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Dominant Partners

Viv Richards - was he the most dominant ever?


Growing up with cricket since the 1960s, it’s always been the opinion of myself (and many others) that Viv Richards was the most donminant batsman of his or any later time. Who can forget that summer of 1976 when both the weather and the cricket were blazing hot? His two double-centuries were ferocious in their contempt of the English attack, though moreso the 291 at The Oval, which ticked along at a strike rate of over 75. Though only 24 at the time, Richards was able to maintain his swagger and seemed to be indomitable for most of his career.

As is my wont, I wanted to try and quantify this and also to see where Sir Viv ranks all-time, to prove if he was in fact the most dominant ever. I decided to do this by looking at partnerships in various ways; the most dominant batsmen would presumably also be seen to dominate the strike to a larger degree.

After spending some time looking into this in detail, there were some interesting little tidbits emerging. Before we get to these, let’s get the lists based on sheer weight of numbers out of the way. To start with, the following are the most prolific run-creaters, i.e. in terms of numbers of runs produced in all partnerships while they were batting:-

P-Runs Batsman
30703 Dravid
29337 Tendulkar
25540 Kallis
24898 Ponting
24500 Border

With his stellar performances in the recent series with England, Dravid became the first to produce a total in excess of 30,000 runs. Of the five listed, Ponting has had far fewer partnerships, 465 against 705 by Dravid. The others with most partnerships:-

P/ships Batsman
705 Dravid
622 Tendulkar
617 Border
608 Chanderpaul
590 SR Waugh

Even still, Dravid isn’t close to the most partnerships per Test – here are those who have had the most turnover of support:-

PerTest Batsman
5.64 Headley
5.08 Abel
5.00 Shrewsbury sr
4.88 Mitchell
4.88 GM Turner

These are largely good players on bad teams, but that said George Headley is miles ahead of anyone else, going through almost six partners a game, clearly a cut above his contemporaries. Looking at the other end of the scale, the batsmen who have needed the fewest partners per Test are:-

Number Batsman
1.83 Jessop
2.06 Kapil Dev
2.13 Tate
2.17 Constantine
2.18 Kambli

(Note that I put in a qualifier to exclude bowlers who slog away and get out quickly).

Speaking of rankings on a per-Test basis, here are the leading runs producers, i.e. partnership runs per Test:-

PerTest Batsman
235.67 Bradman
197.18 Headley
196.67 CA Davis
195.56 Dravid
193.57 IJL Trott

Not too surprising to see the Don at the top. A bigger surprise is the inclusion of Charlie Davis – looking at each of the above batsman’s individual contributions to their partnerships, however, Trott and Davis have contributed a much lower share (approx. 44% in each case) than Bradman and Headley (though Bradman at over 57% is a good deal higher than Headley, at 50.5%). Trott and Davis have or had the ability to not get out, sticking around while others rack up more than their fair share of runs. Dravid, however, is even more generous in allowing his partners to take the strike, contributing only 41.6% of his partnership runs. This list changed quite a bit during the recent series – until then, Trott was the only player other than Bradman to be averaging over 200 partnership runs per Test, and Gautan Gambhir was in fifth place.

Dravid’s top partner is of course Tendulkar, with whom he has shared 6,520 runs, indeed during the recent series that pair became the all-time leaders. Here is the list of the most productive partners:-

Runs Partners
6520 Tendulkar/Dravid
6482 Greenidge/Haynes
6081 Hayden/Langer
5018 Jayawardene/Sangakkara
4765 Hayden/Ponting
4635 Cook/Strauss
4533 Jayasuriya/Atapattu
4173 Tendulkar/Ganguly
3887 Slater/MA Taylor
3687 Atherton/Stewart

Rated on average and putting in a minimum partnerships cut-off of five innings, the most successful partners have been:-

Avg Partners
145.25 Tendulkar/Kambli
128.40 Bradman/Ponsford
124.00 Bradman/SG Barnes
120.60 AD Nourse/Melville
119.00 Dujon/Greenidge

Numbers four and five probably less expected than the top three, and of course this list would have looked different if my cut-off was chosen at more or fewer innings, e.g. if the cut-off was 10 innings then only four partners have topped a century average, with Bradman/Ponsford miles ahead (as shown below):-

