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February 21 down the years

Slashing Slats

A destructive Australian opening batsman is born

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Michael Slater: seven sizzling hundreds in his first 16 Ashes Tests
Michael Slater: seven sizzling hundreds in his first 16 Ashes Tests © Getty Images
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1970
The birth of one of the most destructive and self-destructive batsmen of the modern era. When Michael Slater laced an enchanting 152 at Lord's in his second Test in 1993, he looked at home in cricket's big league. Alongside fellow Wagga Wagga boy Mark Taylor, Slater smacked a staggering seven hundreds in his first 16 Ashes Tests, at such a rate as to define not only the tempo of a game but the series as well - remember that 176 at the Gabba in 1994-95? But Slater's career has been riddled with paradoxes. Despite his destructive style of batsmanship, he played more Tests than one-dayers, and after a classic assault on Darren Gough in the opening exchanges of the 2001 Ashes, he fell by the wayside.

1994
Courtney Walsh v Mike Atherton. A heavyweight bout at Sabina Park was sparked by West Indies' tried and tested method of nailing the opposition captain as early as possible in a series. Atherton eventually cracked - caught at short leg for 28 - but not before he had impressed everyone in resisting a fearsome spell, comparable for sustained hostility with Allan Donald's working-over at Trent Bridge in 1998. A day later Walsh launched a less endearing assault, on Devon Malcolm, which was described in Wisden Cricket Monthly as "disgraceful".

1965
Birth of Keith Arthurton, the West Indian for whom life at the top was a mixed bag. A dashing left-hander and an outstanding cover fielder, Arthurton certainly had his moments: an unbeaten 157 in Brisbane in 1992-93, a century against England in Jamaica in 1993-94 (the same Test that saw the Walsh-Atherton duel), and a flurry of strutting seventies. But for all the bluster, Arthurton - only the third Test player from the small island of Nevis - was never quite as good as his Caribbean predecessors: he made eight ducks in 33 Tests, and his international career never recovered from a horrible 1996 World Cup, in which he made two runs in five innings.

1951
A nearly man is born. New Zealander John Parker was a solid batsman and occasional wicketkeeper who played 36 Tests between 1973 and 1980. He made three Test hundreds, but two of them came in defeat and none in victory; indeed when New Zealand won, Parker averaged only 10. He wasn't born for one-day cricket either: in 24 pyjama outings, his average was a paltry 12.

1996
The first match of Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning campaign. They won by default in their scheduled opening game, when a security-conscious Australian side pulled out. Here, against Zimbabwe in Colombo, they eased home by six wickets with 13 overs to spare, in spite of a false start for their jet-propelled openers Sanath Jayasuriya (6) and Romesh Kaluwitharana (a first-ball 0). A brilliant 86-ball 91 from Aravinda de Silva earned him the Man-of-the-Match award; it provided a neat symmetry when he took the same award in the final a month later.

2003
It is richly ironic that, on the same day that New Zealand forfeited a World Cup fixture against Kenya in Nairobi on security grounds, they were also ejected from a Durban nightclub after a drunken brawl. At the centre of the scuffle was Chris Cairns, who had removed his shirt to thunder out New Zealand's traditional haka war cry, and was hit on the back of the head before collapsing on the pavement outside. No doubt he wished he'd made the trip north after all.

1945
Birth of Sudhir Naik, the Bombay opener who was once accused of stealing a pair of socks from Marks & Spencer. That was on India's 1974 tour of England, when he made his Test debut at Edgbaston and made a defiant 77 in an innings defeat. He played two Tests the following winter against West Indies but made only 60 runs in four innings and was not picked again.

1946
With a Test record that read 81 not out, 88, 14, 72, 4 not out, you'd think that Jamaican Desmond Lewis, who was born today, had done enough to keep his place. Those runs came for West Indies against India in 1970-71, but Lewis was soon replaced by the superior gloveman Deryck Murray. Consolation came in the form of an average of 86.33. Statistically, Lewis is the best wicketkeeper-batsman of all time.

1908
Neville Quinn, the left-arm medium-pacer who was born today, toured England with South Africa in 1929. In the first innings of the third Test, at Leeds, he took six wickets for 92 runs, and for the season headed the South African averages with 65 wickets at 23.89 runs apiece. He visited Australia and New Zealand with the South African team in 1931-32, finishing second in the bowling averages for the Tests with 13 wickets for 512 runs. Quinn died suddenly at the age of 26 in Kimberly.

1883
South African Mick Commaille, born today, played 12 Tests against England between 1910 and 1928, scoring 355 runs. He played for Cape Town for many years, mostly as an opening batsman. His best season was 1912, when he exceeded 1000 runs. He also played association football and was the secretary of the South African Football Association and an administrator for the Western Province FA.

Other birthdays
1971 Hemantha Wickramaratne (Sri Lanka)
1976 Sridharan Sriram (India)
1976 Naved Latif (Pakistan)
1981 Jackie Hawker (England)

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