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May 9 down the years

Packer's revolution

The circus gets on the road

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Tony Greig: the key link between Kerry Packer and cricketers from around the world
Tony Greig: the key link between Kerry Packer and cricketers from around the world © The Cricketer International

The day the world's top cricketers turned pirate. That was the Daily Mail headline when the Australian TV magnate Kerry Packer's plans for World Series Cricket were leaked. John Arlott called it "a circus"; EW Swanton ended his friendship with the England captain Tony Greig, Packer's most significant signing and the man who persuaded a legion of stars to sign up, including Viv and Barry Richards and Dennis Lillee. In the end, World Series Cricket went on for only 17 months before Packer got his wish - the broadcast rights for Test cricket in Australia - but the legacy lives on. Coloured clothing and floodlights revolutionised the game, and without Packer, one-day cricket as we know it today would not exist.

One of West Indies' finest openers is born. Conrad Hunte was a fluid, silky batsman, especially off his legs - although he cut out many of the shots at the highest level - and got his Test career off to a storming start. He made 142 on his debut, against Pakistan in Barbados in 1957-58, and added two more hundreds in his next three Tests. That included a mighty 260 in Jamaica, when he and Garry Sobers added 446 and Sobers went on to make 365 not out. Hunte, a dignified and popular character, was crucial to West Indies' success: he averaged 51 when they won, 27 when they lost. And to average over 45 throughout a career while opening the innings is impressive at the best of times; in Hunte's case even more so given that he had no regular opening partner. He later became an ICC match referee, and was knighted shortly before he died, of a heart attack while playing tennis in Sydney in 1999.

A late bloomer is born. Andrew Jones' unorthodox batsmanship was not seen in the Test arena until he had almost turned 28, when he made his New Zealand debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 1986-87. Jones was a purist's nightmare, but you can't argue with an average of 44, particularly in a side that won only six of his 39 Tests. Jones loved a scrap, and was ruthless when set: five of his seven hundreds - all of which came in drawn Tests - were in excess of 140. That included his Test-best 186 against Sri Lanka in Wellington in 1990-91, when he and Martin Crowe added 467, at the time a Test record for any wicket.

Having started Australia's tour of England with scores of 206 and 65, Don Bradman met his match when he was bowled for 0 - against Cambridge University. The bowler was offspinner Jack Davies, who went on to have a decent career with Kent and was later president of MCC. For such an unbelievably brilliant batsman, Bradman could be a nervous starter: one in every 10 of his Test dismissals was for a duck. For bowlers, the problem was when he got in: Bradman scored an amazing 29 centuries in only 80 Test innings.

Birth of the man who led West Indies to their first series victory. Jackie Grant's last series as a Test player was in 1934-35, when his side famously and surprisingly beat England 2-1 in the Caribbean. Grant, who studied at Cambridge University, was a gutsy batsman and a brilliant fielder. He made 53 and 71 (both not out) on his debut against Australia, in Adelaide in 1930-31, but managed only one other fifty. His brother Rolph also captained West Indies. Jackie died in Cambridge in 1978.

Birth of the Lancashire and England wicketkeeper George Duckworth, who played 24 Tests between 1924 and 1936. He was best known for his extremely vocal style of appealing, and his dexterous keeping. In an era when wicketkeepers were not expected to deliver with the bat, Duckworth more often than not came in at No. 11. He died in Warrington in 1966.

Fourteen Tests for the Jamaican Maurice Foster, who was born today, but West Indies won only one of them, at Lord's in 1973. Foster was a dogged batsman who never really got going at Test level, though he did make his only Test century on his home ground, against Australia in 1972-73. His flat offspinners were successful at first-class level, less so in Tests, as a strike rate of a wicket every 197 balls testifies.

Birth of the man who bowled Sri Lanka's first ball in Tests. With his brisk outswingers, Ashantha de Mel toiled manfully in his country's early years, but it was a pretty thankless task: they won only two of the 17 matches he played in. He had a hand in both of those, though, with five wickets against India in Colombo in 1985-86 and six more against Pakistan the same season. After injury forced him to reitre, de Mel represented Sri Lanka at bridge and even made an appearance in the Commonwealth Games. Later he served as a national cricket selector.

John Davison, born today in British Columbia, moved to Australia as a child, and played grade cricket in Melbourne. After failing to keep a regular place in Victoria's first team, Davison received an offer from Canada as player-coach during the off season. He was soon drafted into the national side and made the headlines by hitting the then-fastest World Cup century in the 2003 edition. He was appointed Canada's captain in 2004 and the following year, in their first first-class match for more than half a century, he created history by taking 17 for 137, the best since Jim Laker in 1956, and hitting 84 as Canada beat USA by 104 runs in the Intercontinental Cup. Davison went on to play the next two World Cups and retired at the end of Canada's disappointing 2011 campaign.

Other birthdays
1907 Tom Killick (England)
1945 Malcolm Nash (England)
1960 Iain Butchart (Zimbabwe)
1971 Roydon Hayes (New Zealand)
1971 Kalyani Dhokarikar (India)
1980 Sean Clingeleffer (Australia)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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