Almanac Teams: The ultimate Gabba Ashes performers

It’s cricket season, so it’s time to put some more XIs on the pitch. Let’s start the summer, as the test schedule does, at the Gabba and line up two teams made up of the most extraordinary one-off performances at that ground.


 

Australia

Batsmen

Stacky is the first chosen Australian opener courtesy of a comparatively quick 207 in the drawn test of 1970. Sharing a 151 run partnership with Ian Chappell followed by a 209 run stand with Doug Walters, Keith Stackpole provided the highlight of an otherwise turgid encounter.

Matt Hayden opens the batting with Stackpole following his imperious 197 first innings in a 384 run flogging of England in 2002. His 272 second wicket partnership with Ricky Ponting effectively took this match away from England on Day 1. Glenn McGrath did the rest.

It’s almost like England don’t like playing at the Gabba. Australia’s Number 3 thanks to 196 glorious runs in a 602 run first innings effort in 2006 is, of course, Ricky Ponting. At least England was able to take this game into Day 5 but it didn’t stop them losing by a hefty 277 runs.

It’s back to the 1950s for our Number 4, and Neil Harvey’s first innings 162 in a comprehensive innings and 154 run win over England under Ian Johnson’s captaincy. This was to be Australia’s only win in this series, however, as England took the Ashes 3-1.

In a match best remembered for Peter Siddle’s birthday hat-trick, it can be easy to forget the Day 2-3 partnership between Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin that took Australia from a perilous 5-143 to a secure 6-450 in 2010. Hussey’s share of that was a healthy 195, in what turned out to be a fairly tame draw.

What would an Australian Ashes team be without Dougie Walters? He earns the much vexed Number 6 position with a healthy 155 on debut in the heavily rain affected drawn test of 1965. Coming in during the test’s first innings on Day 3, Walters help rescue Australia from 4-125 to put together century partnerships with Lawry and Tom Veivers to leave the team in a pointlessly dominant position.

All-rounder

“Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing cricket is not” is one of cricket’s finest quotes and one players should well acknowledge this summer. The quote’s speaker, Keith Miller, qualifies for the team as a bowler taking a match aggregate 9-77 in the 1946 test. This one was never a contest as a 276 run first innings partnership between Bradman and Hassett allowed Australia to grind the visitors into the bouncy Gabba pitch to the tune of an innings and 332 runs – ouch! Miller himself added a handy 79 runs too – wouldn’t Australia kill for an all-rounder of his ability these days?

Wicketkeeper

Brad Haddin takes the keeper spot for his share of the partnership with Hussey in 2010, his 136 just getting him the gig ahead of Ian Healy’s 134 against England in 1998 (the only two Australian keepers to have scored an Ashes century at the Gabba). With a strikerate of 47, Haddin was comparatively sedate in this innings.

Bowlers

No-one knew how to pile on the England Ashes pain as well as Shane Warne and he certainly did so in the 1994 test, taking 8-71 in England’s second innings, having first bamboozled them in England in 1993. That he took the top five batsmen showed how much Warne had them in his thrall. Adding that to a very tidy 3-39 in the first innings, Warne ended up with the impressive match aggregate of 11-110 in a 184 run victory.

A consistent presence in a difficult time for Australian cricket, Geoff Lawson’s match return of 11-134 in the 1982 Gabba test is worthy of recall. Henry tore through England’s line-up on Day 1, taking 6-47 and shared the second innings spoils with Jeff Thomson, taking 5-87 (Australia’s bowling attack also conceded a world record 35 no balls in an innings). Complemented by Kepler Wessels’ 162 on debut Australia comfortably won by seven wickets and went onto win the series 2-1.

Edging out Mitch Johnson and Jeff Thomson for the last bowler’s spot is Cobar’s finest, Ern Toshack. Partnering Miller in the 1946 thrashing of England, Toshack’s accurate medium pacers earned him 9-99, undoubtedly prompting an emergency call from English batsmen. Toshack and Miller’s combined figures of 18-176 for the test – rather impressive. Were they contemporaries, he would’ve made the perfect bowling partner for Warne.

 

England

Batsmen

2010/11 was undoubtedly England’s summer of love in Australia. Signalled almost from the very start by Alastair Cook’s seeming indismissability (against an admittedly weak Australian bowling attack). Faced with a 221 run first innings deficit, Cook batted and batted and batted; first compiling 188 runs with Strauss before adding an unbeaten 329 with Trott. Cook declared at 1-517 on 235 not out, his decision not to push harder for victory on a tame pitch vindicated by the rest of the series.

