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The great innovator

1948 In Kanpur, India, one of cricket's most innovative coaches is born

Rob Smyth
All Today's Yesterdays - May 14 down the years
In Kanpur, India, one of cricket's most innovative coaches is born. Bob Woolmer's use of computers and willingness to embrace the unorthodox brought outstanding success: not least a treble for Warwickshire in 1994, and a South African side that was close to unstoppable against anyone not wearing a baggier green. Woolmer was a fine batsman too, good enough to play 19 Tests for England. It would have been more had he not joined World Series Cricket and then the rebel tour of South Africa in 1981-82. All three of his hundreds came against Australia, and in 1975, bowling for MCC at Lord's, his medium-pacers yielded a hat-trick against them too. As well as coaching Warwickshire for the second time, Woolmer is now ICC's High Performance Manager.
Peter Kirsten, who was born today, was almost 37 by the time he made his Test debut, because of South Africa's omission from the Test arena in the 1970s and '80s. At that time Kirsten, a wristy, uncompromising batsman and a glorious fielder, was a prolific runscorer for Western Province and Derbyshire. In 1976-77 he hit five centuries in consecutive innings, and six in seven. His talents were fading by the time he played Test cricket, but he battled doggedly, not least at Adelaide in 1993-94. South Africa had to draw to take the series against Australia, but Kirsten's 79 (in 310 minutes) and 42 (in 259) were agonisingly in vain. He made his only Test hundred at Headingley in 1994, in his penultimate Test. His half-brother Gary is South Africa's most capped player and top Test runscorer.
Birth of Carlisle Best, the Barbadian who began his Test career in true calypso style - his first scoring shot was a hooked six, third ball, off Ian Botham. That was at Jamaica in 1985-86, but Best's best came four years later, also against England. On his home ground he laced a tremendous 164 in a series-levelling victory. That was his zenith: his next four innings, in Pakistan in 1990-91, brought scores of 1, 8, 6 and 4. Best was not picked again.
The day cricket came home. Everyone knows what a farce England's World Cup campaign turned into, but things started pretty smoothly at Lord's - on the pitch at least; the opening ceremony was a disaster - when they polished off Sri Lanka with eight wickets and three overs to spare. Alec Stewart made 88 and Graeme Hick eased to 73 not out, while Alan Mullally stormed through the Sri Lankan top order with 4 for 37.
Arthur McIntyre, who was born today, played only three Tests for England, but that owed more to the brilliance of Godfrey Evans than any of his own failings. He started life as a legspinner, and first kept wicket in an emergency, but became a key member of the all-conquering Surrey side of the 1950s, and was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1958. He was later Surrey's coach.
Birth of the Gloucestershire and England allrounder John Mortimore, who never really cracked it in nine appearances at Test level. He averaged 24 with the bat and 58 with the ball, but was more effective in county cricket, where he and fellow offspinner David Allen formed an outstanding partnership. Mortimore took four wickets in five balls against Lancashire at Cheltenham in 1962, and captained Gloucester between 1965 and 1967. He was also bowling when Lancashire's David Hughes launched his famous twilight assault - 24 off an over - in the Gillette Cup semi-final of 1971 at Old Trafford.
A prodigy is born. Ken Viljoen made his debut for Griqualand West at 16, and was thrown into the South African Test team at 20, against England at Johannesburg in 1930-31. South Africa won that game, but it was one of only two victories in 27 appearances for Viljoen. He was a serene, classy batsman whose first Test hundred, against Australia at Melbourne in 1931-32, came at the beginning of a run of scores of 0, 111, 2, 0, 1, 1 and 0. He died in Krugersdorp, Transvaal in 1974.
Other birthdays
1972 Morshed Ali Khan (Bangladesh)
1983 Tatenda Taibu (Zimbabwe)