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February 1 down the years

The birth of Biff

Graeme Smith is born

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Graeme Smith led South Africa to the No. 1 spot in Tests
Graeme Smith led South Africa to the No. 1 spot in Tests © PA Photos

Birth of the first player to captain in 100 Tests. The selectors took a rather big gamble when, after a disastrous campaign in the 2003 World Cup, they handed the captaincy to an inexperienced 22-year old Graeme Smith - the youngest to take charge of South Africa. He soon impressed with back-to-back double-centuries on the 2003 tour of England. Defeats came the way of a team in transition, but Smith continued to score big at the top of the order. The thrill of chasing 434 in an ODI against Australia was muted by a 3-0 Test loss to Australia in 2006, and an embarrassing loss in the World Cup semi-final the next year. However, the 2-1 home win against India in 2006-07 kickstarted a phenomenal run for the South African Test side under Smith. They conquered Pakistan, Bangladesh (he put on a record opening stand of 415 with Neil McKenzie in Chittagong) and England, and the icing on the cake was a historic series win in Australia late in 2008. More overseas wins piled up under his watch, and in 2012, after beating England 2-0, South Africa became the No. 1 Test side. That year they did not lose a single Test - beating Australia 1-0 too in a memorable away series.

A one-day final, and the opponents need six off the last ball just to tie. If you were an Australian, you'd back yourself to win, wouldn't you? Greg Chappell didn't. He was so scared of New Zealand's Brian McKechnie (one-day career: 54 runs in 14 matches) that he ordered his bowler - who just happened to be his brother, Trevor - to bowl the last ball underarm. It did the trick and Australia won the match; but they lost a lot of friends - the tactic caused much consternation and was quickly banned. Ian Chappell, brother of Trevor and Greg, was commentating at the time and said: "No Greg, you can't do that."

Another thriller in the 1960-61 Australia-West Indies series. It was 1-1 with two to play going into the fourth Test in Adelaide, and after back-to-back hundreds from Rohan Kanhai and a hat-trick from Lance Gibbs, Australia had to chase 460 or, more realistically, survive 120 (eight-ball) overs. Wickets fell steadily, and the last man Lindsay Kline (first-class average: 8) came to the crease with 100 minutes remaining. At the other end was Ken "Slasher" Mackay - the nickname was ironic - and he was the perfect man for the situation. With nails all over Australia bitten to the quick, the pair somehow survived and Australia lived to fight another day - which they did, winning the last Test to take the series.

Although largely remembered as a brilliant captain who struggled with the bat at Test level, Mike Brearley was a much better batsman than that. Against North Zone in Peshawar, Brearley hit 312 in 330 minutes as the MCC Under-25 XI ended the first day at 514 for 4. His third hundred took just 51 minutes, and in all he struck 41 fours and three sixes.

An inglorious English collapse. Already 0-2 down in the series, England looked to be salvaging some pride in the last Test in Perth when Allan Lamb and Robin Smith belted them to 191 for 2 just before tea on the first day. Then the roof caved in. Craig McDermott took a Test-best 8 for 97 and the tail was blown away - the last eight wickets went down for 53 on a true pitch. It was pitiful stuff. The second innings was even worse: only Smith and Phil Newport passed 25. Australia won by nine wickets, and for the first time since 1958-59, England had failed to win a match in a five-Test series in Australia.

His star fell because of his alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal, but Ajay Jadeja, who was born today, was one of the darlings of Indian cricket and even captained them in a handful of one-dayers. He played only 15 Tests, but featured in 196 one-dayers, and gave India crucial momentum in the taut World Cup quarter-final against Pakistan in 1996 with a rascally 25-ball 45, including 22 off one over from Waqar Younis. An impish hitter and a very good finisher, his medium pace was of the occasional variety, but he did take 3 for 3 in a one-dayer against England in Sharjah in 1998-99. He was, by a long way, one of India's best fielders in the 1990s.

