Ultimate England Men’s Cricketers – the best of the best revealed

The thousands of votes have been counted and the results are in – it’s time to reveal who you chose as England’s Ultimate Men’s Cricketers of the 21st Century.

Before we dive into the results, though, allow us to remind you how it worked: our panel of ex-players, coaches and broadcasters created a shortlist of three England men’s players for 16 shots and skills (eight batting and eight bowling). Then we left it to you to vote for the winners.

But who is in? And who are the big-name casualties? Find out here as we detail the results, showcase the winners in full flow and sprinkle in analysis from some of our expert panel.


Who did you vote as England men’s ultimate batsmen?


Sir Alastair Cook 39%
Michael Atherton 33%
Jonathan Trott 28%

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: Defence sounds boring but it’s actually the player who has the soundest technique. A solid defence is what everything else is built around. It’s about patience, discipline and a desire to keep seeing the bowlers off.

Ex-England spinner Phil Tufnell: I’d have gone with Michael Atherton here. Steve Waugh used to call him the cockroach.

Cover drive

Ian Bell 63%
Michael Vaughan 30%
Moeen Ali 7%

BBC cricket presenter Isa Guha: Ian Bell’s cover drive is perfect, it’s straight out of the textbook. For me, though, I can’t look past Michael Vaughan. I think back to 2002 in Australia when he scored all those runs. I also love Ben Stokes’ cover drive. He’s really punchy when he drives. It’s technically correct, imposing and powerful. I just love left-handers cover-driving.

Tufnell: I like Bell and Joe Root when it comes to the cover drive. I like a fella who is slighter in frame, gets in a good stride, head over the ball, high elbow and somebody who caresses it through the off side.


Sir Alastair Cook 48%
Sir Andrew Strauss 27%
Joe Root 25%

Tufnell: He’s not eligible for this one but Robin Smith once knocked a fence down with a cut shot, he hit it that hard. He’d be the only one for me.

Guha: I loved Graham Thorpe’s cut shot. He would pounce on to the short ball outside off stump and thrash it away.

Agnew: Sir Alastair Cook really did profit from the cut shot. Anything wide of off stump, he would bang it away.

Straight drive

Ben Stokes 48%
Kevin Pietersen 42%
Moeen Ali 10%

Guha: Kevin Pietersen is the first person you think of with straight drive. He was such an imposing force.

Tufnell: Usually, when straight-driving, Pietersen would be walking down the pitch to the fast bowler and meeting the ball. He had real authority.

Guha: When I think of Ben Stokes here, I think of the shot he played in that ridiculous innings at Headingley last summer. He surprised himself. Pat Cummins bowled a good length delivery but Stokes got right on top of it and smacked it straight down the ground. It’s like a gun shot when he hits it down the ground, it goes at the speed of light.


Ben Stokes 40%
Andrew Flintoff 33%
Jos Buttler 27%

Tufnell: The coaches hated throwing the ball at Andrew Flintoff in the morning warm-up. He hit the ball so hard.

Guha: Flintoff was so strong and the bat looked like a toothpick at times. He could effortlessly hit it for six.

Agnew: The World Cup final and the Headingley innings that Stokes played were days we’ll never forget. He is so clear-headed – he doesn’t slog. He just takes bowlers apart.

Off the pads

Sir Alastair Cook 60%
Jonathan Trott 20%
Kevin Pietersen 20%

Agnew: I like this category. It sounds dull but it’s such an important part of batting, especially at the top level. These are the players who frustrate the living daylights out of bowlers. You chug away outside off stump and they leave the ball. You get straighter and off the pads it goes. It kills you as a bowler. Cook was so good at dragging the bowlers into his pads.

Guha: I’m surprised at the result of this. I can’t believe KP only got 20%. I think about the flamingo and the flamboyancy he possessed. It was one of the best shots to watch.

Tufnell: With Cook, it was death by a thousand flicks.


Kevin Pietersen 71%
Michael Vaughan 16%
Sir Alastair Cook 13%

Agnew: Funnily enough, KP’s hook shot, which I know is different, was a bit flappy but it was great to see him taking on the fast bowlers.

Guha: I reckon a lot of people have combined the pull and hook shot into their thinking in this category. Have a look at Michael Vaughan’s pull shot in the 2002 Ashes. He should have got more than 16% of the vote.

Tufnell: I’d have gone for Vaughan too. He was pulling Glenn McGrath off a length in 2002 and it was the first time I’d ever seen McGrath scratch his head and wonder what length to bowl.


Jos Buttler 48%
Kevin Pietersen 36%
Eoin Morgan 16%

Tufnell: Eoin Morgan was the first regular player in one-day cricket to get all the reverse-laps and reverse-sweeps out. Obviously KP and Jos Buttler should figure, but Eoin Morgan was the first to build an innings around those shots.

Guha: Morgan was the catalyst for England’s one-day and T20 batting, and you automatically think about KP’s switch-hit. That’s the hardest shot to play of them all. To switch your hands, you’re effectively making yourself a left-hander batter, that’s got to be the hardest shot.


