England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 2nd day September 9, 2005

Getting the opening act right

How Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden put together their first century partnership of the series

After putting together partnerships of 35, 18, 0, 47, 58, 24, 20 and 50 in the series so far, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden finally managed their first century stand in the last Test. It was an especially huge struggle for Hayden, who scored his runs at two per over, compared to Langer's 4.3.

Hayden's lack of confidence showed in his ultra-cautious approach - he scored at 1.85 runs per over against Ashley Giles, 1.64 against Steve Harmison and 1.29 against Matthew Hoggard. Langer's run rates against those three bowlers were 5.59 (Giles), 3.11 (Harmison) and 5.60 (Hoggard). While Hayden's defensive approach was unusual, he did it well: his in-control factor - that's the number of balls middled or left alone - though, was an outstanding 89.58%. Langer's was only 79.05.

Before this innings, Hayden had a scoring rate of 61.62 to Langer's 53.70, but quite surprisingly, in the 27 fifty-plus stands they've been involved in since 2002, Langer has outscored Hayden 16 times. If Hayden continues to score at the same rate till he gets out, this innings will rank as his second-slowest among knocks in which he faced at least 75 balls. His slowest remains the 19 he scored off 77 balls against West Indies in 2003. His other top go-slow efforts are 40 off 115 balls against South Africa in 1997, 35 off 99 balls against England in 2001 and 36 off 91 balls earlier in the current series. In all those knocks, he finished with a strike rate of less than 40.