October 21 down the years

A selfish giant?

England's model of self-restraint
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1940
The birth of one of cricket's most divisive characters. Nobody disputed Geoffrey Boycott's talent and application, but his abrasive character and seemingly selfish nature made him split opinions like no other cricketer. Once, after crawling to 246 against India at Headingley in 1967, he was dropped from the next Test as punishment. He was technically outstanding, but kept most of his shots for the nets. This made him a model of self-restraint, although the highlight of his career came at Headingley in 1977, when he made his 100th first-class hundred in a Test against Australia on his home ground. Boycott, now a successful television commentator, underwent treatment for a cancerous lump detected in his throat in 2002.

1851
Yorkshire's George Ulyett, who was born today, was a powerful batsman (a Test average of 24 in his day is worth double that now) and a hostile bowler. His one Test century, 149, in Melbourne in 1881-82, was the first by an Englishman in Australia, and at Lord's in 1884 he hurried the Aussies to defeat with remarkable second-innings figures of 7 for 36 in 39.1 four-ball overs. A lean spell followed but Ulyett came good in his last Test, hitting 74 against Australia at Lord's in 1890 to rescue England from 20 for 4. He died of pneumonia in Sheffield in 1898.

1931
Birth of one of England's best wicketkeeper-batsmen. Jim Parks took the Alec Stewart route to keeping - he was picked first for England as a batsman before he discovered, almost by accident, a natural flair behind the stumps. In the best traditions of keeper-batsmen he was a dashing strokemaker. He made two centuries, in Port-of-Spain in 1959-60 (in only his second Test) and in Durban in 1964-65. But he remained unsung in what was a fairly bleak period for England: they won only nine of his 46 Tests, and only two of those victories came against Australia and West Indies.

1971
Birth of the greatest cricketer ever to emerge from Australia's Northern Territories. Damien Martyn spent only the earliest years of his childhood in Darwin, but the experience of living in such an isolated community served him well when he was made a scapegoat for Australia's defeat against South Africa in January 1994 and frozen out of Australia's Test squad for seven long years. However, Martyn returned better and wiser, and was a World Cup winner after scoring 88 not out with a broken finger in the 2003 final in South Africa. His magnificent 13-month streak of 1608 Test runs at 61 and two Man-of-the-Series prizes from March 2004 finally moved him to the limelight. But the flood would end in 2005 in England, and after a series total of 178 runs and a couple of horrid umpiring decisions, he was the major casualty of the Ashes loss. After playing a key part in Australia's first Champions Trophy success in 2006, he struggled in the opening two Tests of the Ashes series in 2006-07 and retired.

1952
Birth of Trevor Chappell, the younger brother of Ian and Greg. He was a solid batsman who did not quite have the talent of his siblings, and played only three Tests, all in England in 1981. But he is best remembered for bowling the last ball of a one-dayer underarm, at the behest of his brother Greg, when New Zealand needed six to win, in Melbourne in 1980-81. This caused much consternation and the tactic was quickly banned. He resurfaced as Sri Lanka's fielding coach, and between March 2001 and March 2002 he had the unenviable job of coaching Bangladesh.

1985
Sri Lanka began their second Test series in Pakistan with the ultimate bore draw in Faisalabad.They took two-and-a-half days to make 479 - Aravinda de Silva, the day after his 20th birthday, brought up his first Test hundred in the grand manner with a six off Imran Khan - and with no prospect of a result, Pakistan settled for some batting practice. Qasim Omar and Javed Miandad both made double-centuries and put on 397 together for the third wicket.

1981
When in full flow Devon Smith, born today, looks like a typical Caribbean batsman, with his quick eye and belligerent strokeplay, but he has disappointed rather than fulfilled expectations. He started off in 2003 with a half-century on Test debut against Australia, followed by a pair. He scored his maiden Test hundred against England the next year but injury and loss in form forced him out of the side for nearly two years. On his comeback, he remained inconsistent in Tests but he did well in the 2011 World Cup, scoring two half-centuries and a hundred.

Other birthdays
1985 Tinashe Panyangara (Zimbabwe)
1970 Paul Nixon (England)
1979 Sarandeep Singh (India)