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May 22 down the years

The Big Ship

Birth of a fine batter, useful legspinner and great captain

Warwick Armstrong bats in his final Test match, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, August 16, 1921

Warwick Armstrong played 50 Tests for Australia  •  PA Photos

Birth of the man who led Australia to the first whitewash in Ashes history. Warwick Armstrong was at the helm for the 5-0 thrashing in 1920-21 - the only clean sweep until Ricky Ponting's men matched it in 2006-07. It was Armstrong's first series as Aussie skipper and Australia also won the next three Tests under his stewardship, in England the following summer. Nobody has beaten his record of eight consecutive Ashes wins. Armstrong, who was known as "The Big Ship" - he weighed 22 stone (140 kilograms) by the time he retired - was a fine, cussed batter and a useful, skiddy legspinner who took three Test five-fors. His finest series with the bat was in that 1920-21 rout, when he made three centuries, including a Test-best 158 in Sydney. Armstrong, who also worked as a whisky merchant, died in Sydney in 1947.
An aesthete is born. Erapalli Prasanna of India was the original artistic offspinner, relying on flight, cunning, stealth and grace. He was never afraid to give the ball air, and if that didn't do for batters, then the inordinate bounce he got often did. His haul of 189 wickets was the highest by an Indian offie till Harbhajan Singh went past that mark. Five of Prasanna's six best returns came overseas, including a Test-best 8 for 76 against New Zealand in Auckland in 1975-76. India were victorious then, maintaining the pattern of Pras' career: he averaged 17 when they won, 39 when they didn't.
One of the most successful bowlers in the women's game was born today. Medium-pacer Clare Taylor was the first England woman player to take 100 international wickets and was the second highest wicket-taker overall at the World Cup in 2000. She played 16 Tests and 105 ODIs, was made a Member of the British Empire in 2000 for services to cricket, and was also part of the England side that won the 1993 World Cup at Lord's. She was also a talented footballer, having represented Liverpool Ladies as well as playing in the football World Cup. After retiring in 2005, she coached at the women's academy in Durham and later worked with the New Zealand women.
A Pakistan wicketkeeper is born. Sarfaraz Ahmed was part of the victorious 2006 Under-19 World Cup side in Bangladesh and got his first opportunity with the senior side a year later. Competition from the Akmal brothers meant that he was in and out of the side - he didn't play a Test for three years, and it was only in 2013 that he became a regular in the Test and ODI squads. He moulded himself into an attacking batter, earning a promotion in ODIs, where he even audaciously swept medium-pacers for sixes. Three Test centuries in 2014, against Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand, marked his second coming. Sarfaraz became Pakistan's captain in all formats in 2017 and that year led the team, ranked eighth then, to a Champions Trophy win. But it was not a long stint. He was sacked as captain after the 2019 World Cup and dropped from the Test and T20I sides. He made a comeback three years later, making a match-saving century against New Zealand in Karachi.
With the end of the Second World War, first-class cricket could resume in England after a five-year hiatus. The cricket-starved and war-ravaged public responded enthusiastically to five three-day games between the Australian Services (the RAAF and the AIF) and England. The first match was played at Lord's and Keith Miller's century gave the Australians a first-innings lead of 188. England couldn't recover after legspinner Cec Pepper took 4 for 80 in their second innings. The Australians won by six wickets. Wisden wrote of the match: "Some of the chosen men, coming almost straight from battlefields to the headquarters of cricket, must have regarded the first encounter primarily as a reunion with many old friends, so that a thoroughly serious view of the game, such as the Australians clearly held, was too much to expect." The series was drawn 2-2.
One of cricket's strangest moments in Taunton where Arthur Heygate was in effect timed out, although since no such law existed he was recorded as absent. With the scores tied, Sussex's last man, Heygate, who had injured a leg, painfully walked to the middle in his normal clothes only for the umpires to rule he had not got there in time even though it was thought both captains were happy to continue. The debate raged for several days before MCC ruled that the officials were right.
Only twice in history has a bowler taken two hat-tricks in an innings, and for Middlesex against Somerset at Lord's on this day, Albert Trott became the first. Better still, it was in his benefit match. And after the first hat-trick, he took another next ball to make it four in four. Ironically Trott's burst of 7 for 20, which skittled Somerset for 97, was the last act of the match and so didn't add to his benefit gate. The other man to achieve the feat is Indian medium-pacer Joginder Rao.
Birth of the first Australian southpaw to tour England. Whether opening or in the middle order, William Bruce was a real dasher, but his uncertain defence left him vulnerable. He played some fine innings, though, most notably a delightful 80 in Adelaide in 1894-95. He was also a useful medium-pacer, and seven of his 12 Test victims were out bowled. He later became a solicitor. Bruce was found drowned in his native Melbourne in 1925.
In Solihull, Singapore beat Argentina by one wicket in the first match of the inaugural ICC Trophy. The purpose of the tournament was to decide which two teams would take part in the World Cup, but the schedule was a bit of a farce: Canada and Sri Lanka booked their places in the World Cup by winning their semi-finals on June 6. The World Cup began three days later, but the ICC Trophy final, which Sri Lanka won, was not played until June 21 - in between the semi-finals and the final of the World Cup. It all makes Duckworth and Lewis look straightforward.
Birth of the New Zealand wicketkeeper Eric Petrie, who played 14 Tests between 1955-56 and 1965-66, none of which his side won. He was dependable behind the stumps but limited with the bat: his average didn't hit double figures until his 12th match, when he made a Test-best 55 against England in Christchurch.
A T20 was played in Florida, USA, between New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The organisers must have hoped the shortest format would prove attractive to the locals, but the slow and low pitch made it a dull affair even for die-hard cricket fans. New Zealand managed only 120 in their 20 overs and then took 19.4 overs to dismiss Sri Lanka for 92. The second match, a day later, had even lower scores. Sri Lanka lost three wickets in chasing New Zealand's 81.
Other birthdays
1859 Arthur Conan Doyle (England)
1924 Cecilia Robinson (England)
1964 Gamini Perera (Sri Lanka)