The Roar
The Roar



Test cricket: It’s a continuum, and Bacon’s Law applies

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Roar Guru
21st April, 2022

We armchair historians love picking fantasy teams. The best pre-WWI side, the greatest post-2000 eleven, and everything in between. The eras that we nominate are conveniently defined. As a result, our selected sides can sometimes be more arbitrary than we would like.

The greatest players have defied categorisation by dates. They have triumphed again and again across decades, in the face of varying challenges. They have never discovered that overnight, cricket has become a different game that they can no longer play at the highest level.

Steve Waugh’s career spanned the 1980s, ‘90s and 2000s. Legendary 1921 captain Warwick Armstrong debuted in 1902. Bert Ironmonger debuted for Queensland in 1909-10 and played in the Bodyline series 23 years later. Don Tallon appeared in his last Test in 1953, after playing for Queensland Country against Jardine’s side 21 years earlier. To which brief era, does each belong ?

Similarly, administrators didn’t mark historic events by amending Laws or ground conditions. The game was fundamentally the same immediately before and after Federation, WWI, The Great Depression, WWII and World Series Cricket. Players who prospered before each, did so afterwards as well.

If trying to define a period, it would probably be more accurate to do so in terms of a great player or an outstanding team. For example the Bradman era, or that of Australia’s dominance under Ricky Ponting.

In summary, Test cricket is a continuum. It evolves, rather than being a succession of distinct terms each comprising different cricketers and unique conditions. And every year or two, an older hand passes the baton to a much younger team-mate, along with ownership of the team song.

Charles Bannerman coached Victor Trumper, who batted with Charlie Macartney, who inspired the teenaged spectator Don Bradman. It will ever be thus.

Bacon’s Law applies 


Movie buffs will be familiar with Bacon’s Law. It states that any seemingly unrelated Hollywood actors can be linked, through fellow actor Kevin Bacon.

For example, Clint Eastwood has a Bacon Number of 2. That’s because he starred in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” with Charles Tyner, who subsequently appeared with Bacon in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

To illustrate cricket’s continuity, the same process can be applied to the Australian team. It is possible to connect its very first side with its most recent one 145 years later, using just 11 players with overlapping careers.

Let’s call it ‘Blackham’s Law,’ for reasons that will shortly become clear. The same exercise would work with any other national team.

The players are listed below. Each of them played Test cricket with both the one listed before him, and the one that follows. And as a unit, they would make a great side with experience in all possible conditions between 1877 and 2022.

Jack Blackham (1877-1894) 

‘The Prince of Wicketkeepers’ was his country’s first, and revolutionised the role. He made the position of long-stop redundant, and stood up to the stumps for the fastest of bowlers while wearing flimsy gloves.


Blackham played 35 matches, in which he claimed 37 catches and an outstanding 24 stumpings. He captained his country, and was an inaugural member of the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.

Between 1890 and 1894 he played seven times with Syd Gregory, who was his junior by 16 years. The pair also toured England together twice, in 1890 and 1893.

Their most famous collaboration was at the SCG, in Blackham’s very last match. They added a record 154 runs for the ninth wicket, with Gregory scoring a double-century in a total of 586. After Blackham enforced the follow-on, his side batted last on a wet pitch and lost the game by 10 runs.


Syd Gregory (1890-1912) 


Gregory was a popular batsman, brilliant fieldsman, nephew of Australia’s first captain Dave Gregory, and cousin of the great all-rounder Jack Gregory. He represented his country a then-record 58 times, and scored four centuries.

He was appointed captain of the team that contested the Triangular Series in England in 1912, after the ‘Big Six’ had withdrawn. A weak side defeated South Africa, but was no match for its host.

Gregory played all six of that series’ matches with NSW team-mate Charles Kelleway, who was 16 years his junior. They opened the innings together against England at The Oval, in what would prove to be Australia’s very last match before WWI.

Charles Kelleway (1910-1928) 

Kelleway was a reliable opening batsman and fast-medium bowler who represented Australia 26 times. He averaged 37.42 with the bat and scored three centuries, while also taking 52 wickets.

When aged 42, he played his last match at Brisbane’s Exhibition Ground in 1928-29. He shared the changeroom with debutant and NSW team-mate Don Bradman, who was 22 years younger.

The match was a disastrous one for the home side. It chased 742 runs for victory on a wet pitch, and was dismissed for just 66. Kelleway scored 8 runs and took 0-77, and due to injury could neither bat nor bowl a second time. Bradman scored 18 and 1, and was promptly dropped from the team.


Don Bradman (1928-1948) 

Bradman returned in 1946 as Australia’s captain, following unparalleled performances between 1928 and 1938.

During 1947 and 1948, he played four times with a teenaged Neil Harvey, who was 20 years his junior. The first two occasions were against India at home, and the pair did not bat together. The last two took place during the away Ashes series of 1948, in which the team earned the nickname ‘The Invincibles.’

At Headingley they finally shared the batting crease, and their two innings were noteworthy for very different reasons. Bradman’s undefeated 173 anchored a record-breaking chase of a 404-run target. Harvey followed his own first-innings century with a boundary to end the match. It has often been stated that Harvey’s shot cost Bradman a career average of exactly 100.00.

The two all-time greats played together for the last time at The Oval, where Bradman scored a famous duck. Harvey’s contribution was a modest 17 runs, after commencing his innings with Australia’s score 4-243 in response to the host’s 52 all out.

