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The Top 10 Most Prolific Batting Partnerships in Test Cricket History

Rick JamesContributor IJune 19, 2014

The Top 10 Most Prolific Batting Partnerships in Test Cricket History

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    Associated Press

    There are few things in cricket better than watching stylish batsmen playing textbook shots all around the ground. Think Michael Vaughan cover drives and Brian Lara pull shots, or Sachin Tendulkar playing pretty much anything in the coaching manual.

    In the modern game you would be hard-pushed to find batsmen more easy on the eye than Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Fortunately for spectators around the world, they bat at No. 3 and No. 4 in the same Sri Lankan team, and they have shared a batting order ever since the former made his debut against South Africa back in 2000.

    In the first Test against England at Lord's, the pair passed Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer to become the third-most prolific partnership in Test history, registering their 6,082nd run together at the crease as Sangakkara effortlessly compiled his 36th Test century.

    Here we look back at the 10 most prolific batting partnerships in Test history. Click on the next slide to find out who sits 10th on the list, and please use the comments section to share your memories of watching these legends of the game in action.

10. Rahul Dravid & VVS Laxman (India)

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    Bikas Das/Associated Press

    Era: 1996-2012

    Innings: 86

    Runs: 4,065

    Average: 51.45

    Nobody in the history of the game has a capacity for crease occupation like the modern generation of Indian batsmen, and six of them form four of the partnerships in the top 10.

    Laxman, whose initials it was said stood for "Very Very Special", was a joy to watch, and it is wholly unsurprising that Dravid is on the list given how many tired and frustrated bowlers could vouch for the appropriateness of his epithet "The Wall."

    When the pair got going together they rarely stopped, converting 12 of their 26 half-century partnerships into triple figures or more, and they can lay claim to arguably the greatest single partnership in Test history for their efforts against the greatest team of them all.

    Australia rolled into Eden Gardens in 2001 off the back of a record 16th consecutive Test win, and it seemed business as usual as they forced India to follow on. When Dravid and Laxman came together at 232/4, they were still 42 runs shy of making Australia bat again, and the series looked lost.

    Dravid made 180 as the pair put on 376, and Laxman batted for 10.5 hours to make a career-best 281, turning the tides and setting the platform for a famous victory.

9. Sourav Ganguly & Sachin Tendulkar (India)

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    Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

    Era: 1996-2008

    Innings: 71

    Runs: 4,173

    Average: 61.36

    Nobody made it into the top 10 in fewer shared innings than Ganguly and Tendulkar, and they did so with the second-highest average partnership. Ganguly was the founding father of India's golden generation of batsmen in the modern era, and Tendulkar finished his career as the greatest run-scorer of all.

    Tendulkar made six double centuries in his remarkable career, but it took him nearly 10 years and 21 attempts to turn a century into a double. When he did, Ganguly was at the other end to marshall him through it as they made their highest partnership against New Zealand in 1999.

    India were already looking strong at 182/3 when Ganguly joined Tendulkar, and he would go on to his own century as Sachin doubled up, with the pair putting on 281 against the tiring Kiwi attack.

8. Gautam Gambhir & Virender Sehwag (India)

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Era: 2008-2012

    Innings: 87

    Runs: 4,412

    Average: 52.52

    The prolific opening partnership that often provided the foundations for the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman to break records further down the order, Gambhir and Sehwag was a partnership made in Delhi that made runs everywhere.

    Their best effort was 233 against Sri Lanka at Kanpur in 2009 at nearly a run a ball, Sehwag departing first for 131 off just 122 balls.

    It is not hard to understand the success India had in Test cricket in this period when Gambhir and Sehwag could flog an attack like that to the tune of 233 runs, especially when the reward for breaking the partnership was bringing Dravid to the crease.

7. Marvan Atapattu & Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka)

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    ROSS SETFORD/Associated Press

    Era: 1997-2007

    Innings: 122

    Runs: 4,543

    Average: 39.41

    Both giants of the Sri Lanka side that rose to international prominence in the mid-to-late '90s off the back of their surprise success in the 1996 World Cup, Atapattu and Jayasuriya were a fixture at the top of the Sri Lankan batting order for a decade.

