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April 17 down the years

Murali unleashed

The birth of a wizard

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Muttiah Muralitharan: phenomenal success, but tinged with controversy
Muttiah Muralitharan: phenomenal success, but tinged with controversy © AFP
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1972
The birth of talented yet controversial offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan. It looked like his Test career might stall on 80 wickets when Darrell Hair called him for throwing at the MCG in 1995-96, but Murali - of whom it was once said that he could turn it off a motorway - overcame that, and became Sri Lanka's strike bowler. Murali sailed past the 500-wicket mark in just 87 Tests and went past Courtney Walsh's record of 519 Test wickets in May 2004. The record went back and forth between Murali and another great spinner of his generation, Shane Warne, before Murali eventually claimed it in December 2007, going past Warne's tally of 708 wickets months after the Australian's retirement. He seized the ODI record for most wickets from Wasim Akram in February 2009. The following year he brought the curtain down on his Test career with a fairytale finish, taking his 800th wicket, the last of the Indian innings, in a win for Sri Lanka in Galle. His last ODI, the World Cup final the following year against the same opponents, wasn't quite as happy a memory.

1961
An England fast bowler is born - in Jamaica. Norman Cowans' family moved to England when he was 11, and he was only 21 - and had taken only 43 first-class wickets - when England took a punt on his raw pace for the Ashes tour of 1982-83. He responded with 6 for 77 in the second innings of England's thrilling three-run victory in Melbourne, but he never reached those heights again, and his Test career was over before he turned 25. His batting was essentially useless, although his sole first-class fifty - for Middlesex against Surrey at Lord's in 1984 - was slogged off only 19 balls.

1968
Roger Twose, who was born today in Devon, was never really taken seriously by the England selectors despite being a key part of Warwickshire's all-conquering early 1990s side, and instead migrated to New Zealand, for whom he made his debut in 1995-96. His Test career was fairly modest - though he did make 52 in New Zealand's Lord's victory of 1999 - but he really excelled in one-day internationals with his resourceful, abrasive batting. He starred in the 1999 World Cup, when he made a match-winning 80 not out against Australia, and got right up Glenn McGrath's nose by refusing to bow meekly as Kiwis were supposed to.

1978
West Indies offspinner Derick Parry didn't pull up too many trees in his 12-Test career, but this, the fourth Test in Trinidad, was his finest hour by a long way. Parry dug West Indies out of a hole with a Test-best 65 in the second innings, then took 5 for 15 - the last four all bowled - as Australia collapsed to 94 all out. It was Parry's only five-for, and it gave West Indies the Frank Worrell Trophy.

1904
Birth of Naoomal Jeoomal, the exotically named right-hander who opened in India's inaugural Test, at Lord's in 1932. He played only three Tests, though, and his Test career ended ignominiously when he edged a ball onto his head and had to retire hurt, against England in Madras in 1933-34. He died in Bombay in 1980.

1977
Dinesh Mongia, born today, forced his way into the Indian national side with a string of big innings. He hammered 159 in the one-day series decider against Zimbabwe in Guwahati in March 2002, but suspicions remained that kinks in his technique could be exposed on more challenging tracks abroad, and indifferent displays in England resulted in him being relegated to a bit-part role in the tours that followed. He made it to the 2003 World Cup squad but didn't contribute significantly. He went on to play for Lancashire and Leicestershire, and was especially useful in the Twenty20 Cup.

Other birthdays
1913 Ted White (Australia)
1952 Masood Iqbal (Pakistan)
1964 Janak Gamage (Sri Lanka)
1965 Linda Olivier (South Africa)
1972 Jatin Paranjpe (India)
1982 Tamara Reeves (South Africa)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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