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Henry Cowen

The Definitive: Damien Fleming

by Henry Cowen

Aussie swinger, hat-trick taker and chilled out entertainer Damien Fleming speaks to Henry Cowen and waxes lyrical on the big 10 moments of his career.

THE FITNESS TEST
6-37 & 2-57 | Victoria v Western Australia, Sheffield Shield, Melbourne, November 1989

I did well on my first-class debut, I’d like to say it was a flat wicket but it was kryptonite green! It was fortunate really because two days before I’d been in a bus crash. I flew three metres through the air and smashed my pinkie. It was still throbbing, it was at right angles and I had to go through a fitness test, facing the quickest bowler we had in Australia at the time – Denis Hickey. He’d been dropped but if I couldn’t play he was going to be recalled so he was steaming in from about 12 metres. I had to bat with my pinkie off the handle and I couldn’t flinch… fortunately I came through it and took 6-30 the next day. Happy days!

THE DEBUT HAT-TRICK
3-43 & 5-60 | West Indies under 19s v Australia Young Cricketers, 1st Test, Sabina Park, August 1990

In my first youth Test for Australia against the West Indies I got a hat-trick. We had a very strong team and I think seven of us went on to play Test cricket – only Sherwin Campbell went on to play Tests for the West Indies. It started off a trend for doing pretty well in my first games.

THE DEBUT HAT-TRICK (AGAIN)
4-75 & 3-86 | Pakistan v Australia, 2nd Test, Rawalpindi, October 1994

I must admit as a swing bowler I dreamt of debuting at Lord’s or maybe at Perth – Rawalpindi probably wasn’t on my swinging agenda growing up! The hat-trick was a bit of fun, it was going towards a draw and to get someone out for 237 for your third wicket is a bit unique! I actually said something really corny at the top of my mark before the hat-trick ball, I turned to Craig McDermott and said “Billy, Saleem [Malik] doesn’t know yet but he’s about to become part of history”. I don’t know why I said it but he’s nicked it through and it was a great moment. I was soon brought down to earth though when Mark Taylor, who bowls absolute rubbish, and Michael Slater, who runs in like a washing machine, both picked up wickets which totally devalued the whole Test match let alone my hat-trick.

THE PARTY CRASHERS
5-36 | India v Australia, World Cup group match, Mumbai, February 1996

Mumbai was like a Metallica concert it was so loud and after I got Jadeja and Kambli out I bowled a few to Tendulkar. He was susceptible to nicking an away-swinger like anybody else but if you strayed onto leg-stump he had the most vicious on-drive of anybody I’ve ever seen. We didn’t play Sri Lanka because there were some threats so we were behind the eight-ball and needed to win every match. To beat the favourites on their home patch and to get a five-fer was pretty special – my best ODI figures as well.

THE DEATH OVER
2-48 | Australia v West Indies, World Cup semi-final, Mohali, March 1996

Nobody can argue that I didn’t knock over the big guns during my career and there was nobody bigger with the bat than Courtney Walsh, except maybe Phil Tufnell! McGrath used to target Atherton, Warnie used to target Lara, but I was a bit more measured in my targeting. I targeted the likes of Tuffers, Devon Malcolm and Alan Mullally. In the final over I just ran in trying to bowl as fast as I could and when I got Walsh out it was a great moment. It’s incredible to find yourself in a World Cup final.

THE BATTING
71* | Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, November 1998

Nothing can explain this one, I managed to score 71, somehow, and I didn’t even have stickers on the bat. Goughy and I were pretty good mates and he was bouncing me and I was hooking them for four and he’s saying “Flem, what’s going on?” I could only turn around and say “Mate, I really don’t know”. I was playing hook shots like Richie Richardson and Al Mullal pointed out that I wasn’t West Indian enough to be playing shots like I was. It should have been a hundred but McGrath burned me – he got Mike Hussey through to his hundred but not me. He owes me an apology.

PERTH SONG
5-46 & 4-45 | Australia v England, 2nd Test, Perth, November 1998

I felt like this was a bit of a D-Day Test for me. Steve Waugh always used to say that each of us should aim to be Man of the Match. My two main goals in every Test were to be the best player on the field and to sing the song [The Australian victory song, Under The Southern Cross We Stand]. I was actually born in Perth but left when I was two years old. Whenever I got wickets the local press would call me a ‘Western Australian-born fast bowler’ and when I didn’t they’d go with ‘Victorian medium-pacer’, luckily on this occasion it was the former.

THE WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL
1-40 | Australia v South Africa, World Cup semi-final, Edgbaston, June 1999

The plan was to come around the wicket and bowl yorkers around 30 centimetres outside off-stump – not exactly easy to do, you can tell it was the batsmen who came up with it. The first one was good, maybe 32 centimetres outside off-stump, and Klusener smashed it for four. The next one was a bit of a half volley and he smashed it for four again. You could sense everyone’s heads dropping so I came over the wicket. Third ball he hit straight to mid-wicket and Boof [Darren Lehmann] missed the stumps by about two metres from about one metre away. Fourth ball it was actually a perfect yorker, he hit it and just ran. AD [Allan Donald] stayed put, Mark Waugh threw it to me, I underarmed it to Gilly [Adam Gilchrist] at about one mile an hour, it eventually got to him, he broke the stumps and it was just a moment of pure euphoria.

THE WARNE DROP
3-70 & 5-30 | Australia v India, 1st Test, Adelaide, December 1999

What more could I do? Warnie and I don’t talk anymore. And look at me now, I’m MC-ing things, I do the odd speaking event, I do radio interviews, I do book interviews from time to time – I’m essentially just scraping through. Had Warnie taken that catch [to give him his hat-trick], on memorabilia alone, I’d be a multimillionaire. I could have bowled out Srinath but I’m not the biggest name and I knew if Warnie caught it then it would have added a few zeros and I could have sent my kids to private school. But then life hasn’t really worked out that well for him, has it… Where is he these days? He’s a great lad really and he’s apologised on a number of occasions.

THE END OF THE RUN
1-55 & 0-44 | India v Australia, 1st Test, Mumbai, February 2001

It was our 16th Test victory in a row and my final Test. Work it out for yourself. We win 16 in a row and they drop Fleming. What happens next? The streak stops! My final wicket was Rahul Dravid, which was a nice way to sign off. The game after that I was dropped, I was 12th man and I was furious. We batted first, made heaps and then bowled them out cheaply, making them follow on. I went to put the beers on ice and three days later we were still bowling! Dodged a bullet there.

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