On January 29, 2006, Irfan Pathan became the second Indian to take a hat-trick in Test cricket. On a green surface at Karachi, Pakistan’s top-order had no answer to the swing generated by this bubbling left-hander. The final three deliveries of the first over of the third Test saw Pathan storm his way into the record books, but it wasn’t enough to fetch a victory. Karthik Parimal looks back at that momentous day.
Prior to the third and final Test at Karachi in 2006, Irfan Pathan’s bowling figures in the series read 1 for 133 and 0 for 106 at Lahore and 1 for 80 at Faisalabad. But unlike the previous two Tests, conditions seemed to favour the bowlers at Karachi and captain Rahul Dravid promptly elected to field first after winning the toss.
The bowlers from both sides were heavily battered at Lahore and Faisalabad, both of which ended in tame draws. The sight of a green wicket, after two flat ones, would have hence appeared like an oasis in the desert to both the attacks. However, the Indians were to make first use of it and the ball was duly tossed to Irfan.
He was in his element right from the outset. The first delivery was tentatively defended by opener Salman Butt and the next two balls were left alone to the ‘keeper. All three deliveries had swung away from the left-hander.
Below is how the second half of the momentous first over panned out.
Fourth ball: Wicket – Salman Butt – After three deliveries that were just short of good length, Irfan pitches the fourth a little further up. The ball lands on the middle-and-leg area and swings away from the left-handed Butt, who manages to get a thick outside edge at the last moment. The ball scurries low towards the first slip and skipper Rahul Dravid palms it inches from the ground. Dravid’s decision to field first on a green track immediately pays off. Butt, who seldom posed a threat during that series, failed to counter the swinging delivery and was the first casualty of the approaching collapse.
Fifth ball: Wicket – Younis Khan – Yet again, a full delivery that pitches on the off and swings in very late. Younis Khan is trapped right in front of the middle stump, and even before umpire Simon Taufel was to make a decision, the former would have known that his fate was sealed. To see his back would have been a welcome sight to the Indians.
Sixth ball: Wicket – Mohammad Yousuf – Easily one of Irfan’s best in-swingers. The ball swings in the air and off the wicket to go through Mohammad Yousuf’s gate and on to the stumps. The over comes to an end and Pakistan are left reeling at 0 for three at the National Stadium in Karachi.
Like Younis, Yousuf too was collecting runs at will prior to this game, with scores of 173, 65 and 126 in his last three innings.
India’s joy knew no bounds. They’d come to Pakistan in search of a series victory, and they started on the right note in the final Test. Two batsmen – Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf –, who had been a thorn in the flesh of the bowlers right throughout the series, were eliminated. Irfan was the second Indian bowler to take a hat-trick, after Harbhajan Singh, in Test cricket. Prior to this spell, Nuwan Zoysa of Sri Lanka held the record for the fastest hat-trick in the longer version of the game, taking three wickets in the first three balls of the second over at Harare in November 1999.
After Irfan’s annihilation, Zaheer Khan and RP Singh dented the Pakistan batting line-up further to put them in a tight spot at 39 for six. A total of even 70 appeared out of reach, but what followed was completely unprecedented.
In what will perhaps remain one of Kamran Akmal’s best-ever knocks in Test cricket, he counterattacked and blazed his way to 113 off 148 deliveries, with Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq to keep him company at the other end. He flogged the Indian seamers, scoring 18 boundaries in the process. By tea, Pakistan had reached a respectable 218 for 7, before folding for 245 in the final session.
During the next three days, the Indians conceded a lead of seven runs and Pakistan pummeled the Indian attack in the second innings to amass 599 for the loss of seven wickets before declaring. After recording figures of 5 for 61 in the first innings, Irfan finished with one for 106 in the second. Needing 607 to win, the visitors could muster just 265, thereby going down by a massive margin of 341 runs. It was indeed a bizarre end to what was an insipid series until then.
Brief scores: Pakistan 245 (Kamran Akmal 113, Abdul Razzaq 45, Shoaib Akhtar 45; Irfan Pathan 5-61) and 599 for 7 declared (Faisal Iqbal 139, Mohammad Yousuf 97, Abdul Razzaq 90; Anil Kumble 3-151) beat India 238 (Yuvraj Singh 45, Irfan Pathan 40; Mohammad Asif 4-78) and 265 (Yuvraj Singh 122, Sourav Ganguly 37; Abdul Razzaq 4-88)
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)