I would like to start this edition of Ryan Butler’s Sporting Lists with an apology. It has gone quiet on the blog front from Severn Sport recently and from me especially. We are all busy working and growing up as fine men (except Kelsey) however this shall kick off multiple posts over the coming fortnight so to turn it into a positive, you are going to get spoilt you lucky devils. And we start with an ambitious attempt by yours truly to dive into the world that is Test Cricket.
Cricket has never been more popular around the world than it is today, especially in England. Since the 2005 Ashes win fans have been attending more cricket matches than ever before. This has enabled grounds to rebuild, expand and cater to the needs of more bums on seats. In this modern era you would pinpoint that series win as vital in the expansion of the English game off and on the field. Since then England have been to the summit and back in terms of test rankings, they have broken voodoo’s in Australia and have amassed some monstrous scores against some of the best opposition cricket have ever produced.
So how do I go about making a list based on these achievements? I thought about the top three achievements but I just couldn’t narrow it down. Instead, the main list today is Ryan Butler’s top three unsung heroes of the last decade to have played test cricket for England. Simple enough? I think so, it is partly down to players I liked growing up, when I first got into cricket but also the fact that these players were pretty good. So the toss has been made and the players are coming out to the middle.
3) Matthew Hoggard – (2000-2008)
The Yorkshireman’s England career started with one day cricket, as it does for so many players but it also started with an indifference of form and extremes. In his first three years as an England player he was already being looked at as the potential lead bowler of an English test bowling attack. He did so during the 2001-02 tour of India as well as the series with New Zealand. However after being demolished in the 2002 winter Ashes tour.
Positively though in his early career he took 7/63 against New Zealand and went down in history as he took test cricket’s 34th hat-trick during the away tour in the West Indies. This culminated in Hoggard reaching number 4 in the test bowler rankings in 2006 as well as becoming England’s 6th all time wicket taker in test cricket, becoming the tenth England bowler to reach 200 wickets in the process.
That’s the statistics that put him in this list, but from a personal point of view Hoggard was apart of one of my favourite ever sporting memories. Winter 2006, third test at Perth. England are bowled out for 215, after the Aussies only managed to hit 244 in their first attempt. England know that they need some momentum to kick start their assault. It’s about 7am English time, a young Ryan Butler is sat in his Prospect School uniform, eating some toast and watching the players come out for Australia’s second innings. Matthew Hoggard is to open the bowling. He runs in, my brothers and I hold our breaths. It’s fast, it’s full it swings in and…..BOWLED HIM!!! Hoggard goes wild, I go wild, Langer is walking. Bowled first ball. England are in this, they really are. What a moment. What a memory. What a man. Matthew Hoggard, welcome to the list.
2) Paul Collingwood – (2003-2011)
Paul Collingwood rightfully takes his place on this list due to many reasons. One being longevity. Like Hoggard he played test cricket for 8 years, a long time for a sportsman. But what is different about the Durham lad is that he was and is one of the best total cricketers I’ve ever seen let alone the world. Even the likes of Jaques Kallis (arguably the best all-rounder of the modern era) pale in comparison to Collingwood due to his prowess in the field. I don’t want to take the tone down in anyway but that catch against Australia still makes me feel things I haven’t felt before or since. It stopped time. It stopped hearts. It was like watching a master craftsman at work. But not just that, the amount of times in both test cricket and one day, Paul Collingwood came in and quite frankly saved England was startling. Considering the Australian’s had labelled him and Ian Bell as undeserving of their honours following the 2005 Ashes, Collingwood went on to score over 1000 test runs in just the following year. As well as a double century in the 2007 series with the bitter rivals from down under. He scored 10 centuries for England between the years 2006 and 2010 and was a major player in laying the foundations for what would be a world beating England test cricketing side.
With a batting average of 42.44, Collingwood was a consistent player, you always knew that a big score was coming and that he was capable of doing so. He also took 15 test wickets with his part time medium pace, proving to be a valuable weapon and showing the importance of being competent in two of the three disciplines of test cricket.
So who could possibly be the top unsung hero of test cricket over the last decade? Well here is a clue, he didn’t feature over the whole decade and was in fact an established player in 2005. He made the bat look like a wand. I am sure that gives the game away.
1) Marcus Trescothick (2000-2006)
It actually startles me to learn that Trescothick only played test cricket for England for six years. Insane. His England career was cut short due to a stress related illness which is a shame for him, but a shame for England, because he was and is a top class player. His patience at the top of the order was marvellous, he was adaptable in the sense that he could wait and wait and wait and then bang fours all over the place. He had a second gear, he could change the tempo of the game when he wanted to. He had the ability and temperament to to score quick runs as well as carving out a big, slow innings. With the new partner in Andrew Strauss at the top order they formed a formidable partnership. And this was shown during the 2005 Ashes series win. Trescothick was the second highest runs scorer of the series (behind Kevin Pietersen) and it was those sorts of contributions which acted as the catalyst for England’s record win. A notch on his belt during that series came during the third test, where he became the fastest player to reach 5,000 test cricket runs, and broke more records by achieving the feat of scoring 1,000 in a calendar for the third year running. Exceptional statistics that back up his position on this list. One of English crickets biggest tragedies was losing this figure and opening batsman so prematurely.
And there we have it. Hoggard. Collingwood. Trescothick, three different players who for me are three of the heroes of modern English cricket. Overshadowed by the likes of Pietersen, Flintoff and Anderson, but these players will go down in history even will go down even fonder into Ryan Butler’s Sporting Lists.
Now for the quick list of this edition. How can I complement the list of unsung hereos? By simply listing three of England’s forgotten “future stars.” Players from whom so much was expected in test cricket, but achieved only a handful of caps.
3) Amjad Khan (Kent, 2008) – Played one test away to the West Indies. First Over, 3 no-balls. 9 runs and following Ryan Sidebottom’s return to fitness a place into cricket obscurity followed. Enough said.
2) Jon Lewis (Gloucestershire, 2006) – Selected for many a squad but was always 12th man. Played one test, scored 27 runs and took 3 wickets. My brother Ashley loved him. Jon Lewis everybody.
1) Sajid Mahmood (Lancashire, 2006) – Was selected due to four injuries to key bowlers. Made starts with early wickets but always faded out. He was publicly unhappy about being “underused” and following being a target for the Aussies in the 2006-07 Ashes was primarily used in One-day cricket. Had all the attributes, just didn’t use them. Simple.
And that’s lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed this morning session, taking an incite into the most memorable and easily forgettable England test players. I can’t wait before cricket calls my name again and makes it’s way into Ryan Butler’s Sporting Lists.
Over the next fortnight expect to see more footballing lists as well as a look at the colourful world of snooker.