St Patrick's Day XI © Getty Images (Bardsley: Wikimedia Commons) Left: George Street. Top, from left: Cyril Washbrook, Warren Bardsley, Frank Hayes, Sean Ervine, Andrew Flintoff Bottom, from left: Peter Willey, Ravindra Jadeja, RP Singh, Dewald Pretorius, Zoe Goss
St Nicholas’ Day XI © Getty Images (Bardsley: Wikimedia Commons)
Left: George Street.
Top, from left: Cyril Washbrook, Warren Bardsley, Frank Hayes, Sean Ervine, Andrew Flintoff
Bottom, from left: Peter Willey, Ravindra Jadeja, RP Singh, Dewald Pretorius, Zoe Goss

St Nicholas’ Day has seen the births of a number of cricketers over the years. Michael Jones picks an XI of players who’ll be blowing out the candles today (or in some cases, would have been if they were still alive).

Cyril Washbrook (1914)

The less-heralded half of one of England’s greatest opening pairs. A Yorkshireman and a Lancastrian may have sounded an unlikely combination, but in 51 partnerships together, Washbrook and Len Hutton added 2880 — and among England pairs with a thousand or more runs, their average of 60 has been exceeded by only two pairs before them and none since. Their 359 against South Africa in 1948 was a world record for the first wicket at the time, and remains the England record. Washbrook outscored Hutton during the partnership, and his eventual 195 remained the highest of his 6 Test centuries.

By 1956 Washbrook was 41, and had been appointed a selector. In the meeting to name the team for the third Test of that summer’s Ashes, with England 0-1 down, the other members of the panel asked him to leave the room for a few minutes — then, on his return, asked him to play in the match. He had not played a Test for five years, but repaid their faith in him: walking out at 17/3, Washbrook added 187 with Peter May and, by the time he was dismissed for 98, had helped to establish a platform from which England went on to win by an innings. Jim Laker took 11 wickets in the match — which proved to be merely a warm-up for his 19 in the next, in which Washbrook also played.

Warren Bardsley (1882)

One of the first generation of great Australian batsmen, Bardsley never attained the same standing in the popular imagination as Victor Trumper or Clem Hill, but his record bore comparison with either, and between them they made a formidable top order in the years immediately prior to the Great War. In his first Test series he made 136 and 130 at The Oval to become the first batsmen to score a century in each innings of a Test, and his 132 in the next home series against South Africa (including a stand of 224 with Hill) made him the first to score three in consecutive innings.

He made a further 2 centuries in the 1912 Triangular Tournament, but could not recapture the same form when international matches resumed after the war: in the back to back series against England in 1920-21 he made 7 fifties, but failed to convert any of them to three figures. He still had time for one glorious swansong, though: by the time of the 1926 tour Hill was long since retired and Trumper deceased, and at the age of 43 Bardsley found himself playing alongside a new generation of Herbie Collins, Bill Woodfull, Tommy Andrews and Jack Gregory. At Lord’s he dealt with everything sent down by Maurice Tate and a young Harold Larwood, and carried his bat for 193 not out when none of his teammates reached 50; he remains the oldest player to score a Test century for Australia. Jack Hobbs rated him on a par with Hill as the best Australian left-hander, saying that the contrast in their styles made it impossible to choose one over the other — but paid Bardsley perhaps the greater compliment in saying “I cannot imagine a nicer type of fellow”.

Frank Hayes (1946)

Hayes had a baptism of fire, making his Test debut against West Indies at the Oval in 1973; although they were yet to develop the fearsome fast bowling quartet they became known for later in the decade, the attack was spearheaded by Keith Boyce and Bernard Julien, backed up by Garry Sobers’s mixture of seam and spin and, in Lance Gibbs, their country’s greatest spinner — no mean line-up for a debutant to face. In the first innings Hayes fell to Sobers for 16; Geoff Boycott played a lone hand with 97, but England couldn’t get near the visitors’ total of 415, based around a century from Clive Lloyd, who added 208 with Alvin Kallicharran (80). In the fourth innings England faced a near-impossible target of 414, and Hayes came to the wicket with the score on 66/2. By the end of the fourth day Graham Roope, Keith Fletcher and Tony Greig had fallen to leave England in disarray at 126/5, but Hayes stood firm on 37. Night-watchman Derek Underwood fell early on the fifth morning, but Hayes found a partner in Ray Illingworth and they added 97 for the seventh wicket. Boyce removed Illingworth and then ran through the tail, finishing with 6 wickets in the innings and 11 in the match, but they managed to last long enough for Hayes to reach his century, and he was left high and dry on 106 not out as England went down by 158 runs.

