A history of hat-tricks

Hat-tricks are a pretty rare thing in International cricket. The introduction of the shorter forms of cricket have certainly made them more attainable, but achieving the unlikely feat of three wickets in three balls still etches the name of the bowler into the history books.

In the second ODI of Zimbabwe’s tour of South Africa, played at Bloemfontein on Wednesday, Imran Tahir did just that. As far as hat-tricks go, this one won’t be remembered as one of the best of them. For one, It took place over the course of two overs, the first wicket taking place in one over and the next two in Tahir’s next. Of course, this doesn’t diminish the feat itself, but it does have some impact on the excitement factor which the achievement inevitably creates.

Secondly, the conditions under which it came made it far more possible to attain than it would be normally. Zimbabwe are currently the 11th ranked ODI team in the world, having been recently overtaken by Afghanistan, and the pitch was not exactly conducive to extended innings. South Africa managed just 198 in the first innings - after being reduced to 7/101 no less - before rolling Zimbabwe for just 78 in 24 overs. When the first wicket occurred, Zimbabwe were 4/58. Another wicket occurred in the ensuing over, before Tahir cleaned up the number six batsman and the number nine batsman - Moor and Mavuta respectively - in the opening two balls of his fourth over.

Regardless, a comparatively unmemorable hat-trick is still an extremely memorable, and when Tahir took out Mavuta’s off stump, he became just the 45th player in nearly 50 years of ODI’s to accomplish the feat. 

Perhaps a product of the introduction of T20 cricket and the subsequently more aggressive game style adopted by many batsmen in the modern 50 over game, as well as the significantly more packed ODI calendar that exists today, these occurrences have become increasingly more common in recent years. The very first ODI hat-trick, taken by Pakistan’s Jalal-ud-Din against Australia, took 11 years and 158 ODI matches to occur. It was another 200 ODI’s and four years before Australia’s Bruce Reid took the second, way back in 1986. 

In contrast, just two years have passed since the turn of the century which haven’t seen one, and there has been at least one hat-trick every year since 2008. Tahir’s was the second of this calendar, three took place in 2017, and three also took place in 2015 - two of which were two of the three other occasions in which a South African has achieved one, when first JP Duminy and then Kagiso Rabada did so within a few months of one another.

Of course, not every bowler who makes it onto this list is a star, and certainly there are plenty of names who even the most ardent of cricket fans would barely recognise. For the most part, however, it is full of quality, with some of the most dangerous strike bowlers in the history of the game having made it there, some on more occasions than one.

Take Lasith Malinga, for example, a bowler who, despite his drawbacks, is one of the most capable wicket takers we have seen in the modern era. He’s taken a hat-trick three times in ODI’s, the most of any player in history, and is also one of only six players to have done it in a T20I. Malinga’s first hat-trick was in actual fact a double, grabbing four wickets in four balls in March of 2007. Four years later, he managed to do it twice in just five months, both times in front of a home crowd at the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. 

Others to take a hat-trick in the one-day arena more than once include some pretty formidable bowlers. The first to do so was Wasim Akram, when he bowled three players in succession twice in the space of six months at Sharjah Stadium. Next up was his countryman Saqlain Mushtaq, who teamed up with wicketkeeper Moin Khan to demolish Zimbabwe twice in three years. Finally, Sri Lankan great Chaminda Vaas did it twice in fourteen months against first Zimbabwe - again - and second Bangladesh. For the record, this was the eighth time Zimbabwe have been on the receiving end of a hat-trick, compared to two Zimbabwean players who have taken one.

Other names on the list include, unsurprisingly, some of the quickest the game has seen. The steep bounce of Steven Finn rolled through Australia back in 2015, while four years older Kemar Roach showed the Dutch why he was once up there with the most feared bowlers on the planet in 2011. The decade prior sees a who’s who of lethal fast bowlers on the list, including England’s Andrew Flintoff, the incredibly talented Shane Bond from New Zealand, Steve Harmison and James Anderson, as well as Australia’s Brett Lee. Not a bad list of bowlers.

For the most part, the list is full of fast bowlers. With his hat-trick on Wednesday, Tahir became just the seventh spin bowler in 47 years of ODI’s to achieve the feat. It may not be remembered as the best of them, but it is a noteworthy achievement regardless, and even more impressively, Tahir also snagged a wicket later in the same over, and finished with figures of 6/24 in 6 overs. Whoever the opposition and whatever the conditions, that is a feat not to be sneezed at.