Ashes Countdown: The All-Time Australia XI

Where to start? The beginning, as in all stories that really matter, was extremely tempting. Charles Bannerman could have been there because he made the first Test century in the first Test match and his 165no remains after 316 matches the highest by an Australian on debut against England.

Or Frederick Spofforth, the Demon, who reinvented fast bowling and would have been in that first match in 1877 but for his objecting to the selectors’ choice of wicketkeeper (a concept that might have caught on).

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They have been omitted partly because the Ashes were not born then, partly because their deeds have been overtaken. It would then have been easy merely to pick an XI from the 1948 squad which toured England and became known as The Invincibles. Or the 1920-21 team which inflicted the first whitewash. Or an XI from the recent bunch who were pre-eminent for so long.

But somehow the team had to represent the full panoply of Anglo-Australian cricket history. Otherwise spectators from the early years would refuse to buy tickets because they objected to all this creeping modernisation and those of more recent vintage would resist because they give not a fig for the past.

It seemed important to span generations as well as batting and bowling methods. So here goes, with the usual apologies to legions of great cricketers and splendid men. They and we know who they are.

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