watching him able along and take a wicket without breaking 2mph stride is one of cricket’s purest joys. To my mind, the greatest cricketer to never play for England, expect him to bowl very long spells first up.

Mark Ealham – Will take the new ball with Stevo. And as a Kent fan, let me just take this moment to highlight my pride at my county’s propensity to develop such superb wibblers. We must be the envy of the county circuit.

Stuart Turner – A recommendation from my esteemed boss at work, who is more than double my age. No idea who this chap is, but the internet assures me he swung it both ways at no great pace and took over 800 first class wickets. Good enough for me, first change Mr Turner.

Derek Pringle – The man, the myth, the worst sports writer in history. Odd type of Pringle in that once you pop you really don’t want to do anything but stop. But what Derek did beautifully was nibble it about. His average at test level is nothing to write home about, which makes him perfect for this team.

Honourable mentions:

Mark Alleyne – Too good for the this side, ascended to Dobbler heaven long ago.

Craig White – Just too quick to truly be a dobbler. A shame.

Adam Hollioake – Desperately unlucky to miss out. If anybody loses form in the top 6 he’s in.

Peter Jackson Eastwood


    • The article is by Peter Jackson Eastwood … much as I’d like to take the credit myself :-)

      My nominations would be Daryl Mitchell, Steve O’Shaughnessy, and every single member of those Gloucestershire XIs that won all those one-day trophies (with Jack Russell standing up).

  • You’ve not gone back far enough! How about Derek Shackleton and Tom Cartwright? They never bowled a bad ball between them.

    • And Appleyard. But if Alleyne fails to get in on the basis of quality then these three have no chance. They were all true test standard and shamefully neglected by England selectors who were just as dim then as they are today.

      • To be fair, Shackleton – wonderful bowler though he was – wasn’t genuinely quick, and never produced his County success at Test level. There was also pretty stiff competition from the likes of Bedser, Tyson, Fred, Statham for much of his career.
        Cartwright was, of course, selected for a South African tour but withdrew as a result of ‘injury’, leading to Dolly’s selection

  • Ian Austin. The godfather of wibbly wobbly dibbly dobbly bowling. Travesty he’s not in this XI

    • There’s a story that, on the sole time that Austin got picked for an England one-day squad, they went out to dinner the night before. They were told “only two drinks”, so Austin ordered 2 bottles of wine and drank them both. He didn’t play (I think), and was never selected again.

  • I’d go with Surrey’s Robin Jackman. He could get a 100 wickets a season regardless of the weather.
    Another part time wibbly wobbler but more controversial would be the great Richard Hadlee but off his shortened run up.

    • Hadlee is harsh! Although having said that a certain Sir Ian Beefy was pretty military medium in his final year or too. Remember his Durham days? The keeper barely needed gloves ;-)

  • Collingwood captain? In the team yes, but has all the captaincy qualities of a plank. Remember his comment that he did not realise Woakes could bat when he made his debut and promptly deposited an Aussie quickie for 6? No, the obvious choice for captain must be Dermot Reeve (he bowled so many different sorts of dibbly dobblies, off so many different approaches, that he redefined the category). And, of course, Dermot would have been a great organiser of the after match entertainment.

  • Colin Dredge was a quick!. You only have to read the Cricinfo biog for Tim Tremlett to see why he is a shoo in for this team. Just purr at the opening sentence: “A useful medium pace bowler and lower middle-order batsman”. 207 games and one century! As “a mainstay of the Hampshire side for mort of the 1980s”. And his best season in 1985 when he took 75 wickets and scored 450 runs. Won him a tour with England B. England B!

    • Ah, Tim ‘The Trooper’ Tremlett! That England B tour was to SL where I seem to remember he ended up bowling off-spin in desperation.

      His son was of course anything but a trundler and should have played many more times for England.

      • Tremlett Junior was possibly the worst fielder I’ve ever seen play for England – and yes, I did see Monty Panesar and Alan Mullally!

        • Possibly right, but I don’t think his captain ever said of him : “There’s the old saying that Phil will know: one massive advantage when Philip was bowling is that he couldn’t be fielding.”

          (No prizes for identifying Phil….)

  • It was said about Dermot Reeve that if he went to a nudist beach he’d only end up admiring himself

  • Of recent county bowlers, surely Alan Richardson and David Masters must be worth a mention?

    • Ooof. David Masters is a criminal omission on my part, but then it’s hard to include too many people that you have to be complimentary of, much less fun…

  • Les Taylor, played for Leicestershire in the 80s and got a couple of tests.

    Military medium, nipped it about a bit and out and out no.11. There’s a story about him coming out to bat at 11 against a West Indian quick (Clarke or Wayne Daniel?) with 20 runs required to avoid a follow on and Gower declaring because it would be too painful to watch.

