An extraordinary start to an Ashes series. Fresh from putting the boot in on West Indies and dashing South Africa's hopes of world supremacy, Australia came to England as strong favourites. England had improved, but not that much. But on the first morning of the series at a delirious Edgbaston, Australia crumbled to 54 for 8. It was sensational stuff. Only Shane Warne got the Aussies to 118. Then Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe set about nailing England's advantage. They added 288 in a thrilling partnership, and Hussain's 207 changed his life. By the same token, Mark Taylor's brave second-innings hundred saved his career (he'd made no fifties in his previous 11 Tests) but not the match: England stormed to a nine-wicket win on the fourth evening, and on the back of a 3-0 one-day whitewash, all was well with the world. For two weeks anyway, until England were bowled out for 77 at Lord's, and reality began to dawn.
Birth of a cricket spoilsport. Warwickshire and England legspinner Eric Hollies played only one of his 13 Tests against Australia, but it was enough to give him a place in history. At The Oval in 1948, Don Bradman needed only 4 for a career average of 100 ... and Hollies bowled him second ball for 0 with the googly. Observer Sport Monthly recently deemed it the greatest shock in sporting history. The Eric Hollies Stand was opened at Edgbaston last Thursday.
An Invincible is born. Sid Barnes was unlucky only to play 13 Tests (his career sandwiched the Second World War), but he certainly made the most of life at the top - his Test average was 63. He came of age at Sydney in 1946-47, when he made an 11-hour 234 and added 415 for the fifth wicket with Don Bradman (who also made 234). And in the all-conquering 1948 side, he averaged 82, including 141 at Lord's. An often-controversial character whose attempted comeback in the 1950s was blocked by the ACB, Barnes committed suicide in his native Sydney in 1973.
Ian Botham's first day as England captain. It seemed a logical progression when he was given the job for the first Test against West Indies at Trent Bridge. He was the best player in the team by a mile, with averages of 40 with the bat and 18 with the ball from 25 Tests. But he was only 24 years old, and it probably came too early: England won none of Botham's 12 Tests as captain, in which time he averaged 13 with the bat and 33 with the ball. In fairness to Beefy, he presided over 1-0 and 2-0 defeats by West Indies, for which he was slated. England's next three series against the same opposition - 14 defeats, one draw, no wins - put those results into context.
Birth of the South African allrounder Herbert "Tiger" Lance, who played 13 Tests. He was a handy strokeplayer in the lower-middle order, and a useful thirdor fourth-change seamer. He took 3 for 30 in his first Test innings, against New Zealand at Johannesburg in 1961-62. His finest hour with the bat also came at Johannesburg, when he made 44 and 70 against Australia in 1966-67, a match that South Africa won at a canter despite trailing on first innings.
West Indies' best bowler is born. Mervyn Dillon might not be fit to lace the boots of Michael Holding & co., but he's comfortably the pick of their current crop. Dillon is not genuinely quick, but jags the ball both ways off a shortish length. Dillon has only been on the winning side five times in 33 Tests, but he's had a big hand in three of those: against South Africa in Jamaica in 2000-01, and against India in Barbados and Jamaica a year later.
A fairly regular pattern of England's recent form is that, when they go 1-0 up after the first Test of a home series, their cricket begins to stink. It happened against India in 1996, and New Zealand in 1994 and 1999, but rarely has the stench been fouler than during this draw against Zimbabwe at Trent Bridge. On the final day, with a first-innings leads of 89 after an enterprising Zimbabwean declaration, England blundered to 147 all out in 65 tortuous overs. They escaped with a draw, and a series win, but there was little to celebrate.
1921 Lance Pierre (West Indies)
1936 Kelly Seymour (South Africa)
1945 Ambar Roy (India)