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Who formed Test cricket's oldest opening combination? And how far back do you have to go to find a middle order older than Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman?
July 20, 2011
When India play England at Lord's - the 100th Test between the countries, the 2000th overall - their middle order will probably comprise Rahul Dravid (38 years and 191 days old), Sachin Tendulkar (38 years and 88 days) and VVS Laxman (36 years and 262 days). It will have an average age of 37.82. To find an older trio at Nos. 3, 4 and 5, you'll have to go back to 1974, when England's Colin Cowdrey, John Edrich and Mike Denness had an average age of 37.86 at the start of the MCG Test. This week's List is about cricket's old men.
In the winter of 1929-30, two MCC teams set sail from England: one for the West Indies and the other for New Zealand. The openers for the side that travelled to the Caribbean were George Gunn and Andy Sandham, who, in the timeless Test at Sabina Park, had an average age of 45.27. They did well, too, for a 50- and 39-year-old. Gunn made 85 in the first innings, and Sandham 325. Sandham never played for England again, though, and his effort remains the best performance in a final match. A little more than a month later, Jack Hobbs (47 years and 193 days) and Frank Woolley (43 years and 31 days) opened in the second Ashes Test at Lord's. They remain the oldest opening combination in Tests.
Most of the opening combinations in the tables are expectedly from the pre-war era, when cricketers carried on until they greyed, and not prematurely. The oldest in the 21st century is Sri Lanka's Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya, who were 36 years and 351 days and 38 years and 131 days at the start of the Brisbane Test in November 2007. The next Test in Hobart was Atapattu's last, but Jayasuriya did not open with him at the Bellerive Oval, batting at No. 5 instead.
|Eng||45.30||JB Hobbs 47y 193d, FE Woolley 43y 31d||v Aus||Jun 27, 1930||Test 195|
|Eng||45.27||G Gunn 50y 294d, A Sandham 39y 271d||v WI||Apr 3, 1930||Test 193|
|Eng||43.24||WG Grace 47y 340d, R Abel 38y 205d||v Aus||Jun 22, 1896||Test 50|
|Eng||42.20||JH Edrich 39y 17d, DB Close 45y 135d||v WI||Jul 8, 1976||Test 779|
|SA||41.75||HW Taylor 38y 240d, JMM Commaille 44y 313d||v Eng||Dec 31, 1927||Test 169|
|Eng||41.69||JB Hobbs 47y 243d, H Sutcliffe 35y 265d||v Aus||Aug 16, 1930||Test 198|
|Eng||41.58||P Holmes 45y 213d, H Sutcliffe 37y 214d||v India||Jun 25, 1932||Test 219|
|Aus||40.98||HL Collins 38y 156d, W Bardsley 43y 202d||v Eng||Jun 26, 1926||Test 164|
|Eng||40.75||JB Hobbs 38y 71d, W Rhodes 43y 119d||v Aus||Feb 25, 1921||Test 139|
|Eng||40.67||AE Stoddart 33y 127d, WG Grace 47y 364d||v Aus||Jul 16, 1896||Test 51|
|Eng||40.01||G Boycott 40y 282d, JM Brearley 39y 93d||v Aus||Jul 30, 1981||Test 906|
|SA||39.88||B Mitchell 40y 56d, EAB Rowan 39y 228d||v Eng||Mar 5, 1949||Test 313|
|Eng||39.86||G Gunn 50y 294d, RES Wyatt 28y 336d||v WI||Apr 3, 1930||Test 193|
|Aus||39.79||AA Mailey 35y 327d, H Carter 43y 256d||v SA||Nov 26, 1921||Test 147|
|Aus||39.72||PA McAlister 39y 338d, FJ Laver 39y 189d||v Eng||Jun 14, 1909||Test 102|
|Aus||39.59||PA McAlister 39y 355d, SE Gregory 39y 78d||v Eng||Jul 1, 1909||Test 103|
|Aus||39.21||AJ Richardson 36y 148d, W Bardsley 42y 13d||v Eng||Dec 19, 1924||Test 158|
|SA||39.20||JMM Commaille 41y 156d, TA Ward 36y 359d||v Eng||Jul 26, 1924||Test 156|
The most recent top order in our table of 30 is from 1976, when Edrich (39 years and 17 days), Brian Close (45 years and 135 days) and David Steele (34 years and 283 days) were England's No 1, 2 and 3 against West Indies at Old Trafford. They managed only 89 runs in six innings and West Indies won by 425 runs to go 1-0, and eventually won the series 3-0, to make Tony Greig, the England captain, grovel.
