Happy New Year! 2009, the year that Australia gets knocked off the number 1 spot, and travels to England looking to avenge the thrashing they got here in 2005. Will England prevail? Will cricket fever grip the nation now its not going to be on Channel 4? Is there any chance at all of getting a ticket?

Minor points however, as the most important contest of the year takes place on 29th June at Barnes CC, London, when The Village Cricketer’s English All Stars take on the Cricket with Balls Aussie Code of Conduct XI in a charity cricket match to raise awareness of and funds for the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign.

Now, the English side will be made up of bloggers, cricket writers, major charity contributors and hopefully a couple of proper cricketers. It did get me thinking though, that if we were to put out the ultimate Aussie bashing XI of all time, made up exclusively of Englishmen, who would feature? Here it is…

1. Graham Gooch. Said by Cricinfo to be “the most prolific run scorer top-class cricket has ever seen” and “perhaps the ultimate professional.” Gooch battled the best of Aussie bowlers, making his debut against Lilley and Thomson, and finishing up as a very old dude against Warne, McGrath and McDermott, yet still racked up more than 5,000 test match runs against the Canary Yellows, including 4 tons and 16 half-centuries.

2. Michael Vaughan. Averages 47.95 against Australia at home and 63.33 against them in Oz. Has struggled for form lately, but in this side the pressure would be off, and he’d be at the top of the order where he belongs. Vaughan is a legend and can bat like a god. I saw every ball (well except for a handful when I made a trip to the bar) of his 183 at Sydney in early 2003, an innings that topped off a series of Vaughan mastery of the Canary bowling.

3. WG Grace. By modern standards, WG has a pretty mediocre test match batting average of 32.29, especially when considering his record of more than 54,000 first class runs, including 839 in just eight days of 1876. All of his 22 tests were against Australia, so he could well be described as a Canary specialist. It’s not the runs that would most concern the Aussies, but his aura. He’d not stand for any colonial nonsense, and that Amla-esque beard would scare the shit out of Dean Jones.

4. Wally Hammond. Played for England for 20 years between 1927 and 1947, Hammond was one of the greatest batsmen the game has known. Average of 58.25 in 85 tests, inluding 22 tons (9 against the Canary Yellows) and 25 fifties. Could bowl more than a bit too, but as the Don said, he “was too busy scoring runs to worry about bowling”.

5. Douglas Jardine (captain). Has a respectable test match batting average of 48.00, but Jardine is in mainly because of his wily captaincy and ability to get right up Canary Yellow noses! Led the MCC (England) to a magnificent 4-1 series victory on the tour of 1932-33, pioneered the “fast leg-theory” tactics that were so instrumental on that tour, and through it nearly started a riot and caused the ACB to have a right old whinge about “unsportsmanlike” behaviour, and one Australian politician to threaten trade sanctions!

6. Alan Knott (wicketkeeper). Test match batting average of 32.75, 250 catches and 19 stumpings. A faultless team man, thought by many to be the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman ever. According to the Telegraph, Raymond Illingworth said “that it was simply not possible to keep wicket better than he did” on the Ashes tour of 1970-71, and he also made runs against Lillee and Thomson at their fastest and nastiest four winters later.

7. Sir Ian Botham. The hero of 1981 and Canary tormentor in chief. Beefy saved his best for the Aussies, including THAT innings of 141* at Headingly and the infamous retort to Rod Marsh (Marsh: “How’s your wife and my kids?” Botham: “The wife’s fine – the kids are retarded”). Beefy hit 4 tons, 6 half-tons and took 148 wickets in tests against Australia. Proper legend.

8. Andrew Flintoff. With 402 runs and 24 wickets, Flintoff was England’s undisputed star turn of the 2005 summer. Average captain, decent batsman, splendid fieldsman, awesome bowler, even better drinker. Australian parents tell their children that Big Fred will pay a visit if they don’t behave.

9. Harold Larwood. The executor of Jardine’s fiendish architecture, Larwood made the Canary batsmen duck, weave and skip as he took 33 wickets at just under 20 apiece (and troubled Bradman mightily) on the ‘leg theory’ tour. He can also bat a bit too, as a highest test score of 98 as night watchman at the SCG testifies. A man of great irony, after giving the Aussies a good old thrashing, he moved there so as he could remind them of it (constantly I hope).

10. Darren Gough. 229 test wickets at 28.39, and it would have been more but for injury. Goughie was one of England’s greatest ever strike bowlers, a showman, a prize winning dancer. Scared the Aussie’s when he played against them, including a tremendous hat-trick, but unfortunately couldn’t get on the field enough.

11. Derek Underwood. A “Deadly” left-armer that adds balance and even more bite to a fearsome attack. 297 wickets in 86 tests, of which more than a hundred were Australian. Famously took four wickets in 27 balls to secure a famous win with six minutes left against Australia at The Oval in 1968.

12th man. Gary Pratt. Legend. Slayer of Ponting. Winder-upper of a whole nation. Excellent drinks carrier.

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