    Pakistan felt the full force of their talent in Kandy in 1999, when they racked up what was at the time the fifth-highest opening partnership in Test history against an attack led by the formidable Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.

    Atapattu was in fine fettle, making an unbeaten 207, whilst Jayasuriya made 188 as the openers reached 335 before the latter was dismissed. Unfortunately, no play was possible beyond Day 2 because of torrential rain, but those who did see the first two days witnessed a masterclass that would be oft repeated but never bettered in the next eight years.

6. Matthew Hayden & Ricky Ponting (Australia)

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    Gautam Singh/Associated Press

    Era: 2001-2009

    Innings: 76

    Runs: 4,765

    Average: 67.11

    A pair of bullies in the best sense of the word, there was no respite for bowlers when Hayden and Ponting were in the mood. Unfortunately for bowlers, this was most of the time.

    Hayden and Ponting—opener and first drop for the most successful side in history—are sixth in the list, but they boast the highest average partnership of anyone in the top 10, with 67 runs for every shared visit to the middle.

    The 16 partnerships they made of 100 or more has only been equalled by one duo and bettered by two pairs higher up this list, and all three of those played together for at least 30 innings more.

    So often England were on the receiving end, and after one day of the 2002/2003 Ashes in Australia the pair had given England fans that sinking feeling again. Before his horrific knee injury, Simon Jones had made the first breakthrough at the Gabba with the scoreboard on 67. At the close Hayden and Ponting had steered Australia to an imposing 364/2, having put on 272 in 61 overs as Ponting made 123 and Hayden 197.

    In 2003, they exacted some revenge for the sweat endured in the field at Eden Gardens when Dravid and Laxman gave them the runaround, with 322 runs for the one wicket in the match. Not content with putting on 234 in the first innings with Ponting going on to make 257, they came together again in the fourth innings to make 88 runs without loss to steer Australia to victory.

5. Alastair Cook & Andrew Strauss (England)

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    Gareth Copley/Getty Images

    Era: 2006-2012

    Innings: 132

    Runs: 5,253

    Average: 40.40

    England's most successful partnership in their long history of Test cricket, Cook and Strauss were the bedrock of England's charge to the top of the ICC world ranking list in 2009.

    When the left-handed pairing of Strauss and Marcus Trescothick was broken up by the latter's stress-related illness, a gaping hole opened up at the top of the order. When 21-year-old Cook scored a century on debut in Nagpur, any fears that England's top order would become beset by instability were quickly laid to rest.

    On 14 occasions they took England to 100 without loss, with their highest accumulation coming on a feather bed in Barbados where five players made centuries and two more passed 90, but they will be most fondly remembered for providing the foundation for a first Ashes series win in Australia for 24 years.

    Things got off to an inauspicious start as Strauss went for a duck three balls into the first Test with no runs on the board, but with two days to bat in order to save the first Test, they put on 188. Strauss made a century and Cook ended with an unbeaten double hundred, as England cruised to a mammoth 517/1 that suggested this tour might not be destined to end in defeat like so many others before it.

    Strauss failed the one time England needed to bat in Adelaide, and a solid partnership of 78 was as good as it got for England as Australia roared back into the series at Perth, before Strauss and Cook helped to shut the door in Melbourne.

    After Australia were destroyed for 98, Cook and Strauss eased England into the lead with half centuries apiece in an opening stand of 159, laying the foundations for a crushing innings victory as England racked up 513.

    Falling just short of a century in Sydney, their partnership of 98 again helped England on their way to a total Australia could not eclipse with two innings. Cook made 189, leaving Ian Bell and Matt Prior to flog tired bowlers for centuries of their own.

4. Matthew Hayden & Justin Langer (Australia)

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    Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    Era: 1997-2007

    Innings: 122

    Runs: 6,081

    Average: 51.53

    The left-handed pair who led from the front in the all-conquering Australian team that straddled the turn of the century, Hayden and Langer were consistency personified against the new ball.

    Langer provided a gritty counterpoint to the domineering Hayden, though both shared an unquenchable thirst for runs. When Langer got moved up to open at The Oval in 2001 following Michael Slater's loss of form, the pair put on 158 together and never looked back, amassing 5,655 runs together at the top of the order to take their total runs in tandem to 6,081.

