Monday, 29 August 2011

OutspokenRabbit's non-Test nations XI

Throughout the history of cricket, all of the test playing countries have had their share of very good and even great players who have played their part in the ebb and flow of relative dominance or stagnation over a period of time. A strong international player can improve a team, while one great individual has the ability to completely transform a side and vastly improve their chances of competing with the best in the world. Perhaps the best example of this was Richard Hadlee, whose talent for skittling sides single-handedly meant that New Zealand were a team capable of beating any other in world cricket on a given day during the 1980s.

One of the best bits of recent cricketing news was that the original plan to keep the 2015 World Cup a closed shop for the recognised ODI nations has been abandoned, with four spots in a 14-strong tournament retained for the likes of Ireland, who performed credibly last time out to score a shock victory over England and win two matches in total - this in addition to their efforts in 2007 where they reached the second stage while achieving three postive results in the competition. The Netherlands, Canada and Kenya have also had their fair share of World Cup moments, with all benefiting from the fine performances of talented individuals within their team. There may not have been a truly great player to hail from an associate nation, but several very good ones who would walk into several test sides have indeed emerged.

Here is this bunny's best eleven who have represented non-test nations at the World Cup or other forms of cricket. Note that some of these players may have later represented a major international cricket side either in Test, ODI or both forms of the game.

1 - John Davison

A journeyman of Australian cricket, Davison rose to prominence when he scored 111 in a 2003 World Cup match against the West Indies, reaching his hundred off only 67 deliveries. His power-hitting at the top of the order will be of vital importance to this team, a talent he exhibited on two further occasions against New Zealand in the 2003 and 2007 tournaments. Half-centuries off 25 and 23 balls respectively have the ability to shift the dynamics of a match in your side's favour somewhat rapidly, and if Davison gets in then the platform can be built for the huge total that is often needed to win a one day international in the modern era. He also contributes useful off-spin, taking 31 wickets in 27 ODIs, including three in that same match against the Kiwis in 2003 - Davison announced his retirement from international cricket after the 2011 tournament.

Here's that explosive century against the West Indies - without doubt his finest hour

2 - Ed Joyce

To compliment Davison's expansive but high-risk style of batting, we'll need a man at the other end who is capable of dropping anchor and manouevring the ball around the outfield. Joyce, a batsman with a long first class career behind him, provides our side with that much-needed stability. He has of course represented both Ireland and England at one-day level, contributing a match-winning knock of 107 in England's victory over Australia at the SCG in February 2007. He then made an excellent 86 in Ireland's narrow loss to the West Indies at the 2011 World Cup. There is a strong Irish presence in this team, but that should be no surprise given that they have been far and away the strongest associate nation in recent years. Openers with the calibre of Joyce are part of the reason why.

3 - Steve Tikolo

Tikolo was the star the Kenyan team for more than a decade - they in fact reached the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup, in which he was captain. Tikolo has 23 half-centuries and three tons in one day internationals, including several significant scores against test-playing nations. He made two fifties in the 1999 tournament against India and England, while frequently top-scoring for his side in losing efforts against stronger opposition. Tikolo also had a successful career with Border in South African domestic cricket and represented an African XI in a one-off match against a requisite Asian side. Like Davison, Tikolo called it a day after the 2011 World Cup, which was his fifth. Not usually an explosive striker of the ball, but another capable of keeping things ticking with wickets in hand for others to come in and accelerate the scoring. such as...

4 - Ryan Ten Doeschate

Whilst Ten Doeschate's ODI average of 67 is somewhat inflated by the calibre of opposition faced in ICC tournaments and what have you, his first class figure of 46.56, earned largely in English and South African domestic competition, stands up to much more serious scrutiny and is an impressive figure in itself. Moreover, it is not just the runs he makes but the rapid pace with which he can take the game away from the opposition that makes Ten Doeschate so dangerous. His 119 at the last World Cup against England in Nagpur came at more than a run a ball, giving his side a real opportunity of repeating the shock victory that they achieved in the 2009 T20 tournament (England scrambled to victory, just) - he had already shown his potency with both bat and ball in that game, blasting a rapid 22 not out then removing both of England's openers.

In a warm-up match against India befor the 2007 World Cup, Ten Doeschate took no fewer than five Indian wickets - including Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. As an all-round cricketer, he provides another dimension to this team, as he has shown for Essex, the Netherlands and in his selection for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL.

That 119 against England appears here -

5 - Eoin Morgan

Morgan's ODI average of 38.28 is pheomenal when one considers the nature of the modern game and the fact that nine of his innings playing for Ireland in their successful 2007 World Cup yielded just 91 runs. That this figure when playing for England is actually higher (three centuries to one in fewer matches against stronger opposition) illustrates how much he has matured as a cricketer in the last three years or so. Now a regular in the England test side that sits number one in the world, his ability to either push the ball into gaps or take the attack on make him both a versatile and effective batsman who is capable of adapting to the match situation. He's also an excellent player of spin bowling in particular.

6 - Kevin O'Brien

There's only one place to start with the Gloucestershire and Ireland all-rounder. O'Brien plundered 205 runs at an impressive average of 41 in the 2011 World Cup - of course much of the reason for this impressive statistic was his knock of 113 in a stand of 162 for the sixth wicket with Alex Cusack to inspire an unlikely run chase against England (the Irish had tottered at 111-5 before O'Brien, ably supported by Cusack's 47, turned the match on its head). Blessed with a natural eye, immense physical strength and the ability to time the ball expertly, he is a dangerous man in the middle order capable of knocking bowlers out of their rhythm and clearing the rope, as he did six times in that match. With Davison, Ten Doeschate and O'Brien in the top six, the ability of this side to score rapidly means that you cannot count them out in even the most unlikely run chase. Some England fans may not enjoy seeing this again, but I struggled to get too wound up about it at the time, since Ireland were full value for their win.

