Opening is a specialist job in Test cricket and only a select few batsmen have been able to perfect the art. While there have been some destructive one-day dashers who tormented the best of bowling attacks, only a handful of them could establish themselves as dependable Test openers.
An opener had to fend off hostile spells against quality bowling to lay a strong foundation for his side. A Test opener has to have all the virtues of an accomplished batsman, be it knowing where their off stump lies, the art of leaving probing deliveries, maintaining calm and composure and having the repertoire of shots to score on batting friendly conditions.
Over the years, there have been some quality batsmen who have donned the role of an opener to perfection. While a majority of the successful openers have been right-handers, there have been some left-handed masters of the willow who have etched their names as world class openers with their run-scoring pedigree.
England opener Alastair Cook who shall bid adieu to Test cricket after the ongoing Test series against India goes down as the most successful left-handed batsman in Test cricket with a staggering 12472 runs and 33 tons to his name. The Englishman also became the highest run scorer as a left-handed opener. While Cook shall certainly go down as the best of the lot, there have been some other left-handed openers who were prolific run-getters in Test cricket.
It would be interesting to draw out a list of the top ten left-handed openers with the most runs in Test cricket. Before we run through the list, I have listed down some left-handed opening batsmen who scored above 4000 Test runs in their respective Test careers.
Left-handed Test openers with 4000 or more runs
John Wright - 5260
Bill Lawry - 5234
Justin Langer - 5112
Roy Fredericks - 4329
Gautam Gambhir - 4119
Tamim Iqbal - 4010
Saeed Anwar - 3957
#10 Gary Kirsten
Gary Kirsten was the workhorse of the South African batting unit in the late 90s and early 2000s. The left-handed opener was a prolific run-getter both at home and while touring overseas. Kirsten went about his run scoring in a rather unassuming manner and rarely failed in his role.
Kirsten was more of a run grafter, nudging the ball into gaps and building an innings. Bestowed with loads of patience and a robust technique, Kirsten was the ideal man to open the innings for South Africans when they were relatively new to the Test fold. Gary formed successful opening partnerships with both Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs in Test cricket.
Gary Kirsten's record as a Test opener
Matches: 84; Runs: 5726; Avg: 41.79; 100s: 14; 50s: 28