Partnering the Cook, appropriately, we have a Butcher; Mark Butcher to be precise. His first innings 116, including a 134 run partnership with Nasser Hussain, provided England with enough batting to play out a last day thunderstorm assisted draw (play came to a halt at 4.30pm on day five with England 6-179, still 168 runs behind Australia).

Jonathan Trott’s 2010 second innings 135 not out sees him line up at Number 3 for England. Remarkably it is the only century scored at Number 3 by an “Englishman” at the Gabba, Ted Dexter falling one run short in 1962.

Another somewhat surprising entry in the English team at Number 4 – Paul Collingwood’s last innings 96 in 2006 was not enough to avert defeat. As he and Pietersen took England’s score to 3-244, chasing 648 for victory, mind, a draw looked possible. However, a stumping at the hands of one SK Warne soon put paid to that as Stuart Clark cleaned up the English tail.

1936 is the farthest we’ve gone back in these teams (the first test played at the Gabba was in 1931), in this case to put Maurice Leyland in at Number 5. The un-middle named lefty Yorkshireman put together 126 runs in England’s first innings of 358. A bit of customary Brisbane rain on an uncovered pitch assisted the English to bundle out Australia for a meagre 58 in their second innings (Bradman going for a duck) to take a 1-0 series lead by a largeish 322 runs. English hopes were further boosted by a second test win in Sydney. Bradman found form again with 270 in Melbourne, however, followed by 212 in Adelaide and 169 in Melbourne again – Australia took the series 3-2.

All-rounder

England turn to a proper all-rounder early in this team, with Ian Botham batting at Number 6. A first innings 138 in 1986, including a 118 run partnership with David Gower, leading England to a total of 456 and an eventual seven wicket win over Border’s battlers. Botham contributed three wickets for good measure in a perfect start to a series fondly held in English hearts.

Wicketkeeper

There was no monkeying around for Alan Knott in the drawn 1970 test as he contributed 73 to an English total of 464, batting at Number 3 as a nightwatchman – the best batting performance by an English keeper at the Gabba. His 109 run third wicket partnership with John Edrich did much to solidify England’s position and ensure a reasonable start to the series.

Bowlers

A man with reportedly appropriate initials, Gubby Allen takes his place in England’s bowling line-up with his return of 8-107 in the 1936 test. This included Bradman for a second ball second innings duck in Australia’s 58 run total.

While we’re talking about low Australian Ashes totals, who should bob up his controversial head but Stuart Broad with 8-136 in the 2013 Gabba test. While Mitch Johnson’s 9-103 caught the headlines and imaginations, Broad’s first innings 6-81, including Australia’s top four batsmen, went a long way to restrict Australia to a modest 295. It wasn’t his fault Harris and Johnson went through the English batting line-up like a prune smoothie.

English spinners have not prospered at the Gabba. So much so that it is tempting to pick John Snow as a fourth quick. But, given Botham’s presence in the side, that might be overkill, so Ashley Giles it is. His best match return at the Gabba of 6-191 in the 2002 test was actually pretty impressive in a match where England lost by 384 runs and Australia only lost 15 wickets. He also got Ponting and Hayden’s wickets… after they had already scored centuries, mind.

And finally, back to 1936 again for our first bowler but last batsman picked – Nottinghamshire left-armer Bill Voce. Picking up a more than handy match aggregate of 10-57, including Bradman’s first innings wicket, Voce had a great deal to do with England going 1-0 up in that series.

 

So, there you have it. Two teams that bat and bowl very deep but also show that Australia has had the advantage at the Gabba over the years. It would be quite a match to watch, nonetheless!

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Dave interesting read especially the lack of tons from England’s Number 3 can Bernie Vince rectify that ( can KDWalters make all 5 for the summer ? )

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Strong teams Dave.
    Kepler Wessels’ 162 on Test Debut in 1982-83 ?

  3. Thanks for the read and comments, folks. Vince almost got there, Rulebook. Wessels’ 162 is the fifth highest score by an Australian opener in an Ashes Gabba test, Phil. As well as the two above Michael Slater scored 176 in the first innings in 1994 and Bill Lawry scored 166 in the first innings in 1965.

  4. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Wessels’ innings stayed with me Dave because I started watching cricket in 1978-9 (WSC) and he started showing signs then. Was rapt when he was finally selected for a Test. Played some magnificent cut shots that day as England kept bowling to his strength. He got within 4 of beating Charlie Bannerman’s record. It was exciting stuff for a 13 year old in November 1982. Cheers

  5. Peter Warrington says

    great quirky teams for Aus.

    Kim Hughes batting for a day and not scoring 500 was a highlight of 78-9. His steady hand and Hookes’ tonking was also crucial as we for once made chasing down 190 look easy (but not at 3-80 and Dyson back in the stands, too).

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