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Best and Worst: Hat-tricks

Irfan Pathan (Hat-tricks)
by James Wallace 4 minute read

From Naseem Shah’s international arrival to Steve Finn’s forgotten World Cup feat – James Wallace lists down cricket’s best and worst hat-tricks in issue 34 of Wisden Cricket Monthly.

THE BEST

Naseem Shah, Rawalpindi

Sport loves a big statement by a precocious teenager; Boris Becker was basically a ginger embryo in tiny shorts when he first won Wimbledon. Pelé looked barely out of nappies when bagging a brace in the ’58 World Cup final. Both were 17. In February, Naseem Shah became the 45th ‘man’ to take a Test hat-trick when he obliterated Bangladesh’s middle order and cemented his place in cricket history. *Michael Caine emotional voice* − “He was only 16 years old”.

Mike Procter, Southampton

Plying his trade for Gloucestershire with his smock-like shirt, thick set features and golden bob, the South African all-rounder was pure Thomas Hardy. You could just as easily imagine him wielding a scythe instead of a bat, hulking bags of barley about on his broad shoulders, having monosyllabic flirtations with a feisty local girl called Bathsheba while leaning against a milking shed, shyly chomping on a Braeburn. One obscure trait of Procter’s was that he delivered the ball off the wrong foot and generated most of his pace with a whipping, round-arm ‘helicopter’ action. Never was this more effective than his 6-13 (four wickets in five balls, including Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge) against Hampshire in the semi-final of the ’77 Benson and Hedges Cup. So devastating a spell that on commentary even Richie Benaud can be heard losing his head. A bit.

Irfan Pathan, Karachi

In a feat not seen before or since, Indian left-armer’s Irfan Pathan’s first-over-of-the Test-match-hat-trick in 2006 included the prize scalps of Salman Butt caught first slip, Younis Khan speared lbw and Mohammad Yousuf bowled by a hooping in-ducker. Sometimes it’s all about how things look. Appearances can be everything; take Paul McCartney’s left-handed Höfner bass-playing – it gave The Beatles an aesthetic symmetry that added to their allure. Pathan’s upright and delicious southpaw bowling action and the triptych of dismissals make a strong claim for this to be the ‘fabbest three’ of them all.

Hoggard, Barbados > Siddle, Brisbane

Amongst other things, we watch sport in anticipation of those magic moments. The end of the ’05 Ashes should have been a moment of visceral release, 16 long years in the making… but was actually marked by Rudi Koertzen’s theatrical yet hollow bail removal. Hardly Perry Como vibes. Hat-tricks should be celebrated with wild abandon, not with the addendum of a ‘T-sign’ and third-umpire meddling. DRS is an undertaker rocking up with a tepid bottle of Shloer to the hat-trick BBQ. Moeen Ali and Peter Siddle’s recent examples are a case in point, jubilation neutered by the looming review. Hoggard’s Barbados triple in 2004 on the other hand is much more acceptable; namely because everyone goes completely bananas.

THE WORST

Stuart Broad, Leeds

Schrödinger’s Cat? Pffft. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it… yadda yadda yadda.” There’s a new quantum theory in town, Broad’s Hat-trick: “If Stuart Broad takes a hat-trick but doesn’t realise he has done it, is it really a hat-trick at all? Is this really Stuart Broad?”

Sri Lanka, Headingley, 2014. Broad dismisses Sangakkara at the end of one over, then Chandimal and Eranga with consecutive deliveries at the start of his next. Broad is usually the most Pavlovian of all bowlers if the ball so much as winks at the edge or the pad, but on this occasion he (and his teammates) celebrated mutedly. The PA system later informed Broad that he’d become only the fourth Test cricketer to take two hat-tricks and the sole Englishman to accomplish the feat. Or had he? (He had.)

Harbhajan Singh, Kolkata

This one should have been done by the Trade Descriptions Act. Harbhajan’s 2001 effort looks good on paper, snaring Ponting, Gilchrist and Warne, but some of the umpiring was absolutely dreadful. The Aussie keeper was given lbw after hitting a ball that pitched outside leg and Warne got done by the old ‘one-hand-one bounce’ ploy and a pudgy-fingered third umpire. Did Harbhajan care? Nope. He became the first Indian to take a Test hat-trick and could be found crowing about it on Twitter just last year. Bad luck you Aussies..

Steven Finn, Melbourne

England’s beanpole quick took a hat-trick in a World Cup against Australia and no one remembers because it was too depressing. Finn doesn’t remember. Maxwell, Haddin and Johnson don’t remember. You don’t remember. I DON’T REMEMBER. It’s what’s known as a collective ‘LobotoSteve’. Mmmm. Nice, isn’t it? Much better like this.

First published in issue 34 of Wisden Cricket Monthly

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