There aren’t many better things in cricket than seeing elegant batsmen execute textbook shots all over the field. Think of Sachin Tendulkar playing practically anything in the coaching manual, or of Michael Vaughan playing cover drives and Brian Lara pulling shots.
It would be difficult to find batsmen in the modern game who are more attractive than Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Fortunately for viewers worldwide, they share a batting order and bat at positions three and four respectively for the Sri Lankan team ever since the former made his debut against South Africa back in 2000.
The two passed Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer to rank third in terms of run production during the first Test against England at Lord’s, compiling their 6,082nd run together at the crease as Sangakkara easily reached his 36th Test century.
Here, we review the ten most successful batting combinations in Test history. Please use the comments section to share your memories of seeing these legendary players in action. Click on the following slide to find out who ranks 10th on the list.
10. Rahul Dravid & VVS Laxman (India)
The current generation of Indian batsmen has the best ability to occupy the crease in the history of the game, and six of them make up four of the top ten partnerships.
Laxman, whose initials were rumored to stand for “Very Very Special,” was entertaining to watch, and Dravid’s inclusion on the list comes as no surprise given how many weary and frustrated bowlers could attest to the adequacy of his moniker “The Wall.”
When the pair got going, they hardly ever stopped, turning 12 of their 26 half-century partnerships into triple figures or more. As a result of their performance against the greatest team of all time, they can claim to be the greatest single partnership in Test history.
In 2001, Australia entered Eden Gardens fresh off a streak of 16 straight victories in Test matches, and it appeared to be business as usual as they compelled India to continue. At 232/4, Dravid and Laxman were still 42 runs short of forcing Australia to bat again, and the series appeared to be over.
Laxman batted for 10.5 hours to make a career-best 281, turning the tide and laying the groundwork for a storied victory. Dravid scored 180 as the pair put on 376.
9. Sourav Ganguly & Sachin Tendulkar (India)
Ganguly and Tendulkar entered the top 10 more quickly than anyone else, and they did so with the second-highest average partnership. Tendulkar ended his career as the greatest run-scorer of all time, and Ganguly served as the mentor for India’s golden generation of batsmen during the modern era.
In his remarkable career, Tendulkar scored six double centuries, but it took him nearly 10 years and 21 tries to convert a century into a double. When he did, Ganguly was waiting at the other end to guide him through it as they formed their strongest partnership ever in a 1999 match against New Zealand.
When Ganguly joined Tendulkar, India was already looking strong at 182/3. He would go on to score his own century as Sachin doubled up, and the two added 281 against the worn-out Kiwi attack.
8. Gautam Gambhir & Virender Sehwag (India)
Gambhir and Sehwag were the successful openers who frequently laid the groundwork for players further down the order, such as Dravid, Tendulkar, and Laxman, to set records. They were a Delhi-born pairing that scored runs everywhere.
In 2009, they scored 233 runs at Kanpur against Sri Lanka, almost one run per ball, with Sehwag leaving first for 131 off just 122 balls.
When Gambhir and Sehwag could thrash an attack for 233 runs, it is easy to understand why India was successful in Test cricket during this time, especially since Dravid was brought to the crease as payment for their partnership being broken.
7. Marvan Atapattu & Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka)
Atapattu and Jayasuriya, two giants of the Sri Lankan team that gained international notoriety in the mid- to late 1990s as a result of their unexpected victory in the 1996 World Cup, were constants at the top of the team’s batting order for ten years
Pakistan’s full potential was on display in Kandy in 1999, when they defeated an attack led by the formidable Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram and amassed what was at the time the fifth-highest opening partnership in Test history.
As the openers reached 335 before the latter was dismissed, Jayasuriya made 188 while Atapattu made an unbeaten 207 to keep them in good shape. Rainstorms made it impossible to continue the play past Day 2, but those who did watch the first two days saw a masterclass that would be frequently imitated but never surpassed over the course of the following eight years.
6. Matthew Hayden & Ricky Ponting (Australia)
When Hayden and Ponting were in the mood, there was no respite for bowlers. They were a pair of bullies in the best sense of the word. Unfortunately, this was the majority of the time for bowlers.
The most successful side in history’s opener and first drop, Hayden and Ponting, are sixth on the list but have the highest average partnership of any player in the top 10, scoring 67 runs for each shared trip to the middle.
Only one duo and two pairs higher on this list can match or surpass the 16 partnerships they formed of 100 innings or more, and all three of those played together for at least 30 more innings.
After one day of the 2002–2003 Ashes in Australia, the pair gave England fans that sinking feeling they had experienced so often when they were on the losing end. Simon Jones had achieved the first breakthrough at the Gabba with the score at 67 before suffering a terrible knee injury. At the end of the innings, Hayden and Ponting had guided Australia to a commanding 364/2 after adding 272 runs in 61 overs, with Ponting scoring 123 and Hayden scoring 197.
With 322 runs for the one wicket in the match in 2003, they got some payback for the sweat they expended on the field at Eden Gardens when Dravid and Laxman gave them the runaround. They joined forces once more in the fourth innings to score 88 runs without conceding, helping Australia to victory. They had already added 234 runs in the first innings, with Ponting going on to score 257.
5. Alastair Cook & Andrew Strauss (England)
Cook and Strauss were the cornerstone of England’s ascent to the top of the ICC world ranking list in 2009. They were England’s most successful partnership in their lengthy history of Test cricket.
A huge gap appeared at the top of the order when the left-handed pairing of Strauss and Marcus Trescothick was shattered by the latter’s stress-related illness. Any worries that England’s top order would become unstable were quickly allayed when 21-year-old Cook scored a century on his debut in Nagpur.
