Jan 2, 1879: ‘Demon’ Spofforth bags first-ever Test hat-trick

Frederick Spofforth picked up three wickets in three balls for the first Test match hat-trick

Exactly 138 years ago on this day (Jan 2, 1879), a certain ‘Demon’ struck on England. Not only was this the first-ever Test match hat-trick, it set the tone for what would turn out to be a comfortable 10-wicket victory for Australia over England in a one-off Test in Melbourne.

Test match cricket at the time was just two matches old and it was fitting that Frederick ‘Demon’ Spofforth, who is said to be the inventor of swing bowling, picked up the first hat-trick, dismissing Vernon Royle, Francis MacKinnon and Tom Emmett.

But it wasn’t as if the Englishmen didn’t expect the worst from the dangly 6 ft 3 in right-arm seamer. The previous summer, Spofforth was the leading figure for a touring Australian side who zipped through the MCC line-up twice in one day at Lord’s.  MCC made a combined score of 52 over their two innings (33 and 19)! Spofforth’s match figures read 10/20, and his tally included the wicket of the legendary WG Grace. Folklore has it that Spofforth celebrated that wicket like there was no tomorrow. As the bails sprang up in mid-air, Spofforth jumped about two feet in the air, and sang out: ‘Bowled! Bowled! Bowled!’ On his way out, he turned to his teammates and said, “Ain’t I a demon? Ain’t I a demon?” Speaking about the moment of self-christening, Spofforth later said, “To myself, it will always be a noteworthy occasion, since it was then that I first earned my popular sobriquet – ‘the Demon’.”

Remember, this is the time when celebrations were barely ever seen and a gentle clap would usually act as the sign of a match-winning moment. But no one had the guts to say that to the demon.

Spofforth eventually picked up 94 wickets over 18 Test matches before moving to England, representing Derbyshire from 1888-1891, before settling in the country whose batsmen he frequently tormented.

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