February 17 down the years

South Africa's Superman

Birth of AB de Villiers

AB de Villiers: where does one bowl to him? © Getty Images

An acrobatic fielder and flamboyant wicketkeeper-batter is born. AB de Villiers was destined to be a sportsman - such was his natural talent that tennis, golf, cricket or rugby could have been his calling. Cricket won, and by the age of 21 he was being hailed as "the future" in South Africa. After a bright start to his career in 2004, there were a couple of years when he sparkled only intermittently, but 2008 turned out to be memorable. He made a double-hundred against India, and his match-winning knocks of 174 at Headingley and 106 not out in Perth paved the way for historic Test series wins in England and Australia. In 2010, de Villiers broke Gary Kirsten's record for the highest South African score, making an unbeaten 278 against Pakistan. The year after, he was named the limited-overs captain. Early in 2015, he broke the world record for the fastest ODI hundred, scored off 31 balls, and the fastest one-day 150, off 64 balls, cementing his reputation as perhaps the most versatile and destructive batter of the 2010s. In January 2016, de Villiers was handed the Test captaincy, but his reign was short-lived - injury kept him out of action for the second half of the year, and Faf du Plessis' excellent job as stand-in meant the mantle was passed on to him. De Villiers retired from the international game in 2018.

You wouldn't have forecast million-dollar leagues and biennial world championships based on the first T20 international, played today between Australia and New Zealand in Auckland. The format felt ultra-modern but the New Zealand players went retro with beige uniforms and fake moustaches and wigs. Glenn McGrath even pretended to bowl the final ball underarm, in a reference to the Trevor Chappell incident of 1981. And though Australia's victory owed to a very T20 innings by Ricky Ponting - 98 off 55 balls - and a great swing bowling spell by Michael Kasprowicz, the gimmicky tone was hard to ignore. "I think it is difficult to play seriously," Ponting said after the game. "If it does become an international game then I'm sure the novelty won't be there all the time."

A big day in Sri Lanka. Their life as the eighth Test-playing nation began in Colombo with a one-off Test against England. Sri Lanka made a good fist of it too: England only managed a first-innings lead of 5, and with Sri Lanka 167 for 3 in their second innings, things were getting interesting. Then John Emburey broke the habit of a lifetime and took a match-winning five-for, Sri Lanka lost seven wickets for eight runs, and England breezed home by seven wickets. An 18-year-old student called Arjuna Ranatunga was in the Sri Lanka side, and made 54 in the first innings.

Australia Women won their sixth World Cup title after thrashing West Indies by 114 runs in Mumbai - the largest margin of victory in terms of runs in a World Cup final. Half-centuries from Rachael Haynes and Jess Cameron set up their total of 259, but it was Ellyse Perry, playing with an injured ankle, who hit the decisive blows: first with a 22-ball 25 lower down the order and then dismissing West Indies' top three batters in quick succession.

Birth of the greatest wicketkeeper of all time, according to the greatest cricketer of all time. Australian Don Tallon was given the gloves in Don Bradman's slightly woolly XI, but disputes over Tallon's presence had nothing to do with his ability behind the stumps. In an age when keepers kept and batters scored runs, Tallon was able to get away with a batting average of 17 because he was so precise and deft a keeper. His attacking style with the bat occasionally came off too, most notably when he hammered a run-a-minute 92 against England in Melbourne in 1946-47. He died in his native Queensland in 1984.

The start of a one-off Test between Australia and England in Sydney, played on four separate wickets - one for each innings. The experiment was agreed as the game was a last-minute addition to the schedule because the best-of-three series had already been won by England. Australia triumphed by four wickets.

At the end of the longest rubber in Test history, England won the seventh Test against Australia, in Sydney, by 62 runs to take the series 2-0 and regain the Ashes. This despite, quite astonishingly, not a single lbw decision being given against an Australian batter in the whole series. This match - Ian Chappell's first as captain, after Bill Lawry was dumped - was notable for crowd trouble on the second day, after John Snow felled Terry Jenner, which led to Ray Illingworth taking his team off the field.

