The all-time XI for all time: Australia

The all-time XI for Australia would capture any audience’s attention whether with bat or ball.

The team will be presented in batting order, and a reminder that one player is chosen from each of the following eras: 1877-99, 1900-19, 1920-29, 1930-49, 1950-59, 1960-69, 1970-79, 1980-89, 1990-99, 2000-09 and 2010-19.

Victor Trumper (1900-19)

43 Tests, 2883 runs at 39.49, eight wickets at 39.62

When Victor Trumper played his first test in 1899, the great William Gilbert Grace presented him with a bat inscribed with the words ‘from the present champion to the future champion’. Trumper certainly lived up to the billing, thrilling crowds with dashing strokeplay and being capable of knuckling down on the most difficult of wickets when the occasion suited.

In the wet summer of 1902, Trumper became the first player to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test, his 104 at Old Trafford setting up a thrilling win. His finest innings may have been the 74 out of 122 made on a severely wet pitch, showing his mastery of all conditions. Trumper was never one for huge scores, often donating his wicket if he felt he had scored enough in order to give his chums a hit, but the manner of his play was such that he was long celebrated as the pre-eminent Australian batsman of the time.

His career ended in 1912 when he was one of Australian cricket’s ‘big six’ that boycotted the tour of England. George Beldam’s famous photograph of Trumper leaping out to drive is one of the most famous cricketing images. Sadly, Trumper suffered from ill health towards the end of his career and passed away at the age of only 37 from Bright’s disease in 1915.

Honourable mentions (1900-19)

Clem Hill: 38 Tests, 2629 runs at 38.66.

Warwick Armstrong: 40 Tests, 2247 runs at 33.56, 70 wickets at 35.81.

cricket australia victor trumper

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Bob Simpson (1960-69)

46 Tests, 3995 runs at 51.21, 60 wickets at 39.20

By the time Bob Simpson ascended to the captaincy of Australia, he had played 22 Tests without yet raising the bat for a century. By the time he did reach three figures, he made it count – continuing on to 311 at Old Trafford in 1964. As a disciplined opening batter who preferred to graft singles than take risks, Simpson formed a strong partnership with Bill Lawry throughout the decade, including a then record 1381 runs in the 1964 calendar year.

Following his annus mirabilis, he consistently averaged around 50 in each series he played in before his first retirement in 1967-68. A useful bowler and slip fielder par excellence, Simpson held the Australian Test record for catches until he was surpassed by Greg Chappell, and he still has the highest average of catches per innings of any Australian who’s played ten or more Tests.

Ten years after retirement he returned to the fray in two series, against India and the West Indies, as an experienced head leading a team gutted by World Series Cricket before being appointed coach and working with Allan Border to lift Australia to the levels of success the team was fully capable of.

Honourable mentions (1960-69)

Bill Lawry: 58 Tests, 4717 runs at 49.65.

Doug Walters: 21 Tests, 1992 runs at 66.40, 11 wickets at 39.27.

Graham McKenzie: 54 Tests, 238 wickets at 27.91.

Bob Simpson

(Photo by Don Morley/Allport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

Don Bradman (1930-49)

48 Tests, 6528 runs at 103.61, two wickets at 36.00

The raw numbers speak for themselves, as they always have and always will, for Don Bradman. This era encompasses his entire career but for his debut series in 1928-29 – such a sustained run of run-making has never been seen before or since. A voracious appetite for batting and a knack for finding gaps and running hard were only the start of Bradman’s success, and he only improved as captain.

Despite nearly passing away from appendicitis and peritonitis in 1934 after innings of 304 at Leeds and 244 at the Oval, Bradman recuperated and led the only side to come from 2-0 down in a series to win it 3-2. His own innings of 270, 212 and 169 in successive Tests contributed in no small part. Indeed his 270 in the third Test of the series was selected by Wisden as the greatest Test innings ever.

