Four captains, three pacemen, two spinners, one allrounder - all legends. How does a storied cricket club with a history of more than 150 years select its all-time XI?
Since we embarked upon this project as a way to mark President’s Day on August 27, it was a given that outgoing president Richard Downes and incoming one Piers Jenkins would get a spot on the selector panel.
But we didn’t stop there. To paraphrase cricket writer Michael Henderson, Burtonhole Lane’s rope of destiny was cast by many hands. And so we cast ours wider, including not only previous club presidents Ted Kelly (2009-2012) and Pete Jaffe (2016-19) but vice presidents Garry Westmore, Gary Topp, Roger Golding, Phil Mead and Phil Smith, also our current director of cricket. A couple of past presidents did not get back to us in time, but nonetheless, we have alumni spanning across generations, each with their own memories and perspectives, summoned to assemble Mill Hill Village Cricket Club’s definitive, all-time greatest XI. They say don’t compare eras - but that’s exactly what we’ve done!
How we made the list
Each player picked by a member of the selector panel was allocated a single point until we arrived at this XI, with those players with the most points making the cut.
In total, 33 players were put forward. Of the final XI, seven were voted for by a large majority of the panel, indicating a clear consensus on more than half of Mill Hill Village’s greatest players. All but one of the remaining players to make the cut received three or more votes from our nine-strong selector panel.
We asked our selectors to try not to second-guess the final XI, to avoid tactical voting and to pick players that they themselves had seen in the flesh - as far as possible. This is why, although Mill Hill Village cricket began officially in 1868, there is no player in our all-time XI that predates the 1960s. Perhaps when we revisit this list a generation from now, some female players will have made their mark. For now, though, our panel’s selections allowed our dedicated number-crunchers to arrive at this ultimate XI.
But it's not really about the numbers. It’s about the essence of the game of club cricket – the passion, the prowess, the moments etched in memory. Hence below alongside each player are fond recollections from some of our selector panel as well as from local press cuttings and notes culled from the MHVCC scrapbooks written by Peter “Pedro” Mayles, our longstanding press secretary (who himself took 1,000 wickets for the Village) that span from 1967 to 1993. These nuggets of history breathe life into the players' profiles. This XI isn't merely a team; it's a tribute to the enduring magic of club cricket and a nod to those who shaped its destiny at Burtonhole Lane.
Garry Westmore says: “All these guys were great ambassadors for the Village. They always stayed for a beer, home and away. They would chat to the opposition so the next time you played them, you knew how to get them out. They would always include younger players in conversations and pass on tips and knowledge to help make you a better player. They were always worth listening to.”
So, which format is our Mill Hill Village all-time XI playing? We also asked our selector panel to choose their preferred format from these four: timed cricket; the 100 overs format, where the side batting first got a maximum of 55 overs (or forfeited all bonus points if going beyond this); 45 overs a side; and 20 overs a side.
Despite the fact that the Village won some limited-over cup competitions in the late 1980s and early ‘90s - “perhaps this 45-over format has produced some of our best cricket,” Director of Cricket Phil Smith says - almost unanimously the panel chose timed cricket as their preferred format.
Smith explains: “In the early years of John Hardie and Vince Holohan [in the 1960s], there wasn’t even a league. Games were a timed format, reliant on sensible declarations and 20 overs played from 6pm.
“The Middlesex championship that we won was 100 overs format. The side batting first got a maximum of 55 overs (or forfeited all bonus points if going beyond this). Things have been tweaked quite a bit over the years.”
Have your say on Mill Hill Village’s all-time XI
The results of our Mill Hill Village Cricket Club all-time XI will no doubt delight some and frustrate others.
Four of this all-time XI made their Village debuts in the 1960s while six did so in the 80s or 90s, when the club found success playing in the Middlesex league’s top division. Only one of our final XI is still playing for the Village today, in the Saracens Hertfordshire Cricket League, perhaps a reflection from the selection panel that the club today is not quite playing at the same standard as yesteryear. Although following 1st XI and 2nd XI promotions in 2022, the club is heading in the right direction. A brand new nets facility, to be officially opened on President's Day, will surely help raise standards further.
We know that if we had asked another cross-section of Mill Hill Village players and members, the final XI would look quite different - so that’s what we’re going to do! We’d like you to post your personal selection of Mill Hill Village Cricket Club’s finest players in the comments to this story on our Facebook page, along with any personal anecdotes about the players you’ve chosen. You can also get in touch by emailing email@example.com. And if your choices coincide with ours, then that’s fine too!
