England’s recent resurgence in the One Day International format of cricket is great news for the game and a fitting tribute to some of the English players, past and present, who suit the limited overs game to a tee. Interestingly enough, despite playing in 3 World Cup finals, One Day cricket is a format that England did not place a great deal of emphasis on, historically. This all seems to have changed after a poor World Cup in 2015 and the English ODI team is now well on the up. Let’s take a look at who would make the greatest English ODI team ever and turn the game into a run-scoring, wicket taking carnival for fans:
11. Bob Willis
With 80 wickets in 64 One Day games, Bob Willis is an obvious choice to be included as one of the fast bowlers. An aggressive and very quick bowler, Willis led the English bowling attack successfully for years and used his height to great advantage in getting the ball to rear up at the batsman. He also managed to bowl at a slightly unusual angle as his arm came down which helped him get some unexpected movement.
With a long run-up and lanky frame, he was a noticeable figure within the English team and also a fierce competitor. His will to win and pure bowling talent would ensure this English ODI team had some bite! With his old pal Ian Botham in this same side to team up with and new ball in hand, Willis could be a match-winner for this team.
10. Darren Gough
Although Bob Willis is a great player, we can’t let him take on all the burden of wicket taking. Not with his knees anyway! Enter one Darren ‘Dazzler’ Gough. Born in Barnsley, this no-nonsense Yorkshireman would the perfect partner for Willis. Although not blessed with great height, Gough didn’t let this stop him and instead worked on expanding his arsenal of deliveries to get his wickets. His lethal yorkers would be a fantastic weapon to call on in the latter stages of games and he had a very strong character for when you needed people to hold their nerve in tight games. Perhaps the best thing about ‘Dazzler’ though was his mind. He would not always rely on pure pace and used different types of delivery and reverse swing to get batsman out.
Finishing with 159 wickets in 235 ODI games for his country, Gough certainly deserves his place in our all-time English XI.
9. Graeme Swann
When you consider if Graeme Swann merits his place here, you only need to look at the stats. A record of 79 games played and 104 wickets taken is testament to his ability to adapt to the ODI game and his skill. A spin bowler in the classic sense, he relied on drift and guile to get batsman out rather than numerous fancy deliveries. He was also a useful lower order batsman so could come in handy when a few runs might need putting on the board.
Swann’s finest moment in limited overs cricket was the 2010 Twenty20 competition. Swann enjoyed a brilliant series and finished with figures of 10 wickets at a 14.40 average. Indeed, even the English Cricket Board were moved to comment on what an amazing impact he had afterwards! A long and successful career for his country followed in which he proved a vital component in both the Test, ODI and limited overs teams.
As with most of the players on our list, Swann also had bags of attitude and personality. This showed in the attacking way he bowled – he wasn’t content with limiting the score, he wanted wickets and fast! Overall, he is a shoe-in as the spin bowler in our side.
8. Jos Buttler
Now we have taken care of the bowling, so to speak, we move onto batting. Jos Buttler is one of the new kids on the English ODI block but is also one of the most exciting names here. If he continues to play as he is currently, he will surely go on to be considered one of the greatest limited overs players ever. At the moment, he has played 99 games and scored 2,505 runs which gives him a 37.38 average! Pretty special and he is one of the reasons the modern English ODI team has been doing so well.
Brutal with bat in hand, Buttler has the destructive power to put runs on the board quick and take the game away from an opponent. He is especially good in the final few overs with fielding restrictions removed; when he is batting it is a case of stand back and enjoy. A superlative six hitter, Buttler is going to be a star of the English team for years to come.
It’s not just the bat that makes him so valuable though – he is also a superb wicket keeper and means we can fill that role in our team also. His athleticism and reflexes make him one of the best behind the stumps around.
7. Allan Lamb
From one of the new kids to one of the old boys, Allan Lamb is the next player to take his place in our dressing room. An import from South Africa, Lamb was a brilliant middle-order batsman and will give strength to that area of our team. He made 4 centuries for England in his ODI career including a brilliant 137 against New Zealand at the Oval in 1983.
This wasn’t his biggest achievement in the limited overs game, though. His then-record 18 runs off the last over in a ODI facing Bruce Reid in the 1987s Benson and Hedges World Cup Series shows how great a finisher of games he was. Needing 17 runs to win, Lamb hammered Reid for 2,4,6,2 and 4 to seal the unlikely win. His technically correct style and powerful stroke play meant he was a batsman opponents feared.
Lamb, like all players, had chinks in his armour and he faired better against pace bowling than spin. Overall, though, his record of 122 ODI games played and 4,010 runs at 39.31 shows just how good he was.
6. Ian Botham
Sir Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham is such a legend in cricket that almost no words are needed here! No England team would be right without the most charismatic and talented all-rounder they ever produced. Equally fantastic with bat or ball in hand, Botham would be the player the side could be built around.
When bowling, his pace, seam and swing would be perfect in the early or late stages of a game and would give this team plenty of options to choose from. Although he was probably better suited to the Test format, there’s no doubt he could bowl England to a few victories in the ODIs. Even better, his talent with the bat would mean runs would flow right through our team, especially with some of the top order players (listed below) pitching in. One thing is for sure – no games with this team would be boring! Botham’s explosive hitting and pure power would mean he could help chase a total down or quickly put some runs on the board.