That was as good as Test cricket got for Hayes, though — he played 8 more Tests and never reached 30 again, although he wasn’t helped by having to play all of them against West Indies. After innings of 0, 18, 7 and 0 in the 1976 series he was dropped for good, although he still managed to leave his mark in the First-Class record books the following year — narrowly failing to emulate the very player who’d dismissed him in his first Test innings. Nine years earlier Sobers had made history by smashing Malcolm Nash around — and sometimes out of — Swansea’s St Helen’s ground; now Hayes found himself at the same ground, facing the same bowler, and hit 5 sixes in an over with the sequence interrupted by a four off the second ball. By the end of the over he had added 34 to his score, a total which only Sobers and Ravi Shastri have beaten in a First-Class match, and among batsmen not aided by one or more no balls, only Craig Spearman has equalled.

Sean Ervine (1982)

Still two months short of his 19th birthday when he made his international debut in an ODI against England in October 2001, Ervine made his first mark with 47 and 2 wickets against Sri Lanka in the Sharjah tournament the same month, followed by 3 for 29 against Pakistan a few days later — although Zimbabwe still lost every match at the tournament.

His introduction to Test cricket came in England eighteen months later, but was not a success; he managed 2 wickets at Lord’s, but scored only 4, 4, 0 and 34 as the hosts won both Tests by innings margins. His record was never more than ordinary, but was enough to keep him in a team which had few other options.

At Perth in 2003, as Zimbabwe toiled in the field and Matthew Hayden amassed a world record score, Ervine was all that stood between Australia and an even larger total, taking 4 of the 6 wickets to fall as they racked up 735; in the second innings he added his maiden Test fifty, as the Zimbabwe tail’s stubborn resistance in adding 195 for the last 3 wickets saved them from even greater ignominy.

On the same tour he made his only international century, a round 100 off 100 balls against India in the triangular ODI tournament; his run out, after a partnership of 202 with Stuart Carlisle, left Zimbabwe needing 32 off the last 4 overs, but Sanjay Bangar kept it tight in the last over and India won by 3 runs. Although Zimbabwe lost the majority of Ervine’s 42 ODIs, they enjoyed occasional successes, and he was there at the end to help seal a 4-wicket win over England in the 2003 NatWest Series.

Ervine was part of the mass exodus of players from Zimbabwe after the dispute with the board in 2004, after which he signed for Hampshire, eventually qualifying to represent them as a non-overseas player. In an unexpected U-turn he returned to his country of birth in 2009, and was even named in their World Cup squad two years later — but after examining the financial mess which Zimbabwean cricket remained in, he decided his Hampshire contract offered greater security and pulled out of the international comeback which would have forced his county to count him as an overseas player again.

Andrew Flintoff (1977)

One of a succession of 1990s England players to be labelled ‘the new Botham’, it proved something of an albatross around Flintoff’s neck in the early part of his career, as less flattering labels were also attached to him: ‘overweight’, ‘unfit’, ‘uncommitted’; after collecting the match award for a quickfire 42 not out in an ODI against Zimbabwe in 2000, he took the opportunity for a swipe at his critics with the comment “Not bad for a fat lad!”.

Successes were few and far between in his early years at international level: his first Test century at Christchurch in 2002 was overshadowed by Graham Thorpe and Nathan Astle’s doubles in the same match; his second came as he went for broke in a hopeless situation, hitting 142 off 146 balls as England went down to South Africa by an innings — although he provided the photographers with their shot of the day when he signalled to the dressing room for a replacement bat, holding up the one which had just been split in half by a shot off Makhaya Ntini.

In the last Test of the series, with England 1-2 down, he came good again: thanks to Marcus Trescothick’s double-hundred and Thorpe’s century on his return from self-imposed exile, they had overhauled the visitors’ first innings total of 484, but at 502 for 8 in the first over of the fourth day, the lead was negligible and the match seemed destined for a draw. Flintoff and Steve Harmison proceeded to add 99 in 18 overs — of which Harmison’s share was 3. Flintoff was eventually bowled by Paul Adams for 95, England led by 120 — which proved enough for them to win by 9 wickets and level the score at 2-2; Flintoff was their player of the series.

His tour de force came in the 2005 Ashes: 402 runs and 24 wickets, in the process captivating a nation which had forgotten what it was like to witness a series win over Australia. At Edgbaston he scored 68 and 73 with a total of 9 sixes, and few who saw his first over in Australia’s second innings will ever forget it: he bowled Justin Langer with the second ball, then roughed up Ricky Ponting for the rest of the over before having him caught behind off the last. He exerted a stranglehold on Adam Gilchrist which no bowler had managed before; the keeper-batsman who was used to dominating the bowling failed to reach fifty in the series, falling to Flintoff four times. When England sealed a 2-1 series victory, the fans had taken him to their hearts to the extent of overlooking the drunken stupor in which he appeared on the open-top bus parade the following day.

Twin fifties and 3 second-innings wickets took England to a series-levelling victory in Mumbai a few months later which earned him both the match and series awards, but his fall from grace was rapid: a misguided appointment as captain for the return series in Australia in 2006-07, he underperformed with both bat and ball, and often looked clueless in the field; England lost the series 5-0. Things were about to get worse: in a World Cup match against New Zealand, Flintoff made a duck and didn’t take a wicket, England lost comfortably — and, after another night of drinking, he had to be rescued from the water after falling off a pedalo at 4 am. He was sacked as ODI vice-captain, and his reputation never really recovered — but he did manage one last international hurrah in 2009, becoming the first bowler since Hedley Verity to take England to an Ashes win at Lord’s. His final career figures told the story of a player whose occasional flashes of brilliance were interspersed with prolonged periods of mediocrity; 5 centuries and 3 five-fors from 79 Tests are not the hallmark of a world class all-rounder.

Injury brought an end to his career after that series — or so it seemed, until in 2014 he grabbed the attention of the cricket world once again, by announcing an intended comeback. It would be in Twenty20 only, since he acknowledged that his body could no longer stand up to the strain of the longer formats — but given that he hadn’t played for five years, and had required surgery on his shoulder after a foray into boxing, even that seemed far-fetched. Fans were divided: some relished the prospect of seeing their hero reprise past glories, while others feared that his comeback would end as so many had before him — a player deluding himself that he can still replicate the deeds of  his prime, while all around him can see that he is a wretched shadow of his former self.

As it turned out, an ankle injury meant that he missed most of Lancashire’s qualifying matches, but he finally made his return at Worcester towards the end of the group stage. He was not required to bat as the visitors smashed 229 for 4, their highest total in the format — beating the 220 for 5 recorded in Flintoff’s previous T20 match for the county, against Derbyshire five years earlier, in which he played the lead role with 93 off 41 balls. He finally got a slice of the action in the sixth over of the Worcestershire innings, and almost made it a his comeback into a fairy tale as Richard Oliver hit his first ball just out of reach of the fielder at point. After his first over cost 15 it seemed that his swansong might be a rather brief one, but he returned later in the innings to bowl Tom Kohler-Cadmore and have Alexei Kervezee caught at long-on, as Lancashire won comfortably. Flintoff did get a chance with the bat against Leicestershire, made only 1 off 4 balls, but made up for it by taking 3 for 26 including the key wickets of Niall O’Brien and Scott Styris.

