As part of Wisden’s 1990s in Review series, Wisden.com head of content Yas Rana, features editor Taha Hashim and managing editor Ben Gardner picked Wisden’s England Test team of the 1990s.
It was a tough decade for England in the longest format, with hammerings by Australia in particular a regular feature. However, there were moments of joy too, with some true England greats playing out large parts of their careers in the decade.
Here’s the XI the panel came up with.
Michael Atherton (c)
91 matches, 6,217 runs @ 38.37, 13 100s, HS: 185*
No batsman faced more balls in Test cricket in the 1990s than Michael Atherton. A prized English wicket for his dogged defensiveness, his finest hour – or 10 hours – came at Johannesburg in 1995, when his 492-ball 185* helped England bat almost two days to save a Test match.
45 matches, 4,176 runs @ 51.55, 12 100s, HS: 333
Though he only played a little over half the decade, Graham Gooch ended up third on the list of English run-scorers in the 1990s. He was one of very few players worldwide to average 50 in an era dominated by the ball, with his 333 against India at Lord’s still standing as the last Test triple by an Englishman.
93 matches, 6,407 runs @ 40.80, 12 100s, HS: 190
No Test batsman scored more runs in the Nineties than Alec Stewart. Though he kept almost as often as he played as a specialist bat, we’ve taken the gloves away from the Gaffer, since he averaged 12 runs per dismissal more without them. It’s our attempt to go some way towards righting a historic wrong.
45 matches, 2,918 runs @ 39.97, 8 100s, HS: 207
By rights, Nasser Hussain should be at No.3, where he averaged more than 50 in the Nineties, but as we’ve basically picked three openers, he slots in at No.4 instead. That’s where his 1997 Edgbaston double ton against Australia came, so we don’t feel too badly about it.
57 matches, 3,599 runs @ 39.11, 6 100s, HS: 138
His best years would come at the start of the 2000s – he averaged more than 50 in the 21st century compared to under 40 in the 20th – but Graham Thorpe more than earns his spot in this team. No Englishman scored more Ashes tons in the decade.
54 matches, 3,538 runs @ 42.62, 7 100s, HS: 175
Robin Smith averaged a stonking 69.87 at No.6 in the ‘90s, albeit from only ten Tests. A supreme player of fast bowling, ‘The Judge’ averaged 47 against West Indies in that decade, including three tons. This included 416 runs at 83 in a drawn 1991 series between the sides, with Smith’s first innings ton against Walsh, Ambrose, Patterson and Marshall the difference in the decider.
Jack Russell (wk)
47 matches, 1,489 runs @ 24.40, 1 100, HS: 124; 136 catches, 8 stumpings
In and out of the side as England toyed time and again with handing Alec Stewart the gloves, Jack Russell was still a regular presence in the Test side, and contributed handily in front of the stumps as well as being flawless behind them. The average is low, but he faced plenty of balls and didn’t give his wicket away willingly. Jo’burg is understandably the first that springs to mind, but a 238-ball 55 in Barbados, against Ambrose, Bishop, Marshall and Ezra Moseley, was just as good.
28 matches, 106 wickets @ 29.54, 7 five-fors, BBI: 7-46
No.8 by default, Andy Caddick took the second-most five-fors by an England bowler in the Nineties, including three in the Caribbean and two against Australia. His 5-42, keeping the Aussies to 104 in the fourth innings of the 1997 Oval Test, sealed a 19-run win that still stands as one of England’s finest Ashes triumphs.
34 matches, 135 wickets @ 29.07, 6 five-fors, BBI: 6-42
A skilful bowler as well as a wholehearted one, Darren Gough was England’s most effective wicket-taker in the ‘90s, with his strike-rate of 54.6 balls per dismissal the best of any Englishman with more than 60 wickets in the decade.
43 matches, 168 wickets @ 26.86, 13 five-fors, BBI: 8-53
A champion bowler and a workhorse rolled into one, Angus Fraser delivered brisk seam from an air-thinning height, and ended with the most wickets and the best average of any Englishman in the decade. He save his best for the biggest games too, with all but two of his five-fors coming against Australia, South Africa and West Indies. That included two eight-fors in the Caribbean, with 70 wickets against the Windies in the Nineties coming at just 23.70 a pop.
40 matches, 119 wickets @ 36.04, 5 five-fors, BBI: 7-47
OK, he might be pretty much the only spinner in contention – no other England twirler took more than 50 Test wickets in the decade – but Phil Tufnell was still a handy operator in the 1990s. His economy rate of 2.37 means he balances out this attack well, while there were two notable match-winning performances at The Oval: 6-25 against the West Indies in 1991, and 7-66 against Australia in 1997.
Wisden’s England Test team of the 1990s
- Michael Atherton (c)
- Graham Gooch
- Alec Stewart
- Nasser Hussain
- Graham Thorpe
- Robin Smith
- Jack Russell (wk)
- Andy Caddick
- Darren Gough
- Angus Fraser
- Phil Tufnell