    Their highest partnership was 255 against Sri Lanka in Cairns in 2004, on a flat pitch where Hayden completed hundreds in each innings, but similar heights were scaled time and time again. Coming in fourth on the list of highest runs scored in partnership, they top the table for the most partnerships of 200 or more with a remarkable six double-century stands, nearly half of the 14 stands they shared that passed 100.

3. Mahela Jayawardene & Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Era: 2000-Present

    Innings: 113

    Runs: 6,151

    Average: 56.43

    The silky Sri Lankan stroke-makers are still going strong in Tests having given up the shortest format following their World Twenty20 victory, and long may they continue.

    Genuine all-time greats with more than 11,000 Test runs each individually with both averaging more than 50, they have scored more than a quarter of these runs in each other's company.

    They share the record for the highest partnership for any wicket in Test history, having made South Africa suffer in Colombo in 2006 to the tune of 624 runs. To put this in context, South Africa had been bundled out for 169 and Dale Steyn had threatened to make that look good by taking out both openers for single figures.

    Sangakkara batted for more than 11 hours in making 287, and Jayawardene kept on rolling for over 12.5 hours to reach 374, a summit from which only Hayden and Brian Lara can look down on him. As a pair, they built a stand that enables them to look down on every other pair ever to have shared the 22 yards in the middle with bats in their hands.

2. Gordon Greenidge & Desmond Haynes (West Indies)

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Era: 1978-1991

    Innings: 113

    Runs: 6,151

    Average: 56.43

    The great fast bowlers who made the West Indies the most feared side in the world throughout the 1970s and 1980s are rightly lauded, and Viv Richards is most vividly recalled for his flair at the crease. It should not be forgotten, though, that this dynamic opening pair often helped give those bowlers runs to play with and allowed Richards the platform to play his shots.

    The only players in this list to have been scoring runs together in the 1980s, let alone the 1970s, Greenidge and Haynes remain the most prolific opening pair in Test history, registering 42 partnerships of 50 or more—the same number that Hayden and Langer managed, albeit not entirely as an opening pair. Greenidge and Haynes, however, converted two more of their 50s into century stands.

    They passed 200 together four times—a record at the time that was later equalled by three pairs and surpassed by Hayden and Langer—and their highest, 298 against England in 1990, was highly memorable.

    With England bowled out by the unplayable pace artillery of Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh for 260, Greenidge and Haynes greedily tucked in to the English attack, flaying 46 boundaries as both hit hundreds to overhaul England's total on their own. As much as they may have liked to, they did not have to bat again.

1. Rahul Dravid & Sachin Tendulkar (India)

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    Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

    Era: 1996-2012

    Innings: 143

    Runs: 6,920

    Average: 50.51

    The Little Master and The Wall are two of the finest batsman to grace the game, and as is the case with Sangakkara and Jayawardene for Sri Lanka, India were incredibly fortunate to have both of them playing the bulk of their careers together.

    Both in the top four run-scorers of all time that is headed up by Tendulkar, they made more than 29,000 runs between them, and just under a quarter of those were made in tandem. On 49 occasions their partnerships were worth more than fifty, which is more than once every three innings, and they went on to register a century together at the crease 20 times, more than any other pair in Test history.

    They passed 200 together three times with a highest partnership of 249 against Zimbabwe in Nagpur in 2000. On one occasion against New Zealand in Mohali in 1999, they made a mockery of a pitch where 20 wickets had fallen for under 300 runs, putting on 229 with a century each.

    There is no single stand-out partnership of huge proportions against the strongest opposition compared with some on this list, but whenever you look at India's important victories, the likelihood is that a solid partnership between the two will have played its part.

    Following the headline-grabbing efforts of Dravid and Laxman in Kolkata in 2001, they travelled to Chennai for the series decider, and remarkably India pulled off a second victory against the seemingly invincible Australians. When Australia—with 391 on the board—had India 284/4, the game was in the balance. There could be no more reassuring sight for home supporters than Dravid walking out to join Tendulkar in the middle.

    Sure enough, the pair put on 169 to take India beyond the Australian total by 77 runs, putting India in control as the first innings lead eventually passed 100. More than a decade of steady accumulation followed before Dravid departed the scene, but not before he had compiled more runs in partnership with Tendulkar than any pair that had gone before them.

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