After missing the quarter- and semi-finals, Flintoff was brought back for the tournament final against Warwickshire. He only bowled 2 overs, but walked to the crease with 30 needed off 13 balls. Two consecutive sixes off Oliver Hannon-Dalby in the penultimate over showed some of the old magic, but he lost the strike at the end and could only watch as Stephen Parry could only manage a single when Lancashire needed 6 off the last ball; Flintoff finished unbeaten on 20 from 8 balls. He had only played 3 matches in the tournament, but Brisbane Heat were sufficiently impressed by what they’d seen to sign him for the 2014-15 Big Bash League season, so he may continue to entertain his fans for a little while longer.

Peter Willey (1949)

A useful if unexceptional batsman, Willey’s finest hour came at the Oval in 1980, when he arrived at the wicket with England 67 for 6 in their second innings and soon found himself being joined by Bob Willis at 92 for 9. Staring defeat in the face, Willey scored most of the runs while Willis hung on grimly at the other end, and by the time Willey reached his century 3 hours later, the partnership was worth 117 and the match was safe. Although Willey faced more than his share of Michael Holding’s bowling in that innings, neither Brian Johnston nor any other commentator actually uttered the line “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey” on air — but he still managed to delight fans of wordplay on another occasion, at Perth in 1979 when he contributed to the dismissal “Lillee c Willey b Dilley” — taking the catch off a more traditional wooden bat, rather than the aluminium one with which Lillee had experimented in the first innings.

After his retirement, he became a much-respected umpire, and the only man to be directly involved in 2 Tests which were won by the team following on — as a player at Headingley in 1981 (when his second innings dismissal, what he later called a “stupid shot” in hitting Lillee straight to third man, brought Ian Botham to the crease) and umpire at Kolkata twenty years later — recalling that he wasn’t required to answer a single appeal throughout the fourth day, as Laxman and Dravid ground Australia into the dust. When the International Cricket Council (ICC) set up the Elite Panel of umpires Willey was an automatic choice, but he foresaw the amount of travelling involved and declined his invitation.

Ravindra Jadeja (1988)

Jadeja’s performances at the 2009 World T20 tournament earned him a cult following like no other: his slow scoring was widely blamed for the 3-run defeat to England which eliminated the reigning champions from the tournament (overlooking his useful figures of 2 for 26 earlier in the match), he was booed at the start of the following match against South Africa and became the butt of internet jokes afterwards; his Wikipedia article had to be locked after one ‘fan’ edited it to call him ‘a philanthropist, Nobel prize winner and the nearest human to being God’.

The jokes continued even as ‘Sir’ Jadeja’s performances improved: he began to make some useful runs in ODIs and, although his bowling lacked penetration at times, he did take a five-for against West Indies in the Champions Trophy. Called up to the Test team mainly on the grounds of 3 triple centuries in the Ranji Trophy — the first Indian to score 3 in First-Class matches — he did better with the ball than the bat, failing to reach 50 in 5 matches but taking 27 wickets at an average of under 20.

He showed a useful knack for dismissing the opposition’s best batsman — claiming Kevin Pietersen in both innings of his debut, then picking up Michael Clarke’s scalp 5 times in 6 innings — but was dropped for the home series against West Indies in November 2013.

Recalled to tour South Africa, he took 6 for 138 at Durban, including 5 of the top 6 in the order, while the rest of the attack took 3 for 344 between them. He followed that by flopping in New Zealand, with 3 wickets in the series at an average of 85 as Brendon McCullum made hay.

