On May 10, 2008, Lakshmipathy Balaji became the first bowler to register the hat-trick in the Indian Premier League against Kings XI Punjab at MA Chidambaram Stadium. Balaji mastered the art of changing the pace which perplexed Punjab batsmen. Sarang Bhalerao revisits smiling assassin’s foray: Balaji’s exploits with the ball.
In his book Pundits from Pakistan, Rahul Bhattacharya described Lakshmipathy Balaji’s spell in the final Test at Rawalpindi ‘Barnesque [reference to English bowler Sydney Barnes].’ Balaji, like Barnes, swung the ball both ways which bewildered Pakistan in the fourth morning of the final Test match. They meekly surrendered to Balaji’s sortie.
At the MA Chidambaram Stadium on May 10, 2008, Balaji did not swing the ball prodigiously nor did the batsmen find it hard to survive. It was just that Balaji had adapted himself well to the shortest format of the game by lacing a repertoire of changes of pace in his armoury.
The 31st match of the competition swung one way or the other. Needing 182 to win, Kings XI Punjab lost two quick wickets. But Shaun Marsh was in sublime touch and was determined to see his side through.
But two overs from Balaji [the 13th over of the innings and the final over] had ensured that Kings XI Punjab capsize against the home team, Chennai Super Kings. In the 13th over, Balaji picked up Ramnaresh Sarwan (20) when the later tried to hit across the line. The ball cartwheeled the stumps. Later in the same over Shaun Marsh (58) was bounced out by Balaji — Marsh was a tad late in playing the pull shot. The ball took the top-edge which was easily caught at square leg by Pilani Amarnath.
In the final over, Punjab needed 27 to win. Irfan Pathan hit the first ball of the over for a six over deep square-leg. He got a couple of runs off the next ball. Off the third ball of the over, Balaji bowled a slower ball which Pathan chipped straight to Suresh Raina at deep square-leg.
The fourth ball was an attempted yorker length delivery which turned into a low full toss; Piyush Chawla hit that to long-off where Chamara Kapugedera picked up an easy catch.
Balaji was on a hat-trick. He bowled a slower ball bouncer to VRV Singh who attempted to play an expansive pull. The top-edge went straight up in the air, Mahendra Singh Dhoni called mine and took the skier.
Punjab lost the game by 18 runs. Balaji picked up his first five-for in Twenty20 cricket [picking up five for 24 in his four overs].
Chennai thus reached the second position in the points table. Balaji was named the man of the match. It was a just reward for the man who showed his dexterity with the ball and single-handedly won the game for his team.
Chennai Super Kings 181 for 4 in 20 overs (Subramaniam Badrinath 64, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 60*; Shanthakumaran Sreesanth 2 for 29) beat Kings XI Punjab 163 for 9 in 20 overs (Shaun Marsh 58; Lakshmipathy Balaji 5 for 24) by 18 runs.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)