During the course of his career, Chaminda Vaas consistently delivered game-changing spells © Getty Images
On February 14, 2003, Sri Lanka’s ace seamer Chaminda Vaas picked up a hat-trick off the first three balls of a One-Day International (ODI) against Bangladesh at the 2003 World Cup. He took another wicket to make it four for the first over and ultimately finished with figures of six for 25. Nishad Pai Vaidya revisits that day in Pietermaritzburg.
With 400 wickets to his name, Chaminda Vaas is amongst the greatest One-Day International (ODI) bowlers. What he lacked in pace, he made up with immaculate discipline and vicious movement to make life difficult for the batsmen. The opposition openers would come in with an intent to dominate, but would find themselves battling against his nagging deliveries upfront.
On February 14, 2003, the Bangladesh batsmen got a taste of Vaas’ deceptive bowling that completely tore their hopes apart. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh faced off in the 10th game of the 2003 World Cup and the result was an obvious conclusion. However, little did anyone imagine that Sri Lanka would get one with things in a jiffy and that Vaas would set a new benchmark. In the very first over of the game, Vaas snared four Bangladeshi batsmen – three of them off the first three deliveries. Never had one-day cricket seen a hat-trick off the first three balls of the game.
Sri Lanka won the toss and put Bangladesh in to bat at the picturesque City Oval at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Hannan Sarkar walked in to take the first ball and commence the Bangladeshi challenge. Vaas got it to pitch around off-stump and it swung back into Sarkar. The batsman was trying to play an aggressive shot through the covers, but the ball sneaked through between bat and pad to disturb the woodwork. The Lankans were off and running.
In came the young and precocious Mohammad Ashraful who had scored a hundred against the same opposition on Test debut. Things were a lot different now as Vaas was in no mood to let the batsmen get away with anything. He bowled the ball a touch slower and Ashraful was very early into the shot. The ball lobbed back to Vaas for a comfortable catch. A stunned Ashraful had a look at the wicket and then trudged off to the pavilion.
There was a buzz across the ground as Ehsanul Haque, the Bangladeshi No 4 came in to face the hat-trick ball. A sense of anticipation gripped the Sri Lankans as they surrounded the batsman with fielders. There were three slips, a gully and man at forward short-leg waiting for the possible opportunity. Vaas ran in with the hope of writing history. The occasion did not affect him as he held on to his line around off-stump. Ehsanul tried to drive, but only found the edge which flew to Mahela Jayawardene at second slip.
Sanwar Hossain entered the stage a lot earlier than expected. In the midst of the carnage, he came in with a refreshing approach. The first ball he faced – the fourth of the over – he smashed it for four. Wickets are often said to fall against the run of play, but this particular boundary was a bolt from the blue. It took the whole ground by surprise as logic would have dictated him to negotiate the over without further damage.
The following delivery was a wide. Was Vaas losing the plot? Not quite, as he had more tricks up his sleeve.
A more confident Hossain readied himself for the fifth delivery. Vaas pitched it on a good-length, around the leg-stump and it held its line. Hossain was beaten and hit on the pads plumb in front. Umpire Russell Tiffin had no hesitation in adjudging that out.
At the end of the dramatic first over, Bangladesh were reeling at five for four and they never quite recovered from there. Vaas wasn’t done there as he scalped his fifth victim in the fifth over of the game to reduce the opposition to 25 for five. Alok Kapali and Captain Khaled Mashud put in a spirited fight, picking up the pieces amongst the ruins. However, Muttiah Muralitharan and Dilhara Fernando dented the lower order fight.
Mashrafe Mortaza was swinging his bat around a little, but Vaas returned to dismiss him and bowl Bangladesh out for 124. His final analysis read as follows: 9.1-2-25-6. Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Attapatu overhauled the target with minimal fuss and sealed a comfortable Sri Lankan victory.
During the course of his career, Vaas consistently delivered game-changing spells. Along with this game, his most memorable moment came in 2001, when his spell of eight for 19 bundled Zimbabwe out for 38.
Interestingly, during Sri Lanka’s next game at the 2003 World Cup, they wrapped up Canada for 36. Vaas finished with figures of three for 15. While they enjoyed bullying the weaker sides, they were in for a shocker as Kenya stunned them later in the tournament. That was a grounding experience after two ruthless performances.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)