Maurice Allom was a tall (six-feet-six) amateur cricketer who played for Cambridge and Surrey    Getty Images (File Photo)
Maurice Allom was a tall (six-feet-six) amateur cricketer who played for Cambridge and Surrey Getty Images (File Photo)

Fired by an evangelistic zeal of spreading the gospel of Test cricket far and wide, England embarked upon an unusual (to say the least) enterprise of sending two teams, both under the auspices of MCC, to two different corners of the Empire in 1929-1930. One of these teams toured West Indies whilst the other journeyed to Australia for some First-Class matches (but no Tests) and then on to face New Zealand, who were to play their very first few Tests. The plan had one great drawback, however, in the sense that the demand for the number of seasoned and high-profile players fell far short of ready supply and a number of largely untried players were sent out to the far-flung colonies. Cricketing coincidences: 6 men get out the same way

The general weather report for January at Christchurch mentions the following parameters:

– Average ambient temperature: -16 C

– Chance of a sunny day: 16%

– Average rainfall: 40 mm

– Average rain days: 12 days for the month

The NIWA Historic Weather Event Catalogue for January 1930 records the following happenings in the Christchurch area:

– Physical characteristics: Some districts received over 4 inches (10.16 cm) of rain in 24 hours and there was heavy rain in the back country.

– Heavy rain forced all rivers in the county to rise rapidly, particularly the Ashburton and Hinds Rivers. There were heavy floods in parts of the Canterbury province and most of the South Canterbury rivers were in high flood.

– Several rivers burst their banks and inundated a number of farms.

– The flooding caused heavy damage.

Fortunately for cricket lovers of New Zealand, the really severe effects of the adverse weather took place on January 15 and 16, 1930. However, the prelude to the above events caused much disruption in the first ever Test for New Zealand, played against England at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, on starting January 11, 1930. The notoriously fickle-minded Jupiter Pluvius, never known to be a true cricket-lover, took it upon himself to spoil the party for New Zealand, interrupting the flow of the home team s inaugural Test.

The entire New Zealand team had made their collective debuts in this match, and were led by Tom Lowry, middle-order batsman and slow-medium bowler. For England, led by Test debutant Harold Gilligan, brother of England Test player Arthur Gilligan and, at a later date, father-in-law of the England Test captain Peter May, there were five other debutants as well: Morris Stan Nichols, Stan Worthington, Maurice Turnbull (who also played Rugby Union and field hockey for Wales, and Rugby Union for assorted other teams), wicketkeeper Walter Tich Cornford, and Maurice Allom.

Allom was a tall (six-feet-six) amateur cricketer who played for Cambridge and Surrey. He was a right-hand fast bowler, who, by the way, was also a jazz saxophone enthusiast and had played in Fred Elizalde s band in the 1920s. Allom was to play 4 of his 5 Tests on this 4-Test tour.

The start of the Day 1 proceedings was delayed by rain. New Zealand then won the toss and opted for first strike. The nervousness at the big occasion was manifest as the first 3 wickets, all to Nichols, bowling, as reported by Wisden, really quickly, fell for a mere 15.

Spearheading the attack for England from the other end, Allom made the ball swerve quite alarmingly. His 8th over in this New Zealand innings is worth examining in some detail, as follows:

1st ball: Narrow escape from an LBW decision for Roger Blunt, who was to remain not out on 45 at the end of the innings. A leg-bye was taken.

2nd ball: WICKET Stuart Dempster b Allom 11 (4 for 21)

3rd ball: Play and miss by New Zealand captain Tom Lowry

4th ball: WICKET Lowry lbw Allom 0 (5 for 21)

5th ball: WICKET Ken James c Cornford b Allom 0 (6 for 21)

6th ball: WICKET Ted Badcock b Allom 0 (7 for 21)

Allom finished with figures of 19-4-38-5, and became the first bowler to take a hat-trick on Test debut. This unique hat-trick, with Allom himself included, involved 4 debutants.

This was also the first instance of a bowler taking 4 Test wickets in 5 deliveries (this feat was emulated later by Chris Old and Wasim Akram).

