Australia’s greatest post-warTest team
Date: February 20, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
The Australian Test team is on the rise with some stunning results over the past four months.
With that in mind it’s interesting to reflect on the top-shelf players we have produced down through the years.
I have taken on the task of choosing the best Australian Test XI since the Second World War.
To be eligible players had to have played the bulk of their cricket after 1945 which eliminates a chap by the name of Don Bradman.
So, here we go.
In the opening positions I have gone with Arthur Morris and Bob Simpson.
Morris, a left-hander, made his first-class debut as an 18-year-old in 1940, celebrating with a then unprecedented century in each innings.
Not long after the War robbed him of many of his prime years.
He debuted for Australia at the start of the 1946-47 Ashes series, scoring 155 in his third Test at Melbourne and a century in each innings in the next match at Adelaide.
A stylish batsman, he went on to play 46 Tests, making 12 centuries en route to 3533 runs at 46.5 – his Test best of 206 came in Bradman’s final Test at The Oval in 1948.
Simpson was a slow starter at Test level, batting early on in the middle order.
Not long after he became a permanent opener, he scored his maiden Test century in his 30th Test – 311 against England at Old Trafford in 1964.
Over the next two years he scored double centuries against West Indies and England.
Having retired from Test cricket in January 1968, he made a comeback at the age of 41 to skipper Australia during the tumult of World Series Cricket.
Prior to his initial retirement he scored 4131 runs at 48.6 from 52 Tests and opening in 40 of those Tests he averaged 55.5.
He was regarded as one of the game’s greatest slips fieldsmen – he snared 110 catches during his 62-Test career – and was a brilliant runner between the wickets.
Simpson was also a handy leg-spinner, capturing 71 wickets at 42.3.
I have gone for Ricky Ponting at number three – 168 Tests, 13,378 runs (second only to Sachin Tendulkar), average 51.8 and scorer of 41 centuries.
Ferocious on the pull shot and an elegant drive of the ball, in 2004 and 2005 he plundered the world’s bowlers, scoring 2877 runs at 75.8 with 13 centuries.
He scored six double centuries, second only to Bradman (12) for Australia.
He was also one of the truly great all-round fieldsmen the game has seen.
Greg Chappell is a shoe-in at number four.
He made a century in his first and last Tests and scored one in each innings in his first match as captain.
Elegant and upright at the crease, he accumulated runs with seeming ease.
When he retired in early 1984, he had scored an Australian record 7110 runs at 53.9 with 24 centuries.
Tellingly, in an era when the West Indies were riding high on the back of fearsome quality fast bowling attacks he averaged 56.0 from 17 outings.
A brilliant fieldsman – he retired with a world record 122 catches – while his medium pacers also snared 47 wickets at 40.7 from his 87 Tests.
Neil Harvey is my choice at number five.
A brilliant player of spin – highlighted by his eight-Test average of 55.4 in India – he is the youngest Australian, at 19 years 121 days, to score a Test century.
It was one of six centuries he produced in his first 13 innings in Test cricket as he generated tremendous power form his relatively short frame.
He retired having scored 21 centuries and 6149 runs at 48.4 from 79 appearances during which he was also regarded as one of the finest cover fieldsmen of all-time with a rocket-like throwing arm.
Australia’s last great all-rounder was Keith Miller and since his retirement in 1956 we have never found another to have got close to him.
Debuting in 1945-46 against New Zealand he soon became a hero due with his flamboyance and devil may care attitude.
He was a genuinely fast bowler, capturing 170 wickets at 23.0 from his 55 Tests.
With the bat he was a swashbuckler, smashing 2968 runs at 37.0 with seven centuries, making Miller is my choice at number six.
Adam Gilchrist is my wicket-keeper.
He changed the way ‘keepers are viewed.
He could easily have played as a specialist batsman during his unbroken 96-match career, as he scored 5570 runs at 47.6 with 17 centuries, the best of which was 204 against South Africa.
He either rebuilt fragile innings or iced the cake with ferocious hitting, scoring his runs at the amazing run rate of 82 – a number that many an ODI batsman would relish.
Upon his retirement in January 2008 he had completed a world record 416 dismissals, and whilst many will say he lacked the purity of a Don Tallon or Ian Healy, you are hard pressed remembering any glaring mistakes behind the stumps that badly penalised his side.
At number eight is Miller’s partner in crime with the ball, Ray Lindwall, who also debuted in Wellington Test of 1945-46.
With an action uncannily alike to Harold Larwood he was a fearsome opponent, whilst a gentleman off the field, capturing 228 wickets at 23.1 in 61 Tests – an Australian record tally at the time of his retirement in January 1960.
In his 14 Tests in England he produced five five-wicket hauls and claimed 60 wickets at 21.0.
Lindwall also scored two Test centuries and finished with a career batting average of 21.1.
The choice of the specialist spinner is a no-brainer.
Shane Warne is the greatest leg-spinner of all-time and one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the 20th Century so there is little to say.
He made 145 appearances for 708 wickets at 25.4, took 37 five-wicket bags and ten times claimed ten in a match.
He was arguably the most important member of the Australian team that dominated the world for so many years under Ponting and Steve Waugh.
Dennis Lillee is still regarded by many as the greatest fast bowler of all-time – and indeed one of the most complete during his 13-year career.
From the tearaway and fearsome quick of the early-1970s to the wily veteran on the back of several serious injuries he proved to be a handful for the opposition and an idol to the Australian masses.
Often he bowled through pain with perhaps his finest hour under duress a ten-wicket haul that secured Australia victory in the 1977 Centenary Test.
He retired at end of the 1983-84 season with a world record tally of 355 wickets at 23.9 with 23 five-wicket hauls from 70 Tests.
Last of all, I have gone for the most prolific fast bowler in the history of Test cricket, Glenn McGrath.
He may have lacked the pace and hostility of Lillee, Lindwall and Miller but he was no less effective – 124 Tests for 563 wickets at 21.6, a strike rate of 52 and with 29 five-wicket hauls including returns of 8-24 and 8-32.
McGrath conquered all conditions – averaging 22.4 at home; 20.7 in the Caribbean; 23.0 on the sub-continent; 22.1 in Africa; and 19.3 in England.
Few have produced such consistent figures.
So there it is: Morris, Simpson, Ponting, G Chappell, Harvey, Miller, Gilchrist, Lindwall, Warne, Lillee, and McGrath.
It is a team laden with plenty of bowling options and dynamic fieldsmen.
Your turn now Roarers!
First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 19 February 2014