On July 1, 1996, Kevan James became the first all-rounder in First-Class cricket to take four wickets in four balls and following it up with a century in the same match. Karthik Parimal looks back at that eventful two days of cricket played.
It was, as Kevan James described it, one of those freak days. The Indians were battered in the first Test at Birmingham, drew the second at Lord’s owing to Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid’s heroic debuts and were warming up for the final fixture with a tour match against Hampshire at Southampton. Riding on their new wave of confidence, the openers, followed by Ganguly, steered India to a position of strength in this game, before James’ left-arm fast-medium was brought into the equation. After that, the southpaw left no room for the visitors to stage a comeback, as he went about setting a first that remain unconquered till date.
Before this game, 30 bowlers had taken four wickets in four successive balls in First-Class matches. Although a hat-trick wasn’t as rare, only nine players before James had backed that feat [three wickets in three consecutive balls] up with a century. On July 1, 1996, James became the first man to get four wickets in four balls and notch a ton in the same match. It is a record that stands till date. Essex’s Graham Napier bagged four in four in 2009, but could muster just five runs with the bat. Another reason why James’ feat is very meritorious is because his wickets included those of first-rate batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. The performance could have easily warranted a place in the national line-up, but James was already 35 by then.
A ‘crap ball’ starts it all
The Indians were coasting at 192 for no loss on the first afternoon, with openers Ajay Jadeja and Vikram Rathour approaching centuries. The former soon fell to James, and Ganguly was the next batsman in. A 15-run partnership ensued between Ganguly and Rathour, before the latter missed a wide delivery, off the same bowler, only to be stumped by wicket-keeper Adrian Aymes. In hindsight, a ball that didn’t deserve a wicket opened the floodgates for more. Moreover, James confessed that Rathour wasn’t convincing as a batsman, and therefore didn’t rate the wicket highly.
Tendulkar was the next to fall. In a bid to exert pressure, James asked for a short leg and Hampshire skipper John Stephenson obliged. The delivery straightened to take the edge of the bat, hit Tendulkar on the pads, and lobbed to Jason Laney fielding there. As James later said in an interview to Cricinfo, it was to be his most memorable wicket, simply because it was a ‘nominated dismissal’. Then, after trapping the erudite Rahul Dravid plumb in front of the stumps, James bagged what was to be his first hat-trick.
Perhaps bewildered by the suddenness of the situation, Sanjay Manjrekar walked out, chased a wide delivery and was caught by Paul Terry in what was just his first ball. James took four wickets from four balls, as India slumped from 207 for one to 207 for five. Ganguly, stranded at the other end, was flummoxed with the happenings. It was to be a bizarre phase of play for India, although James and Hampshire gladly welcomed it. Nevertheless, Ganguly kept barging ahead and scored a hundred, and with Anil Kumble’s timely 59, India resurged to post a healthy first-innings total of 362 for five. James finished with five for 74.
Tops it with a ton
In Javagal Srinath’s absence, the Indian bowling attack lacked teeth. Salil Ankola and spinner Narendra Hirwani struck early to propel the side, but the rest failed to sustain the pressure. Laney and James then made hay, for none of the bowlers looked determined to make a breakthrough. Ankola didn’t utilise the conditions on offer early the next morning, as he preferred to pitch it short rather than bowling full. Hirwani bowled too slowly to fox the batsmen, whereas Venkatapathy Raju and Kumble received no assistance from the pitch; they hardly turned the ball. Only Venkatesh Prasad could contain the two batsmen, albeit for a brief period.
Laney and James added 175 for the third wicket and by the time they were sent back, both had notched tons.
Although a mini-collapse followed, the last wicket pair of Martin Thursfield and Stuart Milburn added 91 to push Hampshire’s total to 458 for nine. The match ended in a turgid draw, but it had Kevan James’ name written all over it.
India 362 for 5 (Sourav Ganguly 100*, Vikram Rathour 95, Ajay Jadeja 91, Anil Kumble 59*; Kevan James 5 for 74) drew with Hampshire 458 for 9 (Kevan James 103, Jason Laney 100, Stuart Milburn 54*; Salil Ankola 4 for 120)
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/