Special Delivery

In Bowling by Bill Ricquier

Moeen Ali sealed England’s emphatic victory over South Africa in the third Test with Test cricket ‘s forty-third hat trick. It was the first hat trick at The Oval , in the hundredth Test there.

Ali’s was the fourteenth hat trick to be effected by an England bowler. Australia come next with ten. This is partly , but only partly a legacy of history. When the great West Indian fast bowler Wes Hall got a hat trick against Pakistan at Lahore in 1958-59, it was only the fourteenth hat trick in all , and Hall was the first bowler to take one who was not from wither England or Australia. Since then the volume of Test cricket has increased exponentially, but hat tricks seem to come in clumps; there was only one between 1960-61 and 1988-89. But of the twenty-six hat tricks effected since then, seven have been taken by Englishmen , including two by Stuart Broad.

There have only been nine hat tricks taken in England , and two of those came on the same day , the second and last day of the first match of the Triangular Tournament held in 1912. T J ” Jimmy” Matthews, an Australian leg spinner , took hat tricks in both South African innings. All his victims were bowled, leg before or caught and bowled; oddly enough he took no other wickets in the match.

Melbourne has seen more hat tricks , five , than any other ground. Shane Warne’s hat trick there against England in 1994-95 was the first at ” the G ” since Hugh Trumble’s in 1903-04. Apart from Broad and Matthews , Trumble and Wasim Akram have taken two hat tricks. ( Wasim’s were both taken against Sri Lanka: in fact all four hat tricks taken by Pakistanis have come against Sri Lanka..)

There is something slightly odd about a hat trick. Of course it is a wonderful thing to achieve. There is a palpable feeling of excitement as the fielding captain and the bowler manoeuvre the field for the hat trick ball. Of course it doesn’t always work. Ben Stokes and Toby Roland -Jones were both on hat tricks in the fourth innings at The Oval.

It would perhaps be wrong to call a hat trick a fluke, in the way that , say, a hole in one is a fluke. Anyone can be out first ball, and although hat tricks can occur in a surprisingly wide range of circumstances , there is bound to be at least one batsman out first ball and more often than not there will be two. And nobody actually plans to take a hat trick. Bowlers will give themselves targets at the start of a series , to take a certain number of wickets , or to develop a plan against a particular batsman. But nobody , not even Broad, says ” I’m going to get a hat trick.”

Many of the game’s greatest bowlers have taken hat tricks : apart from those mentioned already there are , for example. Johnny Briggs, Lance Gibbs, Courtney Walsh , Glenn McGrath and Rangana Herath. But plenty of top bowlers haven’t: Muttiah Muralitharan, Malcolm Marshall, Dennis Lillee , Waqar Younis , Kapil Dev, to name a few at random. And some of those who have taken hat tricks are not exactly household names . Peter Petherick ? Hat trick on debut for New Zealand against Pakistan at Lahore in 1976-77: Pakistan won by six wickets. Alike Kapali. ? Hat trick for Bangladesh against Pakistan at Peshawar in 2003: Pakistan won by nine wickets.

The fact is that hat tricks occupy a sort of microclimate of their own, a rare personal achievement which may or may not have a significant effect on the result of the match. A classic example – not in a Test match – of a hat trick having a pivotal impact on a match came in the final game of England’s county championship in 2016, between Middlesex and Yorkshire at Lord’s , when Roland -Jones’ dramatic hat trick at the end of the final day secured the match and the title for the Lindon club. Ali took the last three wickets at The Oval , including the centurion Dean Elgar. But there was plenty of time left in the game and England would probably have won even if he hadn’t even been playing.

Ryan Sidebottom bowled a classic spell in New Zealand’s second innings in the first Test at Hamilton in 2007-08 . In twelve balls he took four wickets for five runs, including a hat trick and appeared to have turned the match upside down. But New Zealand won by 189 runs.

Likewise, India’s Irfan Pathan , another medium-fast left armer , reduced Pakistan to three for nought in the first over of the third Test at Karachi. They were a good three too – Salman Butt, Younis Khan , and Mohammed Yousuf. The hat trick , however , did not prevent the hosts winning by 341 runs.

One of the greatest of all Tests took place at Kolkata in 2000-01, when India beat Australia after following on. Harbajhan Singh took thirteen wickets in the match , including a hat trick. But his hat trick came in Australia’s first innings , and when India were 232 for four in their second innings and still behind, not many people would have been thinking of an Indian win. Even in retrospect it is difficult to regard the hat trick itself as a match winning performance.

Incidentally, Harbajhan’s hat trick victims were about as good as it gets – Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, and Warne. Mind you , Ponting scored only seventeen runs in five innings in the series.

Some hat tricks are harder to spot than others. Two such instances occurred in the series between Australia and the West Indies in 1988-89. West Indies won the first three Tests by big margins, Australia won the fourth at Sydney , with Allan Border taking eleven wickets, and the fifth was drawn. In the first Test at Brisbane Courtney Walsh dismissed Tony Dodemaide with the last ball of Australia’s first innings. Almost two days later he came on to bowl in their second innings and dismissed Mike Veletta and Graeme Wood with his first two deliveries. Bizarrely , a similar thing occurred in the next game at Perth , only this one was even more spread out. With the last ball of one over , Merv Hughes dismissed Curtly Ambrose and with the first ball of his next he dismissed Patrick Patterson. That was the end of West Indies’ first innings. With his first ball in their second, he got Gordon Greenidge leg before. Not surprisingly, Hughes had no idea he had taken a hat trick.

Has there ever been a hat trick that was not a cause for celebration? Well, perhaps just one.

It is an odd fact that South Africa , the third most senior Test – playing country , has on,y produced one hat trick. This was at Lord’s in 1960, also the only hat trick taken there

The SouthAfricaan tour of England that year was not a happy one. The tourists had some fine and experienced players but they never got going – England had won the series after three Tests. This was the height of the controversy about throwing and one of the fast bowlers in the touring party was Geoff Griffin , whose action was a source of controversy before the season had even started.

Griffin played in the first Test without apparent incident. But at Lord’s he came up against England’s two senior umpires , Frank Lee and Syd Buller . England batted first . Lee , standing at square leg, no-balled Griffin eleven times before , mid-way through the innings , he took a hat trick , dismissing M J K Smith ( for 99) , Peter Walker and Fred Trueman.

England won the game easily. Afterwards , there was an exhibition match , and poor Griffin found himself bowling again , this time with Buller at square leg. Buller called him for throwing the first four balls . When Griffin chose to finish the over underarm he was no-balled again by Lee for not informing the batsman in advance

Griffin finished the tour as a batsman and gave up first-class cricket soon afterwards

Bill Ricquier, 7/08/2017

This article was published in the ScoreLine Asia: https://scoreline.asia/special-delivery/

Featured Image by Amal316 (Own work) licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

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