Yet another World Cup for Australia
A fifth World Cup title for Australia, made sweeter because they won it at home, in front of a 93,000-strong MCG crowd. New Zealand faltered in their first ever appearance in a World Cup final (they had made the semi-finals six times before). They and Australia were arguably the two strongest teams in the tournament, but the final lacked a competitive edge from the beginning, when Mitchell Starc bowled the dangerous Brendon McCullum for a duck. Save for Grant Elliott, who scored 83, the remaining batsmen succumbed to the stranglehold of Australia's left-arm seamers (Mitchell Johnson and Starc took two apiece). The modest 183 was easily chased down in 33.1 overs with contributions from David Warner, Steven Smith and Michael Clarke, who was playing his final ODI.
When England began their chase of 194 with only 15 overs left on the fourth evening in Trinidad, the worst-case scenario was that they might perhaps be three down at the close. Some chance. In those 15 overs all hell broke loose as Curtly Ambrose, fuelled by a frenzied crowd, ripped into them. The Wisden Almanack said he came "rampaging in as if on springs". Having seen off Mike Atherton, Robin Smith, Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick and Jack Russell, Ambrose applied the coup de grace with the last ball of the day, bringing the house down by sending a wide-eyed Graham Thorpe's off stump flying. Geoff Boycott said it was the most exciting passage of play he'd ever witnessed. England closed on 40 for 8, and limped past their lowest-ever Test score - 45 - by just one run the next morning.
A true champion took guard for the final time, in Durban. Allan Border dragged Australia out of the doldrums almost single-handedly in the 1980s, and after finishing with a match-saving unbeaten 42 against South Africa, he announced his retirement. Border took plenty of records with him, notably most caps at the time (156), most runs (11,174) and most appearances as captain (93). This match was drawn, as was the series, after South Africa took a scandalous 205.2 overs to make 422.
The second day of the Multan Test will be remembered for Virender Sehwag becoming the first Indian to hit a Test triple-century. Sehwag said the evening before that the record was on his mind, and he duly achieved it with a six over midwicket off the hapless Saqlain Mushtaq, who would never be seen on the international stage again. Records fell like ninepins along the way: Sehwag went past Sunil Gavaskar's 236, Sachin Tendulkar's 241 not out, VVS Laxman's 281, and then to 300... but Matthew Hayden's 380 - then the highest score in Tests - remained safe. When Sehwag edged Mohammad Sami to first slip on 309, with India 509 for 3, he'd faced 375 balls in 531 minutes, hitting 39 fours and six sixes. The day will also be remembered for Rahul Dravid's declaration at 675 for 5, which gave India enough time to successfully push for a victory, never mind that Sachin Tendulkar was left six short of what would have been an impeccable double-century.
Birth of a run machine. Tom Hayward scored over 40,000 runs in first-class cricket - only 16 people have ever managed that - and he was a great success for England too, making 1999 runs in 35 Tests. His 1906 tally of 3518 runs for Surrey was a record until Denis Compton and Bill Edrich both topped it in 1947. Hayward was also a very handy medium-pacer, and took two first-class hat-tricks in 1899. He died in Cambridge in 1939.
One of only seven handled-the-ball dismissals in Test history... and probably the most controversial. In the second Test against Pakistan in Perth, Australian opener Andrew Hilditch retrieved a stray throw and handed the ball to Sarfraz Nawaz, who appealed and had Hilditch dismissed as a result. Though it didn't stop Australia winning by seven wickets, it caused much rancour and was seen as an act of revenge: earlier in the match Sikander Bakht was run out while backing up by Alan Hurst.
A New Zealand captain is born. Geoff Howarth had the toughest baptism of all, but in his first series in charge he led them to a famous, fractious victory over West Indies in 1979-80. He was a sound, sober batsman, with a particular liking for the cover-drive, and played 47 Tests in all. Howarth celebrated his first Test hundred, against England in Auckland in 1977-78, by making another in the second innings. He was awarded an MBE in 1981 and an OBE in 1984.
In pursuit of a daunting first-innings score of 469 set by West Indies, Pakistan were blown away by a five-wicket haul from Wes Hall in Lahore. They began well, but lost opener Ijaz Butt, who had to retire hurt after being struck by a bouncer. Hall then precipitated a quick end to the Pakistan innings, bagging a hat-trick that included the wickets of the debutant Mushtaq Mohammad, Fazal Mahmood, and Nasim-ul-Ghani. Pakistan were bowled out for 209, and they backed that up with an even more hapless performance after following on: being skittled out for 104, to lose by an innings.
Birth of a swashbuckler. Australian allrounder Sam Loxton, one of the 1948 Invincibles, played some fearsome innings for Victoria, and got his 12-Test career off to a rollicking start as well. He walloped 93 with five sixes at Headingley in 1948, and two Tests later made his first and only Test hundred, 101 against South Africa in Johannesburg. Loxton's thrusting fast-medium was handy at state level, but he struggled to penetrate in Tests. He played his last Test against England in Sydney in 1950-51. Loxton died in December 2011.
Taking their New Zealand cousins about as seriously as they went on to do in coming years, Australia handed out seven debuts for the inaugural Test between the sides. They chose pretty well, though: the seven included the magnificent trio of Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Don Tallon. It was a ludicrously one-sided match, in which Australia scored 199 for 8... and won by an innings and 103 runs. New Zealand were routed for 42 and 56, and the match was over in eight and a half hours. It was not given official Test status for another two years. And Australia enjoyed themselves so much that they did not play New Zealand again for another 28 years.
Indian batsman Hanumant Singh, who was born today, played 14 matches and made a century in his maiden innings, a charming 105 against England in Delhi in 1963-64. Hanumant, the Maharajah of Banswara, also had an extraordinary Ranji Trophy campaign in 1966-67 for Rajasthan, scoring 869 runs at an average of 124. He died in 2006 at the age of 67.
The rules governing the Ranji Trophy finals - in the event of a draw, the team with the highest first-innings score wins - have made for some contests of the watching-grass-grow variety, but this was a thriller. Delhi and Karnataka drew (no surprise there), but Karnataka lost out on first-innings... despite scoring 705. Delhi squeezed home with 707 for 8, and Karnataka spinner Raghuram Bhat was left with figures of 94-26-180-1.
Birth of Uton Dowe, the West Indian seamer who was mauled by Keith Stackpole to such an extent in the Jamaica Test of 1971-72 that the crowd erected a series of banners proclaiming an 11th commandment: "Dowe shalt not bowl."