LAHORE: In their World Cup match on June 11 in 1999 in England, Pakistan thrashed Zimbabwe by 148 runs in the Super Six match at The Oval with spinner Saqlain Mushtaq claiming a hat-trick. Zimbabwe’s fairytale run in the league stage ended once they reached the Super Sixes. However, there was a sliver of hope if they could better Pakistan. Unfortunately, they were out-batted by Saeed Anwar, and Saqlain provided the perfect finishing touch. Given the men Saqlain dismissed, it’s one he might remember quite sheepishly: Henry Olonga, Adam Huckle, and Pommie Mbangwa. And Saqlian also became the second man (Wasim Akram was the first) to take two hat-tricks in ODIs. Saqlain first hat-trick, back in 1996-97 at Peshawar — was against the same opponents. On that occasion his victims were Grant Flower, John Rennie, and Andy Whittall. Off-spinner Saqlain was a trend- setter. He was the inventor and master of the doosra, a delivery that spins away from the batsman. He also invented teesra, which was an orthodox backspinner for finger spinners. A knee injury ended his international career at the young age of 29 but his passion made him one of the finest coaches in the game. The spin bowling scene of the late nineties was a variety in itself; India’s Anil Kumble and Australia’s Shane Warne were different kind of leg spinners, Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan was a wrist-spinning off-spinner and Saqlain was the orthodox off spinner who could spin it the other way with a normal off- spinning delivery’s grip.
Saqlain played for the Pakistan International Airlines and Islamabad Cricket Association from the age of 18. He impressed at an early age and was selected to play for Pakistan against Sri Lanka in Peshawar in 1995. Saqlain’s international career got off to a splendid start –– he was the fastest bowler to 100 one-day wickets, and his phenomenal control meant that he regularly bowled at the death. But his finest moment arguably came in a Test match, at Chennai in 1998- 99, when his ten-for allowed Pakistan to sneak nerve-tingling 12-run win against India. Against a rampaging India in the sweltering heat of Chennai in 1999, Saqlain dismissed Sachin Tendulkar which sparked a late order collapse after India looked set to win the match. He ended up with 20 wickets in the two Test series. A heroic performance against India on the cricket field made any player an instant hero in Pakistan and Saqlain achieved legendary status with his show.
He represented Pakistan in 49 Tests and picked up 208 wickets at an average of just under 30. The primary reason of him not playing more Tests was the emergence of off spinners like Shoaib Malik, who bowled with a similar action, but could bat better than him. Moreover Saqlain was a regular in the county circuit and was hugely successful for Surrey continuously throughout his international career. For batsmen, he was more than a handful in the ODIs. He was the fastest to reach the milestones of 100, 150, 200 and 250 wickets in ODIs and his immaculate control meant that he more or less bowled in the death overs, with reasonable success. He claimed 288 wickets in 169 ODIs. He had also scored a Test match century as well, against New Zealand in March 2001. He was the Wisden cricketer of the year in 2000.