March 12 down the years

The most exhilarating ODI of them all

Australia build a mountain; South Africa climb it

Wondrous at Wanderers: Australia made 434 and South Africa chased it down, with Herschelle Gibbs smashing 175 © Getty Images

The most exhilarating one-day international of all time, in Johannesburg. Ricky Ponting made 164 from 105 balls as Australia rattled up the small matter of 434 for 4 - the first 400-plus total in the history of the game. And yet they lost by one wicket with one ball to spare, after Herschelle Gibbs led the charge with 175 from 111 balls. In all, 87 fours and 26 sixes were struck on the day - both records. Australia's Mick Lewis returned figures of 10-0-113-0, the worst in ODI history. The win gave South Africa the series 3-2.

The day Danny Morrison took on Australia's rugged top order virtually single-handed. In the third Test in Auckland, he took 6 for 37 to hurry the Aussies out for 139, and from there New Zealand were always in control: they clinched a tight five-wicket win on the last day to take a share of the series. Oh, and Damien Martyn made 74 for Australia in what turned out to be his last Test innings overseas for seven years.

Less than seven years after the birth of Marlon Black, with whom he would later share a Test new ball, Courtney Walsh made his first-class debut. It was for Jamaica against the Leeward Islands in Kingston. His start wasn't too great - 10-2-52-0 - but from there Walsh soon found his range: in his next three innings he took 1 for 16, 4 for 119 and 6 for 95.

A lucky charm is born in Antigua. Eldine Baptiste played ten Tests over seven years - and West Indies won the lot. It's ironic that Baptiste has such an unblemished record, because he hardly set the world alight. He was a useful bowling allrounder who wielded the willow with a typical Caribbean flourish, particularly when he walloped 87 at Edgbaston in 1984. He could field too: that summer he famously ran out Geoff Miller at Lord's, knocking his middle stump out of the ground from 80 yards away.

South Africa bounced back from the 118-run loss and the drama surrounding the verbal exchanges between David Warner and Quinton de Kock in the Port Elizabeth Test with a comfortable win in Durban, thanks to AB de Villiers' century and Kagiso Rabada's 11 wickets. It was de Villiers' first Test hundred in three years and one of his best, given how every other batsman struggled to score quickly. Rabada, at 22, took his fourth ten-wicket haul, never letting his side miss the services of the injured Dale Steyn. However, South Africa were forced to miss Rabada in the next two Tests of the series when he was suspended for making physical contact with Steven Smith after dismissing him, a day before he became the No. 1 Test bowler in the ICC rankings.

A second consecutive Ranji Trophy title for Karnataka and their eighth overall. The final at the Wankhede Stadium, against neighbours Tamil Nadu, had the makings of a low scorer on the first day, when Karnataka wobbled at 45 for 4 after bowling out the opposition for 134. It then ceased to be a contest from the second day, as Karun Nair (who made 328, the highest score in a Ranji final), KL Rahul (188) and captain Vinay Kumar (105 not out) pushed the total to an unassailable 762. A ragged Tamil Nadu couldn't escape an innings defeat, and Karnataka stretched their unbeaten streak in first-class matches to 28.

South Africa's first day as a Test-playing nation. They met England in Port Elizabeth in what was later deemed to be the inaugural first-class match to be played in the country. England were predictably comfortable winners, after they bowled South Africa out for 84 on the first morning, and a match in which nobody reached 50 was done and dusted by 3.30pm on the second day.

An extraordinary collapse in Auckland. New Zealand started a sunny last day of the first Test against Pakistan on 105 for 1, well placed for a draw. Two hours later it was all over, after they collapsed from 121 for 2 to 131 all out, to be beaten by 299 runs. The last five batsmen failed to score. The Pakistani destroyers were Saqlain Mushtaq (whose figures on the final morning were 12.4-10-3-4) and Mohammad Sami (7-3-7-5), part of a side that included four debutants (Sami was one of them) and was missing Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar.

England were given a rude shock on the second day of the first Test against West Indies in Kingston, when Fidel Edwards - one in a supposedly young and coltishly wayward bowling attack - frazzled them with express bowling that reminded spectators of West Indies' glory days. But like a shooting star, his success - reducing England to 33 for 2 and nearly inflicting golden ducks on Mark Butcher and Nasser Hussain - was ever-so fleeting: Hussain and Butcher carved out half-centuries to shift the game's momentum, then Edwards suffered a back injury and didn't bowl again until England were 2-0 up.

Six months after the first T20I between India and South Africa was washed out in Dharamsala in September 2019, the first ODI of the three-match series between the two countries suffered the same fate at the same venue. Anticipation was high, with Hardik Pandya, Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar all returning after long injury breaks, but their comeback was put on hold after the BCCI called off the rest of the series the next day in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The South Africa players were asked to self-isolate for two weeks on their return home.

Kenya continued the most unlikely cup run since Indiana Jones made off with the holy grail, as they thrashed Zimbabwe to move into the semi-finals of the World Cup. Giant-killing acts are meant to be full of drama and raw emotion - but this one wasn't. Zimbabwe were careworn, with a clutch of senior players on the verge of retirement - including their lynchpin, Andy Flower - and collapsed to 133 all out; the only resistance came from Flower, who made 63. Maurice Odumbe and Thomas Odoyo then romped home in a fusillade of boundaries.

Birth of little Vijay Mehra, who made his debut at the age of 17 and was India's youngest Test cricketer until Maninder Singh in 1982-83. Mehra was a slight opener who played two Tests, and then disappeared from contention for six years. He came back against England in Calcutta in 1961-62, and batted on bravely despite fracturing his thumb. The last of his eight Tests was also against England, in Bombay in 1963-64.

Indian bustler Balwinder Sandhu wasn't too threatening in name or nature, but today in Trinidad - with a little help from Kapil Dev - he reduced West Indies to a startling 1 for 3, nailing Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, both for ducks. Sadly for Sandhu and India, they had to wait 237 runs before they grabbed a fourth wicket, as centuries from Larry Gomes and Clive Lloyd gave West Indies control of this drawn match.

Once upon a time wicketkeepers weren't expected to chip in with much by way of runs. A good job for New Zealander Ken James, who was born today: his Test average was 4.72. Statistically speaking, he is the worst keeper-batsman to have played ten or more Tests. The reason this wasn't an issue was because of his outstanding work behind the stumps. James, who also played for Northants, had lightning reflexes and quick hands, skills he later put to use as a publican.

Other birthdays
1913 Harold Butler (England)
1936 Keith Slater (Australia)
1950 George Sharp (England)
1955 Granville de Silva (Sri Lanka)
1978 Louis Burger (Namibia)
1982 Yasir Arafat (Pakistan)