Andrew Hall, born on July 31, 1975, was one of South Africa’s utility all-rounders — a gutsy player and with an abundance of talent. He retired at the age of 31 and certainly could have played more than the 21 Tests and 88 One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Sarang Bhalerao profiles Hall.
The two life-threatening encounters
Andrew Hall was all set to leave South Africa and emigrate to Australia in January 2002. He survived two life-threatening encounters which could have set a sense of paranoia in the mind of any civilian. He was a victim of car-jacking and it was here when he and his wife Leanie decided that they had enough. Hall’s aim at the time was to play in Australia and hopefully break into the national side by the 2007 World Cup.
But in March 2002, Hall made the cut into the South African Test team and he decided to live with the ghosts of his past. “The worst thing was being driven around for 45 minutes with a gun to my head. But they kept saying: ‘Look, we just want the car; there’s no need to be a hero. Just relax and it will be over soon.’ So I concentrated on trying to keep them, and myself, as calm as possible,” he told the Guardian.
The first big incident occured in 1999 when Hall was shot six times at point blank range. Two of the six bullets had hit him: one on the left hand and the other just brushed his right cheek and left gunpowder burns — shrapnel in his eye and the middle finger. His pockets were emptied and the car was taken away. Luckily he survived to tell his tale. But, those three agonising days on the hospital bed made him wonder about his cricketing career.
These stories speak of Hall’s gutsy character. He would surely have been rattled, but his focus from the game never wavered. He was a fighter who was always up for a challenge. During his early days, Hall had very few who believed in his abilities as a cricketer. Some were even convinced that he didn’t have the quality to be a cricketer. These things hurt him, but provided enough motivation to prove his critics wrong. And he did just that.
In 1999, Hall went back to the Gauteng side and opened the bowling for the province. His batting too was impressive. But, his performances were still not good enough for him to make it to the national side in the tri-nations series featuring England and Zimbabwe in South Africa. Hall took that with a pinch of salt and he rose to prominence in the Supersport final when he took Gauteng to the title win. He picked up seven wickets and guided his team to a three-wicket win with his unbeaten 57. Ray Jennings, former Gauteng coach, described Hall as the ‘streetfighter’.
ODI debut and the first season
Hall was selected to play the third ODI against West Indies in 1999 where he batted at No 9 and scored unbeaten nine. He opened the bowling and bowled seven overs and went wicketless for 38 runs. South Africa won the match and Hall was not selected for the remaining four ODIs.
In April 2000, Hall showed his promise in his second ODI, which was a decider against Australia at Johannesburg. The three match series was level at 1-1. Australia batted first and scored 205. Hall bowled three overs and went wicketless. He opened the batting and scored a quickfire 46 off 49 balls which gave impetus to the run chase. South Africa won the game by four wickets and Hall certainly made an impression on the selectors who chose him for the tour to Sri Lanka two months later.
With Herschelle Gibbs’s alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal keeping him out of the team, Hall then forged an opening partnership with Gary Kirsten. Hall began the triangular series in Sri Lanka (which also featured Pakistan) with a classy 81 on the spinning track against Muttiah Muralitharan. His bowling was underutilised, but with the bat he amassed 190 runs in the series at an average of 38.
In 2000 South Africa toured Australia for three ODIs. In the second ODI at Docklands, South Africa were involved in a tie against Australia. Hall made the difference with the ball. Captain Shaun Pollock introduced Hall as late as the forty-fifth over of the innings. Hall picked up the wickets of Michael Bevan (3) and Steve Waugh (30) — his first two ODI wickets. Eventually his figures of 3-0-8-2 prevented Australia from winning the game.
Transfer to Easterns from Gauteng in 2001
Hall was at loggerheads with Gauteng and at one point even threatened to take legal action to secure his release. Hall had an objection with the state of affairs at Gauteng. Also Hall’s coach in the early part of the career was Ray Jennings who was now at Easterns. Time and again, Hall sought his advice and it was not welcomed by the Gauteng members.
The tug of war for Hall was finally resolved when Gauteng released him.
Hall as a Test cricketer
In 2002, Hall made his Test debut against Australia in Cape Town. He walked in when South Africa were reeling at 92 for six on the first morning. He gave the South African score an air of respectability by hitting 70. South Africa registered 239 in the first innings.
The high point in Hall’s Test career was the tour of England in 2003. He cemented his position in the team as the strike bowler and a useful lower order batsman. His 16 wickets in the Test series was one of the highlights. He also ensured a South African win at Leeds with a commanding 99 not out in the second innings which gave South Africa a lead of 400 runs. England were bowled out for 209 and South Africa won the game by 191 runs and took a 2-1 lead in the series. They eventually lost the fifth Test at the Oval, which was a poor outing for Hall: one run in two innings and two for 111 in the match.
Hall scored his Test career best of 163 against India in Kanpur in 2004. He negotiated the Indian spinners: Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik with ease. Patience was the quality that stood out in his innings. The 588-minute innings was based on the principle of waiting for the loose deliveries and exhibiting watertight defence right through.
Hall played 21 Tests and scored 760 runs at a disappointing average of 26.20. He picked up 45 wickets at 35.93 with no five-wicket hauls.
Utility player in ODI cricket
While Hall made sporadic appearances in Test cricket, he was a utility player in ODI cricket. He was a part of the unforgettable match where South Africa chased down 434 against Australia at Johannesburg in March 2006.
He holds the world record for the eighth-wicket stand in ODI cricket of 138 with Justin Kemp — against India in November 2006. His contribution was an unbeaten 56 6ff 47 balls as he supported Kemp who scored a belligerent century to leave India hurt. Hall returned to take three Indian wickets as South Africa won comfortably.
Hall was included in the 2007 World Cup squad. He picked up 14 wickets in the tournament which included his career best bowling figure of five for 18 against England in the Super Eights.
In 2007, at age of 31, Hall announced his retirement from international cricket. He didn’t give any valid reason for this sudden and unexpected call. His Kent coach Graham Ford speculated that the reason could have been Hall’s exclusion from South Africa’s squad for the ICC World Twenty20 2007. Ford said, “I can only assume that he was reacting to the bitter disappointment of being left out of the World Cup [Championship] squad.”
Hall played 88 ODIs and scored 905 runs at an average of 21.04. He picked up 95 wickets at an average of 26.47 and strike rate of 35.1.
Hall represented Worcestershire in 2003 and in 2005, he was part of Kent. In 2008, he signed for Northamptonshire as a Kolpak player. He set a record in a T20 game against Nottinghamshire when he picked up six for 14 and scored 66 not out. He was made the captain of the club after his compatriot Nicky Boje resigned from the post in 2010. Hall captained the club for two years.
Hall is currently piling on the big scores for Northamptonshire. On June 1, 2013, Hall struck his second century in two games and helped his club stay on top of the Division Two standings.
There are some players who don’t quite carve out long international careers. Hall had his moments in the sun, but he certainly could have had more. Nevertheless, he is stamping his authority in county cricket now.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)