March 15 down the years

Test cricket's first day

History is made in Melbourne

England's 1876-77 squad that played the first Test © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The day Test cricket began. The match between Australia and England, at the MCG, was only subsequently awarded Test status, and was originally billed as "All England v A Combined New South Wales and Victoria XI". Neither side was at full strength: Australia, who were effectively a combined Melbourne and Sydney XI, had no Frederick Spofforth. England had no amateurs - which meant no Grace, for a start - and no wicketkeeper, after Surrey's Ted Pooley was arrested in New Zealand the day after a gambling scam. Australia's Charles Bannerman, who was born in Kent, faced the first ball from Alfred Shaw, scored the first run, off the next ball, and the first hundred as well. He went on to 165 - the only century of his first-class career - before retiring hurt when George Ulyett smashed one of his fingers. In all, he scored 67.3% of his team's total of 245, which is still a record, 130-odd years later. Australia eventually won by 45 runs: on the same ground 100 years later, they beat England by exactly the same margin in the Centenary Test, which was arranged to celebrate this inaugural match.

Bangladesh's tour of New Zealand was called off after a terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques, in which at least 50 people were killed. The Bangladesh players were on their way to one of the mosques for Friday prayers at the time of the attack but escaped to nearby Hagley Oval when the players saw signs of the unfolding carnage. They initially stayed on the team bus and made phone calls, including one to ESPNcricinfo's Mohammad Isam, who was at the ground. Several journalists then came over to where the bus was and accompanied the players to the ground. The two boards and the ICC consulted and called off the tour the same evening.

One of the most stunning spells of bowling in Test history, from Pakistan's Sarfraz Nawaz. In the first Test, at the MCG, Australia were cruising to victory on the final afternoon at 305 for 3, chasing 382. Then Sarfraz, armed with the second new ball, shortened his run and started swinging and cutting it. He took seven wickets for one run in 33 balls to end with 9 for 86 - five of them bowled - as Australia collapsed astonishingly to 310 all out. The other wicket was a run-out. It was Test cricket's first great reverse-swing-induced collapse: Australia's Nos. 6 to 11 managed just a solitary run between them.

The day Australia wrapped up victory over New Zealand in the first Test, in Auckland. Not much to shout about there, but the last wicket - Paul Wiseman, caught by Adam Gilchrist - made Shane Warne the greatest wicket-taker in Australian Test history, moving him past Dennis Lillee's 355. Ironically this came in a match where Warne (5 for 148) was outbowled by a young spinner (Daniel Vettori 12 for 149) and an old one (Colin Miller 6 for 93). New Zealand scrapped hard, only going down by 62 runs in the end.

A nasty, snarling fast bowler is born. Colin Croft took no prisoners on the pitch, and no batter enjoyed facing him. Not especially pretty or orthodox, his action was very muscular and chest-on, and he swayed out alarmingly as he approached the crease, so the ball was zooming in almost from mid-off. He bulldozed Pakistan with 8 for 29 in his second Test, in Trinidad in 1976-77 - still the best figures by a West Indian quick - but his Test career was finished at 28, when he went on the rebel tour of South Africa in 1982-83, during which he was thrown out of a "whites-only" carriage on a train. Croft finished with an outstanding strike rate of fewer than 50 balls per wicket, behind only Malcolm Marshall and Wayne Daniel among post-war West Indies fast bowlers. After qualifying as an airline pilot, he moved into the press and commentary boxes, where he was as inclined to rough people up with word as he once was with deed.

George Headley's Test best came in the match that gave West Indies their first series win over England. The teams went into the fourth Test, in Jamaica, with the series 1-1. Headley scored 270 (in 8.25 hours with 30 fours) out of his team's 535. He added 202 with Derek Sealy and 147 with Rolph Grant, after which Manny Martindale and Learie Constantine took 13 wickets to give West Indies an innings-and-161-run win.

Birth of the classy, attractive Pakistan opener Mohsin Khan, who formed probably his country's best-ever opening partnership, with Mudassar Nazar. Mohsin's defining year was the annus mirabilis of 1982: he became the first Pakistani to make 1000 runs in a calendar year, he scored his first four Test centuries - including a delicious 200 that set Pakistan up for their first victory at Lord's - and on the tour of England made 1248 runs at an average of 73. This came after Mohsin, who is one of only seven men to be out handled the ball in a Test, had a flurry of near-misses at the start of his Test career: his first six scores were 44, 35, 38, 31, 46 and 41.

