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2000s in Review

Wisden’s England Test team of the 2000s: The wicketkeeping debate

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

On the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, host Yas Rana was joined by Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine editor Jo Harman, and Phil Walker, the WCM editor-in-chief, to pick Wisden’s England Test and ODI teams of the 2000s, as part of the 2000s in Review series.

While much of the England Test team of the 2000s picked itself, there was some contention over who should take the gloves. Phil wanted Geraint Jones, a key part of the ’05 Ashes-winning side, while Jo went with Matt Prior, who would end his career as one of the greatest keeper-batsmen of all time, statistically, and enjoyed an impressive start to his career in the 2000s.

However, it was someone else entirely that the trio settled on in the end, with Yas’ late suggestion of Alec Stewart winning out. Here’s how the debate unfolded:

PW: I went with Jones because he’s an indelible part of that Ashes story, but also, he was a fabulous player a year or two before that. He made a brilliant hundred in his second game against New Zealand. He was a part of the spirit of that side in that decade.

Jo, I imagine, has probably gone with Prior, which makes sense. And if I’d been a little bit more sensible, then I’d have probably landed on Prior as well. But Prior, to me, his golden period was 2010 onwards. I went with Jones, and there’s a romance element to it. I couldn’t really write [Andrew] Flintoff’s name down and Gilo’s [Ashely Giles] name at 8 without sticking Jones in the middle of it.

JH: Prior hadn’t completely nailed Test cricket yet, but he played 25 matches in this decade, averaging 42, with a couple of hundreds in there, including one on debut at Lord’s against the Windies.

So, while he hadn’t reached his peak, he still had a really good start to his Test career with the bat. It should be said, in this decade, he was not a good keeper. That certainly came later, so you can argue he doesn’t deserve to be there for his keeping skills, he was more a batsman-keeper at that stage.

YR: Stewart played the most Tests as keeper of anyone in this decade. He kept in all 40 Tests he played this year. Prior’s average is inflated by a brilliant record against West Indies, who weren’t great that period. You take away his West Indies runs, he only averages 29. Stewart averages 39 from nine Tests against Australia. I think we’re hesitant to pick him because he’s associated with the ’90s, but I think it’s very fair to pick Stewart here as the keeper.

JH: You could definitely make that case and you could also say, Stewart scored his runs in harder circumstances than Prior did at No.7. Particularly as that England team became stronger, he came in in pretty cushy positions, generally with runs on the board, suiting Prior to come out and play his shots. He probably had a few not outs as well to boost the average.

YR: If you look at the story of the decade, part of it was England trying to find a replacement for Stewart. It took England till the end of the decade to settle on Prior and it was only in, what, 2009 that he properly nailed down his spot in the team. So I feel on a couple of levels, very comfortable with Stewart.

PW: Yeah, Stewart makes sense. I’m happy to bow to that one and have him at 7. Or maybe even at 6.

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