After the Second World War, Bradman initially did not wish to return to the field but was persuaded to do so for the benefit of the nation. After a controversial non-catch on 28 in his first Test back, he settled into his run-making groove once more and led the Invincible Ashes tourists of 1948 up to his final innings duck.

The name Bradman will forever be lore in Australian cricket, as evidenced by the importance of Steve Smith passing Bradman’s milestone 29 centuries in the Sydney Test just passed.

Honourable mentions (1930-49)

Stan McCabe: 39 Tests, 2748 runs at 48.21, 36 wickets at 42.86.

Clarrie Grimmett: 28 Tests, 169 wickets at 21.95.

Bill O’Reilly: 27 Tests, 144 wickets at 22.59.

Don Bradman batting

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Steve Smith (2010-19)

72 Tests, 7164 runs at 62.84, 17 wickets at 56.47

It’s incredible to think now, watching Steve Smith score runs for fun, that he was initially drafted into the Australian side as the latest attempt at finding an heir apparent for Shane Warne. He played some useful innings at first but struggled to cement his place in the team as he refined his technique during a two-year absence.

Smith’s first century was at the Oval in 2013, and he proceeded to gorge himself on bowlers the world over, scoring a century in every match of the 2014-15 series against India and centuries in the West Indies, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka in a 14-month span after being appointed to replace Michael Clarke as captain. There was also the epic 239 in Perth in 2017.

This led to the sandpaper scandal in South Africa, but Smith returned triumphantly during the 2019 Ashes, scoring a remarkable 774 runs and continuing in the same vein well into the 2020s.

Honourable mentions (2010-19)

David Warner: 83 Tests, 7088 runs at 48.21.

Nathan Lyon: 95 Tests, 380 wickets at 32.11.

Mitchell Starc: 56 Tests, 340 wickets at 27.08.

Steve Smith (Photo by Getty Images).

(Photo by Getty Images).

Allan Border (captain) (1980-89)

97 Tests, 7386 runs at 55.11, 21 wickets at 35.14

By the time Allan Border was unceremoniously deposited into the captaincy role of the Australian Test team, he had already ascended to one of the most dependable players to don the baggy green. In 1980 he scored 150 not out and 153 in one Test against Pakistan, becoming the only player to score 150 in each innings. A master of the rearguard, his most famous efforts were the futile 62 not out in Melbourne in 1982, when Australia lost by three runs, and a gritty double of 98 not out and 100 not out to save the first Test against West Indies in Port of Spain in 1984.

Leading a team at their lowest ebb for a century, Border put Australia on his back along with coach Bob Simpson and inspired the triumphs of the 1987 World Cup and 1989 Ashes. His left arm orthodox spin was also good enough to bamboozle the West Indies with 11-96 inspiring a win at Sydney in 1989. Despite going four years without a century into the 1990s, he still averaged 44.95 in this period and eventually retired after touring South Africa in 1994, just in time to take part in Queensland’s first Sheffield Shield victory.

Henourable mentions (1980-89)

Geoff Lawson: 46 Tests, 180 wickets at 30.56.

Dennis Lillee: 35 Tests, 171 wickets at 24.07.

Allan Border batting

(Adrian Murrell/Getty Images)

Adam Gilchrist (wicketkeeper) (2000-09)

91 Tests, 5130 runs at 46.63, 362 catches, 35 stumpings

Australia were already a very good Test side when Adam Gilchrist made his debut. His devastating hitting and fearless attitude ensured they took the step to become a great side. From his 81 on debut and matchwinning 149 not out in the following match, Gilchrist redefined the wicketkeeper role like few had for over a century, but this time in front of the stumps.

His first Ashes innings was 152 at better than a run a ball, while his brutal 204 not out against South Africa helped inflict that nation’s biggest loss. Gilchrist’s most famous innings may be his last century, walking out to bat in Perth on a pair and contemplating retirement, he thumped 102 not out off 59 balls, then the second fastest century in terms of balls faced.

