The middle three of my seven hat tricks were all taken by Kent quick bowlers all of whom experienced fleeting glory for England.
v Hampshire, Sunday League, Canterbury, 29 May 1983
When Fred Trueman first saw Richard Ellison
bowl in test cricket, the king of curmudgeon took just one over to write him off
as a mere medium-pacer, and a southern one at that. But any batsman who thought
that he could reside on the front foot against Ellison would likely be disabused
by a surprisingly sharp bouncer.
He was brisk enough to make his command of
swing devastating on his day. He is one of those who will be remembered for one
day—little more than one hour really. Late in the afternoon of the fourth day of
the fifth Ashes test in 1985 Ellison took the top off the Australian order,
leaving them 36 for five at the close and completing ten wickets in the match
Ellison played his last test less than a
year later, a persistent back injury taking the edge off the swing and the
pace, though he played on for Kent until 1993.
His hat trick was the most prosaic of my
seven, the last three balls of a mundane 40-over game, the result already
clear. Hampshire were 133 for seven, 66 short of their target with seven overs
left, the Kent innings built around a fine 62 by the great CJ Tavaré.
Ellison, bowling from the Pavilion End,
bowled Tim Tremlett, then had Bobby Parks caught behind by Alan Knott. Steve
Malone—in 1985, high on the list of players who the bowler would choose to face
a hat-trick delivery—came in at No 11. I would assume that Ellison bowled
cross-seam and cut the pace down as it is inconceivable that Malone would have
come within a bus ride of a swinging ball; to have found the edge to a first
delivery, as he did, was an achievement in batting equal to most other players
hitting it back over the bowler’s head for six. So it was that for the second
time Alan Knott made the dismissal that completed a hat trick that I have seen.
Ellison again took three wickets at the end
of another match between the same teams at St Lawrence just a few days later,
with Hampshire again chasing 199 for victory, this time in a 55-over
quarter-final. Despite being hat-trick free, it was an altogether more gripping
occasion. Hampshire’s collapse, from 167 for two to a five-run defeat, was as
spectacular as I have seen, worth a post to itself sometime.
Graham Dilley, Surrey v Kent,
County Championship, the Oval, 6 July 1985
It was the English summer at its finest. A Saturday
when the sun shouted from a cloudless sky, to demand that decent people gather
up their binoculars, Wisdens and scotch eggs, and go to the cricket. So it was
the early train from Bristol, then the Northern Line to Kennington.
County cricket does not seem out of place at
the Oval, as it does at Lord’s. Middlesex—usually poked away on the edge of the
square with an absurdly short boundary on one side—are the servants allowed to
dance in the ballroom when the owners are away, but the Oval seems able to
adjust to the occasion (perhaps the majestic new stand at the Vauxhall End has
changed that since I was last there, but I hope not). I watched from high in
the Pavilion with Allen Hunt, George Murrell and others.
Chris Cowdrey—in the first year of his
usurpation of the captaincy—won the toss and Kent compiled 301 at a pleasant
tempo. Simon Hinks’ 81 was the top score. Hinks was a tall left-hander with a
pleasing drive, but whose career statistics do not reflect his potential
There was drama at the end of the innings,
Shakespearian servings of plot, pathos and comedy. When the ninth wicket fell,
Kent were 13 short of the 300 needed for a fourth batting bonus point. When
Derek Underwood saw Kevin Jarvis walking down the pavilion steps to join him he
could have thought himself in the position of a general struggling for survival
in battle who sees a friendly army coming to rescue, only to discover that it
is the Italians.
KBS Jarvis is the worst batsman I have seen
in my half century of spectating, a judgement made without hesitation or
equivocation. For Underwood to distil the required 13 from the partnership was
to scale the north face of Mt Pessimism. Jarvis’ 0 was one of his finest.
But the best cricket of the day, pre hat
trick, came from the off spinner Pat Pocock, who took seven for 42. Underwood
bowled only 16 overs in the match, and Pocock went wicketless in the second
innings, so this was pure art and craft, and three of them were clean bowled.
Pocock had played the last of his 25 tests as recently as the previous
February, 17 years after his first. He couldn’t bat and was no more than
reliable in the field, so might not have had a place in the modern game, but
what a lot of wickets he would take.
