Classy Vaasy's unique hat-trick


by Rex Clementine

Hat-tricks are extremely rare in world cricket. So far there have been only 27 hat-tricks recorded in One-Day cricket with just four of them coming in ICC Cricket World Cups and two of them have been been accounted for by Sri Lankans.

Chaminda Vaas recorded his first hat-trick when he claimed a world record eight for 19 to help Sri Lanka bowl out Zimbabwe for 38 runs in 15.4 overs at the SSC in 2001.

Two years later, he would create history again in the 2003 World Cup by claiming another hat-trick.

Sri Lanka’s second game of the 2003 edition of the World Cup was scheduled at Pietermaritzburg, little over half an hour’s drive from Durban, one of South Africa’s main cities.

Pietermaritzburg is the home to many schools and tertiary education institutions, including the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It is also famous for an incident involving Mahatma Gandhi as it was in this city while travelling to Pretoria that he was pushed out of a train in 1893 when racial discrimination was taking root.

Vaas left his mark too in the city when he emulated his idol Wasim Akram in claiming two hat-tricks in ODI cricket, but this hat-trick was quite unique from all else.

Apparently, Vaas woke up with a sore back on the morning of the game, but with conditions looking ideal for seam bowling he wasn’t going to miss out.

Sri Lanka arrived in Pietermaritzburg in a confident mood for their second game of the tournament, after a comprehensive win over New Zealand in Bloemfontein. They took on Bangladesh in the second game of the tournament and after winning the toss, Sanath Jayasuriya put the opposition in.

Generally ODI matches are hard fought and the closing stages of the games are fiercely contested, but this game was over in the very first over, as Vaas claimed a unique hat-trick off the first three balls of the innings and went on to add a fourth one in the same over.

Opener Hannan Sarkar attempted a wild drive off the first ball of the innings and was cleaned up by Vaas. Then Mohammad Ashraful was out next ball when he offered a return catch. The hat-trick was completed when Ehsanul Haque was caught by Mahela Jayawardene at second slip and the game had seen a hat-trick off the first three balls of the game, the only time it has happened so far.

"Vaas’ celebration was appropriately wild: he looked like an aeroplane piloted by a drunkard," Wisden commented on his celebrations after the hat-trick.

Vaas collected a fourth wicket in the over when he trapped Sanwar Hossain leg before wicket. A few overs later, he claimed a five wicket haul when Al Sahariar was caught by Aravinda de Silva at mid-off. De Silva too passed a milestone in the game as this was his 300th ODI.

He finished with six for 25 and Muttiah Muralitharan came on to clean up the tail as Sri Lanka restricted Bangladesh to 124 and went on to win by 10 wickets with 28 overs to spare.

"And what a high it must have been for the good Catholic from Mattumagala, who once admitted a childhood desire to become a catholic priest. Well, the church’s loss ended up being cricket’s gain as Vaas became the first ever cricketer to take three wickets off the first three deliveries of a one-day international," Anand Vasu, a leading Indian cricket journalist went on to write.

"It’s an unbelievable feeling. I am just over the moon. All fast bowlers love to come and play in conditions like in South Africa and Australia and come here and end up with a hat-trick is absolutely sensational," Vaas told ‘The Island’ in an interview soon after the game.

"Nothing comes easy in international cricket and I work extremely hard on my game and it’s really pleasing to do well. I am not the most talented fast bowler in Sri Lanka, there are more talented ones, but talent will only take you a certain distance and you’ve got to work harder on your game to be on top," Vaas said after the 2003 World Cup, where he ended as the highest wicket taker of the tournament.

Vaas ended the tournament with 23 wickets at a more than impressive average of 14:39.

There’s a tradition in Pietermaritzburg that every cricketer who takes a five wicket haul or scores a hundred has to plant a tree at the venue and Vaas, who ended as Man of the Match had to oblige.

He ended up planting a tree (Liquid Amber) next to the Press Box. Vaas was grantedd a spot next to a tree that had been planted by the late Malcolm Marshall, who played a few seasons of Currie Cup (South Africa domestic tournament) for Kwa Zulu Natal. "No, I’ve never planted a tree in my life before. Hopefully, in a few years time when I come back it would have grown up," Vaas added.

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