With Australia again locked in ODI battle with Pakistan, this Flashback Friday we look back at a famous clash between the two nations that took place 20-years-ago this week. On January 16, 1997, the last round-robin match of the Carlton and United Series saw the two sides meet at the MCG. The fact that the match was a dead-rubber, with Australia already eliminated from Carlton and United Series finals contention, didn’t deter 48,218 Melbournians from taking their place in the grand old ground. Their perseverance was rewarded with bearing witness to only the second-ever hat-trick taken by an Australian in a One Day International.
Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram won the toss and had no hesitation in choosing to bat first in his team’s last hit out before facing the West Indies in the Best of 3 Finals. Aussie captain Mark Taylor, despite having Glenn McGrath at his disposal, chose to open the bowling with Andy Bichel, and Anthony Stuart, a 27-year-old bank teller playing his third ODI.
Stuart had forced his way onto the international stage through sheer force of will and determination. Unlike the players of today, Stuart had to plot his plans for dismissing players like Adam Gilchrist while maintaining a full-time job. When interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011, Stuart recalled the difficulties he encountered “When I started playing for the Blues I was still working in a bank. I’d lug my cricket kit on the train and bus to work and catch a taxi to the SCG for training. I paid my own gym membership, caught buses to the physio and really had to look after myself. You had to stand on your own two feet and back yourself to be successful.”
It was on this January day in 1997 that Anthony Stuart received the return on his investment of blood, sweat, and tears. As Stuart made his may in towards batsman Ijaza Ahmed for the third ball of his sixth over, he had already wreaked havoc upon the Pakistani top order. With Stuart having already claimed 2/12, the tourists were attempting to rebuild their innings at 2/29. As Ijaz waited, Stuart hurriedly made his way to the wicket and his date with destiny.
Ian Chappell: ‘Fast bowlers enjoying this pitch’.
‘Oh, that’s a good delivery! There’s a shout there from behind, and Anthony Stuart has his third victim.’
IJAZ AHMED c: Healy b: Stuart 2 (8)
Michael Holding: ‘Fast bowlers certainly are enjoying this MCG pitch. Not that there is a great deal of sideways movement out there for them. But they have been bowling very well and that was a good delivery from Anthony Stuart. Good line, as you could see, not a great deal of sideways movement but a nice tidy line and a good length as well. Just outside that off stump and a feint tickle through to wicket-keeper Healy. Ijaz Ahmed Snr failing for one of the rare occasions it’s 3/29.’
The fall of Ijaz’s wicket brought the in-form Mohammad Wasim to the crease. The sight of Wasim at the crease would have given Pakistan some comfort as he had spent much of the summer rescuing the team from difficult situations.
IC: ‘He’s got the job (of dragging Pakistan out of trouble} again here today.’
‘And he’s gone! So, Anthony Stuart is having a blinder here and he’s now on a hat-trick.’
Mohammad Wasim c: Healy b: Stuart 0 (1)
MH: ‘This is by far Anthony Stuart’s best bowling performance for Australia. It’s a long walk here at the MCG from the dressing room and young Wasim has to do it twice within a minute. Good bowling by Anthony Stuart, Pakistan in dire straits. Now four wickets down and not looking good, Pakistan at the moment.’
IC: Now that is the first time that Mohammad Wasim has failed Pakistan. He got a very good delivery. Anthony Stuart bowling with a lot of fire. Not quite as quick as Glenn McGrath but he’s bowling a very good line and just enough movement and as Michael said he’s making the batsman play.’
Wicket-Keeper Moin Khan was the man with the responsibility of facing Stuart’s hat-trick ball. If a fast bowler with his tail up wasn’t enough to confront, Moin also had to contend with the deafening noise from the baying crowd. The Australian supporters, deprived of much to cheer during the ODI Tri-Series, stood to will Stuart on to one of the game’s rarest achievements.
IC: ‘And he’s gone! He’s got the hat-trick. Three men caught behind the wicket, two of them by Healy, and that one a comfortable waist-high catch to Mark Taylor. So, Anthony Stuart has taken a hat-trick.’
MOIN KHAN c: Taylor b: Stuart 0 (1)
MH: ‘Always quite a bit of pressure on the bowlers when they’re running in for their hat-trick ball, so many occasions we see bowlers get two in two and just throwing away their hat-trick by bowling a bad delivery for their third one. But not on this occasion Anthony Stuart, perfect line and length yet again. Moin Khan coming forward just around that off stump line. Again, just a hint of movement and beautifully caught by Mark Taylor. He’s (Stuart) a happy man and why shouldn’t he (be). So many bowlers go through their entire careers without getting a hat-trick and he’s done it, Anthony Stuart.’
Unknown at the time, but this day at the MCG would be the last time Stuart would play at international level. Only the twelfth man to take an ODI hat-trick, a drop in-form upon his return to state level saw him overlooked the next time the Australian team took the field. Rather than feel bitter at the abrupt end to his international career, Stuart instead describes himself as ‘privileged’ to have been able to have pulled on the canary yellow in the first place.
Despite the brevity of his international career, as a result of his day out at the MCG in 1997, it is a career that will live long in the memories of those who watched it.