The original entertainer is born. Gilbert Jessop was arguably a fiercer hitter than Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Adam Gilchrist, or anyone else who has belted leather for a living, and his feats with the willow are legendary. Known as "The Croucher" for his unusual stance, he hit his first ball for Gloucestershire for four, having come in on a hat-trick, and his 53 first-class centuries came at the unbelievable average rate of 82.7 runs an hour. At Hove in 1903, he smashed 286 against Sussex in under three hours. He also creamed 157 in an hour against West Indies in 1900. In 18 Tests he made only one hundred, but what an innings it was. Against Australia on a poor Oval wicket in 1902, England were 48 for 5 chasing 263 when Jessop entered the arena. He walloped 104 in only 77 minutes, out of 139 runs scored while he was at the crease, and England eventually crept home by one wicket. Jessop was also a genuinely fast bowler and sensational in the covers. He died in Dorset in 1955.
Only 11 Tests for Alan Melville, the stylish South African opener who was born today, but he certainly made the most of them, making four centuries and averaging 52. Those four centuries came in consecutive innings - but were spread over nine years. Melville cracked 103 in Durban in 1938-39, South Africa's last Test before the war, and hit 189, 104 not out, and 117 in England in 1947. Immediately before that first century, Melville made 67 and 78. Oddly, in 13 other Test innings, he only once reached 50. Melville also captained Sussex in 1934 and 1935. He died in Sabie, Transvaal in 1983.
One of the joys of the old Texaco Trophy was to see which rabbit the England selectors would pull from the hat. On this day, against West Indies at Edgbaston, Monte Lynch made his England debut - and was run out second-ball after being sent back by his captain, Mike Gatting. It didn't get much better - Lynch made 2 and 6 in the next two games and was not picked again. England won though, by six wickets, the first of eight victories in nine ODIs at home to West Indies.
Jamie How, born today, made his one-day debut for New Zealand on New Year's Eve in 2005 with a half-century against Sri Lanka. When West Indies toured New Zealand in early 2006, How made 66 in an ODI in Wellington, but he did little in his debut Test series against the same opposition. He did well against the visiting England side two years later, making 92 in a win in Hamilton, his maiden one-day hundred (in Christchurch) and two more half-centuries in New Zealand's return series. But he wasn't consistent enough and lost his place as New Zealand continued experimenting with different openers.