A wise advice from experienced wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni inspired Indian pacer Mohammed Shami to bowl the delivery that earned his place in the history of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s World Cup on Saturday.
Shami, who was drafted into India's Playing XI for their fifth World Cup 2019 clash against Afghanistan after an injury to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, was given the responsibility for the final over with the Gulbadin Naib-led side needing 16 runs to win, with three wickets in hand.
Mohammad Nabi drilled his first delivery down the ground to bank his half-century and put India’s fans on the edge of their seats.
However, Shami then produced a devastating series of deliveries to turn the match and become only the second Indian to notch up a hat-trick in a World Cup match.
He outfoxed Nabi with a yorker that he fired straight down long on’s throat and then produced two carbon copy deliveries to skittle out the tailenders - it was brutal stuff, fast, straight and bang on middle stump.
“The plan was simple. There was no time to think, you just had to back yourself and your skills. I didn’t want to try variations because that increases the chances of going for runs,” said Shami, the second Indian player to claim three straight wickets after Chetan Sharma in 1987.
“Mahi bhai (Dhoni) told me to keep bowling Yorkers, he said ‘don’t change anything now, you can get a hat-trick’. Getting a chance in the team is a bit of luck but I was ready to seize my opportunity. The chance to get a hat-trick is a very rare thing and it’s very special for me," the ICC press release quoted Shami as saying.
Afghanistan’s spinners restricted India’s scoring but it was Virat Kohli’s pace attack that allowed them to defend a modest total of 224 for eight and seal a narrow 11-run win in a thrilling encounter at Rose Bowl Cricket Stadium in Hampshire.
Jasprit Bumrah took two wickets in three balls as Afghanistan were starting to exude confidence and Shami finished with figures of four for 40 thanks to his final over heroics.
“We knew they would be circumspect against short balls, we didn’t bowl full deliveries but focused on bouncers from varying lengths, the plan worked,” added Shami.
Afghanistan bowlers were hit for a record 25 sixes in their previous match against England with Rashid Khan, one of the best performers on the franchise T20 circuit, finishing with figures of 0/110 at Headingley.
However, Indian spinner Yuzvendra Chahal paid tribute to his response, as Afghanistan’s top three spinners went for just 97 runs off their combined 29 overs, Rashid claiming the key wicket of Dhoni.
“He’s a champion bowler and you cannot judge a man on one match, it’s part of being a bowler that you are going to get hit sometimes. I thought he played very well in response,” he said.
Chahal also believes the close encounter with Afghanistan at the Hampshire Bowl will only sharpen India for future group stage clashes with West Indies, England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
"When you win these types of games you have more confidence, we know we can score 240 or 250 and the bowlers can defend this. It's all about your mindset. We knew this game was very crucial, we’d be established in the table ahead of some matches with very good teams," Chahal said.
India, who registered their 50th World Cup victory with win over Afghanistan, will now lock horns with West Indies on June 27.