A flashing blade
Some of the most exciting strokes ever played came from the bat of Rohan Kanhai, who was born today. After having to wait until his 24th Test innings for his maiden hundred, he turned it into a big one, 256 in Calcutta in 1958-59. He and Garry Sobers made their last Test tons in the same innings, at Lord's in 1973, when Kanhai captained West Indies to a crushing win that clinched the series. He made 55 in his first one-day international and the same score in his last, at the age of 39, when his support to Clive Lloyd helped to win the inaugural World Cup final, at Lord's in 1975.
No Christmas spirit from Australian umpire Darrell Hair, who called Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing. Playing for Sri Lanka in Melbourne, Murali was called seven times by Hair before he switched to the other end, where New Zealander Steve Dunne let him bowl unhindered. Few would have bet on Murali lasting much longer in Test cricket, but he went on to become the all-time top wicket-taker, overcoming further controversy when he was no-balled by another Australian umpire, Ross Emerson, in 1998-99.
The Test debut of Steve Waugh. He featured in a record number of Tests, took over 100 catches, averaged over 51, played in over 100 Tests with his twin brother Mark, and added to the captaincy achievements of Allan Border and Mark Taylor by leading Australia to a world record of 16 consecutive Test wins. Adam Gilchrist was in charge for one of those 16, but let's not quibble. Waugh was one of the greatest, mentally toughest, players in the game.
Uneventful one-day debuts for Sanath Jayasuriya and Mark Taylor in the Benson & Hedges World Series match in Brisbane. Taylor opened for Australia and scored 11. Jayasuriya batted at No. 5 for Sri Lanka and was caught off his fifth ball for 3. The fielder who caught him, Greg Campbell, Ricky Ponting's uncle, also made his debut in the game, and didn't contribute much else apart from the catch. Australia won by 30 runs.
Batting with what the Wisden Almanack described as "such delightful ease", Alan Kippax made 260 not out and shared the only triple-century last-wicket stand (in fact the only one of 250 or more) in first-class cricket. With last man Hal Hooker, who scored 62, he put on 307 for New South Wales against Victoria in Melbourne.
Using his famously enormous hands to impart some wicked spin to the ball, big Tom Goddard needed only three balls to dismiss the talented and prolific Dudley Nourse, Norman Gordon (out to the first ball he faced in Test cricket) and wicketkeeper Billy Wade in the first Test in South Africa. It was the only Test hat-trick by an England bowler between 1929 and 1957.
The bowler with an action described as a "frog in a blender" became South Africa's youngest Test cricketer. When he made his debut against England in Port Elizabeth, Paul Adams was 18 years 340 days old. He took four wickets in 50 economical overs, and another four in the next Test helped Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock win the series for South Africa. But once batsmen got over the shock of his action they realised there was little to fear and he quietly slid out of the reckoning.
When the great Wilfred Rhodes took his 100th Test wicket, against South Africa in Johannesburg, he became the first England player to do the double of 100 wickets and 1000 runs. His Test career, the longest of all time, spanned five decades, from 1899 to 1929-30.
Only 5'6", Barry Wood, born today, was a determined and gutsy opening batsman. But in his 12 Tests spread over seven seasons, he never played more than three in a row. He made 90 on debut against Australia in 1972, but struggled in India and Pakistan in 1972-73, and against New Zealand in 1974-75. He figured in the Ashes in 1975 and at Lord's in 1976, and made a final outing against Pakistan in 1978.
One of Australia's earliest Test captains was born. Henry James Herbert Scott, better known as "Tup", couldn't stop England winning all three matches in 1886 (the Wisden Almanack referred to his lack of "authority and experience") - but he'd had a better time at The Oval two years earlier, scoring his only Test ton while partnering Billy Murdoch in the first double-century stand in international cricket.
An Australian wicketkeeper is born. The fact that Matthew Wade played any international cricket was a credit to his mental toughness: when only 16, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and required two cycles of chemotherapy to defeat the illness. He made headlines when he helped Victoria to the Sheffield Shield title in 2010 and was picked for the T20s against South Africa in 2011. His big break arrived when Brad Haddin was forced to miss the 2012 Test series in the West Indies due to personal reasons and Wade grabbed the chance with a 106 in the third Test. An ankle injury cost him his Test spot in India a year later and a run of poor form meant he was axed from the one-day side too.