In the 2014 series in England, Jadeja made more headlines for what he did off the field than on it: an altercation with James Anderson in the Trent Bridge pavilion led to India laying a charge of a level 3 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct against Anderson for allegedly pushing Jadeja, and England retaliating with a level 2 charge against Jadeja, claiming that he had approached Anderson in a threatening manner. “Pushgate”, as it was soon dubbed, dominated the headlines, relegating the cricket itself to subsidiary paragraphs. Jadeja’s hearing was held first, and David Boon, the match referee, initially found him not guilty of the Level 2 charge but guilty of a lesser Level 1 charge. India submitted an appeal, which was heard by the commissioner Gordon Lewis at the same time as Anderson’s case. At the hearing, the two sides presented vastly different versions of events; the corridor in which the confrontation took place was not covered by CCTV, and the one witness who appeared to be neutral — David Doyle, a pavilion steward — had only had a partial view of the incident; Lewis found himself unable to determine who was telling the truth, and in the absence of conclusive evidence against either player, was compelled to declare both of them not guilty of any level of charge. In between the incident itself and the hearing, Jadeja had finally made an impact on the field — hitting 68 off 57 balls, his maiden Test fifty, to help set England 319 to win at Lord’s. After Ishant Sharma had done most of the damage, Jadeja had the last laugh with a direct hit run out to send back Anderson and seal a 95 run victory, India’s first Test win overseas in fifteen attempts. He made little impact in the third and fourth Tests — save for aiding Alastair Cook’s return to form by dropping him early on in the innings of 95 which broke his barren run — and was left out of the side for the fifth. He struck better form in the ODI series, taking 4 for 28 to skittle England at Cardiff, although his 68-ball 87 at Headingley was not enough to prevent the hosts snatching a consolation victory after the series had already been lost.

Whatever ‘Sir’ Jadeja may achieve in the rest of his career, his fans can revel in the knowledge that he has already claimed two major records — as the first Indian to score 3 First-Class triple centuries, and only the second batsman of any nationality (after Frank Worrell) to be involved in two partnerships of over 500 in First-Class matches: 539 for the third wicket with Sagar Jogiyani, and an unbeaten 520 for the fifth (a world record for that wicket) with Cheteshwar Pujara.

George Street (1889)

After making his debut for Sussex in 1909, Street had cemented his place as the county’s first-choice keeper before the outbreak of war. When the County Championship resumed, he built up a reputation as one of the most accomplished glovemen in the country, and earned himself a call-up for the 1922-23 tour of South Africa.

George Brown was preferred for the first 2 Tests, but Street was picked for the third; in the days when wicketkeepers were not expected to be able to bat, he went in at number 10 in the first innings and scored 4. He didn’t put in his greatest performance behind the stumps, conceding fifteen byes, but did stump Buster Nupen to end the home team’s first innings. After a day’s play had been lost to rain, there remained a few meaningless overs for England to bat out before the inevitable draw was reached, and in a sign that they weren’t taking it too seriously, Street was promoted to open; he finished unbeaten on 7.

Brown was recalled for the remainder of the series, but Street worked his way back into the reckoning with an outstanding 1923 season, finishing it with 97 dismissals — by some distance the highest total of any keeper that year. He never got the chance: he was killed in a motorcycle accident a few days before the start of the 1924 season, aged only 34.

RP Singh (1985)

After picking two different players named Robin Singh for 1 Test each in 1998-99, fortunately India left long enough before picking another Singh with the same initial to avoid any further confusion. Having made his mark at the under 19 World Cup in 2004, Rudra Pratap Singh (there was another Indian cricketer by exactly the same name) made it into the senior team for an ODI against Zimbabwe a year later, and started promisingly with 2 wickets in his second over before being “super-subbed” to save him having to bat.

He blew hot and cold over his next few series: 8 wickets in 3 matches against Sri Lanka but only 1 in 4 against South Africa, 8 in 3 against Pakistan but 0 in 3 against England. Nevertheless, the selectors had seen enough to introduce him to Test cricket the following year; he was the pick of the bowlers with 4 for 89 as Pakistan ran up 588 on the flattest of flat pitches at Faisalabad — enough to earn him the match award.

Test cricket did not prove to be his forte, though: he took at least 1 wicket in each of the first 20 innings in which he bowled, but a five-for at Lord’s in 2007 was the only highlight and his sequence came to an abrupt end with a return of nought for 235 from 2 Tests against South Africa in 2008.

He was recalled for the last match of India’s disastrous 2011 series in England — thanks not to any effort of his own, but to the injuries to Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar which left the visitors scraping the barrel to find any fit bowlers. He hadn’t played a First-Class match for six months, and the rust showed — with figures of nought for 118 in an innings defeat, he slipped out of the reckoning again.

