Almanac Cricket: The Best XI from before my time



I thought I would try a cricket team with a difference: Australian cricketers you never saw play as they were from before your time.


Hopefully others contribute, it would be interesting to see which players get the most nominations.


I am just old enough to have seen Lillee, Greg Chappell, Marsh and Jeff Thomson play for the men’s team so they did not make my side.


Please note is not a best team; it’s who I would like to see play




Victor Trumper

Bill Ponsford

Don Bradman (VC)

Stan McCabe

Neil Harvey

Keith Miller

Richie Benaud (C)

Alan Davidson

Ray Lindwall

Jack Blackham

Bill O’Reilly


George Giffen (12th)




Victor Trumper – 48 tests, 3163 runs, 39.04 average, highest score 214

Bill Ponsford – 29 tests, 2122 runs, 48.22 average, highest score 266

Don Bradman – 52 tests, 6996 runs, 99.94 average, highest score 334

Stan McCabe – 39 tests, 2748 runs, 48.21 average, highest score 232, 36 wickets at 42.86

Neil Harvey – 79 tests, 6149 runs, 48.41 average, highest score 205

Keith Miller – 55 tests, 2958 runs, 36.97 average, highest score 147, 170 wickets at 22.97, best 7/60

Richie Benaud – 63 tests, 2301 runs, 24.45 average, highest score 122, 248 wickets at 27.03 best 7/72

Alan Davidson – 44 tests, 1328 runs, 24.59 average, highest score 80, 186 wickets at 20.53, best 7/93

Ray Lindwall – 61 tests, 1502 runs, 21.15 average, highest score 118, 228 wickets at 23.03, best 7/38

Jack Blackham – 35 tests, 800 runs at 15.68, highest score 74, 37 catches and 24 stumpings

Bill O’Reilly – 27 tests, 410 runs at 12.81, highest score 56, 144 wickets at 22.59 best 7/54

George Giffen – 31 tests, 1238 runs at 23.35, highest score 161, 103 wickets at 27.09 best 7/117



Victor Trumper is recognised as the best batter to play for Australia pre-Bradman.


Ponsford was one of the greats with McCabe from after Bradman’s time (1920s to 1940s). His highest score in first class cricket was 437 and alongside Brian Lara is only batsman to have made 400, and with Bradman shares the largest partnership for any Australian wicket (451)… also, if you have a grandstand named after you at the MCG you must have being pretty good!


Others considered were Arthur Morris, Archie Jackson and Bill Woodfull as another option for captain.


Don Bradman picks himself and I would imagine most agree that anyone who loves cricket would have loved to have seen a Bradman century live. Stan McCabe at four has being described as one of Australia best stroke-makers who was very good against fast bowling. He is best known for two great innings: making 187 N.O. in the first bodyline test (1932-1933) when Bradman was injured and 232 against England in England (1938) which Bradman described as one of the best innings he had ever seen.


Neil Harvey at five gets in as a stylish left hander who was perhaps Australia’s best batter between Don Bradman and Greg Chappell. Others considered were Clem Hill, Lindsay Hassett and Norm O’Neill


Jack Blackham is the keeper and Number 10 bat due to quality of all rounders on offer. Blackham was Australia’s first wicket keeper and was known as ‘the prince of wicketkeepers’. His gloves where similar to gardening gloves and he would stand up to the stumps even to fast bowlers like Fred Spofforth. Other options were Bert Oldfield and Wally Grout.


I picked the five bowlers I wanted to see play with one hopefully being an all rounder. It just worked out that four of them were all rounders. Lindwall and Miller would open the bowling with left hander Davidson as third seamer. Lindwall and Miller were Australia’s best opening pairing until Lillee and Thomson came along. Lindwall was deemed extremely quick for his era and had a lethal bouncer but was also a capable batter with two hundreds to his name. Keith Miller is Australia’s best ever all rounder and generally batted at four and opened the bowling. Miller had seven hundreds and seven times got five wickets in an innings.


Alan Davidson was known to get big wickets and important runs. While he never achieved a test hundred, he did get five wickets in an innings 14 times and has one of the best economy rates in test cricket. An indication of his prowess was the 1960 tied test where he took 5/135 and made 44 in the first innings and then backed it up to take 6/87 and make 80 in the second. Davidson came in at 5/57 chasing 233.


Other quick options I looked at were Fred Spofforth, Monty Noble (as an all rounder) and Bill Johnston.


