A Boy’s Own ending

December 30 down the years

Geoff Miller pouches what Chris Tavaré spills

Ian Botham got the final wicket in the nick of time © Getty Images


A dramatic finish in Melbourne kept England’s hopes alive in the series. By the time Australia’s last pair of Allan Border and Jeff Thomson had put on 70, the Ashes seemed to be on their way back down under. But eventually Ian Botham found the edge of Thommo’s bat, and though Chris Tavaré spilled the catch at slip, Geoff Miller pouched the rebound. A real Boy’s Own ending had won the match by just three runs, equalling the smallest margin of victory in any Test at the time. Ultimately it didn’t affect the destination of the urn: England had pulled back to 2-1 but couldn’t square the series in the final Test.


Sri Lanka’s first Test win in South Africa ended a spell of a year and a half without a victory in the format – since Muttiah Muralitharan retired. After losing by an innings in Centurion, Sri Lanka arrived in Durban, where they put up 338 in the first innings, in the face of an inspired performance by debutant fast bowler Marchant de Lange, who took seven wickets. South Africa collapsed in their reply, to the unlikely left-arm pace-and-spin pair of Chanaka Welegedara and Rangana Herath, Kumar Sangakkara scored his first hundred in the country, and South Africa then fell in a heap again (Jacques Kallis got his first pair in Tests), losing by 208 runs.


The birth of Joe Root, whose Test debut for England in Nagpur in 2012 was a 229-ball 73 that exemplified the qualities that had impressed coaches. His rise continued with a maiden Test hundred at his home ground, Headingley, against New Zealand, then an Ashes century at Lord’s, having been promoted to open at the beginning of the 2013 series. He went without a Test hundred for more than a year but was back to his best in the 2014 summer, with a double-hundred at Lord’s against Sri Lanka. His 134 in the first Test of the 2015 Ashes in Cardiff set the tone for England’s domination in the series. The following year, he made 254 and 71 not out in England’s win against Pakistan at Old Trafford, and four fifties and a hundred in the 4-0 series loss against India away. Root took over the England captaincy from Alastair Cook in 2017, and reeled off two hundreds and five half-centuries in his first two series in charge – both of which were won by England. A year later he led England to a historic 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka.


Another last-wicket stand in Melbourne, and this time it brought the result Australia wanted. Craig McDermott and Mike Whitney survived the last 29 balls to draw the final Test match against New Zealand and give Allan Border his first series win as captain at the eighth attempt.


Pakistan became only the second team to lose by an innings after declaring, when Australia beat them in Melbourne. It was also the first instance of a double-century by a Pakistan batsman (Azhar Ali here) ending in defeat for the team. And this despite 141 overs in the match being lost to rain: Australia galloped to 624 for 8 – the highest innings total by any team at the MCG – on the back of big hundreds from Steven Smith and David Warner after Pakistan declared on 443, and then Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon put the boot into Pakistan, who folded obligingly in a little over two sessions on day five.


Sydney Barnes completed figures of 8 for 56 and 9 for 103 in Johannesburg, the best Test return in a match until Jim Laker took 19 against Australia at Old Trafford in 1956, and still the second-best ever. Two years ago, on the same day, Barnes had the match in the bag on the first day at the MCG, when he took four wickets for one run in his first five overs. A devastating bowler even at 40, Barnes finished with 49 wickets in only four Tests in this his last series. Typically, he refused to play in the fifth Test because accommodation hadn’t been provided for his wife. Arguably the greatest bowler of all time, and very much his own man.


A draw at the MCG helped Australia regain the Border Gavaskar Trophy. Having taken a 2-0 lead going into the Test, the hosts pretty much sealed the deal when they posted 530, aided by new captain Steven Smith’s 192. They were stretched, though, by India’s middle order: Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane hit centuries in a stand of 262. In spite of that resistance, India were left to chase 384 on the last day, but after some nervy moments they saved the game. Seeing them through was captain MS Dhoni, but when the players shook hands, few knew he was playing his last Test innings. He dropped the bombshell later, citing the strain of playing all formats as the reason, choosing to continue as a limited-overs player, with the World Cup less than two months away.


That great Test rarity: a Donald duck. In Melbourne, facing his first ball of the infamous Bodyline series (he missed the opening Test because of a contractual row), Don Bradman dragged it onto his stumps. A stunned silence accompanied him back to the pavilion. It was the only Test wicket Bill Bowes ever took in Australia, but the one he and England wanted. Bradman hit a hundred in the second innings, as Australia achieved their only win of a traumatic series.


The first time in nine Tests down under that England emerged without being defeated. Too bad it came in a dead rubber. Alastair Cook, who had averaged under 15 in ten innings going into the match, finally came to the party with 244 not out – the highest score by an opener carrying his bat in a Test innings. Australia looked in trouble briefly before rain washed out most of the fourth day. Batting monster Steven Smith then put the seal on proceedings with his third hundred of the series (and sixth of the year), steering Australia to safety.


Melbourne again, this time for a match-winning spell of legspin. Shane Warne’s spell of 7 for 21 in less than 15 overs gave Australia a 1-0 lead over West Indies.


Faisal Iqbal, born today, made his Test debut amid murmurings of nepotism (he is Javed Miandad’s nephew). But two half-centuries in his first two Tests demonstrated he was worth the Test cap. He scored an attacking 83 against Australia in Colombo in 2002-03, but a string of low scores followed and he only managed to return to the side in 2006 when he scored 139 in the 341-run win over India in Karachi. In one-dayers, he scored his maiden hundred against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2002.


Fast bowler Nicky Shaw, born today, burst into the England women’s squad for their winter tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1999-2000 as a 17-year-old bustling with promise. But in her first nine years, only twice did she take more than one wicket in an ODI. It was in the 2009 World Cup final that she came into her own, taking a match-winning 4 for 34 to keep New Zealand to 166; and she was at the crease when the winning runs were hit.


Indian left-hand batsman Surinder Amarnath was born into a cricketing family – to say the least. His brother Mohinder also played for India, as did their famous father Lala. Surinder was the least successful of the three: although he emulated his dad by scoring a hundred on his international debut, in Auckland in 1975-76. It was the only one of his Test career.


Warwickshire wicketkeeper Dick Spooner was born. He would have played in more than seven Tests for England if Godfrey Evans hadn’t been around, but nevertheless had his moments, such as scoring 71 and 92 as an opener in Calcutta in 1951-52.

Other birthdays

1884 Gerald Hartigan (South Africa)

1959 Rod McCurdy (Australia)

1965 Brad McNamara (Australia)

1968 Adam Dale (Australia)

1975 T Kumaran (India)

1982 Charith Sylvester (Sri Lanka)

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