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Monday, January 3, 2011

The hat-trick that never was

My last post about umpiring made me remember an incident from my own inglorious cricketing career, showing just what a poor umpire can cause.

It was a ground in a small country ground. My lot were the visitors. After only posting a mediocre total, we took the field second.

At the start of the day, the captain and I had both queried the way the stumps were placed, arguing that one was set too wide. "Nothing wrong with them," the man in the white jacket insisted. Well, OK, not so much a white jacket as a white polo shirt, but white jacket sounded more impressive.

This was before I saw the light and took up bowling donkey drops - straight-breaking off spin. Back then I was still trying to become the next Dennis Lillee. I opened the bowling but into the wind as my opening partner generally got first choice of which end to bowl from. And it was not so much bowling into the wind as it was pushing into a gale. But in no time at all, the wind swung right around. From trudging into a typhoon, I suddenly found myself bowling with the wind behind me. What a treat!

The wickets started falling with me in among them. In one memorable over, I found myself on a hat-trick. Even better, the incoming batter looked like a kid. Surely I could clean him up and achieve that elusive goal?

Pitched on a good length, the ball moved off the pitch a little, back into the right-handed batter - and straight through the gate between bat and pad. Up I went in celebration - I had bowled him! Hat-trick! The keeper had gone up with me. Yes! But wait a moment. The bails were still on.

We stood and looked at the undisturbed stumps in surprise. "I thought you bowled me," admitted the young batter.

Well, we went on to win the game and I was in the wickets. But once play was over, I grabbed the ball and walked up to the stumps, the placement of which we had disputed at the start of the afternoon. Sure enough, the ball just fitted between the off and middle stumps. Probably only a cigarette paper or two either side, but fitted through all the same.

I feel quite justified in blaming the umpire for that missed hat-trick. At least I had someone to blame for that one, unlike another memorable occasion. But that is another story for another time.

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