As Brendon McCullum's beard grew in Wellington during the second test against India, so did his batting strength, eventually enabling him to become the first New Zealander to make a triple century in a test. It's a common trend. Andrew Alderson examines how the cultivation of face foliage empowered six test greats.

Ian Botham
A beard was not present for much of Beefy's cricket career although all pictorial evidence suggests he was born with a moustache. However, a complete face of manicured stubble was present when it mattered most - 1981 at Headingley. His 149 not out rescued England following on against Australia and enabled them to win the test by 18 runs, a result which led to the hosts retaining the Ashes.

Viv Richards
The West Indian Master Blaster sported the original designer stubble, an accessory which encapsulated an image of swagger and bravado while dispatching bowling attacks under a cap rather than helmet. Against England in 1976, Britain's hottest summer, his shots skimmed scorched outfields for scores of 232, 135 and 291. His 1710 runs at 90 in that calendar year was a record until 2006.

Mohammad Yousuf
The artist formerly known as Yousuf Youhana went from great to superlative when, in September 2005, he converted from Christianity to Islam and grew a hirsute black neckbrace. In 2006, he broke Richards' record for runs in a calendar year, making 1788 at 99.33. He scored 13 centuries in 59 tests from February 1998-March 2005 but accelerated with 11 in 31 from November 2005-August 2010.


Hashim Amla
Cue-ball head meets flipped afro. His luxuriant beard has to be squashed into his helmet like packing foam, such is its voluminous nature. As South Africa's first triple century-maker, against England at the Oval in July 2012, he and McCullum share common ground. As a devout Muslim of Indian descent, Amla's razor-killer has been omnipresent in a test career entering its 10th year.

WG Grace
Holds a natural gravitational pull for musings on cricketing beards - and the entire beard genre. His chin remains a myth covered in shrubbery. He risked getting out handled ball any time a delivery came near his face. His beard was cricket's version of golf's fescue grass rough - it identified him as much as his initials and helped create the game's first icon.

Dan Vettori
The bristles took a sustained hold early in his captaincy, transforming him from Peter Pan to Wise Man. Banishing his razor for a few days (anecdotal reports estimate a few hours) gave him the air of a sage figure, devoid of the capacity to err. That's how it needed to be. Vettori's feats leading from the front to knit a relatively weak team from 2007-11 are arguably the least recognised in New Zealand cricket history.