David Warner joined the exclusive club of openers at Hobart on Monday when he carried the bat in a Test... a club that has three Indians in Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid © Getty Images
David Warner joined the exclusive club of openers at Hobart on Monday when he carried the bat in a Test… a club that has three Indians in Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid © Getty Images

 

In the recently-concluded thriller at Hobart, David Warner took Australia on the verge of victory, but the rest of the line-up caved in to lose by seven runs. However, the young man did enter a select club of batsmen who have carried their bat in Test match cricket. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at some of the occasions when this has been achieved in Tests.

 

Doug Bracewell’s delivery nipped back between bat and pad and rearranged Nathan Lyon’s stumps. The ball also shattered brave heart David Warner’s effort to see his team past the finishing line. Nevertheless, Lyon’s dismissal propelled Warner into the hallowed premises of an elite and exclusive club.

 

Warner’s unbeaten 123, which took Australia within eight runs of the target set by their neighbours across the Tasman Sea, was just the 48th instance in 2021 Tests of an opener going out to start an innings and coming back unconquered to the pavilion after all the wickets had fallen around him.

 

Remarkably, for something achieved only 48 times in the 134-year history of Test cricket, it has been done on three separate occasions this year itself. Before Warner’s superlative knock, Rahul Dravid had scored that fantastic 146 runs full of character at The Oval in August, while Zimbabwe’s Tino Mawoyo had notched up 163* against Pakistan at Bulawayo the very next month.

 

In the wake of the thrilling Test match, let us rewind to take a look at some interesting facts about the act of carrying the bat in general and Warner’s effort in particular:

 

1. The feat, monumental as it undoubtedly is, had very humble beginnings in the history of Test cricket. South African opener Bernard Tancred scored all of 26 unbeaten runs as his side collapsed to 47 all out in the 1889 Cape Town Test against England.

 

2. In fact, low score of teams in which an opener carries his bat should not be surprising, since the single-handed battles often imply relative failures of the rest of the line-up. The mean score batsmen have achieved in Test matches while batting through the innings has been 120, while the average total their teams have managed has been 249. Considering Warner had scored just beyond the average bat carrying score, it is indeed unfortunate for him that the rest of the batting line-up could not carry it closer to the mean team total – which would have taken them past the 241 run target.

 

3. The 26 by Tancred still stands as the lowest score achieved while batting right through the innings, closely preceded by Bill Woodfull’s 30 against England in the Australian summer of 1928. At the other end of the spectrum towers, Glenn Turner’s 223, amassed in 1972 at Kingston during the first Test of a result-less five match series full of tall totals.

 

4. It must have been hugely disappointing for Warner, in only his second Test, to see his effort go in vain after he had almost grasped the coattails of victory. However, ending up on the losing side after carrying one’s bat is not surprising. As mentioned, the opening batsman batting through the innings most often implies a lone hand, with a lot of the others failing to come good. Of the 48 occasions this feat has been achieved, only 12 times have the persevering opening batsmen ended up on the winning side, while 24 such innings have been played in losing causes.

 

5. While all the winning contributions by the invincible opening batsmen have been preserved in the record books as exceptional achievements, some have gladdened the cockles of the heart and been etched forever in memory.

 

– Warwick Armstrong’s 159* in Johannesburg, 1902, compiled in the face of a 65- run first innings deficit, is doubly notable. Apart from turning the match around, it was one of the only two times in a career spanning 50 Tests that the big Australian all-rounder had walked out to open the innings.

 

– At Leeds in 1991, in an exceptional display of courage, Graham Gooch negotiated the Caribbean pace attack of Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Pat Patterson and Courtney Walsh for a magnificent 154* in the second innings to effectively seal it for England.

 

– In 1998, in a match remembered more for the controversial mid-pitch collision and run out of Sachin Tendulkar, Saeed Anwar elegantly struck the ball to all parts of the lush green Eden Gardens during his 188* to set a target that proved beyond India’s reach.

 

– And at Galle in 2008, Virender Sehwag unforgettably slammed 24 boundaries and four sixes in a counter-attacking 201 at the strike rate of 87 against the spin twins – magical Muttiah Muralitharan and the mysterious Ajantha Mendis. He finished with 61% of India’s total score of 329, which till date stands as the highest ratio of team runs scored by a batsman carrying his bat.

 

6. Warner’s effort will go down as one of the best while carrying the bat in defeats. In this respect, English great Len Hutton has stood shining on the burning deck twice within a very short time frame. He resisted with a magnificent 202* against West Indies at The Oval 1950, which was not good enough to stave off the guile of Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine. Hardly six months down the line, he notched up a defiant 156 not out in the first innings score of 272 at Adelaide, only for England to surrender meekly to the formidable attack of Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Ian Johnson and Bill Johnston.

