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February 17 down the years

South Africa's Superman

Birth of AB de Villiers

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 Bandula Warnapura and Keith Fletcher go out to toss in Sri Lanka's first Test
Bandula Warnapura and Keith Fletcher go out to toss in Sri Lanka's first Test © David Frith
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1984
An acrobatic fielder and flamboyant wicketkeeper-batsman is born. AB de Villiers was destined to be a sportsman - such was his natural talent that tennis, golf, cricket or rugby could have been his calling. Cricket won, and by the age of 21 he was being hailed as "the future" in South Africa. After a bright start to his career in 2004, there were a couple of years when he sparkled only intermittently but 2008 turned out to be memorable. He made a double-hundred against India, and his match-winning knocks of 174 at Headingley and 106 not out in Perth paved the way for historic Test series wins in England and Australia. In 2010, de Villiers broke Gary Kirsten's record for the highest South African score, making an unbeaten 278 against Pakistan. The year after, he was named the limited-overs captain. Early in 2015, he broke the world record for the fastest ODI ton, scored off 31 balls, in a ODI at the Wanderers, cementing his reputation as perhaps the most versatile and destructive batsman of the 2010s.

1982
A big day in Sri Lanka. Their life as the eighth Test-playing nation began today in Colombo with a one-off Test against England. Sri Lanka made a good fist of it too: England only managed a first-innings lead of 5, and with Sri Lanka 167 for 3 in their second innings, things were getting interesting. Then John Emburey broke the habit of a lifetime and took a match-winning five-for, Sri Lanka lost seven wickets for eight runs, and England breezed home by seven wickets. An 18-year-old student called Arjuna Ranatunga was in the Sri Lankan side, and made 54 in the first innings.

1916
Birth of the greatest wicketkeeper of all time, according to the greatest cricketer of all time. Australian Don Tallon was given the gloves in Don Bradman's slightly woolly XI, but disputes over Tallon's presence had nothing to do with his ability behind the stumps. In an age when keepers kept and batsmen scored runs, Tallon was able to get away with a batting average of 17 because he was so precise and deft a keeper. His attacking style with the bat occasionally came off too, most notably when he hammered a run-a-minute 92 against England in Melbourne in 1946-47. He died in his native Queensland in 1984.

1883
The start of a one-off Test between Australia and England in Sydney, played on four separate wickets - one for each innings. The experiment was agreed as the game was a last-minute addition to the schedule because the best-of-three series had already been won by England. Australia triumphed by four wickets.

1971
At the end of the longest rubber in Test history, England won the seventh Test against Australia in Sydney by 62 runs to take the series 2-0 and regain the Ashes. This despite, quite astonishingly, not a single lbw decision being given against an Australian batsman in the whole series. This match - Ian Chappell's first as captain, after Bill Lawry was dumped - was notable for crowd trouble on the second day, after John Snow felled Terry Jenner, which led to Ray Illingworth taking his team off the field.

1936
Another Australian wicketkeeper is born. Barry Jarman started off as understudy to Wally Grout before playing 19 Tests between 1959 and 1969. Nimble despite his 13 stone-plus frame, he was a very good keeper and a dangerous lower-order hitter who made two Test fifties. Jarman later became a Test umpire and an ICC referee, and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997.

1998
The second of the back-to-back Trinidad Tests produced another three-wicket win, and another instance of the fourth innings being the highest of the match. But this time it was England who were celebrating, after Mark Butcher and Dean Headley got them drip by drip to their target of 225 in a tense finish. Another heroic performance from Angus Fraser, who took nine wickets to go with his 11 in the first match, was complemented by a brilliant display from Alec Stewart (44 and 83 in a match where there was only one other fifty).

1973
New Zealand opener Rodney Redmond, made a blistering two-hour 107 on this day in his first Test innings, against Pakistan in Auckland. He added 56 in the second innings to complete an outstanding debut, but the dream soon turned into a nightmare: Redmond never played a Test again. He toured England the following summer but had problems with his new contact lenses - and the one-eyed Kiwi selectors, who were influenced by his poor early-tour form and didn't pick him for the Tests.

1976
New Zealand's first innings victory. Those great travellers India were the victims in Wellington, with Richard Hadlee taking 4 for 35 and then 7 for 23 as India were bowled out for 220 and 81. This was also the last Test of Ken Wadsworth's career: he extended the New Zealand wicketkeeping record for dismissals to 96, but six months later he died of cancer aged only 29.

1996
Aged 47 years and 240 days, Nolan Clarke became the oldest player to make his ODI debut when he appeared against New Zealand in Vadodara during Netherlands' first World Cup game. Clarke, opening the batting, scored 14.

1882
The first Test at the SCG. Australia won by five wickets to take a 1-0 lead after offspinner Joey Palmer took 11 wickets (7 for 68 and 4 for 97) opening the bowling along with left-arm spinner Edwin Evans. England's George Ulyett was the top scorer with 67. His opening partner Dick Barlow was the only other batsman to get a half-century.

1962
A polished right-hand batsman and sound wicketkeeper, Tony Blain, born today, suffered from being an almost permanent understudy, first to Ian Smith and then Adam Parore. He made his Test debut against England at The Oval in 1986 and scored a battling 37 but spilt a swirling skier from Ian Botham. He next played twice against India in 1988-89, and had a final eight-match run in the side in 1992 with home and away matches against Australia and a tour to Pakistan. He also played 38 ODIs. After retiring, Blain did some coaching and commentary work.

1981
Ryan Hinds, who was born today, captained the West Indian side in the 2000 Under-19 World Cup. And while Desmond Haynes said his batting technique was the best in the Caribbean, Hinds made news with his left-arm spin, taking 15 wickets against the Leeward Islands in the 2001 Busta Cup, including 9 for 68 in the first innings. He scored a half-century on Test debut in 2002 but failed to be consistent after that. He waited three years for a recall - against Sri Lanka in 2008 - and nearly took a break from the game. In 2009 he played against Bangladesh after the senior players went on strike.

Other birthdays
1898 Tom Lowry (New Zealand)
1936 Peter Walker (England)
1937 Ray Jordon (Australia)
1940 Dennis Gamsy (South Africa)
1972 Helen Watson (England)
1988 Adil Rashid (England)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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