Allrounder, captain, commentator
To a generation of cricket fans Richie Benaud, who was born today, was simply the best commentator in the business. But in his time he was also a marvellous allrounder: dashing batsman, brilliant fielder, ingenious legspinner and peerless captain (he lost only four of 28 Tests as captain and Australia never lost a series when he was in charge). His finest hour came at Old Trafford in 1961. Bowling into the rough outside leg stump, he took 6 for 70 to help Australia retain the Ashes after England had looked set to go one-up with one to play. As a journalist he was held in the highest regard. Economical and authoritative, Benaud was also the only person in the world who could get away with describing a loose stroke as a "windy woof", as he did when Nathan Astle was caught behind at Edgbaston in 1999. Benaud died at the age of 84 after a long battle with skin cancer and having suffered the after-effects of a serious car accident near his Coogee home in late 2013.
Test cricket has never seen anybody quite like Tony Greig, who was born in South Africa today, the son of a Scottish father, and went on to captain England and later settle in Australia. A muscular allrounder with a taste for the big occasion, Greig was never far from controversy. He played a leading role in the setting up of World Series Cricket, and he also notoriously ran out Alvin Kallicharran after the last ball of the day had been bowled in Port-of-Spain in 1973-74. Greig apologised and the appeal was later retracted. And then there was his "We'll make them grovel" comment, which came back to haunt him so spectacularly against West Indies in 1976. His zealous style was not everyone's cup of tea, but Greig was a popular and successful TV commentator. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012 and succumbed to a heart attack a few months later.
The birth of Reon King, the athletic Guyanese fast bowler with a slinky run-up, sometimes compared to Michael Holding's. King was considered West Indies' fastest bowler at the end of the 1990s and picked up his first Test five-for against Zimbabwe in Jamaica in 2000. Two months later, after setting up a tight win over Pakistan, he and Franklyn Rose seemed almost ready to succeed Ambrose and Walsh. But both fell away during the 2000 tour of England, where King was said to be troubled by a heel injury. He was a forgotten man for four years, until he was recalled for the home series against South Africa in 2004-05, when a raft of leading players were sidelined by a contract dispute.
Gifted with genuine pace and an ability to use his height to extract bounce, Morne Morkel, born on this day, made his mark against the touring Indian team in 2006, taking 4 for 29 for Rest of South Africa, and earned a Test call-up as a result. He grabbed a five-for in just his second Test and impressed in the World T20 the following year. Injuries plagued him for much of 2008, but he made a comeback on South Africa's triumphant tour of England, and was part of the team that won a historic Test series in Australia in 2008-09. By the time Makhaya Ntini retired, Morkel had become a new-ball partner for Dale Steyn, and with the emergence of Vernon Philander in 2011, South Africa's pace attack was now one that befit their No. 1 Test ranking. In 2010-11, in Centurion, Steyn and Morkel shared 14 wickets to beat India by an innings. Morkel reached the 150-wickets milestone in his 42nd Test. He took 8 for 196 in the thrilling draw in Adelaide in 2012 and another seven wickets in the win in Galle in 2014, and was South Africa's leading wicket-taker in the 2015 World Cup, with 17.
That intrepid player of the hook Les Favell was born. He was a dashing opener who had little time for the forward defensive, and once scored 22 off the first four balls of Australia's innings against Trinidad in 1955. But ironically his only Test century came when he did offer a straight bat: Favell batted throughout the first day for the 101 that set Australia up for an innings victory in Madras in 1959-60. His 12,379 first-class runs are the highest aggregate for an Australian who never toured England. A legend in Adelaide (he was born in New South Wales but played for South Australia), he died of cancer in 1987.
Only a fool messed with the fearsome figure of George Brown, who was born today: in a county match he purposefully took successive bumpers on the chest, with his bat held out of the way, before bursting into laughter. The striking-looking Brown was a genuine allrounder, who batted left-handed, bowled right-handed and kept wicket in all of his seven Tests. He made over 25,000 runs and took over 600 wickets in first-class cricket for Hampshire, and when he died in 1964 his ashes were scattered over the ground at Southampton.
When he was given a central contract for the 2000 season, Chris Schofield, who was born today, looked set to end England's desperate search for a decent legspinner. But Zimbabwe took him apart on a Trent Bridge shirtfront and the England selectors, fearful of a Lara savaging, dropped him. After that, his career nose-dived. He was released prematurely by Lancashire in 2004, which led to a lengthy and unseemly industrial tribunal. Though he won his case, he was awarded just £7000 in damages, and went to ply his trade with Cheshire. Remarkably Schofield returned as a T20 specialist in England's squad for the inaugural ICC World T20 in 2007.
Birth of the tireless Morris Nichols, who did the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets eight times for Essex between 1929 and 1939. Nichols was a useful allrounder whose batting average was higher than his bowling at both Test and first-class level. But he only played 14 Tests, and saved his most famous performance for his county. At Huddersfield in 1935, he took 11 for 54 and scored 146 as Essex thrashed Yorkshire, the champions, by an innings. He died in Nottingham in 1961.
Only three Tests for slow left-armer Murray Bennett, who was born today, but at least he got to play Goliath. In Sydney in 1984-85, he and Bob Holland spun the mighty West Indies to defeat in Clive Lloyd's last Test. It was their first loss in three years and 28 Tests, but Bennett only tasted life at the top level once more, when he was taken to the cleaners at The Oval in 1985 as England regained the Ashes. Bennett was also a pioneer of the kind of dark glasses that are commonplace in cricket today.
IPL winners Mumbai Indians took their second Champions League title, beating Rajasthan Royals by 33 runs in the final in Delhi. Mumbai set Royals a stiff chase of 203, which Harbhajan Singh went on to derail with three wickets in an over. The match was the last in the format for Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.
1861 Digger Robertson (Australia)
1867 Victor Barton (England)
1957 Shahzad Altaf (UAE)
1964 Gholam Nousher (Bangladesh)
1965 Ian Allen (West Indies)
1973 Smitha Harikrishna (India)
1975 Anthony McGrath (England)
1976 Sanjay Raul (India)
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For an Aussie kid growing up in the 1990s, hating England came easy. Except when Darren Gough ran in to bowl. By Brett Geeves
The Cricket Monthly February issue
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