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March 14 down the years

The start of the greatest comeback

India claw back from the brink against Australia in Kolkata

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Well, that was fun, wasn't it?
Well, that was fun, wasn't it? © AFP
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2001
Things weren't looking too good for India when the fourth day of the second Test began in Kolkata. They had followed on, after being pummelled in the first Test, and were 254 for 4 in their second innings, effectively minus 20 for 4. Defeat looked a formality, but VVS Laxman, who already had 109 to his name, had other ideas. By the close he had moved to 275 and his partner, Rahul Dravid, had gone from 7 to 155. Dravid's innings was almost unnoticed, such was the glorious, chanceless purity of Laxman's performance. His 281 was the highest Test score by an Indian at the time, and it set up one of cricket's most famous victories, sealed a day later when Glenn McGrath padded up to Harbhajan Singh and the umpire raised his finger to send an already frenzied Kolkata crowd into delirium. Earlier in the match, Harbhajan took the first Test hat-trick by an Indian, on his way to 13 wickets in the match. But despite his, and Dravid's, phenomenal efforts, this will always be remembered as Laxman's match.

1981
Perhaps the greatest over in Test history. The six balls that Michael Holding bowled to Geoff Boycott in Bridgetown, only the second over of England's innings, were absolutely chilling in their ferocity and pace. So much for looseners: each ball was quicker than the last, until the sixth swung in and sent Boycott's off stump flying. Chris Old was later described as "having the look of a man who had seen a monster". As the cliché goes, Boycott did well to get 0. The match, which England lost heavily, was overshadowed by the death of Ken Barrington, who suffered a fatal heart attack. Barrington, who was only 50, was England's assistant manager and coach, and hugely popular with the players.

2004
West Indies, after matching England blow for blow in the first Test in Jamaica, were blown away for 47 in the second innings - their lowest total in Tests - by Steve Harmison's 7 for 12, which was the cheapest seven-wicket haul in Test history. With a bounding run-up and a gangling, loose-limbed action, Harmison suddenly became England's Curtly Ambrose: a maker of collapses. Like a miscreant on his initiation assignment, he knifed straight through West Indies, inflicting a pair on Ramnaresh Sarwan and making Shivnarine Chanderpaul duck, weave, then play on. And just when Ridley Jacobs began hitting rustically, Harmison had him caught, fending a short one to Nasser Hussain at short leg. England won by 10 wickets, their first of 11 Test wins in 2004.

1999
Before VVS, there was BC. Like India, West Indies were in disarray when Brian Lara got going in Jamaica. They had been bowled out for 51, their lowest total at the time, and were 34 for 4 in reply to Australia's 256. But Lara and Jimmy Adams (with a little help from Pedro Collins, who retired hurt at 56 for 4) added 344 for the fifth wicket. While Adams played what he later described in Wisden Cricket Monthly as "the old, staid Jimmy Adams shots", Lara hammered 213 off 344 balls, with 28 fours and three sixes. It was spellbinding stuff, probably the best innings of his life - until the next Test, at any rate: his match-winning 153 in Barbados 16 days later. With the debutant offspinner Nehemiah Perry taking 5 for 70 in the second innings, West Indies went on to win by 10 wickets.

1996
Australia won an extraordinary World Cup semi-final against West Indies in Mohali. Thanks to Stuart Law and Michael Bevan, the Aussies recovered from 15 for 4 to 207 for 8, but that looked nowhere near enough when West Indies reached 165 for 2 in the 42nd over. But Shivnarine Chanderpaul fell to Glenn McGrath and West Indies panicked. They sent in a pair of biffers, Roger Harper and Ottis Gibson, at Nos. 5 and 6, ahead of Jimmy Adams and Keith Arthurton, and the ploy backfired. Wickets kept falling - eight for 37 in 50 balls - and with 10 needed off the last over and two wickets in hand, Damien Fleming finished the job. All the while, Richie Richardson looked on helplessly at the non-striker's end. It was genuine edge-of-the-seat stuff, but by the end Australia had used up all their lives and Sri Lanka eased past them in the final.

