He had consulted his teammate Damien Fleming, who counselled him to close his eyes and bowl his stock ball, the leg-spinner. And so he did.

Malcolm, a batting lemon, plunged forward. The ball brushed his pad, then a glove, and flew away at right-angles.

David Boon, fielding in his customary position close to the bat, dived to his right, grasped the catch, and hurled the ball to the heavens, temporarily abandoning his usual grim disposition.

Warne sprinted to embrace him. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast,’ he would say later.

The moment was frozen in time. In Ashes Tests, no one had taken a hat-trick since Hugh Trumble 91 years ago.

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The MCG celebrated another triumph for a local hero, and Warne, whose rise to the pinnacle of cricket has taken only three years, pinched himself again. ‘S’pose I’ll wake up soon,’ he noted wryly.

Soon afterwards England was all out for 92, its lowest score in Ashes Tests for 36 years, giving Australia a 295-run win and a 2-0 lead in the five-Test series.

First published in The Age on December 30, 1994

King of spin reigns as McDermott has his day

All the worlds upstaged by Shane Warne. The honor and the glop justly looked to belong to Craig McDemott as Australia charged towards another massive victory over pathetic England at the MCG yesterday… and then all of a sudden, Warne took a hat-trick.

Well, he would, wouldn’t he? Test hat-trick are as much freaks as Warne himself. There had been only 20 previous instances in Test history, as close together as a few hours apart on the same day in 1912 and as far apart as nearly two decades.

The two most recent were captured by Warne’s Victorian contemporaries, Merv Hughes against the West Indies in 1988 and Damien Fleming against Pakistan in Rawalpindi less than three months ago.

By happy coincidence, it was Fleming standing alongside Warne yesterday after he had sent back Phil DeFreitas and Darren Gough with consecutive balls and was waiting for Devon Malcolm to go through the ritual of taking guard.

“I went over and asked ‘Flemo’, and he said: ‘I just closed my eyes and thought about bowling a stock out-swinger.” Warne said. “So I closed my eyes and thought about bowling a stock ball.”

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Australian captain Mark Taylor had gathered the field around like a noose, and Warne’s leg-spinner buzzed against Malcolm’s meekly offered batting glove and around the corner to where David Boon sprawled to his right to take a one-handed catch that was as special as the hat-trick.

There was a moment of dramatic hesitation as umpire Steve Randell peered between the milling fieldsmen to make certain that the catch had hem cleanly held then he raised his finger to send away Malcolm and usher in posterity. Warne became only the sixth Australian to take a hat-trick, and the first in an Ashes Test for 91 years.

“I suppose I’ll wake up soon. All you can do is go out and do the best you can. If you get wickets, you get wickets. If you don’t, as long as you win.”

Five minutes later, Australia had, again. The scoreboard resembled a shooting gallery as ducks were put up against the last four batsmen, Warne’s three victims and Phil Tufnell, who snicked McDermott to wicketkeeper Ian Healy in the next over to ring down the curtain on the match.

Warne uprooted a souvenir stump and made for the exit, stopping along the way to shake the outstretched left hand of bloodied but unbeaten Alec Stewart, whose right index finger was still in a splint. He had lasted longer with one hand than most of his teammates with two.

From all accounts, McDermott has been a little miffed at the attention given to Warne, not because he thinks poorly of Warne’s achievements, but because his own considerable performances have been obscured.

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When Warne remarked yesterday that McDermott had bowled “impeccably” and that he had been trying only to “chip in” for a couple of wickets and had “got lucky”, McDermott whispered: ‘Only three, mate.’ But he was smiling.

McDermott had taken five wickets in the innings, and eight for the match, thumbing his nose at critics inside and outside the team who thought his career was at the crossroads.

Yesterday he had the honor of leading Australia from the ground, and was named man-of-the-match, but he already that, once again, it was Warne’s world.

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