Yesterday, we explained why Hobbs has been one of our cricket heroes since childhood. Today, we focus on the best of his many great partnerships for England with Yorkshire's Herbert Sutcliffe - the pair we selected to open in our All-time England and composite Ashes XIs.
Quite simply the pair formed the best opening pair in the history of Test cricket. They amassed 3249 runs in only 38 innings with 15 century stands at a whopping average of 87.81. Individually they rank as two of the greatest batsmen in history, but together they were near impregnable - especially when the odds seemed stacked against them.
In the 1926 Ashes, with the series 0-0, the final test at The Master's home ground of The Oval would be timeless; meaning that whatever happened there would be a positive result. England had lost the last three Ashes series 5-0, 3-0 and 4-1 and hadn't won a rubber since before the Great War, so much was at stake.
England rung the changes, drafting in Percy Chapman (in place of the unfortunate Arthur Carr) as skipper, the 49 year old Wilfred Rhodes and the young tearaway Nottinghamshire fast bowler Harold Larwood. An expectant nation waited with bated breath.
Chapman did his first job by winning the toss on what looked like a prime batting wicket, but despite Hobbs (37) and Sutcliffe (76) providing a good start, England could only make 280 in their first innings. Australia then eked out a 22 run lead after recovering from 122 for six thanks to a quickfire 73 from Jack Gregory batting at eight.
The fate of the Ashes lay with Hobbs and Sutcliffe and all looked well as they made steady progress to close the day on 49 without loss. But then disaster as heavy rain overnight meant that the uncovered pitch turned into a treacherous sticky wicket. England were only 27 runs ahead and if they failed to prevent a collapse, then most of the demons would have probably left the pitch by the time Australia came to chase. And that would mean the Ashes would be lost again.
But Hobbs and Sutcliffe had other ideas, despite fearing that England would be lucky to even add another 80 runs to their overnight score. They put these fears to one side and with great skill, resolve and sheer grit they tackled the sticky dog and the crafty bowling of Richardson, Mailey and Grimmett to preserve their wickets and punish any bad balls.
Slowly but surely they grew their stand to 172 before Hobbs was out for exactly 100 just after reaching his milestone to rapturous applause from an excited crowd. Sutcliffe went on to make 161 and England 436.
By the time Australia finally started their second innings, further rain had fallen and they had no hope of getting the 415 they needed to retain the Ashes. Rhodes and Larwood took seven wickets between them, but it was Hobbs and Sutcliffe who were the heroes of the hour.
Hobbs and Sutcliffe shared 11 century partnerships in Tests against Australia, but this was undoubtedly the finest. Even more so then when they repeated the trick on another treacherous sticky wicket at Melbourne in 1928/29. That time they added 106 as England successfully chased down 332 to win. Sutcliffe again scored a brave matchwinning hundred.
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