His ODI record was somewhat better, with an average in the low 30s compared to a Test figure in the low 40s, but he found his niche in the shortest format of the game. A series of consistent performances helped India to the inaugural World T20 in 2007 — in the group match against South Africa he dismissed Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith in his first over to finish with 4 for 13, and in the final he pegged back Pakistan’s chase by dismissing Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal cheaply, en route to figures of 3 for 26.

In the 2009 tournament he bowled tidily against England, but 1 for 21 off 2 overs against South Africa was considered bad enough for him not to be picked in the format again. He still plays for Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (playing for Deccan Chargers, he had won the Purple Cap in 2009), but at the age of only 29 his chances of an international recall appear long gone.

Dewald Pretorius (1977)

Few players can have reached Test level from such humble beginnings as Pretorius, who was raised in an orphanage; few, too, can have been left such illustrious footsteps in which to follow. While Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini operating together there seemed to be no space in South Africa’s bowling line-up, but in the early stages of their crushing defeat to Australia at Johannesburg in 2002, Donald limped off the field with a hamstring injury and was forced to accept that his career was over.

After some decent performances at domestic level, Pretorius got the nod for the following match at Cape Town. It wasn’t a happy debut: he was taken off after conceding 72 from 11 overs in the first innings, and although he did slightly better in the second, picking up the wicket of Justin Langer, it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when he was dropped.

After a spell with Durham at the start of the 2003 season he was recalled to the Test team — and did a little better this time, with 4 top-order wickets in England’s first innings at Edgbaston. It didn’t last, though: his captain showed scant confidence in him at Lord’s, holding him back to third change in both innings and giving him a total of 7 overs in the match. He was dropped for the third Test of the series at Trent Bridge, but recalled at Headingley — where match figures of 1 for 127 signalled the end of his Test career.

Zoe Goss (1968)

Goss’s record in the women’s game was notable — more than 1,000 Women’s ODI runs at an average a shade under 30, 64 wickets at under 20 and two World Cup winners’ medals- but she will forever be remembered for a performance in a 12-a side match she played alongside 23 men.

In 1994 an exhibition match was held between a Bradman XI and World XI, featuring a host of stars coming out of retirement for one more crack at each other (Bob Simpson, Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson for the home team; Sunil Gavaskar, David Gower, Joel Garner and Michael Holding for the World team), one current Test player in Brian Lara, a few celebrities — and Goss. Going in at No. 6, she made 29 before being stumped by Jeff Dujon off Lara’s occasional leg-spin. No one reached 50 in the innings, but Greg Ritchie and David Hookes made forties while Abdul Qadir picked up 4 wickets and the actor Ernie Dingo 3.

Chasing the home team’s total of 269, the World XI had struggled to 130 for 3 in the 31st over, in part due to an uncharacteristically slow innings from Lara; attempting to increase the run rate, he came down the wicket to drive Goss. Steve Rixon took the ball cleanly and whipped the bails off — and Lara achieved the unusual distinction of being given out twice off the same ball, as the square leg umpire raised his finger for the stumping and his counterpart at the bowler’s end upheld the appeal for caught behind (which, according to the Laws, took precedence). Lara was fresh from his dual feats of 375 and 501 not out.

Graeme Pollock did his best to keep the scoreboard moving, but Goss struck again when Dujon chased a wide one and hit it straight to Lillee in the covers: she had dismissed both the players who had been involved in her own dismissal — but scored more than either of them. Pollock rolled back the years (he was 59 at the time) to score 89 off 71 balls and Qadir kept the chase going after his dismissal, but he couldn’t quite take the World XI over the line and Bradman’s team won by 1 run.

Final XI:
Cyril Washbrook, Warren Bardsley (c), Frank Hayes, Sean Ervine, Andrew Flintoff, Peter Willey, Ravindra Jadeja, George Street (wk), RP Singh, Dewald Pretorius, Zoe Goss.

(Michael Jones’s writing focuses on cricket history and statistics, with occasional forays into the contemporary game)