As a wicketkeeper Gilchrist was dependable and skilled, whether standing back or up to the stumps to the likes of Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill, going head to head with Mark Boucher for the most dismissals as a wicketkeeper. He retired as the record holder until Boucher overtook him for good.

Honourable mentions (2000-09)

Matthew Hayden: 96 Tests, 8364 runs at 52.93.

Ricky Ponting: 107 Tests, 9458 runs at 58.38.

Shane Warne: 65 Tests, 1577 runs at 19.46, 357 wickets at 25.17.

Glenn McGrath: 66 Tests, 297 wickets at 20.53.

Geraint Jones of England looks on as Adam Gilchrist of Australia celebrates reaching his century during day three of the third Ashes Test Match between Australia and England at the WACA on December 16, 2006 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Keith Miller (1950-59)

37 Tests, 2080 runs at 34.66, 122 wickets at 23.59

Australia had a surfeit of all-round options in the 1950s, as evidenced by the honourable mentions section below. However, one name stands above them all and indeed above every all-rounder in Australian history: Keith Miller. Miller was a good enough footballer to represent St Kilda in 50 matches and play for Victoria in 1946. He first came to prominence as a cricketer in the Victory Tests of 1945 before making his Test debut in 1946. Able to attack the bowling from the first ball and bowl at any pace off any length of run up, he was charisma personified on and off the field.

Miller started the 1950s in appropriately controversial fashion, being omitted from the touring squad to South Africa, before being reinstated when Bill Johnston was injured in a car accident. In the Sydney Test of 1950 Miller scored 145 not out and took 4-37 in an innings win, while at Lord’s in 1956 he shouldered the attack when Pat Crawford broke down after five overs to take ten wickets in the only Australian Test victory of the tour.

Miller retired after returning home from that tour and had more than enough quotes from or about him to sum up the Miller mythos. Miller himself opined that Test match pressure is nothing compared to “a Messerschmitt up your arse”. Neville Cardus called him “an Australian in excelsis”. John Arlott said, “If I had my choice of a player to win a match off the last ball, whether it required a catch, a six or a wicket, I would pick only one player: Keith Ross Miller”.

Honourable mentions (1950-59)

Neil Harvey: 56 Tests, 4573 runs at 50.25.

Richie Benaud: 42 Tests, 1440 runs at 24.40, 165 wickets at 23.95.

Ray Lindwall: 42 Tests, 1041 runs at 20.01, 152 wickets at 24.25.

Alan Davidson: 27 Tests, 788runs at 23.87, 92 wickets at 20.50.

Keith Miller

(Photo by Topical Press/Getty Images)

Jack Gregory (1920-29)

24 Tests, 1146 runs at 36.96, 85 wickets at 31.15

A generation before Keith Miller, Jack Gregory held the standard as an aggressive all-rounder who could thump the ball and bowl devastating pace. Part of the Australian Imperial Forces side after the First World War ended, Gregory made his debut in the 1920-21 Ashes series, and besides averaging 73.66 with the bat and 24.17 with the ball, he held 15 catches, which is still the record for most in a series. Forming a fearsome fast bowling tandem with Ted McDonald, Gregory ripped the heart out of England’s 1921 Ashes campaign within half an hour of the first Test starting by sending back three English batsmen in a single over.

Following his Ashes heroics, he toured South Africa and scored the fastest Test century in terms of minutes, another record that has stood for over a century. Gregory’s powers waned towards the end of the decade, and he retired after a shoulder injury in 1928, his last match being the debut of Don Bradman.

Honourable mentions (1920-29)

Charlie Macartney: 14 Tests, 1252 runs at 69.55, 11 wickets at 32.36.

Arthur Mailey: 21 Tests, 99 wickets at 33.91.

