Having discovered his batting skills in the Indian home season that preceded, Irfan Pathan excelled at his primary role – that of being India’s strike new-ball bowler – in the Karachi Test of 2006, dismissing three top-class batsmen off successive deliveries in the first over of the game.
That Pakistan ended up winning this match by a margin of 341 runs in just four days merely adds to the nuttiness of Irfan Pathan’s feat on that late February morning in Karachi.
The preceding two Tests at Lahore and Faisalabad had been snooze-fests, with runs scored in their gallons and nothing but unrelenting toil for the bowlers. Pathan had come under fire, with questions being raised about his action, which was perhaps not as smooth and repeatable as it once had been. A tad harsh considering the collective aggregate score for batsmen versus bowlers across the two previous matches was 2,791 runs for 36 wickets.
Despite his struggles, Pathan was handed the new ball once again by Rahul Dravid, who had won the toss and noticed a hint of moisture in the pitch – a rarity on this tour that had to be taken full advantage of.
The first three deliveries of the match did little to signal what was to come. Salman Butt prodded away the first before leaving the next two, as Pathan searched for an appropriate line.
Then it happened. The perfect outswinger, from lefty to lefty; a good length ball starting on middle and moving away before catching Butt’s edge, with Dravid taking a low catch at slip.
The next one – the best of the lot – left Younis Khan looking like a perplexed, husk of a man. Going forward to drive through the off side, the ball swung in late and crashed into his advancing front pad. The umpire did the rest.
Naturally, Mohammad Yousuf took his time as he strolled to the crease, knowing he had momentum to curb. As with all hattrick balls, the infield was packed: five in the cordon and only one fielder out of shot. Yousuf marked his guard, checked it, and then stepped aside to survey a claustrophobic field.
What followed was almost a carbon copy of the previous delivery, only Pathan had started this one closer in to the stumps. It was quicker, too, and with Yousuf new to the crease, it was too good – even for him. Middle stump was left staggered, Yousuf melancholic and Pakistan reeling on 0-3, with the game just an over old.
With that, Pathan became only the second Indian player to take a Test hat-trick and the first bowler in the history of the game to take three-in-three in the first over of a Test.
First published in December 2013