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From Hayden to Hussey – Australia’s Test openers of the 2000s

Australia openers
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Australia‘s list of Test openers in the Noughties was headlined by one prolific pairing, but beyond the iconic duo, there were nine others who were, at some point in the 2000s, called upon to face the new ball.

In a decade that witnessed both the peak of their domination and its slow demise, Australia’s Test team featured a string of openers; while some of them temporarily occupied the spot, others enjoyed long, prolific runs in the position.

Recalling the 11 openers tried by the Australian team between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2009.

Matthew Hayden

96 Tests, 8,364 runs @ 52.93, 29 100s, HS: 380

A domineering presence who could bash the red ball to a pulp, Hayden’s Test career took a drastic turn for the better after a rather forgettable debut in 1993. 96 of Hayden’s 103 Tests came in the 2000s, and he ended with 8,364 runs in the decade, the fourth-most by any batsman in the decade, headlined by a record-breaking 380 in 2004.

Justin Langer

64 Tests, 5,101 runs @ 49.04, 16 100s, HS: 250

One-half of the iconic pairing with Hayden, Langer enjoyed one of the longer stints by an Australian opener, playing all but one of his Tests as an opener in the 2000s. It was probably their contrasting styles of play, but Langer remained the less-fancied of the two, even though they averaged 51.88 together, garnering the second-most runs by any Test opening pair ever.

Simon Katich

24 Tests, 2,132 runs @ 52.00, 6 100s, HS: 157

With Langer’s exit, Australia wanted an experienced hand to shore up their top order, which resulted in a second stint for Katich in the Test team, one that was far more prolific than his first one. After batting exclusively in the middle order from 2001 to 2005, Katich, returning after a three-year gap, opened the innings and struck gold right away, hitting two centuries in his first five innings. He continued in the role until the end of 2010, until a string of low scores pushed him out of reckoning.

Phil Jaques

11 Tests, 902 runs @ 47.47, 3 100s, HS: 150

Another name in Australia’s long list of left-handed openers, Jaques played all his 11 Tests between 2005 and 2008, and made quite an impression in those, before a back injury truncated his career. In all, he hit five fifties and three centuries, including a fine 108 at Bridgetown which turned out to be his final Test innings.

Michael Slater

16 Tests, 887 runs @ 34.11, 1 100, HS: 143

Slater is primarily identified as a Nineties batsman, but he played the final part of his Test career in the early 2000s, featuring in each of Australia’s record 16 consecutive Test wins. His aggressive style, however, didn’t fetch him as many runs in the 2000s as some of his purple patches before the turn of the century: he hit just one ton in those 16 Tests, and one fifty in his last 13 innings.

Shane Watson

7 Tests, 716 runs @ 65.09, 1 100, HS: 120*

Watson’s topsy-turvy career received a revival in 2009 when he was asked to open during the Ashes, and the results were instantly on display. It’s a spot he occupied until 2013, but the stint was troubled towards the end due to an injury, and Watson spent the remainder of his career as a floater between positions 3 and 6.

Phil Hughes

5 Tests, 472 runs @ 52.44, 2 100s, HS: 160

The late Phil Hughes was looked at as a potential successor to Matthew Hayden, and in his introduction to the opening spot in 2009, he justified the call with twin centuries in Durban, his second Test. He faced a run-rut as the new decade arrived, and upon his return to the team after a one-year gap in 2012, was shifted down to play at three and four.

Michael Hussey

5 Tests, 387 runs @ 55.28, 1 100, HS: 137

Primarily an opening batsman in domestic cricket where he scored bucketloads of runs before his Test call-up, Hussey’s spells at the top of the order for Australia were only brief and makeshift. He played just five Tests as opener, the first being his debut game where he combined with Hayden. Australia found more value in him down the order, but even in his brief spell at the top, Hussey averaged in the high 50s.

Greg Blewett

3 Tests, 69 runs @ 13.80, HS: 25

Another batsman on the list who featured quite briefly in the 2000s. After his century on debut in 1995, Blewett endured a rather inconsistent phase over the next five years, one which saw him move from the middle order to the top. The final set of his Tests saw him take upon the opening responsibilities, but a string of seven fifty-less scores signalled the end of his career in March 2000.

Adam Gilchrist

1 Test, 20 runs @ 20.00, HS: 20

One of the world’s greatest white-ball openers, Gilchrist occupied the role just once in his 96-Test career. The solitary innings came early in his career in 2001, when, in search of quick runs before forcing a declaration, Gilchrist was sent ahead of Langer against New Zealand. ‘Gilly’ spent the rest of his career in the middle order, essaying several game-changing knocks from his usual positions at No.6 and 7.

Chris Rogers

1 Test, 19 runs @ 9.50, HS: 15

An old-fashioned accumulator of runs, Rogers earned his Baggy Green in 2008 as a replacement for Matthew Hayden against India, having spent years plying his trade at domestic level. The unflattering debut at Perth, where he was dismissed for 4 & 15, was followed by a five-year-long hiatus. On his return, he sealed his spot as Australia’s primary opener for two years and 24 Tests.

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