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Matthew Engel speaks to BBC Radio 5 Live
"This could not be entrusted to the editor alone"
 real 28k

Matthew Engel reports for BBC Radio 5 Live
"It's quite surprising Botham only came 16th"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 16:06 GMT
Widen's cricketers of the century

Bradman's feats put him well ahead of the rest
Wisden's poll of the five greatest cricketers of the 20th century was based on the views of 100 former cricketers and journalists.

Here are the elite quintet - three batsmen, a bowler and an all-rounder - who won the acclaim of their peers.


Sir Donald Bradman


Bradman retired with a Test average of 99.94
Simply the best player of the 20th century, Don Bradman's astonishing Test average speaks for itself.

Indeed he famously would have finished his career with the magical average of 100 had he not been dismissed for a duck in his final Test innings at the Oval in 1948.

So highly regarded is the 91-year-old Australian legend, that every one of the 100 contributors in the Wisden poll voted for him.

His own biggest critic, Bradman believed there were other contemporary batsmen who were more talented than him.

Test record
6996 runs in 52 matches
Batting average 99.94
29 centuries, 13 50s
Highest score 334
But while others may have had more natural flair, no-one could match Bradman for sheer concentration and domination of the crease.

So awesome was he, that Douglas Jardine's England tourists invented a whole new approach to the game - the controversial "Bodyline" tactic - just to deal with him.

And although sporting predictions are always dangerous, it is surely safe to say that no-one will ever match Bradman's remarkable feats, which included scoring 974 runs in a five-Test series.


Sir Garfield Sobers


Sobers could switch his bowling style at will
The only other player to come close to Bradman in the poll, Gary Sobers managed nine out of 10 votes.

But as BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew commented, who on earth could the remaining 10% have voted for?

The finest all-rounder the game has ever seen - and that title was bestowed on him by Bradman himself - Sobers was a match-winner who had an uncanny ability to turn games in an inspired passage of play.

Test record
8032 runs in 93 matches
Batting average 57.78
26 centuries, 30 50s
Highest score 365no
235 wickets at 34.03
Best bowling 6-73
A stylish left-handed bat, he was the first player to smash six sixes in an over and his 365 not out against Pakistan in 1958 stood as the highest ever individual Test score for 37 years, until the arrival of Brian Lara.

And he was a supremely versatile bowler, able to switch from out-and-out pace to wrist spin, snaring 235 Test victims.

His elegant, attacking approach to the game and his great sportsmanship endeared him to supporters and players across the world.


Sir Jack Hobbs


Hobbs was the first great star of the 20th century
The sole Englishman to make the Wisden list, Jack Hobbs may not be as famous with the modern cricketing public as the likes of Botham, Boycott, Compton and Cowdrey - but his reputation within the game remains huge.

The Surrey opener's career was interrupted by the First World War, but he still went on to score 61,237 first-class runs - a figure that is still unsurpassed.

Test record
5410 runs in 61 matches
Batting average 56.94
15 centuries, 28 50s
Highest score 211
He also accumulated a record 197 centuries and as Wisden editor Matthew Engel says on the Wisden website: "Most astonishingly from a modern perspective, the last 98 came after his 40th birthday."

Hobbs was renowned for his improvisational skills and his ability to hold an innings together once the wickets started to fall around him.

Engel concludes: "He was not an artist, like some of his predecessors, nor yet a scientist, like some of the moderns; he was perhaps the supreme craftsman."


Shane Warne


Shades Warne: Have sunglasses, will travel
Warne is the only specialist bowler to make the list, the only current player and the only one of the five who has not - as yet - been knighted.

The great Australian leg-spinner's place among the heavyweights of the game is perhaps due to two factors.

First he popularised the art of slow bowling when spin was becoming a dying artform.

The "ball of the century" - his first ever Ashes delivery, a fizzing beast that turned phenomenally to remove Mike Gatting's off-stump at Old Trafford in 1993 - did much to create Warne's myth, particularly among England fans, who have suffered at his hands more than most.

Test record
366 wickets in 84 matches
Bowling average 25.96
4 10-wicket matches, 16 5-wicket innings
Best bowling 8-71
Since his emergence leg-spin has become de rigeur, with every other Test side desperate to find the next Warne.

Secondly, his flamboyant image did much to haul cricket out of the doldrums in the early 1990s.

With his bleach-blond hair and ear-ring and cock-sure persona, he is arguably the most charismatic cricketer of his generation who has taken the game to a whole new audience.


Sir Vivian Richards


Master-blaster: Richards at his imperious best
Bucaneering batsman, expert slip-fielder and great mate of Ian Botham, Viv Richards is one of the most fearsome figures ever to play Test cricket.

He was the middle-order star of the brilliant West Indies team of the 1970s and '80s, laying waste to the best bowling attacks in the world.

Test record
8540 runs in 121 matches
Batting average 50.23
4 24 centuries, 45 50s
Highest score 291
Among his achievements, Richards hit the fastest ever Test century - whacked from a mere 56 balls.

The nickname of "Master-blaster" was perfect for the Antiguan supremo, as bowlers were bludgeoned into submission by his array of enormous strokes.

Richards, who was knighted last year, still holds the record of the most Test runs in a year, 1,710 at an average of 90.00 per innings.

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