For now, we invite you to relish in the stories, the triumphs, and the spirit of the game that unites generations. These players represent some of the best of what Mill Hill Village Cricket Club is.
Let’s take a closer look.
1. Denis David
The scrapbook says of Denis David: “One of the most stylish, successful batsmen on the club circuit for more than two decades … David scored over 40,000 runs during a 25-year stay at Burtonhole Lane spanning the late 1960s to 1990. The highlight was 1979, when he scored over 2,600 runs in weekend matches, including 12 centuries and a dozen fifties and topped 4,300 runs [across all matches] during the season.” News of the longtime skipper’s departure (in 1990) for Beaconsfield in the Thames Valley League made the local press. Former MHVCC press secretary Mayles wrote at that time: “His contribution has been tremendous, not only as an outstanding club cricketer but with his qualities of leadership. He has been particularly influential in giving sound advice to our youngsters.”
Roger Golding says of David: “Probably the biggest run maker the Village has ever seen.”
David is seen at the crease in the main picture above, captured in our centenary year, 1968, with David English at the non-striker's end.
2. John Hardie (c)
Hardie was once bowled by Basil d’Oliveria, one of cricket’s all-time greats, for 11 in a Worcestershire XI vs a Village XI in a 1968 benefit game for Worcestershire’s Dick Richardson, attended by around 1,000 spectators at Burtonhole Lane. Hardie can be forgiven for that failure, for he was a consistent run-getter in the 1960s. He made club history in 1967 when he became the first Village player to score 1,000 runs in a season, forming a solid opening partnership with Gordon Nicholls. That year the Cricketer magazine credited club captain Hardie for reviving the Village’s fortunes. “Mill Hill Village, after languishing for years in the shadows of their more renowned neighbours, Finchley, Brondesbury, Standmore, Mill Hill and Wembley, are at last really making their presence known in the district. … The main credit for this revival must go to skipper Hardie, in his fourth year of captaincy. When Hardie took over the reins at 21, he was the youngest-ever captain in the history of the club. His legacy was a young, inexperienced side, but shrewd moulding together, backed by an exemplary fielding side has justified matters.”
“Astute and shrewd” is how Mayles described Hardie’s leadership.
3. Dan Potter
The club’s most consistent run scorer of MHVCC’s modern era, Potter scored 505 runs at an average of 42.08 in 2022, when as captain he led the 1st XI to the title. He scored five fifties in 13 outings that year while also topping the division’s bowling averages. Potter, a product of the club’s juniors section, memorably scored an unbeaten century at Lord’s Nursery Ground in 2018, the year that the club marked its 150th anniversary.
Piers Jenkins writes: “A modern-day player with many years left in him, Potter has scored heavily for quite a few years now. He also adds some medium-pace bowling to this side.”
4. Scott Brewster (wk)
A wicket-keeper batsman who was a key part of the Village’s 1990 double-winning side, when he scored 1,902 runs at an average of 41.34, including three centuries. The following season, the free-scoring opener hit 1,865 runs (average 44.40), including three more tons.
Garry Westmore writes: “Scott had all the shots. He was very calm in the middle and was a good wicketkeeper.”
Piers Jenkins adds: “Another high-scoring batsman, along with being magnificent behind the stumps.”
Scott’s brother Matthew also scored a hatful of runs for the Village 1s and 2s.
5. Felix Charles
A club stalwart who retired only recently, Charles consistently made useful middle-order runs - including 46 at Lord’s for the Village in 2018, but it’s for his fielding, including some audacious catches, for which our panel most fondly remembers him.
Piers Jenkins writes: “Felix was in the 1st XI for years, batting around number five, six or seven, and was daft enough to often field at silly mid-off! A proper bucket hands fielder, the best I’ve seen and could run like the wind before his knees went.”
Roger Golding writes: “Probably the best fielder on the circuit at his peak.”
6. Richard Jerome
Made his name as an allrounder in his teenage years, scoring nearly 1,000 runs in 1985. In 1990 he scored more than 1,500 runs and took 69 wickets. And yet the following year he bettered that still by hitting 1,826 runs (average 49.35) and was the leading wicket-taker with 80 at an average of 18.42 while also hitting nine centuries across all fixtures.