 

In another memorable showing in defeat, at Faisalabad in 1982, Sunil Gavaskar stood up to the pace and swing of Imran Khan at his formidable best to score 127* but could not end up saving the match.

 

7. Len Hutton’s feat of carrying his bat twice is matched by Bill Woodfull, Bill Lawry and Glenn Turner. Like Hutton, the two Bills of Australia also ended up on the losing side during their brace of solo efforts. However, the leader in the field of batting through the innings is the Barbadian maestro Desmond Haynes who did it on three occasions, in 1986 and1993 against Pakistan and in 1991 against England.

 

8. While the names do read like a roll call of some of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, some makeshift openers can also be spotted in the list. Along with the already mentioned case of Armstrong in 1902, Frank Worrell in 1957 at Nottingham and Rahul Dravid in 2011 at The Oval are the other middle-order masters who have been asked to open the innings and responded ways that could not have been bettered.

 

9. For an achievement this rare, the individual occurrences have been unusually clustered. On two occasions has it been performed in the same series. Desmond Haynes and Graham Gooch did it once apiece when England and West Indies clashed in the summer of 1991. Marvan Atapattu and Russel Arnold repeated the double act in the winter of 1999, in the first and third Tests of the series against Zimbabwe.

 

10. It is a rare, yet incredibly inauspicious, effort to carry the bat in the 4th innings as Warner did. By definition, the team is bound to lose if such a feat is accomplished (well, the statement is not totally correct, but the two ties in the history of Test Match cricket have not seen a batsman carrying his bat). There have been seven such occasions, and the last time before Warner was 18 years ago when Mark Dekker scored 68 fighting runs against Pakistan at Rawalpindi. Warner’s innings, in fact, is the first century while batting through the fourth innings. He thus went past Geoff Boycott who had been tantalisingly stranded on 99 when England fell for 215 chasing 354 for a win against Australia at Perth, 1979. Interestingly, it had been the second 99 of the match, with Kim Hughes having missed his hundred by a run in the first innings.

 

The first occasion when an opener had batted unconquered throughout the fourth innings had been in 1928, when Bill Woodfull had remained undefeated on 30 in a score of 66 against England on a sticky Brisbane wicket. Five years later he scored 73 unbeaten runs full of pluck, again in the 4th innings, as Australia folded to a 338 run defeat in the third test of the Bodyline series.

 

11. While another Warner achieved the milestone way back in 1899, Sir Pelham ‘Plum’ Warner turned out for the mother country and is not related to young David. However, there has been a father-son duo to share the honour board for this accomplishment. Nazar Mohammed in Lucknow, 1952, and Mudassar Nazar in Lahore 31 years later, both made the Indian bowlers toil unsuccessfully, adding a unique shared laurel to the family archives.

 

Warner’s achievement is made even more special because it throws quite some significant light on modern day batsmanship. In the past, the opening batsmen who have carried their bats included those beacons of correct technique whose still photographs while playing forward and back can easily walk into the MCC coaching manuals.

 

From Plum Warner and William Bardsley to Woodfull and Len Hutton, from Lawry and Turner to Boycott and Gavaskar – and even the part time openers Frank Worrell and Rahul Dravid, have all been exemplary wielders of the straight bat. Some attractive stroke players like Conrad Hunte, Ian Redpath, Desmond Haynes and Saeed Anwar did bring off such unbeaten knocks as their teams folded around them, but even they were versatile men cast in the classical mould of batsmanship, with excellent techniques that enabled them to survive even as the others struggled.

 

With the coming of the new century, however, this milestone has been reached while hurtling along in the fifth gear, the foot firmly planted on the accelerator. Three men have stood in the middle of turmoil and blasted their way to such impeccable innings and none of them can be described as the classical opening batsman.

 

Sehwag in Galle, 2008, Chris Gayle in Adelaide, 2009, and now Warner in the recently concluded Hobart test have carried their bat and by doing so have revolutionised the art of opening the innings. Three of the most feared stroke players in the history of the game, whose methods of run making often stretch the coaching manuals till the age old binding comes apart in adventurous hands,  have shown that pure attacking approach can be used for survival. That keeping one’s wicket intact does not necessarily mean dour defence.

 

And their methods have borne fruit – results produced by them have entered the record books as evidence of effectiveness.

 

In no way do these new age stalwarts standing at the top of the batting order represent the degenerate days of buccaneer batting. It can be far better interpreted as an encouraging indication of an evolving game where excitement flows through the veins of the longer format as never before.

