Holder and Dowrich etch their names into the history books
When West Indies captain Jason Holder walked to the crease late on the second day of the first Test against England, his side was struggling at 6/120. In fact, the situation was less dire than an hour earlier when they were 5/61, but they likely needed more runs to keep England at bay.
Despite this poor innings, however, the West Indies - for a change - actually found themselves in a strong position in the Test. Currently ranked 8th in the world and just barely keeping Bangladesh at bay in ninth, their last Test outing had seen Bangladesh wallop them by an innings and 184 runs to earn themselves a 2-0 series win late last year, while prior to that they were demolished first by an innings and 272 runs and then by 10 wickets during their Tour of India. Against a touring English side ranked third in the world and with significantly more talent, the West Indies wasn’t favoured to fare particularly well heading into this series despite their home ground advantage.
And yet by midway through day 2 of the first Test, they had built a 212 run first innings lead courtesy of a five-wicket haul by Kemar Roach (5/17 off 11 overs, to be exact) and an English first innings total of just 77. A collapse in the West Indies second innings, however, seemed to set into motion a predictable story.
Enter Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich. Holder, probably the most talented player on the team (Darren Bravo may have a case on talent, though he is only now returning from a Test hiatus which exceeded two years) had recently implored his batsmen to contribute more to the plight of the struggling side. Batting at number eight despite his Test average of over 30, he likely didn’t envision himself being the one to do this, while Dowrich, batting at seven as a wicketkeeper-batsman and with a career average of less than 28, probably found himself a fair way down the list as well.
A little under five hours - and 68 overs - later, the two walked off the field together, Holder having declared after a marathon 295* run seventh wicket partnership. He had been the enforcer, blasting an extraordinary 202 off just 229 balls in an innings which included 23 4’s and 8 6’s. At the other end, Dowrich had played the steadying hand, and ended unbeaten on 116.
Surprisingly, this wasn’t the highest seventh wicket parternship in West Indies cricket history. That accolade belongs to Denis Atkinson and Clairmont Depeiaza, who put on 347 vs Australia in Bridgetown - the same location as this Test - way back in 1955.
That partnership, incidentally, is also the highest 7th wicket partnership in history. Second to that comes a stand shared by Pakistan’s Waqar Hasan and Imtiaz Ahmed, who put on 308 for the 7th wicket just five months after Atkinson and Depeiaza came together in Bridgetown. After that, Dowrich and Holder slot themselves in, the third highest seventh wicket partnership in history.
That they were unbeaten also helps them find their way into the record books. The highest ever unbeaten stand is significantly higher than this one, with Jacques Rudolph and Boeta Dippenaar having put together an unbeaten stand of 429 versus Bangladesh back in 2003. A quick look down the list of Test crickets higher partnerships, however, sees very few unbeaten stands. Though Holder and Dowrich’s effort finds itself way down the list overall in terms of highest partnerships for any wicket - outside the top 100, in fact - they have snuck their way into the top ten unbeaten stands in the history of Test cricket.
It isn’t the first time these two have come together for a monster partnership. In 2017, they put on 212 - that time for the eighth wicket partnership, the highest in West Indies cricket history - though that was against Zimbabwe and a bowling attack of far less quality than this English one. The 295 runs also higher than, unsurprisingly, the largest ever ninth and tenth wicket partnership for the West Indies, as well as the largest ever sixth wicket partnership. That record belongs to Brian Lara (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) and Ridley Jacobs, who put on an unbeaten 282 run stand also against England in 2004. In fact, Holder and Dowrich also went very close to overtaking the highest ever opening wicket stand for the West Indies - that record belongs to the famous Greenidge/Haynes duo, who put on 298, again against England, back in 1990.
For the record, the highest partnerships by wicket in the history of Test cricket are as follows:
1st wicket: 415 runs, Neil McKenzie and Graham Smith. This South African duo - one of whom was one of South Africa’s greatest ever and one of whom struggled to solidify his spot in the team - occurred during South Africa’s Tour of Bangladesh back in 2008. At the time, Bangladesh was a significantly less capable team than they are today.
2nd wicket: 576 runs, Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama. Again, one of the games greatest ever openers was involved in this one, with Jayasuriya finishing with 340 runs in a Test match which, in five days, saw 1,489 runs scored for the loss of just 14 wickets.
3rd wicket: 624 runs, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Two of the greatest batsmen to come out of Sri Lanka - and indeed the world - came together against South Africa in Colombo in 2006 to put together the largest partnership in cricket history. After an inauspicious start to the innings - they came together at 2/14 - Sangakkara scored 287 runs and Jayawardene 374 to lead their side to an innings win.
4th wicket: 449 runs, Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh. These Australian’s are perhaps not household names around the globe, with Voges only having a short - albeit extremely successful - international career late in his cricketing life and Marsh in an out of the team, but on this occasion the unlikely duo found themselves out in the middle together against the West Indies for a long time.
5th wicket: 405 runs, Sid Barnes and Don Bradman. An Australian opener with one of the game’s best record - though he played just 13 Tests - and the game’s greatest ever player joined together at 4/159 against England a year after the end of World War Two, and subsequently put together 405 runs together. Both were ultimately dismissed for 234.
6th wicket: 399 runs, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow. The most recent of these records, these two Englishmen fell just a run short of a 400 run stand when they faced South Africa in Cape Town in the first Test of 2016.
7th wicket: 347 runs, Denis Atkinson and Clairmont Depeiaza. 1955 was clearly the year for 7th wicket partnerships. This is the stand that kept Holder and Dowrich out of top place for the 7th wicket partnership record - along with War Hasan and Imtiaz Ahmed.
8th wicket: 332 runs, Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad. Against Pakistan back in 2010, England were struggling at 7/102 in the first innings before Broad came out and scored 169 alongside first drop Jonathan Trott, who finished on 184.
9th wicket: 195 runs, Marc Boucher and Pat Symcox. Surprisingly, this record breaking 9th wicket partnership saw the number ten batsman score the bulk of the runs. Simcox accumulated 108 off 157 balls before being dismissed, while Boucher managed 78.
10th wicket: 198 runs, Joe Root and James Anderson. In one of the great anomalies in cricket history, James Anderson, one of the game’s greatest bowlers but number 11 throughout his career for a very good reason, entered the crease at 9/298 against India with Joe Root still batting. Root ended unbeaten on 154 while Anderson incredibly compiled 81, his highest Test score and a record that it’s safe to say he’ll never break.
Unsurprisingly, most of these partnerships resulted in at least victories for the team which scored them, and at the worst draws. The West Indies, currently in a very difficult period in their Test history, will be hoping for the same. Perhaps I’ve jumped the gun and we’ll see England chase down the 628 which the West Indies set largely on the back of this incredible partnership, but it’s fair to say, at this stage of the match, you’d rather be the home team.