A Kiwi bazooka
Brendon McCullum, who was born today, owns one of the most famous centuries in T20 cricket - 158 off 73 balls in the opening match of the inaugural Indian Premier League. It is a tag he may never be able to shake off. McCullum stepped up to the national side as a wicketkeeper-batsman after an outstanding career in international youth cricket, where he proved capable of dominating opposition attacks. His promotion to the international scene was seen as a major investment by the selectors, and his potential was realised in 2004 after the tour of England. Since then, he has remained a powerful threat at the top of the innings for New Zealand in ODIs and T20, but his Test numbers didn't match up - to try and fix which, in 2010, he gave up keeping in Tests, aiming to become a specialist opener. In 2014 he hit two double-centuries, a New Zealand record 302 against India, and 195 against Sri Lanka in Tests, and his leadership made New Zealand a force in all formats through the year. The following year he guided the side to their first World Cup final.
The birth of England's talisman. On becoming England's first overseas coach, in 1999, Duncan Fletcher took possession of a team rated the worst in the world, but he turned things around quicker than anyone could possibly have expected. With sensible man management, the ability to look beyond county statistics, and no little skill, he helped England become one of the leading Test sides in the world. In 2011 he took cricket's most high-profile coaching job, taking charge of India after they won the World Cup under Gary Kirsten. His high points in charge were the 4-0 whitewash of Australia in 2013 and the Champions Trophy in England few months later. In his time Fletcher was a doughty allrounder, who made 69 not out and took 4 for 42 as Zimbabwe pulled off a stunning victory over Australia - Border, Lillee, Marsh, Thomson and all - in their first-ever official one-day international, at Trent Bridge in the 1983 World Cup.
Sixteen years after earning first-class status, Durham claimed their first County Championship title with an innings-and-71 run victory against Kent. They entered the final round as third favourites - behind Nottinghamshire and Somerset - but both those sides lost. Steve Harmison, bowling with a broken left wrist, claimed the final wicket, but Durham had to wait four more hours until Nottinghamshire's defeat was confirmed. Harmison said it was second only to winning the Ashes, and Geoff Cook, the coach, who had been with the club since 1992, said it was his "proudest" moment.
Having been hyped as the natural successor to Hutton, Sutcliffe and Boycott, Bill Athey, who was born today, was always in danger of being an underachiever. A stately performer who made his debut in the Centenary Test in 1980, Athey averaged a disappointing 22.97 from 23 Tests. His opening partnership with Chris Broad was central to England's Ashes triumph of 1986-87, but after a sparkling 123 at Lord's against Pakistan the following summer, Athey failed to pass 50 in eight Tests. He was dropped for the final time after the defeat by West Indies at Headingley in 1988, but continued to be prolific at county level, having moved from Yorkshire to Gloucestershire in 1984 and to Sussex in 1993. He had made over 25,000 first-class runs when he retired in 1997.
In Kingston, Eddie Hemmings became the first person to take ten wickets in a first-class innings for 13 years, returning figures of 49.3-14-175-10 while playing for an International XI. It broke a number of records: it is the only time one bowler has taken ten wickets in a first-class innings in the West Indies; it is the most-expensive "all-ten" in any innings, and the West Indies XI's 419 is the highest total to include one.
Though he played 121 ODIs for New Zealand between 1990 and 1999, the gentle medium pace of Gavin Larsen, who was born today in Wellington, went largely unnoticed. He took only 113 wickets, but his outstanding economy rate of 3.76 runs per over underlined his value to the team. He is best remembered for the 1991-92 World Cup, when he was part of the thriftiest of triumvirates (Larsen, Chris Harris and Rod Latham were called "Dibbly, Dobbly and Wobbly"), which tortured even the best batsmen, on the anaesthetised home surfaces. Firmly typecast as a pyjama performer, Larsen played just eight Tests despite a perfectly acceptable record in the longer game (24 wickets at 28.70).
Indian fast bowler L Balaji first endeared himself to crowds, especially in Pakistan, because of his megawatt smile. After a terrific 2003-04 tour of Pakistan, where he took seven wickets by consistently swinging it away in the Rawalpindi Test, and nine more against the same side in Mohali in 2005, Balaji suffered a career-threatening stress fracture. For three years he could hardly play any cricket. He underwent back surgery, remodelled his action and came back through a successful IPL season in 2008. A recall came a year after, though he got only one game.
Pakistan eased to a nine-wicket victory in the first Test against Australia in Karachi. The tourists began the final day on 138 for 7 in their second innings, a deficit of 10, and were quickly finished off, with Abdul Qadir (5 for 76) the pick of the bowlers.
In the second one-day international, in Bulawayo, Sourav Ganguly's fifth one-day hundred helped India to an eight-wicket victory over Zimbabwe and an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. Ganguly added 153 for the second wicket with Mohammad Azharuddin, his captain, as India, chasing 236 from 45 overs, eased home with 19 balls to spare.