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March 2 down the years

Ireland's finest hour

When Kevin O'Brien rattled England in Bangalore

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Kevin O'Brien smoked a hundred of just 50 balls
Kevin O'Brien smoked a hundred of just 50 balls © Getty Images

Ireland's finest hour came courtesy a man with purple hair on this day in Bangalore. Kevin O'Brien, sporting an iridescent hairdo, smoked the fastest hundred in World Cup history, off a round 50 balls, against the old enemy, England, to help his side pull off one of the great upsets in the game. When England racked up 327 and Ireland lost a wicket off the first ball of their chase before going on to sink to 106 for 4, it had seemed over bar the shouting. Enter O'Brien, who launched a breathtaking assault, plundering 16 fours and six sixes to bring up 113 in 63 balls, and the rest, as they say, was history.

The one where Steve and Greg bat all day. South Africa had waited three years to challenge Australia's supremacy, and as a big third day at the Wanderers bullring dawned, the Aussies were 191 for 4 in reply to South Africa's 302. What followed set the tone for so much of what has happened since between the sides: Greg Blewett and Steve Waugh became the 10th pair to bat throughout an entire day's play. Waugh (160) did what he did best, but Blewett (214) was a revelation, and it made you wonder how he failed to crack it at the top level. Thoroughly demoralised, South Africa went on to lose the match, the series, and the psychological high ground.

A freak knee injury to England's captain, Michael Vaughan, enabled Andrew Strauss, born today, to make his Test debut against New Zealand on his home ground, Lord's, in May 2004, and he compiled a maiden hundred for the occasion. He would have made another hundred in the second innings had he not been run out by Nasser Hussain, but he was already there to stay. Strauss added a second Lord's century against West Indies later in the summer, and went on to top-score in six of England's first seven innings against South Africa that winter, en route to a formidable tally of 656 runs. The golden run ended in 2006, and he went 30 innings without a hundred, before coming back with a career-saving 177 against New Zealand in 2008. Early in 2009, following the infamous Pietersen abdication, Strauss was appointed captain and led England to an Ashes triumph. His captaincy ended following another Pietersen saga. Shortly after South Africa beat England 2-0 and took their No. 1 Test ranking in 2012 - a series during which Pietersen was dropped for a match for allegedly sending inappropriate text messages to South African players about his captain - Strauss announced his retirement from all cricket. His last Test was his 100th, played at Lord's.

A monumental display of batsmanship from Greg Chappell in Wellington. He cracked a Test-best 247 not out, and followed up with 133 in the second innings. His aggregate of 380 runs was a record for a Test, though Graham Gooch topped it in 1990. In the first innings, Chappell added 264 for the third wicket with his brother Ian, who made 145, and in the second innings Ian added 121. It remains the only instance of brothers scoring a hundred in both innings of a first-class match.

In Delhi, Sri Lanka simply massacred India in their World Cup match. Sachin Tendulkar's 137 anchored an imposing total of 271 for 3, but Sri Lanka came roaring out of the blocks in a style that would very quickly become familiar. Sanath Jayasuriya cracked 79 off 76 balls, Romesh Kaluwitharana 26 off 16, and local boy Manoj Prabhakar got the bird after his first two overs disappeared for 33. (He was dropped and, disgruntled, announced his immediate retirement.) But the beauty of this Sri Lankan side was that after the storm came the calm: they had some wizened old heads in the middle order, and Arjuna Ranatunga and Hashan Tillakaratne saw them home in this one, with six wickets and eight balls to spare.

The day a blue-collar worker became a white-hot superhero. An injury to Jason Gillespie allowed Andy Bichel into the starting line-up for Australia's World Cup clash against England in Port Elizabeth, and on a stodgy track his bustling seamers - every ball zeroing in on the top of off stump - were just the ticket. Bichel picked up 7 for 20 in 10 unplayable overs as England were demolished for 204. His day's work wasn't done yet, however. In reply Australia spluttered to 135 for 8, but Bichel contributed 34 not out to a match-winning 73-run stand with Michael Bevan. Victory was as good as sealed in the penultimate over, when he pulled James Anderson for a huge six over midwicket.

Australia's fastest Ashes century. In Sydney today, Joe Darling smashed his way to three figures in just 91 minutes, and in all walloped 160 in 171 minutes, an innings that included 30 fours. This in the second innings after Australia were set a seemingly tricky target of 275 to win after England's Tom Richardson, playing his last Test, had taken 8 for 94 to secure a big first-innings lead. In the end, they got home at a canter, with six wickets to spare.

The end of a Durban dogfight. Perhaps only Pakistan could recover from 159 for 8 on the first day to beat South Africa on their own patch. They did it here by 29 runs, thanks first to Azhar Mahmood - who shepherded the tail brilliantly with 132 - and Mushtaq Ahmed, who was at his mischievous best and bamboozled the South African batsmen, taking nine wickets. It was Pakistan's first victory over South Africa, in their sixth attempt.

Yet another masterclass from the Don. For South Australia against Tasmania, Donald Bradman lashed 369 in just over four hours, including 46 fours and four sixes. Pity poor legspinner Reginald Townley, whose figures were 20-2-169-3 - even eight-ball overs can't save those. South Australia won by the small matter of an innings and 349 runs.

Birth of Edmund Peate, the first great Yorkshire slow left-armer and a forefather to the likes of Wilfred Rhodes and Hedley Verity. Peate played nine Tests, and his 6 for 85 at Lord's in 1884 set the tone for England's innings victory. He died in Horsforth in 1900.

After being finalists in the 2006 Under-19 World Cup, India went all the way in 2008, beating South Africa to take the title in a low-scoring final in Kuala Lumpur. Tanmay Srivastava top-scored with 46 and Ajitesh Argal took 2 for 7 from five overs as South Africa fell 12 runs short of their D/L target of 116 in 25 overs.

Chud Langton, born today, was a member of the team which in 1935 gained South Africa's first triumph in England. He took six wickets and scored a 120-minute 44 to add 101 with Bruce Mitchell in the 157-run win at Lord's, and made an unbeaten 73 in the fifth Test at The Oval. As a fast bowler, the six-foot-three Langton was accurate in length, with late swerve and spin, and he always needed careful watching for lift, break or change of speed. As a batsman he showed ability in defence but was at his best when forcing the game with pulls, drives and cuts. He died at the age of 30 during the Second World War, in Nigeria.

Mark Vermeulen, born today, made his debut for Zimbabwe in 2000 and was a decent prospect as a batsman before he was struck on the head by an Irfan Pathan bouncer in 2004 in Australia. Two and a half erratic years later, in October 2006, he was arrested for setting fire to the offices of the Harare Sports Club and the National Academy, but was cleared at his subsequent trial in January 2008, on the grounds that he had had psychiatric problems, including partial complex epilepsy, ever since the injury. That seemed to signal the end of his career, but he refused to accept it and his perseverance was rewarded in 2009, when the Zimbabwe board agreed to offer him another chance.

Other birthdays
1923 Don Taylor (New Zealand)
1955 Steve Small (Australia)
1957 Stu Gillespie (New Zealand)
1979 Dharshana Gamage (Sri Lanka)
1979 Jim Troughton (England)
1990 Marc Petrie (Scotland)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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