The end of the innocence
The beginning of the end for Hansie Cronje, who quit today after it was revealed that he was at the heart of a match-fixing scandal that continues to haunt the game even now. In early April reports had emerged from India that he was involved, largely as a result of a taped phone conversation. He denied it, and such was his reputation that he was almost universally believed - Ali Bacher, managing director of the UCBSA, spoke of Cronje's "unquestionable integrity and honesty". Then, four days after the accusation, Cronje confessed in a 3am phone call to Bacher that he had not been "entirely honest". He was immediately stripped of the captaincy, and in subsequent testimony to the government-appointed King Commission revealed, sometimes in tears, further details of his involvement with bookmakers in match-fixing.
A West Indian captain is born. Jeffrey Stollmeyer, a classy opening batsman, played over a third of his 32 Tests as captain, a reign that incorporated the thrilling 2-2 draw with England in 1953-54. He made four Test hundreds, three of them overseas, including an outstanding 104 in defeat in Sydney in 1951-52. Stollmeyer was also a key component of the great 1950 team that won in England, and along with Allan Rae paved the way for the three Ws, with a series of solid opening partnerships. He died in a Florida hospital in 1989 after being shot in the head by armed robbers in his Trinidad home.
Though Ian Bell, born today, was considered a class batsman from the time he was 16, doubts remained about his ability to convert fifties into match-turning hundreds. Bell proved his temperament on England's 2009-10 tour of South Africa, making 140 to help set up an innings victory in Durban and a gutsy five-hour 78 to save the match in Cape Town. The following winter he played crucial hands in England's Ashes whipping of Australia, averaging 65.80 over the five Tests. The 2011 season was exceptional for Bell; he made 835 runs in seven Tests, his four centuries including a double-hundred against India at The Oval. Bell struggled against Saeed Ajmal in the UAE, managing only 51 runs in six innings, but bounced back with an exceptional home Ashes series in 2013. He scored centuries in each of England's three victories and was rewarded with the Man-of-the-Series award. He failed in the Ashes whitewash that followed immediately in Australia, but scored a series-turning 167 against India in Southampton in the 2014 summer. Bell started the next year with a century in Antigua, but then averaged 20.85 from 22 innings in the remaining months, and was dropped before England's winter tour of South Africa.
Birth of a perfectionist. England middle-order batsman Arthur Shrewsbury was absolutely impeccable in defence, so much so that WG Grace would bellow "Give me Arthur" - later the title of a biography of Shrewsbury - when picking his Test team. Shrewsbury played 23 Tests and hit three centuries, the best of which was a magnificent 164 against Australia at Lord's in 1886, a match in which only two other batsmen, on either side, got more than 30. He shot himself in Gedling, Nottinghamshire, in 1903.
Garry Sobers began a run of 85 consecutive appearances for West Indies in the second Test against Australia in Port-of-Spain. It was the first Trinidad Test to be played on a turf pitch; the idea was to give the bowlers a bit of a chance after the last Test on the ground produced 1528 runs for 24 wickets. This time there were only 1255 runs, 23 wickets and six centuries. Two of those came from Clyde Walcott, who later added two more in Jamaica to make it a record five in the series.
West Indies gave South Africa one hell of a beating, walloping them by ten wickets in the second match in Trinidad. South Africa limped to 152, with only three men reaching double figures, and West Indies blazed past them in 25.5 overs, with Brian Lara unbeaten on 86. He was especially severe on left-arm spinner Omar Henry, who was caned for 41 off 4.5 overs. Henry later became the South African chairman of selectors.
A young West Indies side missing the services of Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo gave Australia the jitters in Barbados. Though they lost by three wickets on the final day, West Indies made sure Australia's chase of 192 was no stroll in the park. In fact, West Indies gained a small first-innings lead on the back of an unbeaten century from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, though Michael Clarke made a gutsy declaration when behind too. But a familiar second-innings collapse followed for West Indies. Offspinner Narsingh Deonarine brought them back into the game with four top-order wickets in the last session of the game, but Australia's tail, which had frustrated West Indies in the first innings, completed the win in growing darkness.
A bout of chicken pox for Moin Khan meant that Saeed Anwar led Pakistan for the first time in the Asia Cup match in Sharjah. Responsibility isn't always a good thing, though: Anwar made a distinctly out-of-character 4 off 23 balls, and Pakistan were beaten by five wickets when Sri Lanka reached 180 for 5 with 19 overs to spare. Sanath Jayasuriya showed Anwar how it should be done, flaying 30 off 15 balls.