The final shortlist for the wicket-keeper in the Greatest Test XI of the last century consists of Les Ames and Adam Gilchrist. Although their careers were 60 years apart, it is telling that both were fine batsmen; though nostalgia may tell us otherwise, the best sides in history have almost invariably (with the exception of the 1948 Australian side) had ‘keepers who could contribute significantly with the bat.
Adam Gilchrist’s bludgeoning bat has been a key feature of Australia’s dominance in the 2000s. His ability to drastically – and often irrevocably – alter the momentum of games from number seven is surely unsurpassed in the history of Test cricket, as his 17 Test hundreds, with at least one against each nation, suggests. The speed at which he acquires his runs – he has a Test strike-rate of 82 - has been phenomenal; and, while it is true some of his knocks have come after his side were already firmly in control, his brilliant 144 in Sri Lanka in 2004, batting at number three, was testament to his quality in more testing circumstances. Behind the stumps, he is no artist; but, this side is judged purely on effectiveness – and Gilchrist, who always kept well to Warne, very seldom gloves chances.
Les Ames is often regarded as having pioneered the wicket-keeper batsmen. He is part of a long tradition of fine Kent glovemen, and was inconspicuous, but hugely reliable and adaptable behind the stumps, claiming the world record for first-class stumpings (some of which were off pace bowlers). But, like Gilchrist, he will be remembered, above all, for his ability to seize a game with the bat. Ames was a highly-classical batsmen who could play all round the wicket, and twice won the Walter Lawrence Trophy; his quality with the bat is illustrated by his average of almost 50 in 33 (out of 47) Tests playing at four or five and, above all, by his 102 first-class centuries. His bat succeeded everywhere he went, with the exception of Australia, and his Wisden obituary called him “without a doubt the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman”; but, with Gilchrist’s emergence, is this still the case?
Who would you choose? Leave a comment below.