TELFORD VICE in Manchester
SOUTH Africa have a reputation for delivering spectacular bowling performances, but Monday’s events at The Oval suggested the converse also applies.
The truth is South Africa have been on the receiving end of virtuosity with the ball more often than other test teams.
Off-spinner Moeen Ali’s hat-trick to clinch victory in the third test by 238 runs, and with it a 2-1 series lead with one match to play, marked the fourth time a test had been ended in that fashion.
And only in one of them, Australian off-spinner Hugh Trumble’s effort against England in Melbourne in February 1902, were the victims not South Africa.
Fast bowler George Lohmann did it first for England at St George’s Park in February 1896, as did Australia left-arm wrist spinner Lindsay Kline at Newlands in December 1957.
Both times, of course, the hapless batting team were South Africa — who have also been in the wrong half of the equation in four of the top eight sets of match figures in test cricket. England, who feature twice, are the only other side on that list more than once.
South Africa’s second innings marked the only time in the 2266 tests yet played that four batsmen were dismissed by the first ball they faced. They were Faf du Plessis, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel.
Moeen’s hat-trick was the first of the 43 claimed in test history in which all the batsmen — Dean Elgar, Rabada and Morkel — take guard left-handed.
It was Moeen’s first three-card trick at any level of cricket, and the only one in the 100 men’s tests played at The Oval.
Five hat-tricks have been claimed against South Africa in their 414 tests. It’s happened eight times to Australia, six to England and five each to West Indies and Pakistan.
But England have played more than twice South Africa’s number of tests — 986 — and the Aussies almost double — 801.
In percentage terms South Africa have suffered a hat-trick more frequently than all test-playing teams besides Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
India are the team most bulletproof to hattricks, having succumbed to only one in their 513 tests.
That was at Trent Bridge in July 2011, when MS Dhoni was caught at second slip, Harbhajan Singh was trapped in front, and bowled Praveen Kumar in the space of three deliveries by Stuart Broad.
What of South Africans who have taken test hat-tricks?
There has been, like the Highlander, only one: fast bowler Geoff Griffin, who at Lord’s in June 1960 had Mike Smith caught behind — for 99, no less — and bowled Peter Walker and Fred Trueman.
But there was a sting in this tale: Griffin was called for chucking 11 times in the same match and never added to his two test caps.