From Richards and Garner, to Smith and Pujara – The County Championship’s most memorable overseas pairings
As Cheteshwar Pujara and Steve Smith pad up to give Sussex one of the most formidable overseas batting partnerships in County Championship history, we take a look at some of the competitions most memorable overseas duos of past and present.
Naveed-ul-Hasan and Mushtaq Ahmed
After a below par year at Surrey, Mushtaq Ahmed made the move down south to join a Sussex side yet to win the County Championship. Less than a year later, he had become part of a history making side which delivered a first major honour to the club. In the summer of 2005, Ahmed would be joined by Pakistan all-rounder Naveed-ul-Hasan, and the duo would form one of the most destructive bowling partnerships in red-ball history.
Across a three-season period, the duo would take 411 wickets in the Championship, bowling Sussex to a further two titles in 2006 and 2007. Ul-Hasan would surpass 50 wickets in both 2005 and 2007, while the spellbinding Ahmed would take a staggering 102 wickets in 2006 at an average of 19.91. Between them, the duo collected 30 five-wicket hauls and a nine 10-wicket matches in the three years they played together on the south coast.
Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards
In 1973, Hampshire would win their second – and most recent – County Championship title. At the top of their batting order was the West Indies’ Gordon Greenidge and South Africa’s Barry Richards. The duo became a force to be reckoned with in red-ball cricket, often leaving the remainder of the Hampshire batting line-up a healthy platform to work off.
Speaking on the importance of an opening partnership, Richards said: “It works better if you have a slightly older player in conjunction with a slightly younger player. Take Gordon Greenidge, he came to Hampshire in 1970. By then I was an established player. He fed off me and then he had his own growth. I told him, ‘You can take first ball.’ But it was always the senior, based on experience, who took the call about who took first strike.”
Greenidge scored just shy of 20,000 first-class runs for Hampshire, while also accumulating 7,500 in Test cricket. As for Richards, he never got to play Test cricket due to South Africa’s ban from international cricket at the time, although did captain an unofficial side in matches against the West Indies.
Clive Rice and Richard Hadlee
South Africa’s Clive Rice and New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee formed a middle-order duo that most counties could only dream of. Both with a first-class batting average north of 30 – with Rice averaging in the 40’s – and a bowling average below 23, the duo managed to affect games in all four innings. Despite this, the pair earned their money when opening the bowling together, tearing through top orders around the country.
Rice would captain a Nottinghamshire side that included Hadlee to two County Championship victories, winning the tournament in 1981 and 1987. Rice’s influence was so important he was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1981, an award Hadlee would win the following year. Hadlee described Rice as “a tough, uncompromising captain.”
Kyle Abbott and Mohammad Abbas
Another Hampshire duo on the list, but this time a more modern take. The pace bowling pair of Kyle Abbott and Mohammad Abbas have been a revelation to Hampshire fans, with the overseas duo taking 195 wickets in two seasons bowling together. The former Test playing bowlers have been a handful in Division One, with Abbott’s average of 21.65 in 2021 the most expensive bowling average between the two since Abbas’ arrival the same year.
In two full seasons bowling together, Abbott and Abbas have taken five-wicket hauls on 11 different occasions, even more impressive considering Keith Barker also plays a crucial part of Hampshire’s pace trio. At the time of writing, the pair have taken 43 wickets between them in four County Championship outings this year, with Abbas averaging a quite ridiculous 14.11.
Viv Richards and Joel Garner
At a time when Sir Ian Botham was also donning the Somerset shirt, the West Indies pairing of Viv Richards and Joel Garner were in action down in Taunton. While Richards made his Somerset debut in 1974, the slightly younger Garner would arrive in the South West in 1977 after a three-year stint at Littleborough in the Lancashire leagues.
The elegant batter scored over 22,000 runs during his stay in England, while the fearsome pace bowler took 338 first-class wickets at an average of 18.10. The duo would guide Somerset to their most successful period of their 127-year first-class history, winning two One Day Cup’s, two Benson & Hedges Cup’s and a National League. Although enjoying a fruitful decade in Taunton, Richards and Garner would both depart in 1986 – along with the aforementioned Botham – after a dressing room dispute.