Test cricket tiers: Dimuth Karunaratne and David Warner lead the way among openers

Ashish Peter 31/08/2019
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Sri Lanka opener Dimuth Karunaratne (r).

The ongoing Test battles all across the globe including the Ashes in England has once again reaffirmed the five-day format’s status as the greatest examination of a player’s technique – and one that separates the true greats from the mere mortals.

Openers perform one of the most important roles in Test cricket, as a good start with the bat is vital for any side. Be it wearing down the new ball for other batsmen to follow or scoring some quick counter-attacking runs to put early pressure on the bowlers, the stakes are high for both No1 and No2 in the batting order.

Here, in the first of our series ranking the top Test players in the world, we divide the best openers around into four tiers.

TIER 1

David Warner

David Warner

While he might currently be in miserable form in England, there is a reason Warner was named in the ICC Test Team of the Year for four consecutive years in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

A Test average of nearly 47 as an opener is nothing short of sensational and the left-hander has managed to accumulate a total of 21 tons too in the process.

He is one of only five batsmen to have registered a century before lunch on day one of a Test while he has managed to register a century in each innings of a match on three separate occasions.

Dimuth Karunaratne

Dimuth Karunaratne.

Dimuth Karunaratne.

It has taken some time for Dimuth Karunaratne to establish himself as a Test batsman but the left-hander has showed tremendous growth over the last few years to establish himself as one of the world’s premier opening batsmen.

The left-hander became only the third Sri Lankan batsman in history to register a fourth-innings ton to lead his side to victory in the recent Galle Test against Sri Lanka. The Lions skipper has slammed match-winning hundreds to help his side record away Test series wins over Pakistan and South Africa and was deservedly named in the ICC World Test XI for 2018.

TIER 2

Tom Latham

Tom Latham (r).

Tom Latham (r).

There has been no looking back for Tom Latham ever since he established himself as New Zealand’s Test opener in 2015, with the left-hander averaging a healthy 42.57 after 44 appearances in the format.

The 27-year-old’s unbeaten 264 at Wellington against Sri Lanka at the end of 2018 is the highest score by any opener in history to have carried his bat through the innings.

Latham’s credentials were confirmed when he scored back-to-back Test tons against Pakistan in the UAE in 2014 and the wicket-keeper batsman is averaging nearly 60 with the bat since the turn of 2018.

Dean Elgar

Dean Elgar.

Dean Elgar.

At a time when limited-overs specialists are being shoehorned into the Test format, Dean Elgar stands out with his old-school approach of dogged cricket where survival trumps everything else.

It is no wonder then that the Proteas batsman is among only two batsmen in history to have carried his bat as an opener on three separate occasions.

Elgar is a gritty player whose technique isn’t the most pleasing to the eye and he’s had to play most of his cricket on South African pitches which aren’t the kindest to openers. Despite that, he has managed to register 11 tons and is an opening batsman any team would love to have.

TIER 3

Adrien Markram

Aiden Markram.

Aiden Markram.

With 17 Test appearances so far, Markram’s red-ball career is still at a nascent stage but the South African’s promise is undeniable.

The former U19 World Cup-winning Proteas skipper was agonisingly run-out for 97 in his debut innings against Bangladesh but he did manage to make up for that disappointment by making 143 in the next Test against the same opposition.

He confirmed himself as a star in the making by registering another ton in his third Test appearance and added to his burgeoning reputation by adding two more tons in the home series win over Australia last year.

Tamim Iqbal

Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal.

Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal.

Two dismal years in 2017 and 2018 does not take away Tamim’s previous contributions for Bangladesh, with the left-hander being a key component of the team’s rise in international cricket.

The 30-year-old has had more success for the Tigers in the limited-overs formats but he has shown he has the temperament for Test cricket as well with nine tons and 27 fifties in 56 appearances for far.

He registered twin tons against England at Lord’s in 2010 before becoming only the second Bangladesh player to be named as one of Wisden’s four Cricketers of the Year in the very same year.

TIER 4

Kraigg Brathwaite

Brathwaite

The 26-year-old has been a Test mainstay for West Indies since the turn of 2014 and has managed to do reasonably well as an opener despite what has been a tough period for the Caribbean side.

The right-hander has so far managed to register eight Test tons and 17 half-centuries in his career and remains the only opener in history to remain unbeaten in both innings of a Test match.

That instance came in 2016 at Sharjah where Brathwaite scored carried his bat with a 142-run knock in the first innings against Pakistan before following it up with an unbeaten 62 in the second.

KL Rahul

KL Rahul.

KL Rahul.

A man of KL Rahul’s talent should be in a much higher tier but he has failed to really build on what was a highly promising start to his Test career.

The right-hander registered an excellent ton in Sydney against Australia in only his second Test appearance for India and then had a fabulous run in 2017 where he scored nine half-centuries in the space of 11 innings.

However, Rahul has since flattered to deceive for the most part bar the odd burst of brilliance, like his rapid ton in the fifth and final Test against England at the Oval last year.

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Ashes 2019: Steve Smith scores 23 on his comeback for Australia against Derbyshire

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Smith made his return in the warm-up clash at Derbyshire.

Steve Smith was out for 23 on his return with the bat in Australia’s tour match at Derbyshire.

Smith had sat out Australia’s third Ashes Test defeat at Headingley after suffering concussion.

He was felled by a vicious bouncer from Jofra Archer at Lord’s and looked on as England levelled the Ashes series with a one-wicket victory.

Smith had a watching brief again on the second morning of their three-day tour game at Derby as Australia lost only one wicket.

Marcus Harris was dismissed, the opener run out for 64, and Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Marsh took Australia to within three runs of Derbyshire’s first innings total of 172 at lunch.

Australia claimed the lead before Khawaja was bowled by Anuj Dal for 72 and Smith came to the wicket batting at four.

Smith made a careful start to his innings, with his first nine runs from 27 balls all coming in singles.

He accelerated with two boundaries from off-spinner Hamidullah Qadri before his 38-ball stay came to an end.

Smith hoisted Matt Critchley into the offside where Qadri took a diving catch just in from the boundary rope.

Marsh also fell to Critchley soon after for 74 to leave Australia 254 for four – a lead of 82.

Provided by Press Association Sports

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Jofra Archer, Jasprit Bumrah, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada give a new meaning to 'Fab Four'

Ashish Peter 30/08/2019
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Archer's introduction to Test cricket has been electric.

Cricket supporters around the world have been lucky to witness the ‘Fab Four’ of Steve Smith, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root push each other to greater heights over the last few years.

The four elite batsmen have enthralled spectators with their ability to churn out the runs with astonishing consistency across all three formats of the international game and have broken several records in the process.

Now, a new ‘Fab Four’ comprising of Pat Cummins, Jasprit Bumrah, Kagiso Rabada and Jofra Archer is starting to emerge with the ball as well.

The four pacers have taken international cricket by storm since making their respective debuts and they all have the potential to end up as all-time greats judging by what we have seen so far.

Here, we take a closer look at what makes them tick individually.

Jofra Archer

Jofra Archer.

Jofra Archer.

Archer is the latest entrant to international cricket among the four pacers but he had already been whipping up a storm in franchise T20 leagues around the globe before making his England debut over the summer.

The Barbados-born man has had an electric introduction to international cricket with his 20 wickets helping England capture their maiden World Cup title and he has seamlessly translated his limited-overs prowess to Test cricket subsequently.

It took little time for Archer to make his mark in his maiden Ashes series with the England man rattling Australia with his pace and hostility at Lord’s and Headingley. The nasty blow he landed on an in-form Steve Smith at Lord’s during a terrific spell had the cricket world sit up to take notice.

The 24-year-old can generate some serious heat despite coming in with a gentle run-up while he possesses a pin-point yorker and an equally lethal bouncer to bamboozle any batsmen in the world.

It has been just one summer of the Archer madness so far but the England pacer is here to stay based on the evidence so far.

Kagiso Rabada

Kagiso Rabada.

Kagiso Rabada.

While Archer has made his international debut at 24, Rabada is already experienced at the same age with 37 Test, 75 ODI and 19 T20 appearances for South Africa so far.

The young pacer took just 31 Tests to breach the 150-wicket barrier and he became the youngest bowler in history to top the ICC rankings in the process. The Proteas fast bowler had already established himself as the leader of the bowling attack by the age of 21 and he has delivered time and again in all three formats.

Like Archer, Rabada can swing the ball at pace and he can run through batting line-ups at a fearsome consistency as his nine five-wicket hauls in Test cricket will attest.

If he can maintain his fitness levels over the next decade, there is no reason why Rabada should not end up as South Africa’s greatest ever pacer.

Jasprit Bumrah

Bumrah continues to break records.

Bumrah continues to break records.

Arguably the most complete all-format bowler among the four pacers, Bumrah made his mark initially in limited-overs cricket before his sensational introduction to the Test arena.

With a bowling average less than 21 in all three formats, it is clear to see why Bumrah has the potential to go down as India’s greatest ever pacer. His slingy unorthodox bowling action had made critics skeptical about his longevity but he has so far proved them wrong with a meteoric rise.

His debut year in Test cricket fetched a total of 49 wickets in just nine matches and he is now the first Asian bowler in history to claim five-wicket hauls in Australia, England, South Africa and West Indies.

The fact that he has achieved the feat in just his maiden tours of the four countries is even more impressive and it is no wonder he has present and past greats going gaga over his prowess.

Pat Cummins

Pat Cummins.

Pat Cummins.

The Australia pacer’s Test debut came all the way back in 2011 but he had to wait another six years before making his second appearance due to a spate of injuries. Despite his fitness woes initially, Cummins has persevered to return as an even stronger bowler and he has not looked back since his international return in 2017.

In the short span of time since coming back, Cummins has gone on to establish himself as the No1 in the Test format while achieving the highest rating points for any Australian bowler in history (level with Glenn McGrath at 914).

A real competitor on the pitch, Cummins can trouble batsmen with both conventional swing and short-pitched bowling while he has excellent control over his lines and lengths.

The Aussie is no slouch in the limited-overs formats as well but it is in Test cricket that he really is at his very best. He averaged less than 20 in the five-day format last year while leading Australia to a 4-0 Ashes drubbing over their arch-rivals and he is now leading the wicket-taking charts in the ongoing 2019 series in England as well.

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