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Three overs, three maidens, six wickets

Sarfaraz Ashraf poses with the ball Sarfaraz Ashraf

Sarfaraz Ashraf has two wickets in the first two balls of his over. For the first, he drags his length back and forces a cut which is edged to first slip. He pings the second batsman in front.

Sarfaraz is on a hat-trick and his team is ahead. The target is 265 in a T20 match, and each new batsman is walking out to immense pressure. Third ball, batsman rapped in front again, but the umpire thinks it's heading down leg and the appeal is withheld. Hat-trick denied.

Not a problem. He goes ahead and takes wickets off his next three balls. That's five in an over.

The drama continues in his next over, with another wicket off the first ball. Sarfaraz's final assessment of 3-3-0-6, for Young Pioneer Cricket Club against Mercara Youth Cricket Club in the Karnataka State Cricket Association's T20 tournament earlier this month was a feat as rare as it was staggering.

"They were chasing a very steep target, so they came out only with the intention of slogging," the 27-year old left-arm wristspinner tells ESPNcricinfo. "Since they were looking to sweep a lot, my aim was to make them play in front as much as possible, and that's how I got a few lbws."

It wasn't just batsmen offering Sarfaraz chances. "I bowled three chinaman balls, one with a sidearm - like [Lasith] Malinga, which is my strength and a weapon - and I spun one the orthodox way."

Variations are a staple of Sarfaraz's artillery. They are on full display in footage of him bowling during the Karnataka Premier League. He has the ability to draw the batsman forward with his flight and get it to dip late. The sling-arm variation is even more side-arm than Malinga's. They are like missiles - fired from a height roughly around the umpire's shoulder - that come on dead straight, rushing the batsman with pace. His natural action is slightly round-arm anyway, and it helps him work tricky angles. And he can get the ball to drift a long way across the right-hander and beat the edge. The wrist movement is snappy, and he is on target for the most part.

Despite the uniqueness of his feat, and despite the fact that he has already played 15 T20 games and one List A match, Sarfaraz will not feature in the upcoming inter-state T20 league, having been passed over by the Jharkhand selectors.

Though he hails from Bangalore, Sarfaraz plays for Jharkhand. It was a decision he took in 2013, sensing the stiff competition within the Karnataka set-up. The search for opportunities took him to Bokaro, where he played district tournaments, and in his first year earned a call-up to the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy squad. "I was packing my bags and preparing to return to Bangalore when I got a call from one of the selectors," he says. "I think one of the players had got injured."

Immediately, he made an impact, snaring 11 wickets to top Jharkhand's bowling charts in the 2013-14 tournament. Moreover, he was the only Jharkhand bowler with an economy rate of under 6. But he remembers that season for one particular performance. "Getting a five-wicket haul at the Eden Gardens (against Odisha) was unbelievable. They call it the Mecca of cricket, and it was my dream to play there. It was just my third match."

The start had been good, but the performances dwindled the following season when seven matches yielded just four wickets, and the economy rate was also significantly higher at 7.85. He was dropped for the 2015-16 season, but had made an impression in his short stint with the side.

"He is a pretty useful bowler to have in T20 cricket," says Shahbaz Nadeem, Jharkhand's senior left-arm spinner and the top wicket-taker in this season's Ranji Trophy. "He's a street-smart cricketer and a useful lower-order batsman, so a very good all-round package in the shorter format. He uses his variations smartly, knows what the batsman is thinking and can change accordingly.

"He is intelligent and picks up the game quickly. But the biggest plus is that he is very humble. When you are humble, you tend to learn new things and gather whatever you can from all corners. It's his humility that helps him improve with each day."

Sarfaraz's variations are a testament to his ability to adjust to situations - the same ability that probably helped him transition from being a fast bowler. It was a move he made upon the recommendation of Rahmatullah Khan, his coach and captain at Young Pioneer.

"My body wasn't suited to fast bowling," Sarfaraz says. "I wasn't getting too many wickets. I got a five-for once or twice in three years. So in 2009-10, I changed to spin. There weren't too many chinaman bowlers then - just Brad Hogg.

"It was a huge challenge because the action, run-up, rhythm, everything changes. And in chinaman, it is very difficult to bowl in the right areas. It's not a difficult art to practice, but I found it harder to find rhythm as a spinner as opposed to a fast bowler. So it's about putting in the hours and bowling 200-300 balls every day to make sure you don't lose it. Since the muscles used for fast bowling and spin bowling are different, my physio asked me to focus on gaining some strength as the variations are hard on the shoulder."

Those who have watched and followed Sarfaraz closely are in agreement that he is a valuable asset in T20 cricket. Sarfaraz himself admits that his style of bowling is more suited to the shorter format. But perceptions of being a T20-only bowler do not bother him.

Sarfaraz regularly watches motivational videos of athletes to keep himself going. In the time spent away from the Jharkhand team, he has worked on his batting and fielding, which he felt were getting a bit scratchy. His batting, like his bowling, is tailor-made for the shortest format. It's not built on grace or elegance. By his own admission, he tries to mostly slog and hit big, but he can be a handy lower-order batsman.

Having been a part of three KPL finals, twice with Bangalore Provident in 2009 and 2010, and then again with Hubli Tigers in 2016, Sarfaraz is now ready to take the next step and plans to enroll in the IPL auction in the coming days. "I believe in taking things as they come," he says. "Hopefully, if and when I do get the chance, I look forward to doing well."