Graham Gooch: England’s best opener of all time?

Graham Gooch scores a fantastic 333 vs India at Lords in 1990
Graham Gooch 333, England v India, 1st Test, Lord's, Jul 90. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

Graham Gooch: Perhaps the greatest?

Gooch is widely regarded by some as the greatest opening batsman to play for England in the modern era.

His change of technique half-way through his career gave him awesome power with the bat and he once he was in, “he belted oppositions” according to Terry Alderman.

Gooch was England’s shining light through a tough period in which they struggled and it took Gooch’s captaincy to begin the turnaround. He also had a golden period with the bat when he captained England.

Therefore, we must ask – is Graham Gooch England’s best opener of all time?

 

Graham Gooch: The Profile

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Graham Alan Gooch was born on the 23rd of July 1953 in Essex. He started playing first-class cricket in 1973 – at the age of 20.

By the time he had retired from first-class cricket, he was one of the most prolific players in that format. Graham Gooch played first-class cricket between 1973 and 2000. At the age of 47, he retired, having scored over 44,000 runs and taken 200 plus wickets.

Speaking on “Cricket’s Greatest” he said that it did not matter whether he played for Essex or for England and that he would try his best for both. This was because he felt that whenever he had to represent himself professionally, he was putting his reputation on the line and so tried to perform to the best of his standards.

For England, he scored 8900 test runs and was the nation’s highest scorer until recently when he was overtaken by Alastair Cook in 2016. Gooch scored 20 test match centuries and 46 half-centuries.

 

The Statistical Side

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Graham Gooch Test Averages against oppositions ( Minimum 10 games played against them)

Opposition Average (min 10 games)
India 55.65
New Zealand 52.18
West Indies 44.84
Pakistan 42.69
Australia 33.32

 

Considering that Graham Gooch opened in England ( statistically the second hardest country to bat in after South Africa), his averages against top oppositions are healthy.

What stands out like a beacon, is his average of 44.84 against the West Indies. At the time, the West Indies had a fearsome quartet of fast bowlers but Graham Gooch himself admitted that he often prospered against them.

He was perhaps one of the greatest batsmen to ever play against that quartet and when most failed, he often delivered for England.

England had very limited success against the West Indies throughout most of Gooch’s career, although he did enjoy a few test match and ODI wins towards the latter half of his career.

 

Ashes Record

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An Englishman is often judged on how he performs in The Ashes. This is because Australia is considered to be the nation’s biggest rival. Graham Gooch played 42 test matches against Australia. In this time, he scored four centuries and sixteen half-centuries.

Gooch’s Ashes record is good without being great. He averages 33 ( the lowest of his averages for any team he has played at least 10 times). He had his successful moments in Ashes series but ultimately the poor start to his Ashes career and career, in general, cost him.

It took Gooch 8 games to register a half-century in Ashes cricket and 22 to register a century. Had he adopted quicker, he would have probably averaged close to 40. Despite this, an average of 33 is more than respectable for an opening batsman who played in his era.

Shane Warne famously said that ” Gooch was the greatest England batsmen I ever bowled at. He was a terrific player.” This was understandable because Gooch had a renaissance towards the end of his career – the time when Shane Warne began playing. Gooch’s Ashes record in the latter half of his career was amazing.

Also, Read – Who has scored the most Ashes hundred?

 

Top 3 Best Test Innings
England Captain scores 154 at Headingley 1991
England captain Graham Gooch hits out during his innings of 154 not out in the 1st Test match between England and West Indies at Headingley, Leeds, 8th June 1991. The fielders for West Indies are Carl Hooper and Viv Richards. England won the match by 115 runs. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

154* vs West Indies at Headingley

Unarguably his best ever test innings. Against an attack featuring Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh and Patterson, Gooch scored a fantastic century. The conditions were ultra bowler-friendly and both first innings scores had been low. Gooch scored over 60% of his teams’ runs in the second innings to help England to a famous victory over the West Indies.

333 & 123 vs India at Lords

The sheer volume of runs helps these two innings make the list. His 333 was one of the highest test scores at the time – just behind Garfield Sobers’ 365. It still remains one of the highest test scores. It was scored at Lords – the home of cricket, which makes it an even more special innings.

196 vs Australia at The OvalĀ 

His first Ashes century. Gooch had waited for 22 tests to score this hundred but made sure he capitalized when he finally did. A fantastic 196 at The Oval in 1985 helped England win The Ashes 3-1 at home.

 

ODI Career
1992 World Cup before the World Cup
SYDNEY – FEBRUARY 22: (Back Row, from left to right) David Houghton of Zimbabwe, Keppler Wessels of South Africa, Mohammed Azharuddin of India, Richie Richardson of the West Indies and Aravinda De Silva of Sri Lanka, (Front Row, from left to right) Martin Crowe of New Zealand, Allan Border of Australia, Graham Gooch of England and Imran Khan of Pakistan during the World Cup Opening Ceremony held on February 22, 1992 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Adrian Murrell/Getty Images)

Gooch played 125 One-Day internationals. In this time, he scored 4290 runs at an awesome average of 36.98. He scored 8 centuries and 23 half-centuries. He averaged over 50 against New Zealand, 46 against Australia and 43 against Sri Lanka.

The highlights of his ODI career were the two World Cup finals that he reached. He was the third-highest run-scorer of the 1979 tournament with 210 runs in just five matches. He averaged 52.50 at the tournament. They lost to the West Indies in the final.

At the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Gooch scored 216 runs at an average of 27. He helped England to reach the final. They ultimately fell short though, against Pakistan.

 

The legend

In short, Graham Gooch is arguably England’s greatest contemporary opening batsman and perhaps of all time?

Alastair Cook, Herbert Sutcliffe and Sir Jack Hobbs provide compelling competition but did they ever master bowling attacks such as the West Indies quartet?

 

 

 

 

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