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November 23 down the years

A World Cup-winning opener

The birth of Gary Kirsten

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Merv Hughes: formidable of facial hair
Merv Hughes: formidable of facial hair © Getty Images

Gary Kirsten, who was born today, may not have emptied too many bars but through determination and no little skill he turned himself into one of the best openers of his era. He made his debut in Australia in 1993-94, and in his second Test made typically understated contributions of 67 and 41 as South Africa won a Sydney classic by five runs. His first Test ton (110 against England in Atherton's match in Johannesburg) was two years and 17 Tests in coming, but Kirsten soon got a taste for the long innings - his 275 against England in Durban in 1999-2000 equalled the national record, and eight of his 21 Test centuries were scores of more than 150. He was also the first South African to make 5000 Test runs. After retiring, Kirsten spent some time with the Warriors as a consultant batting coach, and in 2006 set up his own academy in Cape Town. In December 2007 he signed a deal to coach India and during his reign the team moved up to No. 1 in the Test rankings for the first time and also won the 2011 World Cup, after which he quit the side and took charge of South Africa.

Sledging, drinking, and the most famous moustache in modern cricket history - the round-bellied Australian legend Merv Hughes, who was born today, is a true one-off. His cult status often obscured the fact that he was an extremely good quick bowler. He was heroic against a rampant West Indies in 1988-89 - he took 13 wickets, including a hat-trick spread over two innings, in defeat in Perth - and his castling of Mike Gatting with the last ball of the fourth day of the first Ashes Test in 1993 was every bit as vital as Shane Warne's "ball of the century" to dismiss Gatting in the first innings. Hughes also had in his locker a hilariously obvious slower "balloon", which somehow did for Chris Broad in Headingley in 1989. He could wave the long handle too, and flogged back-to-back fifties in 1989. Not even the most ardent Hughes devotee would claim he was a great bowler, even though he took 212 Test wickets, but through his love of hard graft, beer and a scrap he become a hero to a nation, and went on to become a selector.

A bizarre case of politics interfering with sport. Eight days before the start of the first Test between England and Australia, Clem Jones, lord mayor of Brisbane and member of the cricket ground trust, sacked the curator at the Gabba because he objected to the way the pitch was being prepared (it was being rolled sideways) and took over the job himself. Jones' decision was vindicated as Australia won the match by 166 runs and went on to a 4-1 series victory. Jones later had a stand at the ground named after him.

A thrilling finish in the first Test in Ahmedabad, where India squeezed past South Africa by 64 runs. In a low-scoring scrap there were only two half-centuries: Fanie de Villiers ground out an unbeaten 67, his highest Test score, to give South Africa a first-innings lead of 21, but then the debutant VVS Laxman made a cool 51 to leave South Africa chasing 170. They fell short, losing six wickets for nine runs in 25 balls as Javagal Srinath (6 for 21) ripped them apart. Six South Africans failed to score. Hansie Cronje, left high and dry on 48, took defeat harder than most, condemning the practice facilities as "non-existent" and the dressing rooms as "filthy".

Birth of a seamer from the old school. Martin Snedden was never likely to rip through teams (he took only one five-for in 25 Tests) but his diligence made him a useful performer for New Zealand in 1980s. He saved that career best for a crucial time, grabbing 5 for 68 to usher West Indies to defeat in Christchurch and give New Zealand an honourable series draw in 1986-87. Much of Snedden's best work came in the one-day arena, though he did have the misfortune to bowl the then most expensive spell in ODI history. In the World Cup, against England at The Oval in 1983, Snedden's 12 overs disappeared for 105. He went on to become chief executive of New Zealand Cricket.

Birth of the classy left-hander Bruce Edgar, who played 39 Tests for New Zealand, mostly at the top of the order. He impressed in the hapless side that toured England in 1978, and made his maiden Test hundred against Pakistan in Christchurch the following winter. His finest hour came in Auckland in 1979-80, where he made a crucial seven-hour 127 to earn the Kiwis a series-clinching draw with West Indies, the last series they lost until 1994-1995. Edgar announced his retirement from Test cricket after the victorious tour of England in 1986, at the age of just 29.

Birth of Test cricket's top-scoring No. 10. Walter Read, who spent most of his Test career batting at No. 4, was so incensed at being sent in down the order by Lord Harris in the third Test between England and Australia at The Oval in 1884 that he pummelled 117, his sole Test hundred, in only two hours. His partnership of 151 with William Scotton remains England's highest for the ninth wicket in Ashes Tests. In all, Read played 18 Tests between 1882 and 1893. He also made over 20,000 first-class runs for Surrey, and was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1893. He died in Surrey in 1907.

England's Arran Brindle, born today, made an international comeback in 2011 after taking a break for nearly six years. Shortly after her return she scored her maiden one-day hundred, against South Africa. In the first half of her career, Brindle made a Test century against Australia and a half-century in India, and scored 186 runs in six matches in the 2005 World Cup.

Birth of Pakistan's Ahmed Shehzad, who made his first-class debut at 15. Two years later, in 2009, he was opening for Pakistan against Australia in ODIs. In 2011, he got his first one-day hundred, against New Zealand in Hamilton, and went on to play the World Cup later that month. Between July and November 2013, Shehzad made seven 50-plus scores in 24 limited-overs innings. Then in the 2014 World T20, he broke his own record for the highest T20I score by a Pakistan batsman, with 111 not out against Bangladesh. Shehzad had made his Test debut earlier that year, and scored his maiden hundred in the format in a famous win over Sri Lanka in Sharjah. Then in November in Abu Dhabi he made 176 in a huge Test win over New Zealand.

Other birthdays
1858 Frank Hearne (England/South Africa)
1872 Billy Frank (South Africa)
1935 Ken Eastwood (Australia)
1953 Martin Kent (Australia)
1960 Jayananda Warnaweera (Sri Lanka)
1964 Kapila Wijegunewardene (Sri Lanka)
1987 Dhiman Ghosh (Bangladesh)

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