Their greatest accumulation occurred on a feather bed in Barbados, where five players made centuries and two more passed 90. However, they will be most fondly remembered for laying the groundwork for Australia’s first Ashes series victory in 24 years.
With no runs on the board after three balls of the first Test, things got off to a bad start when Strauss was out for a duck. However, with two days left to bat and save the first Test, they put on 188 runs. Cook finished with an unbeaten double hundred, and Strauss added a century as England romped to a massive 517/1, raising the possibility that this tour might not be doomed to failure like so many others before it.
When England needed to bat in Adelaide, Strauss failed to do so, and a solid 78-run partnership was the best England could muster as Australia stormed back into the series at Perth. Strauss and Cook then contributed to the series’ conclusion in Melbourne.
Cook and Strauss eased England into the lead with half centuries apiece in an opening stand of 159 after Australia was destroyed for 98, laying the groundwork for a crushing innings victory as England racked up 513.
In Sydney, where they came up just short of a century, their 98-run partnership once more assisted England in reaching a total that Australia could not surpass in two innings. Cook scored 189, allowing Ian Bell and Matt Prior to pound worn-out bowlers for their own centuries.
4. Matthew Hayden & Justin Langer (Australia)
Hayden and Langer, the left-handed duo who took the helm for the all-conquering Australian team at the turn of the century, were consistency personified against the new ball.
Despite the fact that they both had an insatiable appetite for running, Langer and Hayden offered a gritty contrast to each other. Following Michael Slater’s deterioration in form, Langer was promoted to open at The Oval in 2001. The pair put on 158 runs together and never looked back, scoring 5,655 runs at the top of the order to bring their combined total of runs together to 6,081.
On a flat pitch in Cairns in 2004, when they were playing Sri Lanka, their highest partnership was 255, with Hayden scoring hundreds in each of his innings. However, they frequently reached similar heights. With a remarkable six double-century stands, or nearly half of the 14 stands they shared that went over 100, they top the list for the most partnerships of 200 or more, ranking fourth on the list of the highest runs scored in partnership.
3. Mahela Jayawardene & Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)
Long may they continue. Despite giving up the shorter format after winning the World Twenty20, the deft Sri Lankan stroke-makers are still going strong in Test matches.
They are genuine all-time greats with a combined total of more than 11,000 Test runs, each averaging more than 50, and more than a quarter of these runs coming in each other’s company.
Their 624 run torment of South Africa in Colombo in 2006 holds the record for the highest partnership for any wicket in Test history. For context, South Africa had been dismissed for 169, but Dale Steyn had threatened to make that look good by dismissing both of their openers for just one run.
Only Hayden and Brian Lara can see Sangakkara from the peak of his innings, where he batted for more than 11 hours to reach 287, and Jayawardene continued to roll for more than 12.5 hours to reach 374. Together, they constructed a platform from which they can observe every other pair of people who has ever used the middle 22 yards while holding a bat.
2. Gordon Greenidge & Desmond Haynes (West Indies)
The great fast bowlers who helped the West Indies become the most feared team in the world during the 1970s and 1980s are rightfully praised, and Viv Richards’ flair at the crease is most vividly remembered. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that this explosive opening pair frequently assisted in providing those bowlers with runs to work with and gave Richards a base from which to launch his shots.
Greenidge and Haynes, who are the only players on this list to have been accumulating runs together in the 1980s, let alone the 1970s, continue to be the most productive opening pair in Test history, amassing 42 partnerships of 50 or more, which is the same number that Hayden and Langer achieved, though not exclusively as an opening pair. However, Greenidge and Haynes turned two more of their fifty-foot stands into century stands.
Their highest score, 298 against England in 1990, is one of their most enduring performances. At the time, they passed 200 together four times, a record that was later tied by three pairs and surpassed by Hayden and Langer.
Greenidge and Haynes eagerly attacked the English attack after Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose, and Courtney Walsh bowled England out for 260, flinging 46 boundaries as both scored hundreds to surpass England’s total on their own. They did not have to bat again, as much as they might have liked to.
1. Rahul Dravid & Sachin Tendulkar (India)
The Little Master and The Wall are two of the best batsmen to ever play the game, and India was incredibly fortunate to have both of them play the majority of their careers together, just like Sangakkara and Jayawardene did for Sri Lanka.
Together, they scored more than 29,000 runs, with just under 25% of those runs being made in tandem. They are both among the top four all-time run scorers, with Tendulkar at the head of the list. More often than once every three innings, or 49 times, their partnerships were worth more than fifty runs. They also recorded a century at the crease together 20 times, more than any other pair in Test history.
With a highest partnership of 249 against Zimbabwe in Nagpur in 2000, they each exceeded 200 together three times. They once put on 229 runs with a century each against New Zealand in Mohali in 1999 on a pitch where 20 wickets had fallen for under 300 runs.
Compared to some on this list, there isn’t a single partnership that stands out as being of enormous proportions against the toughest opposition, but whenever you look at India’s significant victories, it’s likely that a strong partnership between the two played a role.
After Dravid and Laxman’s attention-grabbing performances in Kolkata in 2001, they traveled to Chennai for the series finale, where astonishingly India managed to defeat the seemingly unbeatable Australians a second time. The outcome of the match was in doubt when Australia had India at 284/4 and had 391 on the board. The sight of Dravid leaving to join Tendulkar in the middle could not be more comforting for the home crowd.
Indeed, the pair scored 169 runs together, pushing India’s total past Australia’s by 77 runs and giving India control as the first innings lead grew to over 100 runs. Before Dravid left the field, more than a decade of steady accumulation had passed. However, not before he and Tendulkar had amassed more runs together than any other duo before them.