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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hat tricks I have seen (Part 3)

Hat tricks Nos 6 and 7 are at opposite ends of the sublime/ridiculous spectrum. One a fluent Gower off drive, the other a Devon Malcolm swipe; the first flowing Dennis Lillee, the second twisted Paul Adams. Place, occasion, significance, reaction, everything could not have been more different.
Darren Gough, Australia v England, Sydney Cricket Ground, 2 January 1999
I was in my seat at the SCG more than two hours before play started, my expression that of a Seventh Day Adventist on the morning of the second coming. After so many years of early alarms to tune into a crackling McGilvray, how wonderful it was to actually be there.

And how magnificent for a day’s cricket to be worth the 30-year wait. A partnership of 190 between the Waugh twins would have been the highlight of almost any other day. Mark got a century, but for once the usually more artisan Steve outdid his brother in silkiness of stroke.

Dean Headley dismissed three of Australia’s top four. Peter Such skipped around the field, knowing that there would not be many more test matches for him (just one as it turned out), and set on enjoying himself while he could.

Some spectators left a few overs before the end, replete with the sort of joy that only a good day’s test cricket can bring. Their way of making their day perfect was to get an early bus, or avoid the queues at the train station.

As, with a self-satisfied smirk, they bought their ticket, Darren Gough completed the first hat trick taken by an England bowler in the Ashes in a hundred years.

Watch to see what magnificent fast bowling it was. Quick enough late in the day to produce bounce and enough movement into Ian Healy to make his attempted cut shot the wrong choice. An easy catch for the keeper (three guesses who that was, by the way: answer below).
Next, a perfect yorker to take Stuart Macgill’s middle stump.
Colin Miller, expecting the same, barely raised his bat, planting if firmly in front of middle. Gough was cleverer and better, coaxing enough away swing to clatter the off stump. Up in the Churchill Stand, how we stood and cheered.

My friends, unless you want to live an old age blighted with remorse and regret, never leave a cricket match before the last ball is bowled.
The keeper was Warren Hegg. Remember him? Thought not.

Cricket Max was Martin Crowe’s idea. Then a Sky TV executive, Crowe spotted a gap in the leisure market and TV schedules that three hours’ cricket could fill. This was six years before T20 began in England, with the ECB’s marketing people taking the credit.

But, as he tended to do as a captain from time to time, Crowe overthought a good idea and made it a bit too complicated for its own good. Instead of two 20-over innings, there were four of ten overs. And there was the Max Zone between long off and long on. If the ball entered or passed over the zone, runs scored were doubled.

The CricInfo feature that introduced the competition reminds me that there were other superfluous embellishments, though many of these had been dropped by the time I arrived in Whakatane, on the sunny Bay of Plenty coast, to cover the game in question.

Every New Zealand town has a space like Rex Morpeth Park, often several of them. A pleasant, tree-lined space with a functional dressing room and bar area. No media area though. Thus it was that I delivered my first-ever live reports for CricInfo—my account of each ten-over innings published on-line within a couple of minutes of its conclusion—from the middle of the hospitality area—sausage rolls and lamingtons so near yet so far—viewing the action through a sort of enlarged letter box.
Simon Doull’s hat trick was spread over two innings, which some would argue means that it wasn’t a proper hat trick at all. The record books contain several such examples however, so it counts as one of my seven.
Forgive me for being sufficiently self-regarding as to quote my own account of the event from my end-of-match summary:


He removed Lou Vincent and Kyle Mills with the last two balls of the fourth over of the first innings, completing the hat-trick with the first ball of the second over of the second innings when James Marshall took a good catch to dismiss Llorne Howell.


You might at this point think that you would like to know more, and should consult those live reports. Well, you can’t as they have disappeared from the CricInfo archives. This is just as well, as you would search for mention of the hat trick in vain.

You see, nobody noticed that a hat trick had been taken until Northern Districts’ splenetic scorer Bill Andersson audited his score book at the end of the game. Simon Doull was as surprised as anybody. Max exaggerated one of the deficiencies of quick cricket: it moves like a bullet train, too fast to take in everything that is interesting as you look out of the window.

“Unique” is one of the most overworked and abused words in the language, but I would say with a high degree of confidence that Doull’s achievement that day of a hat trick and king pair all within three hours justifies its deployment.

By the way, Bill Andersson (still ND’s scorer today) was one reason why covering ND for a few summers was so much fun. He had the people skills and vocabulary of a sergeant major. In the press box we used to compete to see how many swear words we could elicit from him in response to an innocently phrased statistical enquiry. If memory serves, the record was thirteen.

So those are my seven hat tricks. There have been no more these fifteen years. Not even the remarkable 2014/15 season could produce one. My first visit to the Basin this season is imminent, so here’s hoping.




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