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December 6 down the years

England's flawed hero

The birth of big Fred

Andrew Flintoff: a genuine match-winner whose body struggled with the grind of the modern game  •  Getty Images

Andrew Flintoff: a genuine match-winner whose body struggled with the grind of the modern game  •  Getty Images

For a long time, it seemed Andrew Flintoff, who was born today, would not become the world-beater he was expected to be, as spinal injuries and brain-fades initially held him back. But Flintoff gradually found his way, his powerful hitting making him a favourite with the crowds, and his bowling gaining in pace and potency. Undoubtedly 2005 was his year, with the Ashes series being his watershed moment. In a historic series triumph, Flintoff was England's talisman with both bat and ball. Not surprisingly, the ICC Player of the Year award was his, but thereafter it was a steady decline as his body began to fall apart and his off-field discipline came increasingly under the spotlight. But for a time there was no more enthralling sight than Flintoff, with bat or ball. He ended a celebrated career by helping England beat Australia 2-1 before announcing his retirement from Test cricket, and a year later, from all forms.
Birth of Indian allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, a handy No. 7 batter and useful left-arm spinner. He made his limited-overs debut in early 2009 but grabbed the headlines for his run-scoring in that year's IPL, and was bought by Chennai Super Kings US$2 million in the 2012 auction. In his first four years in ODIs, Jadeja managed only five half-centuries and about one wicket per game, but with India's spin stocks sinking lower every series, he made his Test debut in the final Test against England in Nagpur in 2012. His fielding and batting made him an easy pick as a third spinner in home Tests, and in that role he finished with 24 wickets at 17.45 in his first full series, the 4-0 whitewash of Australia in 2013. Jadeja swiftly rose to become India's second spinner and a reliable foil to R Ashwin. That status was cemented when he took 14 wickets in three home Tests against New Zealand in 2016-17, a ten-for (and 26 in all) against England in the series that followed, and another 25 in four Tests against Australia. He got his maiden Test hundred on his home ground, Rajkot, against West Indies in 2018. A year later, he became the fastest left-arm bowler to get to 200 wickets, in 44 Tests.
A Lancashire favourite is born. Cyril Washbrook was an imperious batter who forged a fine opening partnership in Tests with Len Hutton. Their 359 runs together in Johannesburg in 1948-49 remains an England record for the first wicket. Washbrook, who died in 1999, cut and carved his way to over 34,000 runs - and 76 centuries - in a long first-class career that lasted from 1933 to 1964.
Birth of another Lancastrian who started with a bang... Beatle-haired blond Frank Hayes was hailed as the new star of English cricket when he carted a handy West Indian attack (Sobers, Boyce, Julien, Gibbs) for 106 on his debut in the first Test at The Oval in 1973. But in eight further Tests - unluckily for him, all against West Indies - Hayes' next-highest score was 29, and his overall average sank to 15.25. He was never the luckiest of cricketers - he had a low-key stint as captain of Lancashire, and in 1982 managed to shatter his ankle at Lord's while running a quick single.
Birth of Jasprit Bumrah, who first catches your eye with his unusual bowling action, particularly the point from which he releases the ball, and then with his yorkers. Bumrah came to notice in the IPL, where he featured in all five of Mumbai Indians' title campaigns from 2013 to 2020, and was called the "find of the tour" by MS Dhoni when he was the leading wicket-taker in T20Is in India's 2015-16 series in Australia. His freshman year in Test cricket was the stuff of dreams: 48 wickets at 21.02 in nine Tests, including match-winning spells in Johannesburg and Melbourne. His incisive swing and seam were key factors in India's series wins in Australia both in 2018-19 and 2019-20, and he took another 18 wickets in India's 2-1 scoreline in England in 2021 (the fifth Test was postponed).
An exciting 16-run win for Australia over India in the first Test in Brisbane. Australia had six debutants after the defections to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, and were captained by 41-year-old Bob Simpson, returning to first-class cricket after a ten-year retirement. India just failed to reach a victory target of 341, succumbing for 324 after Sunil Gavaskar made 113.
The birth of Peter Willey, uncompromising batter and uncompromising umpire. He made his debut for Northants at 16, and played 26 times for England (including in the immortal 1981 Headingley Test) despite dodgy knees and an even dodgier batting stance, from which he seemed to be in danger of straight-driving to square leg. He liked square leg so much he went there immediately on retirement and soon became one of the world's best-respected umpires.
