Winter is a time for following overseas tours, sorting out the coming season’s calendar and, that favourite of cricket lovers everywhere – picking a fantasy cricket eleven.
Not in the modern, online, way of choosing a side to accumulate points in a league but for the sheer fun of pitting Bradman against Trueman or fitting Gilbert Jessop and Colin Milburn into the same team.
Imagine then, Trent Bridge staging a match between these two stellar line-ups:
Geoff Boycott, Larry Gomes, Bill Edrich, Victor Trumper, Ken Barrington, Ian Botham, Freddie Flintoff, Alan Knott, Wilfred Rhodes, Terry Alderman, Steve Harmison...versus...
WG Grace, Murray Goodwin, Billy Gunn, Keith Arthurton, Joe Hardstaff jnr, MJK Smith, Chris Cairns, Don Tallon, Tom Cartwright, Danish Kaneria, Simon Jones.
These would be – in many ways – be truly the beginning and the end of Trent Bridge fantasy test teams.
For the first squad comprises players that made their Test debuts at Trent Bridge and their rivals, no less illustrious, are players that played their last test at our famous old ground.
In the 65 tests played since England met Australia here in 1899, many cricketers have made their first foray into the test arena at Trent Bridge; quite a few never played another test but far more went on – as the first team above shows – to great things.
Equally notable, and a little more poignant, are those players that left the test stage at Trent Bridge. Some, like Simon Jones in 2005, with careers cut short, others – such as the Doctor himself – having written themselves into the game’s long history.
That first test set a pretty high bar for firsts and lasts with Trumper and Rhodes making their debuts as Billy Gunn and the now elderly WG – prompted, legend has it, by the barracking of the Nottingham crowd – signing off their England careers.
The Ashes series of 1921 saw Len Richmond become the first – and so far only – Notts player to make their Test debut at their home ground. Unfortunately for Len that first Test, in which he scored 4 and 2 and took 2 wickets for 89 runs, was also his last.
In 1926, two characters who would become key figures in the Bodyline controversy six years later chalked up firsts for the opposing sides. Arthur Carr (who’d played five tests in South Africa in 1922/23) became the first Nottinghamshire player to captain England on their home ground and Bill Woodfull (skipper in 1932/33) was Australia’s only test debutant. Neither had the chance to make much of an impact as only 17.2 overs were possible over the three days thanks to torrential rain.
Rain! In Nottingham, in June…who would have thought?
When in 1935 South Africa became the first test side other than Australia to play England at Trent Bridge – they had played Australia at TB in the ill-fated 1912 Triangular Tournament – there were seven debutants, among them Dudley Nourse and Eric Rowan.
Twelve years later, when test cricket returned to Nottingham after the War, Eric’s brother Athol Rowan was among ten ‘firsts’ – seven of them in the tourists’ XI.
The West Indies team made its first Trent Bridge test appearance in 1950, faced by an England side that included Derek Shackleton and Doug Insole for the first time and said a farewell to Norman Yardley and to the man forever associated with the Don’s last dismissal, Warwickshire’s Eric Hollies.
For the Ashes test of 1956, England called up Worcestershire opener Peter Richardson who in the first of his 34 tests made a half century in each innings. A year later, he was back at Trent Bridge for a test against the West Indies when his brother Dick played his first – and last – test match.
Brothers featured even more strongly in 1997 when established twins Steve and Mark Waugh represented Australia to be faced by Adam and Ben Hollioake for England – only the third pair of brothers to make their test debut in the same match (and the only time it has happened at Trent Bridge).
Two of England’s most successful Test cricketers made less than distinguished starts at Trent Bridge. Geoff Boycott suffered an injury whilst fielding and did not bat in the second innings in 1964 and two years later ‘Deadly’ Derek Underwood went wicketless in his first Test.
Richard Illingworth had a much more impressive debut in 1991 – becoming just the second Englishman to take a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket when West Indies opener Phil Simmons was bowled. Unlike the slow starters Boycott and Underwood, Illingworth could not improve on that and his test career was relatively short – he played only eight more Tests.
One player who started very much in the vein that was to continue was Kent keeper Alan Knott who on debut at TB in 1967 v Pakistan took seven catches in the match, an auspicious beginning of a great test record.
The strength of those fantasy squads is perhaps underlined by those that we couldn’t fit into the elevens. Mike Atherton, Devon Malcolm, Mike Brearley and Stan McCabe might easily have claimed a place in the debutants side whilst the aforementioned Eric Hollies, David Larter, our own John Gunn and Chris Cairns, Tony Lewis and Kerry O’Keefe qualified for the ‘last’ team.
In recent years, Michael Bracewell of New Zealand and Rishabh Pant made Test debuts at Trent Bridge – two players who might well find themselves in fantasy XIs in future years.