Will Williams, for Canterbury v Wellington, T20, Basin Reserve, 9 January 2020
After a twenty-year wait, another hat trick, the eighth I have been present to see. It occurred at the Basin Reserve, which always looks a treat at the turn of the year, when the pohutukawas smear their deep red around the ground and up the hill to Government House.
The occasion was a round-robin game in New Zealand’s domestic T20 competition. A win would make Wellington unassailable at the top of the table, and thus guaranteed to host the final. What’s more, the Basin Reserve is available, unlike the last time Wellington won hosting rights for a domestic final, when it had carelessly been let to a beer festival.
Canterbury—who needed a win to keep alive their slim chances of making the second v third playoff—batted first after winning the toss. The first half of their innings went well, and it looked like a score in the region of 175 was attainable, but the dismissal of top-scorer Jack Boyle halfway through the innings removed the momentum. Six wickets fell for only 70 runs in the final ten overs, leaving a target of 149, which appeared 20 or so short. Leg-spinner Peter Younghusband was the main brake on the innings, conceding only 16 from his four overs and taking two wickets.
At the top of the Wellington order, Devon Conway displayed a range of shots that showed why his becoming eligible for New Zealand later this year so excites the cricket community. When he was fourth out in the fourteenth over, 49 were still required. Fraser Colson and Jamie Gibson for the fifth wicket kept the asking rate steady and with three overs left 23 were needed.
Only now was Will Williams introduced into the attack, odd given that he batted at No 9. Williams had impressed on his previous visit to the Basin earlier in the season when he was the only Canterbury bowler to hold the line while Conway made a triple century, conceding under two an over when the overall scoring rate was four-and-a-half. Williams is a right-arm medium pacer with a jaunty run up.
The first three balls went for a two and two singles. For the fourth, Williams produced a perfect yorker that bowled Colson, the man most likely to take Wellington to victory. For the first time in the innings Canterbury edged ahead.
It was this pressure that made new batsman Lauchie Johns unwisely go for the big shot over mid on from the next ball, which was never far enough up for that to be the best option. Chad Bowes took the catch easily ten metres or so in from the rope.
The hat-trick delivery was on a length on middle stump. Gibson (the batsmen had crossed) attempted to play it through mid-wicket but got the line wrong and tamely lobbed it back down the pitch. It took a quick change of direction and an outstretched right arm for Williams to take the catch himself.
Nuttall did not allow Wellington any boundaries in the nineteenth over, so 12 were required from the last, bowled, of course, by Williams. A single was followed by a straight four, another single and two, leaving four needed from two deliveries, though the two points available for a tie would have been enough to have guaranteed Wellington the home final (we are off super overs in New Zealand for reasons that it is still too soon to speak of with any ease).
Younghusband seemed to have made good contact with the fifth ball, but he had hit it a fraction early, sacrificing distance for elevation and providing Bowes with a second easy catch at deep mid on.
Logan van Beek almost did it. He hit the ball with sufficient timing and power that five metres either side of Bowes, and it would have crossed the boundary first bounce. But it was straight at him, and he took the catch that gave Williams what was said to be the second fastest five-for in terms of balls bowled in List A T20 cricket worldwide.
Of my eight hat tricks this was the one that had the most immediate impact on the outcome of the game; without it, Wellington would almost certainly have won (though the ability of Wellington teams to sniff out defeat when others would only discern only the sweet aroma of victory is well known). I haven’t verified the hypothesis, but I assume that the frenetic nature of T20 makes hat tricks less of a rarity than they are in longer forms, but they are still quite something for the cricket buff.