I might be wrong on the dark age, it might have started earlier and ended later. It's funny, I first started watching cricket as an 8 year old in the 98/99 ashes series and thought Atherton was the worst play ever. Feels like McGrath got him out for a duck every other innnings. But I've watched a few series on youtube from earlier and he was actually pretty good. I also remember Ramprakash scoring a 60 every other innings, he was my favourite.
I can't make polls yet, but these are the names I think of when I think of the dark age.
There's the guys who all had a stint as captain and from what I saw, were probably the best(at least when you consider batting averages)
Then there were the fringe players who all seemingly dominated county but struggled at test level:
When Vaughn and Trescothick and later Pieterson came about it seemed the quality of the english batting was raised. Ashes 2001 was their last really bad series right?