Avg Partners
128.40 Bradman/Ponsford [10]
104.40 Bradman/Morris [13]
104.18 Hammond/Paynter [12]
100.36 GC Smith/Kirsten [11]

Speaking of averages, it is of course Bradman who tops the list of career partnership averages:-

Avg Batsman
70.84 Bradman
66.00 SG Barnes
61.74 Jaques
58.00 Kambli
57.49 GE Tyldesley
56.95 Lehmann
56.84 Ponting
56.73 H Sutcliffe
54.87 Pullar
54.35 Gambhir

I for one did not expect to see Phil Jaques figure so prominently here, though he didn’t play many Tests and had some stellar partners at the other end (he even managed a 50 partnership with Jason Gillespie), however Jaques also has the highest ever percentage of partnerships of at least 50. Geoff Pullar was also a surprise – for those of you who don’t remember him, much of his Test career was spent opening for England with Raman Subba Row, though he was much more successful with partners further down the order, such as Colin Cowdrey, Ken Barrington and Ted Dexter, so there is an element of standing on the shoulders of giants with some of those listed above. Note that Gambhir dropped from sixth to tenth during the England series.

As I touched on above, Jaques is well ahead in terms of percentage of partnerships at 50 or more:-

%50 Batsman
54.84 Jaques
46.67 Bradman
45.95 Kambli
42.93 Sutcliffe
42.72 McCabe

Of course Bradman and Sutcliffe played in many more Tests than did Jaques. In terms of sheer numbers, Kallis has been most successful in terms of 50 partnerships:-

50s Batsman
118 Kallis
116 Dravid
115 Tendulkar
104 Border
102 Ponting

Dravid recently overtook Tendulkar, both of whom are within touching distance of Kallis for the all-time lead. No other batsmen are close to 100 partnerships of 50 or more (Sangakkara is next on 92). In terms of century partnerships, Dravid is again king:-

100s Batsman
86 Dravid
83 Tendulkar
80 Ponting
64 SR Waugh
63 Border

Ponting among those listed above has the highest percentage of tons per partnership, but is not at the top of the all-time list:-

%100 Batsman
24.32 Kambli
19.44 Bradman
19.44 SG Barnes
17.28 H Sutcliffe
17.20 Ponting

Kambli really was very special for a fairly short time. In terms of conversion rate he also ranks highly, the following list shows the all-time best at converting 50 partnerships to tons:-

Conv% Batsman
56.00 IJL Trott
54.17 Macartney
53.33 Rae
52.94 Kambli
52.17 Mohsin Khan

Again Jonathan Trott is setting the pace, however the margin has been reduced. The presence of Allan Rae here was unexpected; Rae was able to rely on the efforts of Jeff Stollmeyer, Frank Worrell and Everton Weekes to craft century partnerships with him. Indeed, his partnerships with fellow opener Stollmeyer accounted for a whopping 55.86% of his total partnership runs, second all-time for a main partner:-

%age Batsman (Partner)
60.64 Chauhan (Gavaskar)
55.86 Rae (Stollmeyer)
54.64 Washbrook (Hutton)
46.15 Gambhir (Sehwag)
44.21 SG Barnes (Bradman)

For comparison, Hobbs supplied 32.51% of Sutcliffe’s total partnership runs. The least reliant partners of all-time, i.e. lowest percentage of partnership runs with the batsman’s main partner:-

%age Batsman (Partner)
9.77 Hendren (Leyland)
9.78 Border (Boon)
10.30 Woolley (Hendren)
10.64 Hammond (Sutcliffe)
11.04 Armstrong (Kelleway)

Border’s place here is particularly interesting – although Boon was his main partner with almost 2400 runs together, this accounted for only 9.78% of his total partnership runs, the lowest by some margin of those with a significant Test batting career.

Putting a lot of this information together had to be done manually as there are no convenient search methods available, and I eventually looked at about 350 of the most significant batsman all told. Among those, the most popular main partners, i.e. the partner who figured as the top run scorer with a particular batsman were as follows:-

Number Partner
6 A Flower
5 Gavaskar
Javed Miandad
Mohammad Yousuf
4 seven others

Andy Flower stands alone as the most popular, though admittedly this is a restricted study. In terms of most popular partner when measured by highest average, it is of course Bradman in top spot:-

Number Partner
7 Bradman
5 Javed Miandad
4 Boycott
3 nine others

Seven of the batsmen I looked at enjoyed their highest partnership average with Bradman – Morris, Woodfull, McCabe, Ponsford, Brown, Fingleton and Barnes; quite some list!

