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Top 10 Foreign England Cricketers

For decades the England cricket team has benefited from employing the services of players born elsewhere who could only loosely be described as English at best. Of all those that have worn the national team cap but were not born on these shores who is the best?  There is plenty of choice and there will be much debate, but we here at have picked our top 10.

10. Jonathan Trott

Not the most popular of England’s foreign legion due to his sometimes turgid batting style and overly careful preparation before each ball he faces, but every fan of the national team has enjoyed his run-scoring ability over recent years. Born and raised in Cape Town and even playing for South Africa until under-19 level Trott came to the English game late, but when he did he made some impact.

Making his test debut in a decisive final match of an Ashes series is as tough as it gets and Trott took to the task like a duck to water scoring a century in the second innings to lead England home. He went on to make two more centuries against the Aussies in their back yard in the winter of 2010 and won the Wisden and ICC Cricketer of the Year award in 2011. Averaging over 50 after 34 tests is some achievement and despite his perceived slow play he also became the joint quickest player to 1000 ODI runs after just 21 matches and is now nailed on for selection in both forms of the game.

9. Kumar Duleepsinhji

Born in Kathiawar, India in 1905, Duleepsinhji may have only played 12 tests for England, but what an impact he made during that short time. His whole first class career was in fact only eight seasons long as he was forced to retire through illness, but in that time he compiled some of the game’s best ever set of figures.

Excelling for both Cambridge University and Sussex (scoring 15,485 runs in 205 first class games) brought him to the attention of the England selectors and although his test debut was inauspicious, he rapidly improved from there on in. Averaging 58.52 after 12 tests including a high score of 173 against Australia at Lord’s he will certainly go down as one of the most highly regarded imports in English history.

8. Allan Lamb

Lamby may have had British parents, but he was very much a South African, born in Langebaanweg and starting his cricketing career in the country with Western Province, but with his home nation banned from international cricket, he found global fame with England. He was signed by Northamptonshire in 1978 and after early success was convinced that playing for his new country was the way forward.

His test batting average of 36.09 may not be earth shattering, but he did turn out in 79 tests and 122 ODIs being a fixture in both sides for a decade until his last international appearances in 1992 and his 14 test centuries puts him up with the greats of the English game.

7. Nasser Hussain

Another man with a batting average that won’t sparkle in the history books, but in terms of contribution to the England team he is one of the very best. Born in Madras, Hussain moved to England at an early age and was quickly identified as a star of the future.

He played for England for over 14 years and captained the side in 45 tests, with his 17 wins making him the fifth most successful England captain of all time. His 28 wins as ODI captain also make him the second most successful in that field as well, only behind Michael Vaughan. Again he scored 14 test centuries which is a notable achievement, but it is his captaincy rather than his batting that will live long in the memory.

6. Robin Smith

Another man tempted into the English game due to South Africa’s ban from international cricket, Smith was to be a key man for his chosen national side for the eight years he played for them.

Born in Durban and starting his cricketing life with Natal he moved to England to play for Hampshire in 1982 and first was selected for the national team in July 1988. He made a steady start to his test career but burst into life the following year scoring back to back hundreds against the Australians. His batting average in his 62 tests was 43.67, a very respectable effort and when his international career was brought to an end in 1996 he was still more than capable of performing. Playing 71 ODIs as well, Smith was one of the best batsmen around in the late 80s and early 90s, especially when facing fast bowlers.

5. Tony Greig

An often controversial figure during his playing days but undoubtedly one of the greatest England all-rounders in history, Tony Greig will long be remembered as a stand-out character in the English game. Born in Queenstown he made his first class debut for Border Province at 18-years-old but moved to England and signed for Sussex a year later in 1966.

Greig made his test debut in 1972 and went onto play 58 times for England producing a batting average of over 40 and a bowling average of 32.20 taking 141 test wickets. He also captained the side on 14 occasions, memorably winning a series in India 3-1, a rare achievement indeed for an England captain. His controversial run-out attempt of Alvin Kallicharran and his “make them grovel” comments didn’t do him many favours at the time, but add to the interesting, and ultimately successful history of his career.

4. Ted Dexter

Generally seen as a natural Englishman, Dexter was in fact born in Milan, but despite this obscure cricketing background, went on to be one of England’s great players of the 1960s. His powerful stroke play was his trademark and he accompanied this with some more than useful medium pace bowling.

He scored 4,502 runs in his 62 tests for the national side at an average of 47.89 and picked up 66 wickets along the way. He scored nine centuries, but given that he made 27 50s, it could easily have been many more.  He captained the team between 1961 and ’64 winning 9 matches, but it was his individual performances rather than his captaincy that will be remembered, his aggression and power lifting him above the parapet of more sedate players of his day.

3. Colin Cowdrey

One of the great names of English cricket, Cowdrey was born in 1932 in Bangalore in what was then British India but moved to England for education in Kent at an early age. He went on to captain his county and his country and become one of the best batsmen in English history. 

His 22 test centuries leaves him level with Geoff Boycott and Wally Hammond at the top of the list and finishing his international career with an average of 44.06 from 114 tests is an incredible performance. Being knighted and made a life peer goes some way to showing just what a contribution Cowdrey made to the English game and few are ever likely to match his acheivements.

 2. Andrew Strauss

The opening batsman was born in Johannesburg but moved to England at six-years-old, going on to eventually become one of their most successful captains and batsman of all time. It didn’t always look like this would be his fate after a decline in form saw him lose his test place midway through his career, but thanks to his fierce determination he got back in the fold and led the team to success.

He may not be remembered as one of the most glamorous performers of his day but his 21 test hundreds and 24 wins as captain of the side see his figures stack up with anyone’s ever to play for England. He is also one of only three men to captain England to Ashes wins home and away and in leading his side to the pinnacle of test cricket he has to be seen as one of England’s greatest players.

1. Kevin Pietersen

Perhaps the opposite of some others on this list, but a man who is set to become the most successful foreign import English cricket has ever had. Kevin Pietersen has regularly been described as a selfish cricketer, his spell as captain was something of a disaster and he has only recently returned to the team after some serious ill-discipline, but his batting cannot be argued with.

Averaging 49.48 after 88 tests is something few batsmen in history can claim and being poised on 21 test centuries he looks set to pass the trio leading the way on 22. He has been a match winner for England since coming into the team in 2005, not just in the test arena, but in ODI and t20 contests as well. No matter what people think of him on a personal level, he will go down as one of if not the greatest foreign born player ever to play for England.

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