Test hat-tricks don’t come all that often. This week’s ‘Better Than Sex’ looks back to Yorkshire seamer Ryan Sidebottom grabbing three in a row at Hamilton back in 2008.
The 2007 season had been a whirlwind for Ryan Sidebottom. Cast adrift from international duties since his 2001 debut, the 29-year-old left-armer unexpectedly found himself back in the fold under new coach Peter Moores.
He responded with 29 Test wickets at 32.27 going into the 2008 tour of New Zealand and was one of few players to emerge with any credit after series defeats at home to India and away to Sri Lanka further soured an already chastening 12 months following Ashes destruction the previous winter. Hopes were pinned on a recovery on their next trip to the Antipodes.
Confidence began to return following spirited performances in the warm-up fixtures, but the team’s fragility saw belief seep away just as quickly. England responded to New Zealand’s dreary but clinical opening innings of 470 in the first Test at Hamilton with a similarly sluggish effort, eventually being dismissed for 348 after lunch on the fourth day.
A draw seemed likely but in the space of 11 overs England gave themselves a small opening, Sidebottom dismantling the New Zealand line-up with a devastating hat-trick.
Stephen Fleming, who had championed Sidebottom’s recall after captaining him at Notts, was first to go, driving late at an outswinger, towards Alastair Cook who did well to take the catch at point. The formula was replicated to Sidebottom’s very next delivery; Mathew Sinclair flashing wildly and Cook taking another smart chance. Charging in, locks rhythmically bouncing with each stride, Sidebottom had his first professional hat-trick in his sights. Jacob Oram shuffled forward, hesitating long enough for the inswinger to nip back and trap him in front. Sidebottom turned around long enough to see Daryl Harper’s finger raised before wheeling off in celebration. “I’ll remember it for as long as I’m alive,” Sidebottom said at the end of the day’s play. “I’ve never had a hat-trick before and getting one in a Test match is even more special.”
After four labourious days, Sidebottom had given England a sniff of victory, taking 6-49 to claim his first 10-wicket haul in Tests. Ultimately, it wasn’t to be – Kyle Mills and Chris Martin bundling the tourists out for 110 in the fourth innings – but Sidebottom had proven himself to be a seamer of genuine Test class ready-made for New Zealand conditions. Three weeks later, his seven-fer in the series-decider at Napier would give England a series win that set them on a brighter path.
New Zealand 470 (Taylor 120; Sidebottom 4-90) and 177-9 dec (Fleming 66; Sidebottom 6-49) BEAT England 348 (Collingwood 66) & 110 (Bell 54*; Mills 4-16)