Surrey were left to face 40 minutes or so of
Kent bowling. Graham Dilley opened the bowling from the Pavilion End. Dilley
had returned to cricket after missing the whole of the 1984 season with a neck
injury, and it was hard going as he tried to get that manufactured,
goose-stepping action back into rhythm. It is a generalisation, but when Dilley
was bowling well he was mostly away playing for England, and when he wasn’t he
was a bit of a liability. As a county cricketer, Worcestershire got more from
him later on. He took only 32 first-class wickets in 1985, but eight of them
were in this game, and three in three balls this sunny afternoon.
Opener Duncan Pauline was caught by Hinks at
slip, then nightwatchman Nick Taylor had his stumps demolished first ball.
“I have never seen a hat trick,” said George
Murrell. This seemed an unlikely claim from one who had seen so much of Doug
Wright, taker of seven hat tricks, more than anyone else in cricket history.
But only two of those were taken in Kent, and there were few others in the
fifties and sixties, so it was not improbable.
When Andy Needham edged the next ball for
Hinks to take another catch to complete Dilley’s feat, I turned to George,
expecting a jubilant reaction.
“I was going to have the words ‘He never saw
a hat trick’ on my headstone, but that’s put paid to that” was all he said.
Dean Headley, Kent v
Hampshire, County Championship, 14 September 1996
In terms of hat tricks, 1996 was to Kent cricket
what 1849 was to California’s gold prospectors. Dean Headley’s hat trick that I
saw on the third day of this game was his third in under two months. Martin
McCague took another on the final day of the same match. To put this in its
full probability defying context, there has only been one first-class hat-trick
by a Kent bowler in the 20 seasons since.
Headley came Kent from Middlesex and his
enthusiastic approach made him very popular with the Kent faithful. Discordant
cries of “Dean-oh!” would fill the air once the bars had been open for a few
hours. When it all worked, he could get movement in the air and off the pitch.
He began a 15-match test career in the 1997
Ashes, taking eight wickets on debut at Old Trafford. I was at Sydney for the New
Year test in 1999 to see him repeat this achievement, but it is for the
previous test at Melbourne that he is best remembered. At 130 for three, Australia
appeared to be cruising to a series-winning target of 175 when Headley ripped
out the middle and lower order to finish with six for 60. England won by 12
In the match in question, Hampshire were 87
behind Kent on first innings with the eighth-wicket partnership together. With
captain John Stephenson still there—albeit proceeding at a glacial pace—parity was
not out of the question. Kent were still in with an outside chance of the Championship,
but needed a win in this, the penultimate match, to stay in the race.
Stephenson was the first of the three
hat-trick victims, caught by Ealham (perhaps at mid off or mid on, but I am not
certain). Fast bowlers James Bovill and Simon Renshaw followed from the next two
deliveries, both leg before. The reaction of the bowler and his teammates was
one of disbelief followed by laughter.
Preparing for this piece, I had no memory of
who the umpire was raised the fateful finger twice in succession. The scorecard
tells me that the two on duty that day were George Sharp and Ray “Trigger”
Julian. I would wager a considerable sum that it was Julian who was at the
bowler’s end on that occasion. His nickname was the result of his interpretation
of the lbw law in a way that dispatched batsmen at an attrition rate of a wild
west saloon on a Saturday night.
The first thing bowlers would look for when
the umpires’ roster for each season was published would be how many times Trigger
was doing their games. Tense negotiation with their captain would ensue to
ensure that they bowled from his end.
Julian was of the view that umpires were far
too cautious about lbw decisions, and that, other conditions being satisfied,
if on balance it was more likely than not that the ball would have hit the
stumps, off the batsman should go. It has to be said that the advent of DRS has
vindicated his view entirely, and had he been umpiring now, he might have had a
lengthy international career.
He used to keep a count of his victims
through the season, and the temptation of claiming two-thirds of a hat trick
may have been irresistible, though my memory is that both looked out from the
top deck of the Frank Woolley.
On the following Monday (Sunday was still
set aside for a one-day game), Hampshire were well-placed at 143 for one,
chasing a target of 292. Then McCague turned in a fearsome spell that those who
saw it claim was one of the fastest seen at St Lawrence. Nine wickets fell for
seven runs, so Hampshire collapses at Canterbury become a theme of this post.
Kent finished fourth in the Championship that year, and after an 11-year
hiatus, my hat-trick count was up to five.