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Neil Harvey (1947-1963)


The left-handed Harvey was a quick-footed batsman and brilliant fieldsman who played 79 matches. He scored six centuries in his first 13 innings, and 21 tons in total. He is a member of both the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, and its Test Team of the Twentieth Century.

He and Bill Lawry played together on ten occasions between 1961 and 1963, comprising home and away Ashes series. The rookie Lawry was nine years younger than Harvey, and they were former Victorian team-mates. They shared ten partnerships, of which three were half-century ones.

Their very first stand realised 59 runs at Edgbaston, with Harvey going on to score a century. Their next amassed 75 in the famous ‘Battle of the Ridge’ at Lord’s. In it Harvey led the side in Benaud’s absence, and Lawry scoring a match-winning century in just his second game.

Bill Lawry (1961-1971)

‘Phantom’ was a dogged left-handed opening batsman who formed an outstanding combination with Bob Simpson. He played 67 matches, scored 5,234 runs and 13 centuries, and led his country 25 times.

Lawry played four matches with Greg Chappell during the Ashes of 1970-71. The series featured Chappell’s debut, and then Lawry’s unceremonious dumping with the Ashes still undecided. Lawry was 11 years Chappell’s senior.

The pair batted together just once, and then only very briefly. Lawry carried his bat for 60 in a team score of 116 at the SCG, in a 299-run loss triggered by John Snow’s 7-40.


Greg Chappell (1970-1984)

Chappell was one of Australia’s greatest batsmen. In 87 matches he scored 7,110 runs and 24 centuries, as well as taking 47 wickets and claiming 122 catches.

He and Allan Border played together 36 times between 1979 and 1984, during the period between World Series Cricket’s end and Chappell’s retirement. The two adopted Queenslanders batted together 17 times, amassing 1,108 runs with an average stand of 73.86, and sharing five century partnerships.

Chappell’s very last match took place at the SCG in 1983-84, and resulted in a 10-wicket victory over Pakistan. He and Border shared a 153-run partnership, taking their side from 4-254 to 5-407. Team captain Chappell scored a magnificent 182, while Border supported him with 64. Six weeks earlier at The Gabba, they had added 171 runs with each scoring a century.

Allan Border (1978-1994)

Border debuted when the Australian team was inexperienced and weak, and retained his place after World Series Cricket ended. After enduring a difficult period as captain, he led Australia to World Cup and Ashes triumphs. At the time of his retirement he held the records for most Tests played, consecutive matches played, Tests as captain and catches taken.

He was Shane Warne’s first captain and 14 years his senior. They played together 26 times between 1992 and 1994. A relatively short partnership included several highlights.


In Colombo in 1992, in just his third match, Warne took the home side’s last three wickets to seal a 16-run win despite Australia conceding a 291-run first-innings deficit. The following year he delivered the ‘Ball of the Century’ at Old Trafford, while Border scored an undefeated 200 at Headingley.

In their final series together, Australia avoided defeat in South Africa for the first time since 1957-58. Border’s innings of 45 and Warne’s six wickets were crucial to victory in Cape Town. Their last match as team-mates was in Durban where Border scored 17 and 42 not out, and Warne took a further four wickets, in a draw of attrition.

Shane Warne (1992-2007)

The late Shane Warne is the greatest wrist-spinner ever to have played the game, and Australia’s greatest player since Bradman. After retiring from international cricket, he enjoyed further success in the Indian Premier League and Big Bash League.

He and Michael Clarke were team-mates 26 times between 2004 and 2007. The period began with Clarke’s innings of 151 on debut in then-Bangalore, and ended with a whitewash of England. Only Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden bettered Clarke’s ten catches from Warne’s bowling. Their close friendship belied a 12-year age difference.

Each of their last ten matches together resulted in a team victory. The sequence began with defeat of the ICC World XI at the SCG, continued with two wins apiece over the West Indies and Bangladesh, and concluded with a 5-0 clean sweep to regain the Ashes.

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 11: Shane Warne of Australia leaves the field as bad light stops play during day four of the Fifth npower Ashes Test between England and Australia played at The Brit Oval on September 11, 2005 in London, United Kingdom (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

Michael Clarke (2004-2015)

‘Pup’ debuted at 23 years of age and was awarded the captaincy six years later. He played 115 games including 47 as captain. His 8,643 runs included 28 centuries of which the highest was an undefeated 329. His captaincy triumphs included an Ashes whitewash and a World Cup.

Between 2010 and 2015, he shared a changeroom with six players who are still members of the Australian side today. All are fellow New South Welshmen in Nathan Lyon (42 matches with Clarke), David Warner (39), Steve Smith (29), Mitchell Starc (20) and Pat Cummins (one). There were even 11 occasions when all five of Clarke, Lyon, Smith, Starc and Warner played together.

Clarke’s own personal highlight during those 11 games was an innings of 187 at Old Trafford in 2013. However the team won just four of those matches, while twice conceding the Ashes in England. The combination was broken by Clarke’s retirement following an Ashes series in which he also failed to score a half-century.

Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc or David Warner (2010-)

Cummins, Lyon, Smith, Starc and Warner have already shared a changeroom with Cameron Green, who is a full 13 years younger than Warner.

Given the Western Australian all-rounder’s age and talent, he may well be the Australian team’s elder statesman in 10-15 years’ time, and so extend ‘Blackham’s Law’ well past the 150-year mark.


Sports opinion delivered daily