Let us begin this piece with Michael Atherton, the only man to be dismissed by three separate men over 15 times in Test cricket (no one else has got out to even two). The statistic is not as surprising as it sounds: England were going through a record low in the 1990s, prompting everyone to go after them. And as is often the norm with aggressive bowling attacks, they go after the captains, especially when they bat at the top. They all came at him, in pairs or all by themselves; and poor Atherton, perennial target of fast bowlers, opposition media, local media, and at times teammates, often fell prey.
So Glenn McGrath got Atherton 19 times in 17 Tests; Curtly Ambrose, 17 times in 26 Tests; and Courtney Walsh, 17 times in 27. Allan Donald also got him 11 times in 17 Tests, but it was a more or less fair contest: several of Atherton’s most iconic innings came against Donald.
Unfortunately, though Atherton had 108 First-Class wickets — about one every 3 matches — his leg-breaks were rarely used in Test cricket. He did take 2 Test wickets (decent ones, too, of Dilip Vengsarkar and Wasim Akram), but he could not get back at McGrath, Ambrose, or Walsh, those three nemesis of his.
While Atherton never got his revenge, some others did. Let us have a look.
1. Hugh Trumble caught Willie Quaife bowled Tom Hayward, 1901-02
Make no mistake: Hayward was a giant of First-Class cricket. At the time of his retirement only WG Grace (54,211) had more runs than his 43,551. Unfortunately, he was plagued by Hugh Trumble’s off-breaks from the day they met each other.
Trumble got Hayward in 3 consecutive innings in 1896; thrice in 5 innings (including a run out) in 1898-99; and 4 times in 5 innings (the fifth was a run out) in 1901-02.
So, when they met in the last Test of the series, Hayward was almost certainly desperate to give it back to Trumble. After all, he would finish with 481 First-Class wickets with his medium-paced off-spin.
Trumble, leading Australia in the match, walked out at 98 for 4. At that stage Hayward, bowling from the Railway End of MCG, was finding his groove. He soon had Trumble off a ball pitched on a good length; Trumble, mishit, was unable to keep it down, and was caught by Quaife.
Trumble, perhaps enraged by this unexpected switch of fortune, claimed 8 wickets in the Test. Sure enough, he got Hayward in the second innings. Still not happy, he got Hayward 4 times in the next 8 innings…
2. Alec Bedser bowled Arthur Morris, 1953
The Old Trafford Test of 1938 was washed out without a ball being bowled. Rain intervened again in 1948, saving England for the only time in the series. It was no different in 1953 when incessant rain had almost pushed the Test to the brink of a draw. England had reached 126 for 4 in response to Australia’s 318.
Reg Simpson and Trevor Bailey dug in before Godfrey Evans hit some swashbuckling strokes. No. 11 Bedser hung around too, helping Evans add 28 for the last wicket. Then Morris came on to bowl Chinaman, and his first 5 balls went for 5.
Now Morris and Bedser already had a history. Morris had started his Test career by getting out to Bedser in 5 of his first 6 dismissals (including 4 in a row). In 1950-51 Bedser got him 5 times in 8 innings (including 3 in 3). And even in this series he would get out to Bedser thrice in 5 innings (Bedser would get him 5 times, once in every Test). Bedser would eventually claim Morris 18 times (in 21 Tests). Only McGrath has got Atherton as many times.
Morris had his revenge by clean bowling Bedser, much to the delight of the English crowd. Captain Lindsay Hassett allowed Morris to lead the side as the Australians left field.
3. Kapil Dev caught Graham Dilley bowled David Gower, 1981-82
Gower, still new to Test cricket, had welcomed the Indians in 1979 with a delightful unbeaten 200 at Edgbaston. The joy was short-lived: Kapil got him for two consecutive ducks later that series. When England came over the next two winters, Kapil got him in twice in 3 innings, on either side of a run out. In other words, Kapil got Gower 4 times in 5 innings he fell to a bowler.
When the sides met in the last Test at Kanpur with India 1-0 up, England, for some reason, batted well into the third day before declaring on 378 for 9. Gower was trapped leg-before by — no prize for guessing — Kapil.
Kapil walked out at 207 for 7 on Day Five and launched a furious onslaught, reaching his hundred in a mere 83 balls. He eventually fell for a 98-ball 116 (76 of which came in boundaries) when trying to loft Gower: Dilley took the catch.
Sure enough, Kapil got Gower in the next Test they played together.
4. Malcolm Marshall caught Mike Gatting bowled Graham Gooch, 1986
While Gooch was as amazing as anyone against West Indies at their prime (nobody averaged more than his 44.83), he had a habit of falling to Marshall every now and then. In fact, Marshall snared Gooch 16 times in 21 Tests.
His medium-paced bowling had accounted for Marshall in when West Indies came over in 1980.
Marshall got Gooch thrice in 3 innings across formats, in 1986. Gooch responded with 129 not out, but Marshall got him again. And he got him twice more as the tour went on, making it 6 times in 11 innings.
That tour also witnessed Marshall smashing Gatting’s face with a vicious bouncer. The impact was so brutal that a piece of Gatting’s bone was found in the ball.
England’s woes continued as Marshall whacked them around while batting (as did Roger Harper and Michael Holding). He raced to 76 before holing out to Gatting off Gooch. West Indies completed their whitewash (Viv Richards registered what was then the fastest Test hundred) all the same, but two men did have their revenge.
5. Shane Warne LBW Daryll Cullinan, 1997-98
Contrary to popular belief, Warne has not got Cullinan out as frequently. While 4 times in 7 Tests is decent, Muttiah Muralitharan (7 times in 10 Tests) has a better success rate against Cullinan. Even Dinanath Ramnarine, the West Indian leg-spinner, had dismissed Cullinan 5 times in 5 Tests (more specifically, in 6 innings).
True, Warne got him 12 times across formats (the most by anyone), but hey, even if one excludes Ramnarine as an exception, Nixon MacLean got Cullinan 6 times in 12 matches. In fact, if Warne had a bunny, it was probably Ashwell Prince, who fell to the legend 11 times in 9 Tests.
It was more psychological, then; we all know of Cullinan’s visits to a sports psychologist after he was tormented by Warne, especially that flipper. The usual sledges were there, from “it’s going to be third ball” to “make sure you come forward” to “is the shower already running?” to “what colour was the couch?” and beyond.
But Cullinan’s moment came in the Carlton & United Series 1996-97 match at Sydney. Australia lost the match comprehensively, but not before Hansie Cronje tossed the ball to Cullinan on a turning track; and Cullinan soon had Adam Gilchrist caught and bowled.
But something sweeter was in store: Warne came out, swinging his bat like a mace the way he always had before he missed one off Cullinan and was given leg-before. For once Wisden came out of its usual guise of understatements: “Cullinan danced into the arms of his team-mates after removing his nemesis, Warne, with his district-standard off-breaks.”