Finally, we look at the dominant partners, that is those which have scored the highest share of their partnership runs over time, to see if Richards is indeed top all-time:-

% Batsman
69.82 Jessop
64.66 Richards
63.42 McLean
60.54 Umar Akmal
59.70 Blignaut
59.35 Kapil Dev
59.12 Constantine
58.87 Milburn
58.34 Sehwag
58.29 RG Pollock
57.30 JR Reid
57.09 Bradman
56.93 Stackpole
56.89 Duleepsinhji
56.71 Woolley
56.67 Evans
56.56 Afridi
56.45 Botham
56.41 Gilchrist
56.14 JH Sinclair

Most of the names on this list I’m not too surprised at, featuring as it does some of the most thrilling hitters of all time – Jessop, Richards, Kapil Dev, Milburn, Sehwag, Woolley, Afridi, Gilchrist and Botham. Others are more of a surprise, for example Godfrey Evans – he was a boxer at one time so clearly was a man not to be messed with, but having heard of his famous exploit of batting for almost 100 minutes without scoring and being much more noted for his keeping I was very surprised by this high share. If there’s a particular player readers may be interested in, I’ve included a list of other notables appended below. A glance at that will show that one of the lowest of all-time is “Barnacle” Bailey, though not the lowest in my study – that honour, if it can be so called, goes to Yashpal Sharma.

Though Jessop is famous for his one Test innings of real note, he was a true phenomenon, as a glance at early Wisden’s will confirm – tales of his big hitting in First-Class cricket are littered throughout the august pages, recorded in terms of extreme awe. He carried that vigour into Test cricket, scoring almost a staggering 70% of all of the runs made when he was at the crease. He is well ahead of Richards, though as I suspected Sir Viv has been the most dominant since Jessop’s time.

Just as I thought.
% Batsman
55.96 Engineer
55.85 Hadlee
55.84 Weekes
55.82 McCabe
55.77 Darling
55.73 Jayasuriya
55.68 Tamim Iqbal
55.61 Lara
55.56 Srikkanth
55.26 Lindsay
55.18 Gayle
54.92 Trumper
54.76 Hobbs
54.70 JM Gregory
54.67 Ranji
54.64 Harvey
54.45 Asif Iqbal
54.25 WG Grace
54.23 Saeed Ahmed
54.19 Flintoff
53.98 Swann
53.76 B Sutcliffe
53.71 Mankad
53.49 AD Nourse
52.98 Zaheer Abbas
52.80 GS Chappell
52.68 Dexter
52.49 Walcott
52.43 Sobers
52.42 Hammond
52.38 McCullum
52.30 Compton
51.92 Umrigar
51.67 Pietersen
51.44 MacLaren
51.41 Gooch
51.41 Gower
51.33 May
51.06 Knott
51.03 Symonds
51.03 Pataudi
51.01 Tendulkar
50.85 GC Smith
50.48 Headley
50.48 Crowe
50.36 Hick
50.26 Inzamam
50.08 A Flower
50.00 AJ Stewart
49.67 Hutton
49.65 Ponting
49.61 Hill
49.44 Barrington
49.41 Hanif
49.33 Sangakkara
49.04 Ponsford
48.99 Jayawardene
48.62 Yousuf
48.34 Greenidge
48.13 Imran Khan
48.08 Javed Miandad
48.02 Gavaskar
47.95 Cowdrey
47.77 SG Barnes
47.50 Fleming
47.32 Worrell
47.05 Strauss
46.92 Vaughan
46.81 GM Turner
46.78 Kallis
46.58 SR Waugh
46.42 Hayden
45.61 Border
45.50 RB Richardson
44.98 Boycott
44.95 Lawry
44.51 Kirsten
44.36 H Sutcliffe
44.18 Cook
44.14 IJL Trott
43.88 Hussain
43.31 Chanderpaul
43.22 Gambhir
42.64 Atapattu
42.58 Haynes
41.85 Atherton
41.61 Dravid
41.17 Jardine
40.61 W Rhodes
39.08 Woodfull
38.73 Bailey
38.26 Ganga
37.73 Kelleway
37.68 Yashpal Sharma

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