September 27, 2003

The man who rescued England

Wisden CricInfo staff

All Today's Yesterdays - September 27 down the years

September 26 | September 28

The birth of England's talisman. On becoming England's first overseas coach in 1999 Duncan Fletcher took possession of a team rated the worst in the world, but he turned things round quicker than anyone could possibly have expected. With sensible man-management, the ability to look beyond county statistics - best evidenced by the success of Craig White and Marcus Trescothick - and no little skill, he helped England to four consecutive Test-series victories, including an unprecedented double on the subcontinent. Fletcher was also a doughty allrounder who made 69 not out and took 4 for 42 as Zimbabwe pulled off a stunning victory over Australia - Border, Lillee, Marsh, Thomson and all - in their first ever official one-day international, at Trent Bridge in the 1983 World Cup.

Having been hyped as the natural successor to Hutton, Sutcliffe and Boycott, the career of Bill Athey who was born today, was always in danger of being one of underachievement. A stately performer who made his debut in the Centenary Test in 1980, Athey averaged a disappointing 22.98 from 23 Tests. His opening partnership with Chris Broad was central to England's Ashes triumph of 1986-87, but after a sparkling 123 at Lord's against Pakistan the following summer Athey failed to pass 50 in eight Tests. He was dropped for the final time after the defeat by West Indies at Headingley in 1988, but continued to be prolific at county level, having moved from Yorkshire to Gloucestershire in 1984 and to Sussex in 1993. He had made over 25,000 first-class runs when he retired in 1997.

In Kingston, Eddie Hemmings became the first person to take ten wickets in a first-class innings for 13 years, returning figures of 49.3-14-175-10 while playing for an International XI. It broke a number of records: it is the only time one bowler has taken ten wickets in a first-class innings in the West Indies; it is the most-expensive "allten" in any innings, and the West Indies XI's 419 is the highest total to include one.

It would be no surprise if the birth of Gavin Larsen in Wellington today went largely unnoticed; he is that sort of character. Despite playing 121 ODIs for New Zealand between 1990 and 1999 Larsen's gentle mediumpace was consistently underrated, and though he took only 113 wickets his outstanding economy rate of 3.76 runs per over underlined his value to the team. He is best remembered for the 1991-92 World Cup when he was part of the thriftiest of triumvirates (Larsen, Chris Harris and Rod Latham were called "Dibbly, Dobbly and Wobbly") that tortured even the best batsmen on the anaesthetised home surfaces. Firmly typecast as a pyjama performer, Larsen played just eight Tests despite a perfectly acceptable record in the longer game (24 wickets at 28.71).

Pakistan eased to a nine-wicket victory in the first Test against Australia at Karachi. The tourists began the final day on 138 for 7 in their second innings, a deficit of 10, and were quickly finished off with Abdul Qadir (5 for 76) the pick of the bowlers.

In the second one-day international at Bulawayo, Sourav Ganguly's fifth one-day hundred helped India to an eight-wicket victory over Zimbabwe and an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. Ganguly added 153 for the second wicket with Mohammed Azharuddin, his captain, as India, chasing 236 from 45 overs, eased home with 19 balls to spare.

Other birthdays
1974 Pankaj Dharmani (India)