England is where the game of cricket originated and then started becoming popular in more countries. This is also why cricket is popular predominantly in erstwhile English colonies.
England started playing Test cricket during the latter part of the 19th century, which means that they have been a Test-playing nation for around the last one and a half centuries. There have been many great cricketers who have played Test cricket for England, and we will try to choose the finest eleven from among them in this article:
1. Jack Hobbs
Hobbs was the first great opening batter to play Test cricket. He was often partnered by Herbert Sutcliffe and played his cricket during the early part of the 20th century. Hobbs had a great technique but could score runs quite fast with his attacking strokes.
Hobbs made 5410 runs in 61 Tests with a brilliant average of 56. The average looks even more formidable if we consider that he was an opening batter and played in the era of uncovered pitches without any helmet. However, his tally of 170 centuries made in first-class cricket – a record yet to be surpassed – makes him stand apart from his peers and descendants.
2. Sir Alastair Cook
Cook remains one of the few English cricketers to be knighted, which is not the only reason for having him on the team. He was a left-hander and also scored runs all over the globe. He is also the highest run-scorer for England in Test cricket with 12472 in 161 Tests at an average of 45.
Cook had a good technique and could also score runs fairly quickly for an opener. His performance against the old enemies of Australia was also commendable. However, Cook’s exploits against the Indian spinners on turning tracks make him stand out as a batsman.
3. Sir Len Hutton
Hutton was a part of the famous triumvirate of English batsmen whose surname started with an H after Hobbs, Sir Walter Hammond being the third. Hutton once held the record of the highest score by a batsman in an innings in Test cricket with his marathon knock of 364 against Australia at the Oval. His record was eclipsed by Sir Gary Sobers later, but Hutton still holds the record for the English batters.
Hutton was known for his grit and resolved and always put a price tag on his wicket. A typical Yorkshire man, Hutton also played his cricket hard on the ground but remained a gentleman off it. He made 6971 runs in 79 Tests for England at an average of 56.
4. Walter “Wally” Hammond (C)
Hammond was a very graceful player and another great English batter who plied his trade before the Second World War. In his Pomp, Hammond was often compared with the great Sir Don Bradman, which is reason enough to have him on the team.
Hammond’s stylish drives made him a delight to watch for cricket lovers worldwide. He made 7249 runs in 85 Tests at a brilliant average of 58 and has to be a lock for the greatest English team of all time. In addition, he was a decent bowler, too, and took 83 wickets at an average of 37. A towering personality on the field, Hammond will have the honor of leading this side.
5. Joe Root
Root is one of the finest English batsmen of the modern era and is almost sure to finish his career as the highest run-scorer for England in the longest cricket. At 31, he still has a few years of cricket left in him, and he will have further cemented his status as a great player by the end of his career.
Root is renowned for his ability to play his square drives, cover drives with elan, and remains a strong player off his legs. He has already amassed 10504 runs in 124 Tests at an average of 50 and can also bowl off-spinners at times to help the team’s cause.
6. Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen, a naturalized Brit, was born in South Africa but chose to play international cricket for England. The English selectors did not regret their decision to play Pietersen, as the latter made a slot in the English middle-order his own for almost a decade.
Pietersen was known for his audacious strokeplay and was very strong on the leg. He could play fast bowlers and spinners through the leg side after advancing down the pitch. His ability to hit big sixes also made him a crowd favorite. Pietersen made 8181 runs in 104 Tests at an average of 47, and the numbers could have improved had he not been as temperamental as he was and managed to control the off-field issues.
7. Sir Ian Botham
There have been very few cricketers like Botham in the game’s history. Immensely talented but also very moody and temperamental at times, Botham embodied the cavalier side of cricket. He was among the leading all-rounders of the game in the 1980s and remained a proven match-winner for England.
Botham’s heroics in the 1981 Ashes series immortalised him, but he also suffered a serious back injury towards the latter part of his career. His bowling suffered as a result of that, but he still finished with 383 wickets in 102 Tests at an average of 28, aside from scoring 5200 runs at 33.
8. Alan Knott
One of the most eccentric and athletic cricketers to have played for England, Knott remained one of the leading wicketkeepers in the world in the 1970s. He kept very well to the likes of Botham and Bob Willis and made acrobatic catches look easy.
Knott was also a decent batter in the lower middle order and came up with a few useful knocks in his career. Knott had 269 dismissals in 95 Tests and scored 4389 runs at an average of 92.
9. Derek Underwood
Underwood remains one of the finest Chinaman bowlers (Left-arm wrist spinners) to have adorned the game and comes into the side as the lone specialist spinner. He made life difficult for many great batters on sticky wickets, and opponents like Sunil Gavaskar rated him very highly.
Underwood’s ability to turn the ball did not make him lose control over line and length. This made him difficult to score off, too. He took 297 wickets in 86 Tests at a healthy average of 25. His strike rate at 73 was on the higher side, but we have to consider that he achieved those numbers playing most of his matches in England, where it is not often easy for the spinners to grip the ball.
10. Stuart Broad
Stuart Broad is yet another active player who makes the side by virtue of his all-round abilities. Stuart’s father, Chris, also played Test cricket for England, but the son’s incredible cricketing journey have eclipsed the father’s. Broad formed a great new-ball partnership with Jimmy Anderson, and the two have won many matches for England.
Broad is primarily a rhythm bowler who typically bowls himself into form. His ability to generate seam movement and height (6 feet 6 inches) make him a formidable proposition for any batter worldwide. He also remains one of the few bowlers to take 100 plus wickets at Lord’s. He has taken 566 wickets in 159 Tests at 27 and scored 3550 runs at 18, including a century, to showcase his talents as a lower-order batter.
11. Jimmy Anderson
One of the finest – if not the finest- swing bowlers to have played the game, Anderson was also the English player with the highest number of Test caps. Moreover, he is only behind Sachin Tendulkar in terms of the number of Tests played and also the highest wicket-taker among the pacers in the game’s history.
With a prodigious ability to swing the ball both ways, especially with the new ball, Anderson has been opening the bowling for England for almost the last two decades. He is still playing at 40 and has a stand named after him at Old Trafford, Manchester. However, Anderson has not been as successful away from home as he has been there. Still, his 667 wickets in 175 Tests at 26 and a strike rate of 56 make one’s jaws drop.