July 4 down the years

The mighty metronome

One of England's greatest post-war bowlers is born

The Bedser twins, Alec and Eric © Getty Images

1918
The quintessential English seamer is born. Surrey's Alec Bedser was simply one of England's greatest post-war bowlers, a disciple of line and length, seam and swing. He began his Test career with a staggering 22 wickets in his first two Tests, against India in 1946. Indeed, throughout his career Bedser's wickets came in clusters: 23 in three Tests against South Africa in 1951, 36 in four against Australia two years later, including match figures of 14 for 99 at Trent Bridge, the greatest in Test history by a bowler not on the winning side. He was later an England selector for a record 23 years, and was knighted in 1996. He died at the age of 91, four years after the death of his twin brother Eric, who was also a fine allrounder for Surrey.

1981
Put in on a moist pitch in the County Championship match at Bournemouth, Nottinghamshire were dispatched for 143 by Hampshire. Nothing unusual in that, but while batsman after batsman laboured at one end, Clive Rice batted as if it was a Johannesburg shirtfront. He made a superb 105 not out; the next-highest score was Tim Robinson's 10.

1959
Birth of the highest run-scorer in women's Test cricket history. It would be quite a task for anybody to match Jan Brittin's 1935 runs, made in 27 Tests for England between 1979 and 1996. Her five hundreds are also a record.

1931
A prankster is born. England's Peter Richardson had a fondness for sending false cricket records to EW Swanton for publication in the Daily Telegraph. Oh, and he batted too, extremely successfully in 34 Tests between 1956 and 1963. A diligent left-hand opener, he made five hundreds in his first 16 Tests, including 104 against Australia in Laker's Match at Old Trafford in 1956. He played for Worcestershire and Kent, and in 1957, he played alongside his brother Dick in the Trent Bridge Test of 1957. They were the last brothers to do so for England until the Hollioakes.

1986
A burly 183 not out from Mike Gatting, in his second game as captain, was the highlight of England's drawn third Test against India at Edgbaston. It was a result not to be sneezed at - England had lost seven in a row going into this. This was also the debut of Mark Benson, the Kent opener who later became an elite international umpire. He faced his first ball with England at 0 for 2, made 21 and 30 in good style - and was never picked again.

1922
Birth of Ghulam Ahmed, one of India's premier spinners in their formative years of Test cricket. He was at his best on helpful wickets, where he could be lethal. Three of his four five-fors came in defeat, though, including his best figures - 7 for 49 against Australia in Calcutta in 1956-57. He was an aggressive but essentially hopeless tailender - in 22 completed Test innings he made nine ducks, but he somehow made 50 against Pakistan in Delhi in 1952-53. He was secretary of the BCCI between 1975 and 1980, and died in his native Hyderabad in 1998.

1984
A complete mismatch at Edgbaston, where Warwickshire thumped Oxfordshire by 227 runs in a NatWest Trophy match. Alvin Kallicharran flayed 206... and then took 6 for 32 with his gentle offspinners. His was the first double-hundred in a one-day match in England.

1972
Craig Spearman, the New Zealand batsman who was born today, never quite did justice to his explosive talent in 19 Tests. He slashed a quickfire 40 on debut, in a low-scoring match against Pakistan in Christchurch in 1995-96, and later that winter made his only hundred, against Zimbabwe in Auckland. He should have been well-suited to the one-day game, but in 51 ODI appearances he averaged only 18. He played for Gloucestershire for eight years as a non-overseas player (qualifying by virtue of his Welsh mother) before leaving in 2009 following a poor season. He continued playing club cricket in the UK.

Other birthdays
1874 Lucky Denton (England)
1895 Eric Marx (South Africa)
1918 Eric Bedser (England)
1938 Cyril Mitchley (South Africa)
1962 Keerthi Ranasinghe (Sri Lanka)