Karachi, Jan. 29: The first two Tests fetched Irfan Pathan two wickets and, then, three in as many deliveries in the very first over of the final one!
There couldn’t have been a more fitting reply for the sledging directed at him in Faisalabad. He also couldn’t have chosen a better occasion for something historic: Never before did the opening over of a Test see a hattrick.
Pathan, perhaps, may never match this morning’s performance at the National Stadium. However, as it came in an away Test against Pakistan, he’s assured of a high place in our Hall of Fame ' as is Harbhajan Singh, the first hattrick-achiever almost five years ago.
Overall, Pathan is No. 33.
“I didn’t know I’d created history. Definitely makes it more enjoyable. I suppose it will also make my parents (Mohammad Khan and Sameem Bano), to whom I dedicate this achievement, even prouder,” he told The Telegraph somewhat wide-eyed.
The first three deliveries were uneventful, but Salman Butt departed on the fourth when the ball swung late and he wasn’t quite sure. A terrific effort from Rahul Dravid, fortunate to have won the toss, is what ended another short stay by the Lahori.
Stand-in captain Younis Khan was fidgety as he took guard. Despite being in phenomenal form, his body language didn’t look encouraging. He misread one which was fuller and fell plumb leg-before.
The final delivery was an absolute beauty. Mohammed Yousuf, another in-form batsman, was beaten off the wicket and castled by the inswinger. Not that many were in the stands, but the dropping of a pin could have been heard.
Pakistan plunged into deeper trouble (six down for 39) and it was left to centurion Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzaq to lead the recovery. The innings ended at 245, Pathan finishing with five for 61.
The Indians were in a mess as well, with the first four falling for 56.
It’s for comeback man Sourav Ganguly and his one-time protege Yuvraj Singh to drive towards a respectable total ' currently 74 for four.
Because of Pakistan’s recovery and their own collapse, the Indians didn’t have a dressing-room celebration for Pathan. Rather unfortunate, but here’s more on the star performer.
Asked if his breakfast made the difference, Pathan responded: “No. It was a good wicket and I exploited the moisture. I hadn’t got many recently and some had begun to talk. I didn’t get affected, though, as I’m part of a team where everybody supports and encourages each other.”
What were his thoughts as he readied for a go at Yousuf' “I wanted to bowl stump-to-stump. As I’d twice been denied a hattrick in international cricket, I was prepared for another miss.”
Pathan said he listened to “advice”, but hadn’t amended either his grip or action. “The coach (Greg Chappell) pointed out I shouldn’t worry and not think of too many things. One can, then, begin to think negatively. Fact is I continue to learn. If you stop learning, you stop playing.”
He said Harbhajan had greeted him emotionally. “Bhajji said he was happy and proud I’d joined him in the hattrick club.”