In all, Botham played 116 ODIs, taking 145 wickets and making 2,113 runs. His six man of the match awards in that period and his appearance in three World Cup Finals (1979, 1983 and 1992) highlight how important he was to his country. That is quite some record and shows why he is so highly regarded in England.
5. Joe Root
A superb batsman and natural cricketer, Joe Root was always destined to be a great player for his country ever since he broke onto the international scene.Already Root has scored ten centuries in just 97 ODIs and he shows no signs of slowing down yet. One of the most complete modern players England have in the ODI format, his off-break spin bowling also comes in handy when in the field.
What’s really good about Root as a batter is that, although he has plenty, he doesn’t rely solely on power to get his runs or reach the boundary rope. A clever player, he will take note of gaps in the field and is always learning to get better. All teams need a player who can get them out of trouble if a few early wickets fall and for our team, Root is that man. His amazing 83 off 44 balls against South Africa in the 2016 Twenty20 tournament show just how good he is in limited overs cricket.
Still playing, his current record is 97 games played and 4,000 runs scored at an average of 50. With the talent and skill he possesses this is sure to grow and leave him as a true England great.
4. Andrew Flintoff
Next to Sir Ian Botham, Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is England’s most loved and prominent all-rounder. A superb player with bat and ball, Flintoff had a larger-than-life personality and enthusiasm that rubbed off on all around him. In fact, in the ODI format, Flintoff’s stats make him the best English all-rounder ever.
With 141 games played, 3,394 runs scored and 169 wickets taken, he was a player who could win a game on his own. Performances such as his 5-wicket haul against the West Indies in 2009 or his score of 104 against Si Lanka in 2004 prove that. Indeed, he took a couple of ODI 5-wicket hauls and notched three ODI centuries with the bat. Not content with this, he also blasted a marvellous 91 sixes in his England ODI career!
A powerful hitter of the ball and natural entertainer, Flintoff could be relied upon to attack the opposition and get some runs fast if needed. When bowling, he was all out and never relied much on slower balls – his main weapon was his pace and his accuracy. All this combined made him a fantastic player and a vital part of any side he was in.
3. Kevin Pietersen
Coming in at number 3, we have the brutal and majestic Kevin Pietersen. An explosive and outrageous batsman, ‘KP’ was a player who opponents hated seeing come to the crease. His array of strokes was simply amazing – not only the orthodox shots you normally see, but also some completely new ones he invented himself! Along with a lot of other players in this team, he was a natural born winner and someone who could take the game by the scruff of the neck if needed.
Perhaps the best aspect of his character though was his fearlessness. Pietersen would take on any bowler on any pitch without a thought for reputation and this made him very dangerous. Able to destroy even the best bowling attacks on his day, he was larger than life and like a stick of dynamite waiting to go off!
With nine ODI centuries to his name including a 130 against Pakistan in 2012 and a 116 against South Africa in 2005, he deserves his place in our best ever XI. In total, he played 136 ODI games and made 4,440 runs to cement his place here and in the history books.
We must offer one word of caution with ‘KP’ though – as many will know his international career came to a rather unsatisfactory end after a massive fall-out with the English management. While the full story is not known, he is certainly a character that needs careful handling.
2. Marcus Trescothick
What a player this guy was for his country – the fact he only played for England until he was 30 and then had to retire due to stress is a real shame. An aggressive batter, he wasn’t known as ‘Banger’ for nothing; he knew how to play the ODI format perfectly and was one of England’s finest openers. Trescothick holds the record of scoring 12 ODI centuries for England.
Known for his power and ability to dominate a bowling attack, his pull and drive shots were incredible. Even better, though, was his slog sweep that was arguably the best around at the time he played. Many a bowler was hit for four or six with that shot! Trescothick also had a good pair of hands which is always a bonus when your team is fielding. A popular figure, he would also bring the dressing room together and make sure everything was harmonious.
In all, he clocked up 123 games and made 4,335 runs for England in his ODI career. This included records for the most consecutive ODI games played with an amazing 92 and 12 man of the match awards. As these figures show, he was one of the best ODI players England have ever produced.
1. Graham Gooch
One of English cricket’s legendary names, Graham Gooch was a fabulous player in all formats of the game and ODIs were no exception. A brilliant opening batsman, his partnership with Trescothick in our team would be scintillating. You only have to look at his 115 against India in the 1987 World Cup to see the evidence for that. On that day, he played so many sweeps to hit the Indian spin bowlers out of the attack, it was unreal.
Famous for the large ‘Jumbo SS’ bat he used, Gooch was giant of the English cricket scene when he was playing. A technically brilliant player, his attitude and work-ethic also made him stand out.
In all, he played 125 ODI games for his country and made 4,290 runs which is a superb total. As well as his skill with the bat his seam bowling would have come in very handy if needed during matches.
A natural born leader, Gooch would also make a great captain for our team and have the force of personality to manage the many strong characters in it. As former captain of the English team this is a role he would have no problem in filling.
As we can see, it’s not that England haven’t had the players to compete in ODIs in the past. If this team ever came together, with the amount of runs and wickets between these guys, no-one would have stood a chance. Also, perhaps just as importantly, with the ball flying everywhere and the collection of personalities on offer, the fans would have loved it!
Image Credit: Paul Hudson