Shoaib Malik, who was born today, hardly had success as Pakistan captain - besides smashing the minnows and reaching the final of the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007 - during his stint in charge. However, his adaptability makes him a handy asset in the Pakistan set-up. He has batted in every position in ODIs since his debut in 1999. He began at Test level batting in the lower order and was even used as an opener, and astonishingly proved an adept one. In 2010, Malik was banned for a year by the PCB on grounds of indiscipline. In typical Pakistan board style, it was overturned in two months. As an offspinner in the modern mould, everything about his bowling, from short-stepping run-up to the doosra, bears striking similarities with Saqlain Mushtaq (though Malik is not as obviously gifted).

Three Tests, three centuries: Mohammad Azharuddin's introduction to life at the top was just about perfect. Today, against England in Kanpur, he became the first batsman to make a century in each of his first three Tests. It was glorious stuff - his second fifty took only 38 balls - but it couldn't drive India to the victory they needed to square the series, and a very good year for England and their captain, David Gower - who would guide them to a 3-1 Ashes win - was underway.

One down with one to play, but Australia had a new ingredient for the crucial third Test against South Africa in Adelaide: Steve Waugh. Having missed the first two games through injury, Waugh returned with 164 and 4 for 26, and though South Africa fought tooth and nail for a draw - despite a fractured thumb, nightwatchman Fanie de Villiers survived 197 minutes for 30 on the last day - Shane Warne and Craig McDermott wrapped them up in the final session. Peter Kirsten, who batted 568 minutes in the match, was twice fined for dissent, and Hansie Cronje, captaining South Africa for the first time, refused to comment on a mysterious hole that appeared in their dressing-room wall. Must have been given a duff tip.

A pretender is born. Franklyn Rose looked the part as a successor to Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh when he became the first West Indian to take a six-for on debut, against India at Sabina Park in 1996-97, but he soon went off the boil. Fast and skiddy at his best, Rose could be inconsistent and wayward, and in England in 2000 he bowled woefully, his errant spell deciding the low-scoring Lord's Test when Dominic Cork cracked him for 4 and 6.

Peter Fulton or "two-metre Peter", born today, made his New Zealand debut in ODIs in 2004. He scored his first hundred in his fifth game against Sri Lanka in Napier. In eight World Cup games in 2007 he scored 297 at 37.12. He made his Test debut in March 2006 but was moved around the batting order and was unable to cement a place anywhere in the top 5. In 2007 he had to have surgery on his knee and struggled for consistency since then.

A marvellous stand between Grant and Andy Flower against Pakistan in Harare. They put on 269 for the fourth wicket, passing the record of Ian and Greg Chappell (264) for brotherly Test partnerships. Grant went on to make an unbeaten 201, and in a collapse that would later raise a few eyebrows, Pakistan were bowled out for 322 and 158 to give Zimbabwe their first Test victory in their 11th match, by an innings and 64 runs.

Tip Snooke, born today, played 26 Tests for South Africa as a stylish right-handed batsman and right-arm fast-medium bowler. He was a regular member of the side before the First World War, captaining the team in the five-Test series with England in 1909-10. He was recalled and opened the attack against England as a 42-year-old in 1922-23. Snooke scored 1008 Test runs, making a century against Australia at Adelaide in 1910-11, and took 35 Test wickets.

The day England won the World Cup. The under-19 World Cup, that is. They beat New Zealand in the final in Johannesburg by seven wickets, with Essex's Stephen Peters making 107. The squad had the likes of Robert Key, Chris Schofield, Owais Shah, Graeme Swann and Paul Frank.

Other birthdays
1910 Jahangir Khan (India)
1922 Clifford McWatt (West Indies)
1942 David Sincock (Australia)
1950 Naseer Malik (Pakistan)
1965 Dave Callaghan (South Africa)
1969 Mahbubur Rahman (Bangladesh)
1987 Moises Henriques (Australia)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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