February 11 down the years

The Phantom opener

A corpse in pads, a drugs scandal, and the debut of West Indies' greatest captain

Bill Lawry (far right) with the 1968 Australian Ashes team in London © PA Photos

Birth of one of Australia's greatest openers. At the crease, Bill Lawry was the antithesis of the boisterous, excitable commentator we know today. Lawry the opener was blessed with a dead bat and eternal concentration (he twice carried his bat in a Test). He burst onto the scene with 420 runs in England in 1961, including an extremely brave 130 on a dodgy, ridgy pitch at Lord's. He later became captain but paid the price for being pulverised by South Africa in 1969-70 and surrendering the Ashes a year later. Aged only 33, he was dropped for good. Lawry soon became a fixture in the commentary box, though, renowned for his nasal exclamations and knockabout banter with Tony Greig.

First the bookies, then the nurses... and finally the drugs. On the very morning that Australia launched their successful defence of the World Cup, Shane Warne was flying back home in disgrace, after completing a very unsavoury hat-trick of scandals. Warne, who had made a stunningly rapid recovery from a dislocated shoulder, had tested positive for diuretics, agents that promote rapid weight loss but can also be used to disguise the use of steroids. He protested that he had taken the tablets on the advice of his mother, who wanted him to look good in front of the cameras. That excuse didn't wash with the Australian board, however, which banned him from all cricket for a year.

The debut of West Indies' finest captain. It took Frank Worrell 13 years and 37 Tests to get to the summit, and in the meantime he contented himself with being a top-class batsman. He started against England in Trinidad, with 125 runs for once out, but there was no debut century: Worrell was agonisingly caught behind for 97 in the first innings, and made 28 not out in the second. He soon made up for it, though, with 131 in the next Test. In fact, after two Tests his average was 256, and after seven it was 104. His average never dropped below 50... until his last Test series, when a poor run (68 runs in seven innings) finally caught up with him and left him stranded on 49.48.

On the same day, in the same Test, makeshift England opener and wicketkeeper Billy Griffith ran out the regular opener, Jack Robertson, and to make up for it, cracked 140 on debut before he was lbw to... Worrell. Griffith should have stayed at the top of the order. He made 4 in the second innings, and then, after moving back to his customary station at No. 10 or 8, added scores of 8, 5 and 0.

The first first-class match in Australia, between Tasmania and Victoria at Launceston Racecourse ground, got underway in front of about 1000 spectators. Tasmania won by three wickets.

Birth of Bev Congdon. His batting average (32.22) may not have been much to shout about but he was a key player for New Zealand in the 1960s and '70s. He was a sound No. 3, a shrewd captain, and a good enough medium-pacer to pick up a Test five-for. Congdon had a taste for big hundreds - three of his seven in Tests totalled 166 or more (including 176 and 175 back to back in England in 1973) - though none of the seven were match-winners. In fact, of Congdon's 61 Tests, New Zealand won only seven.

The day a Test nation lost to the team playing in its first World Cup match for 24 years. This wasn't quite the upset it appears on paper, however. The teams in question were Bangladesh, with three wins in 63 matches (and none since their dubious victory over Pakistan in 1999), and Canada, whose purposeful batting carried them to a commendable total of 180. Bangladesh then collapsed for 120 under the Pietermaritzburg floodlights, with Canada's dreadlocked seamer Austin Codrington taking 5 for 27.

Birth of either one of the best uncapped batsmen in England or a clown, depending on your viewpoint. After a chancy 37 on Ali Brown's one-day debut, against India at The Oval in 1996, the Times reported that had Brown "appeared on a one-wheeled bike, wearing a silly hat and a red nose, and thrown custard pies at the umpires, he would scarcely have struck a more ridiculous figure than he did yesterday". Brown did make a century four days later, but his ODI career was a stop-start affair, although he smashed a 31-ball 50 against South Africa in 1998 and played some extraordinary one-day innings for Surrey, including a world-record 268 against Glamorgan in 2002.

England wrapped up a fine winter's work by taking the World Series with victory over Australia in the second final, in Sydney. Coupled with regaining the Ashes and winning the short B&H Perth Challenge, things could not have gone any better for England. Chris Broad made 53 here in a tense eight-run win, and was then named International Cricketer of the Year. All was well with the world, and if you'd told the assembled throng that the only victories England would get in Australia for the next 15 years would be in dead rubbers, few would have believed you.

Birth of JW "Young Jack" Hearne, apparently a distant cousin of fellow Test player JT "Old Jack" Hearne. He was a quality allrounder, a methodical batsman and a dangerous legspinner. But at Test level his averages (26 with the bat, 48 with the ball) were almost a mirror image of his first-class figures. He made one century - a match-winning 114 in Melbourne in his second Test, in 1911-12 - and one five-for. Young Jack was brave too: in 1928 he caught a Learie Constantine swat off his own bowling and injured his hand so badly that he did not play again that season. He died in Middlesex in 1963.

Australia regained the Ashes with a crushing victory in the fourth Test, at the MCG. But luck wasn't on England's side: after they restricted Australia to 214 on a shirtfront, the heavens opened and England were skittled for 105 on a sticky dog, despite a majestic display from Jack Hobbs, who made 57 in 70 minutes. The rest managed 44 between them.

Other birthdays
1937 Peter Lashley (West Indies)
1969 Mark Atkinson (Australia)
1983 Majid Haq (Scotland)