The Indian pace attack is currently regarded as one of the best in the world. In the last few years, the bowlers have exceeded expectations not just in the subcontinent, but also overseas with impressive performances. They’ve left an indelible mark on the fastest and bounciest pitches world cricket has to offer. And when we think of India’s bowling performances in Test cricket, one name that unforgettably comes to mind is that of Irfan Pathan.
Back in 2006, Irfan was on the sidelines of the Indian Test team. On January 29, he created history by picking up a hat-trick against Pakistan in the very first over of the match. This feat became even more special because it came against Pakistan in their own backyard, at Karachi.
Sensational swing bowling on display
India toured Pakistan for a 3-match Test series that year amid political tension between the two nations. The first two Tests ended in a draw, and the final Test was being played at Karachi. Then captain Rahul Dravid won the toss and after inspecting the pitch, put in the hosts to bat first. Straightaway, he asked Irfan to open the bowling. Nobody knew that a 22-year old boy was going to script history by becoming the world’s first bowler to claim a Test hat-trick. Pakistani opener Salman Butt defended the first ball he faced and confidently left the next outswingers. It was the fourth delivery that got him. An outside edge that went straight into the hands of Dravid, who was patiently waiting at first slip.
Salman’s early dismissal brought in Younis Khan at the crease. Irfan bowled an exceptional inswinging delivery that trapped Younis plumb in front. The umpire raised his finger in no time, and Irfan had 2 consecutive wickets in his kitty. The only thing, rather person, who stood in the way of Irfan and history was Pakistan’s most technically solid and experienced batsman, Mohammad Yousuf. Irfan, who was in full flow, bowled a beautiful inswinger that went straight between Yousuf’s bat and pad to hit the stumps. And with that wicket, Irfan became the first bowler in world cricket to have picked up a hat-trick in the very first over of a Test match. Only India’s Harbhajan Singh had claimed a Test hat-trick before this.
The pain of loss greater than the joy of hat-trick
Despite Irfan’s sensational bowling that rattled Pakistan very early in the match, India did not win the Test. Irfan finished with figures of 5-61 in the first innings and Pakistan ended up with 245 runs on the board. In response, India folded for 238 and Pakistan went to declare at 599 in the second innings. Once again, the Indian batsmen failed to impress and were all out for 265, conceding a 341-run defeat to the hosts.
Despite losing his place in the Indian team since 2012, Irfan has put up several notable performances whenever given a chance. He has scalped 100 wickets in 29 Tests and has scored 1105 runs at an average of 31.57. His showing in ODIs is even better, with 173 wickets in 120 matches and 1544 runs.