A thriller at the Gabba
Australia and West Indies played out Test cricket's first tie in a sensational finish in Brisbane. Needing 233 to win, Australia started the last (eight-ball) over from Wes Hall on 227 for 7. But after an amazing over that included a leg-bye, a bye, a caught behind, a dropped catch by the bowler (near square leg), and two run-outs - the last crucial one a dead-eye hit from Joe Solomon at square leg - a remarkable match ended with honours even.
From one extreme to the other. Today witnessed the start of an innings designed to send even the keenest supporter to sleep. Mudassar Nazar ground his way to 52 not out at the end of the first day's play in the first Test between Pakistan and England in Lahore, racing to 122 in 591 minutes on the second. His hundred came up in 552 minutes, still the slowest Test century of all time. Geoff Boycott got into the spirit with a mind-numbing 63 in almost six hours. Not surprisingly, the match was drawn... but there was other entertainment on the second day.
Play during the first day of the first Test between England and Australia in Perth was stopped for ten minutes when Mike Brearley objected to Dennis Lillee's aluminium bat. Ignoring the abnormal clanging sound that accompanied every strike, Brearley claimed that the bat was damaging the ball, Lillee (who was involved in the promotion of the bat) that it was within the laws. Eventually Lillee was persuaded to swap it, albeit with much muttering and swearing, and the following year the laws were changed to state that the "bat shall be made of wood".
VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid put on 303 on this day against Australia from 93.5 overs in the second Test in Adelaide to turn the match around for India. They had been 85 for 4, but Dravid scored one of the finest hundreds played overseas by an Indian batsman. He posted 233, helping them keep in touch with Australia, who had posted 556 on the back of Ricky Ponting's 242. The ghosts of Kolkata 2001 - when India beat Australia after following-on, and which was the last time an Indian pair had put on more than 300 - were alive and well. And those spirits were even more animated two days later, when India became the first side since Kepler Wessels' South Africans to take a series lead in Australia. Ajit Agarkar, whose only claim to fame in Australia was scoring a string of ducks on India's previous tour, in 1999-2000, took career-best figures of 6 for 41.
It's hard to believe that Charlie Griffith, who was born today, began life as a spin bowler. He soon gave up that slow-bowling nonsense to form, with Wes Hall, one of the most fearsome fast-bowling partnerships in history. Griffith would make any cricket bad-boy XI. Many people felt he chucked his faster ball - he was twice no-balled for throwing - and, bowling for Barbados in a tour match against the Indians in 1961-62, Griffith fractured their captain Nari Contractor's skull so severely that his life was briefly in danger.
Although Bishan Bedi doesn't feature in the top 50 in the list of bowlers who have taken seven or more wickets in an innings and ended up on the losing side, it might be best not to remind him of his feat in Calcutta in 1969, when Australia beat India by ten wickets to take a 2-1 lead in a series marred by crowd trouble. Rioting had disturbed play in Bombay, but in Calcutta six fans died during a clash with the police, who tried to control a rush at the ticket counters by using teargas. On day three, Bedi took six wickets to make a final haul of 7 for 98, but Australia took the lead. In India's second innings there was more crowd trouble - this time fans pelting stones at each other and invading the pitch. Australia went home unhappy and unpopular; especially captain Bill Lawry, who was accused of striking a photographer with his bat during the pitch invasion at Eden Gardens. They made their next tour to the country ten years later.
Viv Richards made his first Test ton against India, in Delhi, and it was a typically subdued affair: in only his second Test, Richards clubbed an unbeaten 192, with six sixes and 20 fours. With an attack of Bedi, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan doing most of the work, these were no easy pickings. Lance Gibbs went on to take eight wickets and West Indies sealed an innings victory early on the fourth day.
One of Test cricket's biggest shocks was on the cards in Rawalpindi - until Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis decimated the Zimbabwean middle order. Zimbabwe were cruising at 135 for 1 in pursuit of 240, but their hopes of a first win in Tests were shattered as the last nine wickets went down for 52 runs.
