Saturday, 1 September 2007

Greatest Test XI

To continue our Greatest Test XI of the last century we pick our number five.

Garry Sobers was quite simply a cricketing phenomenon. Along with Graeme Pollock, he was the best batsman of his era; he was a superb fielder; and he was able to claim 235 Test wickets with three different types of bowling. Though his batting was clearly his strongest suit, he would probably have played at least 50 Tests for the West Indies as a bowler alone.

Sobers simply excelled at all aspects of the game; he could play all the shots, though his offside play was particularly memorable; and, much more so than other all-rounders, displayed real discipline with the bat. For instance, it would be unthinkable for Botham, Miller or Dev to have had the temperament to reach 365* in a Test; but that Sobers did, against Pakistan. In all, Sobers scored 26 Test hundreds, testament to his magisterial batting, but arguably his best knock was 254 for the Rest of the World against Australia. Uniquely, he scored at least one Test hundred everywhere from opening to number seven. When circumstances dictate, however, he was as destructive as anyone, as his sensational six sixes (for Notts against Glamorgan) in an over illustrates.

His bowling (which struggled initially in Test cricket) was almost equally impressive, and he claimed over 1000 first-class victims in all. To be able to get Test wickets with three distinct types of bowling – brisk fast-medium (he often opened the bowling), left-arm orthodox and wrist spin is perhaps unique in cricketing history and illustrates the multifarious nature of Sobers’ cricketing gifts.

Sobers would probably have made the final XI as a batsman alone; add in his brilliant fielding and incredibly versatile bowling, and he has a strong case for being the finest Test cricketer of them all.

The side so far: Sutcliffe, Hutton, Bradman, Hammond, Sobers

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