Irfan Pathan’s Test hat-trick against Pakistan is right up there in terms of cricketing folklore. Even though it couldn’t prevent India from a defeat, the fact that Pathan became only the second Indian bowler to claim a Test hat-trick remains a memorable feat. What made the accomplishment even sweeter was the batsmen it involved. Bowling the first over of the match, in three deliveries, Pathan rocked Pakistan’s top order sending back Salman Butt, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf.
After the first two Tests had ended in draws, it was down to the decider in Karachi, and on a green-top pitch, India sent Pakistan in. With Pathan licking his chops, he couldn’t have asked for a better start as he had Pakistan reeling at 0/3 at the end of the first over.
“That particular morning, I remember, I wanted to swing the ball, I wanted to hit the batsmen on their pads. That’s the aim I had. I never thought that I’ll get a hat-trick in the first over, but I wanted to get early breakthroughs for my team, especially on that morning,” Pathan recalled the incident to Times of India.
“When I bowled the first ball, it was from the leg-stump. Salman Butt being a left-hander, I wanted to make sure that he plays the first ball, but it didn’t swing as much as I would have liked. The second ball I bowled on the off-stump, it went away. He left the ball, the third as well. The fourth ball was right on the money, the way you want as a (swing) bowler – the batsman defends the ball, it edges the bat and goes to the slip. It exactly happened the way I wanted.”
With Younis as the new batsman walking out, Pathan and India were aware of the threat he posed given his stellar Test record against India. India put an attacking field against Younis and despite an element of risk involved, Pathan pointed out he wanted to take it because the reward attached to it was high.
“The ball was swinging, but before Younis, it was a left-handed batsman and now right-handed. So for me to adjust the line straight away, that was the thing in my mind. But most importantly, I wanted to make sure that I bowled a length that hit him below the knee-roll,” Pathan said.
“As soon as the ball went from my hand, I knew it was that perfect length I wanted. When I turned around (to appeal for LBW), I knew that (umpire) Simon Taufel was going to raise his finger because the ball had hit Younis below the knee-roll, and was hitting the middle stump.”
The third dismissal was the best of the lot, also against a player considered one of Pakistan’s most technically-sound batsmen of all time, Yousuf. Pathan was no stranger to taking hat-tricks; he had taken three wickets in three balls in junior cricket, for India under-15, in the plate championship in England for India Under-19. In international cricket, twice he’d come to grabbing a hat-trick but couldn’t. All that however, changed the next ball.
“I left everything on the Almighty and decided that I’m just going to ball my best ball. I knew that this was Mohammad Yousuf, who had gotten out to me many times. I knew that he was also waiting for my in-swinger. But even if it’s a good ball, even if he was waiting for the same delivery, it will hit his pad. I wanted to do that,” Pathan added.
“The kind of swing I got on that ball doesn’t happen (easily). People take time to do that. I delivered the ball, I wanted to hit Mohammad Yousuf’s pads and luckily the ball swung so much. Even after pitching, it had movement and it went between his bat and pad to hit the stumps. At that time obviously you don’t think about those things, but when I look back, obviously it feels really great and satisfied that people still talk about this hat-trick.”