The Greatest Teams

Greatest Partnerships

Deadly duos

Cricket is a game of partnerships. Here are five that can go down in history

George Dobell

December 15, 2011

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Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar confer during their 91-run stand, India v Australia, 4th ODI, Chandigarh, October 8, 2007
Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were prolific together in one-day cricket © AFP
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Herbert Sutcliffe and Jack Hobbs

Other opening pairs - notably the wonderful Bajan partnership of Greenidge and Haynes - have scored more runs, while of those who came in a little later, the record of Dravid and Tendulkar, who have added almost 7000 Test runs together, with 19 century stands, is little short of staggering.

But the record of Sutcliffe and Hobbs passes the test of time. Between 1924 and 1930 they opened England's innings on 38 occasions in Test cricket and registered 15 century partnerships. In all they amassed 3249 runs together at the remarkable average of 87.81. No other regulation combination can come close to matching those figures.

To make that record all the more impressive, those runs were made in an era of uncovered wickets. Indeed, the pair seemed to reserve their finest performances for the most testing circumstances: The Oval in 1926 and Melbourne in 1929 spring to mind. On both occasions they defied fine bowling, a treacherous pitch and a demanding position to help England secure the Ashes.

They added 136 in their first innings together and 268 in their second. Twice they posted three successive century opening stands, and only six times did they post fewer than 20 runs together. Perhaps the most remarkable statistic, however, is that the pair recorded a scarcely believable 350 first-class centuries between them.

Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh

Test cricket's most successful bowler-fielder combination of all: the duo from Western Australia combined to claim 95 victims (all caught Marsh, bowled Lillee) in the 69 Tests they played together. It speaks volumes for the record that, of current players, the closest rivals to the Lillee-Marsh partnership is the pairing of Kallis and Boucher. It has, to date, taken the South Africans 132 Tests to claim 68 dismissals.

As ever, though, the statistics only tell part of the story. Marsh and Lillee also typified the aggressive spirit of the Australian team of the time. With their bristling moustaches, their barely buttoned shirts and their fiery temperaments, they embodied the ferocious seventies unit and the era of World Series Cricket.

Lillee's excellence as a fast bowler requires little reiteration. Suffice it to say that many judges rate him as the finest quick in the history of the game, and when Wisden named its "Cricketers of the [20th] century", Lillee was rated sixth. He was also the highest-placed specialist fast bowler.

Marsh, however, does not always gain the respect his record deserves. He held, for a while, the record for the most Test victims by a wicketkeeper - it was, naturally, a catch off the bowling of Lillee that took him to the milestone - while his tally of 28 dismissals in the 1982-83 Ashes remains the record for any wicketkeeper in any series. Athletic, brave, and as tough as the land where he was born, Marsh kept with skill to the Lillee-Thomson attack - arguably the fastest in the history of the game - and often seemed as indestructible and permanent as Uluru.

It was fitting that, after 14 years together, they bowed out of Test cricket on the same day.

Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar

The most prolific pairing in the history of ODI cricket. The two hold the record for the most partnership runs by a pair (8227; nearly 3000 more than their closest rivals); the most partnership runs by a pair of openers (6609; nearly 1300 more than their nearest rivals) and the most century partnerships by a pair (26; 10 more than their nearest rivals). It is, by any accounts, an astonishing record.

Tendulkar's genius requires no elaboration here, but Ganguly, it seems, will always divide opinions. Few would deny, however, that during his reign as captain, India discovered a pride and strength that eventually saw them win a World Twenty20 title, a World Cup, and be rated as the No. 1 Test team. Ganguly may have moved on by the time those successes came, but all but the most trenchant critics would accept that he helped build the foundations of a formidable team.

Viv Richards and Joel Garner

A surprising choice, perhaps, but Richards and Garner embody the unity of the West Indies team during the 1970s and '80s, and exemplify the formidable individual talents that merged to form one of the most outstanding sides of any era.

Although hailing from different countries - Richards was from Antigua and Garner from Barbados - the two combined for West Indies and Somerset for almost a decade to create a period of unprecedented success for both teams. The towering Garner, employing those horrid lifters and searing yorkers with devastating effect, was one of several giant fast bowlers from the Caribbean at the time. Richards was, by any standard and in any age, a genius. Together they set West Indies on a run that saw them undefeated in a Test series for 15 years and, in 1984, win a then record 11 Tests in a row.

Cricket lovers in England were blessed when the two came together for the best part of a decade at Taunton from 1977. Before then, Somerset had never won a trophy in their history. With Richards and Garner together, they won five trophies in five years. Since their departure, 25 years ago, Somerset have won just two more.

There's one even more one obscure statistic that says a great deal for the pair's ability to raise their game on the big occasion. In Garner's limited-overs career - both domestic and international - he claimed five five-wicket hauls, all in finals or knockout games. Three of those instances occurred in Lord's finals - one a World Cup final - yet in none did Garner win a Man-of-the-Match award. Why? Because Richards plundered centuries of such sublime skill in each that Garner's excellence was overlooked.

West Indies produced many outstanding players in this period, but these two perhaps embody the spirit and the skill that made them such a magnificent team.

Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram

There have been many great fast bowling duos: Larwood-Voce, Lindwall-Miller, Trueman-Statham, Ambrose- Walsh, Lillee-Thomson, Donald-Pollock, Garner-Marshall to name but a few. In many ways, arguing that any one pair was better than any other is fatuous. All were superb.

But the pair of opening bowlers with the most wickets when bowling in tandem is Waqar and Wasim. In partnership they claimed 476 Test wickets in games when they took the new ball together (Ambrose and Walsh are the only other new-ball bowlers with more than 400 Test wickets when bowling in tandem), with a strike rate of just 46.05 balls per wicket. Highlights included a one-wicket win over Australia in Karachi in 1994, when they took 15 wickets between them, and an eight-wicket win over a strong West Indies side on the same ground in 1990. Their bowling on the tour to England in 1992 was also sensational.

Both were blessed with sharp pace, sublime skill and an ability to swing the ball, new or old, in any conditions apparently, and complemented each other with their left-arm, right-arm combination. Waqar boasts, at present, the best strike rate (43.4 balls per wicket) of any bowler with more than 250 Test wickets and the best strike rate of any ODI bowler with 400 wickets (30.5 balls per wicket), while Wasim, with 414 Test wickets and 502 in ODIs might well be the best left-arm fast bowler in the history of the game.

ESPN's series on the greatest teams in sport is in partnership with Samsung Mobile Project Team Work

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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