October 12 down the years

An Indian legend

The irresistible Mr Merchant
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1911
The birth of the first great Indian batsman. Vijay Merchant was wristy, light on his feet and technically impeccable. At 5ft 7in, he set the standard for those little modern-day masters, Gavaskar and Tendulkar. Merchant played only ten Tests, all against England between 1933 and 1951 before a shoulder injury forced him to retire, and despite never playing on a winning side he averaged 47.72. His masterful displays in 1936 incited CB Fry to exclaim: "Let us paint him white and take him with us to Australia as an opener." In first-class cricket Merchant was irresistible: his average of 71.64 is second only to Don Bradman's, and in the Ranji Trophy he averaged 98.75. He went on to become an administrator and writer before dying in his native Bombay in 1987.

2002
Blink-and-you-miss-it stuff in the UAE. Pakistan, deprived of an entire batting line-up through injury and absenteeism, and playing in Sharjah because of security fears, crashed to a humiliating two-day defeat against Australia. No one had given this team of rookies much of a chance against the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, but the reality was plain embarrassing. In their first innings they mustered a pitiful 59 all out, with Warne taking 4 for 11 in 11 overs, but that was the high point. Second time around, trailing by 251 runs, they folded for 53, their lowest Test total. Warne was again the destroyer, with 4 for 13. Only three Pakistanis reached double figures in the entire match, and their match total of 112 was the fourth-lowest in Test history. Just to put their effort into context, the Man-of-the-Match award went to a batsman, Matthew Hayden, whose seven-hour 119 was scored in temperatures approaching 51 degrees Celsius.

1861
Left-armer Frederick "Nutty" Martin, who was born today, played only two Tests but will have taken some consolation from finishing with a bowling average of 10.07. He grabbed 12 for 102 on debut against Australia at The Oval in 1890 - the best figures by a debutant until Bob Massie destroyed England with 16 for 137 in 1972 - but for some reason he did not play in another Ashes Test. He continued to excel for Kent, taking 1317 first-class wickets at the startling average of 17.38. And he took ten wickets in a match on 23 occasions. He died in Dartford, where he was born, in 1921.

1946
Birth of an unfulfilled talent. Ashok Mankad, the eldest son of Vinoo, averaged almost 51 in first-class cricket, but in 22 Tests couldn't manage even half that. He was a chubby, cheery character with a wide array of strokes, whose high point came against Australia in 1969-70 - he made four half-centuries in five innings but his 97 in Delhi was the closest he got to a Test hundred. His highest score against England was 43 at Headingley in 1974, when his cap fell on the wicket as he took evasive action against Chris Old. His last appearance came in Australia in 1977-78, when in Hick-esque fashion he topped the tour averages but struggled to impose himself in the Tests. Mankad died in 2008.

1994
Bob Woolmer's reign as South Africa coach began as it ended, with his side bottling a chase against Australia. In the Wills Triangular Tournament match in Lahore, chasing 208, they were 126 for 3 and the lower middle-order got the jitters - as they would so fatefully at Edgbaston five years later - and they fell seven runs short. South Africa lost all six games they played in the tournament but they went on to become a fearsome one-day outfit who won over 70% of their one-dayers under Woolmer.

1968
Ken Barrington suffered a heart attack during the inaugural World Double-Wicket Championship at the MCG. It ended his first-class career, and he died of another heart attack when assistant manager of the England side in the Caribbean in 1981.

1995
Aamer Sohail was Pakistan's match-winner in the Singer Trophy match against Sri Lanka - with the ball on this day. He took 4 for 22, his best one-day figures, snaring Messrs Gurusinha, Ranatunga, Tillakaratne and Kaluwitharana as Sri Lanka fell 83 runs short of the 265 they were chasing for victory.

Other birthdays
1925 Gilbert Parkhouse (England)
1962 Dammika Ranatunga (Sri Lanka)
1986 Omar Phillips (West Indies)