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The Friday Column

The best opening acts in ODIs, and Gilchrist in finals

Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist have all the numbers to suggest they're one of the best opening pairs ever in ODIs

S Rajesh

May 4, 2007

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Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist: one of best opening pairs ever in one-day internationals © Getty Images
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The current Australian ODI team is great for a number of reasons, not least the presence of an outstanding opening pair. Matthew Hayden set the World Cup alight with his spectacular power-hitting, striking the maximum number of boundaries (69 fours and 18 sixes) in a single edition of the tournament and, while his partner was silent through most of the competition, he came to life when it mattered most, with an astonishing 149 in the final. That innings by Adam Gilchrist, and the 172-run stand for the first wicket, was the difference between the two teams in the title clash.

Hayden and Gilchrist are fast closing in on some of the all-time records for opening pairs in one-day internationals: they are just 39 runs short of becoming only the third pair to get to 5000 partnership runs for the first wicket, joining Ganguly-Tendulkar and Greenidge-Haynes. And, as the table below shows, Hayden and Gilchrist are up there in terms of all the numbers - that stand in the final lifted their average partnership beyond 50, putting them next only to the West Indian pair in terms of averages. Their 16 century stands equal Ganguly and Tendulkar's record, while their 41 fifty-plus stands are the most by any opening pair and two clear of Greenidge and Haynes. Gilchrist had another useful association with Mark Waugh before Hayden came along but, as the table below shows, this was clearly a case of a left-left combination working better than a right-left one.

Best opening pairs in ODIs (at least 1500 runs)
Pair Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Greenidge-Haynes 102 5150 52.55 15/ 24
Gilchrist-Hayden 100 4961 51.14 16/ 25
Ganguly-Tendulkar 117 5621 48.87 16/ 21
Chanderpaul-Gayle 43 1967 48.67 5/ 11
Gibbs-Kirsten 66 2838 46.52 9/ 12
Jayasuriya-Tharanga 36 1620 45.00 4/ 5
Atapattu-Jayasuriya 79 3382 43.92 8/ 19
Sehwag-Tendulkar 57 2459 43.19 9/ 10
Gilchrist-M Waugh 93 3853 41.43 8/ 20
Gayle-Hinds 41 1687 41.14 4/ 5
Boon-Marsh 88 3523 40.03 7/ 25

Like most of the top opening pairs, Hayden and Gilchrist have also saved their best for the big occasions - they average more than 64 in World Cups, with 12 fifty-plus stands in 20 innings. Among pairs that have scored at least 400 World Cup runs, only Greenidge and Haynes have a lower average in the World Cup.

Openers in World Cups and in all ODIs (at least 400 partnership runs in World Cups and 1500 in all ODIs)
Pair World Cup inngs, runs Average All ODI innings, runs Average Diff in ave
Gibbs-Kirsten 12/ 774 77.40 66/ 2838 46.52 30.88
Boon-Marsh 10, 592 59.20 88, 3523 40.03 19.17
Gilchrist-Hayden 20/ 1220 64.21 100/ 4961 51.14 13.07
Sehwag-Tendulkar 9/ 498 55.33 57, 2459 43.14 12.19
Gavaskar-Srikkanth 13, 469 36.07 55, 1680 30.54 5.53
Greenidge-Haynes 11, 509 46.27 102, 5150 52.55 -6.28

Gilchrist and Hayden have also been one of the strongest links in the Australian line-up, performing consistently whether in victory or in defeat. They average 55.49 in wins - only slightly above their overall average - and nearly 40 in losses. Among the pairs to have scored at least 500 partnership runs in defeats, only Boon and Marsh average more, scoring 41.89 runs per innings in the 29 times they've opened in ODIs Australia have lost. As the table below shows, Hayden and Gilchrist have done much better in defeats than the two other pairs who've made more than 5000 runs.

Comparing the three leading ODI pairs in wins and defeats
Pair Wins - inng, runs Average Losses - inng, runs Average Diff in ave
Gilchrist-Hayden 78, 4162 55.49 17, 671 39.47 16.02
Ganguly-Tendulkar 54, 3561 68.48 58, 1956 33.72 34.76
Greenidge-Haynes 71, 4343 63.86 29, 745 25.68 38.18

Saving the best for last

Gilchrist's stunning knock in the final turned around what had been a disappointing tournament with the bat for him till then. The World Cup final has never failed to inspire the batsman in him - he has scored two fifties and a hundred in three tries - but he hasn't always replicated that kind of form in other finals: in 31 such games, he has nine fifty-plus scores, of which three were in successive World Cup finals; exclude that, and it's just six from 28, that's one in nearly five finals.

The table below lists the best performers in finals of ODI tournaments. The table is headed by another top-order left-hander, but one who was far more sedate and measured. Gilchrist's average doesn't stand out, but the next column does - he's the only one from the entire lot of the 18 batsmen with more than 750 runs in finals, to score at a strike rate of more than 100. Obviously, the pressures of playing the big game have done nothing to slow him down. If anything, it's made him up the ante even further.

Best batsmen in ODI finals (at least 750 runs in finals)
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Gary Kirsten 20 1019 67.93 74.16 3/ 7
Viv Richards 18 836 55.73 84.78 1/ 9
Dean Jones 30 1064 48.36 73.12 1/ 8
Sachin Tendulkar 36 1487 47.96 86.30 4/ 9
Aravinda de Silva 24 930 44.28 88.06 2/ 6
Ricky Ponting 38 1342 41.93 82.83 2/ 7
Sanath Jayasuriya 36 1452 41.98 96.99 1/ 13
Marvan Atapattu 26 969 40.37 70.01 2/ 6
Adam Gilchrist 31 1154 39.79 102.76 3/ 6
David Boon 22 751 39.52 58.67 0/ 4

What's also interesting is Gilchrist's pattern of scoring in finals since the 2003 World Cups. In the last four years, during which he has played in 13 finals, he has been on an all-or-nothing mode - he has nine scores of less than 30, only twice has he made it past 40, but on each occasion he made it count, going on to get a century.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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