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April 1 down the years

Languid, laconic, brilliant

Birth of a woolly-haired English wonder

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David Gower: England's classiest modern batsman
David Gower: England's classiest modern batsman © PA Photos
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1957
The languid, laconic David Gower, born today, was the most graceful English batsman of recent decades, and from the moment he swivelled to pull his first ball in Test cricket - from Pakistan's Liaqat Ali at Edgbaston in 1978 - for four, he was the aesthete's choice of England batsman. Despite his penchant for the lazy waft outside off stump, Gower was no fair-weather performer. His captaincy career was distinctly chequered: he presided over a dreamy Ashes campaign (3-1 in 1985) and an utterly disastrous one (0-4 in 1989), a famous victory in India (2-1 in 1984-85) and a couple of blackwashes at the hands of West Indies. His strained relationship with Graham Gooch led to Gower being dropped in 1992, after which he pursued a career in television, though not before he had stroked Aaqib Javed through the covers at Old Trafford to become England's top Test run-scorer, a record he held for a year before Gooch jogged past him.

1941
An Indian captain is born. Ajit Wadekar was a cool, upright left-hander who led India on two tours of England, in 1971 - when they won their first Test and series in England - and 1974, when they lost all three Tests, whereupon Wadekar retired from first-class cricket. He also led India to a famous victory in the West Indies, in 1970-71. Wadekar made only one Test century, but it was a fine one: 143 in a series-winning victory in Wellington in 1967-68, when no other Indian reached 50. He later managed the Indian team as well.

1973
Birth of one of the finest modern captains. Cool, articulate and mature beyond his years, Stephen Fleming built a big reputation by leading a modest New Zealand to some outstanding successes: the World Cup semi-final and a series win in England in 1999, victory in the ICC Knockout Trophy in 2000-01, and an impressive draw in Australia in 2001-02. His 87th Test earned him the record for most caps won by a New Zealander, and in striding to the crease for the 150th time, for the greatest number of Test innings for New Zealand. As he moved to 81, in an innings where he would strike 202, he surpassed Martin Crowe's record aggregate of 5444 runs in Tests for New Zealand. He retired from ODIs in 2007, after leading New Zealand to yet another World Cup semi-final. He was also relieved of the Test captaincy in September 2007 after a decade in charge and retired in early 2008 after the home series against England.

1984
In November 2008, M Vijay, born today, added 462 with Abhinav Mukund for the first wicket in a Ranji game for Tamil Nadu. They might have fallen two short of the record, but Vijay was told he would have to leave the game midway and join the Indian team the next day for a Test against Australia. He looked comfortable in the international arena though the presence of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag as India's first-choice openers kept him out of the Test side for another year. He scored a half-century on his return, against Sri Lanka in Mumbai, and his maiden Test hundred when Australia came again in 2010. He clearly took a liking to Australian bowling, scoring 167, 153 and 57 in three successive Tests after receiving a surprise call-up for their next tour to India in 2012-13. But it was the patience and application he showed in two Tests in South Africa - with 97 in Durban - in December 2013 that silenced a legion of doubters.

1964
Gower's co-pilot John Morris was born. Graham Gooch and Micky Stewart weren't too amused after the infamous Tiger Moth incident in Queensland in 1990-91, when Gower and Morris buzzed the ground at Carrara in a hired plane during a match. Morris never played for England again, even though he had just scored a century in the match in question, and continued to plunder runs for Derbyshire - and later Durham and Notts - before retiring in 2001.

1933
Not content with making 227 in the first Test, the great Wally Hammond continued the purplest of patches by smashing an unbeaten 336 against New Zealand in Auckland, including ten sixes. It was the highest score in Test history until Len Hutton's 364 five years later. Hammond's series average - a handy 563 - is still untouched.

1953
The three Ws made centuries in the same innings of a drawn fifth Test in Jamaica, where a total of six hundreds were scored. Frank Worrell batted for nine and a half hours for his 237, Everton Weekes made 109 and Clyde Walcott 118. For India, Polly Umrigar weighed in with a hundred. Only spinners found success on the track: Alf Valentine took five in the first innings and Subhash Gupte and Vinoo Mankad five each when West Indies batted. The hosts were set 181 to get in 135 minutes but they didn't go for the chase (they were already one-up in the five-match series). In the second innings Weekes passed George Headley's 1929-30 record of 703 runs in a Test series in the West Indies.

1948
England's tour of the Caribbean ended with defeat in the fourth Test in Jamaica, the first time that any England side had gone through a tour without winning one first-class match. The 36-year-old debutant fast bowler Hines Johnson took ten wickets for West Indies and Everton Weekes scored his maiden century, in his fourth Test. It was also England captain Gubby Allen's last Test, at the age of 45 years, 245 days - their second-oldest leader after WG Grace.

1953
Birth of a man with a first-class score of 428 to his credit. Aftab Baloch is one of the more anonymous members of cricket's 400 club. His 428 came for Sind against Baluchistan in 1973-74 and is the seventh-highest score in first-class history. But he only played two Tests for Pakistan, the first of them when he was just 16. He did tour England in 1974, and although he didn't make the Test side he was, by coincidence, given room 428 in one of the team's hotels.

1935
The stylish England keeper John Murray, born today, is second only to Bob Taylor in career first-class dismissals. He is one of only six wicketkeepers to achieve 100 dismissals in a season, and in 1957, when he scored 1025 runs and obtained 104 dismissals, he became only the second player to achieve the wicketkeepers' double. His batting was as elegant as his glove work, and though he scored only one Test hundred, it was against Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith in their pomp, at The Oval in 1966. Murray walked in at No. 9 with England more than 100 runs behind in the first innings. He and Tom Graveney then added 217 together to set up an innings victory.

1976
Vikram Solanki, born today, played 51 ODIs for England. He was expected to break into the Test side soon after he made his debut for Worcestershire as a 16-year-old, but a string of disappointing one-day performances put that on permanent hold. In 2003 he was recalled to the one-day side and scored a 108-ball 106 against South Africa at The Oval. And though that was followed by a string of low scores, he made it to the 2004 Champions Trophy squad. In 2005 he was made captain of Worcestershire, for whom he had been churning out runs for ten years. He played his last one-dayer in 2006. In 2012, he signed a two-year contract with Surrey.

1981
Zimbabwe fast bowler Mluleki Nkala, born today, shot to fame by dismissing Sachin Tendulkar with his second ball in international cricket - in an ODI in Bulawayo in 1998. Two years later he took 5 for 104 on Test debut at Trent Bridge. In 50 ODIs between 1998 and 2006, he never bettered his 3 for 12 against West Indies in Sydney in 2001.

1954
Arnie Sidebottom, who was born today, became part of the tenth father-and-son pairing to play Test cricket for England when his son Ryan was selected in 2001. Arnie - a zealous, red-headed seamer who also played football for Manchester United - won only one cap, against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1985.

Other birthdays
1861 Teddy Wynyard (England)
1868 Walter Mead (England)
1902 Laxmidas Jai (India)
1958 Susan Brown (New Zealand)
1965 Bhupinder Singh Sr (India)
1972 Sharmeen Khan (Pakistan)
1975 Aminul Islam Jr (Bangladesh)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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