The seven-Test sensation
One of the mightiest allrounders of all time is born. South Africa's worldwide ban restricted Mike Procter to only seven Tests, but he left an indelible impression. Bowling at tremendous pace off the wrong foot, he took 26 wickets at only 13.57 in his final series (1969-70), as South Africa blitzed Australia 4-0 in a four-Test rubber. He completed three hat-tricks in County Championship matches, and another against Hampshire in a B&H Cup semi-final in 1977, a competition Gloucestershire went on to win. He would have been remembered as one of the all-time greats even if his batting hadn't been so powerful and technically correct. In 1970-71 he became the last of only three players to score a century in each of six consecutive first-class innings. His role as ICC match referee later on was not without its share of controversy - he was the official in charge during Pakistan's forfeited Test at The Oval in 2006, as well as responsible for banning Harbhajan Singh in Sydney in 2007-08. Procter also served as South Africa's convenor of selectors for a period.
One of New Zealand's star batsmen is born. For the first six years of his career, Nathan Astle established himself as a consistent, and occasionally explosive, contributor to New Zealand's middle order. In March 2002 he earned a place in history with a truly extraordinary piece of hitting. As New Zealand chased 550 for victory against England in Christchurch, Astle creamed a ludicrous 222 from 168 balls to bring his side to within 99 runs of their target. He smashed 28 fours and 11 sixes, and scored his last century from only 39 balls. The glory of that knock is undeniable, but it was by no means the only highlight of Astle's career. In the 1996 World Cup he hit 101 in 132 balls to help beat England. He also ensured that the USA got a rude initiation into international cricket, when he cracked an unbeaten 145 against them in the 2004 Champions Trophy. He cited the lack of motivation for his surprise retirement from international cricket six weeks before the 2007 Word Cup.
Some captains might not have believed in Abdul Qadir, who was born today. Luckily, Imran Khan didn't think of legspin as an extinct art, so Pakistan were able to profit from the little man with the beard of a grand vizier and the wiles of a wizard. Among his 236 Test wickets were several impressive returns against England: 6 for 44 in Hyderabad in 1977-78, 7 for 96 at The Oval in 1987, and his Test-best 9 for 56 in Lahore in the acrimonious 1987-88 series. In Faisalabad in 1986-87, he took 6 for 16 to help dismiss West Indies for 53.
Lancashire won the County Championship after 77 years, amid drama that would make Hollywood envious. They struggled financially and played without a home ground, and on the field early in the season, questions were asked about whether they were the "the worst Lancashire team ever". But they were unbeaten in their first six games, and lost only four of the 16 they played in the season. However, the title was yet to be decided when they went into the final session of the season needing 211 to beat Somerset. Lancashire's top order knocked off the runs, scoring more than seven an over, buoyed by the news of title rivals Warwickshire failing to beat Hampshire at the Rose Bowl. Openers Paul Horton and Stephen Moore crossed 1000 runs for the season, while Gary Keedy and Glen Chapple took over 50 wickets each.
Playing for the champion county against the Rest, Denis Compton completed his greatest summer by scoring 246 for Middlesex at The Oval. It was his 18th century of the season, a world record that still stands.
You could almost believe the West Indian Test pitches of 1985-86 were set up specifically for Patrick Patterson, who was born today. His aggressive short-pitched bowling on horribly poor wickets shocked an England batting line-up that had only known him as an unthreatening presence with Lancashire. In his debut series he took 19 wickets and added extra venom to the menace already posed by Marshall, Holding, Garner and Walsh. Only England's captain, David Gower, averaged over 28 as West Indies completed their second successive "blackwash" of England. Patterson finished with 93 Test wickets at 30.90. His last five-wicket haul was achieved on another shocker of a pitch, at Edgbaston in 1991.
Birth of a fine player who was denied a Test career by a remark about Don Bradman. Cec Pepper might have played for Australia if he hadn't passed comment on an lbw decision in favour of the Don in 1946-47. His letter of apology apparently never reached the Australian Cricket Board, and he refused to write another one. Instead he had to settle for some astonishing performances in English league cricket and 15 years as one of the most memorable first-class umpires in England.
Although he never quite established himself as a regular Test opener, there was one big season at the top for Michael Conrad "Joey" Carew, who was born today. West Indies lost the 1968-69 series in Australia, but Carew scored 83 and 71 not out in the win in Brisbane, 90 in Adelaide, and 64 in Sydney. Moving on to New Zealand, he hit his only Test century, 109 in Auckland, followed by 91 in Christchurch. He went on to become a Test selector.
Even if you play in only three Tests, you want to leave a bit of a mark. Steve Watkin, who was born today, did just that. A Glamorgan seamer who bowled wicket-taking balls, he took 2 for 55 and 3 for 38 in England's victory over West Indies on a helpful Headingley pitch in 1991. Dropped after taking 0 for 60 in the next Test, at Lord's, he was brought back against the mighty Australians at The Oval in 1993. Again, he took wickets in an England win (2 for 87 and 4 for 65) but wasn't picked again.