Let’s pick a 1990s England XI. We’re not looking for a good team here; we’re not trying to pick a bad one either. We’re just trying to pick an England Test team that couldn’t be more Nineties if it tried.
A 1990s England team is not really about the stalwarts for the simple reason that picking players repeatedly is very much not what the Nineties was about for England.
The Nineties was about failing to ever establish a settled XI. So, as paradoxical as it is, we have to try and reflect that in our team.
There are exceptions.
Firstly, Mike Atherton made his Test debut in 1989 and retired in 2001. He was a central figure throughout the Nineties. He has to play.
Similarly, Alec Stewart played from 1990 to 2003. Sometimes he was an opener, sometimes he was a wicketkeeper and from time to time he was captain. (Even some of the Nineties regulars didn’t have settled roles.) Stewart has to play too.
Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash are as 1990s England as it’s possible to be. Brilliant, rubbish, dropped and recalled. They have to be in the side, if only so that we can drop them for the next game.
Beyond that, you’re spoilt for choice – particularly when it comes to seam bowlers who earned fewer than 10 caps. We reckon there were 14 of them.
Here’s the list.
- Neil Williams
- Steve Watkin
- Tim Munton
- Neil Mallender
- Paul Taylor
- Mark Ilott
- Martin McCague
- Martin Bicknell
- Joey Benjamin
- Peter Martin
- Simon Brown
- Chris Silverwood
- Mike Smith
- Ed Giddins
But we’re not picking any of these guys because there were seam bowlers who played slightly more often who we’re sure you’ll agree feel far more redolent of the age.
We’ll come back to that in a minute though. For now we’ve got some holes to fill further up the order.
Working on the assumption that Mark Lathwell doesn’t want to play, we’ve gone for Nick Knight as Atherton’s opening partner.
Knight’s case is a sly but strong one. We saw him loads during the 1990s because he played 100 one-day internationals – but cannily, he only played a handful of Tests. As we’ve already established, playing a handful of Tests is actually way more 1990s than playing a great many Tests.
At number five, we’ve picked Aftab Habib, who has always seemed the archetypal, ‘oh, I didn’t expect that,’ middle-order selection and you need at least one, ‘oh, I didn’t expect that,’ selection.
After Stewie, we’ve indulged in a couple of classic all-rounders: Mark Ealham and Ronnie Irani. We think it’s important to try and strengthen the batting, fail to do so, and succeed only in weakening the bowling.
We were keen to balance our attack with a left-armer – which just had to be Alan Mullally – and although you could argue we really should stick to fast-medium, we also wanted a fast bowler. We’ve gone for Devon Malcolm, largely on the strength of his batting.
We initially included Ian Salisbury in our team on the basis that it would have proven controversial, which is exactly what the inclusion of Salisbury always was. However, in the end we reversed our decision because the lure of Phil Tufnell was simply too great.
Tuffers’ inclusion means our XI has both an ostensibly long batting line-up and also a comically long tail. Plus you get his fielding.
Our 1990s-est England XI
- Nick Knight
Now that we’ve got a Nineties England XI and a Nineties Australia XI, there is of course only one possible course of action. We pit them against each other in a one-off exhibition Test – Sim Nineties: the 1990s-est Ashes.
Then we pit them against each other in a rematch Down Under.
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