Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Thanks partner

The Hollywood version
 read the book
Even though it lacks any cricketing scenes, Fantasy Bob considers the greatest novel ever written to be Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Test Match Quality from first word to last. 

In one of the book's many great passages Tolstoy describes a high society wedding in the Russian church.  He brilliantly entwines the broad comedy of the spectators, the nervous tension of the betrothing couple and the mystical detail of the Orthodox ceremony.  FB noted with interest that at one point in the service the couple are required to stand on a small mat in front of the priest to receive part of the blessing. (In this particular wedding the mat was made of pink silk, so we're not talking coconut fibre doormats here.)  The belief was that whoever stepped onto the mat first would become the dominant partner, so the actions of the bride and groom were keenly watched from all sides.  Whether bets were taken and  action replays were organised to determine close results, Tolstoy does not say.

The best pairing ever?
Suttcliffe was so good
he didn't even need a bat
But this got FB thinking about partnership in cricket.  A very important part of the game.  Lots of coaching speak nowadays seems to be about building partnerships - and different batsmen fit together for better or worse.  Whether there is a pink silk mat at the dressing room door which determines such things, FB is unable to say, but a batsman can be a dominant or quiet partner.  Some of the great partnerships illustrate this Mr Nice and Mr Nasty act.  For example, Mathew Hayden and Justin Langer had 42 partnerships of 50 or more, 14 of which were 100+, in their 122 innings together.  Hayden would generally be Mr Nasty bludgeoning bowlers to all parts while Langer would have been that bit quieter - Mr Nice. 

But a batsman can change role.  Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook are a highly effective combination - they have 12 100+ partnerships in their 101 innings together.  Strauss is now the more aggressive of the pair.  5 years ago he was the more passive in his equally effective partnership with Trescothick - 8 century stands in 52 innings.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the most effective partnership in world cricket at present is Tendulkar and Dravid who have put on 100 together 19 times.  Further back, West Indies' partnership of Greenidge and Haynes amassed 6482 runs between 1978 and 1991 although they average only 47.31 together.  In 23 partnerships Javed Miandad and Shoaib Mohammed averaged 91.82, and put on 8 centuries together.  But the strongest partnership was English - in opening the England innings 39 times together Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe had 15 century partnerships and went over 50 11 times, averaging 87.86.   Clearly they stepped on the mat absolutely in synchrony.

Botham c Marsh b Lillee

Partnership is important in bowling too.  Unfortunately the statistics are not presented in a way that can easily demonstrate this.  But some of the great double acts which gave batters no relief come readily to mind -  Ramadhin and Valentine, McGrath and Warne, Trueman and Statham, Roberts and Holding, Younis and Akram, Lillee and Thomson. For all that the last pair trip off the tongue together,  they were not as effective as Lillee and Alderman who in the 1981 Ashes series took 81 English wickets between them  in the 6 Tests.

Just to complete the theme, bowlers and fielders need to work together too.  The most important pairing is obviously bowler and keeper where the most productive partnership ever is c Marsh b Lillee - which featured in the scorebooks 95 times;  c Glichrist b McGrath occurred 90 times.  Of non wicket-keeping partnerships, the key man is Dravid with 55 snaffles off Anil Kumble and 50 off Harbhajan.  Thanks partner.


  1. there is one more unique partnership but i am sure no records exist for that. And that is the relationship between an injured batsman and his runner.

    Last year Laxman pulled of a great win with a runner.

  2. Golandaaz - perfectly right - FB is thinking how best to address the issue of runners - which are frequently a source of much confusion hilarity in the lower leagues. It is of course a 3 way relationship - and FB has actually been on the field when both bats had runners and that was more than amusing. Can you remind FB what match Laxman's effort was in?

  3. When India beat Australia at Mohali (I think) from 120 odd for 8 to win to the required 200 odd. 2010

    I have been involved with a 3 ma situation but a 4-some is guaranteed laugh riot.