The votes are in, the counting has been completed, and without further delay here is part one of who the voters of CW have decided are the 50 greatest cricketers of all time. I'll be counting down in blocks of ten until number 11, and then will reveal the top 10 one by one.
Douglas Jardine | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 2% of voters - highest ranking no.1
A man of iron will and uncompromising self-belief, Douglas Jardine did the impossible - he took an England team to Australia when Bradman was in his prime and he destroyed them. One of the outstanding English schoolboys and amateurs of his generation, he was given the captaincy of England in the lead up to the 1932/33 tour of Australia and identified the one factor that needed to be overcome - Bradman. Identifying him was one thing, stopping him quite another - yet Jardine did both. The manner of his conquest and controversy that erupted over it has been the subject of endless debate and tended to overshadow the triumph itself, yet the significance of his victory should never be underestimated. It was England's last Ashes win for 20 years.
His Test batting career had a glorious postscript. When England subsequently played West Indies, Constantine and Martindale subjected Jardine to their own ferocious "Bodyline" - Jardine neither flinched nor complained, and scored 127. A worthy man to open our 50.
Hedley Verity | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 5% of voters - highest ranking no.5
A left-arm spinner fit for comparison with any who have ever played the game, Hedley Verity's story is a tragic one. Nearly 2000 FC wickets at an average of less than 15 apiece places him in the very top echelon of bowlers in the history of County cricket, while his record at Test level (144 wickets at 24) in an era dominated by great batsmen is also superb. His defining moment, of course, was his epic 15-wicket haul to win the Lord's Test of 1934, England's last Ashes victory at the home of cricket until 2009.
Fatefully, he joined the British Army during WWII and in 1943 was injured and captured in Sicily, dying in a PoW camp on July 31. He was just 38.
George Lohmann | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 8% of voters - highest ranking no.13
Statistically the most extraordinary of all Test bowlers, George Lohmann's 18 Tests yielded 112 wickets at the scarcely believable average of 10.75. While it can be noted that he played in an era of low scoring, and that he feasted mightily on the minnows of South Africa, it should also be noted that even by comparison with his contemporaries he was nothing short of a wonder. A medium-pacer of remorseless accuracy and with the devastating ability to move the ball both ways, he was invariably considered by those unlucky enough to face him as the greatest bowler of his time.
Sadly, like Verity, Lohmann's story ended far too early. He died of Tuberculosis in 1901 at the age of just 36.
Joel Garner | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 11% of voters - highest ranking no.6
The most relentlessly accurate and economical of the famed West Indian pace battery of the 1970s and 1980s, watching Big Bird on TV from the comfort of the living room was a luxury that batsmen worldwide no doubt wished that they could indulge in more of as he delivered the ball from a towering height.
Rarely the fastest or most devastating member of the attack, he was nevertheless one of the most consistently effective and productive as shown by his fantastic Test record and his even better ODI one - Garner can lay fair claim to being arguably the greatest one-day bowler of all.
Allan Donald | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 13% of voters - highest ranking no.19
When South Africa made their welcome and long-awaited return to international cricket, there was one man in particular whose reputation had preceded him and who we all wanted to see - the bowler they called "White Lightning." A decade and more than 300 Test wickets later, he had left none of us disappointed. Genuinely fast, hostile and with a wonderful action, Allan Donald stood out as one of the greats even in an era filled with outstanding fast bowlers.
Perhaps slightly lower in the rankings than might have been expected, he remains immensely and deservedly respected in the cricketing world and has been in considerable demand as both coach and commentator since injuries forced his retirement.
Andrew Flintoff | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 5% of voters - highest ranking no.6
An England cult hero and very much a man for the big occasion, Andrew Flintoff's transformation from a talented but overweight trier into one of the most exciting and dynamic cricketers of his generation was a true success story of modern cricket. A fast-bowler, hard-hitting batsman and almost casually brilliant fieldsman, he was the worthy successor to Ian Botham that his country had waited so long for.
Freddie had his moments against just about everyone at one time or another, but it is for his Ashes heroics that he will always be most fondly remembered. In the epic series of 2005 Flintoff was the the decisive player with a string of magnificent all-round performances. By 2009 his powers had dimmed, but he still found the energy to destroy Australia at Lord's and bowed out of Test cricket on the highest possible note.
Jim Laker | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 11% of voters - highest ranking no.15
19/90. If Jim Laker had done nothing else in his entire career outside of that one match, at Old Trafford in 1956, he would still be a bona fide cricketing legend. And yet he did a lot else - so much else in fact that over his career he built up as strong a claim as anyone to be considered the greatest of all off-spinners. He suffered a number of early setbacks and took some time to become a fixture in the England side but once he was firmly established he went from strength to strength, and with Tony Lock he formed a brilliant partnership for both Surrey and England as both teams dominated their respective competitors in the 1950s.
But we must end where we began. 19/90. Will it ever be beaten? You can never say never...but you might as well.
Barry Richards | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 13% of voters - highest ranking no.14
What might have been... No one who saw Barry Richards play has ever been in any doubt whatsoever that he ranks among the most brilliantly gifted batsman ever to play the game - an irresistible combination of technical perfection and dashing flair. An opening batsman who could take an attack apart in the blink of an eye, he played just 4 Tests for South Africa - scoring two centuries and averaging 72 - before their isolation.
From then on he became something of a wandering bat for hire, showing off his genius in the domestic competitions of Australia (his 325 in a day against Lillee and co. remains one of the all time great batting exhibitions on Australian soil), England and South Africa as well as in "Tests" for the Rest of the World and in World Series Cricket. If only we could have seen what kind of achievements a full Test career might have brought for him.
Ray Lindwall | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 11% of voters - highest ranking no.11
The fast bowler's fast bowler. Ray Lindwall was truly one for the connoisseur, with a gloriously smooth action which the great Fred Trueman claimed was worthy of a Tchaikovsky symphony. Lindwall was coached and mentored by Bill O'Reilly, but it was another great bowler - Harold Larwood - who provided his early inspiration, having watched the great Englishman at close hand during the Bodyline series. Lindwall was the spearhead of Australia's post-war attack and formed with his great friend and drinking partner Keith Miller one of the most celebrated of all new-ball partnerships.
His career had many triumphs, but it was in England in 1948 that he was at his absolute zenith, a great series capped at the Oval with an extraordinary spell of 6/20 as England were routed for just 52. A shy and modest man, he later ran a florist with his wife for many years, but to this day he stands in the opinion of many to represent the pinnacle of the fast bowler's art.
Frederick Spofforth | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 13% of voters - highest ranking no.3
By far the greatest figure in the formative years of Australian cricket, Fred Spofforth in both manner and method was more than worthy of his sobriquet of The Demon. His average of 18 and strike rate of 44 are outstanding even by comparison with his contemporaries, and even these figures come with two caveats: first, they weren't padded with cheap wickets against South Africa; and second, they do not include his extraordinary match haul of 10/20 against a full strength MCC at Lord's in 1878 which for some reason was never designated an official Test.
Spofforth's greatest moment, however, was undoubtedly at the Oval in 1882 when his 14/90 won Australia an unlikely victory in the match which gave birth to the Ashes. For that alone, his place in cricket history is forever assured.
Ok...so I know that was a hell of a read, so if it's all too long and cumbersome for people to bother with then let me know and I'll shorten the remaining ones. I'd prefer not to though, as I'm really enjoying putting these together.
Numbers 40-31 will follow in the next 24 hours...