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March 18 down the years

World Cup tragedy

The death of Bob Woolmer

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A Pakistan fan lights candles in memory of Bob Woolmer in the days after his death
A Pakistan fan lights candles in memory of Bob Woolmer in the days after his death © AFP

Twenty-four hours on from the greatest upset in World Cup history, an even greater off-field shock brought the Caribbean carnival to an instant and terrible halt. Bob Woolmer, the coach of the Pakistan team that had been knocked out of the tournament by Ireland, was found unconscious in his hotel bathroom and later died in hospital. He was 58. As the world digested the enormity of the news, all manner of rumours, theories and plots flooded the airwaves, and within four days the Jamaica police had launched a murder inquiry. After months of fruitless speculation, they eventually conceded he had died of natural causes.

Birth of Eknath Solkar, the best short-leg fielder to ever grace the game. The top catchers are usually firmly camped in the slip cordon, but most of Solkar's takes came at forward short leg, where he lurked uncomfortably up close and personal to the batsman. When India beat West Indies for the first time ever, in Port-of-Spain in 1970-71, Solkar equalled the then world record of six catches in a Test. His catches - among them one taken diving full stretch forward - also helped India to victory against England at The Oval in 1971, the team's first Test win in England. Statistically Solkar remains Test cricket's most successful fielder, with 53 catches in just 27 matches - the best ratio of any non-wicketkeeper with 20 or more Tests. He was also a dependable lower-order batsman, and took 18 wickets with his slow medium pace and chinamen. Solkar died in 2005.

When Michael Clarke's team came to India, having beat them 4-0 at home in 2011-12, they were diminished by the retirement of two of their best batsmen - Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. They lost the first Test in Chennai in a little over four days, and the second in Hyderabad in just over three. The highlights were a career-best double-hundred by MS Dhoni in the first, and a 370-run stand by Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay in the second. Then came the homework saga: Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja and James Pattinson were dropped from the third Test on grounds of indiscipline (not completing an assignment set by the coach, among other things). But while the squad received a shake-up, the scoreline did not. India went up 3-0 in Mohali after Shikhar Dhawan replaced Virender Sehwag and scored 187 in an eye-popping debut innings. India needed about 100 runs in the final session (the first day was a washout) and got there with minutes to spare. They then went on to seal the whitewash 4-0 in three days on a spinning track in Delhi the following week.

An England coach is flippin' born. The hyperactive Lancastrian David Lloyd, a left-handed opener, played seven Tests in 1974 and 1975. He even made a double-hundred, against India in Edgbaston in his second Test. He has many other strings to his bow: umpire, eccentric commentator (he once opined that "If Nathan Astle's a bowler, my back side's a fire engine"), after-dinner speaker, and England's cheerleading coach between 1996 and 1999.

It's a good job Lloyd wasn't in charge of England today, when Zimbabwe beat them fair and square in the World Cup match in Albury. It didn't matter as such, because England were already through to the semi-finals, but it was nonetheless humiliating - this was Zimbabwe's first win in 19 attempts in pre-Test days - and symptomatic of the increasing fatigue of an England side that had looked invincible a couple of weeks earlier. Zimbabwe had only 134 runs to play with, but Eddo Brandes was both frugal and incisive. He nailed Messrs Gooch (with the first ball of the innings), Lamb, Smith, and his old school chum Graeme Hick (another duck), to end with 4 for 21. England went down by nine runs, and seven days later they lost to Pakistan in the final.

On the same day, Pakistan got the victory they needed against New Zealand in Christchurch to qualify for the semis. Mushtaq Ahmed was at his roguish best, hoodwinking the Kiwis with 2 for 18 in ten overs, and Pakistan romped to their target of 167 with plenty of time to spare. As well as being New Zealand's first defeat of the tournament, it meant the holders, Australia, were eliminated, and it set up another Pakistan-New Zealand clash, in the semi-final, three days later.

During the inaugural Test, a man who would make his mark on Australia's Test history was born. Left-handed middle-order dasher Clem Hill was a wonderful player, and the best of six brothers who all played first-class cricket. His highest score was 191, against South Africa in Sydney in 1910-11, and he also made 99, 98 and 97 in consecutive innings against England in 1901-02. Hill was a brilliant fielder and took a famous catch at Old Trafford in 1902, running from long-on to square leg for a skier from Dick Lilley at a crucial stage of a three-run Aussie victory. He died in Melbourne in 1945.

England's 1992-93 vintage wouldn't make too many all-time-great lists, and their nightmare dodgy-prawn tour of the subcontinent went from bad to worse when they lost a Test to Sri Lanka for the first time. England should have been safe after posting 380 - Robin Smith, that supposedly awful player of spin, made 128 as opener before being bowled by a young Muttiah Muralitharan - but five of Sri Lanka's top six made it to 50 to put their side in charge. Faced with a deficit of 89, England collapsed. Jayananda Warnaweera, whose action raised a few eyebrows, took four wickets in each innings and victory was sealed when Sri Lanka's No. 7, Sanath Jayasuriya, smashed his first ball for six.

If Craig White was proof of Ray Illingworth's eye for a cricketer, then Shaun Udal, who was born today, was the one that got away. In his BBC commentary role Illingworth waxed lyrical about Udal's action for years, then picked him for his first game in charge, and Udal responded tidily with 2 for 39 in the one-dayer against New Zealand at Edgbaston in 1994. He went on the following winter's Ashes tour, but that appeared to be as close as he would get to a Test appearance, as Illingworth turned instead to his namesake, Richard, and Mike Watkinson. But remarkably, 11 years later Udal got his chance. Picked as a replacement for Ashley Giles on the tour to India in March 2006, he starred with 4 for 14 in a memorable series-levelling victory in Mumbai.

Other birthdays
1890 Philip Hands (South Africa)
1894 "Doodles" Tapscott (South Africa)
1898 John Clay (England)
1919 Len Johnson (Australia)
1924 Madhusudan Rege (India)
1953 Nicholas Wisdom (England)
1955 Graeme Porter (Australia)
1961 Kevan James (England)
1961 Lindsay Reeler (Australia)
1969 Shaiza Khan (Pakistan)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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