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

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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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