Best Aussie Test XI of last 40 years: Allan Border, Greg Chappell, Michael Clarke headline middle order
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Career: 1970 to 1983
Highest score: 247 not out
Century on debut, century on retirement and plenty in between. Chappell was undoubtedly the premier batsman of his generation. Even though he was well established before our cut off date, his numbers are actually better post 1976. He scored 4233 runs — including three double centuries — at an average of 55. His useful medium pacers, strong captaincy and immaculate slips fielding add more ammunition to his candidacy. He took 47 wickets at a tick over 40, led Australia in 48 Tests and pouched 122 catches.
Highest score: 250
One of the most celebrated cricketers of his generation, as much for his feats on the field as his larrikin approach to life off it. A middle-order batsman never afraid to take on the bowlers no matter the position of the game, Walters brought up a century in a session three times in a session. Walters was the first batsman to score a double hundred and a hundred in the same Test when he followed up his first innings 242 with a 103 in the second innings of the Test against the West Indies at the SCG in 1969. A more than handy fast medium swing bowler, Walters captured 49 wickets at an average of 29 with a best effort of 5-66 against the West Indies in 1973. As a man of the people he was rewarded with a stand on the old SCG hill. “There will never be another like him,” Dennis Lillee said. “I never saw him throw a bat, never heard him talk badly of anyone. He was so cool. He could bat, too.”
Highest score: 205
Now here’s a career that spanned a lot of peaks and troughs. AB was given his shot during the World Series days, flourished and stuck around when the big guns came back. He then almost single-handedly guided Australia through turmoil and long periods of inadequacy before enjoying the fruits of his labour leading a side of immense quality. Border led Australia in a record 93 Tests, became the second player to reach 10,000 runs and took 156 catches, many — like great skippers before and after him — in the slips. He also took 39 Test wickets.
Highest score: 216
Maybe a surprise inclusion for some but his numbers definitely add up. Certainly more well know as an ODI dasher, but Jones was underappreciated at Test level, producing several memorable moments in a stop-start career. His 210 when violently ill in Chennai in 1986 is stuff of legend. And then there was his unbeaten 184 against England in 1987 at the SCG which inspired an unlikely win. For a three-year period from January 1987 through to January 1990 there was perhaps no better batsman in the world. He scored 1884 runs in that time at average nearly touching 60.
Tests: 168 Tests
Highest score: 200
In what should give the likes of Mitchell Marsh hope, Steve Waugh only broke through for his first Test century at his 42nd turn at bat. It must have been some relief because he followed it with another in the next Test. Waugh was thrust into the international limelight in 1985 at age 20 and struggled. But by the time he left almost 19 years later he was a legend. The embodiment of Aussie grit, defiant and passion, Waugh’s batting improved with maturity and he was still scoring centuries at age 37. Oh, and his captaincy record wasn’t bad either. He won 71 per cent of his 57 Tests in charge.
Tests: 168 Tests
Highest score: 257
Greatest run-scorer, most centuries, highest number of catches, equal most Test caps, astute skipper with outstanding record — Australian cricket is truly indebted to the 17-year Test contribution of Ponting. He burst onto the scene as a precocious 21-year-old in 1995 with 96 against Sri Lanka at the WACA but had to wait 12 months to really nail down a spot. And when he did he was simply unmoveable. He was a player for all conditions and was particularly effective in the Caribbean where he scored five centuries and averaged over 60.
Highest score: 165
Martyn got two starts in Test cricket. The first lasted a mere 18 months. He scored runs but not enough to satisfy Aussie selectors. Six years elapsed before he got another shot. It was one he didn’t relinquish until a bizarre retirement announcement in 2006. His accomplishments can get a little lost considering the wealth of talent around at the time but in a two-year period between 2002 and 2004 he was among the best batsmen in the world, scoring seven centuries.
Highest score: 195
Given his Test chance late on because of the strength of the Aussie team at the time, Mr Cricket didn’t waste any time making his mark. Thrust into the opening role, he scored two centuries in his first three Tests. Dropping down the order mattered little as the runs continued to flow. Such was his value to the Aussie set-up that it came as quite a shock when he eventually pulled stumps on his career even though he was approaching 38.
Highest score: 329 not out
Pup burst on to the scene in 2004 during a tour of India, the debutante winning comparisons with Mark Waugh as he smashed 151 on debut. Clarke, at the peak of his career, was ranked best Test batsman in the world and repeatedly propped up the Australian batting order as we moved on from the golden years of Hayden, Langer, Waugh et al. His career-high total of 329 not out in front of a jubilant SCG crowd cemented his place as one of the greatest middle order batsmen Australia has ever produced.
Career: 2010 — ongoing
Highest score: 215
The current skipper didn’t have such an auspicious start to his Test career. He showed glimpses of talent but was discarded after just five Tests. But didn’t he return with a vengeance? Picked for the 2013 tour of India, he scored 92 in Mohali and has hardly missed a beat since. In just over three years he has scored 15 Test centuries and risen to the No. 1 batsman in the world. Not bad for a player seen originally as one of many heir apparents to spin whiz Shane Warne.