Magellan Ashes 2017-18

Greg Chappell's Ashes icons: 40-36

Former Australia captain and current national selector Greg Chappell picks the 40 best Ashes players from the past 40 years

Greg Chappell

01 November 2017, 09:01 PM

As a player, captain, selector and commentator at varying times between 1977 and 2017, legendary Australia batsman Greg Chappell is among those most qualified to judge the finest players to have taken the field in an Ashes Test across the past four decades. Here Chappell has delved into the memory bank and listed his 40 Ashes Icons from the past 40 years; men who have left indelible impressions on his memory through their deeds in Ashes cricket. Today we’re looking at numbers 40-36… 

40. Nathan Lyon (Australia)

13 Ashes Tests 44 wickets at 29.84. BBM: 7-97. 1x5WI

Re-live Lyon's record-breaking tour

Lyon was identified as a short-form bowler but he's become a great Test bowler. It's taken him a bit of time to grow into it, to believe in himself, but if his body stays healthy, he's going to have an exceptional record by the time he's finished.

His record in Australia is quite outstanding; if I look at finger spinners bowling in this country, it's tough going. I think Erapalli Prasanna is one of the few that has come here and taken bags of wickets. Graeme Swann was a good bowler but his record in Australia isn't that great, and during that 2013-14 series which was dominated by Australia's fast bowlers, Lyon more than did his job (19 wickets at 29).

Very few off-spinners have been match-winners in Australia and Nathan has been able to achieve that because of his ability to get the ball to drift, drop and bounce; he gets that over-spin in Australia which serves him well on our pitches.

It's been a fascinating development to watch – at times it hasn't come easily to him and it's a great credit to him that he's got past his own demons to become one of the best fingers spinners of all time from an Australian point of view.

39. Jason Gillespie (Australia)

18 Ashes Tests 65 wickets at 29.03. BBM: 9-102. 3x5WI

From the Vault: Gillespie five levels England

I can remember Gillespie as a teenager: a big stick man with a ponytail who ran in and bowled sharp. He ran through the Poms at Headingley in '97 but he became a great bowler later on, when he reduced his run-up a little bit. He used to land on the ball of his back foot and his heel would whip through very quickly, which meant he was a bit unstable, so by reducing his run-up he fixed that and became such an effective bowler because he had that pinpoint accuracy.

He always got the ball to do a little bit one way or the other, he didn't swing it a lot but he bowled very few straight ones. He gave the batsman the indication that the ball might hit the stumps, so they had to play, and when it straightened a little bit, he had them.

He was a great foil for Glenn McGrath and part of a really tough Australian attack. And for a bloke who could hardly bat at all when he first started, he made himself into a more than useful tailender, and of course holds the record as nightwatchman – but that wasn't in the Ashes so thankfully I don't have to talk about that! 

38. Mike Gatting (England)

25 Ashes Tests 1585 runs @ 37.73. HS: 160. 4x100s, 11x50s

Gatting led England to an Ashes triumph in 1986-87 // Getty
Gatting led England to an Ashes triumph in 1986-87 // Getty

A generation might remember him more as the victim of Shane Warne's 'ball of the century' but Mike Gatting was a very good player who probably should have played more Test cricket than he did.

The series that defined him was here in Australia in 1986-87 when he led from the front as a fearless captain. He loved to take the bowlers on and he captained well because he was prepared to take it to his opponents. I thought he was a very good captain strategically as well; England tends to play the game conservatively, where Australian teams try to lead the game from the start. But under Gatting they tried to really take the game on, so I always admired the way he went about it.

As a batsman I thought he was underrated – he made a couple of hundreds in '85 and then two more in Adelaide almost a decade apart. 

37. Craig McDermott (Australia)

16 Ashes Tests 84 wickets at 25.53. BBM: 11-157. 8x5WI, 1x10WM

From The Vault: McDermott rips through England in Perth

Craig is one of the outliers in Australian cricket in that he started as a 19-year-old and didn't have serious injury problems through most of his career. And he bowled a lot of overs. His record in Ashes cricket is excellent, but perhaps the best part of it is the longevity he was able to achieve as a genuine quick bowler.

He ran in hard, and he hit the pitch hard. His landing put a lot of stress on his body but he seemed to cope with it pretty well. He just kept asking difficult questions in areas where the batsmen least wanted it. He got a little bit of movement at good pace, and he got bounce off a length; bounce gets good players out as much as anything else. And he just kept coming.

With respect to others, he carried the Australian attack there for a while. He was the backbone there for a number of series and he shouldered the load admirably. 

36. Andrew Strauss (England)

25 Ashes Tests 1421 runs @ 39.47. HS: 161. 4x100s, 7x50s

Strauss led England to Ashes success in 2010-11 // Getty
Strauss led England to Ashes success in 2010-11 // Getty

I always saw Andrew Strauss as a very strong character. He was an intelligent leader who had a clear vision as to what he wanted, both from an individual and a team perspective.

He was a crucial cog in that successful England team, not only as captain but as a batsman, too; he played some really important innings. He wasn't a dashing player, but he was a determined opener who made sure he was difficult to remove and who lifted those around him.

Under Strauss, England were better than the sum of their parts, and a lot of that was to do with his strength of character and the level of expectation he had of an England cricket team. It's similar in his current role as director of cricket – he's got a very clear idea of what he thinks is necessary. That always came out in the way he played the game and the way he led England, particularly in that 2010-11 series in Australia when they were convincing winners.

- with Adam Burnett

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

Gillette T20 INTL Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21