April 19 down the years

Bolshy but brilliant

An all-time great is born

Sydney Barnes: the greatest bowler ever? © Getty Images

With 189 Test wickets at an average of just 16.43, there's no doubt that Sydney Barnes, who was born today, was one of England's greatest bowlers, and arguably the greatest bowler produced anywhere. He was a powerful fast-medium bowler whose command of seam and swing made him close to unplayable. In 1913-14 he demolished South Africa with 17 for 157 - match figures that are second only to Jim Laker's in a Test - and in all, took 49 wickets in four Tests, a record for one series. He dabbled in county cricket for Warwickshire and Lancashire, but preferred to operate in league cricket - and remains the only man to be picked regularly for England while playing minor cricket. He was still playing for Staffordshire - for whom he grabbed 1432 wickets at the extraordinary average of 9 - in his sixties.

Birth of Jason "Dizzy" Gillespie, the rangy, demonic Australian fast bowler who was somewhere between the unrelenting accuracy of Glenn McGrath and the rawness of Brett Lee. Gillespie was a fast starter - he had two children by the time he made his Test debut at 21. His first five-for came in only his fourth Test, against South Africa in Port Elizabeth, and four matches later he destroyed England with a fiery burst of 7 for 37 in Leeds. A string of injuries hampered his career, however, and he was dropped mid-way through a traumatic Ashes campaign in 2005. That could have been the end, but instead he returned to the fray for the inaugural tour of Bangladesh, where he celebrated his 31st birthday with his most remarkable performance of all - an unbeaten 201, the highest score by a nightwatchman. That, however, was to be his final Test appearance, and he moved on to coaching Yorkshire after retirement.

Another latter-day Australian fast bowler is born. Paul Reiffel was never express, and though he may have only been a poor man's Glenn McGrath, that was more than enough for most Test batsmen. His impeccable command of line, length and seam movement made him a fearsome opponent in English conditions - on two tours he took 30 wickets in seven Tests, and his belated call-up in 1997 was as influential as anything in Australia's comeback. He also took seven wickets in the seismic victory in Jamaica in 1994-95. Towards the end of his Test career his common-sense batting made him a formidable tailender, and over an eight-Test period in 1997, Reiffel averaged 66 with the bat. In October 2008 he became the first former Australian Test player to be added to the ICC international panel of umpires.

Greatness was firmly thrust upon Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-opener Brendon Kuruppu, but only for a day or two, as he became only the third person to score a double-century on his Test debut, against New Zealand - Richard Hadlee and all - in Colombo. Kuruppu did it the hard way too: his 777-minute innings is the slowest double-hundred in first-class history, all very out of character for a man who later made his reputation as a one-day slogger. It was his first first-class century, and his last Test hundred: Kuruppu only played four Tests, two of them in England, in 1988 and 1991.

Cricket's first, and only, superstar umpire is born. When Harold "Dickie" Bird took up umpiring after a modest first-class career with Yorkshire and Leicestershire, the thought that he would eventually write the bestselling sports autobiography in British history would have seemed utterly ludicrous. But he did, after a 66-Test career that ended emotionally and tearfully at Lord's in 1996. After his retirement he became something of a media personality, with a series of books and videos stocked with familiar anecdotes that suggest he may have started to believe his own publicity.

An unforgettable finale in Trinidad. Pakistan were set 372 to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the West Indies, and they came mighty close, thanks to a marvellous hundred from Javed Miandad. When the last 20 overs started, they needed 84 with four wickets left, but once Miandad went, the chase was abandoned. In the end the last man, Abdul Qadir, had to survive the last five balls of the match, from Viv Richards, after Salim Yousuf fell to the first ball of the final over.

One of the worst debuts in Test history, statistically and actually. When the chunky Barbadian fast bowler Patterson Thompson was called up against New Zealand in 1995-96, it all went wrong from the start. His first over went for 17, his second for eight, and he ended up with figures of 8-0-58-2, including a staggering 19 no-balls. It didn't get much better: his second-innings figures were 14-1-77-2. All this against a distinctly modest New Zealand side. For the next Test, Thompson suffered the ultimate ignominy for a Caribbean fast bowler: he was replaced by a legspinner, Rajindra Dhanraj. He did play one other Test, in Australia the following winter, when his figures were almost thrifty by his standards: 16-0-80-1.

Cue music from Chariots of Fire. Two days after gaining ODI status, Afghanistan won their first match in the format by beating Scotland in the World Cup Qualifiers fifth-place playoff. Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari made half-centuries and then captain Hamid Hassan took 3 for 33 as they cruised home by 89 runs. In February 2010 they beat UAE to qualify for the World T20 in West Indies.

Other birthdays
1737 John Small (England)
1865 Dick Pougher (England)
1885 Len Tuckett (South Africa)
1939 Mike Macaulay (South Africa)
1950 Jeff Hammond (Australia)
1953 Avril Starling (England)
1959 Julie Stockton (Australia)
1990 Scott Borthwick (England)