India's fairy-tale T20 triumph
The perfect finale to the perfect competition. With up to three matches a day and no pausing for breath, the inaugural T20 World Cup, in South Africa, was done and dusted inside a fortnight. Though the action was exhausting, it was also exhilarating, not least the final, between India and Pakistan. Set 158 to win after Gautam Gambhir's 75, Pakistan were out of contention at 77 for 6, only for Misbah-ul-Haq to hoist them right back into the match with three sixes in an over off Harbhajan Singh. But then, with the game at his mercy, Misbah chose the wrong shot, Sreesanth claimed the catch, and India had their first global title since 1983.
The boyish good looks of Mohinder Amarnath, who was born today, hid a steely resolve. A beautifully orthodox right-hander, Amarnath saved his best performances for the fearsome West Indies pace attacks. He made 85 in Trinidad in 1975-76 as India made the (then) highest fourth-innings score to win a Test (406 for 4), and he was Man of the Match in the 1983 World Cup final, scoring 26 and taking 3 for 12 with his useful medium-pacers in one of cricket's greatest upsets. The preceding winter Amarnath had showed remarkable consistency in making 1182 runs at 69.52 in 11 overseas Tests, five of which were in the Caribbean and none of which India won, although later in 1983 our man made just one run in six innings as the West Indian quicks wreaked their revenge.
The birth of the first man to make a Test hundred at the home of cricket. An outstanding allrounder, rated by his peers as second only to WG Grace, Allan Steel made 148 to inspire England to victory over Australia in the first Lord's Test, in 1884. He played in 13 Tests between 1880 and 1888, averaging 35 with the bat and 20 with the ball. Though not a regular captain of county or country, he had an improbable run of success as skipper: Marlborough over Rugby, Cambridge over Oxford, Gentlemen over Players, Lancashire over Yorkshire and England over Australia.
Did you know cricket's oldest international rivalry is not the Ashes? Thirty-three years before the first match between England and Australia, USA met Canada at Manhattan's Bloomingdale Park for a two-day game (though the second day was washed out and the teams decided to play the next day). Canada won controversially after USA's No. 3, George Wheatcroft, was not allowed to bat when he turned up 20 minutes following the fall of the last wicket.
One of a rare breed was born. Wicketkeeper Simpson Guillen, better known as Sammy, was one of only 15 men to play Test cricket for two countries. Guillen played five Tests for West Indies in 1951-52 before taking up residence of New Zealand and playing for Canterbury. Just under four years later he played three Tests for New Zealand against West Indies. The last act of his Test career was a historic one: Guillen stumped Alf Valentine to seal New Zealand's first Test victory, for which they had waited 26 years and 45 matches.
Birth of the popular, genial Pat Pocock, the Surrey and England offspinner who never quite fulfilled his potential at the top level. His 25 Test appearances were spread over 17 years, the last eight in consecutive matches after he was given a surprise recall in 1984 to end an eight-year hiatus from Test cricket. With 67 wickets at over 40 and a strike rate almost in three figures, the popular Pocock was typical of the increasing toothlessness of English fingerspinners at the very highest level, although he was very successful with Surrey.
Warwickshire won the County Championship for the eighth time when they beat Somerset by a handsome margin at home. It was quite the comeback for the side, who had won no games in the Covid-truncated 2020 first-class season, and started 2021 with a loss. Somerset needed 273 in 79 overs but lost eight wickets for 75 runs thanks to fine work with the ball on a mostly flat last-day pitch by Chris Woakes, Craig Miles and Liam Norwell. After the two sides ended up at about par on the first innings, Rob Yates made 132 in the second; that and fifties from Dom Sibley and Will Rhodes helped them declare 15 overs into the day, before the bowlers produced a rabbit out of a hat.
Unlucky 13 for Pakistani opener Mohsin Khan, who in the second Test against India in Jullundur became the 13th person to be dismissed by the first ball of a Test match, and the first for almost nine years, when he was trapped lbw by Kapil Dev. Watching on at the non-striker's end was debutant Shoaib Mohammad, son of the great Hanif. A chip off the old block, Shoaib went on to make 2705 Test runs at an average of almost 45.
A thunderstorm in Hyderabad meant that the third one-day international between India and Australia was abandoned with no result, but not before that chubby Queenslander Greg Ritchie had flayed a 53-ball 75, including 22 off Madan Lal's last over.