Until two Sundays ago, Chris Morris was a promising young fast bowler getting to grips with first-class cricket.
Now he can be mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats of the game.
It’s all thanks to the hat-trick Morris took at St George’s Park to help the Lions beat the Warriors. That alone, however, would not have been enough to earn Morris a place in cricket’s statistical lore alongside AEG “Dusty” Rhodes, his son Harold and Fred Tate and his son Maurice.
You’ve probably figured it out already, but Chris needed some help from his old man, Willy, to join that lot: they are all fathers and sons who have taken hat-tricks in first-class cricket.
Dusty Rhodes took five hat-tricks, four of them for Derbyshire and one for the MCC. He played eight tests and later became famous as an umpire. His son Harold played only two tests but 322 first-class matches, also for Derbyshire.
Fred Tate, who played his single test in 1902 for England, took one hat-trick for Sussex but his illustrious son Maurice got three, two of them for Sussex and one for The Rest.
For all that, I am indebted to cricket’s indefatigable men of numbers, Andre Samson and Robin Isherwood.
The Morris’s achievements were easier to track down and in a few ways the similarities are more uncanny than even those of the Rhodes and Tate families.
It was not just that Chris took his hat-trick on the same ground as his father’s. The match situations were like history being repeated.
Chris Morris, a 26-year-old opening bowler for the Highveld Lions, took four wickets in six balls, three of them off successive deliveries over two overs to wrap up a 94-run victory over the Warriors at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on January 15.
On January 2 1989, playing on the same Port Elizabeth ground, his now 56-year-old father, Willy, did the same for Northern Transvaal against Eastern Province.
In Chris’s match, the Warriors appeared set to reach a fourth-innings target of 351 with only five wickets down and 253 already on the board. But three runs later they were all out, four of the last five wickets falling to Morris and the fifth to legspinner Eddie Leie. Morris sealed the victory, and his hat-trick, by bowling last man, Basheeru-Deen Walters.
Just over 22 years earlier Northern Transvaal had set Eastern Province 260 to win on the third and final day of a Currie Cup match at St George’s. Then the home team were even closer to the target, reaching 215/4 before Willy Morris, a left-arm spinner, struck. He had Dave Callaghan caught by Mandy Yachad at mid-off, then drew Dave Richardson into playing the first ball straight back to him for a caught-and-bowled before surrounding Tim Shaw with fielders, but keeping Yachad out at mid-on. Shaw, a left-hander, tried to hit his way out of trouble and Yachad held another catch.
Eastern Province’s 215/4 had suddenly became 215/7 and 18 runs later they were all out – just 27 runs short. The last three wickets also fell to Morris, who had bowled 11 overs for 55 runs before he claimed Callaghan’s wicket, his first of the game. He ended with 6/ 63 off 16.4 overs.
“It was a flat track,” remembers Willy. “So skipper Lee Barnard just said it was up to us. I bowled with him in tandem when the fast bowlers couldn’t get much out of the wicket.”
Two Sundays ago, when Chris got the wicket of veteran Warriors batsman Arno Jacobs with his second ball of the over, he hardly realised that he was about to follow in the bowling footmarks of his father.
Four balls later he had Simon Harmer caught behind by Thami Tsolekile, followed by a wicket off the last ball of the over (Andrew Birch) and one off the first of his next over (Walters). That completed the match and brought about a rare father-son first-class cricket achievement.
“It was a bit of a baseball pitch,” said Chris of the St George’s Park wicket, echoing the feelings of his father in 1989. “But I just hit the deck as hard as I could, and there was a bit of reverse swing about, which helped.”
Chris was part of the Lions academy in 2009 and played for North West in the amateur league before joining the Lions last year as a professional. His cricket records at Pretoria Boys High still stand: the most games in the first XI (103, from Grade 9) and 3305 first-team runs, beating the old mark held by Johan Myburg.
- In the 1989 match, two current TV commentators got among the runs. Kepler Wessels, then captain of Easterns, made an unbeaten 62 in the first innings and Mike Haysman scored 78 not out for Northerns in the first. Neither man scored many in the second.