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Openers averaging 45 (years)

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?

Travis Basevi and George Binoy

July 20, 2011

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Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar form a slip cordon, Mumbai, December 1, 2009
Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar: old yet undroppable © AFP
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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.

Oldest pair of openers (1, 2) by average age - Tests
Team Age List Opp Start Date Scorecard
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.

Oldest middle order (3, 4, 5) by average age - Tests
Team Age List Opp Start Date Scorecard
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.

Oldest pair of openers (1, 2) by average age - ODIs
Team Age List Opp Start Date Scorecard
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.

Oldest middle order (3, 4, 5) by average age - ODIs
Team Age List Opp Start Date Scorecard
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 ESPNcricinfo

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George Binoy Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket

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