England Cricket Legends - Who Is The Ultimate Legend?

England Cricketers Hall of Fame - Who is The Ultimate England Cricket Legend?

On 6 September, 1880, WG Grace scored 152 in the first innings as England secured an emphatic victory over Australia at The Oval. It was the first Test match ever held on English soil, and Grace cemented his status as the first genuine cricketing superstar with a towering performance. England has yielded many more titans of the game during the ensuing 140 years, but who is the ultimate England cricket legend?

The Contenders

WG Grace

Grace is credited with turning cricket into a national institution. He displayed feats of tremendous brilliance for Gloucestershire and Marylebone Cricket Club, before shooting to superstardom with that performance in 1880. At the age of 18, he scored 224 not out for England, and left halfway through the match in order to win a hurdles championship at Crystal Palace. Grace was still opening for England aged 50, and his remarkable 44-year career saw him break all manner of records. He was notorious for moments of gamesmanship and controversy on the pitch, but his mastery of the game was irrefutable and his legacy was immense.

Sydney Barnes

Barnes is arguably the most devastating bowlers of all time. His combination of seam, spin, swing and pace amounted to sorcery of the highest order. In just 27 caps, Barnes claimed 24 five-wicket hauls. He took 34 wickets when England beat Australia in the 1911-12 Ashes, and a world record 49 wickets in his final Test series against South Africa. Barnes would routinely rip the most formidable batting line-ups in the world to shreds. No other bowler with at least 150 Test wickets comes close to matching his average of 16.43 runs, and he will always be considered an English cricket legend.

Sir Jack Hobbs

It is easy to see why Hobbs is the first name on the team sheet of Crincinfo's all-time World 11. His record of 199 first-class centuries still stands to this day, as does his record of 61,670 runs. Those stats are even more remarkable when you consider that the First World War caused cricket to be abandoned for four years, just when Hobbs hit his prime. He was also renowned for allowing himself to be removed after reaching a ton, as he wanted his teammates to enjoy a spell at the crease too. Hobbs was still hitting centuries at the age of 46, and contemporaries swore he was the greatest batsman in history. He is fondly referred to as The Master, and he became the first cricketer to be knighted.

Wally Hammond

Hammond was a phenomenal all-rounder. He averaged 58.45 across two decades for England, including 22 centuries. Wisden called him one of the four best batsmen in the history of cricket in its 1965 obituary. However, Hammond was by no means a one-trick pony. He was also one of the greatest slip fielders of all-time, and he was an above average fast-medium bowler too. Hammond could have achieved even more with the ball if he were not so reluctant to bowl, but his figures remain highly impressive.

Sir Len Hutton

England's first professional captain hit 6,971 runs for his country over the course of a remarkable 18-year career. He is the only other Englishman in Cricinfo's all-time World 11, alongside Hobbs, which is testament to the esteem in which he is held. Hutton cut an imposing figure at the crease and he would regularly delight fans with the brilliance and variety of his strokes. He achieved a great deal of success, despite suffering a terrible hand injury during a training session. He required several bone grafts, a process that resulted in his left arm ending up two inches shorter than his right. Yet he displayed tremendous strength of character to overcome the setback and emerge as a true legend of the game. His 364 against Australia in 1938 remains the highest Test score in England men's history. He also saw his career disrupted by a world war, but he still achieved an average of more than 55.

Fred Trueman

Trueman began his international career by taking three quick-fire wickets to reduce India to 0-4 at Headingley in 1952. He went on to take a superb hail of 307 wickets in just 67 Tests, at an average of 21 and a strike rate of 49. Trueman was the world's finest fast bowler in his pomp, but he continued to display ferocious pace even in the latter stages of his career. His efficiency with the ball remains unmatched, and he set a very high bar for future generations.

Sir Ian Botham

Beefy's exploits at Headingley in 1981 have passed into national folklore. He picked up six wickets in the first innings to keep his England team in touching distance against a rampant Australia, and then he smashed 149 off just 148 balls to lead them to victory. The 118 he managed against the Aussies at Old Trafford that year was also sensational, and his five-wicket haul for just a single run at Edgbaston was positively devastating. Botham regularly saved his finest performances for the Ashes, and he won five series in total, but he also showcased his marvellous range of skills when he put India to the sword with 13 wickets and a century in 1980. He became the first man to reach the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, and he regularly exhibited a mystical brilliance as he led an otherwise average England team to some remarkable victories against all odds.

James Anderson

Anderson is a wonder of longevity in the demanding pursuit of pace bowling. He has dismissed more batsmen than any other seamer in history during his long and exceptional career. He blends blistering pace with devilish swing, allowing him to regularly embarrass some of the world's most accomplished batsmen. Anderson has generally performed a lot better on home soil than overseas, but his record is extraordinary and he deserves a prime spot in the all-time pantheon of greats. He is still going strong at the age of 37, and he is regularly among the favourites to be England's top wicket-taker in the cricket odds, which is a testament to his phenomenal endurance levels.

Sir Alastair Cook

Cook holds the record for the most Tests, most runs and most centuries as an England player. He captained the team to several famous triumphs, and turned somewhat finite ability into sensational returns. He may not have been quite as natural at the crease as the likes of David Gower, Hobbs or Hutton, but Cook racked up an astonishing runs tally thanks to his composure, his patience and hunger. He was able to counter hostile conditions and flourish in the face of adversity thanks to his robust technique and adaptability, which explains his long list of triumphs.

Ben Stokes

Stokes is a true modern-day great. He delivered a magical showing in the 2019 World Cup final to seize victory from the jaws of defeat, and followed it up with an even more spine-tingling performance at Headingley in the Ashes.

His unbeaten 135 evoked Botham in his pomp, but to pull it off in such a pressured moment - with England colossal underdogs in the cricket spread betting - was genuinely astounding.

Lesser players would have wilted, but Stokes is made of stern stuff. It led him to be named the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World for 2019, and he still has many prime years ahead of him.

The attacking middle-order batsman holds the record for England's fastest ever Test double-century, and he is a superstar with both bat and ball. He has put his off-field problems behind him and emerged as a national hero thanks to his never-say-die attitude. Every time he takes to the field, fans expect something special to happen. Moeen Ali recently described Stokes as England's greatest all-rounder, ahead of Botham and Andrew Flintoff, which is high praise indeed.

Who Tops the England Legends Hall of Fame?

There is a compelling case to be made for any of these titans of English cricket. However, only one player can be named the ultimate England cricket legend, and that player has to be Botham.

The likes of Hobbs, Hutton and Hammond are worthy contenders, but Beefy's blend of exquisite skill and unrivalled self-belief made him England's greatest superhero. He was a whirlwind of destruction with the ball, a virtuoso in the slips and a masterful slogger.

One day Stokes may replace Botham as England's greatest ever player, but that will depend on whether he can maintain his extraordinary levels of performance over the next five years. Botham's 1981 Ashes campaign remains one of the greatest feats of sporting brilliance in English history, and it would take something special to knock him off his perch.

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