A good batting partnership is normally the bedrock of a good test match innings; a large partnership could be enough to force a win or secure a draw.
In the course of over a hundred years of test match cricket over 2000 test matches have been played, and there have been some exceedingly large batting partnerships in those matches. As you might expect the five largest partnerships for any wicket in test history have come towards the top of the batting line-up, surprisingly though, none have been for the opening wicket.
Ponsford and Bradman – 451 runs for 2nd wicket
The fourth equal highest test partnership occurred back in August 1934 when England took on Australia at the Oval. Choosing to bat first, the pairing of the legendary Don Bradman and Bill Ponsford came together at the fall of the first wicket, with Australia 21/1. The early wicket though was the only success that the English bowlers would see for many hours, as the new batting pair set about accumulating runs. Indeed it was 451 runs later before Bradman was caught behind off the bowling of Bill Bowes, just before the close of play.
Although a timeless test, the match was over within four days. The then world record partnership helped set up a victory for Australia; a victory by 562 runs.
Nazar and Miandad – 451 runs for 3rd wicket
Almost fifty years after Bradman and Ponsford scored the world record partnership, it was matched by the Pakistani pairing of Mudassar Nazar and Javed Miandad. The fourth test between Pakistan and India was played at Hyderabad in January 1983. Pakistan chose to bat, and that decision started to look flawed when two wickets fell with Pakistan on 60 runs. These wickets though brought together the pairing of Nazar and Miandad, and though scoring was not quick the pair batted through until just before close of play on day two of the test. The two, when batting together, scored 451 runs in 533 minutes; Nazar would eventually fall to the bowling of Dilip Doshi.
Pakistan would eventually declare on 581/3, and then Imran Khan set about a decent Indian batting line up. The record partnership would help the home team to a victory over their bitter rivals by an innings and 119 runs.
Jones and Crowe – 467 runs for 3rd wicket
A new world record batting partnership for test cricket was eventually established in January 1991, 67 years after the previous record. Unlike the previous two partnerships this new record came in the third innings of a match with New Zealand seeking to save the match when they played Sri Lanka in Wellington.
A poor batting performance by New Zealand in the first innings had left them with a deficit of 323 runs going into their second innings; and there was still over three days of the test left. A much better batting performance would see New Zealand reach 148/2 with just under two days of the match left. The fall of John Wright’s wicket brought together Andrew Jones and the New Zealand captain Martin Crowe. For the next two days the pair faced the Sri Lankan bowlers, and by the time Jones fell for 186, the pair had amassed 467 runs. The test match was saved, but agonisingly Crowe would subsequently fall one run short of 300 runs in the innings.
Jayasuriya and Mahanama – 576 runs for 2nd wicket
In August 1997 a new record was achieved by the Sri Lankan pair of Sanatha Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama; the record partnership was not just broken though, it was smashed. The Colombo pitch for the Sri Lanka-India test match was obviously a batter’s dream, as in their first innings India scored 537/8 declared.
In response, the first Sri Lankan wicket fell to the final ball of the second day, with the score 39/1. So at the start of the third day, Jayasuriya was joined by Mahanama. The pair batted throughout the whole of the third day, and then the whole of the fourth day; with the partnership only broken at the start of the fifth, when Mahanama was out lbw for 225. In two days of batting the pair had scored a record 576 runs.
Inevitably the match ended in a draw, with Sri Lanka finishing the fifth day on 952/6.
Sangakkara and Jayawardene – 624 runs for 3rd wicket
Even Jayasuriya and Mahanama’s mammoth effort was eventually eclipsed; and once again the record score came in Colombo (although at a different ground). A strong South African team was touring Sri Lanka and in the first test, the visitors decided to bat. They did though fail to bat past tea on day one, and were bowled out for a measly 169.
Initially it looked like that score was going to prove competitive, as first Jayasuriya and then Tharanga fell to leave Sri Lanka 14/2. This though brought Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to the crease; and the pair batted through until after lunch on day three. Together the pair stayed together for 157 overs and scored a combined 624 runs (Sangakara contributing 285 and Jayawardene 309 runs). Even when Sanagakkara fell to Hall, Sri Lanka kept going until there were only 15 overs of day three left; Sri Lanka declaring on 756/5.
South Africa needed to score 588 just to make Sri Lanka bat again; more likely though they had to survive two days without being bowled out. Despite a much better batting performance, South Africa fell short of either target, and the tourists were eventually bowled out before tea on day five, having scored 434 runs. Sri Lanka had won by an innings and 153 runs.
Sangakkara and Jayawardene still hold the record test cricket partnership for any wicket, and any attempt on the record is going to take a supreme effort and a perfect batting wicket.