Courtney Walsh and Kenny Benjamin got West Indies out of jail with a devastating display in the third Test in Mohali. After Jimmy Adams, in the middle of an unbelievable purple patch (520 runs in the series at an average of 173.33), laid the foundations with 174 and 78 (both not out), Walsh and Benjamin got blood out of a stone to blow India away for 114 on the final day. Seven wickets went down in nine overs, and Mr Extras was the only man to reach 20. It gave West Indies a 243-run victory and preserved their proud 15-year unbeaten run in Test series - for another six months anyway, before Australia famously turned them over in their own backyard.
Chamara Silva, born today, made his debut as a 19-year-old in 1999, but he failed to live up to expectations and disappeared off the scene, only to reappear in 2005. He won his first Test cap on the tour to New Zealand in 2006, bagging a pair on debut in Christchurch but scoring 62 and an unbeaten 152 in the second Test in Wellington. But he scored only one half-century in his next 13 Test innings. He was much more productive in ODIs, scoring four fifties in the 2007 World Cup. However, by the time the next World Cup rolled in, his runs had dropped off and batsmen like Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedara and Dinesh Chandimal had replaced him in the pecking order.
Violent stuff from Ajit Agarkar as India sealed a 4-1 one-day series victory with a 39-run win over Zimbabwe in Rajkot. Agarkar creamed an unbeaten 67 off 25 balls. His 50, off 21 balls, is the fastest by an Indian in a ODI, and carnage reigned as he and Reetinder Sodhi added an amazing 65 off the last four overs.
Not such a good day for Agarkar. He started a run of seven consecutive Test ducks against Australia with a first-baller in the second innings of India's crushing 285-run defeat in Adelaide. Steve Waugh performed his usual party trick of a century in the first Test of a series, while the ever-underrated Damien Fleming picked up eight wickets. The big scalp, though, went to Glenn McGrath: Sachin Tendulkar, lbw for 0 late on the fourth evening in bizarre circumstances - he was hit on the shoulder as he ducked into a short one that didn't get up as expected.
More humiliation for a hapless West Indies side. They were thumped by 178 runs by South Africa in the second Test in Port Elizabeth - a margin of defeat that took some effort, considering only one South African (Jonty Rhodes, with 64) passed 50. Allan Donald took seven wickets, including Brian Lara twice, as West Indies managed to bat only 75.5 overs in the whole match. Their only highlight was a memorable slog from Nixon McLean - his 12-ball 31 in the first innings included four sixes.
Police had to protect the Indian team from an enraged Calcutta crowd armed with fruit, stones and bottles, after they were thumped by an innings and 46 runs in the fifth Test against West Indies. Clive Lloyd cracked 161 not out, rubbing salt in the wound by adding 161 for the ninth wicket with Andy Roberts (68) before India were blitzed for just 90 in their second innings.
A Brian Lara gem in a losing cause. After South Africa raked up 561 at the Wanderers, not many would have given West Indies a chance, but Lara gave the crowds their money's worth when he savaged 28 glorious runs - 4, 6, 6, 4, 4, 4 - from the hapless Robin Peterson, the most taken off a single over in Tests. He finished on 202, the first century by a West Indian in South Africa, but West Indies lost by 189 runs.
In 21 Tests for West Indies between 2008 and 2011, Brendan Nash, born today, scored two hundreds and averaged 33.42. Nash, born in Western Australia and with a Jamaican father, chose to move to Jamaica after he failed to regain his contract with Queensland. He boosted West Indies' middle order along with Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan and was appointed the vice-captain in 2010. A poor run of form saw him dropped after a home Test against India in 2011, however, and a year later he was left to concentrate on forging a county career with Kent.
1853 Henry Wood (England)
1866 Francis Ford (England)
1867 Alfred Richards (South Africa)
1917 Wilf Ferguson (West Indies)
1926 Frank King (West Indies)
1935 Butch White (England)
1941 Barry Hadlee (New Zealand)
1962 Bharat Arun (India)
1984 Edward Rainsford (Zimbabwe)
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Jeff Hammond reminisces about the game in the '70s, and Australia's tour of the West Indies in 1973
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The Cricket Monthly December issue
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Stats highlights of the second day's play between India and England in Mohali