The 5 Greatest English Cricketers of All Time

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James Anderson is of course England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker but who else joins him in our list of the Three Lions best ever.

James Anderson

Given England invented the game and has been playing it for well over a century, there are plenty of candidates for the accolade of greatest of all time.

Ask 100 people and expect 100 different answers, but here’s our top five cricketing superstars from England’s hall of fame.

Ian Botham (1977-92)

You couldn’t start with anyone else, could you?

Beefy, as he was known, the man who (almost) single-handedly turned around the 1981 Ashes series with the most startling string of all-round performances at the end of a summer which had begun with him being axed as England captain.

Botham’s Ashes, as that series became known, was simply the high watermark in a career, often controversial, always colourful, that captivated a cricket-mad nation.

There have been other top-class England all-rounders – there was only one IT Botham.

Jack Hobbs (1908-30)

England’s first true, technically gifted batsmen was Jack Hobbs, the son of a slater from a rundown part of Cambridge who would go on to be considered one of the greats.

You don’t get the sobriquet ‘The Master’ without good reason, that reason being that no one scored more first-class runs than the Surrey opener (61,760) or hit more first-class hundreds (199). But for the interruption of the Great War, who knows where those numbers would have gone?

At Test level he scored 5,410 runs at an average of almost 57 and remains, at 46 years and 82 days, the oldest player to score a Test hundred.

Len Hutton (1937-55)

Len Hutton’s career was also halted by the outbreak of war, in 1939, the England opener signing up just a few months after he had produced the highest knock in Test cricket, a 13-hour marathon 364 against Australia.

Incredibly, that innings was just his ninth in only his sixth Test and heralded a Test career in which he would score 6,971 runs at 56.67, featuring 19 hundreds.

He divided cricket opinions when he became England’s first professional captain of the 20th century – amateurs had always led the side – though leading his country to Ashes glory in 1953 placated everyone.

James Anderson (2003-22)

The seam bowler England simply can’t do without, who even now, at the grand age of 40, continues to take wickets at Test match level.

Five wickets on his Test debut against Zimbabwe back in 2003 were an indicator that this prodigious swinger of a ball might have a decent future, but few would have foreseen what has unfolded over two decades.

Anderson now has 667 Test wickets, making him third on the all-time list and first among pacemen – and he’s showing no sign of stopping yet.

Alastair Cook (2006-18)

No Englishman has scored more Test match runs than left-handed opener Alastair Cook, who eventually signed off with 12,472 to his name.

No Englishman has hit more centuries than Cook, either, the Essex run-gatherer also enjoying the distinction of scoring hundreds in his first and last Tests. He eventually finished with 33.

Cook also set the world record for the most Test caps in succession, an astonishing 159.

Steve Davies is an occasional contributor to the MansionBet Blog. He holds a keen interest in many sports, with Darts taking the first position.
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