7. Steve Smith
A young Smith made some useful bowling performances in the 1st XI’s double-winning 1990 side and regularly appeared towards the top of both the batting and bowling averages in the strong Village sides of the early ‘90s. Another youth product, he won the David Fishenden Trophy for the best young player of the year.
8. Vince Holohan
“Looks a very useful acquisition,” wrote Mayles on October 6, 1970 in his end-of-season roundup - and he wasn’t wrong. Part of the Village’s formidable spinning double act with George Hurd, Holohan actually began as a medium pacer and went on to have a successful and lengthy career with the club, first as a player then as an umpire.
Garry Westmore writes: “Vince is known by many nicknames: Houlie, Coalman, Foreman. He was an excellent medium-pace bowler, bowling off cutters, then became an even better off-spinner. Known by everyone around the circuit, after finishing as a player he then became an excellent umpire. He opened the batting on many occasions for the 1st XI in his younger days.”
9. George Hurd
Roger Golding writes: “George was the best left-arm spinner I’ve kept to in over 40 years.” During one weekend in July 1970, spinner Hurd took an aggregate of 15 wickets for 110 runs. It wasn’t a one-off. Later in the same month, he took an aggregate of 11 wickets for 100 runs and by mid-July of that year he’d already taken 100 wickets that season. In August 1970 he took his then career-best figures, 9-21, off 24 overs, which included 16 maidens, against Old Finchleians. That year across all matches he took a remarkable 201 wickets at an average of 10.00, including 17 five-wicket hauls. “It must have cost him a bomb in jugs,” quipped Mayles in his end-of-season review. He sent down 198 maidens that season and went on to trouble opposition batsmen for many years to come.
Garry Westmore writes: “‘Hurdy’ was the best slow left armer in club cricket in the south of England in his heyday. He could land the ball on the same spot every ball while always smiling, disarming the opposition. His reputation got many batsmen out before he bowled a ball. A very knowledgeable cricketer and enjoyed a wind-up, especially against Denis David.”
Both Hurd and Holohan went on to play for the Village until the early 1990s.
10. Gary Topp (vice-captain)
Who says fast bowlers don’t make good captains? As skipper, Topp steered the Village to a league and cup double in 1990, when the 1st XI became Division One champions of the Middlesex Cricketers League and won the Middlesex Cricketers League Cup final (team photo pictured above). That year Topp also took 79 wickets, after taking 100 wickets in 1989.
Garry Westmore writes: “Toppy was a good skipper and very quick bowler, especially once he cut his runup down to 13 steps. He could also give it the long handle when required. A very knowledgable cricketer.”
Piers Jenkins adds: “A fast bowler, who terrorised the Middlesex leagues for years with his very accurate hostile bowling. Could bat a bit also.”
11. Wayne Sizer
Made his league debut in 1991, taking 5-52, which was a sign of things to come. A hostile paceman who formed a successful new-ball partnership with Gary Topp, Sizer was also a hard-hitting lower-order batsman. “Even faster than Toppy and his sixes went a long way,” writes Piers Jenkins. “A great bowler not to face!"
12th man: Andy Mack
Garry Westmore writes: “Andy came to the Village after finishing at Glamorgan and Surrey. He was a quick and accurate left-arm bowler - even off his shorter runup - who could make the ball sing. Being 6ft 6” tall helped him extract bounce even on the Village track. Also a very useful lower-order bat who hit it for miles at times.”
Here are 21 players (In alphabetical order) who received at least one vote from a member of the selection panel but missed out on a place in the final XI:
Matt Brewster; Alain Britain; Dave Bunning; Richard Bunning; Ron Cross; Pat Duffy; David English; Roger Gardiner; Lewis Glover; Wayne Hough; Dipesh Jadav; Roger Jerram; Rory Macleod; Eric Palmer; Steve Pullen; Mohammed Riaz; Don Richell; Jon Rycroft; Ron Sargent; Billy Thompson; Colin Tomkins
Mill Hill Village Cricket Club’s all-time XI was selected by Richard Downes, Roger Golding, Phil Smith, Peter Jaffe, Piers Jenkins, Ted Kelly, Phil Mead, Gary Topp and Garry Westmore. Special thanks to Garry Westmore and Piers Jenkins for their notes on their selections. Edited by David Hickey. Read Piers Jenkins' reflections on his all-time XI here.
President's Day takes place on August 27. More info here.