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December 15 down the years

Caribbean cool

Birth of Carl Hooper

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Carl Hooper was amazingly talented, but seldom did justice to his potential
Carl Hooper was amazingly talented, but seldom did justice to his potential © Getty Images

A cricketing charmer is born. Cool Carl Hooper was a real artist with the bat, but too often he let his legions of admirers down with a loose stroke - although the captaincy did seem to have focused his mind for a brief while. He had the talent to take any bowler in the world to the cleaners, but Hooper did not deliver often enough when the chips were down, although he did make a superb unbeaten 94 to take West Indies to victory over England in the first of the back-to-back Trinidad Tests in 1997-98.

More than three years after the thrilling 434-run chase at the Wanderers, India and Sri Lanka fought out another epic ODI where both sides scored over 400, in Rajkot. Virender Sehwag's 102-ball 146, and half-centuries from Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, took India to 414. In reply Tillakaratne Dilshan smashed 160 off 124 and Kumar Sangakkara 90 off 43 to give their side a serious chance of winning. But Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra held their nerve for their final overs. Sri Lanka needed 15 off 12 balls with five wickets in hand; two run-outs later they needed 11 off six. Nuwan Kulasekara took a single off the first and Angelo Mathews two each off the next two before giving an easy catch to Tendulkar off the fourth and the deal was sealed.

Australian spinners didn't wreak havoc everywhere they went before Shane Warne entered the scene. The eccentric Greg Matthews, who was born today, was from the old school: an offspinner with an average of 48 and a strike-rate in three figures. He never won a Test with the ball - but he did tie one, taking his only two five-fors, including the last wicket, in the Madras Test in 1986-87. Where Matthews did excel was as a lower-order irritant: he averaged over 40 with the bat and made four hundreds in 33 Tests.

The second day's play in the first Test between Pakistan and England in Lahore was marred by riots. Wisden reported: "Running fights began. Police were chased across the ground, and four found refuge in the England dressing room. Bricks and stones were hurled in the direction of the dressing rooms and the VIP enclosure. Tea was taken during the trouble, and only twenty-five minutes of actual playing time were lost. Incredibly, the rioters voluntarily cleared the ground of debris."

The day the Ashes stayed in Australia - again. England slipped to a depressing 205-run defeat in the third Test in Adelaide, which put them 2-0 down in the series with only two to play. They had a classic first-innings collapse to blame, as 187 for 3 turned into 227 all out on a featherbed, despite a long middle order that had Graeme Hick coming in at No. 7.

More Adelaide Ashes misery for England. They went 2-0 down with two to play after an eight-wicket defeat in Adelaide, and even though (unlike in 1998), they could have retained the Ashes with a 2-2 draw, they could only get one Test back. This one was notable for Greg Chappell for making his first Test hundred in his home town, and Geoff Lawson, who had taken 11 wickets in the second Test, adding a further nine.

In Sydney, an Ashes tour that was going down the pan anyway took a less-than-amusing turn when England fell 14 runs short of the 206 they needed to beat Zimbabwe. They had been cruising at 169 for 4, but it only took one wicket to spark an English collapse in the mid-1990s: there were three run-outs as blind panic set in. Two years later, on the same day they managed a pitiful 152. Zimbabwe made a meal of the chase, but Eddo Brandes had a decisive impact, smacking a six to see them home by two wickets.

Alimuddin, born today, played 25 Tests for Pakistan. In his country's first home series, in 1954-55 against India, he scored three half-centuries and an unbeaten 103 in five Tests. But he failed to show similar consistency over the rest of his career. He made his first-class debut at the age of 12 in the pre-Partition Ranji Trophy in 1943. He coached the national team after his playing career and then moved to London to work for Pakistan International Airlines.

Birth of Kenyan double-international Aasif Karim who played three cricket World Cups - 1996, 1999 and 2003 - and captained his country's tennis team in the Davis Cup. Initially an attacking left-arm spin bowler, he evolved into a parsimonious one-day expert and in his penultimate one-day game, during Kenya's memorable 2003 World Cup campaign, he got figures of 3 for 7 from 8.2 overs.

Other birthdays
1909 Rolph Grant (West Indies)
1929 Keith Andrew (England)
1959 Rashid Khan (Pakistan)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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