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December 6 down the years

England's flawed hero

The birth of big Fred

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Andrew Flintoff: a genuine match-winner whose body struggled with the grind of the modern game
Andrew Flintoff: a genuine match-winner whose body struggled with the grind of the modern game © Getty Images

For a long time, it seemed Andrew Flintoff, who was born today, would not become the world-beater he was expected to be, as spinal injuries and brain-fades initially held him back. But Flintoff gradually found his way, his powerful hitting making him a favourite with the crowds, and his bowling gaining in pace and potency. Undoubtedly 2005 was his year, with the Ashes series being his watershed moment. In a historic series triumph, Flintoff was England's talisman with both bat and ball. Not surprisingly, the ICC Player of the Year award was his, but thereafter it was a steady decline as his body began to fall apart and his off-field discipline came increasingly under the spotlight. But for a time there was no more enthralling sight than Flintoff with bat or ball. He ended a celebrated career by helping England beat Australia 2-1 before announcing his retirement from Test cricket; a year later, he called it quits from all forms after advice from his doctors cautioned against a comeback.

A Lancashire favourite is born. Cyril Washbrook was an imperious batsman who forged a fine opening partnership in Tests with Len Hutton. Their 359 together in Johannesburg in 1948-49 remains an England record. Washbrook, who died in 1999, cut and carved his way to over 34,000 runs - and 76 centuries - in a long first-class career that lasted from 1933 to 1964.

Birth of another Lancastrian who started with a bang... Beatle-haired blond Frank Hayes was hailed as the new star of English cricket when he carted a handy West Indian attack (Sobers, Boyce, Julien, Gibbs) for 106 on his debut in the first Test at The Oval in 1973. But in eight further Tests - unluckily for him, all against West Indies - Hayes' next-highest score was 29, and his overall average sank to 15.25. He was never the luckiest of cricketers - he had a low-key stint as captain of Lancashire, and in 1982 managed to shatter his ankle at Lord's while running a quick single.

An exciting 16-run win for Australia over India in the first Test in Brisbane. Australia had six debutants after the defections to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, and were captained by 41-year-old Bob Simpson, returning to first-class cricket after a 10-year retirement. India just failed to reach a victory target of 341, succumbing for 324 after Sunil Gavaskar made 113.

The birth of Peter Willey, uncompromising batsman and uncompromising umpire. He made his debut for Northants at 16, and played 26 times for England (including in the immortal 1981 Headingley Test) despite dodgy knees and an even dodgier batting stance, from which he seemed to be in danger of straight-driving to square leg. He liked square leg so much he went there immediately on retirement and soon became one of the world's best-respected umpires.

Javed Miandad completed a hundred in his 100th Test - he finished with 145, and Shoaib Mohammad 203 not out, as the third Test against India meandered to a high-scoring draw.

Birth of an early Australian hero. Warren Bardsley was a solidly built left-hander who wore the baggy green in 41 Tests from 1909, averaging over 40. He was the first to score two centuries in the same Test (against England at The Oval in 1909), captained Australia twice, and in his last series, in 1926, he carried his bat for 193 at Lord's. That helped him to a record he still holds - most runs (575) by a visiting player in Tests at Lord's.

A one-day tie in Perth, in the first match of that season's World Series Cup. India looked dead in the water when they were shot out for 126 by West Indies, with Curtly Ambrose taking 2 for 9 from 8.4 overs... but India returned the compliment. Kapil Dev removed Desmond Haynes with the first ball of the innings, then Subroto Banerjee took 3 for 30. Mohammad Azharuddin bowled out his four main bowlers, and had to turn to Sachin Tendulkar with the last pair in. He obliged with the last wicket with the scores level - top-scorer Andy Cummins (24), well caught by Azhar himself. It was West Indies' second ODI tie in a fortnight.

The first day of Test cricket for Brian Lara. He made 44 on debut in the third Test against Pakistan in Lahore, but was overshadowed by Carl Hooper, who cracked 134. The match (and with it the series) was drawn, even though Curtly Ambrose (5 for 35) and Ian Bishop (5 for 41) shot Pakistan out for 122 in their first innings.

A left-arm Indian seamer is born. RP Singh won the Man-of-the-Match award on Test debut for taking five wickets on a dead pitch in Faisalabad, early in 2006. In friendlier conditions, at an overcast Lord's in 2007, RP picked up a career-best 7 for 117, and rain helped India draw the Test. Not that he didn't shine in wins - he took six in the memorable Perth Test in 2008, and 12 in the inaugural World Twenty20. But after the 2007-08 tour of Australia his form dipped and it was a surprise to everyone - including the man himself, interrupted while on holiday in Miami - when the Indian selectors picked him as a replacement for the injured Zaheer Khan during the England tour in 2011. Looking unfit and obviously lacking match practice, RP went wicketless in the Oval Test.

Birth of Indian allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, a handy No. 7 batsman and useful left-arm spinner. He made his limited-overs debut in early 2009 but really grabbed the headlines for his run-scoring in that year's IPL, which perhaps prompted the Chennai Super Kings to buy him for US$2 million in the 2012 auction. In his first four years in ODIs, Jadeja managed only five half-centuries and about one wicket per game, but with India's spin stocks sinking lower every series, he got his Test debut in the final Test against England in Nagpur. His fielding and his batting made him an easy pick as a third spinner in home Tests, a ploy that worked like a charm in India's 4-0 win against Australia when he finished with 24 wickets at 17.45 in what was his first full series.

The birth of Sean Ervine, one of the 15 players who walked out of Zimbabwe cricket in April 2004. An allrounder with a frantic whirling action, his best innings came against India in the 2003-04 VB Series when he combined with Stuart Carlisle to put on 202 for the fourth wicket. Zimbabwe fell three runs short of India's total.

Zoe Goss is born. Classed as a genuine fast bowler, she played in four World Cups for Australia, including the victorious campaigns in 1988 and 1997. She was also the Player of the Series in the 1995-96 Australian Women's Cricket Championship. She was in the news in 1994 when she played for the Bradman XI in a charity match and dismissed Brian Lara, who had recently been on a record-breaking spree.

Other birthdays

1871 Alfred Archer (England)
1873 Robert Gleeson (South Africa)
1889 George Street (England)
1909 Alan McGilvray (Australia)
1933 Jim Pothecary (South Africa)
1949 Brenda Williams (South Africa)
1955 Malcolm Jarvis (Zimbabwe)
1955 Graeme Hughes (Australia)
1960 Kerry Saunders (Australia)
1976 Ali Asad (Pakistan)
1977 Dewald Pretorius (South Africa)

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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