On March 11, 2001, Harbhajan Singh etched his name into the history books as the off-spinner bagged the first Indian hat-trick in Test cricket against Australia during a Border-Gavaskar Trophy encounter.
Having been thrashed by the mighty Australian side in the first Test at Wankhede in Mumbai, the hosts were facing an uphill battle to stop an in-form Steve Waugh-led side, who were looking to extend their world record of 16 consecutive Test wins and also claim a first series victory on Indian soil since 1969.
Furthermore, the Indian cricket team missed the services of their two star bowlers in Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, who were ruled out for the Eden Garden Test due to injuries.
Meanwhile, Australia cricket team captain Steve Waugh won the toss and decided to bat first on a flat pitch. The visitors were off to a great start as openers Michael Slater and Matthew Hayden forged a 103-run partnership before Slater departed for 42.
Hayden and Justin Langer proceeded to continue Australia’s dominance before India skipper Sourav Ganguly decided to bring Harbhajan Singh back into the attack.
The young Indian off-spinner responded quickly as he removed a dangerous looking Hayden for 97 and then claimed the important wicket of Mark Waugh.
However, Australia still looked in a comfortable position at 254/4 during the final session, but the then 20-year-old Harbhajan had other ideas as he changed the complexion of the game by dismissing Ricky Ponting (6), Adam Gilchrist (0) and Shane Warne (0) in consecutive deliveries to complete the first Indian hat-trick in Test cricket.
Ponting and Gilchrist were both trapped in front of the stumps, while Warne’s tentative prod off his first ball could only find Sadagoppan Ramesh at short leg. Once the third umpire judged that Ramesh had completed a fair catch to remove Warne, almost one lakh Indian supporters at the Eden Gardens erupted in joy.
Stunning grab by Wiaan Mulder to help Keshav Maharaj complete a hat-trick 👏— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) June 21, 2021
But, nothing beats the catch taken by Sadagoppan Ramesh for Harbhajan Singh's hat-trick in the 2001 series against Australia 😍
Harbhajan finished with figures of 7/123 as he helped restrict a formidable Australian batting line-up to 445.
“It was a very special moment in my life. That hat-trick gave me a lot of recognition, lot of belief that I could do it [at the highest level against a top team]. I felt like, if I can do it against these guys, the best guys then I can do it against any other team,” Harbhajan was later quoted saying in an interview to a news agency.
“It is something which is very, very important to me as I said because it gave me the recognition and people suddenly started to rely on me. They felt, 'yeah this guy can do it'. The hat-trick and the series was a turning point in my life,” the off-spinner added.
In reply, India lost wickets at regular intervals as they were bundled out for 171 in their first innings and consequently forced to follow-on.
However, the hosts went on to ride on a historic 376-run partnership between VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) in their second innings to set an imposing target of 384 for the Aussies to claim the series on the final day of the second Test.
While the match looked like ending in a draw with Australia at 166/3, the visitors collapsed dramatically as they lost seven wickets for just 56 runs in the final session of the Test. With a stunning 171-run win, India levelled the three-match Test series 1-1.
Furthermore, the Ganguly-led Indian side created history as they ended Australia's 16-match winning streak, and became only the third team to win a Test after being forced to follow on.
Apart from Harbhajan Singh, only former left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan and star pacer Jasprit Bumrah have claimed hat-tricks for India in cricket’s longest format.
Hat-tricks by Indians in Tests
|Eden Gardens, Kolkata||March 11, 2001|
|National Stadium, Karachi||January 29, 2006|
|Jasprit Bumrah||West Indies||
|Sabina Park, Kingston||August 31, 2019|
Featured photo: Twitter/ICC