  • Surely Dermot Reeve is the ultimate jack of all trades cricketer. Certainly a better captain than Collingwood. Mr ‘Every ball is an event’. Had the pleasure of seeing him upset just about every opposition captain with his astute gamesmanship and tactical nous. Never let a game drift, so ideal for the dibbly dobblers.
    Remember in the 1970’s when in places like Hong Kong and the Middle East there used to be a competition to find the world’s best all rounder. Somehow Dermot managed to find his way into this despite the presence of Botham, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee and Eddie Barlow.
    Just a footnote here for Roger Knight, a top dibbly-dobbler bloke who understood his limitations.

  • Pleased to see Ronnie Irani in solely for his name

    When he was picked in 1996, I said that the day he entered a match-winning performance I you would hear this noise from me:-


    Sadly his career turned out to consistently be “uh-fah-fuh”

  • For entertainment value, Steve Perryman is worth a mention. With his distinctive windmill action and banana style inswing he bowled his heart out for Warwickshire for years, even opening the bowling when ‘Iron Man’ Rouse and Willis were perpetually indisposed. Once we’d bowled him out Worcester picked him up for some reason, before he returned to coach the 2nd X1 a couple of years later.
    Played against him at club level, where, as a dibbly cobbler amongst other dibbly dobblers, he was distinctly hittable, though county players seemed to find him difficult to get away because of that Inswing.

  • Last one from this blogger, but I must say as a Warwickshire man I’ve enjoyed this one.
    A case maybe for a certain Phillip Oliver, who played for us from the late 70’s into the early 80’s before poor health caused his retirement. His problem was a limp, which meant he couldn’t run up far and was hampered in the field, so he made himself into a decent slipper. He bowled little off cutters which were difficult to get away as he changed his grip and angles repeatedly. This didn’t always work though as occasionally he produced a bouncer as a sort of surprise tactic. This was greeted with much hilarity by the punters as it often went for byes with the never particularly agile Humpage standing up. He also produced some decent contributions in the lower middle order, as an accumulator of runs. A classic case of making the best of what you have.

    • I’m sure a lot of top players find the challenge of test cricket being undermined by the marketing men who dominate all international sport these days extremely frustrating. However as professional sport is a living to all players and most are not in the same class as Kohli, they see the shorter format as a way to make a better living, as they attract more sponsors into their game, bringing more perks, so less talented individuals can still have a reasonably high profile role to play.
      Over the years, having played in the Birmingham league, I have talked to many ex pro’s about the changes in the game’s structure and very few have been hostile to new developments, as they often open new doors for the average player. They are not superstars and cannot afford to be precious about the game’s traditions.
      I’m not criticising Kohli, as it’s good to see players thinking about the game, but he can afford to be an idealist.

      • Kohli probably makes most of his money from the IPL and sponsorship (which derives from his high profile, as a result of the IPL and international cricket). I’m sure you’re right about shorter formats being an easier way to make a living and anything that gets cricket back onto Free to Air TV is useful. I thought it was an interesting contribution to an ongoing debate, though.

        • By ‘afford to be an idealist’ I wasn’t referring to money, Maybe ‘afford’ was the wrong choice of word, I merely meant that his special skills are best suited to Test Cricket, where he is clearly the world’s best at the moment. He is certainly not that sort of game changer as a white ball batsman, where he is one amongst many. Kohli strikes me as being something of a perfectionist and extremely proud of his standing in the game, which is primarily due to his exploits at test level. There is an arrogance and authority to his play at test level which reminds me a bit of Viv Richards. This is what is under threat here.
          As far as cash goes, I can’t see that ever being an issue for him, as his status in India is something akin to Tendulkar, so a few more IPL rupees won’t make a lot of difference.

          • Understood, though I do recall that, at the start of his career, Kohli was regarded as primarily a white ball specialist (his ODI record is astounding – 83 scores of 50+ in just over 200 innings). I can see the Viv comparison (and Viv was also an outstanding ODI batsman: arguably the best ever). In T20 (in the IPL), Kohli is more “one among many” (including AB and Chris G at Bangalore).

            I think you’re probably right that he’s now mainly concerned with building a “legacy” (that sounds more arrogant on his part than it’s meant to). After all, he succeeded Sachin Tendulkar as India’s no 4, and those are big boots to fill.

            • Legacy is the right word here. At present I would rate him in the same class as Ricky Ponting. Viv I rate as the greatest batsmen I ever saw, and that includes Sobers. He had the natural advantage of possibly the best eyesight of any cricketer. He seemed to be able to pick up line and length quicker than anyone else which allowed him to play his trademark, technically risky shots, with impunity, whipping balls from outside off stump through midwicket etc. Once his eyesight started to deteriorate he was right to retire. A mere mortal Viv is not the way we would want to remember him. I would have liked to see him facing his own test attack though, as he did have the advantage of rarely being under pressure to produce, there being so much talent around him that the Windies didn’t often have to score big runs to win.
              Kohli may have a great record in ODI’s, but 50’s don’t win you test matches.

  • What about a mention for Steve Barwick of Glamorgan – perhaps something of a cutter towards the end of career but a wobbler at the start


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