Johann Louw (left) had to appeal three times off the same ball to get Simon Cook (right) out @ Getty Images
Johann Louw (left) had to appeal three times off the same ball to get Simon Cook (right) out @ Getty Images

August 18, 2004: Northamptonshire and Middlesex were pitted against each other as the County Championship approached its end. On the second day of the match, the South African Johann Louw appealed three times all off one ball against Simon Cook, eventually acquiring a wicket from David Constant and Peter Willey. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at what can be called a hat-trick of appeals in a First-Class match.

It was one of those dull Northampton days. The turnaround at Wantage Road was low. To make things worse, visiting captain Ed Joyce won the toss and opted to bat. After a brisk start, Ben Hutton and Owais Shah slowed things down. Stumps were called early on Day One, and Middlesex finished on 182 for 2.

Run-scoring was excruciatingly slow the next morning. Chris Peploe scored a 26-ball 4. Hutton carved out exactly 100 in 252 balls. Jamie Dalrymple s 2 runs took him 24 balls. And by the time Joyce fell for a painstaking 23, he had faced 101 balls.

But Middlesex showed no sign of urgency as wicketkeeper Ben Scott marched on with abundant patience. Simon Cook, that giant of a fast bowler who used to share new ball with Angus Fraser for Middlesex, was not the same threat following shin splints and a stress fracture.

Bowling at him was the fast bowler Johann Louw, Northamptonshire s perseverant South African import who would later play for his country in 2008.

The pair had put on 31. The Middlesex innings was going nowhere. Then it happened.

Appeal, appeal, appeal…

Louw hit Cook on the pad. The ball flew to Graeme Swann at slip. The Northants fielders went up in unison, but David Constant turned the LBW appeal down. Meanwhile, since Swann had the ball, it was not dead, and he noticed Cook was outside the crease. Swann threw the stumps down.

The fielders turned to leg-umpire Peter Willey. Northamptonshire captain David Sales, meanwhile, walked up to Constant to find out why he had said no to the appeal. He nicked it, came Constant s response.

In that case, we re appealing for the catch, was the prompt response. However, there was a catch (no pun intended): was the catch taken cleanly?

After a conference with Willey, Constant gave Cook out caught, not LBW or run out.

The Guardian later reported (and rightly so): A sparse Wantage Road crowd needed something to justify their decision to opt for live cricket over televised badminton after enduring a painfully scratchy innings from Ed Joyce.

They did get their fill.

What followed?

Middlesex folded for 345, with Louw taking 4 for 110. Usman Afzaal scored a gutsy 111, but the hosts were reduced to 185 for 7 before Louw walked out and threw his bat around. He smashed 63 in 84 balls to take Northamptonshire to 295.

Shah scored a quick hundred as Middlesex set Northants a target of 267. Louw, perhaps still pumped up by the triple-appeal, had his third good performance of the match, taking 5 for 44 as Middlesex lost only 6 wickets.

Timothy Roberts scored 46 in response, but the hosts kept on losing wickets. Sales himself rose to the occasion and played out time. Afzaal, batting at No. 8, hung on doggedly; in the end Sales remained unbeaten on 73 as Northamptonshire finished on 155 for 7.

Brief scores:

Middlesex 345 (Ben Hutton 100, Owais Shah 62, Paul Weekes 44; Johann Louw 4 for 110) and 216 for 6 decl. (Owais Shah 100, Paul Weekes 51; Johann Louw 5 for 44) drew with Northamptonshire 295 (Usman Afzaal 111, David Sales 57, Johann Louw 63; Nantie Hayward 4 for 62) and 155 for 7 (Timothy Roberts 46, David Sales 73*).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)