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I grew up watching some of the players on this list while others continue to endure through the history of the game but who are the best England cricketers of all time?
Best England Cricketers of All Time
1. Jack Hobbs
Much of these results are based on ICC rankings which can be backdated to cover players of the past. In the case of Sir Jack Hobbs, he dominated English batting over a long test career which lasted from 1908 to 1930.
An opening bat, Hobbs has set some test match cricket and first class records which may never be beaten. Firstly, he is the oldest man to ever score a test hundred and his 142 against Australia at the MCG came at the age of 46.
He also scored more first class runs than anyone else, retiring with a total of 61,760 which is unlikely to ever be eclipsed. Back in the test match arena, Jack Hobbs made 5410 runs from 102 innings with an average of 56.94, 15 centuries and a best of 211.
2. Len Hutton
Sir Len Hutton also holds an English test record and, while it may not be unbeatable, few batsmen have come close. Against Australia at The Oval in 1938, he made 364 which remains the highest score by an Englishman in a test match.
This was also a world record until Garry Sobers subsequently overtook it. That 364 was the highlight but it merely underlines what a brilliant player Hutton was. In 79 tests and 138 innings, he scored 6971 runs with 19 centuries.
There is little to choose between this record and that of Jack Hobbs but Hutton’s average of 56.67 is marginally lower so I’ve put him in second place.
3. Ian Botham
I can vividly remember Botham’s Ashes: That incredible series of 1981 when England came back from a hopeless position to win the Urn. There were other notable contributions but it was Botham who dragged the English team back from the brink with a brilliant innings of 149 at Headingley.
‘Beefy’ had already made an impression on the game, taking five wickets in an innings in his first test back in 1977 and he is undoubtedly the best all-rounder that England has ever had. When he finished his career in 1992, Ian Botham had made 14 test centuries with the bat with a best of 208. His tally of 383 wickets was a record at that time and he returned impressive best bowling figures of 8/34.
4. Alastair Cook
He is England’s highest run scorer in test match cricket so, naturally we’re going to include Sir Alastair Cook on this list. He made a century on debut against India, and English supporters knew right then that the selectors had found a special talent.
From that 2006 debut to his retirement in 2018, Cook had 12,272 test runs scored (having the 5th most runs in test cricket) with an average of 46.95 and a best score of 294 among an impressive total of 33 centuries. The man known as ‘Chef’ liked to produce big, ‘daddy hundreds’ and no fewer than five of those tons were turned into double centuries.
Alastair Cook was a run machine and he’s been so hard to replace since scoring yet another hundred in his final test against India, while also becoming England’s longest serving captain in history.
5. Fred Trueman
A competitive and hostile fast bowler, England’s Fred Trueman was the first man to claim 300 test wickets and his final tally of 307 was a record that stood for some time. An abrasive character, he really should have played test cricket in no less than 67 matches and that wickets total would have been much higher.
Among those 307 wickets is a best return of 8/31 while he claimed ten wickets in a match in two consecutive tests. Along with his Lancashire County rival Brian Statham, Fred Trueman formed a fearsome partnership and it’s a shame that test cricket didn’t see more of him.
6. Kevin Pietersen
He may split opinion at times but there is no doubt that Kevin Pietersen was one of the most gifted batsmen that England had ever seen. Having completed a qualification period, he made his debut against Australia in 2005 and played a major role as his side reclaimed the Ashes for the first time in 18 years.
KP scored a match-saving 158 at The Oval in that series and he would come to England’s rescue on many more occasions. He is another player whose test career ended prematurely but he’d certainly achieved much in his 104 tests. That 158 in 2005 was one of 23 centuries for Kevin Pietersen. In total he scored 8181 test runs at an average of 47.28.
7. WG Grace
Known as the Doctor, William Gilbert Grace is widely regarded as the best player of his era but how good was he? He made his test debut way back in 1880 and these were very different times but it’s fair to say that he was the most dominant player of the 19th century.
In first class cricket, Grace was the first to make over 100 centuries and he would finish with more than 54,000 runs. His test returns are more modest compared to his achievements in county cricket but he did make over 1000 runs in international cricket.
8. Wally Hammond
Wally Hammond played in the same era as Hobbs and Hutton and he can often be overlooked as a result. He was, however, one of the most prolific English batsmen of all time and he deserves to be recognised here.
Against New Zealand in 1933, he once scored 295 runs in a day which is a record for an Englishman and is second only to Don Bradman in the world rankings. In 85 tests, he averaged 58.45 which is better than Hammond or Hobbs. His 7249 runs included 22 hundreds and an unbeaten best of 336.
9. James Anderson
England’s leading wicket taker slots in at number nine and James Anderson’s record is another that may never be beaten. Following the Ashes series of 2021/22, the England bowler had taken 640 test wickets which is the most for any seamer all over the world – although many consider him a potent swing bowler too.
Anderson had been inexplicably left out of England’s subsequent tour to the West Indies but we must hope that this isn’t the end. He has time to add to that tally which includes best figures in a match of 7/42.
10. Peter May
Like Wally Hammond, Peter May is a player who can often be overlooked but his batting statistics show that he merits a place on this list. May was a fine batsman and he also has a strong record as captain, winning 20 of his 41 matches.
He was the dominant English batter of the 1950s, scoring 4537 runs in 106 innings with 13 hundreds and a best of 285.