Birth of attacking top-order batter Shreyas Iyer, who came to notice with his IPL signing in 2015 by Delhi Daredevils for a record Rs 2.6 crore (US$430,000 approximately), the highest for an uncapped player in the tournament. He shone for the side, particularly 2018 through 2020, when he topped 400 runs each season. Iyer was picked for the India team in a T20I against New Zealand in 2017, and he earned his Test call-up on the back of a stellar first-class record - 4000-plus runs at an average of over 52 and a strike rate of over 80 - making his debut against New Zealand in Kanpur in 2021, and going on to score a century and a fifty in the game, which India came agonisingly close to winning.
A dominant New Zealand victory over West Indies in Hamilton - also their biggest against them, by a margin of an innings and 134 runs. Captain Kane Williamson struck a career-best 251, neutralising the West Indies seamers on a green, swinging pitch. New Zealand declared at 519 for 7 on the second day, and West Indies never looked like even coming close to being a threat - Tim Southee picked up 4 for 35 to skittle them for 138, forcing a follow-on. Jermaine Blackwood and Alzarri Joseph put up a fight, but Neil Wagner (4 for 66) and newcomer Kyle Jamieson (2 for 42) secured the win before lunch on day four.
Javed Miandad completed a hundred in his 100th Test - he finished with 145 runs, and Shoaib Mohammad 203 not out, as the third Test against India meandered to a high-scoring draw.
The fifth day of the Adelaide Test started with England needing 174 more to win with six wickets in hand. About 20 overs later, Australia were 2-0 up in the Ashes. Not that many had expected England to have a fighting chance so late in the game after they sent Australia in to bat and then conceded a 215-run lead. Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine, two of Australia's controversial selections, made the runs to solidify their positions, but it was the bowlers who extricated their team from a tight spot - Mitchell Starc taking a five-for - after Australia were bowled out for 138 in the second innings. Their win in Brisbane had been by a far more emphatic ten wickets.
Birth of an early Australian hero. Warren Bardsley was a solidly built left-hander who wore the baggy green in 41 Tests from 1909, averaging over 40. He was the first to score two centuries in the same Test (against England at The Oval in 1909), captained Australia twice, and in his last series, in 1926, he carried his bat for 193 at Lord's. That helped him to a record he still holds - most runs (575) by a visiting player in Tests at Lord's.
A one-day tie in Perth, in the first match of that season's World Series Cup. India looked dead in the water when they were shot out for 126 by West Indies, with Curtly Ambrose taking 2 for 9 from 8.4 overs... but India returned the compliment. Kapil Dev removed Desmond Haynes with the first ball of the innings, then Subroto Banerjee took 3 for 30. Mohammad Azharuddin bowled out his four main bowlers, and had to turn to Sachin Tendulkar with the last pair in. He obliged with the last wicket with the scores level - top scorer Andy Cummins (24), well caught by Azhar himself. It was West Indies' second ODI tie in a fortnight.
The first day of Test cricket for Brian Lara. He made 44 on debut in the third Test against Pakistan in Lahore, but was overshadowed by Carl Hooper, who cracked 134. The match (and with it the series) was drawn, even though Curtly Ambrose (5 for 35) and Ian Bishop (5 for 41) shot Pakistan out for 122 in their first innings.
A left-arm Indian seamer is born. RP Singh won the Man-of-the-Match award on Test debut for taking five wickets on a dead pitch in Faisalabad, early in 2006. In friendlier conditions, at an overcast Lord's in 2007, RP picked up a career-best 7 for 117, and rain helped India draw the Test. Not that he didn't shine in wins - he took six in the memorable Perth Test in 2008, and 12 in the inaugural World T20. But after the 2007-08 tour of Australia his form dipped and it was a surprise to everyone - including the man himself, interrupted while on holiday in Miami - when the Indian selectors picked him as a replacement for the injured Zaheer Khan during the England tour in 2011. Looking unfit and obviously lacking match practice, RP went wicketless in the Oval Test.
The birth of Sean Ervine, one of the 15 players who walked out of Zimbabwe cricket in April 2004. An allrounder with a frantic whirling action, his best innings came against India in the 2003-04 VB Series when he combined with Stuart Carlisle to put on 202 for the fourth wicket. Zimbabwe fell three runs short of India's total.
Zoe Goss is born. Classed as a genuine fast bowler, she played in four World Cups for Australia, including the victorious campaigns in 1988 and 1997. She was also the Player of the Series in the 1995-96 Australian Women's Cricket Championship. She was in the news in 1994 when she played for the Bradman XI in a charity match and dismissed Brian Lara, who had recently been on a record-breaking spree.
Other birthdays

1871 Alfred Archer (England)
1873 Robert Gleeson (South Africa)
1889 George Street (England)
1909 Alan McGilvray (Australia)
1933 Jim Pothecary (South Africa)
1949 Brenda Williams (South Africa)
1955 Malcolm Jarvis (Zimbabwe)
1955 Graeme Hughes (Australia)
1960 Kerry Saunders (Australia)
1976 Ali Asad (Pakistan)
1977 Dewald Pretorius (South Africa)
1989 Nasir Jamshed (Pakistan)
1991 Karun Nair (India)
1994 Shreyas Iyer (India)
1996 Glenn Phillips (New Zealand)
1999 Harry Tector (Ireland)