December 20 down the years

Tiger, tiger, bowling spin

An Australian spinner with the aggression of a quick bowler

Bill O'Reilly took 144 Test wickets © Getty Images

Into the genteel world of cricket, a Tiger is born. Balding and belligerent (when he grew up, too), Bill O'Reilly was one of the all-time greats, a legspinner with the action and aggression of a pace bowler. He was 6ft 2in tall, gripped the ball in his enormous right hand and released it at a pace that could be almost fast-medium. He played 27 Test matches and took 144 wickets - 102 of them English ones, including that of Walter Hammond ten times - averaging 22.59. His partnership with the contrasting Clarrie Grimmett terrorised England in the 1930s. When England made 903 at The Oval in 1938, O'Reilly bowled 85 overs and finished with figures of 3 for 178. Before that, he had secured the Ashes by taking 5 for 66 and 5 for 56 at Headingley.

Pakistan were whitewashed at home in a series of three or more Tests for the first time in their history when England won the Karachi Test by eight wickets. Middle-order batter Harry Brook scored his third hundred of the series to give England a 50-run lead, after which 18-year-old legspinner Rehan Ahmed became the youngest debutant to take a five-for. England, who had started the series by piling on 506 runs on day one in Rawalpindi, tried to finish off their target of 167 in the final session of day three, but ended up needing a few overs on the fourth morning to get there. The pitches for all three Tests were dull and flat, but England were determined to force results. In Rawalpindi, they declared to give Pakistan a real chance of chasing 343, and then bowling them out 75 runs short. In Multan, Pakistan got even closer to the target before Mark Wood broke Saud Shakeel and Imam-ul-Haq's century stand and England won by 26 runs.

A riveting finish in the only Test to be won off the last ball. England began the final eight-ball over of the first Test against South Africa in Durban needing eight runs to win with two wickets remaining. Alec Bedser and Cliff Gladwin got that down to one off one ball. Wisden describes the final moments as follows: "In a mid-wicket conference about the last ball Gladwin and Bedser decided to run in any event... as Tuckett began his run-up the fieldsmen started to run in like sprinters towards the wicket to prevent the single which would win the match. Gladwin went into his stumps, swung his bat, but again missed his stroke. The ball struck his thigh and bounced a yard or two in front of him. From short leg, Mann pounced on the ball, but both batter galloped to safety."

Indian spinners enjoyed Kanpur in the late '50s. On this day Jasubhai Patel took 9 for 69 there against Australia. His offspin exploited a recently laid turf pitch to help win a match in which India had been all out for 152 in their first innings. Patel, whose figures were a Test best for India until Anil Kumble took all ten against Pakistan in Delhi in 1998-99, was the second bowler to take nine wickets in a Test innings for India, after Subhash "Fergie" Gupte against West Indies on the same ground the previous winter.

Birth of Grant Flower, who was overshadowed for much of his career by his brother Andy, one of the great wicketkeeper-batters of his times, but who didn't exactly wilt when playing for Zimbabwe, scoring six Test centuries, three of them against Pakistan, including an unbeaten 201 in Harare in 1994-95. The dispute between the Zimbabwe board and the rebel players effectively led to his retirement from the international game in 2004, after which he spent six successful seasons with Essex, guiding them to the Friends Provident Trophy in 2008. In 2010, Flower returned to Zimbabwe and took up the post of batting coach of the national side. He made an international comeback too, playing two ODIs against South Africa, but with limited success, and also returned to domestic cricket in Zimbabwe, captaining Mashonaland Eagles to the domestic T20 title in 2010-11. He retired before Zimbabwe's trip to Bangladesh in November 2010 and turned his full attention to coaching.

The end of one of the most dramatic Tests of all time. In the first to involve six days of play, England became the first team to win one after following on. Australia started the last day needing only 64 with eight wickets in hand, but they lost by ten runs after Bobby Peel, who liked a glass as much as a turning wicket, had been held under a cold shower and went out to take 6 for 67.

Birth of the first Test cricketer to come from St Lucia. Fast bowler Daren Sammy took a seven-for (including three in an over) on Test debut, at Old Trafford in 2007 but then went on to cement his spot as an allrounder in the one-day side. In 2010, he became the first West Indian to take five wickets in a T20 - in a match West Indies lost to Zimbabwe - and also the fastest West Indian to a one-day half-century (off 20 balls) - in a match they lost to South Africa. Later that year he was the surprise choice for captain after Chris Gayle was axed, and proved a talismanic one, leading West Indies to their first Test win in two years in May 2011, to the World T20 title in 2012, their first world title since 1979, and again in 2016.

With a clinical 4-0 series win over England at home, India managed to exorcise the ghost of losing 2-1 in 2012 to Alastair Cook's men. The win in the final Test, in Chennai, wrapped up on this day, was the most comprehensive of the five-match series. Karun Nair became the second Indian to make a triple-century, which overshadowed opener KL Rahul's 199, and eventually took India to 759 in reply to England's 477. Still, the match looked headed for a draw when England were batting in their second innings on 97 for no loss at lunch on day five on a flat, slow pitch with not much bounce. But like they did five Tests before, in Mirpur, England lost all ten wickets in a hurry - 48.2 overs to be precise. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja picked up his first seven-for (in his maiden ten-wicket match haul), overshadowing local boy R Ashwin, who took just one wicket in the match, but finished with a series tally of 28.

Australia went 2-0 up in the Ashes with a massive ;275-run win in the day-night Test in Adelaide. England never looked like they were in the game, conceding a first-innings lead of 237 after David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith (captaining the side in place of Pat Cummins) piled up big runs. Jos Buttler batted over four hours for a self-denying 26 runs in England's second innings, but fast bowler Jhye Richardson, replacing the injured Josh Hazlewood, took 5 for 42 on debut to wrap up the win shortly after tea on the final day.

Birth of Khalid "Billy" Ibadulla, who was better known in England for his long service to Warwickshire and played in only four Tests for Pakistan, but who scored 166 on his debut, against Australia in Karachi in 1964-65.

Other birthdays
1981 Alfred Luseno (Kenya)