 

(Given below is the complete list of batsmen carrying their bat in a Test Match innings)

 

Player

Runs

Total

Inns

Opposition

Ground

Year

Result

AB Tancred (SA)

26*

47

2

England

Cape Town

1889

Lost

JE Barrett (Aus)

67*

176

3

England

Lord’s

1890

Lost

R Abel (Eng)

132*

307

2

Australia

Sydney

1892

Lost

PF Warner (Eng)

132*

237

3

South Africa

Johannesburg

1899

Won

WW Armstrong (Aus)

159*

309

3

South Africa

Johannesburg

1902

Won

JW Zulch (SA)

43*

103

2

England

Cape Town

1910

Lost

W Bardsley (Aus)

193*

383

1

England

Lord’s

1926

Draw

WM Woodfull (Aus)

30*

66†

4

England

Brisbane

1928

Lost

WM Woodfull (Aus)

73*

193†

4

England

Adelaide

1933

Lost

WA Brown (Aus)

206*

422

2

England

Lord’s

1938

Draw

L Hutton (Eng)

202*

344

2

West Indies

The Oval

1950

Lost

L Hutton (Eng)

156*

272

2

Australia

Adelaide

1951

Lost

Nazar Mohammad (Pak)

124*

331

2

India

Lucknow

1952

Won

FMM Worrell (WI)

191*

372

2

England

Nottingham

1957

Draw

TL Goddard (SA)

56*

99

3

Australia

Cape Town

1957

Lost

DJ McGlew (SA)

127*

292

1

New Zealand

Durban

1961

Won

CC Hunte (WI)

60*

131

3

Australia

Port of Spain

1965

Lost

GM Turner (NZ)

43*

131

4

England

Lord’s

1969

Lost

WM Lawry (Aus)

49*

107

3

India

Delhi

1969

Lost

WM Lawry (Aus)

60*

116†

4

England

Sydney

1971

Lost

GM Turner

223*

386

2

v West Indies

Kingston

1972

Draw

IR Redpath (Aus)

159*

346

3

v New Zealand

Auckland

1974

Won

G Boycott (Eng)

99*

215

4

v Australia

Perth

1979

Lost

SM Gavaskar (Ind)

127*

286

3

v Pakistan

Faisalabad

1983

Lost

Mudassar Nazar (Pak)

152*

323

1

v India

Lahore

1983

Draw

S Wettimuny (SL)

63*

144

2

v New Zealand

Christchurch

1983

Lost

DC Boon (Aus)

58*

103

3

v New Zealand

Auckland

1986

Lost

DL Haynes (WI)

88*

211

3

v Pakistan

Karachi

1986

Draw

GA Gooch (Eng)

154*

252

3

v West Indies

Leeds

1991

Won

DL Haynes (WI)

75*

176

2

v England

The Oval

1991

Lost

AJ Stewart (Eng)

69*

175

3

v Pakistan

Lord’s

1992

Lost

DL Haynes (WI)

143*

382

3

v Pakistan

Port of Spain

1993

Won

MH Dekker (Zim)

68*

187

4

v Pakistan

Rawalpindi

1993

Lost

MA Atherton (Eng)

94*

228

2

v New Zealand

Christchurch

1997

Won

G Kirsten (SA)

100*

239

1

v Pakistan

Faisalabad

1997

Won

MA Taylor (Aus)

169*

350

2

v South Africa

Adelaide

1998

Draw

GW Flower (Zim)

156*

321

1

v Pakistan

Bulawayo

1998

Draw

Saeed Anwar (Pak)

188*

316

3

v India

Kolkata

1999

Won

MS Atapattu (SL)

216*

428

2

v Zimbabwe

Bulawayo

1999

Draw

RP Arnold (SL)

104*

231

2

v Zimbabwe

Harare

1999

Draw

Javed Omar (Ban)

85*

168†

3

v Zimbabwe

Bulawayo

2001

Lost

V Sehwag (Ind)

201*

329

1

v Sri Lanka

Galle

2008

Won

SM Katich (Aus)

131*

268

3

v New Zealand

Brisbane

2008

Won

CH Gayle (WI)

165*

317

3

v Australia

Adelaide

2009

Draw

Imran Farhat (Pak)

117*

223

1

v New Zealand

Napier

2009

Draw

R Dravid (Ind)

146*

300

2

v England

The Oval

2011

Lost

TMK Mawoyo (Zim)

163*

412

1

v Pakistan

Bulawayo

2011

Lost

DA Warner (Aus)

123*

233

4

v New Zealand

Hobart

2011

Lost

 

(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but cleanses the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two. His author site is at http://www.senantix.com and his cricket blogs at http:/senantixtwentytwoyards.blogspot.com)