Who did you vote as England men’s ultimate bowlers?


James Anderson 92%
Matthew Hoggard 6%
Ben Stokes 2%

Agnew: I think it was fairly obvious Jimmy Anderson was going to romp home in this category. Ben Stokes does get the ball to swing though.

Tufnell: Anderson is an absolute master of the art – in-swing, out-swing, he’s completely mastered it. He’s just dropped in pace a bit which can actually help it swing a bit more. He’s mastered it overseas as well because there were a few comments that he couldn’t swing it away from home.

Guha: He’s just evolved so much. He’s the ultimate master of forensic examination of any batsman. The question should really be, who is the number two? Stokes is brilliant with the older ball and Darren Gough should definitely be in the top three.


James Anderson 44%
Stuart Broad 42%
Simon Jones 14%

Agnew: It’s a great combination for any captain to have Anderson and Stuart Broad. The fact Anderson has come out on top in both swing and seam is quite remarkable really.

Guha: I’ve got a surprise one for you – Graham Onions, if he’d played a few more Tests. What about Flintoff too?

Tufnell: Broad is a very wise and clever bowler, looking to use cutters, land it on the seam, take pace off the ball as well. He is a very skilled bowler. It surprises me that Anderson has come out on top, because I don’t particularly see him as a seam bowler.


Graeme Swann 88%
Monty Panesar 7%
Moeen Ali 5%

Agnew: I found this a really difficult category. I’m guessing the fact Graeme Swann is a runaway winner sort of just sums it up to be honest. It is harsh on Monty Panesar – Graeme Swann was miles clear of everyone but Monty was a fine bowler.

Tufnell: With Graeme you knew if you were bowling last and the pitch was deteriorating and if you’d set the opposition a decent total, you had a good chance of winning the game. He bowled at a good pace and spun the ball hard. As soon as a left-hander came in he just got him out.


Darren Gough 57%
Andrew Flintoff 32%
Jofra Archer 11%

Guha: Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan and Freddie Flintoff stand out. For me, it is who are you going to back in a World Cup final situation?

Agnew: Just to be clear, a good yorker doesn’t always have to get someone out too. A dot ball in one-day cricket is still a good yorker. The confidence that Archer had to bowl that over in the World Cup final says a lot about him.

Slower ball

Jofra Archer 51%
Tom Curran 27%
Jade Dernbach 22%

Agnew: The arm still comes over at the same speed with this delivery – it is so skilful. I’ve got a soft spot for Jade Dernbach.

Guha: Dernbach was the best at it for a little while, wasn’t he? And then Tom Curran learned off him. Jofra Archer has to be up there because it’s the difference in speed. He can bowl at 90mph and then all of a sudden he’s bowling a slower ball at you.


Adil Rashid 48%
Liam Plunkett 26%
Chris Woakes 26%

Agnew: Variation can mean all sorts of different things. Adil Rashid has a lovely wrong ‘un that absolutely nobody seems to be able to pick. It’s good to see Chris Woakes in there, too.

Tufnell: I’m going to go with Rashid. The delivery that comes out the front of the hand and just skids on, he’s developed into a world-class leg-spinner.

Guha: I’d be going back to Archer again, he’s just got so many different skills. He can just pick things up really quickly.


Jofra Archer 42%
Steve Harmison 32%
Andrew Flintoff 26%

Tufnell: There’s only one guy for me – Steve Harmison. He has that ability to get bounce and he had a heavy, fast bouncer. Just ask Ricky Ponting at Lord’s. Archer as well, what a spell that was at Lord’s to Steve Smith – they were some serious bouncers. Either of those two or Freddie Flintoff will do for me.

Agnew: The angle of Harmison’s bouncer was horrible – coming in at you. Archer just has a wicked bouncer, he comes through a little faster and it is so accurate.

Guha: You speak to batters around the world and they talk about Harmison as someone who has a horrible bouncer. Flintoff was always so accurate with his.


James Anderson 73%
Stuart Broad 17%
Graeme Swann 10%

Agnew: Broad and Swann are going to hate this. I’d go Swann. Anderson and Broad, when they want to, can hide it outside off stump a little bit but you can’t really do that as a spinner. Swann’s accuracy was phenomenal.

Tufnell: You’ve got to be threatening an outside or inside edge all the time as a spinner, it’s very difficult to hide the ball. You have a smaller margin as a spinner.

Here’s what you think

England’s ultimate men’s cricketers of the 21st Century – Sir Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Ben Stokes, Kevin Pietersen, Jos Buttler, James Anderson, Graeme Swann, Darren Gough, Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid

Hamish Arnold: People have short memories. KP was the first English innovator and the others have just followed in his footsteps.

Matt in Wiltshire: I was at both the 2002 Ashes where Vaughan pulled beautifully and the KP innings at Headingley where he destroyed Morkel with the hook shot, both were beautiful to watch. The KP innings was just a step above for me, because of the audacity of it.

Jack, West Hampstead: That KP pull shot is the backbone of all his great innings. Destroys any fast bowling slightly off length. Glorious.

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