There’s a particular mythology around opening the batting, especially in England, where fans have long thronged to salivate over the latest block-and-leave merchant. Nothing gets their willow oiled like watching an off-stump cartographer negotiate a spongy pile of moss in mid-April.
But do you know your Graces from your Gallians? Answer these eight questions on England Test match openers to test your mettle against the new nut.
Which of these batsmen opened in three Test innings – the first in 1985 and the last in 1991?
- David Gower
- Ian Botham
- Mike Gatting
It’s David Ivon Gower!
He first did it in the second innings of the fifth Test during the victorious tour of India that he captained in 1984/85. Then during the disastrous 1989 Ashes series (when he was also captain) he promoted himself to open for England’s follow-on at Trent Bridge. He last did it during the 1990/91 Ashes, in the second innings of the third Test at Sydney.
Mike Gatting opened four times – all in Pakistan in 1984, while Beefy never once did the job in a Test match.
Which of these players opened only once, in a Test in 2012?
- Matt Prior
- Kevin Pietersen
- James Anderson
In the first innings at Headingley against South Africa he made a brilliant 149, and in the second-innings run-chase he went in ahead of Andrew Strauss to have an early dart (for 12). Then he went and did a press conference…
Who was Graham Gooch’s opening partner in the fourth Test between England and West Indies at Headingley, during the selectorial merry-go-round of 1988?
- Chris Broad
- Martyn Moxon
- Tim Curtis
It’s Worcestershire stalwart Tim Curtis!
Broad started the series at the top of the order, was replaced by Moxon (who, by the look of this picture, was using some pretty robust hair gel back in ’88) for the third Test, and by the fourth it was Curtis’ turn. He scored 12 in both innings on his debut in Leeds and played five Tests in all, stretched over ’88 and ’89.
Which of these men opened seven times for England in 2000 but in no other calendar year?
- Darren Maddy
- Mark Ramprakash
- Rob Key
A square peg in an annoyingly hard-to-fill round hole, Ramprakash was Mike Atherton’s opening partner for four Tests in the 2000 English summer before the introduction to Test cricket of actual specialist opener Marcus Trescothick, who went on to do rather well.
Geoff Boycott made his England Test debut in the first Test of the 1964 Ashes, on his home ground, Headingley. Who was his opening partner in that match?
- Colin Cowdrey
- Ted Dexter
- Fred Titmus
It’s ruddy Fred Titmus!
The Middlesex off-spinner could hold a bat – six first-class hundreds and 105 fifties tell you that – but he wasn’t a regular at the top of the order. In the middle of a 20-year Test career stretching from 1955 to 1975, he opened three times. Cowdrey did the job in 38 innings and Dexter just twice.
If a list of England opening batsman, in chronological order of first time opening, reads: Joe Root, Sam Robson, Adam Lyth… what’s the next name?
- Jonathan Trott
- Moeen Ali
- Alex Hales
Following the Ashes in 2015, Mo was sent up to open for England against Pakistan in the UAE, as Adil Rashid replaced Adam Lyth in the team. Although Jonathan Trott came in as an opener between Robson and Lyth, in 2015 in the West Indies, he’d first done the job in 2010 in Bangladesh (when England dropped Michael Carberry to make way for an extra bowler). Alex Hales made his debut in South Africa in December 2015.
Who of these three opened the batting on most occasions for England?
- Geoffrey Boycott
- Graham Gooch
- Mike Atherton
These three gargantuan new-ball repellers are numbers two, three and four on the list of ‘most innings opened for England in Tests’, behind someone called ‘AN Cook’. Boycott’s big number is 191 innings (reduced by tour pull-outs), Gooch’s is 184 (reduced by a rebel tour) and Atherton’s is a whopping 197 (reduced by glass back).
Who, apart from himself, was WG Grace’s favourite opening batsman when he was captain of England?
- Arthur Shrewsbury
- Bobby Abel
- Walter Read
It’s Arthur Shrewsbury!
“Give me Arthur” is what Grace is supposed to have said when asked who he wanted in his team. And given that Shrewsbury was the only man who could have competed with the Doctor for the title of ‘best batsman in the kingdom’ at the time, that seems fair enough. The Notts man played 23 Tests between 1882 and 1893. Surrey’s Bobby ‘The Guv’nor’ Abel was a giant of the game as well as a keen fan of Paul Ince, and fellow Surrey man Walter Read almost as eminent. But it was sticky-wicket specialist Shrewsbury who did the business up top under WG.