July 9, 2012

Happy birthday to me

Cricketers who earned presents for themselves on their birthdays

A Test hat-trick
The first day of the 2010-11 Ashes series was the Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle's 26th birthday, and he celebrated in unique style by slicing open England's middle order with a high-quality hat-trick - Alastair Cook caught at slip, Matthew Prior bowled middle stump, and Stuart Broad lbw to a yorker. Siddle ended the day with 6 for 54... but had a tougher time of it in the series after that.

A triple-century
As Colin Cowdrey was born on Christmas Eve, he didn't get too many opportunities to bat on his birthday. One time that he did was on England's tour Down Under in 1962-63, when the match against South Australia started just before his 30th birthday. Cowdrey made 244 not out on the first day, and completed the only triple-century of his career as a birthday gift to himself when play resumed. For years afterwards he drove around in a car with the number plate "MCC 307", being his initials and his highest score. In 1956, Cowdrey had scored 51 not out on his birthday in a yuletide Test against South Africa, but was out for 59 when play resumed on Boxing Day.

The Ashes (twice)
Australia's captain Bill Woodfull won back the Ashes with an innings victory at The Oval on his 33rd birthday in August 1930 - and repeated the trick four years later, reclaiming the urn (lost during the Bodyline series) after a 562-run win. Don Bradman, who had scored 232 in the 1930 victory, chipped in again with 244.

A first Test cap
A total of 11 players have been presented with what some might consider the best gift of all - a first Test cap - on their birthday. One, Bransby Cooper of Australia, got his in the very first Test in March 1877: the others include the old England captain Arthur Gilligan and the dependable West Indian wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.

A one-day hundred on 21st birthday
The bling-loving left-hander Vinod Kambli celebrated his 21st birthday, in January 1993, by caning England for an undefeated 100 in a one-day international in Jaipur. Kambli shared an unbroken stand of 164 with his old school chum Sachin Tendulkar. It wasn't quite the perfect birthday, though: England snatched victory off the last ball.

A six-wicket haul
Iain O'Brien, the New Zealand swing bowler, marked his 33rd birthday, in July 2009, by taking 6 for 39 for Leicestershire against Middlesex at Grace Road. He joined Middlesex the following year.

Captaining your country to victory...
... and also taking a wicket with your first ball: that's what Stuart Broad did on June 24 this year, his 26th birthday, while skippering England in their Twenty20 international against West Indies at Trent Bridge. His first delivery accounted for Lendl Simmons, caught at deep square, and Broad went on to oversee a seven-wicket win.

A century at Lord's
WG Grace hit 109 for the Gentlemen against the Players at Lord's on July 18, 1870 - his 22nd birthday. Seven years later he did it again, with 110 for a combined Gloucestershire and Yorkshire team against "England". And on his 56th birthday, in 1904, playing for London County against MCC at Crystal Palace, he made 61 not out - and went on to make 166 next day. It was, according to Wisden, "an exceedingly fine display, hitting with great power in all directions" - and it was WG's last first-class hundred.

Five sixes
On his 28th birthday, in December 2009, Yuvraj Singh - who had earlier taken three wickets - made sure India won their Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka in Mohali by slamming five sixes in reaching 60 not out from just 25 balls. "This is my best birthday till now," said Yuvraj afterwards.

A World Cup century
The New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor marked his 27th birthday, in March 2011, with a ferocious assault on Pakistan's bowlers during their World Cup match in Pallekele in Sri Lanka. Taylor's last 13 balls brought him 55 runs as New Zealand sprinted to a winning total of 302: he ended up with 131 not out, including seven sixes.

A century against Australia in a final
People who jibe about Sachin Tendulkar not making runs when it matters may have forgotten the superb 134 - on his 25th birthday in 1998 - that ensured India won the Sharjah Cup final against Australia. The only others to score one-day international hundreds on their birthday are Vinod Kambli and Ross Taylor (see above), and Sanath Jayasuriya, who made 130 for Sri Lanka v Bangladesh in Karachi on his 39th birthday in 2008.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012