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March 23 down the years

England's immoveable object

Birth of a future England captain

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Mike Atherton at his bloody-minded best against South Africa in 1995-96
Mike Atherton at his bloody-minded best against South Africa in 1995-96 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Michael Atherton seemed destined for the top long before he made his England debut in the 1989 Ashes debacle. And though there was dirt in the pocket, buffoons, back problems and Ashes failure, Atherton's career had many highlights, most notably 643 minutes of brilliant, bloody-minded resistance in Johannesburg in 1995-96. But Atherton bore the brunt of captaining a modest team, who could not function if he did not make runs, and the fact that only one of his first 10 Test hundreds came in victory speaks volumes. Only at the tail-end of his career - in Christchurch in 1996-97, and at The Oval and in Karachi in 2000 - did Atherton get to savour some match-winning hundreds. He retired in typically understated fashion, at the end of another disappointing Ashes campaign in 2001, and made a smooth transition into the commentary box.

World Cup final day in Johannesburg, and Australia retained their title with a chillingly efficient demolition of India. They had been unapproachable all through the tournament, but saved their best for last by posting a monstrous 359 for 2. Ricky Ponting emulated Clive Lloyd (1975) with a captain's century, and Damien Martyn overcame a broken finger to share in an unbroken third-wicket partnership of 234. India's fate was sealed when Sachin Tendulkar - the Man of the Tournament - was removed in the first over by Glenn McGrath.

Pakistan's finest wicketkeeper is born. The woolly-haired Wasim Bari was a gloveman of the highest quality, a pure keeper who made 228 dismissals in 81 Tests between 1967 and 1983-84, easily a Pakistan record. He took eight catches against England at Headingley in 1971, and made seven dismissals in a Test on four occasions. Bari was no more than useful as a lower-order scrapper, but he did play some important innings, making six fifties, including a Test-best 85 as nightwatchman against India in Lahore in 1978-79. He also made 60 not out in Barbados in 1976-77, a day after he was saved from drowning.

The last day of Kapil Dev's glowing 131-Test career. He ended with 434 wickets at an average of 29.64 - a pre-Walsh-Warne-Murali record - and 5248 often murderously hit runs. His last appearance was the one-off Test against New Zealand in Hamilton, a draw in which New Zealand's 20-year-old debutant Stephen Fleming made 92. But Fleming was still older than Sachin Tendulkar (by a few weeks), who, playing his 32nd Test, crossed 2000 runs during his 47-ball 43 in the first innings. Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin went past 4000 during his 63, which took him nearly three hours to score.

At the age of 21 a man really should be worrying about more exotic things than whether his new-ball bowler needs a third man, but today the Nawab of Pataudi junior took the field as the youngest captain in Test history, a record that stood until Tatenda Taibu first led Zimbabwe. He was only 21 years 77 days old when he led India out against West Indies in Bridgetown - he top-scored in the first innings, but West Indies won by an innings - in place of the injured Nari Contractor, who fractured his skull in a tour match against Barbados and never played Test cricket again.

The end of a perfect series for George Lohmann, who took 35 wickets in three Tests at the astonishing average of 5.80, against an admittedly poor South African side. That included eight wickets in the final Test in Cape Town, which England won by an innings. It turned out to be Lohmann's penultimate Test - he ended with the frightening record of 112 wickets at an average of 10.75.

Where were you when news broke that Ben Hollioake had died when his car spun out of control and crashed into a wall in Perth? The England team were in the middle of the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington. Their captain Nasser Hussain only heard the news when he returned to a stunned dressing room at lunch. Hollioake had been part of England's one-day squad only four weeks earlier.

Another landmark for Allan Border. Against Pakistan in Lahore he became the first man to score 150 or more in both innings of a Test. The match was drawn, which gave Pakistan the series. Dennis Lillee took his only three wickets in Pakistan, and three of only five outside Australasia and England, and at the end Javed Miandad kept wicket to allow Taslim Arif to take his only Test wicket anywhere. Arif, if nobody else, will have reason to remember Graeme Beard's Test career.

Only five Tests for Maurice Allom, who was born today, and those five Tests are remembered for five balls - in England's first-ever Test against New Zealand, in Christchurch in 1929-30 - when Allom took four wickets, including a hat-trick. Only two other men, Chris Old and Wasim Akram, have ever taken four in five balls. Allom, an enormous fast-medium bowler whose 6ft 9in son Anthony later played for Surrey, was also a saxophonist in a jazz band, and went onto become president of MCC and Surrey. He died in Surrey in 1995.

Brian Hastings, who was born today, played 31 Tests for New Zealand between 1968-69 and 1975-76, although he did not make his debut until just before his 29th birthday. He was a solid middle-order performer in a modest side, and was only on the winning side three times in Tests. Hastings later became an ICC match referee.

Other birthdays

1908 Ben Barnett (Australia)
1939 Michael Tissera (Sri Lanka)
1953 Denis Aberhart (New Zealand )
1961 Debbie Wilson (Australia)
1968 Atul Wassan (India)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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