No team has ever had three 40-year-olds at No. 3, 4 and 5. Australia came closest at The Oval in 1926, when their middle order comprised Charles Macartney (40 years and 48 days), Warren Bardsley (43 years and 251 days) and the captain, Herbie Collins (38 years and 205 days). It was the last Test for all three of them.
|Aus||40.79||CG Macartney 40y 48d, W Bardsley 43y 251d, HL Collins 38y 205d||v Eng||Aug 14, 1926||Test 167|
|SA||40.54||TA Ward 35y 198d, AW Nourse 44y 22d, SJ Snooke 42y 15d||v Eng||Feb 16, 1923||Test 152|
|SA||39.90||MJ Susskind 33y 6d, AW Nourse 45y 141d, JMM Commaille 41y 114d||v Eng||Jun 14, 1924||Test 153|
|Eng||39.87||JWH Makepeace 39y 187d, ER Wilson 41y 337d, JB Hobbs 38y 71d||v Aus||Feb 25, 1921||Test 139|
|Eng||38.80||H Strudwick 44y 339d, JW Hearne 33y 325d, FE Woolley 37y 219d||v Aus||Jan 1, 1925||Test 159|
|Eng||38.49||W Place 33y 87d, J Hardstaff jnr 36y 244d, GOB Allen 45y 216d||v WI||Mar 3, 1948||Test 297|
|SA||38.49||TA Ward 36y 345d, MJ Susskind 33y 34d, AW Nourse 45y 169d||v Eng||Jul 12, 1924||Test 155|
|Eng||38.46||PH Parfitt 35y 218d, MJK Smith 39y 13d, BL D'Oliveira 40y 283d||v Aus||Jul 13, 1972||Test 700|
|Aus||38.08||W Bardsley 38y 11d, C Kelleway 34y 236d, WW Armstrong 41y 209d||v Eng||Dec 17, 1920||Test 135|
|Eng||38.08||MC Cowdrey 35y 200d, KF Barrington 37y 230d, TW Graveney 41y 25d||v Aus||Jul 11, 1968||Test 639|
|Eng||38.02||GE Tyldesley 37y 169d, FE Woolley 39y 58d, EH Hendren 37y 169d||v Aus||Jul 24, 1926||Test 166|
|SA||38.00||MJ Susskind 33y 69d, AW Nourse 45y 204d, HW Taylor 35y 103d||v Eng||Aug 16, 1924||Test 157|
|Aus||37.95||CG Macartney 40y 13d, TJE Andrews 35y 318d, AJ Richardson 37y 351d||v Eng||Jul 10, 1926||Test 165|
|India||37.89||C Ramaswami 40y 39d, CK Nayudu 40y 268d, S Wazir Ali 32y 314d||v Eng||Jul 25, 1936||Test 253|
|Eng||37.86||MC Cowdrey 42y 2d, JH Edrich 37y 188d, MH Denness 34y 25d||v Aus||Dec 26, 1974||Test 749|
|SA||37.79||TA Ward 35y 198d, HW Taylor 33y 287d, AW Nourse 44y 22d||v Eng||Feb 16, 1923||Test 152|
|Eng||37.69||BW Luckhurst 33y 138d, MJK Smith 38y 358d, BL D'Oliveira 40y 262d||v Aus||Jun 22, 1972||Test 699|
|Eng||37.57||KF Barrington 36y 259d, TW Graveney 40y 55d, BL D'Oliveira 35y 310d||v Pak||Aug 10, 1967||Test 622|
|SA||37.55||WW Wade 34y 197d, AD Nourse 38y 50d, B Mitchell 39y 359d||v Eng||Jan 1, 1949||Test 309|
The oldest opening pair in ODIs is Netherlands' Nolan Clarke and Peter Cantrell, who were 47 years and 257 days and 33 years and 129 days when they played South Africa in the 1996 World Cup. Clarke remains the oldest cricketer to have played ODI cricket. He is also the oldest debutant, making his debut nearly 22 years after he had scored 159 for Barbados against England in 1973-74.
Sanath Jayasuriya's desire for a farewell ODI meant that he (at 41 years and 363 days) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (34 years and 257 days) recently became the second-oldest opening combination in ODIs, slotting in ahead of England's 1979 pair of Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley. It didn't go well for Sri Lanka, though, with Dilshan and Jayasuriya falling for 1 and 2 in a 110-run defeat at The Oval.
