Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Four wickets in four balls to be in elite company alongside T20 superstars Lasith Malinga and Rashid Khan. Knocking off the winning runs in the chase. Scooping up the Player-of-the-Match award. Curtis Campher packed his World Cup debut with plenty of highlights as Ireland opened their T20 World Cup campaign with a resounding victory against Netherlands in Abu Dhabi.
The start, however, wasn't as rosy for Campher. After being introduced into the attack in the seventh over, Campher floated two half-trackers that were cracked to the square boundaries. He said he offered an apology to his captain Andy Balbirnie before switching ends and his own fortunes. When Campher darted a short delivery down the leg side, Colin Ackermann was late on a pull and ended up snicking behind to wicketkeeper Neil Rock. He then went full to attack the pads and stumps. Ryan ten Doeschate and Scott Edwards were both dismissed lbw, playing around their front pads. Campher completed the sequence when he had Roelof van der Merwe chopping on.
"To be honest, I wasn't really thinking about it [emulating Malinga and Rashid]," Campher said at the post-match press conference. "Maybe it will set in a little bit later, but I'm just trying to do what I want to do - when Tendo walked in we knew we had to go straight to him and that worked and then just carried on to Edwards too. Both those [attacking the stumps] were plans worked out from the analyst and that kind of fit into my game, so maybe in a few hours or a few days, it might rub off. But to be honest I'm just happy with the win and that's all that matters."
So, how did Campher manage to compose himself before the hat-trick ball?
"My heart was racing quite high, but I just took a few deep breaths at the top of my run and just tried to make sure I manage my skills," Campher recalled. "Obviously, I didn't really finish the last over as well as I wanted to, but I'm learning and I'm young. I'm just trying to do the best that I can."
Campher credited fellow seamers Mark Adair and Josh Little for handcuffing Netherlands in the powerplay and making life easier for him. Adair, in particular, operated with great control, coming away with 3 for 9. Only Kevin O'Brien has conceded fewer runs in a four-over spell for Ireland in T20Is.
"Personally for me, it [four in four] gives us a lot of momentum," Campher said. "As a bowling unit when you have three guys going under six, it makes a big difference. As far as a bowling unit, we're really good I think. On another day, I can go for 10s and 12s, but the pressure that the guys built there managed to make me get the wickets. So, listened to Mark Adair, Josh [Little], Simi [Singh], and Whitey [Ben White], we hunted as a unit and I was actually lucky to get the results."
Campher was recently on the sidelines, a shoulder injury forcing him to sit out the three-match World Cup Super league series against Zimbabwe in September. He had injured his AC joint in his shoulder while diving on the field during his T20I debut in August. Prior to that, he had undergone surgery for a long-standing ankle problem. Quite naturally, he was pleased to be back in action although he didn't expect his World Cup bow to be as grand as this.
"I might sound like a broken record, but right now I'm just really enjoying my cricket. I'm just happy to be on the park and have this opportunity," he said. "I think people take for granted if you play [for] a long time. When I got injured - obviously no one should have injuries - but to bounce back and actually just start enjoying my cricket, just grateful to be out there, whether I get hit for 60 or 70 or don't score a run, I'm just happy to be out there and playing for my country."