Cricket’s a (hat) tricky game

It’s almost a year since I penned some words of frustration and despair (https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/uncertain-personal-corridors/) on these pages after attending the launch of Gideon Haigh’s Uncertain Corridors. At the time almost nothing was going right in my cricket world – we weren’t winning games, I wasn’t taking wickets and my knees were giving me such buggery that I wondered if it might be time to fold up the creams and put them neatly and permanently in the back of a drawer.

We all know that a week’s a long time in footy. These days, it’s as long a time in cricket, with each of the three formats of the game competing to take our attention away from what happened in one of the other ones mere days ago. So a year in cricket is a very long time. And I’m pleased to say that in my case, that’s a wonderful thing.

After writing that piece last December, my teams and I were to endure mixed fortunes for the remainder of the season and ultimately end it with wonderful possibilities unfulfilled. Things improved slightly on the knee front, though there were days when I had to leave the training track mid-session – something I’d never done before – such was the pain.

I spent the rest of the season in our fourths, working through the pain and bowling reasonably, while we racked up win after win to finish miles clear of the pack at the top of the ladder. Then came the semi-final – top-placed Clifton Hill, who had monstered most other sides all summer long against fourth-placed East Doncaster, who had finished more than four games behind us. And we fell apart. Batting first, all we could muster was a measly total of 108. I came in at the end and eked out three runs. At least I didn’t go out.

In the field we toiled hard but East Doncaster passed us seven down, knocking us off our perches and out of contention. I took 1/23 off my 16 overs, happy with my accuracy but ruing a lack of penetration and an early dropped catch (a sitter!) off my bowling. The beneficiary of that miss went on to top-score for them.

Our over 40s team, of which I am the skipper, also ended its season at the semi-final stage, although we hadn’t finished on top. Still, it was our first finals appearance in just our second season so that wasn’t a bad effort.

Once the season was over, I pondered what to do. When I returned to playing cricket in 2009 I made a little promise to myself that I’d keep going until a team I was part of won a flag, then keep playing until we next didn’t win a premiership. I’d kept my word on that at least. Winter came and went and the mid-year team I’d captained in 2013 did not see or hear from me.

But when the first pre-season session came up in August, I couldn’t resist and went down on a sunny Sunday morning and trained. And I enjoyed it. My knee held up, too. It looked like I’d be playing in 2014/15. Then Dad died a week or so later. I missed training session after training session and thought once more about giving it away.

Finally a week or two before the real stuff began, I went back to training and decided I’d go on for at least another season. But I decided I would train only once a week, on Thursdays, not Tuesdays and Thursdays as I’d done all my life. It didn’t feel like a good decision but I thought my knee would thank me for it. (It has!)

For the first four rounds of the year I played in the fourths. We could barely do a thing right. We were a shadow of the dominant team of 2013/14 and our return in those four games was three losses and a lucky tie. Things didn’t go much better in the Over 40s a tie and a loss in our first two matches.

Once again the questions surfaced. Should I go on? I’m not used to losing much in cricket. I’ve had a dream run, winning far more often than losing and playing in four flags. (At least that balances out me being Footscray supporter to a small degree.) But I’m not one to quit while behind. I resolved to carry on, win, lose, draw or tie, at least for this season.

My knee was holding up. One thing I’d quietly done over winter was to lose about seven kilograms. I think both of my knees have appreciated that. And my bowling hadn’t been too bad. That said, I got a bit of a shock when I was promoted to the thirds for our round five match. Unlike the fours, the threes were flying, undefeated and well clear on top.

I felt a bit guilty “abandoning” the fourths but was pleased to join the thirds for our round five one-dayer. We batted first and lost two early wickets. I began to wonder if I was a jinx. But we recovered to make 200 from our 40 overs. I took the new ball and was pretty happy with my eight overs. I finished with 2/16 and we won in a canter.

I was retained in the threes for the two-day round six match. The skipper won the toss and bowled. As a captain, I always say bat first and get the score on the board. But when I’m not in charge, I love it when the skipper wins it and bowls.

I got the new ball again. My early overs were steady and stingy but I didn’t take a wicket. 0/9 after five. Then in my sixth over I drew an edge from the left-hander and Harro took an out-this-world one-handed finger-tipper in the gully. If it hadn’t stuck things may have turned out very differently. But that catch was to be start of something a bit special.

Next man in was a right-hander. As an in-swing bowler, my preferred first “nut” to a new right-hander is the late in-dipper that gets through the gate or under the bat. It worked. I was on a hat trick. I tried the same ball to the next right-hander and he dug it out. No hat trick. I’ve been on many hat tricks since my only other one in 1987 but have never broken through again.

Never mind, bowl well and win – that’s the real aim here. I picked up another wicket in my ninth over, again a left-hander, caught behind this time. They were 3/44 after 17 and we were getting on top on this small ground.

My eleventh over was where it all happened. On the second ball the right-hander tried to slog me and the ball went through a huge gap and knocked a couple of stumps down. Right – new batter in, right-hander, time to bring out the in-swinging yorker again. It worked again. He missed, I hit and once more I was on a hat trick.

Another right hander. No need to change the plan here. When you’re on a good thing stick to it. I’d start the ball wide and hope the late swing would find the gap between bat and pad. As the ball left my hand I could see it had started wide of off-stump. “Oh no, I’ve gone too wide”, I rued. “It won’t come back that far.” That’s what I thought. That’s what the batsman thought too. We were both wrong. He shouldered arms. The ball somehow snaked back quite late and severely and took out the off stump.

Hat trick!

The next few seconds were spent in fear of life and limb as I was buried under a screaming mob of teammates.

I finished the innings with 6/25 off my 14 overs and running in as fast and pain-free as I’ve perhaps ever done – certainly since 1987, when I took my first hat trick. Even in the field I suddenly seemed fleet of foot. We rolled them for 132 and passed them just before stumps, four down. Another win banked on day one. Within the space of two weeks I’ve gone from “can’t buy a win” to “don’t know how to lose”. Even the Overs 40s had a win in that period.

This time last year, I couldn’t take a trick on the cricket field. On Saturday I took a hat trick on it. All is well in the world again – at least until next weekend.

 

 

 

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Nice one Gigs. An opening bowler / captain who likes to bat first – you are a rare breed!

  2. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Beautiful work Gigs,
    Don’t know what feels better, actually taking the hat trick or that moment when you’r e mobbed by your teammates? Both rare, both memorable. Enjoy young man.

  3. Congrats mate.

    A “six for” off 14 overs. Superb. You must be a decent chance for the averages.

    Good luck tomorrow and the rest of the campaign.

    MCR

  4. Well done! That’s mighty fine work. And it’s not even your first!

    I only saw one hat-trick when I played. All bowled, and later that night,the bowler and his mate won big, really big at the casino. That’s a good day!

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic Gigs great read , great achievement well bowled !

  6. A hatrick last saturday! No wonder you left Dave’s 50th early.

  7. Peter Fuller says

    Great stuff Gigs. I reckon your red letter day is explicable by your father’s influence upstairs. How else could that last one have turned so far? Congrats, wonderful achievement especially in the context of dodgy knees.

  8. Great story Gigs. It was nice to finally meet at the Almanac launch and hear it in person. Looking forward to more tweets on your season.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Well done Gigs! Plenty of cricket left in you yet. Would love to line up alongside you in an Almanac XI one day….

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