|Neth||40.52||NE Clarke 47y 257d, PE Cantrell 33y 129d||v SA||Mar 5, 1996||ODI 1073|
|SL||38.34||TM Dilshan 34y 257d, ST Jayasuriya 41y 363d||v Eng||Jun 28, 2011||ODI 3165|
|Eng||37.91||JM Brearley 37y 56d, G Boycott 38y 245d||v WI||Jun 23, 1979||ODI 74|
|Scot||37.63||BMW Patterson 34y 115d, IL Philip 40y 349d||v Ban||May 24, 1999||ODI 1459|
|Eng||37.50||GA Gooch 38y 246d, IT Botham 36y 122d||v Pak||Mar 25, 1992||ODI 752|
|Ber||37.46||LOB Cann 36y 187d, DL Hemp 38y 151d||v Neth||Apr 8, 2009||ODI 2837|
|Can||37.44||JM Davison 36y 102d, DR Chumney 38y 223d||v Ber||Aug 19, 2006||ODI 2406|
|SL||36.93||MS Atapattu 36y 87d, ST Jayasuriya 37y 232d||v India||Feb 17, 2007||ODI 2525|
|Ber||36.62||CJ Smith 36y 41d, DA Minors 37y 50d||v Ban||Feb 25, 2007||ODI 2528|
|India||36.53||R Dravid 36y 246d, SR Tendulkar 36y 143d||v SL||Sep 14, 2009||ODI 2889|
|Eng||36.49||G Boycott 37y 215d, B Wood 35y 149d||v Pak||May 24, 1978||ODI 50|
|Aus||36.32||AC Gilchrist 36y 111d, ML Hayden 36y 127d||v India||Mar 4, 2008||ODI 2689|
|SA||36.22||SJ Cook 38y 106d, KC Wessels 34y 61d||v India||Nov 14, 1991||ODI 688|
|USA||36.22||RP Alexander 31y 206d, MR Johnson 40y 321d||v Aus||Sep 13, 2004||ODI 2172|
|Eng||35.70||GA Gooch 37y 201d, DI Gower 33y 314d||v NZ||Feb 9, 1991||ODI 668|
|Eng||35.29||DM Smith 34y 84d, W Larkins 36y 132d||v WI||Apr 3, 1990||ODI 622|
|India||35.19||V Sehwag 32y 164d, SR Tendulkar 37y 343d||v SL||Apr 2, 2011||ODI 3148|
|Eng||35.04||P Willey 30y 176d, G Boycott 39y 222d||v WI||May 30, 1980||ODI 90|
Netherlands also fielded the oldest middle order - Flavian Aponso (43 years and 112 days) , Steven Lubbers (42 years and 330 days) and Roland Lefebvre (33 years and 10 days) - against New Zealabd in the 1996 World Cup. They beat the mark of 36.89 years set by England's Nos. 3, 4 and 5 - Close, Keith Fletcher and Basil D'Oliveria - in the fourth ODI.
|Neth||39.74||GJAF Aponso 43y 112d, SW Lubbers 42y 330d, RP Lefebvre 33y 10d||v NZ||Feb 17, 1996||ODI 1051|
|Eng||36.89||DB Close 41y 186d, KWR Fletcher 28y 100d, BL D'Oliveira 40y 329d||v Aus||Aug 28, 1972||ODI 4|
|WI||36.03||RB Richardson 29y 67d, CG Greenidge 39y 323d, IVA Richards 39y 13d||v Aus||Mar 20, 1991||ODI 675|
|Eng||35.45||N Hussain 34y 91d, GP Thorpe 32y 330d, AJ Stewart 39y 80d||v SL||Jun 27, 2002||ODI 1847|
|Ber||35.40||IH Romaine 35y 80d, JJ Celestine 34y 14d, DL Hemp 36y 353d||v Kenya||Oct 27, 2007||ODI 2640|
|Ber||35.36||S Mukuddem 35y 54d, DL Hemp 36y 127d, IH Romaine 34y 219d||v SL||Mar 15, 2007||ODI 2534|
|SL||35.30||ST Jayasuriya 40y 180d, KC Sangakkara 32y 61d, TT Samaraweera 33y 96d||v India||Dec 27, 2009||ODI 2936|
|Can||35.19||S Jyoti 36y 66d, A Bagai 28y 23d, S Dhaniram 41y 124d||v Afgh||Feb 18, 2010||ODI 2959|
|SL||35.07||ST Jayasuriya 40y 177d, KC Sangakkara 32y 58d, DPMD Jayawardene 32y 211d||v India||Dec 24, 2009||ODI 2935|
|WI||35.03||HA Gomes 31y 229d, IVA Richards 32y 357d, CH Lloyd 40y 180d||v SL||Feb 27, 1985||ODI 313|
|Ber||35.01||LOB Cann 34y 122d, IH Romaine 34y 178d, DL Hemp 36y 86d||v Can||Feb 2, 2007||ODI 2498|
Travis Basevi is a cricket statistician and UK Senior Programmer for Cricinfo and other ESPN sports websites. George Binoy is an Assistant Editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Binoy
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