Mullally, the Jack of all rabbits

Simon Lister wrote a thumpingly enjoyable piece on tailenders in the current (August 2007) issue of The Wisden Cricketer. Tail-end charlies are a particular fascination of mine, due in part to their absence nowadays but more poignantly because England produced them like battery-farmed chickens in the 1990s. Or rather, rabbits. Peter Such, Devon Malcolm, Ed Giddins, Phil Tufnell – and the champion of all; the Jack of all rabbits, Alan Mullally.

Cracking piece. Give it a read.

That was about as bad as it got, because when Duncan Fletcher arrived, the No. 11 became less of an object of derision. They learned the forward press and knew it had nothing to do with ironing their whites. The diehard No. 11 died out elsewhere too. The once hopeless Australian tailender Jason Gillespie did something that Mike Atherton never did; he scored a Test double-hundred.

Yet when Monty Panesar was first picked for the tour of India in 2005-06 it seemed a fine English tradition had been revived. He was, said one cricket reporter, “a tail-end rabbit in the Watership Down class”. Fletcher admitted: “I have slight reservations about his batting.” But that has changed. Panesar is a shoo-in for England, even for the one-day side. Rumours of his uselessness with the bat were exaggerated. So, if he still nearly failed to make the side because of his batting, what chance a Phil Tufnell playing for England today?

The era of the really awful No. 11 seems over and TWC decided it was a good time to look back at the 1980s and ’90s – a golden age of English tail-end incompetence. Among those who could boast that the size of their boots was twice their batting average, who was worst of all?