The New Zealand 1st innings folded up at 112 in 47.1 six-ball overs. Only Blunt, who remained not out on 45 from 105 minutes, did anything of note with the bat. For England, 2 debutants, Nichols (4 for 28) and Maurice Allom (5 for 38) did the major damage.

England did not cover themselves with any great glory in their own 1st innings, however, being dismissed for 181 in 63.1 overs. After the 2nd wicket had fallen at 20, the veteran left-hander Frank Woolley (31) and the young gun KS Duleepsinhji (49, the highest individual scorer) added 61 for the 3rd wicket. Duleep was 4th out at 113, and Day 1, curtailed by rain, ended with England on 147 for 4 with Geoffrey Legge on 35 and Nichols on 10.

The whole of the Saturday, Day 2, was washed away by heavy rain. When play resumed on the Monday, Legge (36) and Nichols (21) completed a 35-run stand for the 5th wicket. Thereafter, both Legge and Worthington (0) fell at the same score 148.

For New Zealand, Roger Blunt took 3 for 17 in his 11.1 overs, his victims being Legge, Worthington, and Cornford. Matthew Henderson of New Zealand picked up a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket, when, as the 4th bowler in the sequence, he picked up the wicket of England opener Edward Dawson in the 1st innings.

The New Zealand 2nd innings followed a familiar depressing pattern and ended at 131 in 60.3 overs. The only noteworthy contributions were from skipper Lowry (40 in 94 minutes) and opener Stewie Dempster (25). Allom picked up 3 for 17, giving him an 8-wicket haul in his first Test. Not far behind was another debutant, Nichols, with 6 wickets in his first Test.

Requiring only 63 runs to win this Test, England made short work of the target, putting up 66 for 2 in 18.5 overs to win by 8 wickets. The remarkable thing was that the entire rain-affected match was completed in less than 2 days actual play, Day 1 being shortened by weather conditions and the match ending on Day 3 with 55 minutes of scheduled play still left.

Brief scores:

New Zealand 112 (Roger Blunt 45*; Stan Nichols 4 for 28, Maurice Allom 5 for 28) and 131 (Tom Lowry 40; Maurice Allom 3 for 17) lost to England 181 (KS Duleepsinhji 49; Roger Blunt 3 for 17) and 66 for 2 by 8 wickets.

Petherick and Fleming

The first act of the 3-act play involving debutant bowlers with Test hat-tricks had been played out. Mention is made here of the other instances for the sake of completion of the data:

Off-spinner bowler Peter Petherick made his Test debut for New Zealand against Pakistan, at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, starting October 9, 1976. He immediately created a sensation by taking the first Test hat-trick for New Zealand (the second New Zealand bowler to take a Test hat-trick being James Franklin against Bangladesh at Dhaka in October 2004).

Petherick s hat-trick came in the first innings, on Day One. The wickets were:

Javed Miandad caught Richard Hadlee 163 (5 for 336)

Wasim Raja caught and bowled 0 (6 for 336)

Intikhab Alam caught Geoff Howarth 0 (7 for 336)

His figures of 18-1-103-3 mean, however, that of the three bowlers to take hat-tricks on Test debut, he had conceded the most runs.

Note: Miandad was also making his Test debut.

The third man to achieve a hat-trick on Test debut was Damien Fleming, who began his Test career in spectacular fashion for Australia in the 2nd Test, against Pakistan at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, starting October 5, 1994.

Fleming s hat-trick came in the second innings. The wickets were:

Aamer Malik caught Michael Bevan 65 (4 for 469)

Inzamam-ul-Haq lbw 0 (5 for 469)

Saleem Malik c Ian Healy 237 (6 for 478)

He had figures of 26-2-86-3.

Note: The hat-trick was spread over two overs, Aamer and Inzamam falling off the last two balls of an over and Saleem off the first ball of his next over.

It is interesting to note that Fleming s hat-trick had included two unrelated batsmen with the same surname of Malik. Also, barring wicketkeeper Healy, all other Australian players had turned their arm over in this innings.

History awaits the advent of another act in this riveting drama.

(Pradip Dhole is a retired medical doctor with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)