7 - Niall O'Brien (wicket-keeper)

As well as brother Kevin and captain William Porterfield, Niall is one of only three Irishmen to have passed 1,000 ODI runs. That he is batting at number seven in this side perhaps indicates the depth of talent above him, since he has been known to come in at two or three wickets down for his country, while also being a prolific pinch-hitting opener for Northamptonshire in limited overs cricket. His first class average of 34.26 for the county between 2007 and 2010 is, though unspectacular, still above average for a gloveman even in the modern era. Most famously, he made a vital 72 in Ireland's stunning three wicket victory against Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup - this ability to make runs when they count, allied to his tidy glovework, make O'Brien a more than useful addition to the team.

8 - Thomas Odoyo

A hard-hitting batsman who also delivers brisk medium-fast bowling, Odoyo earned the (perhaps slightly unfounded) nickname 'the Black Botham' in his native Kenya. He first came to prominence as an 18-year old in the 1996 World Cup, contributing with the bat as the West Indies (still a strong team back then) were stunningly beaten in a low-scoring match. He also made 32 and took 3 wickets in an impressive individual performance against Pakistan in the same year, before being another integral part of that semi-finals side of 2003. Odoyo is the only Kenyan to have passed both 2,000 ODI and 100 wickets in the ODI format, and provides balance to this team as a man capable of making useful runs down the order in addition to his role as the fourth seam bowler. That 1996 Kenyan upset of the Windies appears here:-

9 - Roland Lefebrve (captain)

The Netherlands' greatest ever player (although our number four is well on his way to surpassing him), Lefebrve was an accurate and economical bowler whose ability to tie batsmen down led to them dismissing themselves, either bored out by his medium pace or over-attacking when facing deliveries from elsewhere. In the middle overs of a match, with the opposition perhaps looking to accelerate the scoring, Lefebrve's knack of applying the handbrake may well prove decisive. He took five wickets in an innings on three occasions during his first class career for Somerset, Glamorgan and Canterbury in New Zealand, also contributing heavily to the Welsh county's Sunday League success in 1993.

Lefebrve holds the record for most ICC trophy wickets (71 at 11.64), along with some excellent individual performances in both English and Kiwi domestic cricket. His 6/53 off 33 overs against Auckland in the 1990/91 Shell Cup was a superb effort that proved that there was more to his game than simply tying down the man at the crease. However, it was his effectiveness in limited overs cricket for which he was most renowned, and saw most of his match-winning contributions. In the 1993 season in which Glamorgan also reached the semi-final of the NatWest trophy, Lefebrve produced phenomenal figures of 11-5-13-2 to effectively kill off Worcestershire's hopes in the last eight. Of the 215 overs he sent down in the shorter form that year, 55 were maidens.

He also has a first class century to his name, which is perhaps just as well as the last two men in this side are not exactly renowned for their batting. As a player with considerable experience at a high level (his county career would have carried on for a few more years but for injury) and a sound cricket brain, Lefebrve just edges out Steve Tikolo as captain.

10 - Ole Mortensen

A close second to Lefebrve in terms of ICC trophy wickets, Mortensen's 63 actually came at a better average of 10.41 - this included a one-man blitz of 7-19 for his native Denmark against the less than mighty Israel in 1994. 'Stan' as he predictably became known, also led the Derbyshire attack with Devon Malcolm during his long career in county cricket between 1983 and 1994. Although just short of absolute top pace, Mortensen was an awkward bowler against whom the batsman rarely had much time to think. His miserly economy rate of 2.60 across more than a decade was outstanding, and acted as the perfect foil for Malcolm's more devastating but expensive output.

Like Lefebrve, his accuracy with the ball also made him a potent weapon in limited overs cricket - Mortensen starred in the Derbyshire side which won the Benson and Hedges Cup in 1993. His own economy rate in the short form that year was 3.26 runs per over, which was highly impressive, even given the more prosaic nature of the sport back then. During his absolute peak of 1986-91, Mortensen was without doubt one of the best seam bowlers in the country - had he been eligible, he would no doubt have walked into the England side and in all likelihood performed with considerably more aptitude than some of the mediocrity that passed as their Test attack at the time.

As a batsman, Mortensen was limited, with a decent defence and nothing else, but he's in here as an opening bowler capable of removing top-order players at the highest level. A first class career average of 23.88 (this after an inevitable end-of-career dip) suggests he has the armoury to do it.

11 - Boyd Rankin

It was a successful World Cup in 2007 for both the Irish team and their strike bowler on a personal level. 12 wickets at 27 apiece was a fine effort, including a vital 3/32 in that famous victory against Pakistan. With his medium-fast bowling delivered from just back of a length, Rankin has also carved out a successful career in county cricket with Warwickshire - a first class bowling average of 27.30 is indeed a good return in the modern era at any serious level, and demonstrates an ability to do damage with the new ball. Injuries and inactivity contributed to a less successful World Cup in 2011, but he remains an operator capable of match-winning, if occasionally expensive performances. As with Mortensen, we are relying on Boyd for wickets not runs.

Honourable mentions - Gavin Hamilton, Bas Zuiderent, William Porterfield, James Brinkley

It would be interesting to consider how this side may fare against another 'all time' outfit from one of the weaker test-playing nations - of course such discussions are hypothetical, but they are what makes this aspect of competitive sport as compelling as it is. This bunny believes believe that against a requisite Zimbabwe or Bangladesh side (for example), this eleven chosen for 'Rest of the World' would stand a strong chance of victory, but then I would say that, yeah? It's all about opinions I suppose. Take care and I'll see you tomorrow...

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