Alex Massie

Edrich’s XI

Text settings

So here we are again. After Armstrong, Benaud, Constantine and Dexter we come to John Edrich's XI.

1. John Edrich (ENG) (Capt)

2. Matthew Elliott (AUS)

3. Bill Edrich (ENG)

4. George Emmett (ENG)

5. Russell Endean (SA)

6. Farokh Engineer (IND)

7. Godfrey Evans (ENG) (Wkt)

8. Steve Elworthy (SA)

9. Richard Ellison  (ENG)

10. Phil Edmonds (ENG)

11. Tom Emmett(ENG)

Poor Godfrey Evans. What has he done to deserve this? Evans, arguably the greatest wicket-keeper (note, I do not say wicketkeeper-batsman) to play the game, finds himself in shabby, mortal company. Well, that's what happens when you're unlucky enough to have a surname starting with E. Suffice it to say that selecting this XI was neither an exciting nor a delicious experience. Whereas as previous XIs in this series have required much thumb-sucking and delicious agonising over who should, however regrettably, be left out, this selection simply proved tortuous. Finding eleven men worthy of a place proved a struggle. For once I can have few quibbles with readers if they find this team inadequate or hilariously ill-chosen. I'm none too happy with it myself. Suffice it to say that Edrich's XI is fodder for stronger XI's warm-up fixtures before they engage on the more serious business of doing battle with one another.

Even so some selections were easy. Evans obviously. Also the Edrich cousins (and how useful it would have been if other members of that great Norfolk cricketing clan had matched Bill and John's standard). JH was good enough, however, to score 5,000 test runs at 43 while WJ scored his at 40. More famously, perhaps, the 3,359 runs he scored in 1947 would be a record for an English season if his Middlesex colleague Denis Compton had not bettered even that remarkable tally. Verily they must have been the Mantle and Maris of that English summer, albeit with glamour boy triumphing this time.

Oddly the E's are well-stocked with wicket-keepers. Farokh Engineer was a good enough player to represent the Rest of the World XIs against England and Australia in the early 1970s but he plays here as a batsman given every encouragement to chase the bowling with his muscular, biffing style. Though he opened to some effect for India I feel he is better served by coming in down the order.

Russell Endean also kept wicket for a time, though he was a brilliant outfielder too and, happily, a good enough batsman to average 48 on South Africa's tour to Australia in 1952-53. His contemporaries considered him one of the finest cricketers to have represented the Springboks and, though that may be considered a little generous, it's enough to win him a place in this XI.

Australia's Ross Edwards was also a part-time wicket-keeper and a good enough batsman to average 40 in his 20 tests in the early 1970s. He can probably consider himself unlucky to miss out on the 4 spot, especially given that George Emmett failed in his only test and only averaged in the low 30s across his first class career for Gloucestershire. However he had other attributes and was a player whose statistics belie his ability. No less a person than Frank Worrell judged him  "one of the greatest English batsmen I have seen in the tropics" and Tom Graveney considered him, "A much under-rated player. Although he was a little man, gosh, he used to hit it hard. He played some of the best innings I've ever seen."Statistics tell only half the story, and it's clear that Emmett batted with rare flair. Writing in The Cricketer, Stephen Clarke recalled:

Well into his 40s and with a bad knee he still hit his runs with panache. At a time when batsmen were adopting a less adventurous approach, he scored the fastest century of 1954, blazed 91 in 67 minutes against the 1957 West Indians, then at Cheltenham in 1959, in his last match as county captain, he hit 85 in 75 minutes against the Indians. In the words of Wisden "he gave them a lesson in brilliant strokeplay".

Of the others, Matthew Elliott never quite scored the test runs that once seemed likely, even if one does remember the centuries he scored against an admittedly average England attack. Still, his weight of runs in the Sheffield Shield and the County Championship assure him of a place ahead of other batsmen with equally average test careers but even fewer first-class accomplishments than Elliott's 17,500 runs at 47.

The bowling, alas, is no better than the batting. This time there isn't even a long-forgotten or oft-overlooked New Zealander to rescue the selection. Nor, alas, can we look to the sub-continent for relief. Phil Edmonds was a more talented bowler than his Middlesex and England colleague John Emburey* even if being England's best slow left-arm spinner of the 1980s is tantamount to damning with faint praise. Still, my preference is for bowlers who move the ball away from the right-handed batsman and, at his best, Edmonds was a greater attacking threat than Emburey.

The star of the attack is undoubtedly Tom Emmett who played in the first ever test match in 1877 and whose 1500+ first class wickets came at just 13 runs apiece - impressive even on the pitches of the day. His Wisden obituary, published in 1904, records that:

He was, perhaps, the only instance of a great fast bowler who was skilful enough to remain effective after he had lost his pace. Those who only saw him bowl in the latter part of his career, when his main object was to get catches on the off side, can have no idea of what he was like when he first won fame in the cricket field. His speed for five or six years was tremendous, and every now and then he would send down an unplayable ball that pitched on the leg stump and broke back nearly the width of the wicket.

He called that delivery his "sostenuter" and though I have no idea what that may mean it's something you have to love. He once took 16-38 for Yorkshire against Cambridgeshire (when the latter were still a first class county) and this was far from the only remarkable set of figures produced by the man who many judge to have been the second best bowler in England of his time.

Making up the side are Steve Elworthy and Richard Ellison, journeymen players each - though Ellison's career might have amounted to more had he not been blighted by injuri es and the fickleness of English selection policies. I freely admit, however, that the memory of his dismantling the Australians in 1985 with his late swing (17 wickets in two tests at 10!) has influenced his selection. The Australian Hans Ebeling, may consider himself a little unfortunate here since he performed well on the Australian tour to England in 1934.

I was, I admit, sorely tempted to include Gideon Elliott who once registered the remarkable figures of 19-17-2-9. That return is worth savouring as is his first class average of 4.87 (from nine matches). However the fact that this remarkable set of figures was achieved for Victoria against Tasmania in 1857-58 leads me to suspect, however reluctantly, that the Tasman batting may not have been quite up to scratch.

So a choice must be made and this is it. As I say it's not a side to frighten anyone and there are plenty of county sides down the ages who'd be favoured to beat the best the E's can come up with. Be that as it may the laws governing this series are dictated by the alphabet, not me. As always, have your say in the comments...

Next time, happily, we move into lusher, even Elysian, pastures with the F's. Thank god for that.

*Tempting to include Emburey if only for his reaction upon noticing that he'd broken his bat: "The fucking fucker's fucking fucked." However, balancing the side means just one spinner this time (compromising my principles!) so edmonds it is with Emburey on the bench, so to speak.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietycricket