Top Performances

India's hat-trick hero

S Rajesh
Chetan Sharma was known for producing the odd peach. Here he trotted out three in a row

Chetan Sharma
3 for 51 v New Zealand, 24th game, 1987

Going into their last round-robin game of the 1987 World Cup against New Zealand, India had already assured themselves of a place in the semi-finals, courtesy four wins in their first five matches. Lurking in the other half, though, was an extremely strong Pakistan outfit, and the only way India could avoid meeting them in the semi-final in Lahore was by topping their own group, for which they not only needed to beat New Zealand but also win by a convincing margin to push their run-rate beyond Australia's.

After winning the toss, New Zealand chipped their way towards a substantial score, reaching 182 for 5 after 41 overs. With Ken Rutherford having entrenched himself at the crease, and Ian Smith and Martin Snedden to follow, New Zealand had a fair chance of posting 240-plus.

Enter Chetan Sharma for his sixth over. His first five had been fairly lacklustre, but Sharma was known for his knack of suddenly coming up with an unplayable delivery in between some pretty ordinary stuff. No one, though, had reckoned that he would conjure up three.

Sharma's most lethal weapon had always been his sharp in-dipper - delivered with a whiplash action at a pace that belied his wiry frame and his languid run-up to the crease. After bowling three dot balls, he let rip one such special. Rutherford had already negotiated 53 deliveries, but there was little he could do against the incutter that shredded his defence and crashed into the stumps.

The dangerous Ian Smith walked in, and was immediately greeted by a similar delivery, which nipped back and kept a touch low. It would have tested greater batsmen; for first-baller Smith, it was far too much to handle. A frenzied Nagpur crowd cheered the double-strike, and as Ewen Chatfield prepared to take strike to the last ball of the over, the magnitude of the occasion slowly dawned - no bowler had ever taken a hat-trick in World Cups, and no Indian had managed the feat in any ODI.

After a long consultation with Kapil Dev, his mentor and captain, Sharma raced in, and fired another one on the stumps, this time a bit fuller than the previous two. Chatfield didn't have too many pretensions as a batsman, and it showed: he shuffled so far across with his left leg that the ball sneaked in between his legs and unerringly found the stumps.

New Zealand were restricted to 221, and India, needing to get to the target within 42.2 overs to pip Australia, blasted their way to victory in 32.1 overs, with Sunil Gavaskar's fantastic 85-ball maiden ODI hundred capping a day of many memorable firsts.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo