Top 10 England Opening Batsmen
It's the dream of every young cricketer growing up in this country, stepping out from the pavillion at Lords and opening the batting for England. It's a position that can often prove problematic but nonetheless the Three Lions have had some incredible openers down the years. FREEbets.org.uk takes a look at 10 of the best England opening batsmen.
10. John Edrich
The Surrey star did not spend his entire England career at the top of the order but he mostly opened the batting and he did so with great quality.
He made his debut opening the batting in June 1963 against West Indies at Old Trafford but whilst he made a steady start it took him a year to make his first three figure score but when it came it was in style against the Australians at Lords.
Plenty more was to come as he made 310 not out against New Zealand the following year and then back to back hundreds in Melbourne and then Sydney in the winter tour of 1965-66.
He made 12 centuries for his country in his 77 matches (with incredibly seven of them coming against Australia) at an average of 43.54 over a 13 year test career. He doesn’t quite make the running in terms of England’s greatest ever players but he is deservedly on this list for the best openers in his country’s history.
9. Marcus Trescothick
Without a doubt one of the most talented England top order batsmen in the last 20 years who enjoyed a great career with his country that could have lasted much longer if it was not for some unfortunate mental health issues.
Trescothick made his debut in August 2000 against West Indies and instantly showed his class as he made 66 before falling to Courtney Walsh and then making 38 not out in the second innings. He went on to make 14 centuries for England from the top of the order at an average of 43.79.
He played a key part in the 2005 Ashes win that saw him average over 47 during the series and although he didn’t make a century against the Aussies he will always be remembered as an integral part of the famous win.
He was forced to retire from international action in 2006 but could have played for at least another five years and if he had he may well be much further up this list with many more accomplishments to his name.
8. Michael Atherton
Given his longevity at the top of the order for his country, it could be argued that Mike Atherton should be much higher in this list but although he will go down in England history there is something uninspiring about his career.
His time as captain from 1993 to 1998 heralded precious few successes with just a couple of series wins over New Zealand to shout about really. It was generally a pretty poor time for English cricket which is why, perhaps, Atherton could keep his place in the team for so long (1989-2001) without ever really excelling.
The Lancastrian did manage 16 centuries for England but he did bat in 212 innings at the top of the order so it isn’t a great conversion rate and he didn’t make the magical average of 40, ending on 37.3 for his country.
This is all very harsh on the man who is fifth on the all-time leading run-scorer list for England though having racked up 7728 runs on the international stage. He also has made as many half-centuries as anyone in England history and his contribution to the English game sees him make a deserved appearance on this list.
7. Andrew Strauss
A very good opener but an even more successful captain, Andrew Strauss may not have ever been the most eye-catching performer but his achievements in the game are certainly outstanding.
He had a bit of an up and down career that saw him first break into the England team in 2004 with a thoroughly impressive performance, scoring 112 and 83 on debut at Lord’s against New Zealand. He excelled in another home series against West Indies and then on a tour of South Africa and was cemented in the team for the 2005 Ashes series during which he hit two centuries on route to a famous English win.
He was on top of his game at this point but his form dipped and found himself out of the team in the winter of ’07-’08. He was soon back in the team though and due to neither Andrew Flintoff nor Kevin Pietersen working out as England captain the honour was thrust upon Strauss, something he did not shy away from.
He led his team to home and away Ashes victories, managing a century in each series and then his team battered India 4-0 to become the world’s number one ranked test team. His form was tailing away towards the end of his 100 matches for England but he still manage two centuries in his final year in the team taking his total to 21 for his country and an average of 40.91, a record to stand up to anyone’s.
6. Len Hutton
One of the great names of English cricket, Sir Leonard Hutton opened the batting with distinction for both England and Yorkshire for many years, performing for England for nearly two decades.
It was a pretty ropey start to Hutton’s England career as he managed just 0 and 1 against New Zealand at Lord’s but thankfully the selectors didn’t just give up on him after that as he scored a century in his third innings for his country against the same opposition.
This was the first of 19 hundreds he scored in an England shirt and for a while he held the world test record with the 364 he scored in just his sixth test. His average of 56.67 is something rarely seen in this day and age as well and will not be seen be too many more opening batsmen.
He will also go down in the annals of time as England’s first ever professional captain and his overall contribution to the game means that he is a very worthy number five in this list.
5. Jack Hobbs
Another of the most famous names from yesteryear and the second Surrey batsman to make this list, Hobbs is the most prolific scorer of all time having made an unbelievable 61,760 first class runs and an irritating 199 hundreds over a storied career.