As Hansie Cronje's team settled down for a beer on this day, they'd have been a happy bunch. They were 83 for 0 in the second innings, effectively 184 for 0 in the second Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth. Earlier in the day they had dismissed Australia for 108 - a tortuous, 70.4-over affair - and looked set to square the series. But on the third day they fell apart to Michael Bevan and Jason Gillespie, and Australia were left to chase 270. Enter Mark Waugh, who played one of his best innings, 116 in a match where nobody else passed 55. Australia wobbled after his dismissal, sliding from 258 for 5 to 265 for 8. With five needed, Ian Healy smacked Cronje for six, and Australia had won a series against South Africa for the first time in 39 years.

A World Cup record for New Zealand. Their victory over England in Wellington was their seventh straight win of the 1992 tournament. As with most of the previous six, it was based around new-ball spin bowling (Dipak Patel 10-1-26-2), dobbing (Gavin Larsen 10-3-24-0), pinch-slogging (Mark Greatbatch 35 off 37 balls) and classy batting (Martin Crowe 78 not out). But that was where the run ended. Three days later Pakistan hammered them in a group match, and three days after that they mugged them again in an unforgettable semi-final.

Fourteen years after their baptism at the top level, Sri Lanka won an overseas Test for the first time in 32 attempts. A ragged New Zealand were their victims in Napier. Sri Lanka won by 241 runs despite being put in - and bowled out for 183 - on the first day. That was still enough for a 74-run lead, and with Chaminda Vaas grabbing five-fors in both innings - and becoming the first Sri Lankan to take ten wickets in a Test - and the debutant wicketkeeper Chamara Dunusinghe grinding out a crucial 91, a famous victory was sealed on the final day.

Not many teams stood up to the West Indians at their cocksure best, but throughout the 1980s, New Zealand were game to try. They beat them famously at the turn of the decade, and in all won two and lost only three of their ten Tests in the decade. One of those wins was in Christchurch, and it gave them a share of the series. They had reason to thank Jeremy Coney (for winning the toss), and Richard Hadlee (for skittling West Indies for 100 on the first day). From there New Zealand were in control, though they made a meal of chasing a pitiful target, limping to victory at 33 for 5. It was also the last day of Test cricket for Larry Gomes and Joel Garner.

Lanky New Zealand opener Trevor Franklin, who was born today, knew only one way to play, and it didn't involve too many horizontal-bat shots. In 21 Tests he scored his runs at a rate of 27 runs per 100 balls. That equates to 1.6 runs per over, and makes him slower than those great blockers Chris Tavaré (33) and Jimmy Adams (38). But despite boring spectators and bowlers into submission Franklin was a popular figure, mainly because he was so unlucky with injuries. Most famously, he had his leg shattered when he was run over by a luggage trailer at Gatwick Airport in 1986, and he didn't play a Test for nearly two years. Even though it did take seven hours, his first and only Test hundred, against England at Lord's in 1990, was extremely well received.

Another New Zealand player, born today, who has struggled with injuries, is medium-pacer Kyle Mills. After he lost his place in the side to Shane Bond, Jacob Oram and Ian Butler due to injuries, Mills finally made his Test debut in 2004 at Trent Bridge. But he picked up a side strain during the game and missed the one-day series. ODIs were Mills' strength: he played throughout the 2005-06 season, chipping in with wickets in almost every game. He returned to the Test side in South Africa early in 2006, and picked up eight wickets in the two matches he played; and he featured in the Champions Trophy in 2006 but missed the 2007 World Cup due to injury. But he managed to make it to the 2011 tournament and the World T20s in between.

Birth of Ben Hilfenhaus, another of those modern fast bowlers whose careers are peppered with injuries and rehab. However, Hilfenhaus, who worked on a building site before his career took off, has had some memorable highlights to keep him pushing through the low phases. Blessed with the ability to swing the ball at pace, he was the leading wicket-taker in the 2009 Ashes, with 22 wickets at 27.45, and got to the landmark of 50 Test wickets in 15 Tests. He took another 32 in his next six, which included an impressive 27 in the 4-0 whitewash of India in 2011-12. Injuries forced Hilfenhaus to retire from first-class cricket at the age of 32, although he continued to play franchise T20 cricket.

An Australian keeper is born... in Yorkshire. Sammy Carter played 28 Tests between 1907 and 1921-22, and when England met Australia at Headingley in 1921, he was the only Yorkie playing in the match. As a keeper he was first rate, although he didn't stand as close to the stumps as most of his peers. His batting, notable for a famous over-the-shoulder scoop, was fairly limited, although he did ram three fifties in his first four Tests. He died in Sydney in 1948.

Other birthdays
1844 Bransby Cooper (Australia)
1888 Bill Lundie (South Africa)
1940 Charles Baksh (Canada)
1947 David Colley (Australia)
1975 Nick Statham (Netherlands)
1983 Rory Kleinveldt (South Africa)
1993 Ehsan Adil (Pakistan)