1963
With his outback mullet and wispy moustache, the gangling Australian left-armer Bruce Reid, who was born today, always looked a fairly innocuous figure. But he ended with the fine Test record of 113 wickets at an average of 24 and would have played much more but for a series of back injuries. He peaked in 1990-91, when he was the scourge of England with 27 wickets in four Tests, including 13 in Melbourne. But he only played five Tests after that, the last of them at the age of 29, as his slender frame proved unable to take the strain of fast bowling. He was also the cousin of New Zealand batsman John F Reid.

1969
In his last Test innings, Seymour Nurse walloped 258 for West Indies against New Zealand in Christchurch. It was his sixth Test century, three of which came in his last four matches. West Indies made New Zealand follow on - just; their first-innings lead was exactly 200 - but a maiden Test hundred from Brian Hastings saved the day.

1938
A mystery man is born. Australian spinner John Gleeson captured the hearts of cricket romantics everywhere as he bamboozled batsmen with his odd grip, borrowed from another mystery spinner, Jack Iverson. But his opponents soon found out that, as with most magic tricks, there was nothing untoward going on behind the scenes. As a result Gleeson cut a fairly impotent figure at Test level - he had a strike rate of a wicket every 95 balls - although he did take five-fors in successive Tests against West Indies in 1968-69.

1982
Records galore for that talented Sri Lankan opener Sidath Wettimuny. In the second Test against Pakistan in Faisalabad, he made his country's first Test hundred, in their third match, and shared in their first century partnership with Roy Dias, who was out for 98. Wettimuny went on to make 157, and Sri Lanka avoided defeat for the first time. It could have been even better: chasing 339 to win, Pakistan closed in more than a little bother at 186 for 7.

1966
Birth of the South African quick bowler Tertius Bosch, who died in mysterious circumstances at the age of 33 in February 2000. His only Test appearance came in South Africa's first Test back in the fold, in Bridgetown in 1991-92. Bosch apparently died of a rare viral infection, but 18 months later his body was exhumed and a post mortem suggested he might have been poisoned. It later emerged that Bosch had had his wife followed, after suspecting her of infidelity.

1986
It never rains, it pours. Having just returned to the Caribbean after having his nose famously shattered by Malcolm Marshall, Mike Gatting had his thumb broken by Barbadian quick bowler Vibert Greene, keeping him out of two more Tests. He returned for the last, just in time to watch Viv Richards paste England all round Antigua. Greene, who was born Victor Sylvester Greene, later played for Gloucestershire.

1986
Elton Chigumbura, born on this day, is one of the hardest-hitting batsmen in the Zimbabwe side. He was fast-tracked into the side in the absence of the rebel players in 2004, and despite looking out of his depth on Test debut against Sri Lanka, he appeared a much-improved player by the time of the Champions Trophy five months later. He missed most of 2005 due to a stress fracture and finally made his mark in 2009, smashing consecutive scores of 79, 68, 43 and 36 and picking up seven wickets against Kenya. He then scored a match-winning 60 and took three wickets against Bangladesh. In May 2010 he was named captain after Prosper Utseya resigned. Zimbabwe won matches against weakened sides from India and Sri Lanka in the first series he captained.

1937
Peter van der Merwe, born today, was originally a slow left-arm bowler but developed into a specialist batsman by the end of his career. He was a shrewd captain, leading South Africa to series wins against England in 1965 and against Australia in 1966-67. After retirement he was chairman of South Africa's selectors in the 1980s and early 1990s, and for eight years was an ICC match referee.

Other birthdays
1930 Ray Flockton (Australia)
1965 John Stephenson (England)
1967 Vijay Yadav (India)
1973 Glen Sulzberger (New Zealand)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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