Another Australian wicketkeeper is born. Barry Jarman started off as understudy to Wally Grout before playing 19 Tests between 1959 and 1969. Nimble despite his 13 stone-plus frame, he was a very good keeper and a dangerous lower-order hitter who made two Test fifties. Jarman later became a Test umpire and an ICC referee, and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997.

The second of the back-to-back Trinidad Tests produced another three-wicket win, and another instance of the fourth innings being the highest of the match. But this time it was England who were celebrating, after Mark Butcher and Dean Headley got them drip by drip to their target of 225 in a tense finish. Another heroic performance from Angus Fraser, who took nine wickets to go with his 11 in the first match, was complemented by a brilliant display from Alec Stewart (44 and 83 in a match where there was only one other fifty).

New Zealand opener Rodney Redmond made a blistering two-hour 107 on this day in his first Test innings, against Pakistan in Auckland. He added 56 in the second innings to complete an outstanding debut, but the dream soon turned into a nightmare: Redmond never played a Test again. He toured England the following summer but had problems with his new contact lenses - and the one-eyed Kiwi selectors, who were influenced by his poor early-tour form and didn't pick him for the Tests.

New Zealand's first innings victory. Those great travellers India were the victims in Wellington, with Richard Hadlee taking 4 for 35 and then 7 for 23 as India were bowled out for 220 and 81. This was also the last Test of Ken Wadsworth's career: he extended the New Zealand wicketkeeping record for dismissals to 96, but six months later he died of cancer aged only 29.

Aged 47 years and 240 days, Nolan Clarke became the oldest player to make his ODI debut when he appeared against New Zealand in Vadodara during Netherlands' first World Cup game. Clarke, opening the batting, scored 14.

The first Test at the SCG. Australia won by five wickets to take a 1-0 lead after offspinner Joey Palmer took 11 wickets (7 for 68 and 4 for 97) opening the bowling along with left-arm spinner Edwin Evans. England's George Ulyett was the top scorer with 67. His opening partner Dick Barlow was the only other batters to get a half-century.

A polished right-hand batter and sound wicketkeeper, Tony Blain, born today, suffered from being an almost permanent understudy, first to Ian Smith and then Adam Parore. He made his Test debut against England at The Oval in 1986 and scored a battling 37 but spilled a swirling skier from Ian Botham. He next played twice against India in 1988-89, and had a final eight-match run in the side in 1992 with home and away matches against Australia and a tour to Pakistan. He also played 38 ODIs. After retiring, Blain did some coaching and commentary work.

Ryan Hinds, who was born today, captained the West Indian side in the 2000 Under-19 World Cup. And while Desmond Haynes said his batting technique was the best in the Caribbean, Hinds made news with his left-arm spin, taking 15 wickets against the Leeward Islands in the 2001 Busta Cup, including 9 for 68 in the first innings. He scored a half-century on Test debut in 2002 but failed to be consistent after that. He waited three years for a recall - against Sri Lanka in 2008 - and nearly took a break from the game. In 2009 he played against Bangladesh after the senior players went on strike.

Birth of England legspinner Adil Rashid, who burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old with seven wickets against Warwickshire on first-class debut. Handed an England cap in 2009, he developed into a steady limited-overs performer. Rashid's Test debut came in 2015, against Pakistan in the UAE, and on England's miserable 2016 Test tour of India, he emerged with 23 wickets, albeit at an average of 37.43 and with diminishing returns as the series wore on. Two years later, Rashid made a surprise return to the Test side even though he had given up his red-ball contract in domestic cricket in order to focus on the limited-overs game.

Other birthdays
1898 Tom Lowry (New Zealand)
1936 Peter Walker (England)
1937 Ray Jordon (Australia)
1940 Dennis Gamsy (South Africa)
1972 Helen Watson (England)