A draw for the ages
A day when South Africa came within eight runs of breaking the world record for a chase in Test cricket. Set 458 to win at the Wanderers in the first match of the series, they rode on terrific centuries from Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers on the final day. The two men took them to within 56 runs of the target but were then dismissed at critical points, which left South Africa with 16 to win off the final 19 deliveries. With only Imran Tahir and the injured Morne Morkel to come, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn batted out the overs - amid loud boos from the stands - and secured a famous draw. India dominated for the first four days thanks to a century and a 96 from Man of the Match Virat Kohli, and a controlled second-innings 153 from Cheteshwar Pujara.
Another thrilling draw... this time in Harare. The first Test match to be drawn with the scores level was flippin' murder for the visiting coach. After Zimbabwe frustrated England with a stint of leg-side bowling in Bulawayo, David Lloyd made it clear (in the Wisden Almanack, among other places) that he wasn't altogether sure a draw was the right result.
One of South Africa's best allrounders was born. Aggressive with bat, ball and vocal chords, a stoat in the slips despite his solid frame, Brian McMillan took 75 Test wickets and hit three Test hundreds, all at home - though his drawn-out 100 in Johannesburg in 1995-96 contributed to Mike Atherton and England being able to escape with a draw.
The end of a shockingly low-scoring series in New Zealand after a wet summer left the pitches more unpredictable than usual. India were bowled out for 161 on the first morning at the Basin Reserve, and they folded for 121 inside 39 overs in the second innings, leaving New Zealand 36 runs to get. The second Test, in Hamilton, was also a three-day affair. Neither team made it to 100 in the first innings. Shane Bond and Daryl Tuffey took four each in the first innings, and Zaheer Khan a five-for. The visitors did a shade better with 154 in the second innings, but the target of 160 was hardly a stretch for the home side. It was the first time New Zealand had won more than one Test in a series against India.
Birth of talented allrounder Chris Old, who Mike Brearley believed "with a slightly different psychosomatic constitution" could have been one of cricket's great players. Old's reasons for missing Test matches were almost in the Chris Lewis class - but he nevertheless took 143 Test wickets, including four in five balls (the other was a no-ball) against Pakistan at Edgbaston in 1978, and helped Geoff Arnold dismiss India for 42 at Lord's in 1974. At Headingley in 1981 he hit a crucial 29 and then grabbed the key wicket of Allan Border as Australia fell apart in the second innings.
One of four Test-playing brothers was born. Generally in the shadow of his kid brother Hanif, Wazir Mohammad scored both his Test hundreds in the Caribbean series of 1957-58 - but even then his 189, which won the fifth Test, was eclipsed by Hanif's 337 in Bridgetown.
New Zealand emphatically beat West Indies 2-0 in the Test series at home. So abject were West Indies that in the third Test, in Hamilton, they lost all ten wickets in a session. It would have been 3-0 if rain hadn't rescued them in Dunedin when New Zealand were 33 short of victory. Darren Bravo also played his role in this rescue, with a maiden double-century, the first by a West Indian batsman while following on. But after that the runs went dry for Bravo. Not so for the other double-centurion in Dunedin, Ross Taylor, who followed up his unbeaten 217 with a century in each of the other Tests. The other highlights for New Zealand were Trent Boult's career-best 6 for 40 and ten for the match in the second Test, in Wellington, and Tim Southee reaching 100 Test wickets, in Hamilton.
The loss of a complete day's play made a draw inevitable, but India used the time to pile up what was then their highest total against any country: 676 for 7 against Sri Lanka in Kanpur. Three batsmen made hundreds, but Mohammad Azharuddin must have had mixed feelings about being one of the few to be out for 199 in a Test.
A late starter was born. Although he didn't play for India till he was 31, Dilip Doshi's slow left-arm brought him 114 Test wickets. Bespectacled and patient, he took 6 for 103 on his debut, against Australia in Madras in 1979-80, and 6 for 102 at Old Trafford in 1982. He is one of four bowlers to have taken 100 wickets after making their Test debuts past age 30, alongside Clarrie Grimmett, Saeed Ajmal and Ryan Harris.
A solitary success for West Indies on their disastrous tour down under. Frank Worrell, better known as a stylish batsman, took 6 for 38 to dismiss Australia for 82 in Adelaide. West Indies won by six wickets but lost the series 4-1.
Birth of Derick Parry, who had no luck at the top level. An offspinner in an era of all-out West Indian pace, he was dismissed by the first ball he faced in Test cricket (against Australia in Port-of-Spain in 1977-78) and missed a run-out with his last, in Dunedin in 1979-80, which cost West Indies their last series defeat before 1994-95. He did take 5 for 15 - four of them bowled - to skittle Australia for 94 in Trindad in 1977-78.
More mammoth batting by Bill Ponsford (see 18 and 19 December). He and Edgar Mayne put on 456 for Victoria v Queensland in Melbourne, still the highest opening stand in first-class cricket in Australia.
Roland Holder, born today, was a middle-order batsman who played 11 Tests and 37 ODIs for West Indies in the late 1990s at a time when they were a side in transition searching for stability. He only went past 50 twice, both in his first series, at home against India, but in fairness he was never given a real chance as he had to bat at No. 6 or 7. His ODI career, which almost entirely preceded his Tests, was similar, with only two fifties in 31 middle-order innings. After retirement, he worked in administration, first as manager of Barbados and then cricket operations manager at the 2007 World Cup.