A racially charged row threatens to split cricket
A record-equalling 16th straight Test win for Australia was overshadowed by the row that erupted over the allegation that Harbhajan Singh had racially abused Andrew Symonds during the Sydney Test. Match referee Mike Procter suspended Harbhajan for three Tests but it was reduced to a 50% match-fee fine on appeal, after threats to boycott the tour emerged from the Indian camp. India were also unhappy with several umpiring decisions in the Test: first Symonds, who later admitted to edging a ball when on 30, was not given out by Steve Bucknor, and went on to make an unbeaten 162; Michael Clarke refused to walk when caught at second slip and later claimed a disputed catch off Sourav Ganguly, which umpire Mark Benson accepted as legitimate based on a pre-series agreement between the captains that the fielder's word would be taken. In the end, on the BCCI's insistence, the ICC removed Bucknor from the third Test in Perth.
India's greatest allrounder was born. Kapil Dev is the only player to score 4000 runs and take 400 wickets in Test cricket. His 5248 runs included eight centuries, his 434 wickets were a world record at the time, and he captained India when they won the 1983 World Cup. If he hadn't been dropped for one Test against England in 1984-85 (a disciplinary measure after an attacking stroke at the wrong time), his Test career would have consisted of 132 consecutive matches.
Steve Waugh played his final Test, at his home ground, the SCG. India and Sachin Tendulkar nearly stole his thunder before he came out in the fourth innings to score 80 to draw the Test and the series. Tendulkar, whose previous scores in the series had been 0, 1, 37, 0, 44, scored his then-best 241. VVS Laxman made his second century of the series and the two added 353 - the highest fourth-wicket stand for India - and India got to 705 for 7, at the time their highest total ever. They did not enforce the follow-on, and on the final day, when it was more or less evident the game was headed for a draw, the Waugh farewell party, begun at Brisbane, swung into action. At the end of the game Waugh was carried around the ground by his team-mates. Wisden wrote: "No one had ever left the cricketing stage like this; no one had dared."
In one of the most dramatic finishes to any Test match, Australia made 111, the dreaded Nelson, to lose the Sydney Test to South Africa by an excruciating five runs. Ali Bacher, quoted in Wisden, called it "our finest achievement ever". Fanie de Villiers' 6 for 43 made it possible, as he nailed Australia's top four. It's a match often remembered for Damien Martyn's injudicious waft to cover - he didn't play another Test for over six years.
Another dramatic finish featuring Australia. They completed a nerve-shredding 36-run victory over an exasperating Pakistan side in Sydney to become just the sixth team in Test history to win after trailing by 200-plus on the first innings. After bowling Australia out for 127 (Mohammad Asif took 6 for 41), Pakistan piled up 333. Michael Hussey brought Australia back into the game with an unbeaten 134, adding 123 with Peter Siddle (38 in 217 minutes) for the ninth wicket, to set Pakistan 176 to get in over a day and a half. Pakistan lost six wickets in reaching 103 but their newest batting hope, Umar Akmal, was still around. When he fell, trying to go over the infield, it was all over. Nathan Hauritz, the offspinner Pakistan had targeted though the summer, took 5 for 53.
One more Sydney highlight. Ricky Ponting became the first man to score centuries in both innings of his 100th Test match to set up a stunning final-day victory, following a brave declaration by Graeme Smith. Ponting's first-innings 120 was a rescue effort as Australia fell to 54 for 3 in reply to South Africa's 451. He passed 8000 Test runs during the innings, virtually flawless in his shot-making and placement. The second century (an unbeaten 143 off 159 balls) turned a potential tight chase of 287 from 76 overs into a no-contest and Australia won by nearly 16 overs to spare.
Despite the final day of the second Test between England and India in Calcutta starting with India needing 21 runs to avoid an innings defeat and only three wickets remaining, a near-capacity crowd, estimated at around 90,000, turned up to watch. Wisden reported that "ecstatic scenes were witnessed when India avoided an innings defeat", but the end came soon afterwards as England wrapped-up a ten-wicket win.
A dazzling debut hundred on this day for West Indies' Dwayne Smith against South Africa at Newlands. Smith, who was only 20 at the time, came to the crease with his side wanting an improbable 447 to win, and was prepared to play his shots from the start. He reached his century with a crunching cover drive. It had taken 93 balls, with 15 fours and two sixes.
