Team of the Decade - Test 2010s Top Order

Updated: Nov 3, 2018

This is a segment where we go through the All Time XIs for each decade.

Firstly, the nature of All Time XIs means my selections will be somewhat opinionated, although I will try to go by stats as much as possible.

The factors you would take into account (apart from averages and runs and wickets) would be the general overall success of the team in the decade, as well as series results. For example, Australia were generally not as successful, especially away from home compared to the previous decade, so the runs that Steve Smith scored away from home would be a massive boost for him.

12 players will be picked in each side, 2 specialist openers, a specialist number 3, 3 middle order players (which may or may not include an all rounder), a wicket keeper at number 7, and 2 fast bowlers and 2 spinners. The 12th man will be an extra pace bowler in case the match is taking place outside Asia. In the case that a fast bowling all rounder has been picked who warrants a place as a third seamer (e.g. Ben Stokes), then an extra spinner will be the 12th man.

NOTE : The Final XI will be in the 'Bowlers' blog.

Firstly, the time period we are taking into account is from 1 April 2010 to the 20 October 2018 (the end of the West Indies vs India series and the Pakistan vs Australia series in the UAE.) The reason why 1 April is the beginning of the ‘season’ and not 1 January, is that the 1st of January is almost always in the middle of a test or a test series year after year (Boxing Day Test is almost never the final test of the summer in the Southern Hemisphere). I will use 1st April as a cut off for all the decades, and if there happens to be a series during this date, then it will not be counted in the following decade; instead it will be counted in the preceding decade. (e.g. if West Indies are playing Sri Lanka during April 2010, then it will be included in the noughties instead of 2010s.)

Now, to the XI:


The Contenders:

Dean Elgar ( 🇿🇦 ) – 3,017 runs in 75 innings at 43.10 with 10 hundreds – Home : 1,828 runs in 37 innings at 55.39 with 6 hundreds – Away : 1,189 runs in 38 innings at 32.13 with 4 hundreds.

Alastair Cook (🇬🇧) – 8,285 runs in 192 innings at 45.27 with 21 hundreds – Home : 4,446 runs in 106 innings at 43.58 with 10 hundreds – Away : 3,839 runs in 86 innings at 47.39 with 11 hundreds

David Warner (🇦🇺) – 6,324 runs in 134 innings at 49.02 with 21 hundreds – Home : 3,687 runs in 66 innings at 60.44 with 15 hundreds – Away : 2,637 runs in 68 innings at 38.77 with 6 hundreds

Murali Vijay (🇮🇳) – 3,670 runs in 93 innings at 39.89 with 12 hundreds – Home : 2,024 runs in 42 innings at 49.36 with 9 hundreds – Away : 1,646 runs in 51 innings at 32.27 with 3 hundreds

Kraigg Brathwaite (🇧🇧) – 3,268 runs in 91 innings at 36.71 with 8 hundreds – Home : 1,486 runs in 47 innings at 34.55 with 5 hundreds – Away : 1,782 runs in 48 innings at 38.73 with 3 hundreds

The fact that no country has more than one stand out option (except possibly South Africa if you include G Smith or India if you include Dhawan) shows how the standard of opening batsmanship has fallen over this decade. 3 of the 5 here average in the 30s away from home which shows just how hard it is to win away from home in the modern age. With Cook’s incredible average of 46 away from home, he is a certain pick in this team, especially with his role in England’s stunning series wins in Australia in 2010-11 and in India in 2012-13.

The second choice is also fairly clear cut. Much has been made about David Warner’s struggles outside Australia and although he averages less than 38 outside Australia and 34 in Asia, he has a lower home-away differential (22.98) than Dean Elgar (23.26) and a comparable one to Murali Vijay 17.09. Murali Vijay doesn’t average over 50 at home, and Warner trumps Vijay in home average, away average and total average, having scored more hundreds as well. The other player in this discussion has a very interesting case. He is the only man besides Cook to average in the 40s away from home, and with only 3 hundreds it means Kraigg Brathwaite is very consistent outside of the Caribbean. Brathwaite on his away average alone gets above Elgar and Vijay, but his home average is completely ordinary (34.55).

David Warner’s memorable innings have mostly come at home (e.g. 100 before lunch on Day 1 at the MCG vs Pakistan) while Brathwaite has 2 tons in UAE and his performance at Headingley along with Shai Hope is one for the ages. It is a close call but with Cook already being a player of attrition, adding another one in Brathwaite would mean that the new ball will be seen off more often than not but the scoring rate will not be high enough to set up many test match victories. It is important to find the balance between defence and attack in an opening pair, and therefore Warner gets the second spot ahead of Kraigg Brathwaite.

