It was yet another bowling feat at Feroz Shah Kotla. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
It was yet another bowling feat at Feroz Shah Kotla. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

November 25, 1988. The relatively obscure Shankar Saini stole the limelight from the star Delhi seamers by taking four wickets in four balls, which included the dismissal of Shakti Singh twice, against Himachal Pradesh in Ranji Trophy. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a statistician’s delight.

Delhi vs Himachal Pradesh contests in the 1980s were typically one-sided affairs. Delhi had played them thrice till then, winning two and drawing one. The matches Delhi had won were by humongous margins — by an innings and 165 runs, and an innings and 187 runs. Rain saved Himachal Pradesh in the other encounter: they finished on 34 for 2, and needed 193 more to save the innings defeat.

Rajeev Nayyar put Delhi in on a flat pitch, and Brijinder Sharma had Manu Nayyar caught by Satish Mehra without a run on the board. But that was all the success they had for the day: Raman Lamba (118) and Manoj Prabhakar (229 not out) hammered the Himachal Pradesh bowlers, adding 280 for the second wicket.

Their miseries were not over: Bhaskar Pillai walked out and scored 64, and the third pair took the team score to 382. Delhi finished the day on 436 for 3 in 87 overs after Bantoo Singh walked out. Madan Lal declared overnight. Since Himachal Pradesh had bowled 3 overs less, Delhi were awarded 12 bonus points: the score read a daunting 448 for 3.

Four in four

An opening pair of Madan (who had played for India two years back) and Prabhakar turned out to be too good for the tourists. In no time they were reduced to 34 for 3, including the wicket of Nayyar.

Jaswant Rai and Pawan Sen hung around and doubled the score before Shankar Saini clean bowled both men. Saini kept on striking, and Kirti Azad also chipped in with a wicket; from 68 for 3 they were reduced to 96 for 8.

A further six were added. Himachal Pradesh ambled past the hundred-mark. Shakti Singh was on strike. He fell to Saini, caught by Bhaskar. Anil Sen, the No. 11, walked out, and was clean bowled by Saini first ball. Saini finished with 6 for 21. They would remain his career-best figures. He was also on a hat-trick.

This time Madan and Prabhakar turned out to be even more potent. Trailing by 346, Himachal Pradesh were reduced to 36 for 6. It took a gutsy 35-run stand between Brijinder and Shakti for Madan Lal to get a change in bowling.

Lal and Prabhakar had bowled unchanged for 18 overs till then. On came Saini. Shakti was on strike against him. Saini was on a hat-trick.

He did it. Shakti holed out to Abhay Sharma (who would later go on to lead Railways in Ranji Trophy). In the process Saini dismissed Shakti twice on his way to a single hat-trick. Saini and Shakti became the second pair to “achieve” this.

Playing for an all-England side against Kent way back at Canterbury in 1844, William Clarke had got John Fagge twice during his hat-trick.

Mehra walked out. Sadanand Mohol was the only man to take 4 in 4 balls on Indian soil, way back in 1966 (it was no mean feat: the batsmen were Ajit Wadekar, Sudhakar Adhikari, Madhukar Gupte, and ML Jaisimha). Could Saini emulate him?

He did. Mehra was clean bowled first ball, and history was created. Saini became the first bowler to take 4 in 4 in Ranji Trophy.

It did not take Prabhakar long to mop things up. Brijinder remained stranded at one end as Prabhakar clean bowled Bharat Bhushan and Anil Sen to rout Himachal Pradesh for 78. Delhi won by a margin of an innings and 268 runs.

Prabhakar followed his 229 not out with 1 for 41 and 6 for 36. In the process he became the fourth man to score a double-hundred and take a six-wicket haul in the same Ranji Trophy match (after Vijay Hazare, Bapu Nadkarni, and Anand Shukla).

Saini, on the other hand, returned match figures of 15.4-8-23-8.

What followed?

– Himachal Pradesh came last in North Zone that season. Delhi topped the group, thereby winning the Devraj Puri Trophy; they also won the Ranji Trophy that season, thrashing Bengal by a whopping innings-and-210-run margin at Kotla.

– Nobody has emulated Clarke-Fagge and Saini-Shakti in First-Class cricket.

– Nobody has taken 4 in 4 on Indian soil in First-Class cricket since Saini.

– Since Prabhakar, KN Ananthapadmanabhan is the only one to have scored 200 and taken a 6WI in the same Ranji Trophy match.

– Himachal Pradesh are yet to beat Delhi in the Ranji Trophy.

– Shakti made an entry to the record books yet again, this time with a real achievement: batting at No. 8 against Haryana at Dharamsala in 1990-91 he slammed 128 with 7 fours and a whopping 14 sixes. At that point of time only John Reid (15) had hit more sixes in a First-Class innings.

Brief scores:

Delhi 448 for 3 decl. (Raman Lamba 118, Manoj Prabhakar 229*, Bhaskar Pillai 64) beat Himachal Pradesh 102 (Shankar Saini 6 for 21) and 78 (Manoj Prabhakar 6 for 36) by an innings and 268 runs.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)