“Hat-trick” is one of the dream achievements for every bowler. But when it came in cricketer’s debut match in the international cricket, it becomes the greatest achievement for that bowler. Imagine what happened to that bowler when his hat-trick on debut is ruined because of his captain? Even the umpire had given a decision as out.
The incident happened during the 1st Test of 3 match Test series between Pakistan and England at Lahore in December 1977. The debutant bowler was 30-years old Geoff Cope, English off-spinner, and the England captain was Mike Brearley.
After picking up back-to-back wickets of Pakistan batsmen Abdul Qadir and Sarfaraz Nawaz in two successive deliveries, Cope was ready to achieve the rarest debut hat-trick. On the other hand, his captain Mike Brearley also gave full support to his new international bowler as the skipper stood at the first slip and brought some close-in-fielders too. The batsman was Pakistan lower-order Iqbal Qasim, who was facing that historical ball.
Cope’s ball turned slightly and bounced too, which left-handed batsman Iqbal nicked. Skipper Mike dived to his left and caught the ball. Immediately umpire gave the decision out and Iqbal was walking back towards his dressing room while the new English bowler Cope was on high after securing a rare achievement.
But the story did not end at that moment. When other teammates congratulating Cope, skipper Mike suddenly said to him, “I’m going to bring him (Iqbal) back because I don’t think I caught it cleanly.”
All the other team-mates were adamant that Mike caught that ball a foot away the ground. But Mike stuck to his decision and said, “No, for the best interests of this series I’m going to bring him back.” Finally, Mike brought back Iqbal into the crease who already left the field.
Well, it was in the spirit of cricket shown that English team captain Mike Brearley, who took that brave decision, but alongside that it was very disappointing and heart-breaking moment for the new English off-spinner Geoff Cope. It was going to be his first career hat-trick but was ruined at the end. The match was drawn at the end as Cope ended that match with three wickets (all 3 wickets were taken by Cope in the 1st innings).
After that Cope played only two more Test matches and both two matches were in that series. Apart from that, Cope also played 2 ODIs on that tour but after that, he was never selected in the international cricket. In his small international career for England, Cope picked up 8 wickets in Tests (in 3 Tests) and only 2 wickets in ODI (in 2 ODIs).
On the other hand, Mike Brearley became a successful captain in the international cricket. Out of his 39 Tests for England, he led the English side in 31 matches. During his international captaincy, he won 17 Tests and lost only 4 Tests. Mike was famous, respectful, resourceful, sympathetic and clear-thinking captain.