December 31 down the years

Peter definitely could

A classy batter and ruthless captain is born

Peter May finished with 4537 runs in 66 Tests © PA Photos

One of the most talented of all post-war cricketers was born. There was something about Peter May that set him apart, both as a classy and punishing batter (Test average 46.77) and as a ruthless and successful England captain in 41 consecutive matches. His highest Test score, an unbeaten 285 in a record stand of 411 with Colin Cowdrey at Edgbaston in 1957, saved England against West Indies and broke Sonny Ramadhin's spell once and for all. May's sudden retirement from Test cricket (he was only 31) was followed, decades later, by some rather mixed success as chairman of England selectors. He died of a brain tumour in Hampshire in 1994.

By his own admission, Matthew Hoggard, who was born today, took a while to learn his England role, and his flashier colleagues consistently stole his limelight. But his moments, when they came,were worth waiting for - a brilliant hat-trick in Barbados in April 2004, and then a phenomenal 12-wicket haul in Johannesburg the following winter, where he single-handedly bowled England to a series-clinching 2-1 lead. The following summer he shrugged off a quiet start to the summer to contribute nine wickets at Trent Bridge and The Oval, as England sealed their first Ashes victory for 18 years. Surprisingly for a player who was a constant figure in England's side for four years - he played 40 consecutive Tests - Hoggard's international career ended with a solitary Test in 2008. In 2010, having been released by Yorkshire the previous year, he signed a three-year deal with Leicestershire as captain and led them to the T20 title and a Champions League appearance in 2011. He retired at the end of the 2013 season.

The story goes that when a Mrs Park bent down to pick up her knitting today, she missed her husband's entire international career as a batter! Exhausted after having to attend a difficult birth the night before, Dr Roy Park was bowled by the only ball he ever faced in Test cricket. Even without his contribution, Australia beat England by an innings in Melbourne.

Ask county batters of the time which fast bowler they least wanted to face, and most would have answered Sylvester Clarke. He didn't make the same impact in Tests, though a spectator in Multan might have disagreed. This was the day the combustible Clarke chose to show his irritation with the surfeit of oranges the Pakistani crowd were showering him with. Picking up a brick that was being used as a boundary marker, he started a minor riot by scoring a direct hit on the head of a local student leader. County batters knew the feeling.

Better known for batting all day in a Test match, Geoff Marsh, who was born today, achieved the unique feat of winning the World Cup as a player (1987) and coach (1999). He and Mark Taylor were inseparable throughout a day's play at Trent Bridge in 1989, when Marsh made 138 (his highest Test score) out of an eventual stand of 329, which is still an Ashes record for the first wicket. In 2011, Marsh replaced Trevor Bayliss as Sri Lanka's coach. He was unceremoniously sacked four months later despite Sri Lanka winning their first Test in South Africa under his helm.

Australian Test opener Matthew Elliott achieved the very rare feat of completing two first-class hundreds on the same day, carrying his bat for 104 in the first innings and then scoring 135 in the second as Victoria followed on against Western Australia in Perth.

Winston Benjamin, who was born today, had the bit of devil that marked out many of his West Indian peers as great fast bowlers, but he only ever really attained the ranks of the good. Short and whippy, in 21 Tests (spread over nearly eight years) he never took a five-for and never took the new ball. He could give the ball a fearful thump - he smeared a run-a-ball 85 off New Zealand in 1994-95 - and he even won a Test with the bat, scoring a crucial 40 not out in series-levelling two-wicket win over Pakistan in Barbados in 1987-88, which preserved West Indies' status as the world's best.

Having the names of three Hindu deities in your surname doesn't automatically mean the gods are going to smile on you. Legspinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, who was born today, was only 17 when he made his Test debut for India, against West Indies in Antigua in 1982-83, so he could be forgiven figures of 0 for 95 from 25 overs. But he never lived up to his youthful promise. Despite taking 12 wickets to beat England in Bombay in 1984-85, he played in only nine Tests and took 26 wickets at 44.03 each.

Medium-pacer and willing workhorse Jimmy Blanckenberg was born. South Africa's most successful bowler against Australia in 1921-22, and especially against England, in 1913-14 and again in 1922-23, when he took 6 for 76 to help win the first Test in Johannesburg. He died around 1955 - but nobody knows exactly when. He is listed in the Wisden Almanack as "presumed dead".

Birth of Bangladesh middle-order batter and part-time offspinner Naeem Islam, who got his break in the national side in 2008, when several Bangladeshi players defected to the ICL. He went through a lean patch in 2009 but the selectors persisted with him and he went on to make his maiden one-day half-century at the end of the year, and to play in the 2011 World Cup as well. Naeem made his first Test hundred in 2012, against West Indies in Dhaka, but Bangladesh lost the match.

Birth of a Sri Lankan leggie. Malinga Bandara's all-round versatility earned him a place in Sri Lanka's World Cup side in 2007, but he played just the one game and struggled to find a place in the line-up thereafter. Bandara's high-water mark was 12 wickets over three consecutive Tests in 2005-06.

Other birthdays
1935 Peter Allan (Australia)
1939 Afaq Hussain (Pakistan)
1941 AG Milkha Singh (India)
1961 Shelley Fruin (New Zealand)
1964 Denis Hickey (Australia)
1981 Anwar Hossain Monir (Bangladesh)
1984 Roelof van der Merwe (South Africa)