He also made comfortably over 5,000 for England over his 22-year test career, all of which came at a tremendous average of 56.94 with 15 centuries along the way.
The fact he became the first professional cricketer to be knighted displays in what high regard he was held by the British public thanks to his prolonged and substantial contribution to the sport that saw him still playing test cricket in his 40s and first class cricket in his 50s.
Hobbs’ legend was especially boosted by his incredible efforts in Ashes series. He made centuries in consecutive matches in the winter tour to Australia in 1912 and then went one better in the 1924-’25 tour when he scored hundreds in three matches on the spin.
Simply known as “The Master” in his day, Hobbs’ name will always be a yardstick of success for England’s openers.
4. Alistair Cook
Alistair Cook's potential was made evidentally clear when he made a century on his debut in Nagpur and things went from strength to strength. He subsequently became the youngest player in history to reach 11,000 test runs and the only Englishman to hit that milestone.
Though he faced criticism in parts throughout his career in particular in 2008 and then again in the latter stages of his captaincy, there is little doubting his worth at the upper echelons of this list. The Essex batsman broke records galore during his England tenure including becoming England's most capped Test captain as well as hitting more test centuries than any other previous captain.
Finishing with a test average of 46.45. Captain Cook's statistics will match up to almost anyone and perhaps not the most explosive of batsmen, his level of consistency is second to none.
3. Herbert Sutcliffe
Sutcliffe made his debut opening the batting alongside Jack Hobbs and he only scarcely displaces him on this list thanks to some marginally better stats. Another great Yorkshireman on the list, Sutcliffe was one of the premier pre-war batsmen and one of the best at any time. Few players have a better test average than a first class one, but such was the prowess of Sutcliffe on the international stage, this is what he managed.
He signalled his intent early for his country as his first three innings were scores of 64, 122 and 83, all in tests against South Africa in 1924 and he would go on to open for his country until his last match against the same opposition 11 years later.
In his 54 matches for his country he managed 16 centuries but it was his consistency that really shone through as he averaged an incredible 60.73 which is a mammoth achievement for an opening batsman. He twice achieved the feat of scoring a century in both innings of a match as well, most notably in an Ashes battle in Melbourne in 1925 when he managed 176 and 127.
He was renowned for his professionalism in the game and it was his incredibly committed attitude to his sport that allowed him to achieve such great things. Solely for his average there can be few complaints over his position in this list.
2. Geoff Boycott
Will never be the most widely popular choice, but in terms of what Geoff Boycott achieved during his playing career he has to be recognised as one of the greatest England batsmen of all time.
He is renowned for his near-impenetrable defence which led to him batting at something of a snail’s pace at times, but at whatever speed he was playing it was incredibly affective. He is England’s fourth highest run-scorer of all time with 8114 and has only recently been surpassed as the leading century scorer with 22. Over his 108 matches for his country he ended with an average of 47.72 which shows fantastic consistency over an 18-year test career.
What has kept the great Yorkshireman off top spot in this list though was his three-year hiatus from the national team when he was near enough at his best. His nose was put out of joint for not receiving the captaincy when he felt he should have and from June 1974 to July 1977 he didn’t play a test for England. If he had not gone on this self-imposed strike then there is little doubt that he would now be his country’s highest run-scorer and century maker and would sit aloft this list triumphantly.
However, he didn’t and must settle for second place, which given the other great names involved is no bad place to be.
1. Graham Gooch
He may not have the greatest average on this list, or necessarily be the most stylish but the fact that Graham Gooch is England’s greatest ever run-scorer means that he is very hard to dislodge from the number one spot in England’s best ever opening batsmen.
Gooch is comfortably ahead of his closest rivals on the all-time scorers list with 8900, a full 437 ahead of Alec Stewart in second place.
He came into the team against Australia at Edgbaston in 1975 batting down the order and lasted a grand total of eight balls, scoring no runs in the process. He was quickly moved to his natural position of opening batsman though and scored his maiden half-century in his third test match from the top of the order.
The selectors showed great faith in Gooch as it wasn’t until his 22nd test that he scored his first hundred for his country when he scored 123 against West Indies at Lord’s. There were 19 more to come for England from there though including the highlight of his career when he scored 333 and then 123 in the second innings against India at Lord’s in 1990.
His average of 42.58 may well be some way behind some of his competitors on this list but his incredible compilation of runs over two decades gets him to the number one spot.