Selecting the All-Time Best England XI

Freddie Wilde@@fwildecricketContributor INovember 3, 2013

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JUNE 18:  Kevin Pietersen (r) and Alastair Cook of England set off for a run during day three of the 3rd npower Test Match between England and Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl June 18, 2011 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Bleacher Report has selected England’s All-Time Best Test XI. It’s sure to cause controversy, so if you disagree, get involved in the debate and please leave a comment below.

Sir Jack Hobbs
Matches: 61 | Innings: 102 | Runs: 5410 | High Score: 211 | Average: 56.94 | 100s: 15 |

Jack Hobbs is one of cricket’s most prolific batsman. He ended his career with over 60,000 first-class runs and 197 centuries. He made his Test debut in 1908 and played his last Test in 1930, ending a career spanning 22 years. Hobbs was known as “The Master,” and in 1953, he became the first cricketer to be knighted. He formed a formidable opening partnership with the great Herbert Sutcliffe. His Test record is supreme, with an average of above 55 putting him in an exclusive club of few members. Couple this with his staggering longevity, and it is impossible to ignore Hobbs for this all-time XI.

Alastair Cook
Matches: 91 | Innings: 173 | Runs: 7801 | High Score: 294 | Average: 47.85 | 100s: 25 |

England’s current Test captain is still only 28, and having more than a decade of cricket left in him is a frightening prospect, considering what he has already achieved. Cook seems destined to break, perhaps, all of England’s major batting and appearance records, having forged an enormously successful England career from a young age. Cook possesses an unusual, but effective, technique and a seemingly insatiable thirst for runs. Team-mate Kevin Pietersen, speaking on a TalkSport interview, was effusive in his praise for his captain:

"For me, he's the right man to lead England, he's doing a great job for us, and he will continue to get better and better and break every record anyone's ever set, certainly in the English game. He's on target to go for Tendulkar's numbers, if you look at the numbers and look at his age.”

Wally Hammond
Matches: 85 | Innings: 140 | Runs: 7249 | High Score: 336* | Average: 58.15 | 100s: 22 |

Another great of the game, Hammond is impossible to leave out. His average of 58.15 places him fourth on the all-time list for England. He played for England from 1927 to 1947, and ESPNcricinfo heralds him as the third greatest player to play the sport.

Ken Barrington
Matches: 82 | Innings: 131 | Runs: 6806 | High Score: 256 | Average 58.67 | 100s: 20 |

Barrington played for England during the fifties and sixties and was enormously successful, and to this day, he owns the second highest Test average by an England Test cricketer. Barrington began his career as an attacking stroke-maker but reigned himself in after being dropped and became a renowned stone-walling batsman. One of England’s finest.

Kevin Pietersen
Matches: 99 | Innings: 171 | Runs: 7887 | High Score: 227 | Average: 48.38 | 100s: 23 |

Pietersen is not simply in this team because of his record, which, although impressive, belies his true brilliance as an entertainer of perhaps unparalleled excellence. Pietersen is box-office. He’s attacking, instinctive and bold. No player has played for England with such ferocious power and abandon that Pietersen has. At 33 years old and contractual issues behind him, England fans can hope to see Pietersen in an England shirt for several years to come.

Sir Ian Botham
Matches: 102 | Innings: 161 | Runs: 5200 | High Score: 208 | Average: 33.34 | 100s: 14 |
Wickets: 383 | Average: 28.40 | Strike Rate: 56.90 | 5 wickets: 27

Simply England’s greatest all-rounder. Many say Andrew Flintoff was as good as Botham, but that is highly unlikely. Botham’s excellence was more prolonged than Flintoff’s, and his batting is far superior. Botham was an enterprising cricketer in every discipline. He bowled fast and batted with power. His talismanic performances in the 1981 Ashes forever ensured his place in English Cricket’s Hall of Fame.

Alan Knott
Matches: 95 | Innings: 149 | Runs: 4389 | High Score: 135 | Average: 32.75 | 100s: 5 | Catches: 250 | Stumpings: 19

Knott just edges Alex Stewart for the wicket-keeping spot. While Stewart’s batting record is impressive, Knott succeeded in a great era of fast bowling. But, more so than his batting, it is his keeping that sets him apart. Knott was said to be so sharp behind the stumps that he even kept wicket in indoor nets. He had extremely fast hands and quick responses, and it was fitting that he ended his career with exactly 250 catches.

Graeme Swann
Matches: 57 | Innings: 103 | Wickets: 248 | Strike Rate: 58.40 | Average: 28.55 | 5 wickets: 17

Undated:  Alan Knott of Kent scores a four during a Benson and Hedges Cup match against Somerset. \ Mandatory Credit: Adrian  Murrell/Allsport
Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

Swann completes the trio of those players still playing to make this XI. Swann edges out Jim Laker and Derek Underwood as the spinner largely because of his ability to succeed in an age where video technology renders spinners less potent. Swann only really possesses a simple off-break and a variation ball that doesn’t turn, but despite his relative lack of weaponry, he has been enormously successful making use of flight and guile, as well as intelligent changes of pace. He is probably the most underrated in current terms, and his true importance to the England team will most likely be realised when he retires.

Sydney Barnes
Matches: 27 | Innings: 50 | Wickets: 189 | Strike Rate: 41.6 | Average: 16.43 | 5 wickets: 24 |

Barnes played for England between 1901 and 1914, and although pitches were far more suited to bowlers back then, his record is phenomenal, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest bowlers of all-time. He wasn’t amazingly fast, but he was crafty and extracted seam and spin movement, as well as swing, to trouble the batsmen.

Harold Larwood
Matches: 21 | Innings: 36 | Wickets: 78 | Strike Rate: 63.7 | Average: 28.35 | 5 wickets: 4 \

Harold Larwood was the principle bowler in the infamous Bodyline Series, and he is thought to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, bowlers ever to play the game. Having worked in a mine from a young age, Larwood had a very strong back and used this to great effect to hurl the ball at great pace and often from a short length at the batsman. His record is impressive without being outstanding, but his success in the Bodyline series and legend as a bowler of extreme speed sees him gain a spot on the team.

Fred Trueman
Matches: 67 | Innings: 127 | Wickets: 307 | Strike Rate: 49.40 | Average: 21.57 | 5 wickets: 17 |

Some say Trueman is England’s finest ever bowler, and his record does support this. While he has been superseded by Ian Botham and James Anderson, in terms of wickets, his average is phenomenal. Trueman played most of his cricket in the 1950s and is thought to have been, perhaps, behind Larwood, or maybe even level with him, in terms of pace. With a menacing scowl and unruly dark hair, he looked like an archetypal fast bowler, and when he ran to the crease and delivered the ball, he certainly didn’t disappoint in that respect.