The independent voice of cricket

New Zealand v England 2022/23

From Gavaskar to Brook: The 10 fastest starts to life as a Test batter

Vinod Kambli, Everton Weekes and Sunil Gavaskar
by Oscar Ress 4 minute read

Harry Brook picked up yet another player of the match award in England’s first test victory over New Zealand at Mount Maunganui.

The start to his career in the longest format has been incredible. Since his debut against South Africa last summer, Brook has scored 614 runs at an average of 87.71 and hit three hundreds in just eight Test innings. These performances have catapulted him to sixth place on the list of the most runs scored after that many Test match digs.

So how did the careers of the other nine in the top ten on this list end up?


Vinod Kambli

First eight innings: 793 runs at 113.28, HS: 227, 4 100s
Career: 17 Tests, 1,084 runs at 54.20, HS: 227, 4 100s

Kambli was an early talent and put on a world record 664-run unbroken partnership with not Sachin Tendulkar while they were at school. Two of the four Test centuries he scored in his first eight innings were doubles and he also managed to hit Shane Warne for 22 in one over in the 1994 semi-final of the Austral-Aisa Cup. But his career lasted just nine more games after his eighth Test. His struggles included an apparent obsession with his bat grip, which at one point he had nine of on his bat handle at once. He did not play another test match after 1995, his weakness against the short ball compounding his eccentricities off the field.

Sunil Gavaskar

First eight innings: 774 runs at 154.80, HS: 220, 4 100s
Career: 125 Tests, 10,122 runs at 51.12, HS: 236*, 34 100s

A legend of the game for India and one of the world’s finest players with a record that proves that. He scored 30 more hundreds after his first eight digs, and when he retired he was India’s highest Test run-scorer and had the most hundreds. Only Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have since gone past those records.

George Headley

First eight innings: 703 runs at 87.87, HS: 223, 4 100s
Career: 22 Tests, 2,190 runs at 60.83, HS: 270*, 10 100s

Headley represented the West Indies between 1930 and 1954. His career was interrupted by the Second World War, by which time he had wracked up 10 Test centuries and become the first player to score hundreds in each innings of a Test at Lord’s. After the war, he was no longer the same cricketing powerhouse he had been before. He made over a hundred first-class appearances in his career, with 33 hundreds and 44 fifties. His grandson Dean played 15 Tests for England.

Herbert Sutcliffe

First eight innings: 653 runs at 93.28, HS: 176, 3 100s
Career: 54 Tests, 4,555 runs at 60.73, HS: 194, 16 100s

A Yorkshireman, Sutcliffe enjoyed a fantastic international career between 1924 and 1935. While his average dipped after a fast start, 16 hundreds put him in 15th place on the England Test century standings having played the least Tests of anyone in the top 27. More staggeringly, Sutcliffe played 754 first-class games, scoring over 50,000 runs and 151 hundreds.

Everton Weekes

First eight innings: 615 runs at 76.87, HS: 194, 3 100s
Career: 48 tests, 4,455 runs at 58.61, HS: 207, 15 100s

Despite appearing on this list, Weekes’s debut against England was far from memorable with scores of just 25 and 35 in each innings. Seven innings later and he had three Test match hundreds and was to add 12 more by the time he was forced to call an end to his Test career after an unsuccessful surgery for a thigh injury.

Javed Miandad

First eight innings: 578 runs at 82.57, HS: 206, 3 100s
Career: 124 Tests, 8,832 runs at 52.57, HS: 280*, 23 100s

Referred to by some as the greatest batter Pakistan have ever produced, a glittering 124-test career does little to suggest otherwise. Miandad was Pakistan’s youngest captain and his status as a Pakistan great has been cemented.

Conrad Hunte

First eight innings: 577 runs at 82.42, HS: 260, 3 100s
Career: 44 Tests, 3,245 runs at 45.06, HS: 260, 8 100s

Hunte had to wait for his chance at the highest level after travelling from Barbados to Lancashire in hope of getting his chance in the local leagues. When he finally got a chance in the West Indies Test XI on home soil, he made a blistering start against Pakistan – scoring 148 on his first day of Test cricket. While his career did slow in terms of the volume of runs, this was partly an effort to allow others in his team to flourish. His impact off the field make his career one of the most poignant of all time for West Indies cricket.

Sid Barnes

First eight innings: 541 runs at 67.62, HS: 234, 1 100
Career: 13 Tests, 1,072 runs at 63.05, HS: 234, 3 100s

Barnes was an interesting character and some of his exploits away from the crease may be more memorable than his run-scoring. He was forced to take a two-year break from the game when he was struck in the ribs while fielding very close at short-leg against England in 1948. He was left out of the Australian squad for some of his off-field behaviour and even tried to sue someone for £1,000 who wrote to the newspaper about his omission. His off-field behaviour impacted his selection for several Test series, and Barnes only played 13 Tests for Australia in total. His innings included a record-breaking stand with Don Bradman where they each scored 234, and set a world-record fifth-wicket partnership in Test cricket.

Neil Harvey

First eight innings: 534 runs at 89, HS: 178, 3 100s
Career: 79 Tests, 6,149 at 48.41, HS: 205, 21 100s

Harvey finds himself tenth on this list, but he still scored six hundreds in his first 18 Tests. His average was higher in first-class cricket in which playing 306 games, scoring 21,699 runs at an average of over 50. He became the youngest Australian to score a Test match century when he hit 153 against India aged 19.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99