Not much quite typifies cricket at its purist as a classic cover drive. The poised balance, flourish of the bat, solid timing, high elbow and picture-perfect pose - it really is a thing of beauty. There have been several superb exponents of this quintessential cricket stroke for many years.
Here, though, we pick out the very best, starting with Damien Martyn. The talented right-hander debuted in 1992 in an Australian XI lined with greats such as Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor and Allan Border. When he played his last Test some 14 years later, he was still arguably inferior to even more stars of Australian cricket like Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. But Martyn’s lofted and back-foot drives were particularly special – largely better than his contemporaries at the time. Take a look.
For a fine example of a left-handed cover drive, look no further than Kumar Sangakkara. Second only to fellow southpaw Alastair Cook and with more Test runs than the legendary Brian Lara, Sangakkara struck 12,400 runs during a prolific career in the longest format of the international game. A fair whack of those came via sumptuous cover drives like these.
We wouldn’t dare exclude a South African from this list and it’s appropriate that none other than Jacques Kallis represents the country here. Kallis’ shot selection was ostensibly spearheaded the cover drive – and he showcased it time and time again against some of the most challenging bowling attacks, in difficult conditions. Here is a delightful cover-drive comparison between Kallis and South Africa’s other great batsman, Kevin Pietersen.
We’ve touched on Cook and Pietersen, but neither really hold a candle to countryman Ian Bell’s near perfection of the cover drive. This masterclass clip is 100 seconds well spent, giving you insight into how Bell went about crafting and carving cover drives for several Ashes series. His remarks about playing the ball late and being comfortable with one’s stride are particularly interesting.
Moving onto more modern-day examples of exemplary cover drives, it’s well worth starting with Kane Williamson. The New Zealand batsman’s compact stroke play and sound technique make for fitting inclusion of a no-frills, no-fuss cover drive. There really is nothing flamboyant to the way Williamson goes about his striking through the line. It’s all just good value. If his cover drives are being compared to those of Virat Kohli, he must be doing something very right. See for yourself.
Kohli is also often pitted against Babar Azam in cover-drive comparisons. Rightly so, too. The India versus Pakistan rivalry couldn’t be more condensed when putting the pair in ‘cover drive off’. Whether it’s straight down the ground, wide of mid-on or straightish midwicket with an exquisite on-drive, Azam knows how to punish bad length or even deliveries that are marginally too full. Cases in point coming right up.
Quinton de Kock
And, finally, let’s not forget Quinton de Kock in this conversation. Granted, the Proteas opener’s shot selection and stroke play is probably more inventive and adventurous than most of the others on this list, but de Kock still finds time to exhibit a textbook cover drive when the time is right. Here is a mix of everything from the powerful left-hander.