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Opinion

Top ten Test opening pairs in history

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Roar Pro
3rd January, 2022
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In this age of dwindling quality opening pairs in Tests, I thought I’d come up with a list to remember including some of the greatest opening pairs in Test history.

10. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir (India)
Virender Sehwag has proved to be an enigma in cricket, where his T20 style of play saw considerable success in the Test arena.

Gautam Gambhir was that unique cocktail of aggression and also the patience or the grit of Rahul Dravid.

The last reliable Indian opening pair, the duo had an average of 50 and over 4,000 runs in an era that saw bowlers that included the likes of Shoaib Akhtar, Glen McGrath and Shane Bond.

While the duo opened in the other two formats too, they were perhaps the most compatible in Test cricket and have become one of the best Test Indian opening pairs ever to be seen.

9. Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook (England)
Ashes 2021/22 is just a sad shadow of what English Test cricket was just 10 years ago, in the era of the Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook.

Back then, England were able to win the Ashes in Australia.

With stiff competition from Australia, South Africa and India, the pair were able to help achieve the no 1. spot that had been defying England for years at that point. With an average of 40 and over 4000 runs, one thing that separates these two is their impeccable respect for each other.

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Strauss called Cook the greatest English batsman ever and Cook sees Strauss as one of the greatest leaders of English cricket (both as a captain and as an administrator).

Alastair Cook celebrates reaching 200.

Alastair Cook celebrates reaching 200. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Action Plus via Getty Images)

8. Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook (England)
Cricket had just found its way back post war, but England started off as if the war never happened with great potency thanks to the likes of Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook.

Visiting Australia in 1946, against an extremely hostile pitch and dangerous Australian bowling, Hutton and Washbrook gave the Aussies a taste of their own medicine by reflecting what it was like to play Don Bradman.

An average of 60 and 2880 runs in that period is a remarkable reflection of just how good these two were to have performed against quality opposition.

7. Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Attaputu (Sri Lanka)
Widely acknowledged as the greatest opening pair in Sri Lankan cricket, Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Attaputtu achieved wonders for an island nation ravished with civil war alongside economic turmoil.

Both had a very contrasting style of play, Jayasuriya was an arguably aggressive player whereas Marvan Attaputu provided that calm patience needed to survive the hostile new ball.

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When they started, Sri Lanka was still an obscure Test-playing nation and when they ended their carers they were good enough to reach the no 2. ranking and had laid a solid platform for the likes of Kumar Sangarkarra and Mahela Jayawardene.

6. Wilfred Rhodes and Jack Hobbs (England)
Wilfred Rhodes and Jack Hobbs only played about 36 innings together, but they were just so good to make this list averaging 60 along with over 2000 runs.

Jack Hobbs is often seen as the best English batsman ever, Hobbs was prolific next to only Don Bradman and is said to have the best foot control in any batsmen.

He was able to nurture Wilfred Rhodes to an extent where they were able to really smother South Africa and Australia in away conditions, with Rhodes even saying they would have had far better averages had it not been for Rhodes’ noble nature to give his wicket away to give other batsmen a chance.

5.Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden (Australia)
The Ricky Ponting era of the great 2000 Australian team would never have fulfilled that reputation had it not been for Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden holding partnerships tiring the hell out of the quality opposition bowlers.

With the ability to play the new ball with great easy and able to read swing perfectly, they were able to just simply play wherever they went – be it Bangalore, Birmingham or Bridgetown.

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Langer-Hayden also combined to build the most double century partnerships together, and where arguably the last reliable opening pair in Australia red ball cricket (Sorry David Warner, but you have not had a great Test opening partner yet).

Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, pictured here in ODI getup. (Photo by Getty Images)

4. Bill Lawry and Bob Simpson (Australia)
No opening pair list will be over without the inclusion of Bill Lawry and Bob Simpson, who essentially became a source of perpetual nightmares to the bowlers of the sixties who knew they were going face these two the next day.

Having a remarkable average of 60, they ensured their presence was both respected and feared anywhere they went, just ask the West Indies who played them at Bridgetown in 1965 to perhaps to become one of the greatest Australian Test opening pairs of all time.

3. Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan (India)
Arguably India’s greatest Test opening pair, many Indian fans remember them as the backbone of India’s rise to cricket internationally where the great Sunil Gavaskar really shined who just batted the great bowlers of that era into the oblivion with his patience and grit.

Gavaskar was supported by Chetan Chauhan, who had a good technique and tactic to compliment Gavaskar leading to remarkable partnerships in both home-and-away conditions. The 1979 Oval Test victory for India was historic and the foundation was laid by these two who made an unlikely victory look likely.

2. Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe (England)
As a millennial, I am far too young to comprehend just how great this opening pair were but nonetheless, I recognise that it was perhaps one of the greatest opening pairs with all time (along with no.1 on this list).

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Looking at statistical data, one thing that really stands out of these two – that is just the average of 87 that these two put together were the highest average of all time by quite a margin (which as we know in that era would mean ruthless bowlers on very hostile pitches with less safety regulations).

In the reports that I have read about these two scored , there are accounts on how they batted on “treacherous sticky” pitches where no one else (apart from Don Bradman of course) could even think about surviving let alone scoring magnificently like they did.

Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe coming out to bat

Jack Hobbs (left), and Herbert Sutcliffe. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

1. Desmond Haynes and Gordan Greenidge (West Indies)
In my opinion, arguably the greatest opening pair in history of all time , Desmond Haynes and Gordan Greenidge played a great role in making the West Indies almost invincible in the 80s.

In Tests, they scored an astonishing 6482 runs together with an average of 46.63 making really potent opposition bowling attack look like school level cricketers before setting the platform for Vivian Richards to come and blow away the opposition.

While a lot of us have a picture of the West Indies’s seam bowling to be mighty, let there be no question that even their opening pairs were just as mighty and invincible as the rest of that great team (also just imagine facing those WI bowlers in nets).

Other honourable mentions: Mark Taylor and Michael Slater (Aus) , Graham Gooch and Mike Atherton (Eng) and Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith (SA)

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