July 10, 2003

The original Little Master

Wisden CricInfo staff

All Today's Yesterdays - July 10 down the years

July 9 | July 11

1949
In Bombay, one of the greatest openers of all time is born. Sunil Gavaskar was exhibiting little-mastery before Sachin Tendulkar was even born. A genius whose technique was absolutely immaculate and powers of concentration unending, Gavaskar had a career chock-full of highlights. He began with the most sensational debut series imaginable, in West Indies in 1970-71: four Tests, four centuries, 774 runs at an average of 154. That started Gavaskar's Caribbean love-in. In 13 Tests there he made seven hundreds and averaged over 70. (By contrast, he averaged only 38 against England, his lowest against any country.) He made a record 34 Test hundreds - 22 of them in draws - although that doesn't include one of his greatest knocks. In his last Test innings, in the series decider against Pakistan on a raging Bangalore turner in 1986-87, Gavaskar made a brilliant 96, and India lost by a heartbreaking 16 runs. There was the odd lowlight too - that infamous go-slow in the first World Cup match at Lord's in 1975, being dismissed by the first ball of a Test a record three times, and a Test bowling average of 206. Zaheer Abbas made for a decent sole wicket, mind you.

1976
Eighty minutes of sheer hell for Brian Close and John Edrich. England needed the small matter of 552 to beat West Indies at Old Trafford, with two days and a bit left. That bit turned out to one of the most terrifying passages of play in Test history. West Indies' over-zealous pace attack landed virtually everything in their own half of the pitch, and Close in particular took some sickening blows, a process not aided by his penchant for chesting the ball like a centre-back. The venerable pair - at 45 and 39 respectively, Close and Edrich were both playing their last Test innings - were still there at the close, though. Edrich's 24 was the highest by an England player in the whole match. The Wisden Almanack called it "disquieting cricket ... [the bowling] was frequently too wild and too hostile to be acceptable". West Indies' captain Clive Lloyd said simply: "Our fellows got carried away." Not much consolation for Close as he counted his bruises.

1940
In Victoria, Keith Stackpole is born. A sanguine opener whose idea of seeing off the new ball involved hooking and cutting the life out of it, Stackpole actually started his Test career at No. 8. That nonsense didn't last long, though. His highest score was a punishing 207 at Brisbane in the first Test of the 1970-71 Ashes series, although he should have been given run out on 18. If Stackpole made a century - there were seven in 43 Tests - Australia did not lose. But he ended his Test career with a pair, against New Zealand at Auckland in 1973-74. In 78 previous innings he had made only three ducks.

1971
The slowest day of Test cricket in England. It was cool to play the tortoise all of a sudden as England and Pakistan crawled to only 159 runs off 107.4 overs on this, the third day of the third Test at Headingley. In a masterful piece of understatement, the Wisden Almanack described it as "poor fare for the Saturday crowd".

1990
The last day of Test cricket for Sir Richard Hadlee - and a rare series win for England, their first at home for five years. They beat New Zealand by 114 runs, with the unlikely pair of Devon Malcolm and Eddie Hemmings sharing 15 wickets. Hadlee bowed out with an immaculate performance - his 5 for 53 in the second innings gave the Kiwis a sniff after they trailed by 186 on first innings. And his last ball produced a wicket: Malcolm, lbw for 0. Hadlee nailed Malcolm for 0 in each innings - and then signed Malcolm's rather bald run-chart.

1975
The end of Mike Denness's troubled reign as England captain was as good as assured once he put Australia in to bat after winning the toss in the first Test at Edgbaston. Australia rattled up 359 and then even the elements seemed to conspire against Denness. Heavy rain left the pitch treacherous, and seven wickets each for Dennis Lillee and Max Walker and five for Jeff Thomson sealed an innings victory. Denness resigned and was replaced by Tony Greig. It was also the debut for a moustacheless Graham Gooch who bagged a pair.

1900
A dasher is born. South Africa may have been a poor side in the 1920s and `30s, but that didn't affect Bob Catterall's approach. He went after the bowling from the start, and was a high-class driver through the off side. He made back-to-back 120s in England in 1924, at Edgbaston and Headingley, even though South Africa lost on both occasions. Four years later Catterall did help win a Test against England, with 119 at Durban. He died in Transvaal in 1961.

1975
A debut centurion is born. New Zealand allrounder Scott Styris was originally marked down as a bit of a one-day player, and made 45 appearances before his Test debut. That finally came in Antigua in 2002, and he marked it with 107, 69 not out - and the wicket of Brian Lara. Had rain not intervened on the final day, he might well have only the second man after Lawrence Rowein 1971-72 - ironically for West Indies, against New Zealand - to make two centuries on Test debut.

1884
Persistent rain ruling out any play on the scheduled first day of a Test in England isn't exactly unusual. But this one was to be the first day of Test cricket at Old Trafford. Washouts don't come much more prescient - Tests in Manchester have been dogged by the weather ever since.

Other birthdays
1928 Jack Nel (South Africa)
1934 Munir Malik (New Zealand)
1970 Klaas van Noortwijk (Holland)