From Crisp to Butcher - the gang of four in four

Cricket Diary

Gary Butcher became the 31st player to take four wickets in successive balls last Wednesday. In all, it was the 32nd time the feat had been achieved, the 20th in England, the 17th in county matches, the second at The Oval.

Gary Butcher became the 31st player to take four wickets in successive balls last Wednesday. In all, it was the 32nd time the feat had been achieved, the 20th in England, the 17th in county matches, the second at The Oval.

What kind of man is it who can transform the fortunes of a match in a trice? Butcher, who has appeared in two Championship-winning teams, took a wicket with his first ball in the one-day league, and plays the bass guitar, joins some rum company.

Take, for starters, Robert Crisp, the only bowler in history to have twice taken four wickets in four balls. He did so for Western Province in 1931-32 and 1933-34. Crisp was one of life's swashbucklers. Born in Calcutta, he was educated in Rhodesia and had just climbed Kilimanjaro when he was selected for South Africa's 1935 tour of England. Crisp was a tank commander in the Second World War, won the DSO, founded a minority black newspaper in South Africa, tried mink farming in England, became a journalist, lived in a Greek hut, walked round Crete and died at 82 with a copy of the Sporting Life in his lap having just lost a £20 bet.

Then there was Albert Trott, whose story is ultimately sad. He took his four wickets as well as a separate hat-trick in the same innings of his benefit match at Lord's in 1907.

Trott came to England on his own account when he failed to be chosen for Australia's 1896 touring side and qualified for Middlesex. He swiftly showed his outstanding all-round abilities and was at his best in 1899 and 1900, in the first of which years he became the only man to hit a ball over the Lord's pavilion. Trott shot himself in 1914 at the age of 41 when he was terminally ill and in constant pain.

The first player to take four in four was one Joseph Wells in 1862, for Kent against Sussex at Brighton. Four years later, his son was born. He was H G Wells.

The second player was George Ulyett for Lord Harris' XI against New South Wales in Sydney in 1878-79. At the time, Ulyett probably thought much more of this than his appearance in the First Test all of two years earlier, as it had not been yet designated as such. Another man of many parts, Ulyett also kept goal for Sheffield Wednesday.

Arthur Mold features in the list, but doubt must be cast on the achievement. His action was the subject of muttering throughout his career. He was not called for throwing until 1900, but left the game for good in 1901 when he was no-balled 16 times in 10 overs.

Then there was Hal Hooker. In 1928-29 for New South Wales against Victoria he finished off the innings with a hat-trick, then took a wicket with the first ball of the follow-on, still the only man to take four in four in the Sheffield Shield.

But a month earlier in the corresponding fixture, Hooker staked a more singular and enduring claim to a place in the annals. He joined Alan Kippax at the wicket when NSW were 113 for 9 on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, before a sparse crowd, he reached 18 by lunch, 22 by tea and on Boxing Day was dismissed for 63.

Holbrook and Kippax, who made 260no, had put on 307. It remains the highest 10th-wicket partnership of all.

So, if three wickets in three balls is a hat-trick, what is the collective term for four in four? Thirty-two times in 138 years may not touch the realms of frequency, but there have now been five instances in the past 12 years.

The term hat-trick has two possible derivations. One is that a hat used to be awarded to a player who turned in a good bowling performance (not necessarily three wickets with successive balls). The other is that a hat would be passed round for a good effort and the contents (one hopes more substantial than a couple of toffees and a rolled-up peanut packet) given to the player.

Eventually, the phrase was coined and passed into common usage. It is time for four to have its own word. A "ten gallon" is a possibility. As is a "topper", both to keep the hat connection and indicate something better than a mere hat-trick. Other suggestions welcome, but the Diary has the answer. It should be named after the only man who made a habit of performing the feat. Four in four is a "crisp".

Headingley remains magical but shabby. They are spending £10m on a winter revamp which apparently involves realigning the Western Terrace, but not digging up the pitch.

BOOK MARK

There is a mild disappointment about Sir Vivian - The Definitive Autobiography (Michael Joseph, £16.99). It tells his great story honestly enough, but his ghost writer and friend, Bob Harris, does not quite capture the awesome swagger of Viv Richards. There are, though, some reminders of what we are missing and why he was one of the five cricketers of the last century.

In dismantling the character of the former Australian fast bowler Craig McDermott (he uses the word "coward"), Rich-ards also refers to Glenn McGrath. Paying tribute to McGrath's ability Richards says he had better watch his antics or "one day he may meet up with the wrong individual... somebody who is bigger than him. I would have loved to have played him." Viv is in no doubt who would have won the contest.

Man in the middle

Usman Afzaal made his debut for Nottinghamshire in 1995 when he was just 18. Much promise has come and gone since those days. But Afzaal's vast potential comes ever closer to being fulfilled. He had scored three centuries at the start of this season and on Thursday he doubled that total with his third Championship hundred of the summer. This left-handed stroke-player's calmer approach was demonstrated by his refusal to be flustered when he spent no less than an hour in the nineties. He was born in Rawalpindi, went to school in Nottingham and supports Manchester United.

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