December 19 down the years

Punter comes knocking

One of the most aesthetically appealing batsmen in world cricket is born

Ricky Ponting executes his signature swivelling pull stroke © Getty Images

Ricky Ponting, arguably Australia's greatest batsman after Don Bradman, was born. After he was sawed off for 96 on his Test debut, against Sri Lanka in Perth in 1995-96, Ponting went on to establish himself as one of the most aesthetically appealing batsmen in world cricket, with a swivelling pull stroke as good as any in the game. There was substance to go with style: his average shot through the 40s and into the high 50s after the turn of the century, as he tapped into a surprisingly rich vein of form. A man whose career was defined by seriously purple patches and lean spells, Ponting became Australia's one-day captain in 2001-02 - beginning with a 5-1 win in South Africa, and later the World Cup - and led the all-conquering Test team with success. Australia lost the Ashes under his charge in 2005, regained them in style with a 5-0 whitewash in 2006-07, and lost them two more times before he stepped down. In between these debacles he led Australia to their third straight World Cup in 2007 and became the seventh batsman to 10,000 Test runs. After a fairly prolonged patchy run of form, Ponting retired from international cricket following Australia's 1-0 defeat to South Africa at home in December 2012.

Not satisfied with just breaking records, Sachin Tendulkar set a well-nigh ungettable one. In Centurion against South Africa, with India batting to save the match after conceding a 484-run first-innings lead, Tendulkar hit his 50th Test century, bringing his tally for the year to seven. What was nearly missed in the frenzy surrounding his incredible achievement was Rahul Dravid crossing the 12,000-run milestone. Despite these feats India lost the Test by an innings after Jacques Kallis scored his maiden double-century.

A change of ball led to one of the most sensational Test debuts of all time. According to the Wisden Almanack, left-arm seamer John Lever had "no particular reputation as a swinger", but his 7 for 46 for England in Delhi dismissed India for 122 - this after he hit 53 in his first Test innings. England won by an innings on their way to an unexpected series victory.

Birth of Indian Test wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia, who made 107 dismissals in 44 Tests but will probably be remembered more for off-the-field controversies. He had been dropped from the India team for apparently not trying to win a match, suspended after showing dissent at an umpiring decision, and named in the match-fixing scandal of the late 1990s, but exonerated eventually. A natural behind the stumps, Mongia's quick reflexes were often tested while standing up to Anil Kumble - a job he did far better than his contemporaries. Used often as a makeshift opener, his most notable performance came against Australia in 1996, when he scored a match-winning 152 in Delhi.

Another controversial Indian cricketer was born. On his Test recall after doubts had been expressed about his action, offspinner Rajesh Chauhan was unlucky enough to run into Sri Lanka's high-scoring batsmen on a placid pitch at the Premadasa stadium in Colombo in 1997-98, when his 78 overs cost 276 runs. He took only a single wicket as the hosts amassed 952 for 6 declared, the highest score in Test cricket. As India's captain said in the Wisden Almanack, "It was a terrible toss to win." Chauhan normally featured when India played three specialist spinners at home. It was a highly successful tactic during the 1990s: Chauhan was never on the losing side in his 21 Tests, with 12 wins and nine draws.

Pakistan fell 40 short of a mammoth 490-run target after Asad Shafiq led a heroic fightback by the lower order in the day-night Test in in Brisbane. This after they had been 67 for 8 in the first innings at one point. Australia captain Steven Smith must have had second thoughts about not enforcing the follow-on when Shafiq added a rapid 92 with Mohammad Amir and another 66 with Wahab Riaz on the fourth evening. It was only after Shafiq fell on 137 to a Mitchell Starc delivery that lifted sharply from a back of a length on the fifth afternoon that Australia were firmly back in control of a game they had dominated all along. Peter Handscomb's maiden Test hundred, in only his second match, and Smith's 130 had given them a hefty first-innings total of 429.

One of New Zealand's "most underrated cricketers", as John Reid put it, was born today. Merv Wallace was considered by many of his contemporaries to be among the finest batsmen of his generation. He scored two half-centuries on debut at Lord's in 1937 and returned after the war to score 1722 runs on the 1949 tour of England, but played only 13 Tests in total. Wallace was called in to coach New Zealand in 1956, but though they won their first Test under him, he was not reappointed.

Playing for Australia against England in Sydney, big Bill Ponsford made 110 in his debut Test innings. A specialist in monumental innings, he went on to make 181 and 266 in his final two Test knocks, at Headingley and The Oval in 1934, and was the only batsman to score 400 in a first-class innings twice until Brian Lara arrived.

The master grafter Geoff Boycott became the first man to be left stranded on 99 not out in a Test, a feat more remarkable as he also carried his bat. His obstinacy as England battled to save the first Test, in Perth, was in vain as they lost by 138 runs on the way to being whitewashed 0-3 in the series.

Even a rampant Brian Lara couldn't stop Australia taking a decisive 3-0 lead after the third Test against West Indies. Lara slammed a majestic 182, but no other West Indian reached 50 in the match, and on a spin-friendly Adelaide pitch, Colin Miller won the match - and the Man-of-the-Match award - with five wickets in each innings. It was Adam Gilchrist's first Test as Australian captain.

Other birthdays
1846 Henry Charlwood (England)
1953 Paul McEwan (New Zealand)
1955 Susil Fernando (Sri Lanka)
1958 Iqbal Sikander (Pakistan)
1962 Charith Senanayake (Sri Lanka)
1977 Yulandi van der Merwe (South Africa)