Brian Viner: With hindsight, can we foresee history turning full circle at The Oval?

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The Independent Online

Traditionally, this column's first outing of a new year serves notice of some of the sporting birthdays and anniversaries we can expect to be loudly trumpeted over the forthcoming 12 months, as well as some that might otherwise slip by without fuss or fanfare.

Traditionally, this column's first outing of a new year serves notice of some of the sporting birthdays and anniversaries we can expect to be loudly trumpeted over the forthcoming 12 months, as well as some that might otherwise slip by without fuss or fanfare.

Let's start with Jack Nicklaus, still the greatest golfer who ever lived. He turns 65 on 21 January. The following day it will be 50 years since Joe Davis scored snooker's first official 147 break. And on the 31st it will be 40 years since Jock Stein became manager of Celtic.

In February, a pair of British footballers, two superb goalscorers who always knew what to do with a killer pass, become eligible for a bus pass. Jimmy Greaves is 65 on the 20th, Denis Law four days later.

On 1 March it will be 25 years since the death, at a Merseyside derby, of Everton's legendary goalscorer Dixie Dean. Later that month a somewhat less impressive scoring feat will probably not be commemorated in New Zealand; on 28 March 1955, in Auckland, England's cricketers bowled out the Kiwis for just 26 runs. It remains the lowest score in Test match cricket.

A more distinguished half-century comes up on 2 April. It will be 50 years since the great but ill-fated Duncan Edwards was first capped for England, aged 18, in the 7-2 defeat of Scotland. On 4 April it will be 75 years since another notable first: Andy Sandham - whom I remember as a frail old man being interviewed by Peter West during a tea break at the Oval - became the first batsman to score over 300 runs in a Test match, against the West Indies in Jamaica. Three days after Sandham's 325, and doubtless under greyer skies, a baby boy called Cliff Morgan was born. Although it was later claimed that he came off a conveyor belt in a Welsh fly-half factory.

On 4 May it will be 225 years since the first Derby at Epsom, the name of the race reputedly decided by a coin toss between the 12th Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury. On the 29th of the same month, another racing institution reaches a big birthday: Martin Pipe turns 60.

On that date in 1985 came one of English football's darkest hours: the Heysel stadium disaster.

Another disaster should be remembered in June. On the 11th it will be 50 years since Pierre Levegh's Mercedes somersaulted off the track during the Le Mans 24-hour race, killing Levegh and 82 spectators. Two days later, rather scarily for those of us who knew him as snooker's pin-up boy, Tony Knowles turns 50.

In July come two noteworthy anniversaries at Wimbledon: on the fifth it will be 30 years since Arthur Ashe became the first black champion; on the seventh, 20 years since Boris Becker became the youngest champion.

On 12 July is the 75th anniversary of the day Donald Bradman eclipsed Sandham's achievement three months earlier. Against England at Headingley, the Don scored 309 runs in a day. And in the same month, but a different hemisphere, football's first World Cup final took place - Uruguay beating Argentina 4-2 in Montevideo.

Another 75th anniversary arrives in August; the first British Empire Games, later renamed the Commonweath Games, opened in Hamilton, Canada, on 16 August 1930.

On 6 September it will be 125 years since The Oval hosted the first Test match in England, and let us hope for the same result this year; England beat Australia by five wickets. On 21 September is the 50th anniversary of Rocky Marciano's last professional fight. In knocking out Archie Moore, in the sixth defence of his world title, he completed his career with a 49th victory in his 49th fight. Another big boxing anniversary arrives on 1 October: it will be 30 years since the Thrilla in Manila between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

On 21 October, Ali's sporting antithesis, Geoff Boycott, reaches 65. Pele turns 65 two days later, Martin Peters on 8 November. Better still, on 23 November it will be 250 years since the birth of Thomas Lord, who gave his name to cricket's holiest shrine. The following day brings up the half-century of a man who has thrilled crowds at Lord's more than most: Ian Botham. And 3 December marks the centenary of the England wicket-keeper who scored more first-class runs - 37,248 - than any other: the late Les Ames.

Finally, on Christmas Day it will be 150 years since the first game of ice hockey was played, in Kingston, Ontario. Or so they say. Which gives us lots to look forward to looking back at.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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