Australia Cricket Team

Australia’s Greatest Opening Partners of All Time

Australian cricket has never been healthier, despite what the English media may be saying at present. In recent days, the Baggy Greens have taken a deserved 2-0 lead in the ongoing Ashes Series on enemy territory, and a first series victory on foreign soil in over two decades is within reach. Despite Ben Stokes’ fifth-day heroics, the visitors were able to neutralize the England skipper and secure a 43-run victory in one of the most controversial test matches in recent years.

And that controversy stemmed from the stumping of Jonny Bairstow. With the England and Yorkshire batsman continually strolling out of his crease after facing a delivery, Aussie wicket-keeper Alex Carey took full advantage to throw the ball at the stumps after the 33-year-old ducked out of the way of a Cameron Green bouncer. The furious Bairstow departed, and emotions began to flare.

Aussie Controversies

The incomparable Stokes, clearly fuelled by rage, then took matters into his own hands, clubbing the Australian bowlers all around Lord’s. He hit an Ashes-record nine 6’s as part of his blistering knock which eventually came to an end at a whopping 155. It looked as though the maverick all-rounder would pull off another heroic match-winning performance just as he did at Headingley four years ago, but in the end, it wasn’t to be.

Cricket Australia are no strangers to controversy. Late last year, the governing body of cricket down under were heavily criticised for their decision to continue their global partnership with one of the planet’s biggest online betting companies. There is no shortage of online casinos in Australia to visit and perhaps that was behind the decision to continue the partnership.

Regardless, however, chants of “cheat, cheat, cheat” and “same old Aussies, always cheating” rang around the home of cricket. Not that that bothered captain Patrick Cummins or his teammates, and they now have a commanding lead in the series. And much of that lead is due to his opening batsman, especially Usman Khawaja.

The Queensland man has already racked up 283 runs throughout his four innings thus far and he is the current top scorer in the series. He looks on course for Player of the Series Honors and that got us thinking, where does he rank in Australia’s all-time opening batsman list? That is always up for debate however, one thing that isn’t is their greatest ever opening partners.

Justin Langer

Justin Langer was never fully appreciated while his career was ongoing, often overlooked for his bludgeoning opening partner Matthew Hayden. However, since his retirement in 2007, his career is now looked back on fondly. While the Hayden would smack bowlers all around the park, Langer was more of a grafter, picking up runs here and there and seeing off the new ball ready for teammate and captain Ricky Ponting to come in and rack up big scores.

He holds the record for the highest score by an Australian opener in a test match, an honour he claimed with a blistering 250 against England in the 2002/03 Ashes Series. His resiliency, grit, and perseverance as well as for having perfect technique, contributed to his ability to carve out an impressive career spanning almost two decades. He played in a whopping 105 Test matches for his country, scoring 7,696 runs at an average of 45.27, including 23 centuries. He was the perfect foil for the Hayden, and the duo struck up a formidable partnership that struck fear into bowlers the world over.

The former Middlesex and Somerset man had an impregnable defence and his refusal to take unnecessary risks made him the perfect opener. As well as that, he was a fantastic leaver of the ball and played the moving ball with ease. His back-foot play was exceptional, and that served as a great weapon in countering the short ball.

Matthew Hayden

While we’re on the topic, it would be rude to not mention the opening behemoth known as Matthew Hayden. Standing at 6’2 and built like a brick wall, the Queensland-born batsman was a monster at the crease and his unorthodox style saw him rack up runs in abundance.

In fact, throughout his lengthy career, he managed to score even more runs than his long-time teammate Langer, racking up over 8,000 in the long format of the game. While Langer was designed for the test arena however, Hayden’s power-hitting game saw him become the perfect opener in the short formats of the game as well, where he would rack up a further 6,000 runs. In his long and distinguished career, he made a name for himself as one of the best batsmen in the world while donning the fabled Baggy Green cap.

His aggressive demeanour toward the bowlers was one of the main factors in his success. He was known for his hard-hitting ability and his ability to dominate the opposition, an approach he was afforded courtesy of Langer’s pragmatism at the opposite end. One of the most feared batters in the world, he had a distinctive playing style that mixed power with accuracy. His quick-fire innings and big-hitting prowess have also given him a reputation as a dangerous opener.

While he was most definitely on the aggressive side when it comes to the opening batsman of his time, Hayden also had a solid defence, and great balance, combined with wonderful footwork, which allowed him to play spin and pace bowling with ease. He could adapt to any conditions as displayed by the runs he racked up the world over and on a variety of pitches. Thanks to all the above, he built a remarkable average of 50.73 in Test cricket and 43.80 in ODI cricket, which is a testament to his consistency.

Honourable Mentions

Naturally, throughout the years, Australia have had some incredible partners at the top of the order. In T20 Internationals, the partnership of the hard hitting David Warner and Aaron Finch may never be topped. Right now, Warner and the Usman Khawaja are also firing on all cylinders, despite Stuart Broad seemingly having the former’s number.

Simon Katich also proved himself at the elite level, as did Chris Rogers, despite arriving in the international arena during the twilight of his career. However, they all have some way to go before they can match the legacy left behind by Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden.