The Top 10 Cover Drivers in Cricket Today
There are certain moments in sport that making make even the most cynical and jaded fan purr with pleasure.
In rugby, perhaps a flowing, passing move ending with the winger going over for a try in the corner.
But in cricket, from a batsman's perspective anyway, the cover drive is high up the list.
It's the seemingly effortless flow of the blade, running through the ball and dispatching it like a tracer-bullet to bisect the off-side field and race to the boundary for four.
There are different executions of the shot. Some players get their foot right to the pitch of the ball and almost rock down on to one knee to caress the ball through the covers. Others rely more on timing and hand-to-eye coordination to unleash the ball to the ropes.
Either way, it is one of the game's greatest sights. Here are the 10 best cover drivers of the modern era, ranked in purely aesthetical order.
10: Shane Watson
Primarily known for his powerful innings in limited-overs cricket, Shane Watson transforms into a more classically styled batsman in the longer form of the game.
While remaining a constant lbw candidate and an under-achiever in terms of statistics—Watson has just three Test centuries in 46 matches—when the burly all-rounder gets going, the scoreboard tends to race along.
With Watson seemingly finding a home in the important No. 3 position, the forthcoming Ashes series in Australia could keep England's cover fielders busy.
9: Sachin Tendulkar
With more than 50,000 runs in his celebrated career, who knows how many cover drives Sachin Tendulkar has played?
When in full flow, the Little Master—who has famously scored a century of international centuries—is a joy to watch and possesses a range of shots for every situation and surface.
And having played in the recent Champions League Twenty20 competition, it appears Tendulkar's career isn't over yet.
8: Mark Waugh
Although less successful than his twin brother Steve in terms of legacy and statistics, Mark Waugh was the more elegant batsman of the pair.
With cuts and pulls aplenty, the strokemaker scored at a decent rate, but it was his laconic cover drives that will remain longest in the memory.
Finishing with 20 Test Match centuries and a first-class average of 52.04, Waugh retired in 2004.
7: Kumar Sangakkara
One of two left-handers in the list, Kumar Sangakkara was one of the key figures in the new wave of batsman that cemented Sri Lanka as an international force.
An eloquent speaker off the pitch and an elegant shotmaker on it, the wicketkeeper/batsman has more than 10,000 Test runs at an incredible average of 56.98.
Despite relinquishing the captaincy in 2011, Sangakkara remains a key component of the Sri Lankan team.
6: Ricky Ponting
Australian legend Ricky Ponting retired from cricket in August with the small matter of 41 Test centuries to his name.
Always an iconic batsman to watch, his trademark pull shot captured most attention, but the former Baggy Greens skipper scored thousands of runs with his economical cover drive, too.
While his record was mildly tarnished by captaining Australia to three Ashes defeats, Ponting will go down as one of the all-time greats and has scored more Test runs than anyone else apart from Sachin Tendulkar.
5: Damien Martyn
Although he tended to be overshadowed by some of the bigger names in the Baggy Greens batting lineup, Damien Martyn was a cricket purist's dream.
His textbook technique delivered more than 4,000 Test runs at an average of 46.37. It's a total that would have been a lot higher if not for a long absence from the Australian side during the middle of his career.
After his surprise retirement in 2006, Martyn has recently resurfaced in the commentary box.
4: Ian Bell
An Ian Bell in full flow is a fine sight for any cricket fan and the 2013 Ashes was the perfect showcase for that.
The right-handed batsman scored three centuries and two half centuries to earn himself the man of the series award.
A slightly chequered record at international level has been on a steady incline for a number of years now and, at the age of 31, Bell's range of offside strokes should be with us for a number of years yet.
3: Mahela Jayawardene
Mahela Jayawardene has the shots to score all round the wicket, but his cover drive is a thing of beauty.
Getting his body into perfect position with head over the ball, the former Sri Lanka captain makes the stroke look effortless.
Since making his Test debut in 1997, Jayawardene has scored more than 10,000 runs at Test level and 11,000 more in ODIs.
2: Brian Lara
An extraordinary ability to find the gaps in the field had opposition captains pulling their hair out and West Indian fans celebrating in the stands.
While not possessing a classic technique, Lara's balance and quick feet enabled him to get into position to hit even good balls to the ropes.
1: Michael Vaughan
During that series, he scored three centuries and 633 runs for a struggling side against an all-star Australian attack.
While boasting a wide range of shots, the Yorkshireman was at his best when rocking on to the front foot to unleash his range of drives, none more photogenic than his perfect shot through the covers.
After captaining England to Ashes success in 2005, his career came to a halt in 2009 and he has found a comfortable home in the commentary box ever since.