The spinners I went with were Richie Benaud and Bill O’Reilly who with his long run up was quite unique for a leg spinner. Both bowlers were very good in Australian and English conditions with Benaud also successful in India and Pakistan. Richie was always a reliable all rounder as well. Others considered were Clarrie Grimmett who was probably the most unlucky of all who missed and all rounders Warwick Armstrong and Hugh Trumble


George Giffen is twelfth man as a true all rounder; he opened the batting, batted down the order, opened the bowling and also had turns as a spin bowler. It was not uncommon for Giffen to bat all day one day and bowl all day the next. He was the closest player to the total of 100 wickets and 1000 runs in a first class season – 93 wickets and 902 runs.


Richie Benaud I chose as captain ahead of Bradman. Bradman while successful with the 1948 Invincibles team did have dramas with some players like McCabe, Fingleton, O’Reilly and Miller over off-field issues; Benaud seemed to inspire his players more and was popular for his attacking and tactical mind.


I look forward to other readers’ sides.




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  1. Trumper, Blackham and Giffen are names that stand out for mine – doyens from an era long gone, it would be fascinating to hear their thoughts on cricket as a sport as much as it would be to see them play.

    Good to see you back in the saddle before the end of the year, Rodney!

  2. Most brilliant concept ever!!

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Nice team mate, I’d have loved to have seen all twelve!

    Grimmett would have been in my team, love reading about him, while as a lover of spin bowling Bert Ironmonger and Jack Iverson are guys I’d love to have seen bowl. As a Victorian fan Jack Ryder and early career Bill Lawry would be on my list, while being being slightly younger than you the Chappells and DK Lillee are of course players I’d like to have seen live.

  4. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Rodney Grimmett was the 1st name I thought of and ironically,George Giffen was next not only for his cricket exploits but footy having kicked,Norwood fc,1st ever goal.Vic Richardson is the other person I admit fueled by,John Lysikatos excellent recently released book-thanks Rodney

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Interesting piece and team, Rodney. Thank you.

    Note: Bradman’s top first-class score was 452 not out, and eight different players have scored quadruple centuries at this level. (There have been ten 400+ first-class scores all up.)

  6. Good work, Rodney. Hard to quibble.

    But I have always been fascinated by Fred “The Demon’ Spofforth.

  7. I saw Benaud bowl in a Shield game at Adelaide Oval as a kid – so he doesn’t qualify for me. Clarrie Grimmett would be an able spin replacement.
    Archie Jackson (with Trumper) is the batsman I would most likely have seen. The boy genius who was a contemporary of the young Bradman and considered the better prospect. Artistic where Bradman was a ruthless utilitarian. Jackson scored a century in his first test innings against England at age 19 in 1929. Then died of tuberculosis in 1933 at age 23.

  8. Peter Flynn says

    I like your team and your idea Rodney.


    A couple more to throw into the mix (not to replace any of yours)

    Don Tallon
    Charlie Macartney
    Jack Gregory
    Warwick Armstrong
    Norman O’Neill
    Charles Turner
    Billy Murdoch


  9. Brilliant idea Rodney.

    I’m old enough to have seen all of Harvey, Benaud and Davidson in action, so I need to make at least 3 changes to your team. After much thought, my inclusions are Grimmett, Spofforth and Clem Hill – and I have retained your other eight.

    I really wanted to include Mailey too, but for reasons of team balance I reluctantly had to, in the end, leave him out. My XI has a somewhat longer tail than yours, but given the bowling strength I don’t think they’d be chasing too many runs!

    Despite the comments that Giffen would bat all one day then bowl all the next, my reading suggests to me that George Giffen largely played for George Giffen, so he isn’t in my 12. I’ll name Arthur Mailey in the 12th man role as a consolation prize – from what I’ve read about him, he would fill the drinks waiter role admirably.

    Since teams nowadays generally carry a spare man also, I’ll nominate Jack Gregory as my 13th.

    Cheers to all

  10. Thanks everyone for your kinds word and suggestions .

    Obviously based on own opinion so no right or wrong answer.
    Grimmett was the obvious one to me I did not have, would have been great to watch.
    Richardson what you read is one of the best people manager for Australia and was a great vc for Woodfull like Marsh to Border.
    Iron monger, Iverson and Jackson would have being great to see as they have great stories behind them.

  11. citrus bob says

    Excellent work Rodney
    I love reading about players that I never saw play and being older than most f you here is my side.
    Woodfull (C)
    Richardson (12th)
    The artistry of Trumper, Jackson and McCabe I still dream about. What else can you do at my age

  12. Thanks Bob
    Archie Jackson such a sad story is a great inclusion and Laurie Nash record suggests 2 tests were undee used.

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