GOOD THINGS come in threes, and, as chief writer RON REED reports in Test cricket so do some strange things:
HAT-TRICKS are among the least common occurrences in Test cricket – in more than 2000 matches over nearly 150 years, bowlers have taken wickets with three consecutive deliveries only 43 times. But there have been plenty of memorable ones, including the latest.
I turned on the TV on Monday night just in time to see England wrap up the third Test against South Africa at The Oval when black-bearded spin bowler Moeen Ali claimed one of the more theatrical such feats. He had century-maker Dean Elgar and tailender Kagiso Rabada caught by Ben Stokes at first slip and then, with the first ball of his next over rapped Morne Morkel on the pads, apparently plumb in front – only for umpire Joel Wilson to turn down the appeal. The decision was reversed by the third umpire on review, the only hat-trick so acquired.
It was the first hat-trick ever taken at The Oval, which was celebrating its 100th Test, and the first by an English spin bowler since Tom Goddard did it in Johannesburg 79 years ago. And, just by the way, it confirmed England’s superiority in the series so far, new captain Joe Root going to a 2-1 lead with one to play ahead of the Ashes.
It was the 14th hat-trick by an English bowler with Australians having taken 11. The other eight nations have 18 between them and all are represented.
Australia’s history in this niche statistical category goes almost all the way back to the dawn of Test cricket, with Fred “The Demon Bowler” Spofforth claiming the first one at the MCG in January, 1879, in only the third match ever played. The baggy green has featured in several memorable ones.
The only player to take two hat-tricks in the same match was spinner Jimmy Matthews, who did so against South Africa in 1912 – but in an odd twist it happened in England, where a triangular series was taking place. In both instances, his third victim was the same player, Tommy Ward.
Another off-spinner, Hugh Trumble, also took two hat-tricks, two years apart, against the same opponent, England, at the same ground, the MCG, in 1902 and 1904. The second was in his last game.
The “bowlologist, as he refers to himself these days, Damien Fleming, is one of three bowlers – along with English medium-pacer Maurice Allom in 1930 and New Zealand spinner Peter Petherick in 1976 – to do the trick on their Test debut.
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Fleming, who achieved his in Rawalpindi in 1994, would have become part of the select club to have taken two hat-tricks if Shane Warne had not dropped a simple slips catch off India’s Javagal Srinath in Adelaide in 1999.
Another Australian paceman, Peter Siddle, is the only bowler to do it on his birthday – against England in Brisbane in 2010 – and Merv Hughes boasts the most elongated one, taking wickets with the last ball of one over, the first ball of the next, which ended the innings, and with the first ball of the second innings against the West Indies in Perth in 1988.
Other than Matthews and Trumble, the only bowlers with two are England’s current new-ball specialist Stuart Broad and former Pakistan left-armer Wasim Akram, who did it twice in just over a week against Sri Lanka in 1999.
South African Geoff Griffin’s three wickets were among only eight for his entire career, which lasted only two matches against England in 1960. In the second one, he claimed the first hat-trick by a South African – and still the only one — and the first by anybody at Lord’s but was persistently no-balled for throwing and never played again. But even that ratio is not a record. Bangladeshi leg-spinner Alok Kapali ran through the Pakistani tail in 2003 but took only another three wickets in his other 16 matches. He had a bowling average of 118.6, probably making him the worst bowler on the list.
Another Bangladeshi, off-spinner Sohag Gazi, has the distinction of being the only player to take a hat-trick and score a century in the same match, which he did against New Zealand in Chittagong four years ago. The wickets were taken with his first three balls of the match. Similarly, India’s Irfan Pathan took his three in the first over of a match against Pakistan in Karachi in 2006.
Instantaneous hat-tricks, or any other sort, are not confined to Test cricket, of course. In a London club match many eons ago, a young Australian playing for Shepherd’s Bush against Hornsey claimed wickets with the first three balls of the innings. That sounds like a match-winning feat. Er, no, afraid not – Hornsey won by seven wickets, possibly because the bowler might have got a bit carried away with himself. Nonetheless, the ball was decorated with an inscribed plaque and given to him anyway – and if you’ll forgive the indulgence, I still have it.
THE TEST HAT-TRICKS
- Allom, Petherick and Fleming did the hat-trick on debut.
- The second Trumble and the Griffin hat-tricks were in the final Test of these players.
- The Walsh, Hughes and Lawson hat-tricks involved two innings.
- Matthews did the hat-trick in each innings.
- Petherick has the most expensive innings analysis of somebody doing the hat trick (3 for 103).
- Largest total to include a hat-trick is 537 by Pakistan at Rawalpindi, 1994-95.
- Least number of career Test wickets for a bowler doing a hat- trick is 6 by Alok Kapali.
- Zoysa’s hat-trick was from the first three balls he delivered in the Test
- Pathan took his hat-trick in the first over of the Test.
RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.