Conclusion : Alastair Cook and David Warner

‘A’ Team : Kraigg Brathwaite and Murali Vijay

Notable Mentions : Dimuth Karnaratne (🇱🇰) – 3,531 runs at 38.38 , Shikhar Dhawan (🇮🇳 ) 2,311 runs at 42.01 , Tamim Iqbal (🇧🇩 ) 2,833 runs at 38.28

Andrew Strauss (34.32 in 29 tests), Graeme Smith (44.03 in 34 tests) and Virender Sehwag (38.67 in 28 tests) didn’t play enough matches in this decade to be considered, although the 3 of them will be compelling picks for the noughties side.

Number 3

The Contenders:

Name (% of innings played at number 3 in this decade)

Hashim Amla (78.46%) (🇿🇦) – 4,756 runs in 102 innings at 49.54 with 16 hundreds – Home : 2,685 runs in 55 innings at 50.66 with 10 hundreds – Away : 2,071 runs in 47 innings at 48.16 with 6 hundreds

Jonathan Trott (81.25%) (🇬🇧) – 2,935 runs in 65 innings at 48.91 with 7 hundreds – Home : 1,594 runs in 37 innings at 46.88 with 2 hundreds – Away : 1,341 runs in 28 innings at 51.57 with 5 hundreds

Kumar Sangakkara (93.02%) (🇱🇰 ) – 4,763 runs in 80 innings at 65.24 with 17 hundreds – Home : 2,526 runs in 43 innings at 66.47 with 9 hundreds – Away : 2,237 runs in 37 innings at 63.91 with 8 hundreds

Kane Williamson (83.62%) ( 🇳🇿 ) – 4,744 runs in 97 innings at 53.90 with 16 hundreds – Home : 2,198 runs in 44 innings at 56.36 with 7 hundreds – Away : 2,546 runs in 53 innings at 51.95 with 9 hundreds

Azhar Ali (67.74%) (🇵🇰 ) – 3,627 runs in 87 innings at 43.69 with 10 hundreds – Home : 1,804 runs in 40 innings at 50.11 with 5 hundreds – Away : 1,823 runs in 47 innings at 38.78 with 5 hundreds

Cheteshwar Pujara (85.44%) (🇮🇳 ) – 4,388 runs in 92 innings at 50.43 with 14 hundreds – Home : 2,802 runs in 48 innings at 63.68 with 10 hundreds – Away : 1,490 runs in 42 innings at 36.34 with 4 hundreds.

Looking at the stats, although Sangakkara played for only half the decade, it is very difficult to look past him. He tops the other 5 options on runs, home average, away average and total average.

Hashim Amla played some truly memorable innings through this decade, many of them away from home such as the triple hundred in England but his true worth has been seen in situations where he grits it out and bats for long, long periods of time, like he did in Colombo in 2014 where he played for over 8 hours for 139 in South Africa’s first innings, and where he got 25 from 159 balls in the second to ensure the draw. The greatest Amla blockathon however, came in Delhi in 2015 where he played 244 balls for just 25 runs in an attempt to draw the test. These innings are worth as much as a double hundred in other situations.

Jonathan Trott certainly played his part in England’s 2 victorious tours in Australia and India early on in the decade, as well as England’s rise towards the Test Mace and he was a wonderfully consistent player whose career sadly ended early to psychological issues.

Azhar Ali’s average in the UAE is over 50 but an average away from home of 38.78 lets him down in this category.

Kane Williamson, who will presumably be New Zealand’s greatest ever batsman when he finishes the game, is one of the most consistent players in the world and he goes under the radar quite a bit because of the lack of cricket that New Zealand play. He has an impressive average of just under 54 and a very good away average of 52 as well. He has scored runs everywhere in the world and is a serious contender for the number 3 spot. The only drawback to Williamson is that (not necessarily through any fault of his own) he has not lead New Zealand to a memorable series or test win anywhere.

Finally, we have Cheteshwar Pujara. His success at home is remarkable, he has a very simple formula in India, make big scores and take a long time to do so. His average at home of 63.68 is second only to Sangakkara in this list, but a successful number 3 has to be able to master all conditions, and Pujara has not been able to crack the overseas code yet. He hasn’t been given an extended run in the team perhaps as he would have liked overseas, and signs of improvements are there like his remarkable 132* at the Ageas Bowl but he needs many more innings like that to be in contention.

Kumar Sangakkara clearly takes top spot, with Amla and Williamson fighting it out for the second spot. Trott and Pujara are slightly behind comparatively but it is testament to the incredible competition for the number 3 spot that a player averaging over 50 in Pujara is not getting a look in.

Hashim Amla and Kane Williamson are very evenly matched but Amla has slowly started to decline from the immovable object earlier on in the decade and for that reason, Williamson gets the edge.

Conclusion : Kumar Sangakkara (🇱🇰)

‘A’ Team : Kane Williamson (🇳🇿)

Notable Mentions : Darren Bravo (56%) (🇧🇧) 1,937 runs at 40.35, Usman Khawaja (89%) (🇦🇺 ) 1,942 runs at 39.63