Shane Warne (1990-99)

80 Tests, 1577 runs at 15.61, 351 wickets at 25.66

Much celebrated and much missed, watching Shane Warne bowl was an exercise in inevitability and fascination – you knew he would get the batter out but only he knew how. Coming onto the scene with a poor start of 1-150 against India, Warne’s first hint of stardom came when he bowled Australia to a thrilling win against Sri Lanka with three wickets in a handful of balls. Against the West Indies he took 7-52 to put the side on his back for the first time before the Gatting Ball reverberated around world cricket. A hat-trick in Melbourne in 1994, bowling Australia to a win in the 1996 World Cup semi-final and a litany of deceived batters later, Warne took his 300th wicket by forcing a topspinner through Jacques Kallis’s forward defensive.

A shoulder injury suffered after the 1997-98 India tour jeopardised Warne’s career, especially when he was dropped for the deciding Test of the 1998-99 West Indies tour after struggling to regain touch. However, another World Cup semi-final prompted the Warne magic to return, and he would go on to retire as the most successful bowler in Test cricket.

Honourable mentions (1990-99)

Mark Waugh: 99 Tests, 6371 runs at 41.64, 50 wickets at 39.68.

Steve Waugh: 89 Tests, 6213 runs at 53.41, 47 wickets at 29.23.

Ian Healy: 102 Tests, 3949 runs at 28.61, 327 catches, 27 stumpings.

Glenn McGrath: 58 Tests, 266 wickets at 22.87.

Shane Warne of Australia and team-mate Ricky Ponting celebrate

(Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

Dennis Lillee (1970-79)

35 Tests, 497 runs at 16.03, 184 wickets at 23.78

Mich like Shane Warne, Dennis Lillee had a career-threatening injury that took him out of the game for over a year. Unlike Warne, Lillee was still at the beginning of his career, having already made an impression with five wickets on debut, 24 wickets against the Rest of the World XI in 1971-72 and 31 wickets in the 1972 Ashes series. He recovered to build the iconic fast bowling pair of the 1970s with Jeff Thomson, and they captured the imagination of crowds the country over.

An indefatigable fast bowler with complete mastery of seam and swing, Lillee inspired the Centenary Test win with 11 wickets and at the same time was one of the prime movers in World Series Cricket, taking an extra 67 wickets in those matches. Never averse to controversy, Lillee closed out the 1970s by trialling an aluminium bat in the Perth Test of 1979. Continuing into the 1980s, Lillee retired as the record holder for Test wickets with 355, 95 of these being caught by his old partner in crime, Rod Marsh.

Honourable mentions (1970-79)

Greg Chappell: 54 Tests, 4398 runs at 52.98, 34 wickets at 42.29.

Rod Marsh: 55 Tests, 2471 runs at 31.27, 201 catches, eight stumpings.

Jeff Thomson: 34 Tests, 152 wickets at 25.60.

Dennis Lillee

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Charlie Turner (1877-99)

17 Tests, 323 runs at 11.53, 101 wickets at 16.53

Considered the finest Australian bowler of his time by those who played with or against him, Charlie Turner used clever variations of pace and could make the ball break back into the batter at speed, and he was given the sobriquet ‘Terror’ as a result. At his best on damp or drying wickets, his Test debut saw him take 6-15 as England slumped to 45 all out – still their lowest completed innings total. His partnership with John James Ferris defined the Australian side of the late 1880s and early 1890s, with Turner’s best match figures 12-87 in Sydney of 1888.

With Ferris settling in England and business commitments starting to take precedence, Turner became less effective, but he became the first Australian (and second overall) to reach 100 Test wickets, with 7-51 in his final match. He was also a good enough batter to score two first-class centuries, and he holds the sixth lowest Test bowling average of all time.

Honourable mentions (1877-99)

George Giffen: 31 Tests, 1238 runs at 23.35, 103 wickets at 27.09.

Jack Blackham: 35 Tests, 800 runs at 15.68, 37 catches, 24 stumpings.

Fred Spofforth: 18 Tests, 94 wickets at 18.41.

The last Test-playing nation to have been playing in the 19th century is next, and as South Africa missed two decades through apartheid, the time periods will be changed accordingly.

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