Near the other end of the scale, Dayle Hadlee was born today. His achievements in Test cricket (71 wickets at 33.64) didn't match those of his famous brother Sir Richard (431 at 22.29) but they might have come closer if he hadn't lost part of a toe when he ran over his own foot with a lawnmower. His father, Walter, and his brother Barry also played for New Zealand.
Australia whitewashed an injury-hit Sri Lanka 3-0, which may have taken the bite off losing at home to South Africa. It capped off an incredible year for captain Michael Clarke, who scored three double-centuries, one triple and notched up 1706 runs at nearly 90.
Yet another Don Bradman entry. Batting for New South Wales against Queensland in Sydney, he hit a megalithic 452, the highest score in first-class cricket before Hanif Mohammad's 499 in 1958-59, and the highest not-out score before Brian Lara's 501 in 1994. He was just 21.
Three giants from Oz bowed out. For Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh, the Sydney Test against Pakistan included their last day in Test cricket. Chappell made 7110 runs and 24 hundreds. He also held a record 122 catches, including seven in one match, while Lillee took 355 wickets and Marsh made 355 dismissals - all of these Test records at the time. Ninety-five of those Marsh and Lillee ones featured both those players: c Marsh b Lillee is the most frequent dismissal in Test history.
That great fast bowler Ray Lindwall (228 Test wickets at 23.03) was no rabbit with the bat. Against England in Melbourne, he hit the first of his two Test hundreds; the second fifty came in only 37 minutes.
Another Australian fast-bowling legend was born. Ted McDonald's partnership with big Jack Gregory scared the wits out of a war-torn England in 1921. Light on his feet but fearsomely fast, McDonald played in only 11 Tests before joining Lancashire, whom he helped to the County Championship four times, including three in a row. He was killed in a bizarre accident, hit by a passing car after surviving a crash in his own.
Birth of yet another Australian pace merchant, but not quite in the same category. When England lost the 1958-59 series Down Under, they muttered darkly about the bowling action of left-arm seamer Ian Meckiff. Nothing was done about it until the Brisbane Test against South Africa in 1963-64, when he was called for throwing four times in his only over and immediately retired from all levels of cricket. He'd taken a total of 45 Test wickets - but at a cost.
West Indies managed to send a full-strength side to South Africa just two months after their players pulled out of the India tour over a contracts dispute, but that didn't prevent them from losing 2-0 in the Test series. In South Africa's innings victory in Centurion, Hashim Amla made a double-hundred, while AB de Villers and debutant Stiaan van Zyl scored centuries, and Dale Steyn took 6 for 34. De Villiers' 148 in Cape Town gave South Africa an eight-wicket win. West Indies' only hundreds - by Kraigg Brathwaite and Marlon Samuels - came in the rain-interrupted draw in Port Elizabeth.
1931 Graeme Hole (Australia)
1965 RP Singh (India)
1965 Mike Allingham (Scotland)
1966 Shahid Saeed (Pakistan)
1973 Sairaj Bahutule (India)
1974 Ali Hussain Rizvi (Pakistan)
1979 Clea Smith (Australia)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Considering the pace of change all across the game, maybe the idea is not all that far-fetched. By Michael Jeh
Wisden Almanack: Not having watched Victor Trumper play in no way deters fans, even today, from loving him
The Cricket Monthly: Murali's 16 wickets at The Oval in 1998 were not only match-winning, they were epoch-changing. By Simon Barnes
TCM February issue
The ICC's commitment to repeal its structural reforms of 2014 is laudable, but it would be wrong to pretend the game was in rude health before the Big Three era
V Ramnarayan: Talking captaincy, elegance and the playing of spin with the great England stylist
ESPNcricinfo picks its best XI for each franchise after the IPL 2016 auction in Bangalore on Saturday
Stats highlights from the final T20I between Australia and India in Sydney, which the visitors won to complete a series sweep
Cricket's future lies with the young, but that future is an uncertain one, as the latest furore over mankading shows
The identity of the big hitters in India's lower-middle order is the only piece of the puzzle that needs to be solved, as they approach the World T20 in March